Monthly Archives: March 2016

Anatomy of An Insight: GEICO Fast Forward

How did they get in the air playing a saxophone?
And we said, “Exactly”.

Pre-rolls are pain, but they should not be. Geico won “Campaing of the year” last year with their Unskippable-series. Now it is time for it sequel and again it does not fail to deliver. As we now sequels don´t usually work in advertising, expect when they are working.

First you are tempted with the pre-roll:

You can´t help yourself. You have to watch the whole thing:

(There are four of these ads for your viewing pleasure)

Insight: Quite often it is more arousing if you don´t reveal everything you got immediately.

This campaign is not only creatively top-notch; Geico has also ensured that all the nuts and bolts in YouTube definitely guide you to right direction.

Tagged , , , , ,

The Guide To Predicting The Future

“Two decades is a sweet spot for prognosticators of radical change: near enough to be attention-grabbing and relevant, yet far enough to make it possible to suppose that a string breakthroughs, currently only vaguely imaginable, might be then have occurred. ..
Twenty years may also be close to typical duration remaining of a forecaster´s career, bounding the reputational risk of a bold prediction”
-Nick Bostrom (Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers and Strategies)
Not unlike other fields, advertising industry is full of bold predictions. Majority of them are completely off-the-mark. Predictions seldom come with accountability. The temptation to come with sexy soundbite lures you more than truly thinking about potential outcomes (or actually predicting the future). It is better to have a bold opinion than to be right:
“An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. ”
Evan Esar

I have read in multiple sources that this year will be the year of VR. This is a great example of Amara´s law, overestimating nascent but highly visible technology on short run:

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

VR is currently at the sweet spot of being obscure enough that making predictions about it can raise eyebrows (no one should not be shocked anymore that future is mobile for example). On the other hand, there are enough tangible examples of it so people can understand it. The innovations that will truly revolutionize advertising are harder to grasp at this moment or have not even been developed yet. When they will truly happen, they are too obvious then to catch the headlines.

Tagged , , , ,

Major Keys to Success from Snapchat (that probably only work for Snapchat)


Snapchat has surprised me. I mislabeled the platform way back as just a method to share nude selfies (although there is definitely a market for that). They are more popular than ever, valuation is through the roof and they are totally altering the way how millennials communicate and consume content.

As a company they have been really refreshing and bold on their approach in their business. Take the following lessons with a grain of salt, as they might not be right for you:

1.Ask for (too) much
Google made advertising accessible for pretty much anyone and Facebook followed a suit. Snapchat has taken totally different angle. Its ads are expensive, so essentially available to only big advertisers (even though they have reduced their prices). For example branded custom lens costs 450,000 USD. Almost half a million of branded puking rainbow! We will talk about puking rainbows later. They also provide sparsely data about the ad performance and target audience (which might improve in the future). Essentially Snapchat is expensive because it can be expensive. What they offer is that you can be part of the party if you pay the premium. If you don´t, you will be left out. The choice is yours.

Major key to success: Set your price high, as it is easier to go down than to go up.

2. Don´t try to attract everyone
Snapchat is not for the old people; expect if you are Dj Khaled. We will talk about him later.

“I’ll be honest, I had no idea what they were talking about half the time”
– David Gaines about Snapchat training sessions (Chief Planning Officer, Maxus Global)

If you are CMO, it is likely that you are not on Snapchat. Or if you are, you don´t understand anything that is happening there. However, your kids or younger colleagues probably are and that gives you signal that your brand should probably do something there. Snapchat is the ultimate access to one of the hardest target audiences in the world: teens.

If you are not teen, the interface of Snapchat looks messy, complicated and hard-to-use. Essentially they defy all the traditional belief of user design and the users love it. Rest of us don´t understand it but that does not matter. The enigma of Snapchat has probably added to its lure. You cannot compare it to any other app. That is also the reason why they can ask premium. There is no alternative for Snapchat.

Major key to success: If your competition is selling oranges, start selling apples.

3. Embrace the irrational
If you are snapchatting like boss, you have way too much time in your hands. What the success of Snapchat has showed, teens and millennials have lots of time in their hands. And although you are complaining how busy you are, in reality you have too much time in your hands.

The biggest star of Snapchat is Dj Khaled, who has six million followers. He is something like a Paulo Coelho for millennials and his stories are celebrated throughout the Internet. His days “walking on the journey to the path of more success” are filled with eating, drinking Ciroc, jet skiing and sharing his wisdom through major keys (for example key to success is to have lots of pillows).

