Sunday, June 26, 2016

12 Strategic Lessons to Learn From Brexit

Now that I've had a day or so to get over the shock and anger that the British people made such an absolutely stupid decision, I thought I'd take a look with a bit more detail at some of the important things that we can learn from the last few months of madness - the most emotional and cognitive dissonance filled event I've ever seen.

Some of it is perhaps obvious, but I think all of it is important.

  • Gambling on the short term is a big riskThe only reason this vote ever happened is because David Cameron decided to take a big future risk, gambling on a Leave vote in order to prevent UKIP from splitting his votes and Tory MP's from defecting at the last general election. It's pretty clear now that the gamble failed.
    Another good point I heard raised was the strategic mistake of the Prime Minister declaring a vote on something he wanted to stay the same, which immediately put him in a negative position. If you are pro-something, why state a vote against it as a key policy?
    We always tell brands it's wrong to get hooked on short termism, and that has played out here too.
  • Always remember the bigger pictureA number of people did genuinely vote leave because they wanted to see reform of the EU, some on the left wing also voted leave because they wanted to avoid things like TTIP and get trade deals with other places such as Africa. The problem was, that they failed to see the bigger picture until it was too late - that the key outcome of a Leave vote was always going to be a boost and insurgence for right wing nationalists and nationalist parties in other European countries. Within 48 hours of the vote, there is already a dangerous atmosphere of fear and intimidation as Europeans and people of non-white descent are facing insults and cries of "go home" on the streets. The vote has legitimised vocal racism again.
  • Clarity, clarity, clarity
    They may have been complete lies, and retracted as "mistakes" less than TWO hours after the result was announced - but the clear numbers and clear statements of fear used by the Leave campaign were easily remembered. The £350m a week figure was used everywhere, and constantly referenced by Leave voters, even though it had been clearly and repeatedly debunked by every neutral source. Likewise the fear of immigration, sparked by Nazi-esque posters, were clear and simple messages that kept the leave community engaged and ready to use their vote.
  • Authority doesn't mean anything without trust
    He may be the single most useless and ineffectual waste of political space since the Tub of Lard that once replaced an MP on a TV panel show, but Michael Gove was sadly absolutely correct when he said that people had 'had enough of experts'. Even though 85-90% of expert think tanks, economists and groups said that remaining was a safer option, and that leaving would result in a recession and severe impacts to the economy... people did not want to hear it. They were happy in the below...
  • People are emotional, not rational
    The emotional perception of Britain as the global power, the big island that could, kept people
    I can't even think of a caption that needs to be added here.
    Image from: https://www.instagram.com/p/BG_n6oAioFO/
    believing that no matter what the data or analysis said - the country would be ok. It didn't matter to them that this notion is totally dated in the global world, that belief overrode any facts. This to me is one of the clear reasons why older people were massively more likely to vote to leave, whereas younger people with experience and understanding of the modern world voted overwhelmingly to stay. Likewise the emotional dislike of the EU, drip fed over many years by the media.
  • People don't always take the safe route
    Many people, including most betting companies, were expecting that Remain would win. Even though the vote was always likely to be close, they believed that (just like in the Alternative Vote referendum and last general election) people would gravitate towards the status quo when they got to the voting booth. Indeed we often talk about this as an element of behavioural understanding in marketing... but this didn't happen at all, in fact the opposite did. I think this is largely down to the above emotional responses, they were so powerful and so long ingrained that actually for many leave voters, they felt the safest, least risky route was to change things.
  • People don't always act in their own self interest, or even know what that is
    Today I saw a very clear chart which showed a very strong correlation between the percentage of regional GDP that relies on the EU and how likely people in that region were to vote to leave. Similarly some of the regions with strongest support for leaving were those with very high instances of EU funding for social and community infrastructure projects. It's pretty clear that the messages about the importance of the EU to these communities did not get across, or were not strong or nuanced enough to get past emotions and other reasons. See Cornwall, who are now demanding that the government match the EU funding that they were getting for local projects!
    Also, there was a massive spike post result in google searches for 'what is the EU?'... which
    Graphic from www.twitter.com/jburnmurdoch
    shows people weren't informed enough. The fault of both campaigns, but also I think a sense that Remain would win, and that many could Vote Leave as a protest and not have to see the outcome. To me this strongly shows the frustration with the First Past the Post voting system, people are used to their vote not counting, and are almost surprised when it does.
  • Post purchase regret doesn't just apply to purchases..!
    I'd say I was amazed to see interviews with people saying they already (within 48 hours) regret voting Leave, and would change their mind if another referendum were held... but I'm not. Likewise the shocked and angry responses when the Daily Mail (who were adamantly pro-leave) published details of what it would actually mean for their readers. Including the gem: "Looks like the remain camp were telling the truth."
  • People can tell when you don't have passion
    I've defended Jeremy Corbyn a lot, I think he is an honest and caring politician. That said, he did not do a good job at all in this campaign. He felt absent, and his previous anti-EU sentiments were repeatedly dragged up and not rebutted. This may have had a direct influence given that most of the areas where there were 'surprise' Leave wins, or bigger than expected majorities were strong Labour areas. If you don't truly believe in what you are saying, or lack a genuine passion, people can tell.
  • The traditional news media still has power
    As stated above, people were actually genuinely surprised to learnt the real meaning of Brexit after they had already voted. The constant bombardment of lies and misleading claims from the media was surely the single biggest reason for this. Over the last 30 years there has been a never ending stream of anti-EU sentiment, mostly from media owned by ogliarchs who stand to get more power and make more money from dismantling it. The deafening cries of headlines over the last few months has no doubt made it impossible for anyone who sees them to get a real rational or honest perspective.
    On the plus side for marketers though, there's still value in these publications, even in their decline phase.
  • The universe always descends towards chaos
    This is perhaps more a scientific point than anything else... but given the universe and everything within it will gradually head towards a state of entropy and chaos, we should maybe not be so surprised when things like this, or Donald Trump happen. Likewise, no matter how well planned or executed a campaign is, there is never any guarantee of success. Anything can happen.
  • Everyone is a hypocrite sometimesI've noticed this over the last few days. People who spent months complaining about the EU are now complaining at people complaining about leaving... people who said they would protest a close remain win are now telling those protesting a close leave win to 'shut up and accept it'.
    Similarly there are plenty of us who have very very vocally insulted leave voters, having previously criticised them for doing the same. As we well know, emotion is very powerful... anger and disappointment especially. Everyone who wins thinks they would be a good loser, but most are always bad losers... kind of how 100% of drivers think they are above average!

