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."

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: 

*4 -

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."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Looking Back to the Future and Forward to the Past

This is definitely how my fashion looks now. How about you?
No one with eyes could have failed to notice the saturation of coverage around the fact that we are now living in Marty McFly's future. I can only imagine how much more there would have been if DeLorean was still a car brand today. Maybe it would have been their finest moment... that award probably goes to Toyota though, who timed it just perfectly with their piece including the two main actors.

Inevitably though, this drags the mind into the regular habit of trying to predict the future. Possibly as futile a task as trying to argue with internet trolls, but what the hell, it's more fun.

For me the scariest thing about this time is not that we are living in the supposed future, nor that the first film is now 30 years old. What makes me think, is that 1985 is now as dated to us as the 1950's were in 1985. As a kid the 1950's seemed unimaginably far away, and now my childhood is that far away too.

But I digress.

So let's look back at what was happening in advertising in 1985.

For a start, it was the starting to reach (in the UK at least) the end of what some people would call the golden era. Full of John Webster, Dave Trott, and CDP long copy ads. Though as I mentioned previously, I'm not really a believer in any golden era.
Fly you big rust bucket... fly
The ads of 1985 seemed a big wide world away from the stiff, long, slow advertising of 1955, when TV ads first came to Britain. But for the media agencies, things were barely any different. bar one additional tv channel. It would be the next thirty years that really sparked massive change.

1985 was also the start of the shift in advertising from creative led, to accountant led agencies. With a young Martin Sorrell buying the Wire and Plastic Products company. In two years time it would buy JWT and for a while at least, all proverbial hell would be broken loose. For many of us born in the 80s/90s, it's hard to imagine advertising and marketing without WPP - and while it would be nice to have more creative-first management, perhaps that financially careful approach has helped maintain a bigger and more creative industry than would have otherwise been achieved through such big change.

Let's take a look at the kind of advertising that I watched as a three year old...

TV, print and radio. With most brands aiming for TV as lead if they could possibly afford it.

So in many ways, advertising has fundamentally changed (if you exclude the older fashioned brands who just want TV). The huge variety of media options, the falling away of the BIG tv ad, the rise of digital and using different media for different messaging and purposes. Yet in many ways, it is exactly the same. It's still, at it's best, using clever thinking and imaginative creative to change behaviour and get people to act. I'm pretty sure that will remain exactly the same in thirty years time.

Which brings us back to the future (yes yes I know). What will 2045 bring?

I know many people will be shouting "ME ME! TV will be dead sir!" - but I think they are wrong.
It may not quite resemble what we traditionally think of as TV, it may come largely through the internet data pipelines. But will there be a mass channel of entertainment produced by large entertainment companies that people watch in their living rooms on large screens and mobile devices? Of course. Will they be the same media companies as now? That depends on how quickly they stop living in the past and embrace the open world. Funny how we hear about reducing government and legal interference in business, except for when those businesses want to make more money. Global content availability will be key to those who succeed.

Perhaps the ghost of Elton John will prefer
 Pepsi Perfect instead of Coke?
If TV AND the internet haven't killed radio in 70+ years, what makes us think that TV as an overall concept will die out in another 30?

Banner ads on the other hand...

Banner ads have been dying for several years already. Whilst they may not disappear entirely, I believe they will gradually decline as people use data and video content to better reach internet users.

I also think Facebook might become the first social channel to achieve long term success. Whereas other social channels died out as they got too mass, Facebook seems to have found the right balance to keep itself relevant to users. Given their huge cash reserves and available audience, Facebook could perhaps become it's own large scale media owner. If you think organic reach is dead now, it will be spinning it its grave in 2045. It will be hard for other social upstarts to compete, and I would expect the biggest competitors as such will be those based in other countries... or perhaps those who allow absolute protection of privacy as governments continue to crack down on the ability to comment and use data freely.