Whereas Facebook is introducing utility (ordering Uber etc.) to Messenger, the hit function of Snapchat is filter that makes you puking rainbows. The success of Snapchat has prompted Facebook to acquire Masquerade. Its hit function is the ability to switch selfies. And yes, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat back in the day with three billion. Everyone thought Snapchat was crazy to decline the offer. Now they are valued for 16 billion.


Although Internet has transformed our life in many ways, you should never underestimate the irrational and random aspect of life. Our attention span is short and that short span is increasingly filled with puking rainbows and major keys to success.

Major key to success: People will favor mindless entertainment against thoughtful utility. Always.

Could you apply some of these lessons in your own business? Maybe, if you are attracting millennials. The challenge with certain successful businesses (that Snapchat is not yet even is, only with high valuation) is that their competitive advantage is hard to be duplicated. Truly phenomenal firms go against the grain and pretty much ignore what other competitors are doing.

Tagged , , , ,

Machines Will Eventually Beat Humans in Everything

“I don´t think it will be a close match. I believe it will be 5–0, or maybe 4–1. So the critical point for me will be to not lose one match.”
Lee Se-Dol (Korean Go champion before his matches against Alphago)

Lee-Se Dol was able to predict the future; it was just the opposite he was envisioning. Alphago (computer Go program done by Google subsidiary Deepmind) slaughtered him in six games.


Machines beating humans in a game is nothing new. In chess the gap between machines and human is already tremendous. Best chess machines are even able to win joint teams of human and computers. What makes AlphaGo´s victory intriguing is that Go is much more complicated game than chess. The first move of Go can involve 361 positions (chess has only 81) and Go game generally lasts more turns than chess.

Simple heuristics get most of what you need. For example, in chess and checkers the value of material dominates other pieces of knowledge — if I have a rook more than you in chess, then I am almost always winning. 
Go has no dominant heuristics. From the human’s point of view, the knowledge is pattern-based, complex, and hard to program. Until Alphago, no one had been able to build an effective evaluation function.”
-Jonathan Schaeffer (Creator of Chinook, first program to beat humans in Checkers)

The machine victory in Go happened decade earlier than experts predicted.

AlphaGo is based on deep learning and neural networks. So while Deep Blue beat Kasparov with sheer computing strength, Alphago has more artificial intelligence behind it. Firstly neural networks were trained on 30 million moves from games played by human experts. That resulted to ability to predict human move 57 percent of the time. But that gets you to the same level as human players not necessarily able to beat them. So secondly, AlphaGo played thousands of games between its neural networks, and adjusting connections using trial-and-error process through reinforcement learning.

How many humans are even able to comprehend what above means (lest train themselves in even somewhat similar manner)?

Machines can already replace humans in more fields than we are willing to admit. And more importantly, they are playing better job as well. Machines can crunch data to obtain experience, which is impossible for humans during their lifetime. We have to start embracing machine learning and collaborating with machines more if we want to survive. Advertising industry has been especially almost hostile to any technological improvement. That will be a road to sure destruction. Beating a Go champion is much harder task than to do a subpar brand campaign. If we don´t take more proactive and positive approach to data and artificial intelligence, we will make ourselves redundant.

Machines can either be our allies our friends. I would opt for the latter choice.

Tagged , , , , ,

Being Busy Does Not Mean That You Are Working

Busyness as Proxy for productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.
-Cal Newport (Deep Work)

Being in a meeting is not our job.
Having a conf-call is not our job.
Sending e-mail is not our job.
Being in front of computer late to suck up your bosses is not our job.

“Being busy” should never be an indicator of how well you are doing our job.

Our job is to think or sell: sometimes both and sometimes in reverse order.

If you are busy because you are thinking really hard and selling even harder, that is great.
If you are busy because you want to look like you are busy, I just feel sorry for you.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What Deadpool Teaches You About Branding?


I finally saw Deadpool last week and it is definitely a contender for the best movie of this year. Where I actively avoid mainstream movie theatres (especially in Singapore, where the selection is even narrower. Luckily we have Projector), it was like a breath of fresh air to watch something totally politically incorrect on big screen. And I am not the only one enjoying it, Deadpool is becoming the third biggest superhero movie of all-time.