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Calm and Rational Repsonse to the Brexit Result

Apparently the British public trusted this man more than the
advice of Professor Stephen Hawking.
Fuck Fuck Fuck. What the fucking fuckity fucking fuck Britain? Are you completely fucking insane?

I have never been more ashamed of being British. Ashamed of the racism and the lies that have dominated this campaign. Ashamed of the ignorance and hate that has won over any rational fact or expert forecasts.

I wonder what made you vote Leave? Maybe you looked at Nigel Farage and said 'Oh he looks like a man of the people.' Maybe you read a newspaper and decided removing those banana laws were worth a recession.

The irony is that the people who voted most for leaving the EU are those will suffer the most under a Tory government that will rip the NHS and public services to shreds. It's not even been four hours and already:

  • Nigel 'Adolf' Farage has backtracked on the MAIN promise of his campaign - 350m for the NHS per week, whilst also insulting the memory of Jo Cox.
  • The promises on immigration have already been backtracked on.
  • Over 450 BILLION has been wiped from the economy. To put that into context, it's DOUBLE what the bankers cost the country in the Housing Crash, and equivalent to FORTY years of EU membership fees.
  • Anything that Donald Trump believes is a good
    idea can't be all that bad surely? ... Surely?
  • Racist dickheads like Marie Le Pen are now already trying to push nationalism movements in their countries.
The people of Britain (excl Scotland, NI, Manchester and Parts of London) have lost the right ever to laugh at American politics again. You fucking idiots just elected your Donald Trump.

Any desire I might have had to one day return to living in Britain is gone. I have had enough of the ignorance, the small mindedness, the racism and the hate. As a kid I saw my black friend's house get egged because his parents had the gall to come from the Caribbean. I saw a friend get kicked and punched for being goth. I saw a city full of racists who treated friendly Muslims like scum. Looks like nothing has changed.
  • So Fuck you leave voters.
  • Fuck you David Cameron for causing this vote through your own selfishness and desperation to return to power. A piece of terrible strategy.
  • Fuck you Nigel Farage, you smug racist cunt.
  • Fuck you BBC for making Nigel Farage into someone. No one gave a shit about him til you started giving him a constant platform.
  • Fuck you Boris Johnson.
  • Fuck you Michael Gove. The worst minister of the last 100 years.
  • Fuck you emotional voting.
  • ...and Fuck You England. Little england. The small country with small country syndrome.
Now if you'll excuse me I have to practice. "Austraaalians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free..."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Enough is Enough. Scam Campaigns MUST Go.

 I see a scam ad on the Cannes seashore...
I wrote this two years ago, after Mumbrella made a big deal out of reducing their coverage of Cannes and other awards... I didn't post it because I was working for an agency which (at the time) had been caught up in minor scam allegations, and I felt it right not to post anything that could be seen as critical of my employer (who were nowhere near the worst offender).

Having seen some of the work awarded this year though, I feel it's time to dig this up and post it, with a few additions for this year:


There has been a lot of talk for several years about ‘scam’ advertising and its appearance in awards shows. In fact, the conversation appears to have varied from calm and reasoned, to hyperactive screeching and finger pointing.

Here in Australia, the ‘big’ news to come from this, was that Mumbrella announced they would no longer cover Cannes in such a major way. This got me thinking about the causes and possible solutions to the issue…

The simple answer is that we are all responsible for this. Agencies, clients, award shows and the industry media – we are all in part, to blame for the rise of what is called scam advertising – and we all need to play a role in making it less of an issue.


Let’s start with agencies.

You are a big agency, everyone wants to work for you. Who do you hire?
I know. That team who won a few awards last year must be good, let’s hire them.

Bang. That in a small nutshell, is one of the key causes of scam.

