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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.

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.

Crowds need a leader

This month’s Admap magazine is all about the “Wisdom of crowds” and examines how brands have successfully harnessed the creative power of their consumers to not only generate compelling creative work, but to get those same consumers to engage with, spread and evolve the dialogue that the brand had started. There are some interesting case studies in there and it is definitely worth a look if you have a copy floating around your office.

The thing is, for a lot of us in the media industry, we don’t need to be told of the benefits of crowd sourcing and user generated content, we need to be warned about rushing in headlong and just getting it wrong. Best case scenario is that you waste a lot of time and effort, worst case is that you actually damage brand perceptions and are seen as “Dad at the disco”

Today however I saw this which is a really useful example of how to get it right.

This is part of cmon and kypski’s One Frame of Fame project and it is one of the most engaging and entertaining pieces of crowdsourced content I have ever seen (Thanks to Chris Stephenson for the inspiration)

So what makes this so engaging and natural and fun when so many crowd sourcing attempts feel forced and awkward and naff? for an example of the latter see the T-mobile “Josh’s Band” effort

I think that there are a few rules that we can learn from the contrast of these two musical collaborations.

1) Crowds need leadership – you can’t expect them to just come up with a mind blowing concept just out of the blue. In Kypski’s video, the band give quite a prescriptive brief as to what is required if you want to get in their video. This give people clear parameters to work within and so they can pre-judge their own efforts according to those criteria

2)Thinking outside of the box first requires a box. If you ask people to come up with crazy and innovative ideas they are often paralysed by the potential choice of what they could do and so end up doing nothing. If instead you apply constraints to that choice it is easier for them to access their own creativity within set parameters. Small rebellions from those parameters will also then potentially lead to something that is innovative, clever, but most importantly usable. The human mind is its most innovative when presented with a problem to overcome. When you remove all barriers you remove the need to innovate.

3) Keep it simple – I shouldn’t have to point this one out, but it is amazing how often brands start to complicate matters when they are trying to generate consumer involvement. The barriers to entry must be so low as to be invisible otherwise they won’t bother. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are dying to get involved with your brand campaign, they are not and they will only get involved if it is easy and fun.

4) Allow them to engage on their terms – Just because you’ve got a facebook page or a microsite or a twitter feed that you want populating doesn’t mean that your consumer wants to engage in that way. Maximise the options for them and worry about the aggregation later.

I’m sure there are lots more to think about, but if more campaigns stuck to just these rules they may well be significantly more effective.

Objects of Desire- the value of marketing post sale

So, if you’ve read more than a couple of my previous entries, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of the Apple monster. I won’t go into my reasons now, (there are loads of people with similar blogs out there – it gets boring)

Given my antipathy towards Apple however, it was a source of some consternation recently when my wife wanted to upgrade her old Nokia and get herself an iPhone. I regard it as a significant triumph then that I was able to persuade her to get the latest <a href=" .”>HTC Desire
The Desire is the latest in a line of Google Android phones that have been challenging for the iPhone’s crown and it looks like one has finally made it (well until the iPhone 4 comes out later this year)

Now this post isn’t meant to be a Geek-off about Google vs Apple etc, it is to do with how marketing can affect someone’s satisfaction and loyalty towards something that they have already bought.

I kept checking with my wife that she was happy with her phone and she does really like it, but her enjoyment of the phone is tempered by the fact that other people don’t know how good it really is and so aren’t obviously envious of it. In her words “I wish their marketing was better so that people would admire it more”.

For her the value of marketing was just as much about making her phone an object of desire for other people as it was to make her want it in the first place. Whilst functionally she has a phone which commentators agree is better than the current generation of the iphone, the one function it cannot perform is to actually BE an iphone with all the status that entails.

HTC really do need to sort out their advertising so that it causes some down and dirty gadget lust amongst a wide population rather than just amongst the knowledgeable gadget geeks.

In this instance the considered opinion of the early adopter is less important than the admiration of the masses.

Critically panned ad has great success – whaddyaknow?

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while and a piece of new news today prompted me to get my thoughts down.

Hopefully you’ve seen this ad from Greenpeace

It’s a pretty graphic, and fairly clumsily made ad to highlight the fact that Nestle uses palm oil in its chocolate that is produced by companies that are destroying the last habitat of orangutangs to get it.

