Friday, November 30, 2012

Gaming Post No1

Interesting to see yesterday the THQ Humble Bundle using a bit of behavioural thinking as part of it's charity offer.

Go onto the website and you can get a selection of well known and pretty decent THQ games for whatever price you choose over $1. Given that most of these games are £10-20 each on Steam right now, that's a bargain.

The smart thing, is that the best game is only unlocked if you donate above the average donation figure. Subtly dragging the average price up, and ensuring that people are likely to pay at least a few dollars for it. (Average was $5.70 at time of writing)

The second smart thing is that when you choose your payment amount, you can choose how the payment is split between the games publisher, the charity and the company paying for the hosting. This makes it unlikely that anyone would choose for the publisher to get none of the cash.

Thirdly. Pirate games on the PC are a huge huge problem. One publisher believed over 95% of the copies of one of it's games were pirated downloads. So offering a cheap and legitimate way for people who might otherwise pirate to get hold of these games is a sensible idea. After all, if they get £1 each from people that would otherwise have got it for nothing, that's a useful extra income.

It makes a huge change for a publisher to actually think smartly about things, rather than the usual shouting and ranting about piracy, which they usually solve by adding security that only damages real buyers.

If you haven't bought the humble bundle yet, it's a great package, at a bargain price. Nice to reward some good thinking too.

THQ Humble Bundle

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Battle of The Non John Lewis Christmas Ads

You wouldn't think that Christmas ads would be ones to make me pleased about the return of creativity and connection, but compared to previous years we have a surprising range of ads based around one theme.

Well actually, it isn't really that surprising. Following the public and ad-land wide acclaim (for the most part) for the John Lewis campaign, we appear to have a whole chunk of the retail sector who have been strongly influenced by it.

Which leads us to a weird situation, where we have four major retail chains all going with ads that aim to appeal to us with more emotion. A weirder situation where Christmas ads are largely good. Plus an even weirder one where I have something not entirely positive to say about a W+K ad. God help us there's even a not entirely anger inducing ad from Go Compare, though that's not for this post.

So where to start?


Edit: Happily having seen the other ads in the campaign, it's just this one execution where the offer doesn't quite tie. The rest work wonderfully, and the playfulness with the logo adds a friendly touch to Tesco that is has been needing for a while as the supermarket behemoth of note.

Let's start by saying this is definitely a marked improvement on what Tesco have done recently. A million million miles better than the Spice Girls debacle of yore.

The key idea is really nice, the connection of the right present with a good Christmas, the joy of finding the gift your kids are asking for with the minimum of hassle. Who could dislike a Furby singing a Lionel Richie track?

The issue for me is the way the ad jumps too much, I don't like the way it cuts from the lovely key idea, to a promotional message that doesn't feel connected to the main idea, back to the idea, then to an end frame with their usual strapline. It takes an ad that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy and blunts it.

A lovely strategic idea that maybe would have worked better in a longer format, or perhaps by splitting the promotional message into a different execution.


After what feels like years of out and out price messaging we suddenly get something really nice from Asda. Making no bones about the effort and the hassle of Christmas, but with two reassuring messages that it is worth it, and Adsa is there to help make it less hassle than it would otherwise be. Lots of typical Christmassy problems, but an end result that makes you smile.


What's surprising about this is just how similar this ad is to Asda. They feel like they could have been made with the same brief. Whilst the Morrisons ad is less overtly about the supporting of mums, it focuses more on the trials and tribulations of getting everything ready for that special end result. The wonderfully absurd execution takes the same old Christmas problems and shows them in a way that creates a genuine warm humour. The bit with the Russian Doll cupboard is absolutely spot on.

I think this is my favourite of the three. Although as a friend of mine pointed out, the music ends on a dominant chord, which gives it a really unnerving awkwardness on what should be a happy moment. I am surprised no one spotted that.


"Here come the g..." Oh.

This is a bit closer to the typical Christmas ad, but the little vignettes are sweet, and feel far closer to reality than the slightly irritating cliche'd 'girls' ever did. It's also a nice strategic way to get around the perception (from how I saw it) that Boots gifts are mainly for women, and are small token gifts rather than significant gestures.

Warm, sweet and funny, great work. The little girl talking to the dog is just adorable.

The Supermarkets all focus on mum, as you might expect, while Boots have gone the other way and opened up more to men. I do wonder whether guys feel left out of Christmas, always in the way or bit part players, whereas I imagine (from my experiences at least) that these days there is a bit more of a team effort. The Asda ad is definitely weaker for this.

As always, knowing how people will react to them is hard to guess. There are a mix of positive and negatives scores to each video on You Tube already. I hope that, given the usual minefield of generic Christmas ads, these will have a positive impact overall.

It's lovely to see so many Christmas ads that make you feel something, and show the season with a sense of honesty, rather than the stereotypical cheesy images we usually get rammed down our throats.

In fact, if there is one problem, it's that by all improving at the same time, it's harder for these brands to stand out than if only one of them had improved. That though, is a great present to us from the retail sector and their agencies.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Should Planners Have Ideas?

An interesting twitter debate kicked off earlier today over the merits of a John Steele quote as tweeted by Dave Trott.

"It's not a planner's job to have ideas, rather to create an environment where others can have them." - John Steele

Followed by Mark Hancock (Holycow) responding to say he agreed that planners need to foster an environment, but that the stimulus planners give to creatives usually comes as an idea. W+K's official account also tweeted that they'd rather have people who create ideas across the board, from planning to HR. I've yet to see any response from Dave Trott, but I think it will be worth reading if he does.

I find this a fascinating topic, because while in many respects it feels like a case of semantics, it comes down to one key point for me:

If a brief is devoid of ideas, how is is likely to inspire creatives?

We can't exactly claim that strategy isn't full of ideas. If a strategy has no ideas, we'll just end up with boring cliche'd briefs that will nudge the creatives towards limited ideas.

If people across the agency are creating ideas, it helps to foster people working together better. Not only that if creatives see that the people around them have the capability to generate ideas then it must give them more confidence that the briefs and development around them are well thought out, and appreciate how they are going to produce ideas.

Personally I have to agree with the tweet from W+K. If you run a creative business, everything that you produce is based upon ideas. Strategic ideas to develop great briefs and real useful insights, creative ideas to bring the strategy to life, account handling ideas to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Why on earth would you not want anyone in that team to have ideas, to share them and create a culture that works together to create a whole that is massively beyond the sum of the parts. In fact if you look at the difference between the best and the worst creative organisations, I bet one of the key differences you will see is their openness to ideas and the culture of collective creativity that it can help to foster.

Of course John isn't bad mouthing ideas, and I doubt he means planners shouldn't have ideas, just that this shouldn't be the key thing we do. However I think ideas are such an intrinsic part of what we do, that we cannot possibly be great planners without generating ideas.

As I've said before, I am a firm believer that creativity comes from anywhere, and that while we are separated as planner, creatives and account handlers for a reason, that doesn't mean that we are incapable of ideas or feedback on those other areas. We inherently have to understand each others' positions to produce the best work. A planner should accept that a creative might have a great strategic idea, just as a planner might have a great creative idea. In a football team no one says to a defender "You should not score goals", you make sure they do their job of defending, but if they turn up and score, you applaud them for their cross team effort, just as you would a striker who makes a key tackle in the penalty area. (Sorry for the football metaphor, it seemed apt.)

I think perhaps the two things are very closely linked. Fostering an environment that encourages ideas is partly done by having ideas yourself. To cut off yourself from having ideas is to stifle any atmosphere of sharing and generation that you try to create. If you want to foster a relaxed culture, you shouldn't turn up in suit and tie every day, you have to live the culture you are trying to create.

I've seen John Steele present his core thoughts at work, and he is a compelling speaker. I don't want this to come across as a criticism of his work, because as we know, context is everything, and this is a quote out of context and without substantiation. I do think it's an interesting topic to debate further though.