1.Don´t listen to focus groups
There is a lie, damn lie and then your target audience analyzing your ads in focus groups. Deadpool is the kind of movie that would not ever get a green light in focus group. There is senseless violence, infantile humor and jabs and insults to everything that is sacred. The hero is flawed and does not even want to be hero. Not surprisingly, despite the strong hype movie was not exactly going anywhere:

We developed the script six years ago, wrote this fantastic script, it leaked online, Deadpool fans went nuts for it, so the studio granted us a small amount of money to make test footage. This test footage that we shot then sat on the shelf for four years, as it does, they didn’t do anything with it, then just a little under two years ago it leaked, accidentally, onto the internet.
Ryan Reynolds (in Jimmy Fallon)

Deadpool would not have happened if there had not been groundswell to get the film released. Ryan Reynolds continues:

“Here’s the thing, the fans freaked out and overwhelmed Fox, and Fox basically had to greenlight the movie. The problem is the footage was owned by Fox so it was kind of illegal … I know that one of us did it.”

If you truly believe in your product, sometimes you have to bend the rules (or even ignore them) a little bit.

2.Embrace the constraints
Fox tried to do pretty much everything to not get the movie released, e.g. cutting the budget on the last minute:

“We had to carve something like $7-8 million out of the budget in a 48-hour window. And we, as a group, just put our heads together, got creative, and said ‘How do we cut what is essentially nine pages out of a 110 page script?’”
Rhett Reese (writer)

But when there is a will, there is a way. Deadpool is not about the special effects. It is about the attitude. If you have the attitude, that can shine through but if you are only about who is having the biggest explosions, that kind of cut would be fatal.

3.Ride the trend…but in opposite direction
People start to get bored of superhero movies. They still are going to see them, because essentially you don´t have a choice, as they are everywhere. Everyone knows the formula and every superhero comes from the same mold. When someone breaks the pattern, it will definitely get noticed. That is why it is important to know your competition, so you can do exactly the opposite than them.

4.Be top-of-mind
The marketing campaign for Deadpool is a perfect example of a great integrated campaign. Top-of-mind is ensured with heavy use of traditional channels.


In digital you are really starting to have fun. Like with Deadpool emojis or a Tinder profile:


5.Keep it real
Traditionally having a R-rated film is a deathblow to a film. Deadpool has gone against all the conventional Hollywood wisdom, mainly because the makers had a strong belief to the film.

So that´s all. If you have not seen Deadpool, go see it now.

Tagged , , , ,

Facebook Canvas 101

There has been lots of talk about the new ad format for Facebook, so to save your time, here is all you need to know about it:

What is Facebook Canvas?
Canvas is an immersive and expressive experience on Facebook for businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products (according to Facebook)

So what does that really mean?
Essentially it is expandable Facebook ad with interactive features. It uses the same technology as Instant Articles, so you could almost call them Instant ads. The main benefit is that they load faster than mobile web in general, up to 10x faster.

What are the features?
Currently you can add following features to your Canvas:

  • Button
  • Carousel
  • Photo
  • Text Block
  • Video
  • Product Set

What brands will benefit from it?
Not surprisingly many of the first examples have been popular culture properties (movies, TV shows) with a lot of interactive elements.

The real opportunity is in my opinion with product catalogues. Swiping set of different product is intuitive and also gets you closer to actually buying of the product. Good example is Verizon´s Holidone-campaign, which was one of the first uses of Facebook canvas (done by R/GA New York):

I have seen these already before?
This ad format was previously available to only selected premium advertisers, but it is now opened for every one.

How I can do one?
You can do one by utilizing the Facebook self-service tool. There are easy step-by-step tutorials on how to do them. Technically it is easy, but of course making something cut-through requires lot of craft and innovation.

Is it a game-changer?
On a surface it is just a new ad format. However with more room to play in Facebook (and keeping in mind its massive reach in majority of countries), you should seriously consider do you need to create separate mobile campaign pages. Or maybe it is just better to create interactive experiences where people already are? Clicking to go to a site is just an artifact of the previous generation of Internet. Also whereas social posts are more about branding, with Canvas you can actually create a more utility to your ad unit (like finding your nearest Wendy´s):

Will we see a sudden surge of crappy canvas ads?
There are definitely early mover advantages reaped out of Canvas. When format gets more common, it will require more finesse and craft to catch the attention. As with other Facebook advertising, the news feed should not favor ads which are not liked:
 “If an ad doesn’t perform well, News Feed doesn’t show it to many people. And the advertiser gets a lot of feedback very early on.”
-Chris Cox, Facebook Chief Product Officer

What have been the best executions in Facebook Canvas thus far?

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: