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.”
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
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.
This morning I saw a great presentation – #Ownthemoment – from our Twitter sales representatives in which they highlighted the most effective ways to take advantage of Real Time Planning behaviours using the twitter platform. Particularly they highlighted 3 types of event you can look to associate yourself with – Live, Connected, and Everyday.
They then proceeded to highlight a variety of planned “newsjacking” type behaviours that actually mirror the kinds of tactical reactive advertising the press advertising industry has been indulging in for years, but that twitter has provided a low cost and more immediate entry point to. See this Innocent example around the recent furour surrounding the Gareth Bale transfer
Their key point (which I very much agree with) is that Real Time Planning is MORE about the Planning part than it is about Real Time. Most of the “reactive” campaigns that have been celebrated in our industry are in fact meticulously planned responses to highly predictable events. The key is the effective analysis of data to predict likely scenarios and then have a plan for when those scenarios eventually emerge.
That’s all fine. There is definitely a place for placing a series of small reactive bets that IF they pay off can deliver a proportionally huge return on investment. Using the framework of “Live, Connected or Everyday” moments is a sensible way to structure our social communications if we want them to appear relevant and get consumers to engage with them.
My problem with it is simple – it is just too small. Advertising spend on Twitter represents approximately 0.1% of all advertising spend globally. If we generously guess that it has an equal effectiveness to all other advertising then it is essentially worth 0.1% of all advertising effect. If you then manage to align the planets correctly and hit the jackpot with a promoted tweet that is bang on for your brand and a rising trend that day, you might be able to increase its effectiveness by a factor of 10 – or 1000% – giving it a total value to the average campaign of 1%. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of failed attempts to get that jackpot moment. For every Oreos blackout moment
there is an Epicurious Boston moment and hundreds that just don’t get noticed at all.
That isn’t to say that Real Time Marketing isn’t important – quite the opposite – I think it has the potential to revolutionise the way we run marketing campaigns, it is just that I want to make it worth more than 1% (at best!) I want to find a way to apply those Real Time insights to a medium that can make a real difference.
On average, TV advertising makes up 63% of all advertising spend and is rising. If we can use these real time insights and cultural understanding to make our TV budgets work just 10% harder, then that is worth 6% of all advertising budgets. To put it in money terms – the potential prize for getting it right with twitter is global increase of $5billion (and I think that is incredibly generous), but the same level of effort could conservatively be worth $30billion if applied to my TV budgets.
For those of you not in London, the basic premise is that Europcar’s new service “FreeDeliver” will save you time, essentially giving you an extra hour in your day to do with as you will. I first saw this campaign on a fairly standard panel on a train and noticed at the bottom it suggested that I should twitter what I would do with #myextrahour.
My initial reaction was somewhat cynical “Really? People are going to bother tweating about Europcar? and are Europcar’s audience really on Twitter anyway?”. I believe that social media can be a powerful force in the right campaigns, but it has to be an organic process. Surely the UK public aren’t going to fall for this are they?
But the general commentary amongst my peer-group was pretty positive and when I looked into it, this was a well structured media campaign. The static posters drove people to twitter, but in turn their tweets were being displayed on Digital 6 sheets and billboards across London allowing consumers to broadcast their ideas for how to spend their spare time. I also thought that this was a pretty brave approach and at least they are trying to do something a bit different. It definitely stands them apart from their competitors.
But then my cynicism kicked back in and I decided to follow #myextrahour to find out what people were saying. I discovered that people tweeting it divided up into 5 groups
1) People who work for Ogilvy (the creative agency running the campaign) complying with the spirit of the campaign and suggesting activities for the extra hour that ranged from the banal to the inane
2) People who work in social media and web marketing hooking up with Ogilvy in a mutual love-in and orgy of self congratulation
3) People who suggested defacing the campaign in their extra hour
4) People trying to get past the moderator and get profanity onto a London Billboard
5) One guy who was using it to send people to a competitor site (enterprise) and lots of people re-tweeting the “Corporate Twitterbot FAIL” that ensued.
oh and 6) Europcar
In total since Saturday there have been about 60 tweets, and I can’t find one that is from an actual member of the public who has engaged with this campaign in a non-cynical and genuine way.
This a) makes me happy because I was right and b) makes me sad because I was right.
I just don’t think that a brand like Europcar which has no defined brand identity or personality (or none that exists outside of their own marketing team) can drive a social media movement in this way and expect people to actually bother engaging. We are a cynical bunch, particularly in London and we won’t be told what to think, what to share or how. Fundamentally people don’t have an overwhelming urge to engage with advertising campaigns and to get them to do so you need to deliver a great deal more value to them than this campaign does.
Whenever I look at campaigns like this I revert to my standard motto which is “what does the consumer actually get out of this”, and in this case, I really have no answer.
I also think that if you insist on trying something like this you need a much clearer call to action and use a media that can really bring “an extra hour” to life in an emotionally engaging way. This seems to be crying out for a full-on “Bisto” style emotional TV treatment that might just cut through our cynicism, bring a moment of laughter, joy, nostalgia, etc into people’s lives and maybe, just maybe get people to share some truly inspirational and worthwhile thoughts.
Just discovered this. I haven’t got loads to say except that it is a lovely piece of creative that really gets the idea of how and why social media is such a driving force amongst most youth audiences these days.
Just saw this on the X-factor Facebook page. If you want to get a sneak preview of the up-coming X-factor series (and let’s be honest here – I do!) then you have to “like” the X-factor facebook page first. Let’s be clear – you don’t get to watch it first and decide whether you like it or not, you have to blindly like it and then hope that it is any good.
On one level this is brilliant. There are enough people out there who are waiting eagerly for anything from Mr Cowell that they will happily click on “like” and broadcast their preference to all of their friends. It’s a way of guaranteeing that it will “go viral” pretty quickly. It also ensures that you have a great big audience
I do have a couple of issues with it though.
1) I believe that a lot of people are starting to become quite selective about what they do and don’t allow to be broadcast on their public feed. They know that when they click “like” then about 8% of their friends will see that they have done it. I also know of people who blacklist friends from their friends feed because they are constantly being spammed with messages about farmville and suchlike and don’t want to have to dredge through mountains of automated status updates just to get to the real stuff. Because of this, people may well be cautious about clicking “like” before they know if they really do think it is worth it. In this instance it might work because people are enthusiastic enough about X-factor generally that they don’t feel the need to vet this particular piece of content, but I don’t think that it is a model that would work for many brands.
2) The “exclusive” trailer is a bit rubbish. I’ve had to profess a love of X-factor in exchange for being told that X-factor will be just like last year. I hoped for more. Anyone know how to “unlike” something?