Month: June 2010

Beautiful Technology – about time a brand worked out how to use it

I’ve seen a few different demonstrations of the 3D Projection mapping technology, but I’ve yet to see a brand get a handle on how to use something like this for communications.

To be honest I haven’t seen a compelling brand led projection since FHM put Gail Porter’s bum on the houses of parliament. (Happy memories)

Someone somewhere must be able to think of a way to use this on a scalable level. What about a special build poster site that has a vinyl moulding on the front which can be projected onto and animated? That could then eliminate the need to find specific buildings and create bespoke projections, it could be rolled out on a nationwide level with just one piece of content.

Sex doesn’t always sell

So I recently came across this advergame from Mates condoms

Now I’m a big advocate of in-game marketing, but this is just a poor example.

2 Cardinal rules of in-game

1) Gamers and games come in many shapes and sizes – You have to match the game type to the gamer.
2) Whatever style of game you create it has to be well made and fun

This breaks both of those rules.

1) The audience for this brand of condoms must be 18-25 year old blokes. 18-25 year old blokes have grown up with some incredible console and PC games that have really raised the bar. They are less than impressed with a re-skinned half-arsed platform game. Online casual games such as this are best left for 40 year old women who haven’t been spoilt by Call of Duty and Mario Galaxy. If you want to develop a casual game for this audience you need to ensure that you bring them a new idea that they haven’t seen before.

2) Running round an office jumping up and catching 50 condoms in a 5 minute time limit just isn’t fun. it takes too long, there is no reward and it isn’t particularly challenging. This is clearly a game that has been designed around a client brief rather than trying to understand what consumers want

And finally – sex based games are just not cool. There hasn’t never been a mainstream game that has utilised sex based themes that has been perceived as something that young guys want to play. If anything it just highlights to them the fact that they can’t get laid in real life!

Football Passion – Can supply keep up with demand?

Having just witnessed the demise of the England Football team and the accompanying howls of derision from the British media, I’m trying to collect various thoughts I have been having on the rise of football (and sport generally) and whether or not we are approaching some kind of tipping point where (in the UK at least) we are going to see a diminishing interest in professional sports.

My initial thinking was stimulated by this article in Intelligent Life which highlights the incredible rate at which sport has increased in importance in the public eye. The most fascinating observation was that ” [in2006]The cup-winning captain from 1966, Bobby Moore, was on every KitKat wrapper, despite having died 13 years earlier; his team-mate Geoff Hurst, now Sir Geoff, was appointed director of football for McDonald’s and had columns in two newspapers. The boys of 1966 were bigger in 2006 than they were in 1966.”

I was also prompted to write this by the vast number of brands that have tried in one way or another to leverage the World Cup to their benefit, whether it is Curry’s/Comet/Best Buy trying to sell me an HD TV, Nationwide selling football bonds or Carlsberg invoking the spirit of Bobby Robson, there doesn’t seem to be a single category that hasn’t tried to force a link with the biggest competition in the world. I’ve even sat in meetings where people have said “Maybe we shouldn’t be on TV in June because everyone will be focused on the world cup and we don’t have anything WC related to say”

The Press are even worse. Each of them has tried to outdo the other in the quantity of their World Cup coverage in order to catch as much as possible of the world cup advertising budgets that brands seemed to be hemorrhaging. Making news out of nothing, shouting from their front pages about the littlest detail on team selections, disagreements, injuries etc. When they aren’t scrutinising the body language of David Beckham on the bench or the depth of wrinkles on Capello’s chin, they are handing out assorted nationalistic paraphernalia for you to attach to any available surface of your house, car or workplace.

With all this going on, you might think that everyone in the country would be going absolutely crazy with excitement, foaming at the mouth with the anticipation of every match, but I have yet to see any personal evidence of that. Yes people have got lots of flags on their cars, and people have been discussing all the matches but it almost feels like they are doing it because they think it is expected of them rather than they actually want to. I certainly have not seen a real life passion to match up to the media expectation. A number of times now I have heard the phrase “I was bored of the World Cup before it even started”, and getting to work today (post a 4-1 loss) I haven’t seen the downhearted faces that I might have expected. Most people are fairly unbothered. A Quote from the Glastonbury coverage (randomly switched on last night) “I can’t muster the energy to even be dissappointed”

Now part of this apathy is clearly down to the lacklustre performances of so many big teams, with England one of a number who have failed to impress, but that doesn’t explain the lack of enthusiasm that we saw before the tournament even began. Admittedly this is only from my perspective as all the media have been keeping their “enthusiasm” and so I can’t tell if it is a true nationwide malaise, but certainly I’ve yet to speak to anyone who can express an emotion stronger than “I’m annoyed” with regards to England’s failures.

