Monday, December 31, 2012

10 Advertising Things That Must Disappear in 2013

To end the year, here is a look at the bad things we need to fix. Next year will start with good things we need to keep doing more of. Happy New Year everyone!

1. Treating People Like Idiots

I can't believe we still have to talk about this in 2012. People are not idiots, we need to stop treating them as if they are. People can understand a point without the use of false setups and bad acting. Let's demonstrate this with an unbelievably bad ad from Colgate.

2. Using Songs in Place of Creativity

If you have a song that sums up your idea, wonderful. If you add a good song as the soundtrack to your idea, brilliant. Using the song as the sole idea in an ad that has no creative or strategic thought in it whatsoever... go away. See also number 10.

3. Using Ideas From the Internet in Place of Creativity

There are two ways to utilise ideas you find online. Firstly, you adapt or involve the original creator to produce something good. As with John West below.

Secondly, you just steal the idea or rip it off. This must end.

4. Unnecessary Copy

I'm thinking particularly of ads which think people are so stupid they have to be forewarned in advance of upcoming blunt metaphors. Colgate again.

"If you think about it, your tooth is a lot like..."

Why the hell do we need the first five words? You could argue that the rest are superfluous too, but the first bit is ridiculous. Remember the maxim that you should remove any words that aren't necessary to get the point across. Please.

5. Bad Faux-Customers and Respondents

Every time I see the Pounds to Pocket ad where the woman says "I'm so glad I went to Pounds to Pocket...", it makes me want to set fire to the TV. It isn't just them though, I've seen others with it too.

See also that horrific Colgate ad in point 1. They couldn't look any less real if they were made using poor CGI.

6. Gio Compario

I had hoped the change of agency would fix things, but instead of doing something with the character they just kept the annoying ad and bolted on an anti-character motif to it. The anti-character thing doesn't work if you subject us to the whole thing in the first place. The latest ad is a step in the right direction, but unless they take another few steps forward, this point stands.

7. Songs

Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop. Not content with terrible songs, annoying cliched characters, and an apparent total lack of strategy... it even has a main character who appears to constantly pull large objects from her underwear.

8. Client Briefs Based on Existing Ads

"That John Lewis ad is good, give me one of those."

No, no, no, no, no.

9. UK Regional Bias

We live in the age of global instant communication. To see non-London agencies as inherently inferior simply because of their location is an out of date concept. If this bothers you, get over it. American agencies are in New York, Boulder, Portland. Australian agencies are in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide. UK agencies are in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, etc.

10. Replacing Song Lyrics

As demonstrated above by Stop taking well known songs and swapping over the lyrics to something inane or your brand name. It sounds awful, it makes the brand sound awful, and it does not suggest creativity or strategy. Please note this excludes cases where there is genuine strategy or creativity involved in parody or wordplay, rather than just swapping lyrics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Round Up Part 2

Time for a brief round up of some more Christmas ads!


A nice idea, that seems quite in fitting with the overall ethos of Waitrose. I think it would have helped however, to include or have some kind of detail that says Heston and Delia didn't charge a fee for this ad either. As any doubt over that does dampen the otherwise nice message.


You all know the John Lewis ad, that's why I haven't included it, however Aldi have ensured it sticks around a little more by spoofing it nicely. The idea of spoofing the ad, and the little low budget recreation is sweet, but the voiceovers really don't fit, and lose the spirit. A voiceless ad that used simple animation to show the (presumably already clearly understood by many) 'I like this one' message would have almost certainly been a little better.


I'm not a huge fan of the blue aliens, but it's still a lot better than what most retail stores do. This ad certainly does what it needs to do, makes bluntly clear that Argos have new apps and make it easy to shop on your phone or tablet. It doesn't get in your face though, which is nice. It just rolls up a clear message into an advertising style gag, and doesn't blast a Christmas or sale message at you. Another sign that the average retail ad this Christmas is much improved over recent years.


Just seen the new Boots ads today. Nice extensions of the individual stories in their first ad. The stories I have seen are shot well, and get across their gift strategy in an enjoyable way. Nothing amazing, but much more inclusive and emotive than last year's Here Come The Girls work.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bravery Counts

Since I started the first draft of this post, Rob Campbell has put up some further comments on the topic of bravery here, I recommend you take a look.

I read some good comments (see above) on bravery, and I started to think just how important the ability to be brave is, across everyone involved in advertising and marketing, as well as all creative things.

In many respects, the ability to be brave throughout the process is one of the biggest differences between good and bad work. You need a planner who can find real insights and create bold briefs, you need creatives who are prepared to suggest the unusual and push for new things, you need creative directors who have the bravery to push big bold ideas, you need an account team who can sell in something scary, you need a client who had the vision to see how a new approach can work and sell it to the organisation, etc etc.

I have no doubt that most planners and creatives in weak agencies have the potential to do amazing work, they either just aren't brave enough, or are working with/for people/clients who don't let brave ideas through.

To paraphrase someone (I forget who): If the work you are doing doesn't in some way scare you, it's probably not that good.

In that spirit I thought I'd present some of my favourite ever examples of bravery:


Imagine now you are sat in a farm in Cornwall watching TV in 1981. For twenty years your local ITV station has been Westward, who looked like the picture to the right. Regal, smart and sturdy.

Then imagine on the first of January 1982, you switch on your TV and see this, the new ident and logo for Television SouthWest.

Apparently the TSW designers were told "Make it different from Westward." They succeeded magnificently.

