Archive for February, 2011

Gut feel.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I have never been a fan of research.

It’s too often used to avoid failure rather than find success and at worst, is used as a popularity contest.

Both agencies and clients employ it as an arse covering exercise. At the end of the day they can always blame the research if it all goes horribly wrong.

The trouble with advertising communication is that there’s no guarantee of success. What works on the consumer with one product, won’t necessarily work with another.

Judging a creative idea isn’t easy.

When a concept is put into research, we are asking a bunch of ordinary people to rule on an abstract concept in a false environment.

Ten to twelve people are shoved into a strange room, behind a two-way mirror, and asked to comment on an unfinished, hypothetical idea.

They are rarely asked to be positive and assume the role of a critic, trying to find what is wrong with the concept, rather than what is right.

In these times of tighter budgets, research is often used to test strategy as well as select an ultimate winner.

Short-circuited research, like this, is more dangerous than no research at all. Its not single minded and ultimately ends up compromising all outcomes.

Even if there is no research and the client is making the decision, there still can be many problems.

They are judging the idea on many different criteria.

Is it on brand?

Is it on budget?

Will my colleagues like it?

Will my boss like it?

Will my boss’s wife like it?

Will it resonate with the consumer? (This is usually at the bottom of the list.)

Whenever I present a concept to a client, I ask them to immediately give me their first impression.

I want the response that first pops into their head, before they have had a chance to think about it and rationalise it.

This is the closest they will ever be to thinking like a consumer.

When we create an idea we take all the information available to us and let it stew in our brains. Then hopefully, the magic happens and we come up with a concept that connects.

We don’t know how it happens we just have a gut feeling that it’s the right way to go.

That gut feeling is the most important element in creating good ads.

Gut feel should also be used to judge them as well.


Friday, February 18th, 2011

‘Y’ and ‘Z’ are now up on Alphabattle.

When the solution becomes the problem.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In the late 1960s Stanley Politt introduced the idea of account planning, through his agency Boase Massimi Politt. Stephen King, from JWT, has also been credited with introducing a similar concept at the same time.

They felt that the agency account managers were using research too literally and too much emphasis was being placed on numbers and not insights.

Their primary concern was that the resulting advertising was too rational and lacked an emotional link to the consumer.

This form of planning made communication simple with clear, insightful thinking and creative strategies.

The planners were the conduit between the brand and the consumer.

Their involvement in the process allowed the creatives to develop work that was connecting with the market, with insight and high levels of creativity.

This was in stark contrast to the research driven ads that were coming out of the US at the same time. This numbers driven research was all about safety rather than insight and effective communication.

Soon account planners were found in many agencies in the UK and they quickly spread worldwide.

Their fame was well justified, as the work that came from agencies with planners was more memorable and resonated better with the consumer than work that was slavishly following research findings.

The clients were happy, as there were sound, rational reasons, based on research, to go with this direction.

The research was done to develop strategy, not to have a popularity contest for a particular creative direction.

Some enduring British campaigns came from that era:

‘Heineken refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach’

‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet’

Cadbury’s Smash

Even over ‘The Ditch’, in the US, Jay Chiat took up the planning cause.

Some of the great campaigns that came out of Chiat/Day:

The Energizer Bunny

Nike ‘Just do it’

Apple Computers

The process was simple, find a compelling insight that connected to the target market then dramatise it in such a way that it became memorable.

As with all simple processes there are people who are hell bent on complicating them.

That, I am afraid, is what has happened to account planning. We now have:

Brand Planning

Media Planning

Connection Planning

Propagation Planning

Transmedia Planning

All with their rules, guidelines and formulae, that have been complicated with jargon and brand babble.

What was originally developed to solve a problem has now become the problem itself.

Brand bullies.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

During the 80s the American hamburger chain, Wendy’s, tried to start up in Australia. They promised fresh ingredients and a salad bar.

On recollection they only lasted about 18 months before they were forced out of the market.

Their advertising was brash, confrontationalist, comparative and it worked.

McDonald’s hated it, but more importantly, so did Coca Cola.

In Australia Pepsi was the soft drink of choice at Wendy’s. However in the southern US, Coca Cola was the main provider for Wendy’s.

It so happened that the Wendy’s franchisee in Australia had both Coca Cola and Wendy’s in the southern US.

As the story goes, the Coca Cola people spoke to the Wendy’s people and ‘asked’ them to stop stirring the pot in Australia or else their Coca Cola franchise might be under threat.

The result was instant, Wendy’s shut up shop and left the country.

During the midst of the Wendy’s campaign a McDonald’s spokesman was reported to have remarked that “Maccas is Maccas, we don’t have fresh beef or salads and that’s the way it’s going to stay”.

Their attitude was arrogant and didn’t take consumer sentiment into consideration.

Just look at what McDonald’s is offering today.

I find that same attitude pervades current US politics.

Over the last few weeks we have witnessed the crisis gripping Egypt.

A revolution that has it’s source in the grass roots of Egyptian society and will ultimately be decided by Egyptians.

As I watch CNN, I see so many American commentators and politicians asking each other, “What can we do to influence the outcome of this issue in Egypt?”

The US government has to realise that these things are out of their control and in fact it is none of their concern in the first place.

This isn’t the 80s when companies or countries could live on the arrogance of their beliefs or doctrines, without considering the thoughts of the community or consumers.

If the Wendy’s Vs McDonald’s scenario was played out today, I am sure, aided with the power of social media and consumer demand, the result would be very different.

Beware of the dog.

Monday, February 7th, 2011

This sign was posted on the gate of a property next to the US embassy in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

The US compound had armed guards, bomb proof gates and CCTV.

The American’s neighbours felt that a dog was their best defence from any would be terrorist.

He does look far scarier than any of the marines I saw posted outside.

Take note of what the pooch is thinking.