If you are a creative team, you can do 90% terrible work and 10% award winning, and you will guaranteed get more offers and money than a team who is 100% brilliant, but doesn’t enter or win awards.

So suddenly, every team knows they have to make award winning work to get the jobs they want.

…and now. Every agency wants the same award winning teams, so their value goes up even more. Over the course of a few decades, what awards you have appears to have, in many agencies, overtaken quality of overall work and the clients you have worked on for likelihood of getting hired, and the value you hold.

Hands up if your agency paid through the nose for you to be here.
Now awards are so important that creatives don’t want to work for your agency unless you have them. So if you’re a small agency looking to get more creative clients, it becomes near impossible to get the best talent. No awards = creatives don’t want to work for you = no awards.

Suddenly awards become more important than doing good work.

Even worse. If you are in a globally run agency, there's a near certain chance that head office will be setting you award targets. So now you have to plan your work, and plan your new business, around award opportunities. I saw one of my former agencies get given an award target from head office that was completely ludicrous - the same level as agencies four times their size.


Clients

The role of marketing director has become an increasingly short term one. Companies are quick to change, and long-term often gets thrown out of the window by those at the top who don’t understand it.

This means some clients want desperately to be seen to act while they still can. We’ve all experienced the ‘new client holds pitch two months after starting - to show they are making an impact, despite the current agency doing great’ scenario.

If you want to make an impact, and make a name for yourself as a marketing director – you have two options. 1. Create great sales, hard to do, a long-term goal, and always at the mercy of the public. Or 2. Create work that wins some awards.

So you hire the agency that has a winning award streak.

Image from Marketoon / Ketchum.
http://www.ketchumperspectives.com/issues/epiphanies-from-cannes/cartoons-from-cannes
Now agencies realize they need awards to attract clients. They need teams who have them, and they need to keep winning. The value of those award winning teams goes up more. Awards essentially become a cycle.

So the small agency. They need awards to get the best teams, now they need them to get clients. But they can’t get the best teams, and they can’t get the best clients, so how are they meant to win any awards?

But wait, the client wants them too. Well, what if we just run this great idea you had that we can’t buy in a couple of places…


Awards Shows

Scam advertising is unfortunately an inherent problem in any award show that focuses just on creativity.

Advertising is, at its very core, solving a business problem. Awards that only focus on creativity don’t consider (or only partly consider) whether it actually solved that problem. The best creative idea in the world is still essentially shit if it doesn’t solve the business problem.

Actually. That gets to the heart of why scam is so loathed. Scam ads are basically ads that didn’t have to solve a problem. Even if they were based upon a brief designed to tackle an issue, the fact that it didn’t run in any serious way means that it never actually needs to do anything. It is there to look pretty, and is really, just a drawing with a logo.


The Media

It takes a brave media owner to miss out or reduce coverage on a big story for the good of the
industry. But coverage of awards, the ranking and ratings of awards, and the use of awards in all coverage of award winners is a large part of the reason why agencies and clients are so desperate to get them. No one would give a shit about Cannes if there was no media publicising it.

Ok, maybe they'd go for the parties, but that's another issue.


The Problem

The key problem with scam has traditionally been 'we place it in one small newspaper and it's eligible'. It's easy to look at that as a media problem, but in most cases it isn't. It's either the agency or client who want to run ideas that were rejected, or even generated without a brief.

Now though, the biggest problem is hiding behind Beta. Come up with an unusual or interesting idea that has enough technology to look innovative - then create a prototype which will never go to the public and wait for the Gold.

It's not like agencies don't innovate. My last agency made the magnificent 'Attention Powered Car' for RAC, and yet Cannes somehow failed to award it. (But said how great it was when announcing one of the tech developers as part of this years festival!)
[Update - In the original version I criticised the Peggy Device for OMO from the same agency as pretty scammy. Since then I've actually chatted to one of the people involved with it, who has assured me that the response from the intended audience around functionality was excellent, and that it has enough backing that it could potentially be an actual full product rather than just a 'beta'. In the interests of fairness I think it's important to note that this makes it way more legitimate an idea than the other work discussed here. It also brings up an important reminder to all of us that it's what the actual audience thinks that counts, not what the ad industry thinks - a culture that is actually another side effect of the awards focus.]
I prefer my idea of awards called the Canned Tigers for ads
that are terrible, or blatant scam.

Look at the Cannes Bronze winning 'I Sea' app from Grey Singapore. Now the concept is great, an app that can help refugees and potentially save lives. Except that the app was never properly produced, nor researched effectively to find out if was actually capable and worthwhile of being what it was sold to awards as. The answer, as you may guess is no. An app released to public in an unfinished state, and described by at least one expert in the field as being way too expensive and not fast enough to provide the help it claims.
What state has marketing come to when the lives of refugees are being used to artificially win awards? It isn't just the agency who entered this into Cannes that should be ashamed. Those who push award targets and punishments should be ashamed, and the rest of the industry who utilise similar tactics to get awards should be ashamed too. Who the fuck do we think we are?!

