Tag: advertising

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

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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.

4 Old Fashioned Rules of Advertising in Action

A while ago I read this excellent article by Martin Weigel in which he debunks a lot of the received wisdom that passes as “facts” in our lovely industry and instead highlights 4 fundamental rules of advertising that every campaign should fulfill before it does ANYTHING else.

Simply stated, these rules are:

1) Be Interesting
2) Be Memorable
3) Scale it
4) Sustain it

I even made a sign to stick on our wall to remind ourselves of this and help apply it to my personal discipline of media planning

Old fashioned rules of advertising

Now a lot of people have commented that these rules are way too simplistic for the new “digital first” world and that it needs to be all about “social content strategies” and “building brand love” and “owning” a “territory”. Now those things may or may not be important, but the fact is, if you achieve all those things at the expense of the 4 rules above then you have simply created a digital white elephant. You’ve spent loads of money creating something that no-one is buying, but you can’t get rid of because someone has formed an emotional attachment and so you spend even more money on its upkeep and getting people to come and see it in order to justify the original cost.

When you lay out the 4 rules like that it seems so bloody obvious, but I keep seeing campaigns proposed which forget to do ANY of them.

Often, the ideas are only “Interesting” to people who work in advertising, they are instantly forgettable and even the people who work on them forget what they made. They rely too often on some mythical “viral” effect and the idea is merely a tactical gimmick that has no longevity at all.

With that in mind, I absolutely LOVED this new campaign from a CARWASH company of all things!

This is the first execution:

In its own right, this surreal humour is brilliant. It instantly sparks your interest with the line “There’s something I should tell you” and then makes sure it is memorable with a series of mental and visual images that you aren’t going to forget in a hurry – Bacon Underwear anybody?. Then the simple line of “It feels good to come clean” and the fact that the whole thing is shot in a carwash means you can’t fail to take out the basic understanding that the advertiser needs you to understand if this is going to affect their business in any way.

It’s simple and near perfect.

What they don’t worry about is “Owning” a particular USP or anything – Obviously every single car wash could use the line “It is good to come clean” and nothing in the advert differentiates the basic proposition from its competitors – but it does make it memorable and distinctive and that is the most important thing.

If it was just the one execution, it would be a good campaign, however what makes it great is the follow-up executions which simply feature increasingly bizarre confessions from the same couple. What I particularly like is that each advert starts exactly the same way, but then has a series of alternative endings. That means that if you enjoyed the ad the first time, you are rewarded for continuing to watch multiple times when it comes on TV and hopefully you will keep watching just in case there is a new execution rather than thinking “I’ve seen this, so I can ignore it”. That’s a brilliantly simple device to sustain an audience’s interest.

What is also interesting is that as a local advertiser, Hughes Carwash has no real interest in getting global viral Youtube views (and so far it hasn’t – only 6000 or so on each video) but it can simply buy local TV spots to generate the scale that it needs. TV spot advertising is still the most effective and efficient way of getting lots of relevant people to watch your AV advertising. Again this keeps getting forgotten in a world of viral “hits” that accumulate about the equivalent of 1 primetime TV spot in views.

The (apparently) incredibly low production budget means that this advertiser has been able to create an almost endless supply of interesting and memorable TV ads that will hopefully drive their business forward in the city of Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).

There are many, many much bigger brands with much bigger budgets that could learn a great deal from these guys.

Revisiting an old theme – media sustainability

A couple of years ago I wrote a bit of a manifesto on why we as advertising professionals should be looking to enhance the media we use to communicate our brands offerings rather than just exploiting the eyeballs we find there – I think it is still relevant and so wanted to share it again in slightly cut down form


This image formed the spark for the philosophy and manifesto that I’m about to deliver so here goes:

Here’s what I believe:

1) Human attention is a valuable natural resource, allowing us to learn about the world around us, adapt our behaviour for optimal utility of that world and to evolve our attitudes for maximum enjoyment of the world

2) Human attention is NOT an infinite resource, there is only so much new information we can take in at any time and only so many things that we can be persuaded to care about

3) All marketing and communications require that we capture that human attention

4) Human attention naturally concentrates and clusters around certain content and media because of the value it contributes to their lives, NOT because of the amount of advertising they find there

5) Just like any natural resource, over-exploitation of the human attention to media will inevitably lead to the dilution and eventual destruction of that attention and make it impossible for us to harness it any way, positive or negative.

(Yeah I love that pic!)

6) It should therefore be the responsibility of advertisers to not just exploit a medium for the audience that it attracts, but to invest in that medium with sustainable communications to ensure that it continues to deliver value to consumers and in turn provide a continuing resource for brands to communicate to those audiences.