Although the first ident was confusing, the revision a couple of years later got it spot on. The TSW logo is remarkable in that it created something modern and bold, and yet through it created an incredibly strong bond with the community it served. Taking the step back from the sea motifs that had stood for two decades and using the hills and rivers as partial inspiration for one of the bravest bits of logo design I can ever remember seeing. Most designers or clients would have rejected a logo that was so incredibly different from any other TV station, but by seeing the potential and being brave they created something iconic, backed up by a company that truly lived up to being proud of it's local area. For example: When the company lost it's franchise in 1992, they created an archive which preserved a huge amount of local footage and archive shows.

More info on it.

Nintendo Wii

It's 2006, Sony and Micro have launched their super powerful new consoles, each making a loss in order to grow the market share. The battleground between two powerful pieces of technology is fierce.

Then in comes Nintendo, who launched a profitable, low powered machine using cheap bits of motion sensing technology.

Ninety million sales later, and the Nintendo Wii, breaking every convention of console gaming, was runaway winner.

If you asked most gaming experts before launch if the Wii would be a success, you would have found mixed views at best. Launching a console that lacked high definition output and lagged miles behind on graphical output was seen as a death wish by many.

Nintendo though, knew what they were doing, and were brave enough to see it through.

Green Day

American Idiot is, for me, a masterpiece of bravery.

We have an American pop punk band from the mid-nineties, who have gradually become less important and less popular. So what do they do to get back to success?

That's right. In the middle of post 9/11 patriotic bluster, they released a concept rock-opera album called American Idiot, featuring a nine minute single. They also put American Idiot out as the first single.

It has now sold over 14m copies.

Virgin Atlantic

You needed balls of steel to take on British Airways in the 1980's and 1990's. Virgin had them, and still does.

Without Bravery

A few years ago, I worked on a smallish finance brand. We created a brilliant campaign that I have absolutely no doubt would have fundamentally leaped the company forwards. We worked with a tough client, but he knew what needed doing and had the guts to do it. Then sadly those above his head got scared and the ad never went ahead.

If they had aired it, I fully believe they would have got an incredible response. Sadly, not everyone has bravery, and that's why those who do need to use it.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

How About You Decide? (Gaming Post No.2)

Pic from
The launch of the WiiU has caused a lot of debate around the gaming community. As with the first Wii console, the 'hardcore' gamers have been scathing in criticising Nintendo for producing something that isn't an all powerful technical behemoth, even though they haven't done that for any machine in over a decade.

Nintendo have always been smart at making the very most from their machines, taking something that is technically less powerful, but utilising it in a way that produces great end results, and importantly, is profitable. Sony got every major technical decision on Playstation 3 wrong, Nintendo rarely do.

The key question though, is what exactly IS WiiU? It feels initially like a machine that has had tons of things chucked at it in the hope that some of them will stick, yet on closer inspection it feels far more clever.

A touch screen in the middle of a gamepad, compatibility with the Wii controllers, it feels a bit like trying to cash in on iPad mania, until you look more closely at the details.

The handheld screen shows two bits of possible thinking that are beyond what Microsoft or Sony have previously done. Firstly, sales of handheld consoles are dropping. Ownership of phones and smartphone gaming mean fewer people are buying, and those that do are far less likely to play them outdoors. So suddenly this screen gives you the option to play your game in bed without having to buy a separate handheld machine and a new catalogue of games. You could also use it to watch Netflix in bed.

Secondly, multiplayer gaming in the same room has always been spoiled by the need to use split screen. The new controller screen finally takes that away, allowing two player gaming with one TV and no splitting of the screen. It also means the usual four player limit on games can go up to five.

Cute pictures and game related chat.
Miiverse even adds a tick to let you know if the person
 writing actually owns the game they are talking about!
Even Miiverse and it's ability to draw players into a simple online community around each game they play, without the horrific over competitiveness and conflict you get on Xbox Live or PSN. Several early users have said the Miiverse has become like Facebook, something they check each morning.

When Apple launched the iPad, there was a lot of talk about where it would sit in the world. People have laptops and smartphones, why would they want a hybrid? Apple, instead of trying to define a position for the device, just showed all of the possibilities and let people and developers work out for themselves what they wanted it to be. Nintendo appear to follow the same strategy in recent years, DS, Wii and now WiiU all take cheap and clever technologies and compile them together into a bundle that can be used in many different ways.

For example: The streaming technology means that the console can process a controller action, send it to the console, update the game, compress the image, send it to the controller and display it with less lag than the average high quality LCD screen. This makes it remarkably responsive, even when used several metres from the machine. It also opens up the WiiU to be used with technologies like Onlive.

So while it looks a little bodged together, what Nintendo have actually delivered is something flexible. A machine that gives developers and gamers a huge scope of choice in the way they wish to play their games. This is why, no matter how weird their machines looks initially, I always trust Nintendo to deliver something worth owning, they think better and they plan better than the competition. Now if only their ads matched up to that thinking!

If you are interested in more games stuff, I've also been doing some writing for a new Gaming Site - Voxel Arcade.

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Merry Bloody Christmas

Yes that's right, it's now late October, which means all of you should have seen at least 3 Christmas ads by now!

Every single year we get brands talking about Christmas before we even get to Halloween. It's bloody annoying, but does it actually work?

Have you ever met anyone who saw a Christmas ad in October and went "Oh my god, I totally forgot Christmas is coming up, I better go buy all my stuff now!", I sure as hell haven't. Even for people who get their shopping done early, mid October is stretching it just a bit.

By coming out so early with these ads, surely brands are creating negative reactions that actually count against them? Are they damaging rather than inspiring? Almost everyone I know reacts with a depressed sigh of inevitability when the first ad comes on, even mocking the brands that do it. Given many people are completely fatigued with all things Christmassy before it ever gets to December, are you not just placing the brand name in a category marked 'Christmas hassle'.