I wonder what else will change. Maybe this blog will still exist in some form, reaching it's 40th anniversary. Or perhaps I'll do something else entirely. Who knows. As they say, we often overestimate short term change and underestimate long term change...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Advertising, Record Labels, Videos and Video Games

Such an awesome album.
Shame I have no easy way to own it.
For a couple of years I really wanted to buy an album called Buiiki Kaesu by Japanese band Maximum the Hormone (kind of insane rock/metal with jpop bits).

I looked in every record shop I could find, checking the import and rock/metal sections. Nothing. I checked online, initially nowhere stocking it would deliver to Australia. Then eventually it became available, but at absolutely extortionate prices for a used CD. I checked on Spotify, which I pay to access. Nothing. I checked on iTunes. Nothing. I checked stores in Hong Kong that stock Japanese music. Nothing.

The only way I could hear the band was to play You Tube videos with iffy quality audio - most of these got taken down after a while too.

I did these actions for over two years, and realised that their record label simply didn't want me to able to listen to the band through reasonable legal means. It was even taking actions to stop me using the only real legal source I had.

So in the end I just started streaming it from web music sites. For which the record label gets precisely nothing. More importantly, the band, who I want to support, gets absolutely nothing.

Amazingly, more than fifteen years after the launch of Napster, many record labels STILL do not get the world we live in. They are stuck in their 20th century approach, putting their profits above their audience.

"A million ad views isn't cool. You know what is?
 A BILLION ad views."
Which brings me to advertising.

Everyone has I'm sure seen the recent news and posts about massive growth in ad-blocking. Some people are carrying on as normal, others are panicking like it's the end of the world... in a way perhaps it is. This for me is starting to feel very much like the launch of Napster did for record labels.

This could be our moment. The moment our audience decided they had enough with us doing things in an old fashioned and 'audience-last' way. The moment where agencies start to become divided into those who get it and those who don't.

Take DVDs and video games. Two mediums that are very wary of piracy. I just bought a DVD, and inserted between the menu and the show was a US FBI anti piracy message. Well gee, thanks for hassling me after I ALREADY paid for it. I imagine the illegal versions wouldn't have this, so making it useless.

Video games too were notorious until recently for putting the customer last when it came to security and anti-piracy measures. It started with complex sheets of paper full secret codes, then moved to software that slowed down the PC, and complex installation and registration procedures that just frustrated the very people who had already bought the game. Illegal copies meanwhile, had these features edited out. A pointless irritation symptomatic of bad profit-first thinking.

(Incidentally it's why I prefer the campaign approach to piracy used in Australia. Instead of negative, it makes you feel good by simply saying thank you for buying legally, and points out how doing so helps programmes get made.)

Just like record labels, this backwards thinking does nothing but piss off the very people it needs to target. A situation which feels very very much like most advertising right now in this always on world.

The most emo thing ever is the original
title for a Fallout Boy song:
'I liked you a lot better before you
 became a fucking myspace whore'
So maybe right now we need to decide which side we are on. Is it the audiences, or is it the industry focused status quo? This has been coming for a very long time. Just like record labels it's not like we weren't warned, repeatedly. Web ad blockers have been around for nearly as long as the internet. Displeasure at ridiculous banners has been around just as long, the death of Myspace as a serious social site seems YEARS ago, but that was largely down to bad banner utilization pissing off the users (along with shitty UX). Frustration with bad social has also been clear for a long time, and the backlash against native advertising started last year too. We know people have either had enough or are getting close to their limit with bad and forceful marketing.

Now good creative is definitely a great tool to help overcome this, but we need to do more - because great creative that can't be seen might as well be shitty creative. So this becomes an issue for media agencies too - are you on the side of the audience or the companies you buy space from? If it's the latter, you could be left behind. 

One positive in this scenario is that planners become more important. Understanding the audience, putting them first and trying to genuinely connect with them will be more important than ever in an age where they will be increasingly likely to have to decide to come to you. Not in a 'brand love' way, but simply because they know you respect them and give them something (be that content, offers, information, etc) that they are happy to exchange their time for.

So. Who will be the EMI, the Universal Music, or the Warner Music of adland - and who will be the Napster, the iTunes, the Spotify? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Whopper of an Unhappy Meal

Ah cats. I reckon they will be the next big thing.
Pic from
It's been all over the internet the last few days, so I doubt many people will have missed the Burger King 'letter' to McDonald's or the subsequent reply that left many people feeling disappointed.

I've also read a number of opinions that range from 'McDonald's made a mistake' to ' Burger King trolled Macca's' to even 'This was stolen from a student portfolio.'

I can't comment on the last one, but I definitely can on the first two.

For me it boils down to this: Burger King, whether deliberately or not, put McDonald's into a situation that they could not win.

If McDonald's had agreed and gone ahead with the idea, Burger King would have taken the vast majority of the plaudits as the ones who instigated and drove the idea. This meant that whatever McDonald's did, Burger King would have been the main beneficiary - so it's hardly surprising they looked to shut it down as quickly as possible.

Now that's not to say that Macca's couldn't have worded their letter in a much better and less condescending way. For example, by agreeing to work together next year, or by making a donation to the Peace movement in lieu of action. But the fact remains that the closing P.S. salvo of Macca's reply was spot on. 'A simple call would do next time."
Stop! Stop! He's already dead...

That sentence calls out the Burger King ad for what it was, an ad. Yes it was hoping to team them up for a great idea, but it was done in a way that would have ensured it was only on their terms. If BK truly wanted to do something awesome in a team on Peace Day, then they would have discussed it fairly and evenly behind this scenes. A peaceful (marketing) Coup d'├ętat is still a military manoeuvre, it is not a truce.

A great idea, which was let down by the execution on both sides. It ended up trying too hard to be a marketing execution, not an idea execution.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Smashing Work

Of course everyone has seen it by now, particularly if you live in London. It spread out like the usual virus across the advertising landscape, covering offices in the sound of 70's pop rock... and with good reason.

My favourite shot in the whole ad.
It won't surprise anyone to know that the latest John Lewis ad is excellent. A piece of wonderfully thought out and crafted creativity that just invites you to want to watch it every time it appears. Even the 90 second version holds the attention enough to warrant a view.

But as I said, that's not surprising. The thing that really interests me though, is the puzzle it raises about how we think about creativity across channels in 2015.

You see, in many respects, this work is incredibly dated. I don't mean the 70's soundtrack and styling... but the fact it's a big budget, long, TV ad. It's the kind of work that is regularly thought of as dying, and that we should move completely away from. Not only that, it's an ad which, at the heart of it, hides its idea. That sense of nervousness and uncertainty around insurance. It could potentially be too subtle to work across every kind of format without good creative guidance.

So is this a last hurrah for TV? Well, no.

As we see at Christmas (the British Superbowl), people are keen to see adverts they might enjoy. John Lewis are among the very best at having campaigns that people actually go out of their way to see (as someone who has worked on insurance brands, doing so against the barrage of price pushing takes a brave client). When you think about it, that's pretty amazing.

We live in a world of consistently always-on, encroaching advertising. Designed to intrude on you at all times it's possible. More than ever people are getting sick of advertising communications, just look at the rapid growth in online ad blocking tools - we may be honing the art of banner copy, but those click rates are still hiding down through the mud underneath the floor. We all know, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, that the reason for this is simple. Most ads are shit.

Elton back again. Still singing about Coke
So in this complex many channel world, how does a piece of work get so well known and liked that the audience actually WANT to watch it? That simple thing called creativity. Well thought out, well written, well directed work. You Tube, for many people, is now a TV channel in itself - and simply paying your way doesn't work there. You need great pieces of work, and sometimes not achieving it is actually the cause of your channel problems. If you have the quality, particularly consistent quality, it's possible to break the cycle of advertising apathy.

So yes it's great to have new ideas that take advantage of all channels. Yes it isn't enough to just have terrible TV ads anymore. But what this ad shows, is that we too often forget the third way. Doing excellent work can sometimes be the surprisingly simple answer to your channel question.