Author: electricginger

The sorry state of the public apology

Following the recent genuine and heartfelt apology by young Australian tennis player Daria Gavrilova, I wrote this piece for the Drum that explores how public apologies are usually so unsatisfactory.

All too often the public apology has been generated to an apparent template by a publicist and appears to be crafted to ensure that the perpetrator takes on as little responsibility or blame for their actions as possible whilst fulfilling the minimum public expectation for a display of remorse.

I’m sure that the publicists think that it is all very clever, but I actually believe that these “I’m sorry that you got offended” type non-apologies at best do nothing to rectify the original offence and could even make the situation worse.

In my article in the Drum, I highlight some recent bad examples as well as try to explain what I believe a real apology should deliver.

Is this product placement or branded content? When the product becomes the star of the show.

As both a distributor and creator of brilliant content, a world renowned consumer electronics company and a media platform developer, Sony is in a unique position to create a self sustaining marketing ecosystem.

In this post on The Drum,  (http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2015/11/05/ultimate-branded-content-hotel-transylvania-2s-surprise-star) I discuss a recent example of Sony doing just this in Hotel Transylvania 2 and what it might mean for their brand strategy moving forwards and whether there implications for branded content in general.

Are videogames finally doing proper brand advertising?

I’ve been a fan of videogames since I was about 7 years old when my Dad bought a ZX Spectrum, and things have come a long way since then. One thing that never really seemed to come on though was the way that these products were marketed. In the mid 90s the industry seemed to settle on a fairly formulaic PR  plus trailer model that reflected the movie industry and since then they have pretty much stuck with that.

However, since then, many games have become huge brand franchises in incredibly competitive market places, but for the most part their marketing strategies were still very similar.

In this post on The Drum http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2015/09/15/video-game-advertising-coming-age-moving-trailers-proper-brand-ads I discuss how two recent advertising campaigns give me hope that maybe this model is being broken and that videogames are entering the world of grown-up long term brand marketing.

Finding a common currency and commercial language for AV media

The world of digital media is growing exponentially and is a part of virtually every campaign we do,  but I often find that the traditional and digital media elements of a given campaign struggle to be truly integrated. I believe that the biggest barrier to seamless planning across all media is the lack of a common language and currency.

This is particularly true for probably the most important  group of media, those delivering audio visual messages. From pence per guaranteed view on Youtube to buying TVRs and “opportunities to see” on TV, it is challenging for anyone to compare apples with apples in our AV landscape.

In this blog post on the Drum,http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2015/09/10/ongoing-challenge-comparing-cost-and-true-value-traditional-and-digital-media  I discuss a number of the challenges in AV planning and some potential thought starters for a solution.

Let’s stop trying to define ‘native’. If you want to sell me something new, just think of a new name

Let’s stop trying to define ‘native’. If you want to sell me something new, just think of a new name

I constantly get approached with new media technology solutions that all sound the same because they talk about native and content and targeting etc. Have a read of the article for why that kind of approach just won’t work with me

Mythical Marketing creatures – things that Marketeers talk about that I’m pretty sure don’t exist in the real world

I love my industry, I really do. It is full of passionate, creative and driven people who are constantly looking for new ideas and better ways of doing things. It’s great, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

But sometimes we can be guilty of losing sight of the real world and forgetting how real people actually behave. Sometimes we start to believe our own sales pitch, not just in the broad sense but in the details too. We can become like religious fundamentalists who insist that their holy scripture is word for word fact, even if it is self contradictory and often vague.

