Sunday, January 27, 2013

Does Australian Ad-Savvy Travel?

France was the birthplace of Publicis, Havas, and TBWA.

The US has spawned 9 global ad agencies: McCann, DDB, BBDO, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, Y&R, JWT, Grey, and Arnold. (criteria: 15+ offices)

The UK has produced three (Lowe, Saatchi & Saatchi, M&C Saatchi)

While Japan has given the world Dentsu and Hakuhodo.

And all the other countries in the world?

None. Zip. Zilch.

Which is weird, when you consider there are many countries which have produced global companies in other fields, such as cars, banks, airlines, insurance companies, etc.

So why can only four countries produce global advertising players? And is that a fixed rule, or could another country do it?

Could Australia?

I ask because Sydney-based agency Host has just opened an office in Singapore and has plans for San Francisco and Shanghai.

Could it be on the verge of becoming Australia's most prominent advertising export since Lara Bingle announced 'where the bloody hell are you?'

Or will Foster's remain Australia's only global brand? Along with Qantas. And Hugh Jackman.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Praise Of The Bleedin' Obvious

Strategy-lite ad for erectile dysfunction

Is it okay for an ad to be strategically uninteresting?

A phrase from Martin Weigel's Canalside View blog has stuck in my head -

"Advertising claims," he writes, "probably simply work as an interesting statement of category membership."

What he means is that what most ads say about the product is bleedin' obvious, and it's just the way we say it that makes the difference. 

The example he gives is the Sony 'Balls' ad. Sony spent millions of dollars asserting an unbelievably basic claim - that their colour TV offers great colour. But the way they said it, made you want it.

Anyway, I decided to test Martin's viewpoint. Being a creative rather than a scientist, I've conducted the experiment in a way that lacks any semblance of rigour. I simply went to the section on Ads Of The World that showcases the 2012 Cannes Lion winners, and looked at the first 20 ads that came up, categorising them as either 'Strategically Obvious' or 'Strategically Interesting'.

Strategically Obvious 

Sindebax Erectline Dysfunction Pill - 'Stops you going down' (pictured above)
JVC cameras - 'You can use the delete function to pick the best image later'
Doritos Dips - 'You can dip them in salsa'
Liquid Paper' - 'Use it to blank out text you don't want to see'
Virgin Australia - 'We fly from Australia to the USA'
Mini - 'Mini cars can drive on any road'

Strategically Interesting

FedEx 'You'll be so impressed, you'll try to poach our staff'
DirecTV 'Cable is so poor it can set off a huge chain of negative consequences'
Hahn Super Dry beer 'Tastes awesome because it's brewed with awesomeness'
McDonald's children's parties 'Let us take care of the monsters'
Amnesty International 'We should never see violence during delivery, so let's get this YouTube video down to zero views'
Mercedes Night View Assist 'Spots the danger before you do'
Kit Kat 'Take a break from your meeting'
Coke 'Give someone a coke'
Down's Syndrome Day 'People with Down's syndrome can be integrated into society, just as they have been integrated into these well-known ads'
Lou Gehrig's Disease Foundation 'Testimonials from beyond the grave'
eMart 'QR codes created by shadows, to boost sales at lunchtime'
American Express 'Small business gets an official day'
Austria Solar 'The first annual report that's only legible when sunlight falls on its pages'
Breeze Washing Liquid 'You need Breeze because stains have evolved'

Now, I know that some of these ads are scams, which may or may not invalidate them. And I know sometimes it's the technology that's interesting, not the strategy (like the Mini piece, which uses Google Streetview to let you drive a Mini down any road in the world). And you may disagree with one or two of my classifications.

But nevertheless, I think there's an interesting conclusion to draw. 

While by no means all the work conformed to Martin's mere 'assertion of category membership' dictum, 30% of the executions (6 out of 20) did. 

Therefore I reckon that - as creatives - it is worth spending at least some of our time on each brief making no attempt to be strategically intelligent.

Don't think too much about what you're doing, just see if you can hit the ball out of the park.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

10 Reasons Why 'Canalside View' Is The Best Advertising Blog On The Internet

The other day I started reading an advertising blog that was so good, it actually made me think I should stop writing mine, since it's so inadequate in comparison.

But then I thought 'Nah, I'll just take the best bits from his blog, and use them for a post on Scamp.'

Hopefully Martin won't mind…

Martin Weigel is the Head of Planning at W+K in Amsterdam. His blog has been going for about 2 1/2 years, so I'm late on it - apologies - but in my opinion it is easily the best writing about advertising that can be found today, anywhere.

Here are 10 reasons why.

1 He's angry. "If you cite Apple, Zappos, or Nike+ one more time I may just punch myself in the face," says Martin.

2 He doesn't pander to clients. "Approve or improve," is his advice.

3 He demolishes buzzwords. "'Always be in beta', 'constant iteration'... not all content easily lends itself to fast creation. Take the blockbuster film element from Nike’s Write The Future campaign. How would one have constantly iterated this?"

And "I’d like to suggest that we all try not to use the word ‘engagement’ ever again. It might just help us focus on what really matters. And free us from having to endure yet more vacuous bullshit."

