Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Never be Tried and Trusted

For me, three of the most dangerous words in adland are 'Tried and Trusted'. In an industry that appears to love proprietry charts, systems and generators to distinguish one agency from another, I worry sometimes that we (at least in some agencies) have ended up being too guided by the success of the past.

As soon as we start to rely on an idea or toolkit simply because it has always worked we risk falling over. Advertising has always evolved, but now it is doing so quicker than ever, and just because something has worked for 20 years does not mean it is right for this brief, this client or this problem. If you can look at the problem and data that are relevant and then say 'this model definitely still applies' then brilliant, but fail to check and its the first sign of complacency.

There is nothing wrong with using models per se, as long as they help instead of hindering; don't steal time from the real issues; and are always sense checked for their relevance to a brief.

Some agencies have great models that are really just philosophies to drive themselves. It's why I will always prefer BBH's 'When the World Zigs, Zag.' to TBWA's 'Disruption'. The former (at least from my understanding) is a creative philosophy that doesn't get in the way of finding what is relevant; while the latter feels like a process that every bit of work is dragged through regardless of if it needs. [Please correct me if I am wrong.] Not to say it doesn't produce great work sometimes, but it seems like another hurdle rather than an enabler.

Every case is different, what works for one may not work for another.

Not only that, but this issue is also part of the problem involved in the 'advertising is dead/new model agency' debates that keep coming up. If it is dead, the reliance on archive models and ideas is probably a big reason why. The new models need to make sure their ideas are based on what is right, not what is currently wrong. Even the people claiming to look forward seem to be using the past as their start point.

This is why in my mind much of this debate can be summed up by saying: Advertising is not dead, it's just learning where it needs to go. The tried and trusted models aren't always right anymore.

I believe this industry works best (both in terms of results and in terms of creativity) when we treat every problem with an open mind based on the relevant problems/details/insights around it. Not when we stick a proprietary creative/planning system on top of the problem and end up having to solve two different issues to justify ourselves.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Choose Love, or Choose Hate

Whatever you may think of the product, it has been clear for a long time now that DDB's long term thinking for Marmite has been absolutely brilliant. They took an unfashionable 'growing up' spread and turned it into a credible brand of popular culture.

The new Marmite Election work is the latest piece of great work for the brand. Staging a Love it Party vs Hate it Party election alongside the general election. It's a smart idea, seemingly well produced and perhaps best of all, totally right for the brand.

The understanding of the brand is for me what makes this stuff so good; they took an insight that most brands would run screaming from and turned into a USP. That they stay true to this so many years later shows not only good agency leadership, but good client leadership. This is a brand that knows its tone of voice, knows its attitude and damn as near nails them every time.

I love it, I might add.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I'd like to second Northern Planner's post on Andrea and her excellent dissertation on GHD.

She's a smart cookie and the first agency to snap her up will have done very well for themselves.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

With Sincere Apologies to John Cleese

If we listened to some people, our industry would be like this - The Dead Agency Sketch...

A client enters an ad agency.

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The owner does not respond.)
Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?
Owner: What do you mean "miss"?
Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Owner: We're closin' for a liquid lunch.
Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this agency and campaign what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the agency behind your Crowd sourced uh Augmented reality uh TV ad...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'It's shit, that's what's wrong with it!
Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,'s experimental, experiential, tried and tested.
Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a shit campaign when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Owner: No no it's not shit, it's, it's going viral'! Remarkable campaign, these augmented crowd reality sourcery, idn'it, ay? Beautifully future proof!
Mr. Praline: The proof don't enter into it. This agency is dead.
Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'It's taking it's time to infriltrate the psyche!
Mr. Praline: All right then, if it's alive, I'll wake it up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Agency! I've got a lovely fresh TV brief for you...
(owner hits the Creative Director)
Owner: There, he moved!

Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the CD!
Owner: I never!!
Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!
Owner: I never, never did anything...
Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO AGENCY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your one o'clock beer call!
(Takes agency out of the cage and thumps its MD on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)
Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead agency.
Owner: No, no.....No, 'it's stunned!
Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?
Owner: Yeah! You stunned it, just as they were pitching! Ad agencies stun easily, major.
Mr. Praline: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That agency is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of creative movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged period of creative gold.
Owner: Well, it''s, ah...probably pining for the 70's.
Mr. Praline: PININ' for the 70'S?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did they fall flat on their back the moment I got 'im home?
Owner: The Ad agency prefers keepin' on it's back! Remarkable business, id'nit, squire? Lovely Cannes Lions!
Mr. Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining the agency when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been making ads in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.
Owner: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that agency down, it would have nuzzled up to those imaginative doors, bent 'em apart with its creative endeavor, and VOOM! Feeweeweewee!
Mr. Praline: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this agency wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through em! 'It's bleedin' demised!
Owner: No no! 'It's taking creative recuperation time!
Mr. Praline: 'it's not takin time! 'it's passed on! This agency is no more! It has ceased to be! 'It's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'It's a stiff! Bereft of thought, 'it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'em to the holding agency 'it'd be writing dm! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'it's off the twig! 'It's kicked the creative bucket, 'it's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' industry invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-AGENCY!!
Owner: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of ad agencies.
Mr. Praline: I see. I see, I get the picture.
Owner: I got a digital specialist.
Mr. Praline: Pray, does it do TV?
Owner: Nnnnot really.
Owner: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)
Mr. Praline: Well.
Owner: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to come back to my place?
Mr. Praline: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let's Stop Reacting, Let's Start Planning

One thing that regularly pisses me off about adland and marketingworld is the amount of corporate and hyped up posturing that goes on. Adcontrarian pointed it out nicely in S&S's new video. [Note - The video itself is nicely done but suggests that we are all fixated with what we used to do rather than what we should do. A few slow thinkers aside we are Ad Agencies, not 'Passive Ad Agencies']

As an industry we are so good at overreacting with changes in the short term, and crawlingly slow at changing in the long term. Every week an agency says they have a new way, the future of advertising, the new media outlook, the end of advertising, or some bollocks idea they rushed out to get headlines and only sounds half decent because they got their best copywriter to word it over their weekend.