Sometimes I feel the need to call us out on these things. I know I’m not the only one, but  there have been a few times recently when I have found myself claiming to do the very things that I know are bullshit, and it is time to get the record straight.

bullshit_free

There are a bunch of marketing ideas that I do not believe really exist, or at least they are incredibly inaccurately named. You might think that the naming of things doesn’t matter, but I think it is crucial. The name of something is the shorthand for how everyone else things of it and a badly named idea can lead to significant detrimental consequences

Here are 3 just to get me started:

1) “A Seamless Brand Experience”

This was the phrase that made me start this blog post, I heard a client (not mine) insist that consumers were taken on “A Seamless Brand Experience” and I realised that it was a term that I had probably used myself, but was utter bullshit. All brand experiences are necessarily “seamed” because they have to live in the real world where people do/watch/read/consume/think other things other than about your brand. Therefore a seamless brand experience is obviously an impossibility. Now I know what you are thinking – “Oh but Dan you know what they mean – no-one is talking about locking someone inside a branded jailcell to ensure that they live a seamless brand experience – we are simply suggesting that as people encounter different brand assets they are clearly identifiable as coming from the same place – you are being too literal”

And you’d be right, I do know what you mean, but then why not say what you mean? Why not say we need a “consistent and regular brand experience” that gives people a few mental shortcuts so that we don’t have to start from scratch every time. The use of hyperbole in “Seamless Brand Experience” not only creates a bar that is unattainably high, it also actually pushes you in the wrong direction. Instead of investing in “owning” a few key brand identifiers that make all assets identifiable whenever our audience encounter them on their personal journey, we end up worrying about stalking consumers along behaviour journeys that don’t exist in the real world.

2) “Real Time Marketing”

Given that I have a secondary title of “Real-time planning director” I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but “real-time Marketing” is a myth. The idea that a marketing strategy can instantly flex and adapt to consumer behaviours, news events, social media and more is a very attractive one, but one which is technically and practically impossible.

Whilst there are tactical elements of advertising and communication that can happen close to real time (i.e. programmatic buying of online advertising inventory) these methods require fully automated computerised solutions to be “real-time”. The minute that a human being gets involved to change anything it is no longer “real-time”.

So when a social media manager for a meat snack brand tweets his brand’s “thoughts” about whether or not suarez actually tasted blood in the latest on-pitch incident, that isn’t real time – it is just “a lot faster than normal” The only person that is reacting “in real time” is the guy being bitten.

The reason that this is a problem is that “Real-time” has been held up as such an exciting buzz-word recently that people who don’t scrutinize it think that just being fast is a virtue in and of itself and they forget about being “relevant”, “interesting” or “memorable” – all of which are much more important than being “real-time”

Some people are using the phrase “adaptive” marketing which I think is much better because it assumes the existence of an actual strategy that needs to be adapted, rather than “real-time” itself being the strategy. Unfortunately this phrase hasn’t taken off because “real-time” sounds much sexier. But that means we end up with crap like this

glade

3) Native Advertising

“What?! Of course Native Advertising exists!! I just bought a native advertising campaign for my client” I hear you say.

However for every 10 people who said that, I reckon I could get 10 different descriptions of what they actually bought. Native advertising has been used to describe everything from online advertorials, sponsored web-sites, outbrain links, in-feed facebook adverts and many more besides. Native advertising covers so many different marketing communication opportunities that I don’t really believe it is a real thing in and of itself

The value of naming something rather than just describing it is that I can quickly convey all important information about that thing in one or two words.

So for example if I was in the middle of a jungle and I wanted to quickly alert someone to the presence of a large quadrupedal striped carniverous mammal with large teeth and claws, I would probably just shout TIGER!

However if I told my client that we should buy a “Native advertising” campaign, they would still have absolutely no clue as to what I was recommending. I would still need to describe in detail what I was recommending, which means that the actual words “Native advertising” added nothing to the conversation. As far as I am concerned, that means that Native advertising doesn’t really exist, there is just lots of stuff that isn’t display advertising or search advertising.

Well there’s my starter for 3 – I’m sure I’ll come back with more when I need a rant

Thanks for reading

Now talk show hosts are on my side!

Over the past couple of years I’ve been banging on about my manifesto for sustainable communications. Simply put – if we don’t respect our consumers and their relationships with the media they choose to consume, we will lose our right/ability to use those media to speak with them.

Then at the weekend I saw this rant from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show.

 

I thought that he was spot on at every level. The dissolving of the separation between “church and state” hasn’t meant that we have developed more effective marketing and communication efforts, but it has narrowed the gap between editorial and marketing communications by reducing the perceived value of the editorial content.

By damaging this relationship of trust between consumers and their preferred media brands, we are in turn undermining any value that those media brands have for marketeers to persuade consumers to buy their products.

What is both funny and upsetting is that the vendors of native advertising don’t seem unduly bothered by Mr Oliver’s opinions.

In this piece in Bloomberg Business Week, the general response was something along the lines of “All publicity is good publicity, and frankly he’s not going to stop this juggernaut” or in their exact words ” It’s pretty cool that things are going mainstream, and [I liked the] unspoken acceptance of the inevitability of native advertising as a viable long-term form of monetization.”

Scary stuff.

Please don’t waste my time with this stuff

Just came across this piece of “branded content” on buzzfeed.

23 Everyday Situations We Would Love To Be Rescued From

It is pretty standard buzzfeed list – a bunch of mildly amusing pictures with a large dose of schadenfreude – the only thing that makes it branded content is an intro line (which I didn’t read until I got to the end) and a trailer for a TV show at the end. Essentially though the list was created to be relevant to the TV show about Coast Guards, but the only reason I even noticed was because of how tortuous the connection was.

Buzzfeed are clearly working to a KPI of dwell time – hence the 23 things in the list even though there are probably only 5 good/original photos in the list. But in this instance dwell time is a completely unnecessary KPI.

The only value of this piece of content was to make sure that I noticed and remembered the name of a particular TV channel – and do you know what, I can’t. This isn’t being done for effect, but I’m going to have to go back now and check – OK, it was the weather channel – I would never have picked that.

So someone like me whose job it is to pay attention to this stuff and who is writing a blog post about it, had forgotten within less than 5 minutes what the brand was that was sponsoring the post.

This is a great demonstration of how optimising to the wrong KPI can produce the opposite effect to that intended.

The only reason for the Weather channel to do any advertising is so that when people want to know about the weather they remember to switch on the weather channel or visit
the website. That’s it. So the most important things in this post should have been 1) Do people notice the Weather Channel brand? 2) Do people have a better understanding of how the weather channel is relevant to them?

23 random photos of bizarre non-weather related situations only serve to swamp the brand and eliminate any relevance that the weather channel might have had. As they get progressively less funny, they also maximise the chance that you stop reading before you get to the end and so don’t see the primary reason for the post – the trailer for the show!

The funny thing was, the best image was the first one and it was the only one that was weather related
orangutan weather

If they had just run with this one it might have actually landed the message – although then they would have been better off running it as a piece of display advertising copy or even a promoted tweet when they would have reached siginificantly more consumers!!

Sorry for the rant, I just can’t be the only person that resents this devaluing of content and of my time. I refer you once again to my manifesto for sustainable communications

P.S. For the sake of completeness I tried to watch the video at the end of the “content” and got thisCoast guard

Being topical or even shareable is not the same as being relevant

(DISCLAIMER: It has been brought to my attention that the rant below sounds like I hate social media or digital media. That’s definitely not true, but I do hate bad advertising and poorly thought out communications strategies driven by buzz words which the examples below represent. Also this behaviour is not limited to digital media – “topical” ads in newspapers and posters are often equally irrelevant to the brands being advertised, but they are less hyped and celebrated by the industry)

 

I’ve been watching with dismay over the past couple of years as brand after brand decides that they “need” a social media strategy because it is the latest thing, without any real understanding of what it should achieve for their brand. They hire a specialist social media agency (rather than an integrated media agency that can give them a less biased view), they buy a bunch of twitter followers (mostly robots or people in click farms in Bangladesh) and then churn out an hourly stream of inane twittering usually involving pictures or short videos of cute animals doing cute stuff.