4 Although a strategist, he reveres execution. "People didn't get excited by the intellectual idea that footballers have the chance to make history at the World Cup.  They got excited by an epic piece of film that brought that idea to life with flamboyance, scale, wit, star players and pop culture references a plenty. Execution is what stirs the emotions, excites, intrigues, and ignites desire."
5 He has a very clear view on what Planning is 'for'. "Planning is not precious about the brief. It IS precious about the precise nature of the task and objectives it defines. “Does this work achieve these objectives?” is the one question we must be able to answer each and every time."

6 Likewise on how brands should behave. "Great brands talk about and act upon what they love. What they’re passionate about. Even what they’re against. But not themselves. The dull dinner companion can only talk about him or herself. If your brand isn’t interested in, connecting to, advocating, inspiring, or enabling something Out There in the real world that it truly loves, then the chances of connecting to a human being are pretty slim."

7 He hates Brand Onions
“Is it ‘Friendly” or ‘Approachable’?”
“How about ‘Accessible’?”
“I prefer “Confident.’”
We’ve all been there. In that place that feels like some surreal parallel universe otherwise known as Defining the Brand. Spending days, weeks and even months horse-trading over adjectives. Filling in geometric shapes of various kinds. Keys, onions, pyramids, temples and so on. If I found myself one day being asked to complete a dodecahedron I don’t think I would be surprised. And while we tell our clients that it isn’t a tagline or indeed anything consumer-facing, we’re still trying to work out what precisely that ‘brand essence’ thing at the center of the onion or top of the pyramid is anyway. And when it’s all over, and everything has been dutifully filled in and everyone is ‘aligned’, what happens to that precious document? Absolutely nothing.

8 He has a great take on the age-old originality debate. "Whether they are scientific or artistic, tangible or intangible, successful ideas Рtrue acts of creativity Рare perfect crimes in action. Theft, done well Рintelligently, imaginatively Рis nothing to be ashamed of. Clich̩ however, is a very different matter. It is mere laziness and thuggery."

9 He makes a 100% rational case for why work ought to be provocative. "The bland, the safe, the unadventurous, the stuff that is afraid to divide people, that doesn’t take a position and offers no point of view has no hope of encouraging people to come in and play. If we want people to respond, and to respond actively, then we’re going to need some appropriately powerful stimulus for action and behaviour. Provocation then, is absolutely crucial."

10 And finally, he's a huge believer in the power of creativity. "Treating creativity merely as a means of tricking or bribing the viewer into paying attention to the message within it profoundly undervalues and undermines the both the nature and the value of creativity. Creativity isn’t some kind of distraction tactic, bait or bribe. It isn’t a wrapper or envelope for a message. It IS the content."

Or "I acknowledge that the intangible dimensions that we invent and surround objects with may well be but the froth on the cappuccino of life – 99% inconsequential, useless air. But ladies and gentlemen of the jury, without the froth, it just isn’t a cappuccino. I thank you.”

By the way, Martin's blog, which I urge you to subscribe to using the WordPress 'follow' feature, is called Canalside View.

And that picture at the top - one Martin posted a while back - is that view.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Crystal Bollocks

So the Christmas tree has died and the plastic pressies from China are now safely in landfill. You've made on average 2.8 New Year's Resolutions, and broken 1.4 of then.

And all those 'Review of the Year' pieces... are giving way to 'Predictions for 2013'.

Like JWT's '10 Trends for 2013', a report you can buy here for just $250!

Alternatively, don't waste your time.

This fun article shows just how far off the mark predictions usually are.

I foresee that 'Twitter' will be the key advertising medium for 2013. Hang on, I'm getting another message. Instagram! That should have been Instagram. Or maybe Pinterest?

Nevertheless, I'm not anti predictions per se. In many media jobs, they're essential. A magazine company needs to predict whether 2013's sales really are going to fall off a cliff, before deciding whether to upgrade their printing presses or not. A TV company needs to estimate how much of their 2013 revenue is going to migrate to the internet, before deciding how much money to invest in programming.

But as creatives, we live uniquely in the present.

Yes, magazines may die. TV may die. And Facebook may be revealed as the wholly useless brand-building medium many suspect it to be.

But none of this affects the brief you have in front of you right now. That brief has a time horizon of about 3 months (for a TV ad, or an event), 2 months (poster, or iPhone app), or 1 month or less (print ad, online banner or display ad, or radio ad).

It just doesn't matter 'what's going to happen in 2013'. What matters is you coming up with a great idea for the brief you have in front of you right now.

Yes, I know people say that if you don't shape the future, you'll be shaped BY it. But coming up with great ideas IS the best way for creatives to shape their futures.

And while a fashion designer needs to take a punt on what people will want to wear in nine months time, and an architect wants to build a building that will still look good in 100 years time, as creatives we don't need to think much further than next week, do we? Because clients want work that will work now, not work that will work if it is run in five years' time. Consumers want to see stuff that's interesting to them today, not something that might become relevant down the track.

I've heard far too many ECD's pontificating about 'the future of our industry' when first of all, they don't know, and second of all, they would be far better off worrying about what clients, consumers (and yes, awards juries) are looking for TODAY.

So that's why I'm not making any predictions for 2013.

But have a good one!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy New Year!

    With thanks to RC