Now of course there are very few people in the industry who mean to cause harm or produce bad ideas, but the pressure from above and the lack of effective checks and balances to make sure these things don't happen are simply not there. As soon as a creative director sniffs an award chance, they are being coerced into pushing it forward regardless of other factors. We've all seen planning award entries where you can see that data has been presented in a way to make it sound far more effective and important than it really was... but at least in those cases the idea actually happened, and the figures presented are accurate, even if they are shined up a bit. (Importantly, effectiveness awards are increasingly looking for independent verification of all figures too.)


So, No Awards?

None of this is to say awards aren’t valuable. They are a great way to show who is doing good work, and to reward them. They are also a deserved pat on the back for creatives and other employees who often pull crazy hours to generate great ideas and get the entries done.

We just need to remember that awards are meant to reward good work, rather than good work being the by-product of award entries. The long running cycle of award addiction isn't actually that far removed from the problem of clients getting addicted to sales. Maybe we need to get together and work on a behavioural approach to beating this...

My position is, and has always been: Awards are great, but I would rather do great work with no awards, than do average work that wins them.


What to Do?

Scam campaigns won't stop unless we do some or all of the following:

  • Make inclusion of a media plan mandatory in every creative award entry, and use it as part of the judging process.
  • Make effectiveness a larger part of scoring creative awards, to minimize the impact of creative which served no purpose.
  • Have the industry media (as Mumbrella announced in 2014) stop treating awards with such importance.
  • Have agencies reduce the importance of awards in hiring contracts and hiring decision.
  • Have agencies base award targets on their size and client base, not on past performance. (Otherwise success one year can leave an agency being unfairly criticised the next year.)
  • Make sure proper checks and balances are in place at agencies to stop scam entries.
  • Make sure award judges are given sufficient info about whether a 'Beta' product has been made available, and is capable of doing the job it actually is being awarded for.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Marketing Lies That Need to Die No.5 - Low Price + Service Charges Does NOT Equal Low Price

Image from Marketoonist, of course.
The other day I went to buy tickets to see one of my favourite bands. The tickets were $70 each.
My girlfriend and I didn't think this was bad for the size of band and venue, so we went online to buy them.

We selected standing, and went through to the second option, which was 'Ticket selection'. There were two options: 1. Let them send you a mobile ticket - Cost $9.80 per ticket. 2. Collect at the door - Cost $9.80.

Well I'm not quite sure how either of those cost $9.80, but we clicked on mobile tickets and went to the next stage.

There we entered our details and clicked to the total, whereby another $9.80 'service charge' was added. So our $140 tickets ended up totaling basically $170, and that was without using Credit Card, which would have invoked ANOTHER charge.

You know what we did? We cancelled and ended up not going, the extra charges were sufficient to reshape our perception of the gig cost.

Now I understand service companies have to make money, but given EVERY ticket company adds these charges, is it not better for everyone to show ticket prices including ALL charges?

Showing us artificially low prices just ends up creating grumpy customers in the short term, and puts people off attending events in the long term.

Would you go to the supermarket and be happy with Bananas costing $1.99, then getting to the counter and having a 'Delivery' charge and 'Customer Service' charge added on? Mind you, supermarkets do usually do the 'Buy one for $5 get one free' when the cost the week before was $3.50.

The desire to show low prices ends up hurting everybody in the end. Customers have an initial
bargain rush followed by an immense feeling of being treated like shit, and business lose both long term custom and profitability in a race to the bottom advertised price. My old agency tried to get one airline in the UK (a market whose service charges are particularly hated) to change their practices, and did a good job shifting them the right way until they got merged.

There's also the annoying 'permanent special offer' messaging, but I'll come to that another day...

This has happened in so many industries, but still companies are so addicted to low price at the expense of all long term sense. They know that people have a behavioural reaction to low prices, but they don't see the logic and impacts for the long term.

I've seen it first hand with FMCG brands resorting to 95% sales on discount because they are so frightened of having unit sales numbers drop... they then ask what they can do to improve their brand perceptions. Indeed I saw one brand who helped turned the entire category into a stream of constant discounts. This problem has also creeped it's way through to the world of gaming, where 'Free*' games dominate mobile downloads to such an extent that a whole generation of kids are growing thinking that all games are deliberately rigged to induce payments.

However. People aren't completely stupid, and we no longer live in an age where you could get away with only a little bit of shared frustration. Eventually these shitty business practices must come to an end... either that or someone else will come and reinvent your market like Uber or DollarShaveClub did with shoddy taxi company service and expensive blade replacements.

That said. I think Fascinating Aida said it best:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Marketing Lies That Need to Die No.3: You Love Our Brand

You. Love. Brand. You Love Brand. You Love Brand.
 You Love. You Love Brand. Oh You Love Brand.
You Love. You Love Brand. You Love.
Sometimes the natural ebb and flow of the English language irritates me. From how the words Chav and Hipster have gone from specific descriptors to generic class insults, and how musical genres like emo and goth get messed with until they end up being no accurate guide whatsoever to the music you are listening to - it happens a lot.

In the world of advertising and marketing, indeed most writing and opinion in general, the word 'love' has become one of those words that has such a wide ranging and mixed use, that it should almost be banned from use in any context outside personal relationships...

