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: