Tag Archives: advertising

The MAYA Principle: The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

“Making the strange familiar and making the familiar strange, again”

– David Foster Wallace (about realistic novels)

Reading the book “Hit Makers” reminded me about Raymond Loewy´s MAYA –principle. Raymond Loewy was one of the most iconic industrial designers of the last century. Among his works are Lucky Strike package (logo on both sides to maximize the visibility), Coke vending machines, Air Force One livery and Skylab space station (with window to look back to Earth) to name a few. MAYA-principle means:

“The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable”

To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising, make it familiar. This is one of the most important things to understand about human beings. The battle between familiarity and discovery shapes our whole lives. We want to feel safe, but at the same time we enjoy the thrill of challenge. The conflicting forces of safety and excitement explains why we resonate and like things that are familiar enough but also have something new in them. Loewy´s theory (which worked in practice) was also later proved in academic research.

Humans don´t want the same old thing all over again, but they also don´t want totally new thing. They want the same thing with slight twist. That is why Spotify´s weekly playlist works so well, it exposes you to new music but at the same time plays songs you are already familiar with. “Let It Be”, “Don´t Stop Believin”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “No Woman, No Cry” are built on the same chord progression. However, it would be ludicrous to say that these songs sound the same. There is lot of innovation in these songs, but it is innovation with boundaries. Innovation is not about thinking outside the box, it is about rethinking the box.

The secret to create things that resonate with popular audience is to embrace the conflict in the humans. It is not choice between neophilia (curiosity about new things) and neophobia (fear of anything too new), it is about finding the balance. This dualism is crucial in our industry as we quite often fall into the trap of going after whatever is new and shiny. Or we are too lazy and just do something that has been done before without adding any of the magic. Both are equally bad approaches to talk to the masses (which is the main goal for advertising). You have to find the balance between typicality and novelty.

The secret to popularity is to add slight hint of danger but still maintain the feeling of safety in your audience.

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Advertising Can Make Even Baby Carrots Desirable


The fact is that majority of brands and products are boring. Being boring is a challenge, because your brand will not be noticed. You are not competing against the other products and brands in category, you are competing of mindspace of your consumer which is increasingly filled with Netflix, Snapchat and other way more interesting things than you brand.

The main role for advertising is to sell more products and how you do it is by making your product more interesting, desirable and thus noticed. Rational arguments don´t really work. Every smoker knows that he would need to quit. You know that you should hit the gym. And you know that carrots are healthy, but you still choose to munch on chips because they just taste good.

This campaign from few years back is a brilliant example of the true power of advertising. You have a great product, but it has an image problem. You fix it by going totally overboard. You appeal to heart. You beg, borrow and steal from other categories. You are bold. You make that product differentiated and interesting. If your category is boring, you reframe your whole category. You do what you are supposed to do:

If advertising industry has identity problem right now, it is because we have lost our focus on making the brands we work with desirable. We have gone too deep in rabbit hole of championing social causes or doing unnecessary technological innovations, that we have forgotten why we exist in the first place.

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Content is Nothing Without Context

In a recent study with Lóreal and Google, where they tested typical ad, tutorial and testimonial, there were some interesting results. First the typical ad had the best view-through-rate but was not necessarily driving action so much.


What really struck me on the study were the following points:


1) If you are interrupted, you want to be interrupted with something that looks good.

Pre-rolls have been around for a while so people are expecting to see ads when they are checking YouTube. It is almost like an ad break, but apparently slightly more annoying.


2) Women are actively looking for the tutorials, not ads

Especially this is true to the millennials, they are used to less ad-looking content production. If you are interrupted with tutorial when you want to watch a tutorial, not surprisingly you are not necessarily watching it through.


3) Younger audience appreciates the more “real” approach and it drives more action



This pretty much highlights the point I have been going through for a while. Brands need to have their ad and content game in check. Creating great content is not supplementing the hard-working ads. And vice-versa: hard-working ad is quite seldom great content. What works as a pre-roll does not necessarily work in another formats.

Content production is totally meaningless if you do not think the context where you are showing it.

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Advertising is Just A Shortcut For Product Selection

“Brands are not the rich sources of differentiation marketers like to think of them as, but short cuts through the complexity of decision-making.”
Ian Leslie

I have been fighting against the lofty term engagement for a long time.

There is time and place for marketing activities that are not only aimed at reach. However, they should be approached like investing and with the notion that those activities will most likely fail. In terms of majority of marketing budget, you need to focus on top-of-mind. There are too many alternatives out there to every product imaginable so as a consumer you cannot be bothered. You want to buy your stuff and focus on other more important things in life. Advertising provides a shortcut for product selection. Therefore it is crucial to keep reaching people all the time, be consistent and be different than your competition.

In your next social media seminar there will be an annoying social media guru waxing lyrical about engagement. On that instance, close your ears and keep in mind these essentials:

1.Focus on light buyers.
Like professor Andrew Ehrenberg nicely put it: “your customers are customers of other products, who occasionally buy your products”. If you are doing consumer goods, you are mass product and you need to do mass advertising.