Two things reminded me of this. Firstly a conversation with my partner yesterday, where she described how she dislikes the way the word is overused by people - usually for regular completely silly overstatements: "I love this skirt! I love this coffee!"

Secondly, a discussion on twitter between @tomkelshaw and @mariusdonnestad about the word, and a study which showed only 4% of Aussie men 'love' their beer brand. The study, from the excellent (but hard to spell) Ehrenberg-Bass Institute comes to the correct conclusion that expecting a customer to love a brand is way way too optimistic. Frankly it's a naive way of thinking that completely forgets how ordinary people interact with brands, and a key reason for that is the huge variation of what the word love can actually mean.

I think it's time we replaced the word love with two or three more descriptive words that better describe what is being talked about. For example: I cannot abide the use of the meaningless word 'consumer', and always try to replace it with a more human word - even just 'customer/non-customer' is far better.

For a start, if a marketer talks about 'loving a brand' as if it were some kind of deep human connection, like a sweet sweet romance in bloom... they are probably in the middle of talking utter bollocks, and you should walk out of the room immediately. People simply do NOT associate with brands in this way., and even brands that people really really like will find that their relationship with the customer is far more changeable and polygamous than accurately befits the term love.

I think people CAN feel something towards this for individual products, but even then, that is extremely rare. Probably still only a relationship that promotes loyalty, and as Byron Sharp of Ehrenberg Bass has also stated, even loyal customers only buy you around 50% of the time. 

After all, it's BEER. Sure men do like beer a whole lot more than most other categories, but (despite
Brewdog may be my favourite beer brand,
but that doesn't stop me drinking other beers.
However that also doesn't mean I won't
recommend you try one.
mostly being owned by 2 conglomerates) there are some many thousands of beer brands out there, most of which taste exactly the same (and in some cases ARE exactly the same) it's highly unlikely that anyone would 'love' one. It might be your favourite. You might post-rationally argue that it's the BEST beer, that it tastes better than all the others. You might even use the word 'love' as an expression, much to my partner's disdain... But do you really truly LOVE it?

If I bought you a different beer would you turn it down, and forsake all other beers in absolute loyalty? No. If you went to the shop and another similar beer was half price, would you turn your nose up and pay twice the price for it? No.

I much prefer a word like 'Treasured', which suggests a decent attachment, and a positive feeling towards the product, but avoids the unnecessary connotations of the word love. That said, even that word may be too strong for what we really feel towards brands.

I suppose you could certainly be a 'fan' of a brand. Recommending it to others, and maintaining at least a notional loyalty where other factors are equal. I would definitely say I'm a fan of some brands. Pukka Pies, Sennheiser, M-Audio, Brewdog, Nintendo, Apple, Innocent. But see what I did there. I (without meaning to) mentioned two directly competing brands in the same category. Just like bands, I can be a fan of one, but it doesn't mean I don't listen to others, go to their gigs or buy their t-shirts.

Indeed there are some brands that I am a fan of whilst rarely actually purchasing their products. Like Carlton Draught, which I only buy at stadiums where I have no other choice (Because I prefer ale like beer, not because it's a terrible product) - I still like the brand, and talk in positive terms about them because of their brand tone and creative works that build a positive connection. Rather like Innocent, which I am a big fan of, despite rarely drinking fruit juice or smoothies, not to mention that I am 10,000 miles away from a shop that sells it. Coke has over 100 years of American history behind it, yet I doubt many Americans actually love it or would turn down a Pepsi in your home - and those who did would do so out of emotional connection to the associations rather a love of the brand anyway...

Sorry Air Wick. You might be a
perfectly decent and pleasant
smelling air freshener brand -
but I will never love you, nor any
of your competitors.
As the survey points out. If guys can't love a beer brand, a social staple and regularly consumed product - how on earth is it likely that they will love your air freshener, toilet roll, or insurance comparison service brand?

So to sum up this ramble. Whilst people may sometimes say they 'love' a brand, that doesn't mean we should ever suggest to clients or ourselves that they truly love it. They are just a fan, or maybe they treasure the product. Whichever it is, we need better and more accurate words, because if we can't be clear about what relationship customers have with brands, how can brands be expected to trust us to develop that relationship?

Note: (for all those Saatchi folks out there) This isn't intended to be a condemnation of Lovemarks. For me, that is more a positioning than scientific behavioural theory anyway - and whilst I think some of the ideas in it are flawed, I don't dislike the idea of trying to connect and build positive relationships with brands in a stronger way than most marketers do, particularly as we know that, according to stats at least, 'loyalty beyond reason' doesn't really exist - it just mixes the idea of loyalty with the idea of emotional and irrational behaviour. Besides which. It certainly hasn't stopped Saatchi agencies producing some great planning ideas and creative work... :)

Additional Note: That said... I did see Byron Sharp give a talk where Kevin Roberts admitted he made Lovemarks up over a glass of wine. :)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Blighty Ad Review - Part 1 - Carling, Cadburys, Go Compare

One of the many advantages of having a Proxy connection, is that it allows me to see what's going on in the world of British advertising without having to read a million industry articles.

