Sunday, July 28, 2013

There's Something About Mazda...

This is going to seem like I have a vendetta against Mazda. Genuinely I don't. But I just can't let their new print ad go unpunished.

I've seen so many briefs over the years where the product is described as "revolutionary"... "a paradigm shift"... or "a real game-changer."

And the example often used is the Fosbury Flop, the 'backwards-over-the-bar' high-jump invented by American athlete Dick Fosbury in 1968, which was a complete departure from the previous 'straddle' technique. 

In fact the Fosbury Flop is such a cliched metaphor for 'revolutionary change', I never thought anyone would be so crass as to actually make an ad out of it.

But Mazda have!

The saddest part of this story is that the Mazda 6 actually seems like a really good car. It's well-built, looks great, and is excellent value for money. But it's no Fosbury Flop, and the comparison is a ludicrous over-claim.

As a creative, when you get the "it's a game-changer" brief, your first task is to get everyone to calm the f*** down, and then hunt for something concrete to talk about. Buried in the copy here, and mentioned in passing in the TV ad, is talk of 'skyactiv technology', which could probably have been the basis for distinctive and believable advertising, but they didn't pursue it.

It also begs the question, now they've wasted the Fosbury Flop metaphor, what are Mazda's ad agency going to do if the company comes out with a vehicle that is genuinely revolutionary?

If anyone from the Mazda design team is reading this, I have come up with a few ideas of my own, that I modestly submit really would 'change the game':

Skyactiv technology in action

By the way, as regular readers will know, I'm from a copywriting background, and this is only the second or third time I've ever used Photoshop. How'd I do?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How Do You Go About Writing Something This Bad?

I've always been perplexed by ads like this new global spot for the Mazda 3.

Clearly it's an extremely bad ad, in the sense that it will not perform well by any of the common metrics such as recall, persuasion, or effect on brand perception scores.

But what confuses me is that it is not a bad ad in the sense that it was trying to be good, and failed. It isn't even trying to be good.

Nowadays, thanks to technology, we can make advertising that consumers can interact with. They haven't tried to do that. In the 1960s, Bill Bernbach showed we can make ads that are insightful, engaging, and entertaining. They haven't tried to do that. Pre-Bernbach, there was a belief that a good ad focused on a USP. They haven't tried to do that.

They basically haven't tried to make a good ad at all, they have basically just shot the brochure.


Are they scared of interactivity? Were they worried that if they tried to be insightful, engaging or entertaining, that would be bad?

Was there even an agency, or did Mazda just lend the car to a production company? 

If there was an agency, did Mazda direct them not to include an idea?

Was there a script? If so, I don't even know how you write a script like that.

But just as an exercise, I'll have a go.

I'm guessing it would go something like this:

We open on a Mazda 3, on a rooftop. A man approaches. He walks around the car. Cut to a shot of the interior. Cut back to an exterior shot of the car; the man touches it. Close-up of his eye. Cut back to interior of the car, the man is now inside. He presses the 'Engine start' button. Cut to a driving shot of the car. Cut to another driving shot of the car. Cut to another driving shot of the car. Cut to an interior shot, the man turns a knob. Cut to the instrument panel - he has selected the Facebook option on the onboard computer. He has received a Facebook message from a friend. Cut to the speedometer. Cut to another driving shot of the car. We see under the car's 'skin'. A super appears, 'Skyactiv technology.' Cut to machinery inside the car. Cut to another driving shot of the car. Another super appears, 'The all-new Mazda 3.' Cut to logo.

So... did someone write this? Did an actual copywriter sit down in front of a computer and type those words?

It's like they're playing a completely different game.

If anyone knows how ads like this get made, please enlighten me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ideas By Committee

A statue of a committee

It was G.K. Chesterton who said: "I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees." Well, he was wrong. Blogger Jennifer Dziura found this one in Ecuador.

I'm reminded of the quote because there's a new ad blogger in town, my friend Julian Watt, ECD at GPY&R Sydney, who is writing some beautiful posts at A Creative Meander.

His most recent piece is a wonderful observation about how everyone on the bus nowadays is "praying to their electronic devices." No one daydreams any more. Julian recommends daydreaming, as an opportunity for ideas to waft in. I am going to attempt this. Despite my current addiction to the fiendish iPhone game known as Candy Crush.

In an earlier post, Julian also pleads that despite the modern proliferation of brainstorms and workshops, we must "keep good respect for that one individual who opened their mouth and said, “What if we did this?!?” That first utterance is what starts everything. And without it, what do you really have?"

Very true.

I'm actually coming around to the idea of workshops. Although an idea can only happen inside the brain of a single individual, and not simultaneously in the minds of a committee, it is definitely fruitful to have other people around at times. They prompt ideas in me. Who knows, maybe I prompt ideas in them.

So, check out Julian's blog. There's a lot of smart thinking there. Not least of which is his decision to give it a title beginning with 'A'. Working to the principle of those plumbers who call their business AAAAA000000011111 Plumbers, he will appear first in many blogrolls.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

How's Your Crack Rate?

It's crucial for an agency to have a high crack rate, since 'going again' on a brief effectively means you are doubling your costs. 

One of the many smart initiatives at BBH London is to carefully monitor the agency's crack rate. They realise their best chance of making money is to crack briefs first time - this is also strongly correlated with high levels of client satisfaction. Accounts where it is regularly not happening, can expect an inquiry.

But if you're a creative, the situation is more ambiguous. Superficially, a super-high crack rate may seem great. You will be seen as extremely reliable.

On the other hand, as the old saying goes... if you're not failing occasionally, you're not trying hard enough. The only thing that will give you a long-term career, as a creative, is occasionally doing great work. And great work is hard to sell. So a 100% crack rate could be a warning signal, that you're playing it too safe.

Some creatives are more comfortable being useful, cracking every brief, and hoping that one or two will turn out great. Others prefer to take a wild swing every time, and don't mind that they often strike out, knowing that occasionally they will bust the piƱata wide open and be showered in candy. 

Which is right? Whichever you're more comfortable with, I guess. Though it has to be said that option 2 are a dying breed.