Sunday, May 25, 2014

Has Facebook Become An Infomercial Channel?

I am a huge fan of Facebook.

I check the site every day (not at work, obvs!) and genuinely enjoy it. 

But what's up with the ads?

Obviously it would be better if it were ad-free, though I understand they're a business, and want to turn a buck. However, the ratio of ads to editorial seems to have jumped all of a sudden, and most of them are promoting "1 weird trick to reduce belly fat" or a skincare product used by a Mom who "is 56 but looks 26."

In short, it's starting to feel like an infomercial channel.

A billion people use the site, so shouldn't it be full of ads for big brands like Budweiser, Ford, or Citibank?

Many of the brands just feel so small and crap.

Here's one from my feed today.

Who are 'fabnob'? Why are they closing down? This ad makes Facebook feel like a dilapidated high street.

The other great promise of Facebook is supposedly the ability to personalise ads, using all the data they have about us. But judging by some of the other ads in my feed today, I'm not sure it's working:

Thanks Oscar Wylee, but I don't wear glasses.

Sounds like an interesting proposition, ezidebit, but I don't own a gym.

Qantas, those shoes look fab, but being male they don't really appeal to me. 

Admittedly there are one or two big brands on there, like this ad for Nike:

But it's terrible. First of all, the headline is so poorly written, I can't really understand what it's saying. And second of all, I don't get the point of the image. Who are these people? And why is one performing a cuddle on the other?

Since few people will click through, wouldn't they be better off just placing a display ad? You know, with a cool visual, and a snappy headline?

Can someone please explain what the deal is with Facebook advertising? 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is It Okay To Be Stupid?

We all know you have to be creative to be a Creative. But do you also have to be smart, or is it okay to be stupid?

Funnily enough, I reckon it's actually an advantage to be stupid.

Please note I'm not talking here about the famous Wieden + Kennedy dictum of "Walk In Stupid." I love this idea, but it's not really about intelligence. It's really an exhortation to assume nothing, be open-minded, and learn as much as you can every day.

I'm talking about genuine lack of intelligence.

So why do I think that's an advantage? Well, first of all, it's no handicap.
There has been over 60 years of scientific research into the question of whether intelligence and creativity are correlated. Turns out they aren't. (The one wrinkle here is that there is apparently a 'threshold point' at an IQ level of 85, above which you are more likely to be creative. But since the average IQ is 100 - that's how the scale works - it seems that you can be of well-below average intelligence, and still be creative.)

My belief is that being stupid (or at least appearing to be stupid) is an advantage because it forces Clients, Planners etc to phrase things for you in a simple way.

Every answer ends up being simple (Sony Bravia = great colour, Cadbury = joy, Chipotle = natural) but sometimes that answer is buried in a 72-page Powerpoint deck and triple-headed proposition. If you can get the brief phrased to you in a simple way from the start - get them to say what's really important - you have an advantage.

They do that automatically for stupid creatives. ("Guys, we're briefing Kevin, and he's a little dense, so let's make this nice and simple for him.") But they assume that the smart creatives can 'work it out'. Which might cost you days. And you might go in a direction that isn't what the Client really wants.

So what to do if you have the disadvantage of being (or sounding) intelligent?

A famous ECD once gave me a great tip. He told me that when he is presented with an overly complicated brief, he says this: "Look guys, there's a lot of great stuff here, and it all sounds very exciting, but the way my mind works - being a creative - is that I tend to respond to things instinctively. Now, I'm not saying I'm stupid, but could you do me the favour of imagining that I'm stupid, and just phrase this for me in the simplest possible way that you can?"


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Getting Paid

Eric B. and Rakim were insistent on being 'paid in full'

Advertising is a weird business.

It is extraordinarily difficult to value what ad agencies do.

One campaign may help create a $40 billion brand. Another may disappear without a trace.

Worst of all, successful work may continue to be successful, long after the ad agency has stopped being paid. For example, I still buy a certain chocolate bar based on an ad I saw for it over 20 years ago. The campaign has long since changed (I don't like the new work) so the original ad agency is still succeeding, but not getting any benefit for it.

So, what to do?

Most ad agencies simply charge fees for their time, with perhaps a small bonus or at-risk element that nods to 'payment by results'. 

We all know this model is unsatisfactory, yet very few alternatives have been proposed.

One PR agency offered to charge clients only if it achieved coverage for them. (Note, I can't find any trace of that company's website, so I'm not too sure how it worked out for them...)

An agency in Holland offered clients a pay what you want model.

And last week, Coca Cola announced a scheme to pay agencies a bigger bonus for non-traditional campaigns than for regular work, which is at least innovative.

At the heart of the problem is the age-old conundrum about what advertising agencies actually are. Are we providers of professional services - like lawyers and accountants - in which case a fee structure would be appropriate. Or are we producers of creative works - like songwriters or novelists - in which case a royalty makes more sense.

The truth is we're neither, and a bit of both.

Like I said, weird business.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Confidence Thing

If you want to be good at pinball, it's not enough to be skillful with the flippers. You have to shove the machine a little bit. Not too much, or it'll 'tilt'. But a little bit.

Similarly, to be successful in a field as competitive as advertising it's not enough to be good at writing ads. There are all kinds of little things you need to do, to give yourself an advantage.

And perhaps the most important of them is to display confidence.

N.B. not too much, because over-confidence translates into arrogance, and that's a negative.

But a healthy dose of confidence... makes a difference.

What a lot of creatives don't realise is how thin the line is between a creative director saying "yes" and saying "go again." Even the most experienced creative director is not always 100% sure whether an idea is good or not, and a team that throws in a little comment at just the right time, like "we think this could be really funny" or "no one's ever really done anything like this before" can help get your work over that line.

And the same goes double for clients. Most clients have an excellent understanding of the kind of work that will be right for their brand. But they're not judging creative work every single day, like creative directors are. So when they look at work, they're not just looking at whether it's right, they're looking at whether the person who is presenting it, believes in it.

Everyone is human, and everyone is influenced by the attitudes of others.

Clients hire agencies because we're experts at making ads. And like anyone hiring an expert, they want to feel that the expert is confident they know what they're doing.

Always have a recommendation. Always say why you think it's right. And always present with belief.

Because if you don't believe in your work, who else will?