In a word, it’s pretty gross and initially I agreed with the assessment that I read in Campaign that said it was too clumsy, too long and too unpleasant.

But then a funny thing happened, advertising actually worked on me. I quite like Kit Kats, but everytime I went to buy one at my local newsagent, I had an image of biting into Orangutans fingers. Not only that, but every time I saw a Kit Kat ad (and the latest world cup ones are emphasising the “fingers” parallel which is particularly unfortunate) I was reminded of the image of the orangutan fingers. I haven’t had a Kit Kat since I saw it.

I have fairly strong attitudes towards conservation, particularly with regards to protecting endangered primates, but I’m no activist, so it was strange that I then went and signed the petition on the Greenpeace website and forwarded it to a number of my friends. I believe that

I was really pleased today to see that Nestle have now completely changed their policy see here

Gaming Audiences: Perception vs Reality

Just a quick mini rant from me on gaming and why the media industry doesn’t take it seriously, here are two verbatim conversations I’ve had with colleagues in the past two days

Conversation 1 –

Planner: So I’ve been tasked with getting Mums to buy this meat based snack for their teenage sons – I don’t know how.

Me: Random thought – this ad would translate really well to a fun flash game, it’s the kind of thing that 40 something Mums love

Planner: Well I’ve heard that, but frankly none of my friends play any games at all so I don’t believe

Me: But you’re 30

Planner: Yeah I suppose….

Conversation 2:

Planner B: So we need to talk to 18-21 year old girls – any thoughts

Me: (Amongst other ideas) Have you looked at if they are into social gaming etc?

Planner: I said 18-21 year old GIRLS – obviously not.

Me: Humour me and have a look at the numbers

Planner: (5 mins later having investigated our in-house CCS survey which recently had a gaming addition.) What do you know, 18-21 year old girls have an index of over 300 against karaoke and fitness games and also seem to love online casual games. – I don’t buy it though.

And here is the problem – all the evidence in the world doesn’t seem to convince your average media planner that anyone except 10-20 year old boys play games. These planners are willing to ignore vast swathes of statistics which claim otherwise and would rather base their decisions on what media planners and friends of media planners do.

It’s weird – I never watch crappy daytime TV but all the statistics tell me that middle aged housewives do, so if I want to sell Instant coffee I should probably advertise there – and I do. My Mum doesn’t ever watch that kind of TV either, neither does my mother in law, however I’m willing to trust the statistics and accept that the two middle aged women in my life do not necessarily fit societal norms.

Why is it then that when it comes to gaming people are so dismissive of it?

I think part of the problem is that the instant mental image that is conjured up when we talk about gaming is of hyper violent block buster games such as GTA and Modern Warfare. Quite correctly no-one can picture their Mum or little sister playing that game and so dismiss all games. They conveniently forget about Singstar, WiiFit, Farmville and Rockban because it doesn’t fit with their view of the world.

The thing is it is our job and responsibility as media planners to shed our own preconceptions and prejudices when we develop a communications strategy. We have to accept that we very rarely resemble our mass target audiences in any way.

If we don’t do that, then we have no chance of persuading our clients to !


All in a Leather

getting people all excited

A friend recently sent me this link. I found myself being delighted by an 1100 word review of Imperial Leather. It was a lovingly written and detailed product review of a bar of soap! Not even some new fangled exuberance gel/exfoliating scrub/pore reducer, just a simple, honest to goodness bar of soap.

Not only that, but 66 people had rated his review as “very helpful” and 15 people had left comments – all of which were nostalgic and very positive.

I’ll be using this example every time an FMCG client of mine questions the value of social media for their category of brands. Consumers of all ages, shapes and sizes are using social networks, review sites and forums to express their enjoyment or otherwise of every category under the sun.

We often choose not to engage with this medium because (a) we don’t know how and (b) we think “surely people can’t be bothered to interact with their brand of [insert mundane houshold product here] they just want to use them and move on” and we are probably right about 99% of people, but that 1% of people who is truly passionate about your product has the power to do so much more good or bad for your brand than any advertising campaign or promotion. These kind of rewards surely are worth working for.