So I have to ask a question. Have we reached a point where the corporate, media and brand demand for enthusiasm for all things World Cup has finally exceeded the supply? Have we assumed that it was an infinite supply when in fact it inevitably was subject to limitations. I would suggest that we have. It will be really interesting to see the results of the numerous WC related advertising campaigns, but I would not be at all surprised to see dimishing returns compared to previous years.

Not only has demand for passion exceeded supply, I would possibly go further and suggest that it is the demand itself that has had a detrimental effect on the amount of passion that people feel. The whole event has become about money with everyone trying to squeeze as much out of it as possible, whether it is the media owners, the sponsors or the bandwagon brands, everyone has been asking “what can the world cup do for me?” and no-one has considered that they could be killing their cash cow.

Now I could be wrong, maybe I am just observing the wrong people, but if I’m right it could be a real problem. Passion and enthusiasm such as that seen around football is a rare natural resource and if we continue to squeeze every last drop of profit out of it then we could be responsible for it’s demise.

So what could brands do to prevent this decline?

Firstly they need to stop trying to take take take and instead try to work out how to give something back to sports, how can they facilitate and enhance the enjoyment of a sport rather than cynically trying to sell me something with football wrapping paper.

Secondly I believe we need to stop focusing on the highest pinnacle of achievement at the expense of all else. It’s all very well for brands to take out an ad congratulating the national team when they win – but all they are really trying to do is share in the reflected glory of that success. Surely if a brand was a friend of the sport they would commiserate our losses just as much as celebrating the wins, surely a true friend would be there when teams are struggling at the bottom of a conference division as well as when they get promoted. I’m pretty sure that a number of brands will be pulling some of their July advertising budgets in the wake of the pitiful English performance, but maybe if a brand had the balls (no pun intended) to keep talking to consumers even at the depths of their misery, then we may be more willing to share the excitement the next time it comes around.

Thirdly, if the passion for international football declines, I believe that it will find a more natural home in football or other sports that they have a closer more direct relationship with. As people becomes disenfranchised with multi millionaire footballers who bear no resemblance to anyone they know, they might just turn to the team next door where they know the cousin of one of the strikers. So brands should look to support this grass roots level sport, the sport where real people have a real connection and where the brand has an opportunity to really make a difference and give something back.

A Copy however colourful is still a copy

Saw this today on Adverblog.

This video visualises the effect of Dulux’s Let’s Colour project.

I started off wanting to like this, in fact I started writing a post about how much I loved it. Dulux are tangibly making a difference to people’s lives by erasing the drab and grey from the lives of poor, run-down communities and replacing it with vibrant colour. That’s got to be a good thing right?

But as the 2 minute video progresses, I find myself feeling more and more cynical about it. Here are my 3 key reasons

1) This feels like Dulux’s attempt to do a “Cogs” , “Balls” etc and make up for the fact that Sony made an ad for TVs that was all about Paint!

2) Even if it hadn’t been done before in the advertising world, it is just copying ventures that already exist in the real world:

a) I was reminded of a civic venture by the Mayor of Tirana (Capital of Albania) where they sent an army of painters out to brighten up the morose communist era concrete grey.

b) When looking that up, I also found the Favela Painting project which was initiated by Dutch artists Haas & Hahn in collaboration with the Brazilian Government (and AkzoNobel – a commerical paint company) to engage the inhabitants in transforming the squalour of their slum. When you see the sophistication and ambition of this project, the Dulux activity in Rio starts to look a little shabby.

Frankly, I’m sick of seeing creative agencies seeing a great idea on the internet and then passing it off as an original thought. I’ll add this to the box that has the Aero bubbles skateboarder and the Berocca treadmills in it.

3) Finally, this “transformation” has been undertaken with little care for the potenial underlying beauty that could be lost under a coat of emulsion. The final segment of the video shows the effect of the project on Jodhpur, India. Jodhpur is hardly a city that could be called drab. It might be poor, but there is such variety and colour already naturally there that it seems an awful shame to paint over it in vast swathes of purple and so to lose the wonderful details and turn it into a bit of a Disneyfied India.

