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!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Awkwardness Taxes

I was wondering about whether we could all improve the quality of work we do by reducing the chaos that often arises when clients brief in jobs with excruciatingly short deadlines.

A deadline rate could be the first step on that path. A universal charge that all agencies have to try and push clients to brief with adequate timescales.

Maybe even better, we could have charges for other common client mishaps and irritations. So a useless brief, or changing a key component halfway through a project, etc, would all cause a financial pentaly. By making these part of all agency contracts we would force clients into better timescales...!
So essentially:
  • Any brief with a deadline of less than 2 weeks = 10% mark up
  • Any brief with a deadline of less than a week = 30% mark up
  • Any brief with a deadline of less than 48 hours = 60% mark up
  • Small project with no client brief = 5% mark up
  • Major project with no client brief = 20% mark up
  • Client brief - badly written and confusing = 50% mark up
  • Changes to client brief = 5% mark up per change x number of weeks after initial brief
  • Client only accepting their own copy = 1% mark up per word
  • Filling blank space = 10% mark up per space filled
  • Client sends urgent brief and is then completely unavailable for the next week = 20% mark up 
However, it would only be fair if we then introduced similar discounts for agency mishaps; to ensure we all work to our best with the better timescales.
  • Agency presents creative execution that is a million miles off brief for no justifiable reason = 5% discount per execution
  • Agency strategy ignores business problem = 20% discount
  • Agency strategy ignores customer = 50% discount
  • Agency turns up their nose at DM brief = 10% discount
  • Agency steal execution idea from music video or online sensation = 20% discount
  • Agency design is so minimalist that no-one can read it = 20% discount
  • Agency strategy includes any mention or reference to "being so annoying that people will remember it" = 50% discount
  • Agency suggests taking a well loved song and changing the words to the brand name = 50% discount
 This is good news for accountants! It also might help nudge* us all in the right direction.

*In the literal sense, not the behavioural economics sense.

Image from -

Monday, June 25, 2012

Creativity is More Than Just Creatives

I heard a story the other week about an agency a colleague used to work at. Having been only at one agency I don't know if this happens elsewhere, but if it does, I think it is ludicrous.

Apparently the agency my colleague used to work at put a ban on account people and planners from talking to creatives between 11am and 4pm. Only in an emergency and with express permission could you talk to them.

That is batshit INSANE.

It pushes apart creatives from everyone else in the agency, driving egos and making it harder for everyone to work together and get along. Clearly the agency has made the decision to try and 'protect the creatives'... but for fucks sake people, everyone is responsible for creativity. Protect the creativity at all costs, but that does not mean treating the rest of the agency like they don't matter.

Of course the creatives are the lead people in the creative element of projects, but if we don't work together then how the hell are we supposed to make good work. Wrapping the creatives in cotton wool and hiding them away from the realities of the industry will kill creativity and effectiveness far quicker than letting an account handler do their goddamn job. If you want the account handlers to understand creativity, spend time with them talking about it. If you want planners to make good briefs, spend time talking about what will help you get the best work from them.

When it's time for the account handler to sell the work, you want to know that they understand it, that they believe in what the creatives have done and will back it up. If you have no time whatsoever to chat with the creatives how do you expect to be able to do that?

I once spent several hours having a fierce creative debate with a creative in the pub. After that point they understood my point of view and I understood theirs, and every bit of work we did was easier from that point on.

I hate the divides between jobs that you hear about in some agencies. Creatives should not hate planners should not hate account handlers should not hate creatives. We are all working towards the same goal here, we all want to do creative and effective work, otherwise why on earth would we be here?

We have to trust each other. If we don't have trust between ourselves how can we be expected to produce work that the clients can trust?

Friday, June 22, 2012

What a Pay Packet

#Disclaimer/Disclosure - I am a WPP employee, this is my personal opinion only#

There has been much talk this week over the pay packet of Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP. I'm not about to go into the minutae of the debate. I just thought there were a couple of important points worth making.

1. Given where he has taken the company, I can understand absolutely why he would be paid the amount he is. He is a safe pair of hands in a time of uncertainty. A man who has taken a tiny company and turned into a giant of the industry.

In general I am very much anti 'huge wages at the top and low wages at the bottom', but if I approached this from the point of view of a shareholder, would I pay him more money, of course I would. This isn't a direct comparison, but had Steve Jobs asked for a 400% pay increase you would see the value, were Richard Branson or Alan Sugar to award themselves a huge bonus would you object?

If you put aside the employment and ethical debates around corporate wages, there is an absolutely sound business sense behind backing those increases. Would you sack Alex Ferguson if he asked for a 40% pay increase, and risk someone else in his place? Regardless of if it would be the right decision, you better have some pretty big and shiny brass metaphorical balls to be the one who makes that decision.

Whether I agree or disagree doesn't matter, the point is that seems like an opportunist move to make a political statement instead of a business case. If you want me to protest about a bosses wages, show me why there is a business sense to the decision, not a moral one. As much as I am a very morally driven person, I know that thousands of jobs rest on this, so it absolutely HAS to be a business decision.

2. There is surely some irony in the fact that this debate comes at a time when hundreds of mid to high level advertising people have descended on an expensive, wealth heavy location in the south of France to celebrate and party amongst themselves to mark hugely costly to enter awards...

Now I'm not criticising the merit of the Cannes Awards, nor the fact that people who have made good work deserve an opportunity to be rewarded and celebrate, but the connection is pretty tough to avoid. What is more valuable, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds sending employees to awards and parties, or giving it to someone who has built the company that pays your wages from the ground up?

There are far simpler and less risky ways to save agencies a boatload of money, starting first and foremost with changing the current pitch system to something fairer for everyone. No more spending a fortune on presumptive work that has no guarantee of even happening.

We could also all benefit from increasing the value perception of creativity. Too often what we do is not treated with the respect or reward that it deserves. We don't help ourselves with convoluted processes and hyped promises. We need to get back to the magic of insight and creativity. Making effective work that justifies more money for the agencies, and bigger rewards for everyone, not just at the top.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Safety in Numbers

Is it just me or is security becoming a complete pain in the backside?

Amid sites getting hacked, and the many calls for everyone to use different passwords for each site you use, I have to ask; does any of these people actually use the internet like a typical net user?

Do you realise how many logins I actually have? If I did a typically recommended password with random jumbled letters and numbers with a capital letter, then varied it for EVERY site I use I would never be able to remember ANY of them.


I count about about 10 at work, plus anywhere from 30 to 60 sites I use at home. I challenge anyone without a freaky memory to be able to remember 70 sets of random letter infused passwords and the appropriate login name.

The real reason I think they ask us to use so many different passwords is just to cover themselves if they get hacked. They don't want their security breach to be responsible for your eBay account being hacked and money being spent on your credit card fraudulently. I can't believe in 2012 anyone would expect someone to have all those log ins without having to use a spreadsheet to keep hold of them all.

So the use of Facebook and Twitter as multiple log-ins is becoming increasingly useful. In fact on some occasions I have refused to sign up to a site as it didn't have a Facebook option and I couldn't be bothered to spend 20 minutes going through the registration procedure. Perhaps in the future when people are less starry eyed about Facebook, that interconnectivity and access simplification might be the thing that keeps it going.

Oh and on the subject of random letter passwords, XKCD said it best...