Tag Archives: 2015

State Of The Industry: Boring Mass & Irrelevant Niche

“I’ve never met anyone who has seen a vending machine reward them for laughing, I’ve never walked through a door marked ugly, got a Coke from a drone, or been offered a crisp packet with my face on.
I’ve never had a friend share their personalised film, I’ve not seen outdoor ads that are also street furniture or had an ATM give me a funny receipt.
I’ve not received a magazine with a near field communication thing and I’ve not had a virtual reality experience outside advertising conferences.
I’ve not once seen a member of the public 3D print anything.”
Tom Goodwin (Senior Vice President for Strategy & Innovation, Havas Media)

The biggest problem with the advertising industry is not the lack of innovation, but the lack of distribution of that innovation. Ad industry is overly obsessed by the niche “marketing innovations”. At the same time the advertising for the masses has become utterly boring. As we are desperately trying to find something new, we are failing to move people.

When I was a kid, ads from Nike and Levi´s shaped my whole identity. Current ads don´t make feel anything (although I am exposed to them more than ever). There is a divide between relevant real work and totally irrelevant stunts. Big campaigns are researched and focus grouped till death. Stunts are driven by the inner need of us to win awards, not by real consumer need. When worrying about our internal politics and external professional image, we forget our main stakeholder:

The consumer.

Quite often we say that people hate advertising. That is not true.
People hate when they are conned.
People hate when their time is wasted.
People hate when they are interrupted.
Although the technology has developed, we are still having our old bad habits. More desperate we are as marketers the more we are wasting people´s time, the more we are interrupting and the less authentic we are.

People will notice and even care about advertising when it is either meaningful (giving you a tangible benefit, for example) or moving (makes you feel something: laugh, cry, whatever).

If your next campaign is neither of them, why even bother?

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Hip-Hop Innovation & About Being The First Magpie

“Good artists copy, great artists steal”
– Pablo Picasso

There was an interesting research lately about musical patterns in US pop charts from 1960 to 2010. One of the most headline-catching “findings” of the study was that the Beatles was not really that innovative, but was merely channeling existing patterns in charts. Contrary to hip-hop, of whom the researchers put to pedestal as the most important music revolution in charts.

“There’s three of us but we’re not the Beatles”
– Run DMC (King Of Rock)

Which sounds about right: the evolution of music has been a series of artists, intentionally and not, building on each other.

“Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant sh*t to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother f*ck him and John Wayne”
– Chuck D (Fight The Power)

As a life-long hip-hop fan, it naturally tickles my fancy that the research highlights hiphop as one of the most revolutionary turning points in music charts. Hip-hop is the evolution of music. Through sampling you can turn every musical genre to a potential hip-hop song. Rapping enabled you to have much more message and words in one song as you are not confined by traditional song structure and need to have catchy chorus. You also do not necessarily need to be able to sing or play instrument to make hiphop (little bit similar as in punk). Hip-hop serves as the blueprint on how the innovation should work:

  • Use, alter, remix, combine existing material. Other man´s five-second-horn stab is other man´s full song.
  • Rethink the traditional form. Rapping is a closer to preaching than singing. With the abandonment of the traditional harmony and music conventions you free up more time to deliver your message
  • Democratize the tools. The more inclusive are the tools, the more opportunities there are for new interesting and surprising things to happen.

“Most decent popular music researchers would probably agree that the Beatles were not so much innovators as musical magpies – and that’s not a criticism. They, like all of us, listened to all sorts of stuff and were duly inspired”
– Mike Brocken, director of world´s first Beatles master degree (!)

There has not ever been such thing as a solitary inventor. Innovation is not about figuring stuff out in isolation. It is ability to combine existing things in new ways. It has never been about being the first. It is about being the first magpie.
Apple has not really been the first in anything, but they are the most innovative and also the most profitable company in the world.
Our obsession in coming up with something new is a quest doomed to fail. We should concentrate to listen to all sorts of stuff, be inspired and combine that existing stuff in new ways.

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Rethink What You Take For Granted

“Turnstile has to make a sound, it might as well be beautiful”
– James Murphy

Last week I wrote about sponsorship and one point I forgot to mention was how brands are the patrons of this modern age. Catholic Church used to support the great artists. Now many of the great projects would not happen without the support of beer brands. And that is why I am supporting beer brands by consuming their products.

We can rationalize on how the project to turn subway turnstiles to play music with James Murphy fits into Heineken´s brand onion (or diamond for that matter)*. Whether it is good for the brand or not, does not change the awesomeness of the project. It also makes perfect sense for subway commuters. We have taken for granted that those turnstiles have to make certain sound. That certain sound is currently unobtrusive at its best, invasive at its worst. It actually feels totally weird that they do not play melodies.