Some advertisers might claim that they already do this – by paying to advertise in a medium they say they are investing in the quality of content that medium can provide. And maybe that used to be true. Maybe some consumers do watch advertising in the knowledge that they are entering into a contract with the media channel to “pay” for the content they choose to watch by also watching content that they would rather not. However I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this is true of most advertising messages.

As advertisers we “buy” an audience that media owners “sell” to us. Because of that we think we have a right to put pretty much anything we can get away with in front of that audience and we approach every consumer contact with the question “what can my brand get out of this?”.

A perfect example of this is the recent news story that Ford had “secured” a corporate page on Google+. What I found remarkable about this was that a) Ford had ignored Google’s request for advertisers to back off until they had worked out how to showcase corporate accounts and b) No-one seems to have a clue what Ford are doing there and what they hope to get out of it. All that they seem interested in is the fact that there are 10 million+ people already signed up and that it is currently unexploited so they get to be first. No-one knows how people are using Google+, what it is all about and what they can get out of it, but Ford are happy to steam in and plant their corporate size 9 footprints over everything.

This shouldn’t be surprising. As soon as an emerging technology develops into something that looks a bit like a “medium” then every client I have wants to know “How should I be using it?” There is an assumption that if there is an audience then we should be exploiting it. The same happened with Twitter and I can’t even think about doing a campaign without being asked “what will my facebook page look like”.

I also look at the dead and dying media brands that have failed to keep up with the ever increasing demands of advertisers and investors and so have been abandoned by the wayside. Internet brands such as Myspace that has effectively been ditched – at a loss of half a billion dollars – because no-one could work out how to make it work for advertisers.

I start to feel an element of responsibility for this. If every new medium is disected and assessed solely based on it’s ability to generate advertising income then potentially viable media products and businesses that could have had another business model are simply allowed to fade away.

Now maybe this isn’t a problem whilst there is a steady flow of sacrificial lambs for us to exploit, plunder and destroy, and maybe it is fine when consumers don’t have a choice whether or not we target them, but I believe the days of being able to exploit media with impunity are numbered. Consumers have more and more tools that enable them to choose whether to engage with advertisers or not and the longer we abuse their good will and force interruption to their media consumption with unwelcome messages, the quicker they will learn how to switch us off. Indeed there is legislation coming which will force consumers to make that choice (see anti-cookie European legislation)

So here’s where I start my campaign for sustainable communication (I got here eventually!).

I believe that the most successful advertisers in the next 20 years will be those that understand that we have a duty to respect the contract between advertisers and consumers and deliver true value in our communications.

We need to ensure that we are investing in successful media, not just by buying media space, but by delivering content and messages that in and of themselves increase the value that consumers take out of that media space. Rather than saying “what’s the next big thing” all the time, we should be saying “how do we make the current big thing work better for consumers” so that we don’t have to start all over again when we have bullied them out of the media that they used to love.

For my part, whenever I am asked to consider a new media opportunity, I am going to endeavour to start with the question “How can I make that media better for the consumers who are consuming it” rather than “How can I make a quick buck here”. And let me be clear – another generic TV ad with animated animals or a beautiful woman selling perfume does not make my experience of that medium better. Most ads that your average advertiser likes are frankly wallpaper for your average consumer.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be adding examples of campaigns that are either examples of great sustainable communications or worrying examples of media exploitation.

Please feel free to send me any good examples of either.

As a starter for 10, please check out the mediaweek award shortlisted Panasonic Advertiser funded programme “How to take stunning pictures”. This was a piece of TV content on channel 5 that out-performed it’s alloted programming slot and was hugely popular with consumers and client alike. In addition Panasonic were able to clearly convey their commitment to helping the average photography enthusiasts get the most out of amateur photography. And it sold Panasonic Lumix cameras – lots of them.

Xbox ONE – the product that Microsoft always wanted to make – shame they didn’t ask us what we wanted to buy

As a gaming enthusiast that never gets to play videogames any more, I’ve been following the developments at E3 with some interest.
Xbox-One_2584436b

This year is a big one, the proper launches of the first true next generation consoles (sorry Wii U, you really don’t count.) We’ve had to wait for these for longer than any other generation of console and the consumer demand has been growing steadily.

Of the last generation, the original Wii was the big winner in terms of console sales, although it never really competed with the Xbox 360 and PS3 as true gaming devices in terms of the number of games sold.