In fact the massive queues, rushed service and lack of stock that you expect at Christmas are incredibly annoying; and to me using massively Christmas advertising early risks placing a store into the category marked 'This will be packed full of Christmas shoppers, I won't go there.' I wonder if there is room for an approach that deliberately goes against the Christmas flow, not anti-Christmas, but marks a store out as maintaining a pleasant and comfortable experience while everywhere else is going completely over the top with shoving red things in front of your eyes everywhere you look. 'We love Christmas as much as the next person, but we aren't going to go overboard.'

I think a lot of stores fear being seen as 'Bah Humbug!' if they don't engage with the red redder reddest traditions, but actually I think stores drive the perception more than people actually want it. I know a lot of people who would be far more likely to shop somewhere that built up to Christmas in a subtle way.

So is the point to simply associate the name of the store with Christmas, which in a crowded market would make sense; but would that actually work any better by starting weeks before most people actually do any shopping? Sure you want to combat people going online and buying, but what percentage of people actually buy NOW? Not many I'm sure, and the ones who do probably already know exactly what they are buying and where from. Those who are undecided will probably wait til much nearer the time to choose where to go, and with so many stores advertising the odds are they won't be basing their decisions on an ad from 5 weeks earlier.

At least if you are going to talk about Christmas this sodding early, talk about 'getting in early to beat the crowds', 'we'll help you get it out of the way' or 'low stock expected so why not buy now', give the brand a genuine reason to talk to people in October, not just jumping into the race to get a piece of tinsel on screen as early as possible.

In addition: When Christmas shopping this year, please spare a thought for the poor store staff who have to listen to the same 15 Christmas songs on in-store radio, on loop, every single day for two months... I will say though, as an ex store employee, the very worst day to work is Boxing Day. You get hundreds of people piling in with their unwanted gifts and exchanges, all while being swamped by sale hunters. When I did it I was in the middle of serving a customer when someone literally tried to manually pull me around to get me to speak to them. Not fun.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is Money Bad?

Very much liking this ad from BNZ (Bank of New Zealand), which looks at both the good and bad side of what money can do to us.

It's a different tone what I usually see from banks, with the nice thought provoking message that money itself isn't good or bad, it's what you as a person or people do with it. It inspires you to think (if only for a few seconds) about what you might do for or with money.

Executionally the 90second version below (which combines the good and bad versions) may be a little long, but I think it's a really interesting campaign.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thoughts On An Alternative Online Rating System?

I was thinking the other day about online review systems, how unreliable and flawed they can be, and how they could be improved. In many ways we have to look at them with the same critical eyes as research, understanding how the methodology affects the result we are given, and being careful to make the right judgement.

Except most people don't have time (or often the inclination) to read 100 reviews to gauge the reliability of a product's reviews, so they short cut by using the average, or by reading a select sample and making a judgement call as to their accuracy.

One magazine that discussed the flaws with reviews brilliantly was EDGE (quality gaming magazine in the UK), they usually score games out of ten, but for one issue they left scores out of the reviews entirely, looking to their audience to work out for themselves based on the text rather than the score. The reactions varied wildly from "This is brilliant, we are intelligent" to "Where the bloody hell did my scores go??", as expected, perhaps they should have scored their score system...

So what about using a system like the Net Promoter Score as the basis for scores? A simple number that shows likelihood to recommend rather than a subjective measure of the films quality, which will vary slightly for every reviewer.

I.e.: Taking those who love a film, and subtracting the number who are likely to say it's not very good to give a 'promoter' score. Usually based upon a score out of ten as to whether you would recommend a film:
10/9 = Recommend, 8/7 = Not too Bothered, 6-0 = Would not recommend.

So (if 100 people scored) a film everybody loves would get 100, a film everybody hates would  get -100. No real change at the extremes of course.

Let's take a film where half the people love it and half hate it. If 50% score it 10 out of 10, but 50% score it 0 out of 10, it will have an average score of 5, which would lead people to believe it's rubbish, unless they went in and read the scores in more detail.

That same film with an NPS system would score 0. Meaning people are equally likely to recommend it as dismiss it. A subtle but meaningful difference over a review score that says 'this is average'.

Although perhaps it's too subtle. Thinking about it some more made me think about You Tube, and Rotten Tomato's system of a simple good/bad score, which creates a similar recommendation score, which in most cases is more reliable an indicator of quality than averaged review scores.

Maybe splitting the output into 'Recommend' and 'Dislike' percentages would make more sense. A film with mixed scores is divisive, while a film which is average has low scores for both, suggesting it doesn't create a strong response.

By focusing on likelihood to recommend rather than a 'review' score which may be quite arbitrary, we might end up with a more reliable figure to make a snap judgement on. Of course this is just a quick exploration of the idea, but I thought it was an interesting way of looking at it. What do you think?

Monday, October 01, 2012

It's a Boaty

It's so nice to see your colleagues producing work you really like. Following on from the excellent campaign in which they introduced a world first can tracker, the latest online work for John West keeps the idea going in a funny and appealing way

The campaign last year sold the trace-ability credentials of John West really well, and this latest content is a great follow up.

Old Sam's Cabin - John West

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Like That

My favourite strapline at the moment comes from an unlikely source, a cosmetics brand, namely No.7 (owned by Boots). They've made a line that is simple and brilliant. Frankly (given it's been around for a year or so) I am surprised I haven't seen it before.

Ta Dah!

That's just wonderful.

A two word summary of everything the product is and does, in a phrase that has positivity without being cliched or patronising. It says everything that "Maybe she's born with it" or "Because you're worth it" does, but in fewer words. Even the voiceover says it with such enthusiasm and a tone that feels warm and contagious.

This is one of those lines that needs some good media behind it, because it's so clear and so simple that I can see people taking to it and turning it into a shared bit of culture around make up and cosmetics. Woman walks into the room with her friends and they all go "Ta Dah!".

Great work. The only drawback with a line that great is that it deserves magnificent creative ideas to show it off, I hope they can live up to it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Meet the Super-ad

It's not often that an ad makes a fundamental change to our society or impacts in any meaningful way on the way we live our lives.

Having seen the lasting excitement around the Paralympics at London 2012, I am starting to wonder if we can put Channel 4's incredible Superhumans ad into that category.

Apparently the ad has already been rated by Trevor Beattie as already being the ad of the year.With good reason too. It is a triumphant example of what happens when great planning works together with great creative. A brilliant idea and execution that pushes a wonderful bit of thinking, reframing the Paralympics from the not quite as good follow up, to the celebration of human willpower, determination and battling adversity.

But more importantly, it looks like it has had a huge impact on public perception and interest in the games.

Looking at the time that has gone by, I honestly believe that without that piece of communication building the excitement and anticipation of the games, significantly more people would have forgotten and lost interest in them by time the post Olympic gap had finished.

Given that the public is embracing these Paralympic games like never before, this means the ad is partly responsible for the brilliant things that are taking place:
  • Millions are watching paralympic sport for the first time
  • Public interest is driving media interest in the Paralympics and athletes - which in turn is driving public interest
  • We are seeing Paralympians not as disabled athletes, but as athletes - cheering for them and wanting them to win whilst barely registering that they have a disability.
  • People are starting to understand better what you can and cannot do/say around people with disabilities, reducing the stigma and nervousness some people have
  • People are increasingly respecting paralympians for their effort, drive and achievement - turning what used to be sympathy (and maybe being a little patronising) into real empathy and respect.
  • The support toward paralympians is driving conversation and debate around the general treatment of those with disabilities by people and the government - hopefully being the start of long term changes to destroy disability discrimination once and for all
  • Britain is leading the way for supporting disabled athletes, and other countries are noticing

So I think we can argue, Superhumans is not just a great bit of creative work with great thinking, it has been effective too, perhaps (in a way) helping to fundamentally change the treatment of those with disabilities in the UK, and influencing those abroad to do the same.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Bleeding Hell

Is it irony that offices of the same agency made this ad too?
I don't like to criticise ads in an unconstructive way, because I know how hard it is to create good campaigns, and to get those good campaigns through the client.

But sometimes you see an ad that just has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and there is little you can do but wonder how in the name of all things creative that monstrosity ever got to air.

 May I introduce you to the Colgate Pro Gum Health ad. 30 seconds that single-handedly takes advertising back 30 years. Their recent ads have all been poor, but at least they were just simple, style free ads that showed you some product and information while interacting with what seemed like normal people.

This ad though, commits some unforgivable cardinal sins of advertising.

  • Let's start with the 'real' people who couldn't look more like actors if they had their equity cards held up in front of their face.
  • Dialogue that tries to sound natural but feels stiled, fake and irritating, while acted in a way that feels so incredibly posed that it makes you want to laugh.
  • There's the 'focus group leader' who looks like he has been recruited based on his looks alone.
  • Oh and not forgetting the absurdly comic 'ask your dentist' ending with mind-bogglingly silly photo. (I actually did burst out laughing the first time I saw it).
  • Additionally, as mentioned by @AJ_ay_it the stylistic approach to branding of plastering everything in the logo COLGATE COLGATE COLGAAAAATTTTEEEE! , and that this researcher should be reported to the MRS for his selling..!
What decade are we living in?

This ad couldn't feel more dated if it was shot in black and white and fronted by someone who is dead. It talks to people in a way that seems to presume they have all the intelligence of a intellectually challenged loaf of bread. If you want people to understand the facts then just tell them in a compelling way, don't break out sales tactics that would be laughed at even by Alan Sugar.

I find it hard to believe that a creative agency could produce this, an ad completely devoid of any charm or creativity whatsoever. I don't know whether this is the fault of the agency or the client, but this kind of advertising will not engage or inspire anyone. Telling the facts can be a good strategy, but not like this. I spoke to someone at another agency who said it felt so negative that he was actually thinking about giving up using Colgate. I say this as someone who has been a loyal Colgate user for over a decade, their products are good, but talking about them in this way is just horrific.

It's not 1955 anymore Colgate.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Excitement from Toyota

"Honestly, this goes down as the best Toyota I've ever driven"
Top Gear Magazine
I think it's nice when you see campaigns that really get to the heart of the product they are selling, and pull out the truth, making it impossible to miss.

The new ad for the Toyota GT86 (by Saatchi and Saatchi I believe) does exactly that.

In a world where cars try to do everything for you, the GT86 is an artificial assistance free car. A massive buzz of excitement and experience for a price that makes it one of the best value cars in the world if measured in fun.

The ad takes the idea of a back to basics car that is directly and joyously connected to the road rather than through a control centre full of electronics; and brings it to life in a way that is hard to miss.

I'd done a lot of research on the GT86 for a friend, so I knew a lot about it. When I heard the line "Can you feel the thrill of being alive, no neither can I" came on, I thought straight away that this has to be for the GT86, it fits it perfectly.  A car that is designed to push the limits and give you maximmum fun even at the expense of grip.

Sure, it's a little po faced, but it's bold, brave, and most importantly, it doesn't feel like it could truthfully be for any other affordable car.

I mean, look at it. For £25k...! I want one, and I don't even drive.
(Pic from Toyota)
Showing the car almost entirely in CG only is a bold step too, and appears well thought out, allowing the ad to show exciting driving without breaking any regulations. For a car this interesting and exciting, doing the usual boring car ad cliches would have been doing it no justice whatsoever.