So here are some reviews of British ads I've come across recently:

Carling - Bird Chase

Almost a lovely TV spot. A chase with a bird, featuring some silly stunts and a bit of humour. Apparently it's over a year old, but I hadn't been exposed to it til now...

The problem is the end line. "It's good, but it's not quite Carling."
Yay! They changed the tagline back...
That calls for a Carl... oh bugger.
Firstly, just like Carlsberg when they shifted their tagline to 'That calls for a Carlsberg', it's trying way too hard to be some kind of catchy line that makes the product sound great in popular culture. Thankfully Carlsberg saw the error and have changed back to the old tag line, just replacing 'lager' for 'beer' to match current trends.

Secondly. Carling, as popular and reasonable a beer it may be for the price - everybody knows that it isn't the greatest beer in the world. Unless things have massively changed in the last 3 years - Carling has spent a long time as the ubiquitous cheap beer. Go into a pub and most of the time it will be the cheapest lager on tap, so that's what people drink. Go to a shop, and Carling will be among the cheapest branded beers, so that's what people buy. Just like Carlton Draught and VB over here in Australia, the former of which has maintained funny and memorable ads for some time now.

To me it doesn't shift perception of quality, and using it in that way damages the other good elements of the work. Even a slight shift to something like (and of course I'm not a copywriter..!) 'Not quite a Carling moment' would keep the humour and concept, but lose some of the contrived feel.




Cadbury's - Tastes like this feels

Again, another piece of work that is so very nearly spot on. The idea of using funny or cute internet video clips representing the joy or pleasurable feelings of eating the chocolate carries on the joyful idea first seen in Gorilla.

The problem here is that unlike Gorilla and other highly engaging Cadbury's work recently - this one fails to give the audience anything to work out. It just jumps straight in and tells you the perception you are meant to take out from it before showing you anything to interest you. Now I know Cadbury's has some credibility in interesting content, so people may be more tolerant of remaining attentive... but it just switched me off immediately.

I get that the client wants the brand to be visible at the outset, but they did that with Gorilla without spoiling the content.




Go Compare - That fucking Opera singer

Fuck off. Just fuck off. Seriously now, fuck right off.

Get over to the corner and don't come back again. Jump out of a plane without a parachute whilst carrying lead weights. Taste test some cyanide pills. Have some risky throat surgery from Dr Nick Riviera. Go swimming in the Rio Olympic Swimming waters. Operate heavy machinery whilst very drunk. Set fire to your hair. Poke a stick at a grizzly bear. Eat medicine that's out of date. Use your private parts as piranha bait. (Hang on, that's turned into dumb ways to die...) But really, honestly, just fuck off and never ever return.

A terrible campaign, that whilst not as bad as it has previously been (Excluding the work by Dare
where they actually used his irritating value to good creative effect) - is still so bloody bloody awful that were I a billionaire I would (Remington style) buy the company just to stop them being aired. "I hated it so much, I bought the company."

Ahem.
Please Gio, shave extra close.
EXTRA close.
Preferably with a rusty razor blade.

"Go Away.
Go Away.
This fucking ad's still fucking bad.
So Go Away.

Go Away.

Go Away.
You only work from media buys.
So Go Away.

At least the Meerkat's

Not a complete twat
So please pack your gear
and go fly to North Korea..."

Monday, May 02, 2016

Behavioural Studies in Democracy

A classic and often too under appreciated comedy.
Also one of the most true to life, especially now.
It's my personal belief right now that the single most interesting event for those of us with an interest in human behaviour and social interactions is NOT the continuing misadventures of Donald Drumpf. (Also pretty sure that would make a great Nickelodeon series)

Sure in a few months time that one is going to get crazy. But right now there is something going on that is full of the kinds of behavioural actions, emotional responses, and cognitive dissonance that makes a good marketing book.

I'm talking about the British EU Referendum. Or 'Brexit', as someone with a terrible taste in words thought up.

This referendum campaign has been one of scaremongering, misleading facts, racism, nationalism, outrageous assumptions and forecasting. Some of those from both sides of the debate, but largely from the Pro-Leaving campaign,

For example - The leave campaign, (which ironically is headed by an immigrant who arrived due to EU laws) repeatedly and knowingly describes the cost of  being in the EU as 350m pounds a week. Despite the fact that a chunk of that is rebated, and much of it goes back to the UK to support industries such as farming, not to mention that it secures access to 44% of the UK's current trade.

You then see this misinformation repeated by those ordinary people who back leaving.

Now I am very much pro staying in the EU. For all its flaws, it has achieved many great things*1, and leaving would not only be a disaster for the economy of Britain*2, not to mention ending Britain as we know it*3, but it would encourage growth and tolerance of extreme nationalism in the rest of Europe*4.

Classic Kent Brockman. Pretty accurate,
although sadly we haven't yet found a better way.
I did try to have reasonable debates with people of the opposite opinion, but so far all I have found is misinformation, repeated newspaper headlines from the 1990's, wild ideas that somehow your biggest trading partner will give you a great new deal after you dump them, etc etc. Not only that, I've discovered what seems to be the most stubborn and fact resistant cognitive dissonance I've seen since working on a pitch for healthy eating and exercise. (By the end of the strategy process I was literally wanting to shout "Just fucking DO IT!"... but obviously that wouldn't have been a great strategy.)