For the hardcore gamer, the Xbox 360 was the big winner, especially in Europe and the US. They did so much right: The price point was keener (due to the fact that they didn’t include an expensive technology in the form of a Blu-ray drive that they didn’t know if people wanted); the key exclusive games were truly newsworthy – Halo 3 and Gears of War and the new controller was just a really intuitive evolution of the original xbox s controller that everybody loved.

Within this package, Microsoft were also able to sell us a lot of stuff that we didn’t know we wanted. Xbox Live Gold, Live Arcade games, A wide suite of entertainment apps, Sky Player on the Xbox – brilliant. These things have all increased the influence that the console has had on the living room and made it an essential subscription each year.

So Microsoft should know the secret of success – Give people what they are asking for, at a price they are willing to pay, with some killer games that the fanboys can shout about. If you want to sell them something completely new, then don’t expect them to pay for it upfront, find a way to get it in the back door. It worked for Kinect for example. When they launched their new control device, it managed to be the fastest selling consumer device of all time!

So why have they got it so wrong this time?

They’ve launched the console that people wanted, but then insisted on attaching a piece of unproven technology that most people don’t want. The Kinect might have sold very well, but my understanding is that the attach rate for games was pretty low – just like the original Wii. There is a market for waving your arms around in front of the telly and most people are happy to have a couple of games like that, but the low sales of all the Kinect driven games that followed showed that it wasn’t ever going to be a big volume driver. On a personal note, my own Kinect camera is still stuck in the Garage from when we moved house. The Xbox came straight out, but I’ve had absolutely no reason to take the Kinect out again.

The inclusion of the Kinect wouldn’t be a problem if it was essentially a bonus, but by having it included, they have added about £100 to the retail price in comparison to the PS4.

That seems to be a huge mistake. These two consoles are going to be released at pretty much the same time, they will be perceived to be roughly equivalent in gaming power and so the only difference is that one comes with a £100 bit of kit that only a small proportion of the existing customer base will want – sound familiar? (For Kinect see Blu-ray)

Both this launch and the launch of the PS3 suffered from the same sense of hubris.

8 years ago, Sony were determined not just to launch a new console, but to use that console to win a format war – (a format war that frankly wasn’t worth winning as the physical format is dying quickly and being replaced by downloads and streaming) By focusing on the secondary business objective AND GETTING CUSTOMERS TO PAY FOR IT they lost the primary battle. They probably felt that they could because of their vast superiority in the previous generation – the PS2 is still one of the best selling consoles of all time and trounced the original Xbox – but they very quickly fell into 3rd place because they took their eye off the ball.

The same hubris will be behind what I expect to be the failure of Xbox ONE. Someone at Microsoft clearly has a vested interest in getting Kinect into every lounge in order to make it central to every family, rather than just the geeks upstairs. However by taking that choice away from their customer base they risk a mass exodus to PS4 – this is especially the case considering that the Xbox ONE has no backwards compatibility with the 360, so there is no tangible rational reason for current users to be loyal. The only thing left is “exclusives” and with a fairly average Halo 4 in recent memory and other franchises losing their freshness, I’m not convinced that there is enough to keep people in the Microsoft world.

The only saving grace for Microsoft is that Sony have a tendency to fuck this stuff up. The PSVita was a phenomenal piece of technology with huge amounts of innovation and style, but then they decided to insist upon proprietary memory cards because they wanted to force customers to buy extra cards and for Sony to make the money on them. In the short term this meant increased ARPU, but in the long term it just meant a lot fewer users and is now already a console we talk about in the past tense.

Anyway, rant nearly over. I just don’t understand how they can get this stuff so wrong. I haven’t even started on their decision to not allow used games etc (even though I kind of agree with this one) but everything that the twittersphere is buzzing with is all based in the same problem – that Microsoft have just made the product that they feel best fulfills their business strategy, rather than basing their business strategy around the products that people actually want to buy.

Real Insight about Real Beauty

In my job, and when I train new recruits on the key skills required to do my job, I really try to focus on the power of a compelling human insight. All too often brands will focus on what it is they want to say and what it is they have to sell, but if marketing communications are going to be in any way successful they have to have a deep and real understanding of what their audience need to hear.

If I’m honest, those true insights are very rare, often they are just superficial observations masquerading as insight, or even worse, just a post rationalisation of the “brand truth”.

But when you find a campaign that has really harnessed a human insight it can blow you away, and a very recent campaign for Dove has just done that for me.

It is a well known saying that people who repeatedly buy into brands, aren’t buying what the brand does or even how it does it, but they actually are buying why they do what they do.