If there is any justice, this car should become the new XR3i, the new M3, the new RX8, a truely rewarding piece of engineering that brings all the fun of overpriced sports cars to the general public at a fraction of the price. The idea of reintroducing the thrill of driving for real, of remembering the joy of a real connection to the road, to a public fed on assists and technology, seems like a perfect cry to start that trend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't Be Different

I find the latest ad for Tesco Mobile a little weird.
It is essentially saying, don't be an individual, be like everyone else and follow the herd.

Now I appreciate not everyone wants to stand out a mile, but do people really want to be exactly like everybody else? I find it hard to believe that anyone likes to think of themselves as being just like those around them. Surely everyone, (no matter how dull or mass market in their actual choices) likes to believe that they make their own decisions and have elements of their personality and lifestyle choices that make them the individual person they are

I get that they are trying to say that sometimes lots of people choose something because it is the best, and that following the herd isn't always a bad thing. But I find it hard to believe that people actually want to feel like part of a herd. At the very least they could have exaggerated the 'individuals' and tweaked the wording slightly to make it sound less like a push to lose your individuality, and more like a push to join those in the know.
"You are all individuals."
"We are all individuals!" - "I'm not."

They've usually tried to mock the big imagery of the other mobile networks and contrast it with being down to earth; but this feels like a bit of a mis-step. Perhaps presuming not quite enough variety and personality in their audience.

The only real question for me is what age group they are targeting. Maybe an older audience with less knowledge of mobiles would feel more confortable with this message, but otherwise I just can't see people under the age of 35 feeling connected to the brand at all from it. I watched it and instantly felt put off from the brand.

Given Tesco's behemoth like position in the UK supermarket world, the image of them as the place where everybody goes, but not everyone is quite sure why (not the cheapest, not the best products*, not the best range**, but ubiquitous presence), I would have thought voicing out loud a blanket herd mentality position would be a no no.

Edit: The online is much better at avoiding the 'same as everyone else' idea. On another viewing I think it's just the middle bit that seems like it is too 'herdy', but it was enough to put me off still, even though the overall idea of grouping together is a good one.

* Personal opinion
** Personal experience outside of the biggest few stores

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Planners Should Love Creativity

Creativity and strategy is like a game of chess,
only with less horses and more pawns
Now and again you speak to a creative who has the impression that planners aren't that fussed about the creative output of an agency. That disappoints me, because everyone involved should care about the creativity and quality of the work their agency produces. To me it is absolutely fundamental that planners both understand and fight for creativity in the work they do.

Look at the link between creativity and effectiveness.

Look (in the UK at least) at the ads that the public truly get involved with and remember, they are entertaining and creative. The ones that stick in your head. It's been said so many times that advertising is far more long term than we ever try and track, and the influence of a great piece of work far far outlives the campaign.
Think about the Smash Martians that over 30 years later are still influencing people to buy Smash and have created a gigantically long term positive association. If we want to change behaviour then what way is more exciting that to create lifelong positive shifts towards our brands.

Consider those brands that have made, or reclaimed their fortune based upon great creative advertising: Stella Artois (a tiny brand until the Reassuringly Expensive campaign), Levis (a brand stuck with dated perceptions at the time - turned around several times by great work from BBH. I know personally that there are many brands that I have bought purely because of a piece of great work. (Sprite - Obey Your Thirst, Tango - You Know When You've Been Tango'd, Kia Ora - We all adora Kia Ora, etc). Hell, the advertising for Sony Minidisc not only made me buy a Sony MD player, the track on the ad was the very first thing I copied over to it.

Let's keep reading creative books as well as planning,
strategy and behavioural books.
(I just wanted an excuse to post this photo,
it took ages to set up)
More importantly, people like entertaining, engaging and creative advertising. No one wants to watch 4 minutes of being shouted at. No one wants to see ads that are painful to experience. (I once sat in a focus group where they referred to an existing ad as noisy, crowded and 'stressful' to watch. How can you expect to change behaviour if the creative idea and execution tunes people out? No one wants to see 50 ads all made exactly the same talking about the same thing for indistinguishable products.

A key part of planning is understanding the people who buy the products we sell, and finding a better, more effective way to talk to them. If you don't understand what types of advertising people like, how can you expect to produce ads that they will engage with and respond to? At the very least we should be finding exciting new ideas to spark off the imagination of the creatives. Taking the right thing to say, the right audience to say it to, and then giving the creatives a platform to create amazing work.

Maybe it didn't happen this way, but John Lewis's Always a Woman Ad perfectly nailed their target customer and brand reputation in a way that you'd hope a planner crafted into the right brief. Tango's 90's work created a brand that was bold, brave and noisy, giving the creatives a perfect opportunity to create some amazing work; the sort of brand thinking that you'd hope was down to good planning.

Every good planner I know cares about the creativity of the work. Maybe we need to put more effort into talking with the creative folk and creating some mututal understanding. Of course as planners we have other things to consider, but just because we write slides and draw graphs doesn't mean we don't love great work, and we should always be clear on that.

I believe that if we don't help inspire and fight for creativity, we really aren't doing our jobs right.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Improving the Unimprovable

It's so nice when brands don't take themselves or their communications too seriously. So many brands take a position of being uptight and faceless, often those that try and produce humorous ads, still do so from a brand position of being humour free. You laugh at the execution, not the brand.

Well sometimes laughing at your brand is the best way to make me buy it.

Take the new work for Stride Gum and their Shaun White inspired Mintacular flavour gum. It doesn't take itself seriously, it mocks apple, mocks other ads and online videos, and deliberately mocks the ad industry's often sad habit of feigning importance onto completely insignificant products.

