Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thinking Smarter

I read a story today that I thought was magnificent. An example of a business tackling a problem by using the problem as a bugbear for those who cause it.

If that makes no sense, let me show you the genius of Greenheart Games:

Their new title, Game Dev Tycoon, tasks you as a developer of software titles. You deal with all the usual problems of publishing, marketing, sales and piracy.

Of course, piracy. A problem that most publishers like to tackle by ruining or inconveniencing the game for those who actually pay for it (See EA's Sim City and Ubisoft DRM for but two examples). Greenheart Games on the other hand decided to be smart.

They created a modified, version of the game, and uploaded it themselves to the main pirate gaming websites, knowing that eventually it would end up there anyway.

They made one simple change: In the pirated version of the game, no matter what the player does, all of the titles they develop suffer from rampant software piracy. The longer they play the worse the problem becomes until it gets impossible to make a profit.


The outcome, not only do Greenheart Games now know that almost 94% of initial players were using the pirated version of the game, but they inspired some brilliant real life irony. Players of the pirated version appeared online in game forums, asking how to beat the rampant piracy in the game, and asking whether there was a way of researching copy protection.

So, a bit of smart thinking and they turned a potential problem into a PR news story, successfully helped to tackle the problem, AND got a clear and impactful message about the effects of game piracy across to those that pirate games.

If only the big publishers thought that smartly.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Extreme Bad Taste

Some ads are bad, some are very bad. Then there are those which are so misguided and wrong in every possible sense that the fact they ever get made is staggering.

Take the latest ad from Hyundai.

It (seriously) shows a man trying to commit suicide in his car, but the gag. Oh the gag. The gag is that he can't because the emissions have no carbon monoxide.

What the fuck Hyundai? Seriously. What the fuck were you thinking approving this?

This is the sort of thing that might appear in the Chip Shop Awards "Bad Taste" category, and even there it would be pushing it. I can't even bring myself to link it.

I don't care if it gets across the cleanliness of exhaust emissions, it's simply an unacceptable thing to put in an ad. For a start the whole concept is in the kind of bad taste that will seriously damage a brand, not to mention how showing suicide in this manner influences others who are thinking of taking their own lives.

You may have seen the open letter from an advertising copywriter who sadly lost her dad to this kind of suicide, while Hyundai might argue this is a relatively isolated case, there is absolutely no justifiable reason why they wouldn't have seen the hurt this ad might produce coming from a million miles away.

Hyundai and Innocean need to seriously reconsider their approval processes, because whilst I'm sure they meant no harm, their work has clearly caused at least one person a LOT of distress, and many many others to be horrified at what has appeared. I would like to think that they haven't done this deliberately as a means of getting publicity, but in the event they have, please just use nudity or violence like everyone else next time. Besides, all you've done is make the name Hyundai synonymous with uncaring, exactly the opposite of what you should be getting across with such environmentally friendly features.

Who approved the initial idea? Who let that idea go to the client? Who approved it? Who produced it? Who filmed it? All of these people should have spoken up and raised questions.

What I find even more astounding, are those people who responded to the above letter by saying that the author should 'get over it', or even insulting the person she lost. This kind of heartless bullshit has no place in modern society, and those who responded in such a way should be ashamed.

Hyundai and Innocean, you owe at least one person a HUGE apology, and you owe it to yourselves to never let this happen again. More work like this and you will destroy the reputation of your brand.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beware The Bubble

Planning, and advertising in general, is filled with remarkably intelligent people from all over the world. As you would hope with creative agencies, we come with different backgrounds, points of view and ways of looking at problems.

So I was very disappointed to see a recruitment ad on Campaign's website today that implied only one place in the world is worth having experience in.

It was a small, independent agency looking for a planner. Excellent, always good to see small agencies appreciating the value of strategic planning.

Then however, it said this:

"You’ll have excellent planning experience gained in a London agency."
Oh dear.

So excellent planning experience gained at other great agencies in any other country or city in the world doesn't count? That planner with 10 years at CPB in Boulder, JWT New York or W+K Portland isn't good enough then? I do hope it was the recruiter that added this, not the agency.

There are so many brilliant, forward thinking people in London. But there are all over the country, and all over the world. If you want to get ahead, then why not bring in people who have experience of planning in other places? Why on earth would you restrict yourself to only wanting those with London experience?

Most agencies in London are good. They appreciate the value of experience wherever it comes from. But there are still a small number who seem stuck in a bubble that fail to see in a global world, being in one place doesn't matter like it used to.

The agency that is arguably the best in the country, and the best network in the world has probably the most varied recruitment policy of any agency I know of. If that doesn't show you the value in avoiding the bubble, I don't know what will.

I once had an interview at an agency in London, who basically said to me they would rather I had worked at a bad agency in London than a very good one in Manchester. How ridiculous. The market may be a little different, but the skills are the same. If you are a good planner, you are a good planner, regardless of location.

Most agencies are past such thinking now, but the ones who aren't need to change or be left behind.

"You’ll have excellent planning experience."

Simple as that.

[Edit: Interesting point made by Mark Hancock. It may mean "You WILL gain excellent experience at a London agency." Which is far better, but as we all know, clarity and context is everything. Hopefully in this case it's just a copy issue not a bad recruitment policy issue... There are still a few agencies for whom the message is valid anyway though!]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Linked In Need to Think More

It's much easier to sell and promote something good than it is something bad. You'd think that was obvious, but apparently Linked In have spent so much time trying to sell, they have forgotten to look at what it is they are actually pushing you towards.

Every time I go onto Linked In from my phone, I get directed to a page that asks me to install their app. Yesterday I clicked to download it and got taken to the app page, which shows an average review score of 1.5 stars and is full of reviews talking about how useless it is.