That’s why the Campaign for Real Beauty has been held up over the years as a brilliant example of how to generate a powerful emotional response to a brand and in doing so generate a powerful brand affinity (I’m loathe to say “loyalty” but this comes close)

Saying all that, the Campaign for Real Beauty sometimes managed to be a bit condescending and still got caught up in more traditional cosmetics industry habits. At the end of the day, every single one of the women in the original campaign was really beautiful, even if they weren’t Cover stars for Vogue.

AZJ0165N_1.tif

This latest evolution of the campaign is truly brilliant however and captures the human decency at the heart of the campaign and it does that because it is based on a real insight that is generated from a place of genuine empathy and sympathy.

The insight is simple – Most people are more aware of their own physical flaws and imperfections than they are of other peoples, so effectively people are less beautiful in their own eyes than they are in other people’s and that this is a potentially crippling perception. What is brilliant about this campaign is that they not only managed to convey that insight, but they managed to transform real women’s opinions of themselves.

Watch the documentary below and see more of the campaign here

I feel good about doing the job I do when I see stuff like this.

IKEA – Old fashioned advertising that is perfect for a digital world

Hello all, I’ve been away for a while and thought I’d ease myself back in with a nice simple creative commentary

It pains me to say it (having recently stopped working on IKEA’s business and so can’t take any reflected glory) but I’ve been really impressed with the work that IKEA have been doing recently in the UK, it feels like it has really started to click for them.

They seem to have found the holy grail of the perfect balance of rational and emotional in mass market broadcast advertising as well as finding a good reason to develop engaging content for active consumption online. They’ve created a properly integrated and multifaceted campaign and to do this they seem to have gone back to traditional advertising basics. I reckon that the Adcontrarian would love this.

This season they appear to be promoting their storage range. It is a product area that IKEA are rightly proud of as they truly innovate in this area and pretty much everybody has something of this ilk from IKEA, but the problem is it just isn’t “sexy” like a sofa or a kitchen. It is just stuff to put other stuff in. About a year ago they had great intentions to get people interested by trying to create a war of the sexes with a “who’s messier: Men or Women?” But although an admirable effort it just didn’t take off with their customers.

This year they have clearly gone back to the drawing board and I think they have delivered some stunning results.

Building on the success of their last two kitchens campaigns (Kitchen Parties and Playing with my Friends) Mother appear to have decided to commit to the “music video” format for the central strand of their TV campaign. As such, the first thing I saw was this beautiful advert posing as a music video that serenaded the benefits of having better storage solutions. They managed to take an incredibly rational and potentially dull topic and make it all about falling in love, the most emotionally engaging topic of all.

For all the developments in digital media, a powerful TV campaign is still the single most effective way of driving brand and product consideration, it is also the first part of a campaign that people are likely to see and so it is vital that you nail that element and I (and most people commenting on Youtube) think they have. They’ve managed to showcase loads of products and the benefits without feeling overly commercial. Tying it together at the end with “Make room for your Life” they have taken last year’s broad theme of “Happy Inside” and made it more clearly relevant to consumers’ needs.

If they’d stopped here I’d say it was already a definite improvement on last year, but they also understand the power of different media and have taken the same theme and brought it to life in different contexts to move people from just a nice warm fluffy feeling about IKEA’s storage solutions to a more definite understanding of how YOU can use it to improve YOUR life. They’ve avoided the temptation of taking a still from the TV creative and have presented real stories in a very simple but compelling press format that could have fallen straight out of the pages of “Ogilvy on Advertising”

Ikea - Expedit Shelving Unit_2842806

The scan from a newspaper doesn’t do it justice, but the strong visual, coupled with with simple straightforward copy that connects human passions with practical solutions is actually incredibly refreshing. But isn’t it weird that it is surprising and refreshing to see an ad which basically just follows the rules on what we’ve always been told makes a great ad – such as this one

volkswagen_lemon

What Mother have been able to do however that Bill Bernbach couldn’t is then help consumers really witness the true benefit of Expedit shelving to Harry – this press ad sends readers who are interested to watch the story of Harry’s Vinyl on ikea.co.uk – a lovely 4 minute “changing rooms” style piece of content that is focused on using storage to help people do more of what they love. It manages to be emotionally engaging, yet at the same time is completely commercial as every item used is tagged so that viewers can go look it up for themselves later.

There is an alternative for the girls which focuses on Jess’s trainer obsession/business and so allows them to showcase their bedroom furniture range as well.

I think that this is a really smart integration of traditional advertising and digital content that fully delivers against solid business objectives. I dearly hope that work this good helps to sell more IKEA furniture!