The moment when I saw the caption, "Jamie Gill-Sans - Senior Vice Executive Vice President, Glasses and Facial Hair" was the moment I knew this had to be shared.

I hope more brands realise that being funny as a brand is different to having a funny execution. Another great example below from Carlton Draught, owners of one the best straplines I have ever seen, even includes the line "It's a big ad, expensive ad, this ad better sell some bloody beer." That is a mile away from having a three blokes in a pub gag.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

What Can Adland Learn From Danny Boyle

I think we can all agree that whatever you think of the Olympics, Locog and the IOC; the one person who absolutely cannot be faulted is Danny Boyle. He took an event that many people were expecting to be an embarrassment and turned into something incredible.

There are some great lessons we can, and should all learn from what Danny Boyle did this weekend with the London 2012 opening ceremony.

Have a Clear Vision

Beijing 2008 has an incredible opening ceremony. It had money chucked at it, and would have been frankly impossible to beat at what it did. So instead of try to outshout Beijing, Boyle made something that was truly British, beautiful, varied, influenced by the whole world, proud of real people not artificial bombast.

Have Brave Ideas

"So Danny, you want to film the Queen talking to James Bond, and then imply that she parachuted out of a helicopter in order to open the Games?"

"Yes. Oh and also I'd like Mr Bean to be playing in the London Symphony Orchestra whilst parodying one of our greatest sporting moments ever."

Have a Brave Client

How many people who control this kind of event would have seen those two ideas and said "Go for it." ? Most would have completely denied them point blank. Whoever allowed Danny Boyle to approach the Queen and even put these ideas forward to her deserves a damn gold medal, because frankly it was genius, very British genius.

Understand the Task

The task was not, as many people seemed to think to show a touristy vision of Britain. It was to show the world a spectacle, to fill three hours worth of time with something that they would never forget, something that truly represents this country. It would have been so easy to show a Daily Mail esque vision of middle class Britain, but he took the risks and made it truly reflective of our culture and our people. Real people.

To have the Queen in what was essentially a comedy sketch, and then play the Sex Pistols while she is watching. To show Gregory's Girl and Trainspotting clips, play Underworld, Muse, Dizzee Rascal and the Arctic Monkeys. He took the essence of real Britain, as much as that is possible, and put it on show in an amazing way.

Understand the Audience

An international audience, in hundreds of countries, many of which we have never really heard of. How do you bring them together? By avoiding the cliches and showing off the things that Britain has truly sent round the world: Mr Bean, James Bond, the Queen. I once spent a fair bit of time with a relative that spoke no English whatsoever, but when Mr Bean was on everybody joined in and was part of the laughter. Mr Bean is truly universal. Recognising that is a great bit of insight.

Understand the Moment

1 billion people watching, and you send out a 30 minute piece about the NHS just as we have a government trying to destroy it? To show how much we believe in our freedoms and rights by bringing out Sir Tim Berners Lee. Remarkable. The whole world has just seen how much we value those institutions, great work Danny.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Should Have Looked at Specsavers

Too many brands act slowly these days.

I don't mean in terms of strategy, it's always good to have time to develop things properly. As great as a skill it is to think quickly, time is always good.

However, in terms of making the most of a new opportunity, or doing something topical or relevant to the world in that exact timeframe, brands need to think quickly and be preapred to move.

Too many brands want to approve everything in microscopic detail, research, double research and triple research everything they do. But you have to know when to move quickly, and to understand that sometimes not perfect is better than not at all. Of course I understand that you need to be careful about spending money, and that budgets are not infinite, but sometimes dawdling is your worst enemy.

I recall once suggesting a really nice, cheap PR idea for one of our former brands, they liked it but never did anything about it; wasting what would have been an excellent opportunity because they ummed and aahhed about it for so long that the chance had gone.

Do you think Oakley took their time when they gave out free sunglasses to the Chilean Miners? They saw an opportunity, they weighed it up quickly and acted. Decisive management who knew when to take a risk. End result, an estimated $41m worth of publicity for essentially giving away 33 pairs of their shades.

Look at Specsavers, when something happens in the news or popular culture that fits their brand message they get in quickly. They had an ad about Ukrainian linesman up and ready in about 24 hours at the European Championships. I saw one online already about the Korean flag/DPRK flag, but I can't be sure if it was genuine or mock.

They see an opportunity, weight it up and act. Sharp thinking. The fact they know when to act quickly is also a sure sign of a brand that truly understand what it is about, what it believes in, and how it needs to communicate. Instead of worrying about whether the idea will be perfect for their exact demographic or can we get triplicate sign off on the product cost, they know when something is right and just do it.

It helps that they are not afraid of taking risks. They have the metaphorical balls to try things, and if they don't work move on to something else. It doesn't mean making stupid decisions because they know their brand well enough to know what is a risk worth taking. "No tagline?" "Well people know it anyway, it's funnier without it..." "Ok go for it."

In fact the only bad thing about it, is that it is not an agency who is helping them to work this way. We should be listening and learning (or in this case looking) to the speed at which Specsavers, and others who think fast, operate when they see an opportunity.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Smoking? Packet In.

I personally hate to see packets of cigarettes with those horrible images of what they can do to your body lying around. When I was little I saw my 50 a day smoking uncle on a machine that breathed for him, that kind of put me off for life.

I think doing things to put people off smoking is one of those times where seriously interfering in people's lives and habits is actually worthwhile. I think these disturbing images and hiding cigarettes away with no branding is a good start, and will hopefully make a difference.

I do think though, that packets should be thinking a bit more behaviourally, and focus on things that are happening right now rather than on possible future occurances that people can and will put to the back of their brain. Can we make the warnings exactly about this cigarette in your hand right now?