2.Focus on socially inactive audience.
1% of the people actually create content, while 99% are lurkers. Not all your activities should be focused to lurkers, but majority. 1% rule applies to general content in Internet. People who are creating content about your brand are on your payroll or they are crazy. Or both.

3.Focus on being focused.
Marketing directors and advertising agencies have short attention span. They feel the need to fix something that is not broken. They feel the need to tinker a brand that is in good shape. They want to innovate when they should stick to their guns. If you want people to remember you, you have to be consistent.

If you will keep your focus, you will be doing effective advertising.

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Agencies Are Slow

“A screenplay can be written quickly and detective story can be knocked out in three weeks, while no one should spend more than a month on a doctoral dissertation. A novel, however, takes longer”
-Werner Herzog (A Guide To The Perplexed)

Why majority of agencies are doing such a bad job at the moment?

They are slow.

The best young talent goes to start-ups, because the pace is fast and the mentality is about getting things done. Bigger agencies are filled with bureaucracy, internal meetings and all other fluff, which is not what they should be doing.

Agency business is essentially simple and your time should be divided to three parts:

  • Figuring things out
  • Doing the actual things
  • Selling things

Not to say, we could not be much more effective with all of those three things. Everyone is a procrastinator if just given the opportunity. Agencies also have higher proportion of people with general aversion to anything resembling a process, so our ways of working are not as effective as they could be. That is not the main challenge, though.

The bigger problem is that people cannot focus on these three things. When I talk with my colleagues working in different agencies around the world, the common complaint is that there is not enough time to concentrate on the real work. There are too many people who misattribute internal meetings and all the administrative wanking as real work. And unfortunately as the agencies get more bloated, they also hire more dead weight complicating the real work with all the additional layers.

Unwanted bureaucracy, unnecessary administration and too many useless people result to agencies being slow. At the same time they have to rush things that really matter. Start-ups concentrate on what is important and spend adequate time on it. Rest of the stuff can be bashed out quite quickly.

“It was decision-making by committee, some kind of artificial respiration, which certain inbuilt weaknesses. Too many people were slaves to handouts, forever trying to fulfill the wishes of the boardroom, which is why so many of them made only one film, then gave up. They were too busy filling out paperwork”
-Werner Herzog (A Guide To The Perplexed, talking about film subsidies in Western Germany)

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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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I Love Advertising, Because I Love Lying

I think that Jerry Seinfeld´s acceptance speech in Clios this year, was the most appropriate representation of what we actually do. Jerry might just be taking piss on every ad people on the audience and it might be filled with evil sarcasm and irony. I did not take it that way, I think it spoke with clarity and honesty why our industry is so great.

Five important points from Seinfeld´s Clio speech:

1. “I love advertising because I love lying. In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was”

Advertising is not really lying, but more of massaging the truth. Advertising is like your wedding photo, job interview or date. You are not making blatant lies, but you are emphasizing your good parts and trying to hide the bad parts. People are not stupid and this is the way the game is played. Just like in life, it is not the most handsome guy getting the prettiest girl. Who gets the prize will be the

2. “I don’t care that it won’t actually be like when I actually get the product being advertised because, in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want.”

I know that the weightlifting shoes I ordered will not make me the most awesome weightlifter in the world (or not even in my gym). There are no shortcuts for hard work and when doing sports your whole life you know it. Having those increases my mood and eventually will make me better lifter. The motivation to buy things is much more nuanced than just showing off or filling some kind emotional void and misery.

3. “We know the product is going to stink. We know that. Because we live in the world, and we know that everything stinks. We all believe, hey, maybe this one won’t stink. We are a hopeful species. Stupid but hopeful”

This is what makes us human beings so great. Our hopefulness exceeds our stupidity, and latter we have plenty of. Majority of start-ups will end in bankruptcy. Majority of marriages will end in divorce. Majority of the diets will end in you getting fat or even fatter again. But the flipside is that there are people who are living happily ever after, becoming multi-millionaires and staying in shape. Our ability for rational thinking combined with total negligence of that same rational thinking makes us the most dominant species in this planet.

4. “I also think that just focusing on making money and buying stupid things is a good way of life.”

I think so too.

5. “I believe materialism gets a bad rap. It’s not about the amount of money. Nothing’s better than a Bic pen, a VW Beetle, or a pair of regular Levi’s. If your things don’t make you happy, you’re not getting the right things.”

My grandmother mentioned in my wedding that after a day of shopping I had happily shouted: “This is the life everyone should live!” On that same occasion my father reminded that when he first took my little brother & me to McDonald´s and I got my first ever Bic Mac. I commented that important event with the declaration: “This is the happiest day of my life”. No wonder I ended up in advertising.
Consumption makes us feel good and yes it gets bad rap for no reason. I still get happy when after meticulous saving, I was able to secure myself a pair of Technics turntables. Those have served me well for over 15 years and I still feel utterly happy about that purchase. How many other events you still savor after 15 years? I still remember getting my first jeans (Levis 501s). They were not just jeans, they were passage to adulthood.

