Archive for December, 2010

The benign dictator.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

We pitched for a new account the other day.

At the end of the meeting the marketing manager said that he would consult with his marketing team and get back to us with their decision.

Now this isn’t unusual, except for the fact that part of his marketing team were involved in creating all their current in-house advertising and catalogue work.

So, in effect, he was asking his people to decide on an external advertising agency that could jeopardise their jobs.

He wasn’t looking to find the best outcome for the company but rather the best outcome for the harmony of his staff.

Needless to say we didn’t get the business.

What this does point out is the current consensus mode of managing.

These managers would rather keep everyone happy than make hard decisions that could cause conflict.

They take the easy way out.

This same management style seems to be used by politicians in developing policy and building infrastructure. More time is spent on consultation, with all the ‘stake holders,’ than actually getting the job done, that’s if the job ever gets past the committee stage.

Millions of dollars are spent on this consultative process and then there is no money to actually do anything.

I have always found that the best managers are those who have a vision and involve their staff in realising that vision.

They are forceful in achieving their goals but, in the end, everyone feels as though they are part of the process. However they never shirk away from the tough decisions.

When you ask for a consensus you will end up with an average of everyone’s opinion and many of those opinions are biased towards the individuals self interest.

That’s not managing, it’s barely coping.

Alphabattle ‘V’

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

The letter ‘V’ is now up on Alphabattle.

A short walk and a handshake.

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010


What value are they to the agency, the client’s business or even the creatives who produce the work?

It’s an old debate, but one that is more relevant now than it has ever been.

Many agencies are now run by bean counters that are more concerned about the ROI than the quality of the work.

Creativity in advertising is rare and has become a commodity that is traded off for a harmonious agency/client relationship. Great ideas are being replaced with strategy babble that is designed to muddy the communication rather than make it clearer.

The vast majority of agencies don’t care about awards and actively discourage their creative departments from entering.

They can also cause financial problems for the agency, with awarded creatives being poached by other agencies for higher salaries or wanting greater remuneration from their current agency if they pick up too much precious metal.

Then there’s the high cost of entry.

Awards have become so expensive that only the large agencies can afford to enter work. Resulting in the same protagonists from the same agencies picking up the major gongs each year.

Awards are big business and they make a lot of money.

The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival was started on the back of the International Film Festival, also held at Cannes.

In 1954, the first year of the advertising festival, there were 187 film entries from 14 countries. In 2010 there were 24,000 entries with 8,000 delegates attending from 90 countries.

The festival has become such a money-spinner that in 2004 French businessman Roger Hatchuel sold it for £52 million.

One simple fact has been forgotten, and that’s why they were created in the first place.

To honour creativity and craft in advertising.

Why? Because the Creative Revolution of the 1960s recognised that ideas in advertising actually aided memorability and helped sales.

The ad industry worldwide is suffering a malaise, caused by the GFC, reduced profits and a failure to cope with new technology.

Pragmatism is replacing creativity.

Agencies would rather comatose their clients with jargon than confront them with a creative idea that might require a bit of extra work to sell it in.

Awards need to be put back into the hands of the industry and the costs of entry reduced.

We must then return to rewarding creativity, because, apart from anything else, it’s the commercially right thing to do.

The real revolution.

Monday, December 13th, 2010

WikiLeaks has just shown us how powerful the Internet is as a communications weapon.

If all the leaks, that Julian Assange was given, had gone to mainstream press I doubt that most of them would have seen the light of day.

However the way they were leaked has put the press at arm’s length and given them the opportunity to share every detail with the world.

It has outed governments behaving badly and now, as those same governments try desperately to stop Assange, it has shown how big business can also behave just as badly.

What’s even more remarkable, and again shows how powerful the Internet can be, is that now those companies who are feeling the pressure from the governments, and denying WikiLeaks money or online access, are being attacked and forced off line themselves.

The very marketing weapon, they have grown to rely on, has been turned back on them.

The new age advertising people believe that the Internet is a revolution for marketers and will render traditional media useless.

Newspapers didn’t replace posters, radio didn’t replace newspapers and TV didn’t replace radio.

The Internet won’t replace any of the mainstream media it will just become part of the marketing mix and ultimately become part of the mainstream itself.

Just as always, advertising will ride on the back of news and will help to fund its publication.

On December 11, 2010, only ½ of 1% of the US diplomatic cables have been released by WikiLeaks.

The real revolution is happening right now and it will be interesting to see what the new order will be like beyond Wikileaks.

Alphabattle ‘U’

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

The letter ‘U’ is up on Alphabattle and this time Hayden has submitted a letter.

It’s a graph, that I don’t fully understand, but then that’s typical, I don’t understand much of what he does these days.

Wear red braces.

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

In the mid eighties I worked on the Toyota account.

This was when we launched the ‘Oh what a feeling’ campaign. The concept came from Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in the States.

I remember when we first heard the line and were shown the ‘jump’. There were looks of shock and amazement on the creative’s faces.

But then the strategy was explained to us.

The proposition for Toyota was simple. Every vehicle they made would, in some way deliver, ‘The feeling of outstanding owner enjoyment’.

The creative expression of this was ‘Oh what a feeling’.

The jump was the mnemonic.

What we had to do was to find out what would deliver that ‘feeling’ and dramatise it in a memorable way. It didn’t have to be a rational reason – it could be pure emotion.

At this stage Toyota were hiring young and upcoming marketing executives from all the major automotive companies.

They were bright young men, sadly there were few women on car accounts in those days, and they were fixed in the ways of their previous employers.

Toyota was number three or four in sales, behind Ford, GM and maybe even Nissan.

So these new executives had come from brands that were outscoring Toyota in sales and marketing.

At one meeting, just after we had presented a TV concept, a recent acquisition from Ford requested that we should reconsider the creative direction. He wanted us to make it more like a Ford ad. His reasoning was that, ‘They were the market leader, so why not make our ads look like them.’

We continued to make ads that were different and it wasn’t long before Toyota became number one.

It wasn’t so much the advertising but a state of mind that came from the parent company.

Toyota designed and built vehicles for people to drive and enjoy, not for the edification of the factory.

They realised that they had to be different if they wanted to stand out in the world market.

It seems to me that brand managers are making the same mistake now as they did so many years ago.

Only now it’s with the ‘Brand Power’ style execution. Every second ad seems to use the same formula.

David Ogilvy was once asked why he always wore red braces.

His answer was simple. “I want to stand out”

It’s a pity there aren’t more marketing people who would like to stand out.