Latest on the iPad

I wrote this entry on my work’s blog last month


The basic gist was that I can’t see the iPad in it’s current incarnation being anything like as successful as the iPhone – mainly because it doesn’t have the viral visibility factor that the iPhone had. Because people are more likely to be using it at home rather than on the move, I am much less likely to see someone using one and so much less likely to get gadget envy which is one of the primary driver of Apple sales.

Saying all that, they are expecting a huge rush on sales for the US launch on the 27th of March,  although the UK launch has been pushed back to “late April”. There is a very good chance that we will have started to experience iPad fatigue by then

Loyalty schemes – how rewarding are they?

I’ve noticed recently a number of new brands from various categories trying to implement some of the thinking behind reward schemes to increase the consumption and loyalty levels of their consumers. We’ve had Coke Zone, the Telegraph subscription model and today I read about Nuts TV creating a rewards card for Sky viewers. http://www.brandrepublic.com/News/846153/Nuts-TV-links-MiCard-interactive-loyalty-card-offer/

Now it is understandable that brands such as these want to find a way to increase frequency of consumption whilst gathering data about their consumers, both incredibly valuable objectives. Coke is constantly battling against new brands eroding their share of throat, the Telegraph like all newspapers is desperate to find a way to stem the long-term decline and Nuts TV will never really show up on BARB so needs another way to prove to the media buying world that it does have an audience after all.

There’s nothing new in this either – Loyalty schemes have been around longer than any of us, well before Boots, Tesco or Nectar. When I was a kid, pretty much every piece of glassware in the house was from Esso – I can still remember the collector’s catalogue now, and my Mum always had a few books full of Co-op stamps. And they work – I know plenty of people who will only use Boots for anything that is possible to be bought at Boots.

However, I’m not sure that all of these new entrants are getting it right – the Nuts TV and MiCard idea is a nice one but I’m not convinced it is going to work, ditto Coke – so here are a few pitfalls I think companies need to watch out for and few pointers for how to make such schemes work.

1) The biggest and most obvious one is “MAKE IT SIMPLE”.

This sounds like a no-brainer I know, but as companies try to maximise their data acquisition, minimise fraud, minimise cost per user and maximise PR-ability (and breathe…!), they end up putting in a huge number of steps and hurdles to take up which turn people away in droves.

With CokeZone you have to find a unique code under the label, then keep hold of the bottle, take it to your computer and then plug in the code. In the post MTV generation your typical Coke consumer just doesn’t have the attention span to go through all that. The genius of the supermarket loyalty scheme is that collecting fits so naturally into your normal shopping habits and require no real effort on the part of the consumer.

If Coke Zone had a free-text number or even a mobile java photo application that could read the code, suddenly it would be so much easier for the consumer to do the collection

2) Make the rewards a real reward.

Don’t make people collect large numbers of points just to get a money off voucher for something they didn’t really want anyway. Most consumers are savvy enough to realise that they could probably get those discounts through online vouchers anyway or find the product cheaper elsewhere so won’t feel like they are actually being rewarded by your brand, merely being shepherded towards one of your partners. The more cynical amongst them might even assume you’re making some profit out of it. For example – “collect 5 points for free delivery on randomgadgetsite.co.uk” sounds like a bit of a non-offer to me.

If you are giving people a reward for their loyalty, don’t make them spend more money to get it, actually give them something they would want for free.

3) Know your audience –

Nescafé have run a loyalty scheme for a number of years called “Pick-me-ups” where you collect stamps on the back of packs, stick them onto a collectors card and send them in to claim gifts from a catalogue. It’s all very 1970s, but then the average Nescafe drinker is over 50 and this method of interaction works very well for them. They are investigating an online collection method, but if they know what is good for them they won’t eliminate the paper and glue option because it is working and the collectors love it.

This point also extends to the rewards – make sure that you are giving people what they actually want. Give them a forum to feedback on the rewards, make suggestions or just say hello.

4) Don’t mistake scheme participation for brand or product loyalty.

No reward scheme can be a replacement for true brand development, otherwise as soon as the reward scheme stops, the loyalty stops. A reward scheme should just be viewed as a way of maximising the share of pocket of someone who is already a consumer. It will never be motivating enough to convince a non-consumer to start consuming.

5) Give it time to succeed

You are trying to build a whole new habit in your consumers and one which requires extra work. It’s clearly not going to happen overnight.

That’s all I’ve got for now – I might add more later