Each Cigarette You Smoke Makes Your breath Tastes Like a Dogs Arse (and no a mint won't hide it)

This Cigarette is Making Your Teeth and Fingers a Lovely Yellow

For the Cost of This Packet You Could have Bought Two Pints of Beer

Smoking This Cigarette Will Add Wrinkles to Your Face

Slightly silly maybe, but maybe your average smoker on a night out would be far more put off by the thought of their breath being horrible when they chat to the opposite (or same) sex than they are by a picture of a horrible lung that they can put as a future event that won't likely happen to them.

The best anti-amoking ad I have seen in a long long time did a great job of dragging the negatives of smoking into this precise moment, and making people consider the full journey in another person that they don't think about for themselves. A fantastic piece of work from both a strategic and creative point of view.

Every Little Change Helps

The big story at the end of last week was the news that W+K have won the gigantic Tesco account. While part of me was little saddened that we hadn't seen such a prestigious account come to our network or a Manchester agency; in my experience I can't think of anything W+K have won, and then not proved they deserved it.

The big question though, asked by our head of planning, is whether it will change the agency. Will this account change W+K, or will it change Tesco? It's such a huge account that I can't possibly see it not having an effect somewhere along the line.

This is a different kind of account to the ones they usually work on, likely accompanied by different demands on account handlers and creatives, with much more day to day production and turnover of work. So you would expect that either their processes will have to adapt, or Tesco are moving towards a different model of campaign.

If it's W+K that changes, I hope it doesn't mean a lessening of their creative or strategic thinking, but that it puts that effort onto a bigger, wider scale. If it's Tesco that is changing, I look forward to the result. McCann's work for Aldi has already shown that Supermarkets can do things differently to the expected norm.

I also really want to know where MC Hammer came into it...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Greenpeace Shell Out

Disclosure - I used to be a member (inactive) of Greenpeace for a bit in my student days.

Whatever your views on oil companies, in this case Shell, and oil exploration; I find it disappointing that an organisation with the history and support of Greenpeace has had to resort to lying to people in order to put a point across.

If you haven't seen, Greenpeace produced a realistic but fake Shell site, with fake videos, posters and user generated content. They then responded to that using a fake Shell PR account, deliberately designed to make the company look foolish.

Clever yes, but is it right?

As an organisation founded on a moral standpoint, Greenpeace for me must be extremely careful how it puts itself across. If you are activists then you sometimes have to take direct action in a way that not everyone will approve of, but to outright deceive the public in this way? It just seems wrong.

It seems like the action of a group that doesn't have the facts on their side, that doesn't have the conviction to make a real statement. Relying on lies and bluffery to trick people who they should be winning over.

I don't know enough about arctic drilling to take a clear stand, but in producing so many lies, I now don't know what are the facts and what are lies. I find it more difficult to accept the negative comments and arguments against the oil companies purely because I don't know if I can totally trust what Greenpeace say anymore.

Maybe you could argue that in order to make a change that they truly believe is necessary, they have to do things that are perhaps morally ambiguous or wrong, but as much as it has created a fuss, once you know the campaign is a lie, it makes me feel negative towards Greenpeace. They have focused on short term awareness and publicity over the long term support of their organisation and goals.

By all means tell us what is happening, what can be done, and how we can do it, but do not lie to us. If you lie, how are you any better than the companies you claim are misleading us? Deception of this kind does not help create action, it puts people off acting at all. Imagine how many more people would engage with politics if they thought that politicians only told the truth.

Lies and deception are wrong, even if used for what you believe are right reasons. That's Tony Blair territory, and no brand wants to be there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

London Gets Gold Silver and Bronze at the Summer Olympics 2012 (aka The Banned Post)

You can't even say Summer... I know we don't
really have one in the UK, but that is ridiculous.
 The Olympic Games are coming to London, and the whole nation is invited to join in with the celebrations and the excitement! Unless however, you are a small business. In which case you are not allowed to talk about the olympics in any recognisable form whatsoever.

The Independent and other papers are today talking about the purple clad 'brand police' who will be going round enforcing the London committee's outrageous sponsorship rules. Described by Marina Palomba, of McCann Worldgroup as "the most draconian law in advance of an Olympic Games ever". 300 brand police doing a semi-pointless job while 3,500 army personnel are drafted in for security!

What a horrible mess of perception. A largely public funded event around togetherness and national pride, and as part of it we get Logocop.

The rules protecting Olympic sponsors should be about stopping big brands from hi-jacking their investment and causing misattribution (see Li-Ning at the 2008 Beijing Games), not about clamping down on small and medium businesses looking to sell a few more products by holding olympic special offers.

If people are misattributing your sponsorship, maybe you haven't been utilising it in the right way.

Now protecting an investment is all well and good, but I hope the brands involved are aware of just how much negative publicity they are getting.

If it was my money, I would be far more scared of my brand being perceived as funding and encouraging a bunch of faux-police state brand wardens with no compassion or care for small businesses, than I would a bit of misattribution from an event that will have your brand plastered all over it.

If you sell 'Golden Skin - Summer Bronze lotion'
you are screwed this summer my friend...
McDonalds have paid a huge amount of money to be an official sponsor, but the draconian 'Normal chips are banned so only McDonalds fries can be served' is such a damaging move that I can't possibly believe anyone in their marketing department would have approved it. Way to damage years of gradually restored trust.

Coca Cola is a brand that lives happiness and togetherness, so being seen as a funder of the purple product and packaging police is plainly a poor move.