It doesn’t matter  which category they are in, or what audience their product is for, brands keep following the same trite route to irrelevance. By no means the worst offender, but typical of the behaviour I am talking about is National Express
national express

Their utter irrelevance is so absolute that the “Condescending Corporate Brand Page” has created an album called “National Express Animal Sanctuary – Because public transport has EVERYTHING to do with animals and days of the week”

national express2

This is particularly lazy irrelevance, but I guess if you are going to spout worthless communications into the ether, you don’t want to expend too much effort on it.

Some brands put a bit more work in, but rarely make their brand or product even vaguely relevant to the topic at hand.

Some brands try to at least comment on things that are topical, but rarely do they say anything interesting
pizza express fail

sony pancake

Even when brands try to add something to the topic that hasn’t been said a million times by everybody else, they still spectacularly fail to make their product or brand relevant to the conversation

gareth baleinnocent clocks

I’ve been trying to work out why previously competent and sensible marketeers on otherwise well marketed brands and products, should fail so horribly when it comes to their social media communications. And the conclusion that I’ve come to is that the people responsible for social media campaigns are not targeted against anything that looks like an actual business or brand objective. They have launched into a specific channel led idea without having a clue what it is they are trying to achieve. In doing this they then set KPIs which simply measure one social media campaign against another without any understanding of how that will improve their business.

When social media specialists discuss what this type of activity could possibly be achieving, they tend to mention one objective: top of mind awareness. They think that to stay top of mind they just need to be constantly producing content so that they are visible to their consumers all the time.

What they fail to realise is that “top of mind awareness” is a short hand for “first mention when asked “can you name a soft drink/travel company/mobile phone”” or whatever the category might be. It is a proxy measure for how likely people are to think of your brand WHEN THEY ARE ACTIVELY IN THE MARKET FOR YOUR BRAND, not just randomly across the course of the day. If your brand is visible to consumers across the whole day, but is never connected to a product or brand benefit in people’s minds then it will never get to be top of mind when it actually matters. In fact it’s lack of relevance will mean that when you do have something relevant to say, consumers ignore you because they know not to expect anything of substance from you.

Essentially, what this comes down to is that being relevant is not about what you say or even when you say it, but is about what you ARE and what you DO.

This does not mean however that real time social media marketing cannot work, in fact I believe it can be a very powerful tool when used appropriately within the context of a strategically integrated campaign. What makes those campaigns stand out however is that they never lose sight of the purpose and role of the brand and product in consumer’s lives.

I have found one brand that seems to be doing a relatively decent job of this. (I’m sure there are more, but I do have a life you know!) And NO, it isn’t Oreos (although this years decision to completely retire from the Superbowl social media “Brandter” (My new most hated word) was inspired)

I first came across this brand’s real time efforts with this beautifully constructed ad that was attached to the back of a bike at Wimbledon the day after the longest ever tennis match.
Kit Kat Wimbledon

The simplicity and elegance of this solution is possible because everyone can instantly see why Kit Kat is relevant to this story. They have no connection to tennis or wimbledon, or really sport at all, but they have single mindedly stood for the benefit of taking a break for as long as I can remember and so this communication needs no explanation at all. In terms of top of mind awareness, this one could actually work the next time I’m in the mood for a chocolately snack break.

And KitKat, for the most part, have managed to stick to this in all of their social and real time communications. At the very least their brand and product is featured heavily in any of their facebook and twitter posts and where possible they choose their topics based on the relevance of the “Have a break” line. They aren’t perfect, but they are definitely giving it good go.

Kit Kat superbowl

I also really liked this effort from Jaffa Cakes, who made a strong play for relevance by leveraging their originality and authenticity credentials when a new pound coin was announced by the Royal mint

Jaffa

 

So that’s it basically. If you have a bunch of twitter followers and your social media manager thinks he has something funny to say about Easter; unless you are selling chocolate or are a church, you are NOT relevant. Tie him up or break his fingers but don’t let him post anything next week!!

UPDATE – I’ve been on holiday throughout England’s dismal World Cup campaign, but have arrived back in time for Wimbledon – The perfect opportunity for yet more brands to celebrate their irrelevance – the first example is below from PG Tips

 

PGTips Wimbledon

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