It's like Gordon Brown promoting changes in the Labour Party by talking about David Cameron being the next Prime Minister. It is a futile and embarassing ironic attempt to avoid being seen as backward by declaring yourself archaic.

Either that or it is over the top hype mongering in the name of specialism. "TV is dead" say the digital specialists. "[insert tech idea] is the future" say unknown tech firm hoping to cash in. It's the upper market equivalent of SEO spambots. "Get to number one in google now!" 'Well, if you are that good why aren't you number 1 in google for 'SEO', and why are you spamming me??'

Let's not even get on to agencies proudly declaring their 'creative led' attitude that turns out to mean the creative is first in line for the axe when something goes wrong.

I get the feeling that there are agencies out there still so rattled by missing the initial influx of digital change that they are desperate to arrive first at the next big cultural shift. They seem happy to be wrong 400 times to be right once, which is never a good style for adland. "Oh yes, we know our last campaign was totally misguided but cloud sourced augmented reality truly is the new iPad app".

This industry is full to bursting with intelligent, charismatic, forward thinking people. We need to make use of them, develop properly instead of hyping up every new thought to an inch of credibility because we don't want to look like we are being left behind while other agencies float off in their hype bubble.

Let's stop reacting, let's start planning.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Iced Iced Baby

Let me be clear, I'm not one of these people that gets in a flap everytime an ad creative takes influence from a video/painting/song/etc. To claim originality to be the only form of creativity is a ludicrous and frankly outdated notion. However, one thing that does bother me about adland recycling ideas from other creative media is when the creative hits that awkward gap between parody, tribute and influence. It isn't close enough to the original to be considered a tribute or parody, but isn't quite original enough to work without the original reference point.

Lipton Ice Tea's new ad with Hugh Jackman is a victim of this. On the surface it's a decently executed and choreographed dance routine that nicely hits the 'visual representation of refreshment' buttons.

Irritatingly though, it has the lingering smell of Fat Boy Slim's video for Weapon of Choice, which saw Christopher Walken dancing through a lobby in an often similar way. No matter how different the ad is in places the connection is too strong to ignore.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In Defence of Cheese

Contrary to popular belief, a big pile of Danish Jarlsberg is not always a bad thing in an ad.
Cheddar or not you think it is appropriate often comes down to your individual personalities and tastes. In music for edample, I can't stand cheese. In films though I sometimes find it a Gouda match for the emotion and storyline taking place.

This new ad from falls firmly in the realm of bryndza use of cheese to create an atmosphere and story that feels realistic and warming without having the Limburger effect of getting up your nose.

As a musician I can firmly vouch for the fact that not only is playing random duets with girls in music stores is a brilliant way to Petroti the opposite sex; but is a regular event in music stores around the UK.*

The style is spot on, the writing is sweet and charming, the moment feels realistic and not forced or cliche'd (It doesn't imply easy conquest ala most ads of this style), the casting is graviera, and the idea of tapping into the real stories that every romance has is a milchester miles better than the animated 'Need more men/women' stuff that no one believed.

Other than Honda's current effort, this is probably my favourite ad of the year so far.

*I might be lying.

Monday, March 08, 2010

SupNorth - It's logo time...

I'd love some opinion on my two favourites out of the quick logos I produced for Sup North.
I'm not sure which I prefer, so any thoughts, suggestions or alternatives are more than welcome!

Friday, March 05, 2010

What Would John Do?

So is the new Citroen DS3 ad good? It is musically sacriligeous? Is it cool, is it anti cool?

I'm not quite sure to be honest.

The message is nice, given our obsession as a nation of looking back and reliving our past in various guises. The sense of a car built to be the opposite of retro, against the faux-retro love in of the Fiat 500 and Mini (though I love the Abarth). Citroen doing what they have always done best and being provoking and unusual.

As Scroobius Pip says: 'The Beatles were just a band.' I love music, I can and will talk for days on the merits of genres and styles and tracks; but raising someone up on this pedestal where they are treated like a god is just weird. That said, the collective image and belief of an artist in the mind of the public is very much the same as how brands are an amalgam of views and opinions, no matter what truths we as marketers know or try to get across.

So is it right to use John Lennon in this way? Well I find it no more offensive than the Nike Instant Karma ads, no more so than Blackberry's All you need is love ad, no more so than the treatment of Elvis or Hendrix in tv shows and ads.

If his estate approved it who are we (with all the good intention in the world) to disapprove?

A nice ad, an interesting thought provoking message that is right on brand and spot on for the market. It also helps that the car is bloody mad, I love it.

Monday, March 01, 2010

It's Fun in the North

Thank you for voting on the new name for our northern ad/marketing/pr/design/digital meetups. As you may have seen the winner with 54% seriously outran the competition.

Sad as I shall be to leave behind the Northern Hootenanny idea. I would like to introduce you to the future name for our beer related evenings:

Sup North

Now. To look at the logo...