Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The one degree of inspiration - how we do briefings

Can you create an association between a dolphin and a windmill?

Non-linear thinking is an essential exercise for creative development.

Take two random objects and try to create a scenario that links them.

It puts your brain in a state of creative thinking, forcing abstract, tangential ways to solve problems.

Which is essentially the difference between thinking like an engineer (literal, lateral) and a creative (non-lateral).

Briefing an engineer, I reckon, looks a lot like most people brief creatives - a piece of paper with specific details on it that map out the specs needed for the job to be done.

The creative brief is a funny old beast, and plenty had been discussed about how that’s done on the web - see Beeker Northam from Dentsu speaking for D&AD on that topic.

I’m interested here on how we brief.

Because much of how it’s done now doesn’t put creatives in the best place to come up with ideas.

I guarantee the first thing most creatives do after receiving a brief is Google the client, or similar advertising solutions.

It makes the work derivative of other work.

It’s one step of free association from the starting place.

One degree of inspiration.

I like to take them further degrees away from this.

Make the work more original, and therefore more successful.

So here are a couple of key things we do that are designed to work with the creative mind:

They’re called the 'Nolans':

1. Inception - seed the brief early and let it grow in the mind. We do it a week early.

2. Memento - Write it all out super clearly so it makes sense when you wake up the next day.

3. Interstellar - We go far away from the office. For our record label client, we go to Rough Trade Records. For Glenfiddich we go to a high-end bar.

And it works.

We get better work, sooner.

Oh, and my answer is a wind machine making waves in a dolphin tank at Sea World.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What We Can Learn from Expansion Blunders

By Terence Jou

Target announced last Thursday that it plans on shutting down operations in Canada, closing 133 locations across the country over the next few months and leaving 17,600 employees out of work. Analysts had been attacking Target’s expansion plans since starting operations in 2011 and opening it’s first store in 2013. Critical about its “botched invasion”, experts highlight the following points that contributed to continued losses for the brand:
  • Distribution centre and store inventory tracking problems led to empty shelves
  • Disparity between price and product matches to the US stores
  • No e-commerce strategy as competitors like Amazon and Wal-Mart, who gained territory in online shopping
  • No explanation of the brand identity to the Canadian audience, it assumed Canadians knew what the brand was because Canadians have done cross-border shopping
Target isn’t the only brand that has had issues breaking into Canada from the US. Sam’s Club, Radio Shack, Sony Stores (which announced closures last week as well in Canada) are all recent examples of the retreat of US businesses who didn’t quite get the Canadian market. Closer to home, Tesco’s failed expansion into the US proved that it’s not just American giants that have expansion arrogance and fail – Tesco shuttered its Fresh & Easy experiment in 2013 after 6 years across the pond.

As a Canadian who’s worked on Target in the past, the news is pretty grim. But as marketers who work on global brands, we have to treat these failed expansions as learning points, and while we might not be launching any stores across the world anytime soon, we are launching global campaigns that are often picked up by different markets. 

How can we apply these learnings to our creative ideas?
  • When designing a global campaign, local market consultation is required. While a one size fits all solution to try to include all regions is not possible, considerations into what can/cannot work for each markets must be evaluated with Client on what they are willing to address or sacrifice in the creative. 
  • Don’t assume the audience in the market you’re going into know or understand your brand from your base market. They might have very perceptions of what your audience does in your base market. Education is always needed to align brand perceptions among regions.
  • Expansion and growth can not be treated as an overnight process. While technology has certainly helped us speed up process and access to information, there are other parts of the expansion and growth process that cannot happen overnight – brand perception being one of those key areas that take years to develop.
It is always good to remind ourselves and our Clients when evaluating creative work that global campaigns should be thought of in the same way as expansions – let’s not kid ourselves and think that everyone knows who we are and what we do. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Emotional context of creativity

I don’t like jazz.

I listen to a huge amount of music and really get every penny’s worth out of my Spotify account.

But for all the genres I listen to, I just don’t like jazz.