I've had people respond to my attempt to show them facts and respected opinions on the aftermath with insults and claims that I somehow don't love Britain because I live in Australia. Frankly I felt it showed I love it more, as despite being 10,000 miles away, I still knew more about it than them. Oh, and the fact that by voting their way, Britain would soon cease to exist...*3

My other favourite is when they say "The USA would never enter some kind of union with Mexico or Argentina." without even thinking about the fact that USA stands for 'United States of America'... or that they have previously used "United States of Europe" as an attack line against the EU.

Anyway. This has turned into much more of a rant than I planned. Largely because trying to engage reasonable debate on this topic is like trying to convince Trump supporters that his facts are wrong. Even though they are, it just isn't going to happen - and you are going to feel like you are banging your head on a brick wall the whole time. In the end I was commenting more for my own social studies than in any real attempt to change the opinion of people who are so emotionally dug-in on the outdated concept of a lone Britain 'RULE BRITANNIA!' able to dominate the world of the 1950's.

"Not another Scottish referendum"...
... I hear two people say.
That doesn't however, change the fact that watching the debates and social commentary on this issue is absolutely fascinating from a planning and strategy perspective. Working on the Pro-Remaining campaign must have been one of the toughest, but hopefully most rewarding strategy jobs of the last decade. At 41% pro-remain and 40% pro-leaving on current polls though - it may (as most Pro-Remain supporters are younger and therefore less likely to vote) turn out to be a futile attempt to save both the 'Great' in Great Britain, and the 'United' in United Kingdom.

*1 - Mandatory overtime after working certain numbers of hours. More peaceful relations between states. Free movement between countries - meaning no holiday visa fees and the ability to work anywhere you like. Improved consumer protection laws. Cross-country co-ordination against crime and terrorism. The Human Rights Act. Etc.

*2 - '44.6% of British trade comes from the EU'. 'The CBI estimates that the net benefit of EU membership is worth 4-5% of GDP to the UK, or £62bn-£78bn per year.' 'the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows the overall contribution to our economy from exports to the EU was £187 billion last year, and that it could rise by almost half again to £277 billion a year by 2030.' (Independent)


*3 - Scotland would wish to leave Britain if it left the EU. After the close vote last time, the damage of being outside the EU would almost certainly mean any new vote would result in a separate Scotland (they poll more in favour of the EU than England, enough to sway a fair number of voters) - and the end of Britain as we know it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon/11933486/Nicola-Sturgeon-warns-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-unstoppable-if-UK-leaves-EU.html 

*4 - http://sputniknews.com/europe/20160224/1035301321/possible-brexit-cause-europe-nationalism.htmlhttp://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/628277/Euroscepticism-right-wing-nationalism-Ken-Clarke-EU

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Marketing Lies That Need to Die No.2: Spreadable Butter

Lurpak Spreadable. Probably the closest I've found.
It does spread, but it definitely doesn't taste
 like regular Lurpak. I.e.: Buttery Heaven.
Now I admit that this topic is a lot less black and white than the last one about targeted pain relief, but it's one that still annoys the hell out of me as a customer.

Has anyone ever actually bought a 'Spreadable Butter' that spreads on regular bread? As I don't recall ever finding one. Note that I'm not talking about margarine type spreads or 'butter-like' brands, but those that claim to be both butter and spreadable, usually a mix of butter and vegetable oil. They don't always 'say' butter, but they are clearly positioned as being almost butter, rather than in-betweens.

There are many which spread, but they don't taste like butter - and there are many which taste like butter, and they don't spread.

Brand variants called 'Buttersoft' or 'Spreadable' seem to exist for every single brand. The question I have to ask is, what in the name of all that is edible are they spreading this stuff on to get away with those claims?!

Seems like all of these brands are caught in this grey area where you can't have both butter taste and spreadable texture. So we end up with no clear way of knowing how soft or actually spreadable something is until you buy it.

The process normally goes like this:

  • Buy 'spreadable' labelled butter.
  • Put out bread slice.
  • Attempt to spread.
  • Tear bread to pieces.
  • Put new piece of bread out.
  • Attempt to carefully spread butter.
  • Tear bread to pieces.
  • Swear.
  • Put new piece of bread out.
  • Dump chunk of butter onto bread and put in the grill to melt it.
  • Spread butter on half toasted bread.

Maybe I just have a shit knife, but I am so fed up of products being labelled spreadable when they clearly clearly are not.

This lie needs to die, or at the very least get much much clearer!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Marketing Lies That Need to Die No.1: Targeted Pain Relief

Pink for ladies? How original!
Image Source: ACCC
I'm sure you've all seen them. Variants of pain relief products that claim to target a particular type of pain, usually migraines, back pains or period pains - but which contain exactly the same ingredients as the regular pain killer.

Now maybe you could argue that they provide placebo relief, though I'm not sure that would make a great proof point for a campaign... but what really makes these products a complete pain in the arse is how much more they charge for them.

You can buy generic pain relievers for very little money, and branded pain relievers for a bit more money - but targeted pain relievers, well they cost a bit more. Except, rather like homeopathy, you aren't really paying for anything other than a new run of packaging, and for this privilege you can sometimes be charged TWICE the price of the regular branded version.

