A look at the changing media landscape..

There has been a lot of noise recently about advertising needing to re-invent itself to stay afloat in today’s times. Advertising nowadays has to work much harder for my attention, as it probably does with a lot of people, just because there is so much of it. I subscribe to the logic that necessity is the mother of invention – and from that point of view, the financial crisis seems to be bringing out the entrepreneurial side in some (such as Hank Leber and Agency Nil, about which I wrote recently for PSFK).

Not completely related to the recession but still interesting are the advertising methods employed by a few brands, such as the US TV channel Showtime, who are using Amazon’s Kindle as an altogether different way of advertising by making the pilot script of their to-be-premiered series ‘Nurse Jackie’ available for free download for a limited period. That’s a first for that medium. And a few days ago I read in Campaign the news of an Israeli advertising agency that used last week’s Champions League final to superimpose a medical product ad at a relevant time for the brand during the match. Whenever a player fell down and got injured or otherwise experienced pain, the ad for Optalgin would flash across the screen. That kind of manual synchronising of ad placements (the agency worked with Israel’s Channel 2 to capture what they thought were the ‘most effective shots of fallen players’, apparently, as insensitive as that sounds!) is definitely not very common as far as I am aware. Here’s a clip:
I’d probably be irritated if ads flashed across the screen during a television serial that I was watching (Jimmy Choo ads during Sex And The City, anyone?), so this kind of ad placement needs to be meticulously planned and researched – repetition of a potentially irritating ad can be a death knell for a brand, and I’m sure that while it may have been accepted in Israel, something like that will not go down too well with British football fans AT ALL!! Priyanka, that’s you!

Younger, faster…better

Today I heard about digital agency Street Attack’s new ‘product’, a revolving retail storefront called 303 Grand in Brooklyn, New York. A while ago, Electric Artists (also a New York-based agency) was behind Meet at the Apartment, a dedicated space in Soho, New York for creative and business executives to ‘re-invent their business’, as they put it. The Brooklyn Brothers created Fat Pig Chocolate last year, an example of creative packaging and brand marketing along the same lines.

I’m beginning to wonder if it is some sort of natural progression for creative agencies to move towards coming up with new products of their own, as opposed to merely coming up with strategies for products belonging to other brands. Personally I like all three cases I just cited, and believe that the energy and passion required to come up with a completely new concept that you will then own and bring to life are core qualities exhibited by entrepreneurs. Much as I like some of Fallon’s or Wieden + Kennedy’s campaign work for Cadbury’s or Nike, I somehow don’t see them taking this sort of less-trodden path. 

I traced the age of Street Attack, Electric Artists and the Brooklyn Brothers out of curiosity, to test a thesis that it is the new-age agencies that somehow have a more natural appetite for risk. Street Attack was founded in 2001, Electric Artists in 1997 (thanks Marc) and the Brooklyn Brothers in 2002. Compare this to W+K which is 25 years old.

There must be some good products created by the traditional agencies over the years, but none I can remember offhand (again, pointers welcome).  If trends are anything to go by, DDB has created Radar DDB and Ogilvy has carved up Ogilvy Digital Innovation Labs for a reason. I just hope that they are not bound to their mother ships, because otherwise they’re just another department in a huge old engine, and there’s no point in that. I’m sure George Parker will agree 🙂

The Ford Fiesta is Now

A couple of days ago, I received an email from Sandrine over at We Are Social. In it, she mentioned that she was part of the team covering social media strategy for Ford. She then detailed the various aspects of the new campaign that’s being set in motion for the Ford Fiesta. I’m going to tell you about it in a bit, but first I want to clarify that I’m only doing that because I truly do find it interesting – it’s a good example of integrated marketing, which is something I’ve been going on about for a while. Second, I want to give a shout out to Sandrine for getting her outreach process right – she mentioned my name (not just a hi or hello), so I’m being treated as a person and not just the recipient of a mass email, and she’s clearly been following my blog, however briefly, because the Ford Fiesta execution is right along the lines of the things I think and write about. In case anyone is interested, I recommend reading Chris Brogan’s post on how to pitch to bloggers. I’m nowhere as well-known as Chris, but it’s important for brands to know that the web is a great leveller – what I say will be picked up even if it is to a smaller extent than (really cool) people like Chris. 