So, it’s unusual that I find myself regularly going to jazz clubs.

I go more than I go to gigs or festivals. 

And I love it. 

But I love it because I sit in a smoky, dark room of leather and wood.

I’ve been to one in Detroit that was an old prohibition room with a tunnel to the river for smuggling in hooch.

I went to one in Chicago - on my own - and sat at the front with a whisky, smiling throughout as an apparently famous jazz trumpeter did his thing.

But I don’t like jazz.

And I never play it home or at work.

I actually find it quite awful and annoying.

There’s no ‘atmosphere’.

Lighting and environment is a powerful agent on mood.

The way we experience something directly affects our perception of it.

And this is effectively what we do when we are marketing a product.

So why does so much of advertising insist on the straight sell? The cold, rationalising of a product’s benefits.

We buy things based on how we feel about them.

The layering of the experience around a communication is vital to steer the desired mood in a particular direction.

Changing brand perception is an indirect exercise of the way we experience the touch points with a product.

Digital is the most common first touch point with most products, which is why it’s important to nail all those subtle cues that our brains pick up on without us knowing about it.

In the case of Jazz the product is the musical craft.

The experience is the downstairs smoky jazz club.

Communications need to do the second one - the brand experience, not the product.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Excite, don't teach - Content Marketing

Kelly Thomas from St. Louis Zoo is teaching me how Penguins speak.

I figure that since theyre the new key to viral success following the John Lewis ad, I should learn.

Im learning it from a YouTube video.

You can learn anything on the internet


Try it, have a look on YouTube. It’s full of experts.

You can even learn how to learn.

It's all good content and what makes the internet so useful.

But this is where much of the advertising world is getting stuck when it comes to content.

It’s good editorial but it’s not good for most advertising briefs.

What we do is almost always perception change or awareness driving.

Brands don’t need to come to agencies in central london to capture someone teaching consumers how to use their products.

There’s always going to be a fan doing it already.

What we do is impact - add the twist, make people care, give them something different.

Content is the ‘what’ part of the equation.

Impact is the advertising bit. The bit we do.

We convert the rational into the emotional.

I often say we need to think like we’re in a production company putting together a pitch for a series for the BBC.

We should think like directors, not teachers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

For lack of a better story

I bought a OnePlus One recently.

It’s a smartphone from China with iPhone 6 level specs.

It’s the best phone on the market in almost every way - screen, camera, looks, price.

It’s not out in the UK so no one has really seen it, or knows anything about it.

Which means it has no brand equity to speak of.

So when people ask what it is in the pub - I can’t explain it what it’s all about.

I’ve not been given the spiel to trot out.

Or more specifically - the people asking haven’t been pre-prepared with whether this is a good product or not.

They’ve heard of Google and Apple and know what they stand for.

But OnePlus don't have a widespread brand so all the stories are functional ones – just listing the specs.

There’s a reason apple don’t sell on specs.

It’s too rational.

But that’s all I have to fall back on.

I can’t talk about about a company belief.

Or an ethos.

There’s no mythology.

No iconography like a logo of the forbidden apple from the Garden of Eden.

So I make it up.

And this for me is what we do as a creative agency.

Make up stories for consumers.

Or better still, find and dramatise stories in an authentic way.

Because without them you’re leaving your customers to rationalise their own decisions with nothing other than specs.

This is actually where I find real value in planning departments.

They find the truths of the brand.

When I worked on Ford, we had document called ‘The Book of Truths' produced by Ogilvy.

Each page was a single image and a simple, compelling truth.

For example: the drag coefficient of the Ford Focus is the same as a bullet.

Now that’s an exciting start point for creative story telling

Hollywood does it too.

They have companies that find amazing human stories and sell them to scriptwriters.

Ben Affleck’s award winning film Argo came from approach, as do many others.

Maybe creative agencies need to behave a bit more like this. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Brands need to 'Change the Conversation'

Andrew Roberts (Originally featured in The Guardian

Mad Men’s leading man Don Draper’s maxim that “if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation” really stands the test of time. Brands are now controlled and shaped by consumers, and being part of this conversation is critical for brand success.