For the Olympic Committee itself, surely this clampdown goes totally against the whole idea of the games? Of course you want to ensure your sponsors get visibility, but this is just damaging people's impressions of the London games, the sponsors, and the Olympics in general. They are dangerously close to crossing a line of credibility that they will never get back, an event far far more damaging for their sponsorship budgets than Nike gaining a bit of awareness from an Adidas sponsored event.
If I were Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald's or any of the other sponsors, I would be looking to distance my brand from this over the top enforcement of ridiculous rules immediately.

Even if the perception is worse than the reality, right of this second it is damaging the reputation of every brand associated with the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Small Step for Men

Our screens (both big, small and mobile) are all too full right now with 'lads'. Now in small doses there is nothing wrong with lads, but the question has to be where are the real men? The kind we are supposed to aspire to be, the kind that other people truly appreciate.

Old Spice noticed it, it isn't just about looking (and smelling) your best, it's about much more than that. An attitude, a bravery and a boldness.

I heard on the news today that usage of illegal and dangerous steroids has doubled in a year. In ONE year. It seems some guys are starting to have the same kind of body image issues that are traditionally seen as a problem affecting women. This is a shame, because just like the vast majority don't really want a stick thin, top heavy, neon orange trout pouter woman; most don't want a steroid enhanced, shrunken testicled, roid rage filled man either.

Something needs to be done. One of the best sources for inspiration on being the right kind of male comes from the blog What Men Do. Written by three guys (or should I say men), including one of my former colleagues, it provides stories, inspiration and advice for our troubled gender.

They now have a limited run book out too, I highly recommend it. My copy has been ordered...!

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Awesomeness Process

“The work that you do should urge you go for a 10 out of 10. You’re going to get more threes than you normally would in doing things this way, but it’s better than aiming for a safe six."

“An over reliance on process gets in the way of the dream. Don’t start with a brand. It’s about feeling and doing not just writing about it. Think big, start small, then scale or fail fast.”

Which agency do you think said this?

Wrong. It was a client. (As seen in Marketing Week)

If clients can get it, why do agencies struggle so much with forced processes and safe restricted thinking? I suppose it's because we need something to sell because so many clients don't appreciate creativity? Well let's make them appreciate it then. Doing the above will be a start for sure. A fixed process that gets in the way of the work just makes it seem like we are doing less thinking than we truly are. Process devalues what we do, not enhance it.

Full story:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Not in Love

Why is that even after all this time and the thoughts of so many intelligent people, that so many brands still seem to expect people to react to their brands and products in completely ludicrous ways? Or even worse treat people as if they are completely obsessed by brands and products?

I love the air freshener ad that says "If you could design your own air freshener I bet it would look like this!" Well for a start, if most people could design their own they wouldn't want to, they'd probably rather use the time to do something productive, oh and I imagine some people probably feel a bit insulted that you think their design prowess amounts to making a cheap grey plastic blob that looks a little bit like a rock if you squint. Unless there is some good data backing that up it just feels daft and a little insulting to me.

I definitely love Pukka Pies.
We know that people love very few brands. That they are loyal to very few brands. That people aren't really interested in spending their busy lives in meaningless unrewarding interactions with brands they buy on auto-pilot or just because they are on offer. If you aren't going to give people something meaningful or don't have a genuinely exceptional product that provides an incredible experience (E.g.: Bose speakers that absorb you, an iPad that has a beautiful user interface, a Dyson that works better than anything it competes with, chocolate that tastes better than any other brand) then why do you think they care?

I know this has been written many times but it still happens all too often.

Perhaps in one way understanding that is what's so clever about Facebook likes. They aren't 'loves', they are likes. An expression that this is pretty good, a realistic expectation rather than "I friggin love this brand me" that would more than likely end up with far fewer brands getting far fewer clicks.

Hello, is it my brand you're looking for?
Sometimes people do love brands, I once was part of some research that found a brand's core customers linked it to hugely fond memories of the past and didn't want it to change at all. However we cannot forget that even if people 'love' your brand, they still love it as a brand. They aren't going to fawn over it with loving anecdotes and want to make it happy, they just really appreciate the experience it gives them. People say they love Cadbury's, but I bet a huge proportion just love chocolate, and happen to prefer Cadbury's.

But. If we are going to talk about brands in the same context as love we need to start treating it with an understanding of how people operate and what role brands actually play in their lives. Yes people are irrational, but that doesn't mean they will jump around the room with glee at your new type of toilet roll.

Perhaps this goes back to the argument around fame and experience as the outcome of advertising. If something is famous people are far more likely to feel positive towards it. I bet if I asked the average person to name their favourite brands they would ALL either have amazing products or amazing communications. The average stick thin fashion model is far less visually appealling than the average real woman, but their fame and notoriety for being 'beautiful' makes them wanted and desired, even if they aren't. (Sorry George - Kate just isn't that hot!)

The ad creates the experience and connection that the product itself cannot. Think back to all the shitty lagers of the 80's, people still have a huge connection to those brands, why? It certainly isn't the product. Hofmeister was a crappy weak beer, but some John Webster magic and it's a brand that gives you an experience that is infinitely more than the product could ever deliver. Can Lynx or Old Spice ever truly give you an incredible product experience? Probably not, but they can give you an ad experience that lives on through the product.

British Airways as the World's Favourite Airline - they weren't, and the service (supposedly at the time) could never ever match it. But without actually promising something they couldn't deliver, they absorbed you into a brand and product experience that enhanced the travel experience. The ad gave you a snapshot of the world and of being part of a favoured group, when you then tried the product you could take that feeling with you on the flight, in a way that even minor service issues wouldn't spoil.

So when a brand manager talks about people loving the brand, we should think about those two key things:

1. Is the product brilliant enough that people will take a hugely positive experience away from it?
2. Do the communications give you an experience worth remembering or being part of?

This post is a little 'stream of consciousness', I hope it makes sense. I will probably edit it later!