Thursday, January 12, 2017

Forza Horizon 3... A 'First World Problem' Sob Story

UPDATE: Guess what, Australia Post didn't deliver the card today (13th) either. So now I have to wait at least another three days!!

Dear Playground Games / Microsoft,

Ever since I first saw Forza Horizon 3, I was looking forward to it. A fun mix of arcade gaming,

along with a beautiful looking set of Aussie areas and cars to play with.

At the time of release I wasn't working, but starting a new job in mid October meant I could finally buy the game on the last day of October.

Here is what has happened since then. It must surely be that (in a first world context at least) there is no one around who has gone through more expense, time and effort to be able to play this game...
  • Buy game from Microsoft PC download store
  • Two days later the game finishes downloading, finally I can play FH3!
  • I update my graphics driver ready to play
  • Game doesn't load
  • Find out that I need a new CPU as my dual core (despite working on every game I have ever tried) overclocked processor is not supported
  • Buy Quad Core i5 and install it
  • Hurrah! I can play the game...
  • I get through opening race and then the game freezes, crashing my PC
  • I reboot and try again
  • The game crashes my PC halfway through race
  • Try to reboot my PC and it won't start
  • Use recovery to get PC working
  • Test CPU and RAM to make sure CPU is okay
  • Buy backup Hard drive in case of a major hardware failure, and copy all my important files
  • Try another game to see if it the graphics card/driver (which had previously had driver issues, but they had seemingly been fixed by reverting to an older driver - and the card was now out of warranty)
  • Game crashes PC to black
  • PC won't boot
  • Recovery doesn't work
  • Buy a 32GB memory stick to try a full recovery
  • Recovery doesn't work
  • Try several options, and only likely issue is a failed hard drive
  • Buy replacement internal Hard Drive
  • Try to install windows on new hard drive, and it doesn't work
  • Swear loudly (this may have occurred more times than stated in this piece)
  • Try swapping SATA cables
  • Old hard drive immediately boots (seriously, whoever heard of a crash killing a SATA cable!)
  • Try old game to see if cable was the main issue - game crashes to black
  • Take out graphics card and start seeing if I can get it tested/fixed by manufacturer
  • Try onboard graphics card, which works perfectly with no crashes for many many hours
  • Decide to borrow a friends old graphics card to test
  • Old card works perfectly for many many hours
  • Try updating to latest drivers, old card still works
  • Graphics card supplier agree to send my card to manufacturer to test if a pre-warranty fault existed
  • Graphics card manufacturer says they won't test it as out of warranty
  • Numerous emails between myself, supplier and manufacturer
  • Manufacturer eventually agrees to test, but not repair graphics card
  • Christmas Eve, and I spot a great deal on a new graphics card and decide that this is a better idea than repairing the old one. Buy card online.
  • Six days later and not even confirmation of received payment
  • Phone up and find online orders not being processed until four days later
  • Five days days later and no confirmation of received payment
  • Contact supplier and get told payment is there and item will be sent
  • Finally get confirmation that item will be delivered on the 9th... which is now so long after ordering that my partner won't be home to collect it
  • Arrange redirect to office
  • Item now due on the 11th
  • 11th.... item not delivered, but get notification that item will be delivered on the 12th
  • 12th.... get message that item is delayed and will probably be delivered on the 13th
So. In summary.
Two and a half months, $1100 (not including the game), many many many many hours of testing, fault researching, and company chasing after buying Forza Horizon 3... I have STILL not been able to play the game.

Even after that, I am still excited at the prospect that hopefully, HOPEFULLY, tomorrow Australia Post will actually deliver my graphics card, and I will be able to race around Byron Bay in a green Ute.

So Playground games and Microsoft - I just thought you'd like to know the sheer amount of persistence, dedication, time and money that I have spent to play your game... the irony being that I could have bought an Xbox One S with the game right at the start and saved many hundreds of dollars.

As I appreciate your efforts in making a top class game, I hope you appreciate mine in actually attempting to enjoy it.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

More ad posts coming soon...

But in the meantime, here are some more of my music reviews!
Warning: Contains a little language :D

Friday, July 29, 2016

A musical aside...

Outside of advertising and marketing, one of my big hobbies is music.
I've decided as a fun use of my spare time to start making video reviews of new albums, in my usual slightly sweary and enthusiastic way...!

The first two are below, for the new album Wildflower from The Avalanches , and 'Hypercaffium Spazzinate' by Descendents.

If you enjoy please do like and subscribe, plenty more coming in the future :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Return of the Superhumans

Now that I've had some time to get over my irritation (ahem) at the Brexit result, I thought it was right to post something more positive that has also come from Britain recently. Channel 4's follow up to the incredible Meet the Superhumans campaign from 2012.

For those who aren't aware, Meet the Superhumans is probably one of the greatest bits of re-framing in the last decade. Taking their coverage of the Paralympic Games in London, and turning it from a polite but mostly ignored sideshow - to an event that seemed as 'must watch' as the Olympics.

How simple but brilliant the idea still is: The Paralympics isn't about disabled people, it isn't even about disability, it's about the ability to be superhuman - to achieve and push yourself to beyond the limits of what most people believe is even possible.

How much that inspired the public to attend  is hard to quantify, but record Paralympic attendances and full capacity venues attest to a change of attitude of significant levels. It definitely made people watch though, and the daily Paralympic discussion show 'The Last Leg' was so popular that it continues on as a topical show to this day. (It's also shown here in Australia as the host is Aussie comedian Adam Hills)

Also worth watching is this amazing moment from the 2012 games,
where Paralympic Cyclist Jody Cundy is disqualified and gets
incredibly angry. Regardless of who was right - it showed the
whole audience that these games meant JUST as much to
the Paralympic team as they did to the Olympic team.
The follow up campaign arrived this week, promoting the channel's coverage of the Rio Paralympics - and it is every bit as beautifully crafted and full of the same positive attitude as the original. Reminding people that not only do Paralympians possess superhuman strength and desire, but when you look at all people with disabilities - you can see the same superhuman ability to adapt and succeed running through them too.

It may be harder to convince the British public to tune in this time around, to games in South America - but if there is any justice, the idea and the creative are great enough that Channel 4 deserves to succeed.

It's impossible not to admire the talent, the dedication and the perseverance of every single person featured in the video. There are also excellent short follow up videos that explore the individuals featured.

Rather like the excellent Nutri-Grain Unstoppable work from my former colleagues, it leaves you with a sense of possibility and a sense of wonder. A reminder that life is there waiting for you, no matter what your personal situation, no matter what may befall you along the way. When advertising and marketing campaigns can do that, it's something special - and this IS something special.

We're the Superhumans - 2016 Rio Paralympics

Meet the Superhumans - 2012 London Paralympics

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:
    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
    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.
  • 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.
  • ...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.


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.
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."

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..."