Now surely someone at Linked In might have noticed that reviews for the app have been consistently terrible, and set in motion a better app? Or at the very least realised that because the mobile website does everything the app does, they don't need to hassle us with the install option (which only then reminds us how crap their app offering actually is).

Pushing us a weaker product has all the hallmarks of basing the strategy around a business objective not the end user.

Monday, April 15, 2013

When One Little Thing Spoils Something Nice

I have enjoyed seeing Stella ads get back to being great over the last couple of years, after a while of being in the doldrums. But their latest work shows how one little thing can completely spoil otherwise high quality work.

The latest Stella Artois ad continues to hark back a little to the ideas of the Reassuringly Expensive campaigns with the idea of beauty. It takes a French art house style and uses it well to create something that you want to see through to the end.

However, there is one simple thing that completely spoils this ad for me. It breaks apart the style and just takes away the class from an otherwise lovely piece in one second.

At 54 seconds you see the girl's response to the whole point of the ad, but instead of fitting the tone it just stands out like a sore thumb. As if the whole French cinema theme is dropped in order to achieve a sight gag with her response. Imagine a version of the Guinness swimmer ad where the guy does a cheesy wink to camera halfway through. It just looks awful, doesn't work as a gag, and acts as a car crash to the otherwise well above average build up.

Maybe I'm reading a lot into one small shot, but if we are to spend hours and hours crafting strategies and creative ideas into campaigns, it seems a waste that we should then miss one simple little thing that removes the campaign from the world it inhabits. I couldn't help but cringe when I saw it for the first time.

All it needs is a replacement shot where she looks a little surprised and disappointed in keeping with the rest of the ad, and it will improved hugely.

So close. So very close.

Link provided as they have disabled embedding: Stella Artois Ad 2013

Monday, April 08, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Passing of Margaret Thatcher

Whilst I have very little positive to say about the things she did in power, or the changes she tried to make, I refuse to join in with the celebrations of Margaret Thatcher's death that are going on in some places. Everyone has family, and they don't deserve to see gloating of their pain.

With that in mind, here are the positive things that we as a nation should take from a very divisive politician who, for better or worse changed the country forever.

  1. She proved that women are capable of doing any job as well as (or better) than men.
  2. She proved that you don't have to be born into wealth and go to Eton to become Prime Minister.
  3. She proved that with strong enough convictions, people really can change things.
  4. Unlike modern day Tories, she actually believed that the poor were capable of achieving. The method may have been wrong, but we all need to have more faith in people to grow.
  5. Without her, Spitting Image would never have been as good.

Retro Media Planning

I saw an old Kit Kat ad on tv this week (the panda one if you are interested), and it got me thinking about nostalgia in ads and how they affect our emotion. Then I thought. Why don't more campaigns and media buyers take advantage of this?

Ad agencies almost always want to do something new, and that's understandable. Running old ads is often seen as either a cheap cash-in for a well loved campaign, or the client trying to cut costs. But it doesn't have to be.

There are many channels devoted solely to retro programming, to repeats and shows designed specifically to reminisce and re-watch things from when the audience was younger.

So why don't more brands join in?

For example, Vintage TV. They show programmes based almost entirely around 60's, 70's and 80's music. So why not take some of your ads from those time periods and place them in the breaks? If people are feeling the warm glow of nostalgia, why not tap into that and join in instead of interrupting it?

This isn't mass running of an old campaign, this is selected targeting to show ads in a way that will enhance the positive emotions surrounding the brand.

If you're a 50 year old, watching a show about the 1970's, and in the ad break you see the Hovis bike ad and a PG Chimps ad, not only will they stand out, you'll be far more likely to pay attention and think of the brand in a positive way.

I can imagine some brands would worry about not following their current brand message, but really, in the right place, that doesn't matter. You are likely to get positive emotional response, more attention paid, and more recall of the brand. Besides, a truly great brand is comfortable both with what it is now, and what it was in the past.

Brands are not solely in the present, they have a past and a future, and most are much stronger for being in touch with the whole scope of their history.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Advertisers Book Club

Here's an idea I may start on Facebook/similar this week.

There are so so many planning, strategic, creative, design, branding, behaviour (etc etc) books that I'd like to read, or re-read. Those that I've never got round to buying, those that I read at work but don't have a personal copy of, and so on.

We should have a book club. Where agency folk from all around the world can share and swap books in order to expand our collective reading lists. That way we can read more and see more books, and know which books are worth buying and holding on to.

I think this sort of thing should work on a swap basis, so you swap with someone, and then either swap back or re-swap for something new with someone else. That way you both pay similar postage which makes it fairer.

Would anyone be interested?

Making a Change

There are numerous sites out there that try to make it easy to create petitions and help encourage social changes. Many of them do a great job, and encourage you to share and spread the word of campaigns.

Today however, I saw something from the site Change.org that went one step further.

As you may know, the government in the UK is currently putting an extremely unbalanced weight of cuts on the poor and disadvantaged. The manner is so heartless and ill-considered that people are getting very angry.

Today someone started a petition to get the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith to try living on £53 a week, after he claimed he could do so when challenged by a claimant. I signed it, more as a statement than out of belief that someone with such little compassion could ever truly change his mind based on facts.

What surprised me though, was that twenty minutes after sharing it on Facebook, I got an email from Change.org saying "Thank you, you got Matthew to sign."


Now putting privacy considerations aside (it never gives a surname). This is a brilliantly simple thing.

People make petitions to try and change bad things in society, but typically people don't really expect to make a difference. What this simple action does is make you feel like you really are making a difference. Suddenly you see your actions are responsible for someone getting involved. The sharing effect becomes visible, and it is quite empowering.

Now every time I sign a petition, I'll be looking out for this kind of notification, because the only thing better than trying to make a difference, is knowing that you are, even if only a tiny one.