OK, so on to the campaign. Based on the central theme of ‘This is Now’, Ford has set up collaborative art project. The project has four stages: the first involves a series of work commissioned by animation artist Noah Harris. Some of these broke in an ad released yesterday, which was directed by Harris himself.
The second included work submitted by art students across Europe – select ones will feature in the press and outdoor campaign. The third brings in the public, who can submit pictures capturing their own sense of ‘Now’ on the This is Now Flickr group. And finally, launching in October will be a Fiesta site that will display all the work from the previous stages, and let visitors create their own mash-ups. I’ll keep an eye out for that.
The This is Now blog ties together the entire campaign and will cover it as it progresses.
If you look at the ad, the Flickr images which make up the press and outdoor bits, and the blog, you’ll see a clear picture emerging. In fact, ‘This is Now’ starts to make sense as a concept, and the Ford Fiesta as a product seems to mirror the thought beautifully. This campaign seems well thought-out and executed, not a case of some fantastic imagery being produced in the name of marketing – which is a trap a lot of brands fall into nowadays, I feel.
One of my relatives was talking about buying the Fiesta soon. Now I can totally tell him to go for it. 

McDonald’s Dollar Menunaire campaign

Apparently McDonald’s started their Dollar Menunaire web campaign last year, but I hadn’t heard of it till now (somebody tell me I’m not the only one). The latest episode of the web campaign is a parody of Big Brother, the reality show everybody loves to hate. In it, the protagonist, a slacker called Paul, moves into a reality game show house, and as he becomes the ‘cool’ one to the rest of the members in the house, he also tells the audience how to live on a non-existent budget. He mentions how cheap McDonald’s food is every now and then (i.e, how everyone can be a ‘dollar menunaire’) but surprisingly, it doesn’t sound as irritating as you’d think it would. Now I don’t know if I was seriously just unaware of this till now, but McDonald’s should be doing some better publicity for this. It’s amusing enough NOT to get on people’s nerves while selling the brand at the same time. The account director from Tribal DDB, the agency behind the campaign, said that it was meant to appeal to 18 to 34 year-olds looking to save money, who are fans of McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

Living in a GenY world

Will’s written a very insightful post on Tabula Rasa, using the artists in Converse’s My Drive Thru video as an example. I just posted on Marktd about how that concept has been extended to Converse Festivals (read that post to know more). Those two thoughts along with an oldish article of Faris’ called ‘Remixing the Future’, and a post of Gavin Heaton’s about how brands need to present themselves completely differently in order to seriously speak to GenY, got me thinking – about a lot of inter-related things.

First, like Converse Festivals, where Converse is not trying the usual ‘advertising’ route to speak to its target consumer group, (essentially 14-25 year olds), the time has come for brands to re-think their own definition of advertising and marketing in-house. Is the brand, for example, bigger than the product, or not? (A case in point is today’s news that Unilever is moving away from the Dove Real Beauty campaign in order to focus on the product rather than the message.) Once the brand answers that question, it is probably much easier to answer the rest of it – like what channels they should use. A message-oriented campaign is much more amenable to multiple channels of connection with the consumer than a product-oriented one. A product-oriented campaign (like Drench), may have a digital component, but that can only go so far. Something like Converse Festivals or Dove Real Beauty can go much further, though they are also digital, because they are about a message.

Given that we live in a digital world and there’s no going back, can any brand resist the temptation to jump on the digital bandwagon today? Saying that brands need to re-think what marketing is to them is very simplistic, but the fact is that a lot of them are confused. It’s like peer pressure, this whole talk of ‘social media’ and ‘digital’. Do you want to be part of the ‘in-crowd’, or a dork? If you stick to your guns and remain a dork, then as a brand will you lose your fan base? Conversely, if you decide to get ‘in’, will you lose steam after a point because you don’t know which direction to head in?

There’s no easy answer, but this is what I think: yes, we’re children of the digital age. Even if we weren’t born into a digital world, we probably grew up in it. If we didn’t grow up in it, we’re living in it now. So yes, a GenY mode of communicating to consumers will probably be sensible. BUT, GenY doesn’t necessarily mean ‘website’.

Think of touch-points. How is a consumer going to remember your product, or your brand? Get out there and give them those memories. Whether it’s Nike+’s 10K Human Race, Innocent’s Village Fete or Red Bull’s Air Race (which are events that don’t use ‘digital’ in the traditional sense of the term but are very much GenY ideas, so to speak) or Orange’s Play Balloonacy campaign (which was purely ‘digital’) there’s a reason those brands stand out.

I’m not saying traditional advertising is dead. You’ll have the Cadbury’s Gorillas, yes. Creativity will never die. That ad was brilliant simply for the idea. But even Cadbury’s didn’t know how popular YouTube would make it. I doubt they factored that bit in. But you know what? I don’t think they’ll be completely oblivious to it next time.

Hire me, and I’ll give you plenty of other brilliant ideas. 😀

Sony Vaio’s Online Script Project

I was intrigued by Sony Vaio’s Online Script Project with John Malkovich. It’s been in progress for a while now and was completed in May this year. John Malkovich, as part of his involvement with Vaio, wrote the introductory scene for this video, called Snow Angel. He then invited people to continue the story and chose three winning entries. Sony then worked with animator Laurie J Proud through digital agency Dare to bring the story to life. Cossette Communications (which owns Dare) has written up a comprehensive case study on it here. The idea was to “create a campaign that would feature a well-known, but enigmatic individual who embodies the unique spirit of VAIO. The intention was to create an online window into that person’s private world. The perfect person to fit the bill — none other than actor John Malkovich, a long-time VAIO user.”

I haven’t heard of other instances of Brand + Ambassador + User-Generated Content being deployed in this way. Have you?

The argument for planning, and planning across platforms

I’ve discussed this case with a few people now. I really like the Ban Boredom site created for the Mini, but wasn’t very impressed with the first TV ad I saw a few weeks ago:

The reason is that while the site is simple and a good exercise in literally banning boredom, this TV ad just made me go ‘?’. In my mind, it completely diluted the ‘ban boredom’ message that the brand was trying to convey. Maybe it was just the way it was shot, but a group of pirates descending on a beach wasn’t the most creative use of the phrase ‘ban boredom’ to me.

Then yesterday, I saw a different TV ad for the Mini with the same tagline:

And this made so much more sense, was creative and arresting to boot. The problem with the first ad is that while the message was supposed to be the same as the digital one, the communication got distorted along the way because of the ad’s execution, resulting in it looking rather confused. The second one was clearly better planned, and for me, delivered better results. The first ad is an example of an ad’s execution potentially harming the product, in this case the Mini, because an ad which conveys a message in a confused way represents a confused brand, and I wouldn’t want to be associated with a confused brand (though I admit I love the Mini as a car).

I think about this a lot: how important is it for a brand’s campaign to be wholly integrated across all platforms – digital, TV, print, OOH etc.? Many intelligent people I’ve been speaking to about this in the field say that requiring a campaign to be integrated across all platforms sometimes means an agency has to play within a defined box, which could harm the creative process. I agree, but to an extent. If there are absolutely no common links between a campaign’s various communication platforms, the brand could be harmed – exactly what happened with the Mini’s first ad. Digital worked fine without the ad, but when the TV ad tried to use the digital message in its execution, it got all messed up.

To me, what Orange Pay As You Go is doing with Playballoonacy.com and this ad below is much more successful because it allows different verticals to use their creative process independently but still has a common thread linking it (the orange animal shapes).

Guidelines to a compelling campaign

…so you can create

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I’ve been thinking lately about what constitutes a compelling campaign. I’ve been paying attention and training myself to think beyond the obvious whenever I look at a new ad on TV, or poster on the tube, or website on the internet. Politically, I’ve been trying to figure out what leaders are getting it right and why, artistically I’m trying to figure out what makes certain pieces of music or art work for me. This is what I’ve come up with:

1. Focus on a product’s USP but don’t sound patronising, and don’t slag the competition. What will make consumers want to buy a product more than any other in that category? Take Yoyo paper, for instance. Paper is a very standard product, no glamour involved at all. But what Yoyo does is deliver new paper and collect waste paper at the same time, doing a huge bit for the environment in the process. It’s the right time to launch something like this because people are increasingly going green. When I first heard of Yoyo, it was through an ad on TV, but it didn’t make me feel like I was morally obliged to use it. Ergo: success. Also, when I see an ad that openly slags the competition, I get pissed off. Don’t tell me that you are better than X. I can make that decision for myself. Tell me why I should want to buy you.

2. Be true to the product. If you try to package a bad product just to sell it, you’ll find yourself up shit creek at some point. The product is the star. You can’t make a porn star Meryl Streep, sorry. Unless its someone like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, where the diamond shone through the rock eventually!

3. Copy counts – be careful with puns. Dave Birss wrote a post recently about how, being a copywriter at an earlier point in his career, bad copy sticks out like a sore thumb when he sees it. I am too, though I’m not a copywriter. Most thinking people will be. Overdoing word play can be tricky, and you should be careful going down that path.

4. Talk to people in their language. There is a reason why more brands are including a digital component to their campaigns. Media is about communication, about reaching the consumer, and if the sphere they occupy is tending to be more digital (online) than analog (TV), then you need to think about heading in that direction. I’m not saying give up direct marketing, print, TV, out of home advertising altogether, because no one lives online 24/7. I’m saying that a larger part of their lives is being spent online, so meet them there, or find other brands doing that instead, to your detriment. Barack Obama has a huge online presence, and its one of the best ways he’s reached out to the public. It shows he’s not a fuddy-duddy, but someone who has his pulse on the energy of the times. If you want to target parents of babies, for example – lets say you were Totspot, a site that acts as a sort of online scrap book for your kids. You could go to daycare centres and nurseries and speak to parents there – have a ‘Spot your Tot’ competition from different baby pictures or something – just go where they are, start an email newsletter, get a conversation going and retain them for life!

5. Give people what they don’t know they want, in a way that will get their attention. Creativity will always count. A good example I can think of for this is Matter, a site that sends a box full of cool branded stuff to people now and then. Receiving gifts in the post is always a nice thing. People will remember them. Another example is Innocent, which has innovative direct marketing ideas which are simple yet communicate the brand idea brilliantly.

6. When in doubt, stick with the basics – just put a unique spin on it. Like music. Some pieces of music, or film, will always be classics, but some covers may be almost as good. Think of David Cook, this year’s American Idol winner. He put his special touch to almost every song he sang and continuously showed his creativity as an artist. He won.

PS: I finally succumbed to Spell with Flickr. Love it!

The Girl Effect

We all know why girls are important (we rock). Jokes aside, this video was made as part of The Girl Effect, a site funded by the Nike Foundation and the NoVo Foundation, and created by Grow Interactive with Wieden+Kennedy to help spread the message that giving girls in the less fortunate parts of the world a chance to live empowered lives will go very far in reducing poverty and AIDS, and making the world a better place to live in overall.

With absolutely no photographic images, which is an interesting way of going about it because for a piece like this one would have normally expected lots of those, the text pushes the viewer to explore the site and become a part of the change. Nice.

via joshspear.com