It’s a shame, because I guess hearts were in the right place for a lot of people on this, but it feels a little too self serving and not original enough to convince me that Dulux actually care.

Saying all that, it will probably work because not everyone is as cynical as me. Most consumers don’t know about Albania or the Favelas and they will just see the transformative power of Colour. They probably will say “Isn’t that a bit like the Sony Rabbits/Balls/Paint ad” though

Brainwriting – when a brainstorm is just too slow

Having worked on 20th Century Fox for the past 2 years I’ve run a huge amount of brainstorms. Last week I was set the challenge of running a 5 hour brainstorm in which I had to generate ideas for 5 different films (with 12 sub challenges). I just wanted to share some of the learnings from the session.

With 12 challenges in 5 hours, I had less than 25 mins for each question which was always going to be tough, so rather than run a standard “Stand at the front and write stuff down” session, I decided to use a brainwriting technique that I had adapted from one I read about online (see herefor details of the basic technique).

My Adaptation of the technique is focused on getting people to improve a build upon ideas in order to deliver workable detailed solutions rather than wooly fantasies. It is described in detail at the bottom for those who are interested – it is really quite simple – a bit like those games you played as a kid where a group of people had to write a story but you had to take it in turns to write a line.

I found that this approach was incredibly effective for the first half of the session. When it was working properly, we had 15 different people all creating or improving upon ideas all at the same time. Compared to a standard brainstorm when only one person can talk at any one time and only one person is writing, this was an incredibly efficient use of people’s time.

This technique also avoided any negative influences such as the dominant personalities that love the sound of their own voices or the recessive personalities who might have great ideas but don’t like to voice them. It also means that people don’t judge the ideas on issues of practicality, instead they are encourage to make the idea workable.

A Note of warning however, this technique worked really well when the group had compelling stimulus and some clear hooks on which to generate their ideas. For the later part of the session, we were all a bit stumped for ideas to solve the problem and so getting 15 people to work in isolation really didn’t help as people needed much more hand-holding. So make sure that you are comfortable that it is a rich source of ideas.

A Second watch out – Don’t try to answer 12 questions in 5 hours! We probably answered 6 effectively, 3 half heartedly and 3 not at all. A Shorter brainstorm with fewer challenges would have been a much more efficient use of people’s time.

The Technique

1) THE TASK Set out the key problem as defined with the client
2) EXPLODE THE TASK: Take one attribute of the problem and as a group “explode” it. So if the problem is “How do we make this feel like a premium experience” then to “explode” it you should ask a question like “How do other categories create premiumization within their portfolios” or ” what is it about the current experience that feels less than premium”. Basically you need to get the group to start to think laterally about the idea.

3) A FIRST APPROACH: Keeping the results of stage (2) on the wall/flipchart then you can start the Brainwriting stage. Hand out a piece of paper to each person. Then give them 1-2 minutes MAX to write down just ONE good idea to address the TASK.

4) The ANGLE: Once stage 3) is finished get them to pass the idea to the person to the right of them and allow them to read the idea they have received. Then go back to the results of stage (2) and pull out an example of a brand or a category that excels in solving the problem that you have. Spend a few minutes discussing how that brand/category works and then ask the question “How would X improve the idea that you have in front of you”. Then give the group another 2 minutes MAX to improve and build upon the idea that they now have in front of them. It is important that they do not try to create new ideas at this stage, but focus on making the idea in front of them better, whilst focusing on the angle that you have selected.

Repeat stage (4) upto 2 or 3 times each time passing the idea along and introducing a new angle.

5) Go round the table getting people to summarise the idea and developments. You will find that you have a surprisingly high number of well worked through and imaginative ideas. This is also the opportunity for the group to build on the ideas that they hear.

Finally – ensure you have some kind of filtering process in place to whittle down the ideas to the best ones. I’ll talk about this again in the future, but it is vital

Video Games are not about making friends, they are all about WINNING

Just saw this TV-ad for new racing game “Blur” and it made me realise how few ads for video games are actually anything more than a glossy gameplay trailer.

This ad on the other hand seems to stem from genuine consumer insight and introduces a post-modern approach to game advertising.

They demonstrate an insight that there are plenty of grown up gamers out there who don’t want to be treated like children, but who do want their gameplay to be a whole heap of fun. This ad basically says – “here’s a game that you won’t look like a kid for playing, but will allow you to indulge your inner boy with big boy’s toys.” This is the kind of game that Dad will buy for his kid, but take great pleasure in beating him at it.

The line “Shut it Pinky” is so unexpected and funny and flies in the face of conventional wisdom that gaming these days is all about socialising and watering each other’s crops. Racing (and gaming) is not about making friends, it is about WINNING. The benefits of meeting people online that you can play against is not to increase your social circle, but to find NEW PEOPLE TO BEAT!

For a long time, videogames have emulated movie release in their approach to media and advertising. The central strand of any campaign for a big budget title will be a 30″ TV trailer which is a combination of in-game action and pre-rendered cut scenes designed to give a feel of the action/story. This campaign has basically shown up all that advertising for the unimaginative crap that it is.

Just fell back in love with Google

So for a while now I’ve started to feel uneasy about my sense of loyalty to Google as a brand.

Part of my anti-Apple stance has involved singing the praises of all things Google – particularly Android in that it represents the inverse of everything that annoys me about Apple. However, I started to worry that maybe I was just turning into a Google version of the crazy Apple fan-boys, the people like my wife’s colleague who was on the waiting list for both the iPad and the iPhone 4 before he even knew what they did. That’s £1000 of cash outlay before he even knew why or how he would use them!

In truth I marvel at Apple’s ability to continually demonstrate the triumph of marketing over matter, but it does wind me up too. What I don’t want to do is become exactly the same as those Apple fanboys in trying to be different from them: to blindly support Google initiatives such as the brilliant Google Navigator just because it is brilliant and better than the competition and FREE!

So damn google then for this absolutely brilliant video and making me fall in love with Google again. In very simplistic terms it is just a demonstration video of how fast google chrome is, very rational, very clear. But it is delivered in such an engaging and spectacular way as to just grab me on an emotional level. It appealed to the 10 year old boy in me who used to wonder how many stairs he could jump down in a single leap, the same 10 year old who would dam the local stream and blow it up with fireworks. I love this video. Watch and enjoy

Red Dead Redemption – my new favourite game and my new favourite marketing effort

OK, so I just bought Red Dead Redemption, and it is truly brilliant. I wasn’t a massive fan of GTA 4 as I felt it has lost something since the early days of the GTA series, but this latest opus by Rockstar is truly breathtaking. It manages to create a hugely atmospheric and powerfully evocative world in the middle of a desert. They manage to make a bleak environment  vibrant and full of life and it just begs to be explored.

I could spend hours talking about the game, but that’s not what I wanted to mention right now. Instead I’m going to talk about a great piece of marketing that I came across.

In an effort to highlight the authenticity of the game and also to re-invigorate people’s passion for the era, Rockstar have done a deal with LoveFilm where they are sponsoring the free streaming of the full version of “The Proposition” – an Australian “western” that they say was one of their key inspirations see here

This is a true media partnership though because there is genuinely mutual benefit for all 3 parties – Rockstar, the consumer and LoveFilm. Rockstar gets an opportunity to showcase the beauty and atmosphere of the game and generate desire amongst it’s fanbase for a “western” game. The Consumer gets to watch a really great film for free and LoveFilm gets to promote its streaming service as well as having the opportunity to upsell consumer to either buy the blu-ray or signup to their rental service.

The appeal of this offer is highlighted by the fact that it is already doing really well on stumbleupon and so is generating a strong viral impact. As far as I am concerned this is a perfect example of a brand partnership – low cost,hugely relevant, high benefit to the consumer, maximum conversion to sales – brilliant.

Resonance is the new relevance

Just a really quick one. Two buzz words have dominated media planning in the past few years. About 5-6 years ago it was all about relevance – making sure that a message is relevant to the mindset and interests of an audience whilst they are consuming a particular medium. Then over the past two or three years people have been talking about engagement a lot, so not only do we want people to find something relevant, but we want them to actively consume our message rather than just passively absorb it.

Today I read an article in new media age about Twitter’s Promoted Tweets model and the news that if a brands messages are not forwarded on enough by consumers then the brands will be dropped, but without charge. It’s a really interesting payment model and launches a whole new trading option on the media world – PPR = Pay Per Resonance (You heard it here first) – the idea that brands pay for the viral effect of a campaign.

I can’t imagine that traditional creative agencies would want to be remunerated on such a basis any time soon, but it could be a revolutionary formula for some of the challenger digital agencies who really want to stand out.