For years these products have annoyed the hell out of me, providing absolutely no proof that they do what they claim to do. Finally though, someone has been doing something about it.

"Where can we get these Placebos?!
Maybe they're in that truck!"
The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has been pursuing action against Nurofen* and Reckitt Benckiser* for their range of these painkillers, and not only have they forced the range to be taken off shelves, but customers now may be able to get their money back.

This is excellent, because I for one am so sick of marketing that lies. In this age, we have to be truthful if we want to succeed. Yes we need to be clever, write well and look great, but the essential things we say have to be based on reality - and the simple fact is that these products were absolutely not.

Well done to the ACCC for helping marketing and brands take a step towards real honesty. After all, it's the brands that really suffer in the end. I wonder how many customers Nurofen have lost because they felt so ripped off by a false claim? Given that the real positive features of some of the range (E.g.: Faster absorption) are actually good. But why would anyone want to pay a premium in the future for a brand that lies to them, and rips them off in the process?

Hopefully this is the last we EVER see of this lie.

*I should add, Nurofen are by no means the only brand I've seen doing this practice. I recall seeing other brands by different healthcare companies doing the same thing back in the UK.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Does the Unwritten Agreement need Writing Again?

I little while back I wrote about advertising coming up to moment of big change, where it needs to develop in order to remain useful and relevant. I think though, it's also appropriate to look at the other side of the coin affecting this issue.

For almost 300 years, advertising has helped to fund content. First appearing, as far as I can tell without a comprehensive google-day, in early to mid 1700's magazines. Over time advertising has spread to radio, TV, and now the internet - helping to provide the content that billions use every single day. "I'll just skip through 700 pages of advertisements to get to the first article in this copy of in-flight magazine/GQ/Cosmopolitan/etc."

Well maybe just another spoonful...
The unwritten agreement, always in place, was simple: This advertising and sponsorship pays for your content.

The sad lack of support from many towards public broadcasters like the BBC and the ABC shows that this fundamental agreement is still technically in place, and as popular as it ever has been. Except that is, in one place.

Well, I say one place, It's really many. That's the internet obviously,

It seems that outside of a few small home made blogs, the link between advertising and content is less clear, and far more disliked. People have got used to free content with no strings attached. I like all people, get grumpy when a 30 second ad appears on my You Tube content. I left Myspace because the banner hell made it an unusable mess. I skip 98% of all video ads... but I still know why those ads are there, and it seems like many have forgotten, or are holding out as long as possible from accepting the truth: The internet NEEDS advertising support.

Yet ad blockers continue to grow in usage.

Netflix, along with Spotify and others have shown that people WILL subscribe to good content if it is well priced. But when it comes to smaller scale content like news and magazines, they are much less keen to get out their proverbial digital wallets.

It's the same mistake many agencies made in assuming that 'social' was free. They saw organic reach as a mythical unicorn. Failing to realise that it still requires time and effort, and still requires a social site paying for the network you are latching onto. Yes it's frustrating that Facebook has killed organic reach, but you can hardly blame them. We all, myself included, complain when sites start reminding of the unwritten agreement. Sometimes it even drives people away. But without doing so, the only way they can survive is to mine our privacy.

Maybe one route is to create a multi-site microtransaction scheme in the same manner as Spotify. Every web page you read deducts a very small amount (E.g.: 20c from an account. Saving you from ads, but avoiding the uncertainty of paying for news and magazine content that you might not always want. After all, we've seen that paywalls are generally rubbish. If you had ONE account that could send $2 to Wall St Journal, $3 to Autosport, and $1.20 to The Guardian, I reckon people would try it out, certainly more so than access paywalled sites or pay for magazine subscriptions that they never get round to reading.

Of course, this is not to forget the very valid argument that people deserve a break from terrible advertising, and being targeted in intrusive and relentless ways. Some of the ways people are targeted now can border on harassment, no convincing way to get people to respond or change their behaviour.

Yes, we definitely need to improve the campaigns we make. But perhaps the harassment problem is the same. The reason people are being increasingly targeted in this way, is because they have forgotten the unwritten agreement when it comes to the content they love most. They've fallen into the trap of thinking that a free and open web has no cost whatsoever. Whereas we used to use advertising to hide the costs, maybe now we need to be clear and open that there is no such thing as a free internet. When you expect things to be free AND ad-free, your data becomes the cashflow.

Or to put it another way, let's take the old maxim of: Good, Quick, Cheap. Pick two.
Now it needs re-arranging into the modern internet paradigm: Free. Unintrusive, No Ads. Pick two.


The second best reason to have a VPN
 if you live outside of the UK
Not just that, but perhaps the time has come to remind people more bluntly that the internet is not free. Journalism is not free. Proper content is not free. Channel 4 in the UK have started this trend by blocking access to their online video service 4OD to people with ad blockers.

"It may seem obvious, but this site and the resources within are paid for by the advertising within. Without this advertising we would be forced to sell your data or become paid access only. We hate terrible ads too, but if you ad block this site, it won't exist in free form for much longer."