The problem is that far too many brands have misunderstood the point of this conversation economy. Yes, they are creating relevant and interesting activity, but most are simply joining the conversation. Given that organic reach on Facebook has reached a lowly 1-2%, being engaging has never been more important – and that means “changing the conversation”.

Change is a deliberately big word. Brands need to create new or refreshingly different experiences, using their content and channels carefully, to guide them through the fragile gap between awareness and dismissal.

That’s why we have our own principles for how we work with our clients to change the conversation.

Connect emotionally

The best way to a lasting committed relationship is to connect with people the way a close friend would.

Show, don’t tell

It’s not enough to talk about what you do or how good you are; you need to demonstrate it, directly, with impact and meaning.

Own something

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Choose something relevant and focus on it.

Context is queen

Context is your best friend or worst enemy. Choose it wisely, study it well and be respectful.

Give, give, give, take

Take nothing for granted; in order to ask something of anyone you must earn their trust and respect first.

Give options

Don’t expect everyone to be the same; consider offering different levels of involvement.

As Oscar Wilde said: “The only one thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” It’s a sagacious observation that applies as much today as in Don Draper’s day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fierce, fearless and female - Really Nils ?

We had a lot of conversation and debate recently about Nils Leonard's article in Ad Week deliberately controversial or toe curlingly patronising or just downright sexist ?

If you haven't read it here are some interesting 'highlights':

She is a thief of new technologies.
A murderer of trade unions and waiting lines.
A radiator of energy and believer in the genius of 3 a.m. tequila, when it all matters a little too much.
Her best friend might be a planner.
Her lover might be a producer.
And like all star players, she will always be on loan. Never yours.
One day, the perfect modern creative will have enough of us.
Because ultimately she will want to create something sacred for herself.
And she will go and do it.
And we will love her for it.

Of course this set the girls going
and we thought it was worth sharing the pov - what do you think ?

Micheala Macintyre:

I appreciate the sentiment and understand this was written with good intentions, but I find it hugely patronising and insulting. "Her lover might be a planner". Fudge off. What has that got to do with it?!

This isn't the dream "creative of the future". There are already wonderful creative women in the industry, just not enough of them. And they aren't all whispily floating through agencies questioning how they are put together because they just can't get their pretty little heads round it all.

Don't get me started on his use of "This GIRL gets none of us are as smart as all of us". Seriously? In a piece where he is trying to champion women in creativity he chose to use "girl"? 

"She won't allow pay grade to (affect her from doing good work)" - what the fudge is this suggesting?!?!

No, Nils. Nil pointe from Kays.

Georgia Zervudachi:

Like what it is supposed to be saying, but I think good points are lost in the wankery around it – vague and paternalistic, although I suppose its a subject that is always going to raise heckles. Could have been written in the 80s. Or 1919. Or the 1790s. 

It's more like what this person feels like the work force needs (Why just limit it to creatives? Is it just women who are going to do this?), and is almost surprised there is a push for it coming from the female quarter, as gals get a bigger voice in the workplace. Thanks, internet and YAY DISRUPTION. 

Hard work and intelligence (book, emotional, street smarts) in all spheres are increasingly important as everyone has similar qualifications, as well as population growth and the unfashionable-ness of nepotism. and that's why it's so darn competitive, because all of these types of intelligence and understandings and insights need to be proved and I think people in general are appreciating ALL THAT more.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The convergence of social

By Richard Anderson

I recently attended ‘The Convergence of Social & Mobile’ at IBM’s suitably suave offices as part of Social Media Week 2014 and will here focus on Anne Salz, Matthew Candy and Nick Pestell’s discussions plus some mind wanderings from me. Whilst Anna and Matthew focused on great examples of how mobile & social continue to impact our social interactions, Nick gave us a more pragmatic approach about how our mobile/social interaction has caused marketers to react in order to remain relevant. A theme that emerged was that we should no longer see ‘mobile’ and ‘social’ as separate entities but rather begin to accept them as a type of consumer behavior.