With advertising we try to channel the inner need of consumerism to the brands and products we represent. We do not create any new needs for consumers. We do not try to make you feel miserable of not owning stuff, but rather make you happy when you make the right purchase. Consuming products and experiences can have tremendous uplifting affect to your mood.

That is a great and we should be proud of what we do.
At least I am.

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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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Professional Madness

What separates advertising industry from every other business?

We are not duplicating our previous successes.Instead of consulting company who finds a good way to work around certain problem and then duplicates it to the other clients as many times as possible. The business model is that the every new iteration of the same project requires much less working resources, but the selling value is quite the same.

Like John Hegarty said, we do not have a warehouse full of great ads. We start from the scratch every single time.Your past successes only prove that you have had success before. It is not an indicator of the future success.

That is why you seldom get bored in a good advertising agency. Every project is a completely new challenge and you are trying to come up with something completely new. It is challenging and rewarding. It is also one of the reasons why even the best agencies do not hit home runs every single time. Coming up with a typical solution is similar as failure.

From traditional business perspective it is complete madness, of course.

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What is Stand-up Strategy?

First of all, I am quite sure that I have not come with the term myself. I must have heard it somewhere. Do not remember whom, so I just stole it as a name for my blog. If you are offended, then poor luck. This is advertising after all.

Stand-up strategy does not mean that it is necessarily funny, although you have to have certain kind of humor to be in this business.

Instead for me stand-up strategy is about these five things:

1. Standing up instead of sitting down.

Marketing strategists and planners have got themselves in trap.

We, as a profession, have been on a road to just become poor man´s management consultants. We have tried to complicate things, instead of simplifying them. We have estimated our value of the number of slides we have made or how thorough creative brief we have done. Those things do not matter.Only thing that matters is the quality of the work and the bottom line of the company.

We have to get out from the computer to meet the people, find the insights and understand the behavior of the people who might someday be the customers.

So get of your seat and start doing things.

2. Intuition and point-of-view is what separates you from others.

Google has replaced the average planners.

There was a time when information was scarce and planner could make himself worthwhile by just having the access to information. Those days are long gone. Information is abundant and nearly everyone has the access to the same information channels.

That is why the Planner has to stand up and tell also what he feels and what is his point-of-view.  Not saying that there is a shortcut for digesting all the information. We have to do our homework more than ever.

Read blogs, magazines, books.Watch movies, tv & documentaries. Talk with colleagues, peers, consumers & influenceres.

But those are just starting point. Having the information is only about competitiveness of today´s planner. Competitive advantage comes from your point-of-view. That is the biggest asset you have and you have to cultivate it.

After careful evaluation of all the information & data, act on your gut-feeling.

3. Planning is translating business to creativity.

Planning is a service function. You provide the springboard for creatives for the creative leap. You help account executives to sell more. Only thing tangible what is left from our work is well-performing company financially and creatively. People can live with incomplete creative brief, but they cannot leave with incomplete creative product.

Good planner is a bipolar person. He gots kicks out of creativity. He also gots kick out the business side of things. Usually he has had a hand on both of these crafts. Planning is the most rewarding but the least-respected craft in advertising. Are you ready to take on the task?

Do not trust planner who has not sold a project or not done an ad. 

4. Combining insight & behavior is the key to the success.

How many fresh new insights have there been in beer category lately?

It is still crucial to find the soul of the brand and go as deep to the customer´s head as possible. However, you cannot just push your message nowadays and hope to spark some kind of emotion. You have to lure your brand to everyday life of the people. I do not understand the separation between traditional and digital planners. If planner does not understand digital channels nowadays, he or she should be out of job. And same goes to otherwise, knowing all the latest social media channels is worthless if you do not have the knowledge of the good old art of persuasion. Even though technology has evolved we as a people are driven by quite simple things. Such things as sex, greed & jealousy.

You have to know how customer feels and how he behaves.

5.We have to reinvent this whole ad agency stuff.

I hate silos. That is why this whole departmental thinking of account-creative-planning is quite absurd for me. Our business is quite simple if you think about. We are on the quest of finding the emotional connection of the brand and consumer, which on the long run will concretize in the cash register.

Lee Clow put it great:

“We’re supposed to be a creative business, but I think we have been probably the least creative industry in the history of the world in terms of figuring out how to get paid.”

We have to think about deeper how we operate and how we make profit in the future. The collaborator who works closest with the brand, will be succeeding in the future. Will it be an advertising agency is left to be seen?

Learn the history, to know all the rules you are going to break.

These are my rules and if you do not like them I have some others as well.

From this standpoint I will be writing my observation from the industry and the future of planning and advertising as well. Welcome aboard.

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