Other great lesson about this project is that there are so many hidden opportunities around to rethink conventions. Some of them are opportunities for brands, some for art and some are in the intersection of both.

*They have this thing about improving cities, so I would say it is nice fit for that one.

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Just Say The Obvious, but Do It With Flair

Sometimes advertising is just about being simple:

You show the product.

You show how the product is used.

You tell what you offer.

You tell what is new.

You tell that you have a discount.

Essentially you are doing what your supposed to do, but with a flair.

Sometimes you have to state the obvious, but do it with interesting way instead of trying to find your idea from the obscure.

Great speakers are not necessarily having the most original and inspiring thoughts, but they are delivering them in the most original and inspiring way.

That is the magic we have to bring as agencies. Because quite often people just need the obvious, but they have to be lured to hear that.

No matter how interesting your product is, the obvious can be truly boring. Especially product demos, which can be a total bore even for the most interesting products (take whatever Apple ad). If you have gift of the gab, you can do exciting, attention-grabbing and fun product demos for mundane products as well:

This Droga5-campaign for Under Armour won at Big Show (Best Interactive & Best Social). It features Gisele Bündchen punching and kicking a bag and same time projecting comments (both positive and negative) about the partnership:

Using celebrities is not an idea. It is an effective tactic, when done right. And to be honest, for many brands using well-known people is the only way to elevate their brand to rockstar level. By paying celebrities you upgrade your brand´s appeal, but it is not about slapping some mundane celebrity endorsement to your boring product and expecting to become interesting. It is making most out of that collaboration with celebrity: not just having a pretty face, but having the right pretty face (who can kick ass as well). Essentially the above Under Armour ad is a product demo, just that the person using the products is way more interesting than you.

This ad from Nando´s featuring Mac Lethal showcases that you can even make reading your menu sound interesting:

These examples show that often you don´t need a surprising insight, complicated transmedia storytelling or even a drone to create cut-through. You just need to what you are supposed to do, but do it with style.

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Sequels Don´t Work in Advertising…Expect When They Work

I could not put the following ad to Anatomy of An Insight –section as it is a little bit too in a meta-level. I also have had too many Foot Locker ads featured in here in any case (although they are all pretty much awesome):

Brilliant ad nevertheless and based on equally great ad as well. Now the situation has naturally changed and the match will be happening. Or is it?

Sequels don´t work in advertising, when you just try to duplicate the success of previously successful ad. However if there is opportunity to continue the story and it is still based on strong insight and great idea, you should not change your focus too soon either. The most challenging part in advertising and life in general is to know when it is time to turn on a new leaf.

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Loalty is Laziness: Would You Change to Apple Music From Spotify

Apple will launch its streaming service Apple Music June 30th.

Although there was not anything mind-boggling with the launch, it will dramatically shake up the music streaming service landscape. Below I am answering all the questions that you are thinking about the launch, because I can:

Will Apple Music be bigger than Spotify?

In terms of paying customers, Apple Music does not offer free version, which is probably a wise move. Currently paying customers create 26 more times the revenue compared to free customers in Spotify.

Spotify has 70 million users (of 20 million are paying). Apple has over 800 million iTunes accounts. Do the math. Just converting 2,5% of the current user base (of which not all are naturally downloading music) gets them even.

However it might not be as easy or as profitable it would seem at first glance.

Paying for streaming music is a niche activity. Only 5% of the people over 13 years old pay for streaming services. During the digital download heyday, 25% of the people were regularly paying to download music and astonishing 80% of people were regularly buying cd´s when that was popular. Those days will never come back.

Optimist would say that there is an opportunity to increase the amount of subscribers. Pessimist would say that we will never reach a level again where even 25% are paying for music. My thinking is somewhere in between: there is opportunity to increase the paying streaming category but it requires cheaper options than the current default 9.99$/month. In terms of people paying for music streaming services are the best bet for record labels, because ownership of music seems quite expired concept in 2015.

Because of its ecosystem and deeper pockets, Apple has better opportunity to grow the category if it is to grow. Free streaming services will remain in the mix, because too aggressive clampdown for free streaming would probably retort people back to pirating the music. Also those who pay for music are not necessarily the tastemakers of what is hip and cool. In 2015 the investment to music is not necessarily an indication of its popularity.

Is Apple music then a better service than Spotify?

At least based on the current information.

In terms of library they are in parity (30 million songs both, no Beatles in either of them). The main features Apple was talking about were nice-to-haves, but nothing that would immediately make people to switch. Beats 1 is essentially just a tradtional radio. Curation from tastemakers is something that sounds nice in powerpoint, but masses don´t really care. Same thing with Connect, music fandom is way more niche activity than non-committal music consumption on background.

Will people flood from Spotify to use Apple music?
Well, it depends.

If you are invested in Apple ecosystem and have been buying from iTunes music before, that is likely to happen. Over half of the Spotify users are also using iTunes. If you do not have that legacy, you are not likely to switch from Spotify unless Apple manages to bully its way with labels to worsen the current Spotify.

We are lazy.

Brands often mistake the laziness of users for loyalty. It is natural for people to try to avoid stressful situations and change (even how big or small) is always stressful.

It is hard to unlearn your habits, whether they are good or bad (especially the bad ones). It is also hard to learn new habits even how beneficial they would be to you. Therefore just making things easy-to-use is not enough for people to make a switch. They need incentives and motivation: the right balance of stick & carrot. People keep using hard-to-use methods (like pirating) because that is the way they have accustomed themselves and cost of learning something new feels too hard.

In many ways both Spotify and Apple will benefit from the laziness of their users.

Current Spotify paying users will not flood to Apple. Those who are using the free ad-fueled version are different target audience altogether, so Spotify will also be growing in terms of overall users. If you are Spotify free user and have not turned to paid version with Spotify, it is quite unlikely that you will start paying with Apple. On the other hand, testing the Apple Music will be just a click away and it works seamlessly with your iTunes library. So those people who have been postponing moving to streaming services and have still been paying for digital music downloads, don´t have that many excuses anymore.

And to answer the question posed on the title of this: no, I will not switch to Apple Music. On the other hand, majority of my investment in music still goes to vinyl records. Like said before, old habits die hard.

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Fight for Your Balls


Regular readers of my blog know my appreciation of lowbrow humor and brands who take piss out of everything.

That is why I am a strong supporter for the Norwegian underwear brand Comfyballs. Lately they have been fighting US patent office, because they cannot register their name because it is considered “vulgar”. The reason for that being:

In the context of the applicant’s goods… Comfyballs means only one thing – that a man’s testicles, or ‘balls,’ will be comfortable in the applicant’s undergarments.
The mark does not create a double entendre or other idiomatic expression.
When used in this way, the word, ‘balls’ has an offensive meaning.

I wish more brand, would be as clear as Comfyballs.

Their main product benefit is in their brand name. Double entendre would actually be more offensive, because you try to hide something. Comfyballs is truly honest brand and not hiding behind marketing jargon. When you wear them your balls will be comfortable, because their patented design PackageFront™ reduces heat transfer and restricting movement. There is not anything offensive of having comfortable underwear, on the contrary. Using badly designed underwear when jogging is a truly offense to your crown jewels.

Comfyballs has not just been scratching their balls, but also actually risen to a challenge and they are trying to get their name registered officially in US. They launched the site “Fight for Your Balls” and also created video to celebrate comfortable balls:
Comfyballs has not just scratched their balls, but also actually risen to a challenge and they are trying to get their name registered officially in US. They launched the site “Fight for Your Balls” and also created video to celebrate comfortable balls:

Legalize Comfyballs from Fantefilm on Vimeo.

Naturally the ad was banned in YouTube (those US hypocrites), but again more buzz for the brand. At least the visitors in the site seem to be in their favor.


There are things in the life you should fight for, your balls are one of them.

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Send A Message, Send A Dick

If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains;
Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.
But I have no lethal weapon-
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell.
Dorothy Parker (Frustration)

Advertising industry is obsessed by positivity. All the ads are filled with shiny happy people pointing their fingers at computer screen. Everyone is smiling. Everyone has friends. No one is fighting. There is no politics, grudge or evil. Everyone cares about the brand and how that special toothpaste comes to save the day.

The advertising reality is pure fiction.

Same time the best advertising is based on truth:


You can dramatize the truth and make it interesting. But there has to be truth in it, otherwise it is meaningless: not connected to the real life, only connected to advertising life. The truth above is simple: bad breath is disgusting and ruins your social chances*. Nothing positive about that, but the message is powerful.

Advertising life should never be separated from the real life. The truth is that your life is filled with annoying tasks, annoying people and annoying circumstances. If more brands would recognize that we would have more truthful advertising. More truthful is also more powerful and resonates with real audience (not focus groups).

There is something profoundly truthful with this new service called “Dicks By Mail”.


The brand promise is simple:

“In only a few minutes you can send a literal Bag of Dicks to that special asshole in your life.” 

The “dicks” in question are actually candy, which you can send in anonymous package:


This is a great politically incorrect idea. The truth is that everyone could come up with quite long list of people (who are dicks) to whom this jolly gift should be sent (to let the whole world know that they are dicks).

Sometimes the truth hurts.

* Of course advertising played vital role in making halitosis a social problem. That would not have been possible, if Listerine ad message would have been positive. Ad below is naturally revolting when analyzed from today´s point-of-view, but it is based on truth. Sometimes truth is hard to swallow, even harder than Listerine.


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