Monthly Archives: February 2013

Brutal Truth: Doing Good Work is Easy

Doing good work in advertising is easy.
You just have to make sure that you have the following things in the order:

1. Good product & Brand
Sometimes it is obvious that you are working with superior product (Apple comes to mind). Other times you have to really dig for the relevant difference, but it is there if you are willing to do the work (something like Orabrush). The sad truth is that sometimes you are dealing with mediocre or even lackluster product. Then you have three choices:
– Decline the work and suffer financially.
– Do mediocre work and hope that adequate media push will ensure enough tick in sales to keep you afloat.
– Do great advertising for it. That is the fastest way to kill inferior product.
Advertising does not create new needs for people. It just amplifies existing ones. If there is no need (existing or latent) for the product, you are pretty much screwed.

2. Good team
You need sound strategic and creative thinking and also the ability to sell that thinking. Sometimes you might have all those capabilities in one person, sometimes even 10-member global team is not enough. When having more than one person in that team, the best results come with right mixture of competition and collaboration. Great team is full of different strong-minded individuals who strive together towards same goal, but not necessarily without fight.

3. Good client
Idea is worthless until it is bought. That is why it is crucial to work with demanding and bright clients who do not settle for the mediocre solutions. Good client knows how to brief and to buy creative product and also treats you like a human being.

When you have these things in order, you only have to come up with one simple thing:

Brutal Truth
Some praise the insight, some an idea. I combine them together and call it brutal truth. That truth will separate and distinguish you from your competitors. It connects you with your customers. It will provide the springboard for creative leap.
Many times the separation between insight and creative idea is artificial. If you unearth surprising and unique insight, you might actually have your whole marketing communications in that single insight. If the insight is obvious or well-known, then the need for creative leap is much stronger. It is delicate balance between obvious and obscure.
It is brutal truth because it is not always pretty but always effective. It might be quick and dirty solution. It might require changing your whole marketing plan. You might need to break some taboos. You might need to go against the grain, or do totally same thing as others. Brutal truth might not be easy, but it is equally demanding for all.

Every time I have been a member of a good team working for good client around good product, we have been able to come up with brutal truth. When the marketing has been based on that brutal truth, the end result has always been great work.

It is that easy.

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What is Good Work?

One of the most common terms (besides ideas) in agencies, which is thrown around is “good work”. Probably everyone has different meaning for it, but I have always believed that good work is just two things.

It is effective and entertaining:

1. Effective
Good work has to provide above-the-average business results for the client. Average is not enough, because average results you can achieve with crappy work pumped up with strong media push. Also to go above the average means that the strategy work is not just stating the obvious. To be truly effective, the strategy must provide either great answer to current business problem or find lucrative business opportunity. Great strategy is all about finding the relevant difference.
Advertising is not art, so if the work cannot be measured with commercial criteria it cannot be truly good either.

2. Entertaining
Although advertising is not art, it is not door-to-door-selling either. Spamming your whole client list might be effective done once, but would ruin your hard-earned reputation at the same time. In marketing communications you are maximixing the effectiveness on the long run, not getting quick wins which are cheap.
Entertaining does not mean cheap laughs either. Zero Dark Thirty is entertaining movie, although it is not funny. Great advertising finds the right emotion to suit commercial purposes. Majority of our intentional consumption decisions are done emotionally (rational car buyers?) so if you do not spark any emotion you do not have the chance to be truly effective either.
Entertaining people is harder than ever. Our marketing communications competes head-to-head with the best content in the world. So when you are doing your next brand mobile application, ask yourself is this really on the same level as other good (not marketing) applications? If not, it does not probably take off.

In advertising, we tend to define the work too often with its novelty aspect. We are obsessed of doing something, which has not been done before anywhere. Sometimes it is for good reason. No one has not build the world biggest toilet paper mummy for any toilet paper brand (at least I hope so), but that is for good reason. That is completely stupid idea. In the search of novelty, we tend too often to shift doing gimmicks. More often than creating something completely new, good work is about looking the old things from new perspective.

Good work requires strong strategy with huge creative leap. On the long run, the selection is not either effective or entertaining. If you want to be ahead of your competition, you have to be both.

Also I have only talked about good work. The great work is totally different beast. Great work changes the whole world.

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Psycho Marketing 101

I recently watched Hitchcock, great film about making of Psycho. The movie is notable not just because of great roles by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. The movie also reminded how great marketer Hitchcock was. Besides his directorial duties, Hitchcock handled also the promotional duties for the film.

Psycho was controversial movie, breaking boundaries in depiction of sex and violence. Because of the risky content, the film was majorly funded by Hitchcock himself. Psycho was filmed and promoted with equally low budget. Without big advertising support from Paramount, Hitch had to rely on word-of-mouth to make Psycho a hit. That required equally cunning and cost-effective marketing methods:

Five Marketing Tips from Master of Suspense:

1. Spot the emerging trends
Hitchcock bought the rights for the novel Psycho (by Robert Bloch) with only 9000 dollars. After that he bought every copy of the book he could find so people would not read it and find out the surprising end.

2. Utilize the “own media”
Because bought media was scarce for the film, Hitch concentrated the marketing efforts to movie theatres. This was also easily done, because Psycho did not open in that many theaters in the beginning.
Psycho had own queues in front of the theaters and in many places theaters had also police staff to underline the shocking nature of the film. All the theater owners got manual on how to screen Psycho.

3. Do not just sell the product, sell the whole experience

Psycho Marketing 101

“Psycho Policy”

Marketing of Psycho went against the grain of typical movie marketing. The main emphasis was not in the plot or leading actors, but in the “Psycho policy”. This policy dictated the way Psycho should be watched to get the full experience.
The center of the policy, that theatres did not allow anyone to the screening late (as can be seen in below trailer as well). This had interesting consequences. The audience was already seated, anticipating and in the right mood when the movie started. Also it resulted in visible queues outside the theatres.

4. Tease and hype but do not reveal too much


The main part of Psycho is the whole vibe. Therefore the trailer was completely different, even funny at points. Only the last seconds give glimpse about what kind of terror to expect.

5. Change the rules
The main actors of Psycho did not give interviews about the movie. Psycho was not shown to film critics beforehand. Although this had an effect (and not entirely positive) to the first ratings of the movie, it also ensured that also the critics could get the full Psycho experience. Also the plot would remain secret for longer period.

With his clever marketing schemes Hitchcock ensured the buzz around the film. Psycho was the most successful movie from Hitchcock in box office and remains an influential movie masterpiece still to this day.

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6 Seconds of Fame: Idiot´s Guide to Vine

I heard it through the grapevine, that Vine has been all the rage in the social media circles last couple of weeks.

Here is brief summary what it is all about:

What is Vine?
It is basically Instagram for short videos. Twitter mastered the microblogging with 140 characters and now it is aiming to do the same with microvlogging and six seconds. Vine currently works only in iPhone and best in conjunction with Twitter. Vine was launched on the end of January.

What it supposed to be?
“Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.”
Dom Hoffman, co-founder & GM, Vine

How it works?
Go to Apple app store and download the Vine app. Then you (preferably) log on with your Twitter handle to the app. After that start shooting. The process is super simple: press what you want to film with your thumb. Then edit what you filmed to 6 second video. Share it on Twitter.
To use Vine is really intuitive and simple, but to make something worthwhile takes probably more than just six seconds.

How does it look like?

More examples can be found here.

What Twitter has to do with it?
In a way Twitter missed the Instagram bandwagon, so Vine is natural leap from photo sharing. It tries to benefit from the overall rise of visual storytelling in our current digital culture. It´s a little bit Instagram, little bit YouTube, little bit funny GIFs and working solely on your mobile. Twitter wants to strengthen it dominance in the short-form messaging and Vine is at least some sort of answer.

What brands already use it?
General Electric, Taco Bell, McDonald´s, Marriott Hotel, Urban Outfitters to name a few. Also porn industry has found it, like all the technological breakthroughs.

Give me some examples!
Not showing you the porn ones, but here are three Brand vines:

What brands should use it?
If your brand is already strong on Twitter, Vine is quite natural extension to your Twitter presence. If your company is not that active in Twitter, Vine probably is not the first social media channel you should invest in.

Where it can be used?
There are couple of good listings about potential use cases of Vine for brands, but currently I think the most prominent ones are the following six:

1. Flashing your brand´s digital cojones: Like with all new applications, there is currently the short timeframe when your brand can appear to be on top of the curve. Half-baked Vine executions will probably fill Twitter in the following weeks.
2. Improving your customer service: Short how-to guides about the products.
3. Spicing up the internal marketing: Employee presentations made more interesting and faster.
4. Even faster way to convince investors: Quick elevator pitch for your company.
5. Enhancing your rapid social media responses: Wheat Thins message to Questlove above is a good example of that.
6. Making your product catalogue come alive: New ways to showcase products (like Urban Outfitters has done below)

Hot or not?
Some might argue that Vine is a novelty app, but so is Instagram. That novelty had $715 million price tag. It remains to be seen will the 6 seconds be as revolutionary as 140 characters were. Vine has potential though. It is certainly something new. With its strong social, local and mobile dimensions it might just be the new killer app.

Now I am just waiting for Harlem Shake Vine edition.

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Advertising should be like Harlem Shake

The biggest meme of the year thus far has been the Harlem Shake. Originally Harlem Shake was a dance coined in Harlem in 1980´s. It was inspired by Ethiopian dance called Eskista.
Last summer EDM artist Baauer did his song by the same name. It was played in the clubs, but nothing major happened.
Then it was quite quiet until YouTube-user called Filthy Frank did his version:

This video inspired other one, which created the current form of the Harlem Shake video:

Currently there are over 4000 Harlem Shake videos uploaded daily to YouTube with over 40 million views. The mainstream media is also quick to catch to the new Internet craze:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Harlem Shake is great example of what kind of content spreads in YouTube.

What marketers can learn about Harlem Shake?

1. Make it short
Attention span for the content in the Internet is getting shorter and shorter.
Who has time for a three minute music video?
Or a 500-word blog post?

You have to be able to tell your message in 30 seconds or 140 characters. That is all the attention you will get.

2. Make it stupid
If you want to make viral hit, you have to hit the lowest common denominator. YouTube videos are majorly consumed in coffee breaks. People want then to escape their boring routines. They want entertainment, not education. Harlem Shake fulfills that need.
You can watch quite many Harlem Shake versions within your lunch break.

3. Make it easy to participate
The concept of Harlem Shake is simple.
First the video starts with one guy (usually masked) doing usually quite boring dance move. After the breakdown the scene turns to total mayhem with more people. And that is basically it.
No difficult choreographies or difficult lines you have to remember. Just gather as many people you want and go crazy. This makes it also ideal for offices and workplaces to participate. Easier than have the whole office running marathon. Engagement has to be made as easy as possible. Harlem Shake provides a blank creative canvas where people can create their own interpretation. If you want to make it big and difficult, you can do it. But also if you want to make it quick and dirty. Harlem Shake just provides you the form and leaves you with the actual creative execution.

The Harlem Shake is interesting phenomenon from music and marketing perspective. Baauer´s label Mad Decent has been quick to ride the bandwagon and compiles the new versions to their Tumblr-blog.

Is it new Gangnam style?

That remains to be seen, but traditional popular culture mechanics were turned upside down in this case. Harlem Shake will be hit because of the consumer-generated meme*. With Gangnam style the pattern followed more the traditional music video route (the dance was in music video).

*And if the meme is machinated by Mad Decent, it makes it even greater case example for marketers.

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Illusion of Engagement

There has been a sudden surge of briefs in recent years, where one of the goals has been to increase engagement. Usually said in those exact words.

Increase engagement.

I buy the basic idea of the engagement: The more customers talk about our brand and the more they spend time with our brand, the more likely they are to spend more money to the brand.
There is usually a correlation. I stress the word usually. Other thing I stress is that you have to engage your customers (and potential prospects). If you engage random people, you will get random results.

However with fluffy terms and catchphrases such as “engagement”, “joining the conversation” and “listening consumers”, we usually miss the bigger picture.

How does this engagement actually helps our business?

Like Martin Weigel highlighted in his brilliant presentation “How not Fail” (which also inspired this post heavily), the advertising is more about mass reaction than mass participation. Even with social media in the mix, advertising is still mostly about the struggle to get enough eyeballs. Engagement has not replaced reach.

What is the biggest problem with display advertising?

Some might say that really low click-rate is the main problem. But actually the biggest problem is that the small minority who is clicking the ads is not representing the whole online population. To put it bluntly, those who click ads are those we do not really want to target.

The same problem is there with Facebook Pages. We keep our fingers crossed that our “Fans” are really our customers. The brutal truth is that many times those “Fans” are people with no higher affinity to your brand but just higher tendency to like anything that is on Facebook. Especially when there is lottery involved. Also when talking about passion brands, the engagement level in Facebook is still relatively low (around 0.64 %). And majority of the brands are not passion brands.

So am I suggesting to get rid of term engagement totally?
Yes & no.
Engagement might make business sense and has its place in brief, but then you need to consider the following three things:

1. Engagement should be tied to business goals.
What is the value of the Facebook share for us? What is the value of the positive blog comment? What is the actual next step of engagement?
This requires some serious soul searching for both client and our agency people. If we do not measure the real effects of engagement, we are walking in the dark. We need to understand the role of engagement in different parts of the consumer journey and set appropriate KPI´s for them (with connection to actual business).

2. Engagement needs to be tightly defined.
What kind of reactions do we want to achieve? What kind of reactions can we anticipate? Do we want spark controversy like GoDaddy? Do we want to educate or entertain?
Every brand wants to remain positive in online, but the things which spark actually the most engagement are negative. Like Timothy Ferriss put it: best content is threat to either behavior, belief or belongings. How many of the brands are really willing to threat anything?
Engagement never trumps relevance.

3. Engagement should be made as easy as possible.
What is the most lightweight interaction we can have? How we made reacting as easy as possible?
The average web user is too busy to comment, but he just might have time to share your content forward or press like. Majority of the people want to be passive consumers, not active participants. They want entertainment, not engagement. That is also the reason why Superbowl Ads are so popular, they are great entertainment which you consume fast and easily and then move on.

Brands seldom can dictate what is discussed at the water cooler. However it can tap to existing discussion topics and add its own twist to it (pun intended). By acting like this, you can actually become a topic at the water cooler.

Great case example of good engaging program was Oreo Daily Twist for the following reasons:

1. It tapped into existing conversations.
2. Made it easy for people to participate with micro-interactions.
3. Instead of big bang, it had lots of small starts, which had the potential to go viral.
+ Was still able to have the product in the center.

This is good example of engagement done right. We need to do more campaigns like this.

Just Watched Every Super Bowl Commercial and Here is the Real Top 10

Super Bowl ad is a different kind of beast.

Seldom you have an audience who is actually waiting to see your ads. Also seldom you are fighting the attention with biggest sport event and the biggest performers in half-time show. In Super Bowl you have to do great entertainment just to get noticed. Seldom they actually win any advertising awards either. Super Bowl ads are the populist creativity at its fullest. You have paid big price of the attention of the people, what are you going to with that attention?

To get noticed and be loved, the recipe for succesful Superbowl ad in recent years has been the following:

Make it funny+Make it Epic+Add some Celebrities in the mix+(Add Hashtag or Facebook URL if you remember)

Although there has been great non-funny Superbowl ads, it is usually easier (not easy) to be funny in 30 seconds than to make people truly sentimental. Surprisingly this year´s Ad Meter winner was not slapstick comedy, but this tearjerker from Budweiser:

I was not that convinced so I decided to watch them all through to find better ones. It took approximately the same time than it took to watch The Master. I recommend heartily the latter more. This my top 10 list of Superbowl Ads. As  you can see, I like simple ideas and celebrity comedians.

Tide: Miracle Stain

This was the favourite of the bunch. Seriously funny and also adds some topical twist to predictable ending. Reminds me about this scetch from Mitchell and Webb.

Best Buy: Asking Amy

Great way to add funny celebrity and lots of product shots as well. Simple but effective.

GoDaddy: Your Next Big Idea

Despite the more buzz about and around the akward “Bar Rafaeli Makes out”-spot, this was actually the better one. In terms of attitude, I have to give it up for GoDaddy-marketing. Rafaeli-spot got the lowest ratings in ad-meter, but also generated most buzz. Despite the angry feedback, it was also commercially succesfully and GoDaddy had record sales after the game day.

Audi: The Prom

Mercedez-Benz: Soul

Lots of car commercials as usual, but these two were my favourites. The prom is classic aspirational story about the ego-boosting capabilities of the car with great soundtrack. In terms of making truly epic ad, Mercedez-Benz scores quite high. Willem Dafoe as the devil is not a bad start. However, the ending which actually got the price of the car to the ad, made it to my list.
Toyota, Volkswagen and Hyundai “Stuck” ads were quite funny as well, but Kia Babylandia was probably the worst. Babies and cute animals score well, but still why you do this? Missing the hamsters already. The Fiat topless ad I liked as well, but probably more because I am male and also a sucker for Isaac Hayes soundtrack (for women viewers in the same bandwagon was the controversial Calvin Klein ad)

Samsung: The Next best thing

Actually the extended version is not bad either. Good balance between the funny banter and product features. I have to still admit that this still felt more like insider joke for ad people. The industry insider jokes did not score well in Ad Meter either.

Taco Bell: Viva Mas

Refreshing to have old people instead of babies or dogs in ads. Just for that reason, this requires to be in the list.

Oreo: Whisper Fight

Dramatizing the evergoing debate around the Oreo to the fullest.

Century 21: Wedding

Good idea and the whole series around this is good. Gets better with repetition as well, Might be a campaign for years.

Doritos: Goat 4 Sale

I just love the concept “Crash the Superbowl”. Crowdsourcing and UGC seem to be more curse words nowaday, but this program has maintained its quality and interest over six years. It was tough call between this and “Fashionista Daddy”

Quite ok year, but none of the ads seems to be a true classic like this one.

And one last thing, who thought that it was good idea that fish would sing No Diggidy?

Just asking.

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