First up was Peggy, who gave us a reminder of what being mobile actually means (in context of tech):

1.     Personal – we choose our mobiles, their model, how they look etc and they gradually become an extension of ourselves. 
2.     Portable – Moveable and thus with us all the time.
3.     Pedestrian –  Not dull, but a way of carrying out mundane tasks (Salz described our smart phones as ‘life managers’)
4.     Participatory – They enable bringing people together.

Talking about ‘Pedestrian’, I particularly liked Salz’s example of Amazon’s new ‘Mayday’ service which she labeled a type of ‘Outsourcing of our brains’. Users who encounter a problem with their Kindle can connect straight to a live Amazon advisor who visually and audibly guides you through the problem. It’s Sulz’s opinion that these kinds of technological improvements raising the bar in their industry that will have an impact on those well beyond mobile. Say we all like and begin to value Amazon’s Mayday’, isn’t that just going to annoy us off when we’re playing on our next gadget that doesn’t offer it? When we encounter great experiences, we gradually come to expect ‘great’ all the time, no matter what the technology. Thus brands are going to have to rethink customer services in an attempt to keep up with those brands doing the best job digitally.

This kind of outsourcing our brain is a trend Sulz expects to continue, and to be driven largely by mobile. Desktop and PC’s have got us so far but their usefulness is obviously constrained by proximity where mobile technology is not.

A great social ‘Participatory’ example that Matthew Candy, from IBM, later spoke about was Boston Hospital Open Pediatrics, which is a free interactive digital learning platform that provides medical education to over 100 countries. By connecting people worldwide, this technology performs social good by empowering people with knowledge. “Data is the new oil”, was a phrase I found thought provoking, though perhaps more understandable in a commercial context. At IBM they have recently partnered with Tesco’s to create a sharing platform for all Tesco employees, a simple but effective way of pooling knowledge and encouraging collaboration. It’s Matthew’s belief that businesses are too compartmentalized in the way they look at embracing social learning and that opportunities are being missed.

Next up was Nick Perrell, an agency representative from Facebook who impressed us with some Facebook stats. Perhaps the most striking for mobile and social’s convergence is that 63% of Facebook’s revenue is now driven by devices that didn’t even exist a year ago. So if we’re increasingly adopting social on our mobile devices, there’s clearly still growing potential for brands. In fact, the average user is now checking Facebook 15 times per day. However, Nick made no secret of the fact that brands increasingly need to be savvier with their posting strategy, “The gap between content created and the time to consume content is widening”.  Given this plus the (widely known but not admitted) understanding that brands’ reach is being ever-cannibalized, he stressed the importance of content needing to be ‘atomized’; regular and easy to dip in and dip out of. That, and the need for it to be in tune with how consumers want to consume content.

Consumption of video content has changed dramatically over the past year and represents a significant shift in our mobile behaviour. Nick revealed that during the #IceBucketChallenge; 17 million videos were shared on Facebook - an unprecedented volume, with mobile no doubt playing a huge part, be it the recording device or the player. It’s no surprise that brands have followed this video trend, with 70% of marketers now using video in their advertising.(Marketing Tech Blog 2014).

Focusing lastly on mobile’s role in the customer journey, Nick explained that 67% of digital purchasers begin on one device before moving to another. He suggested that if brands aren’t fully mobile-friendly, then they’re not even at the start of the customer journey and won’t capitalize on their mobile acquisition. I tend to agree, however, I’m unsure where social fits into this, if at all.

The last speaker, Mick Rigby (CEO of Yodel Mobile) summarized nicely, that he felt social wasn’t the silver bullet for mobile marketers but that it would continue to be an driving part of the mobile mix especially as usage increases exponentially, with half the population expected to have a smartphone by 2017.  His 3 point strategy for marketers across mobile and social is simple he says: ‘Acquire, Retain, Advocate’.