Category Archives: #advertising

“There is no such thing as a low-interest category…

… only low interest thinking”

Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi.

So true.

Agencies always want to work for the Dream Client, for example Nike or Apple.

But perhaps the most interesting thinkers should aim to work with the apparently dull brands, in the boring categories.

For example, through great design and their founders’ passion for innovation, Method have made cleaning products interesting.


My favourite recent example is Volvo Trucks. Unless you are a 5 year old boy, trucks are not the most interesting thing in the world. But Forsman Bodenfors, decided that trucks can be interesting. They created a series of epic test videos, which famously culminated in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Epic Split video that you must be one of the 60 million people to have seen by now. But this wasn’t just a lucky one-off. Volvo and their agency have shown the ability to generate interest with a series of great videos, for example this chase sequence is well worth a watch.

Many people have watched these videos that will never buy a Volvo truck, of course. But if you are a truck buyer, I will bet that you have watched every one of these Volvo videos and shared the videos with all of your truck-buying buddies.

So, no more excuses that it’s merely a “low-interest brands”. My New Year’s Resolution is to make the dull more interesting.

Tagged , ,

Demand Generation vs Demand Fulfillment

There are some examples of digital advertising generating demand for a product, but they are unpredictable –  a viral sensation that is hard to manufacture.

It seems that the real money is on digital media fulfilling the demand created by more predictable “mass-media” tactics – TV, PR etc.

The brilliantly controversial Ad Contrarian has said that the internet shouldn’t really be used for advertising at all, or at least only for Google ads and certainly not for those tiny little Facebook ads.

He points out that targeting ads in a highly specific way, based on demographics, does not seem to work in building a strong mass-market brand. This goes against the new conventional wisdom, which is that targeting will change everything.

However, about a year ago, Facebook released its new FBX ads. These ads are not targeted based on the huge amount of demographic information Facebook hold. Instead they are based on your browsing history, on promoting things that you have already looked at on other sites.

So, what Facebook is doing, is moving from trying to generate new demand, but rather fulfilling the demand that has already been generated.


I see a travel show on TV suggesting a trip to Bali. Or someone mentions their trip, and it sounds cool. The demand has been created. So I check it out on a web site (and get a cookie), but I’m not ready to buy the holiday now.

The genius of Google is that – whenever I am ready – I will search for it. And Google will be there at that very moment to take their slice.

WIth FBX, Facebook will be showing me adverts for Bali now. They will also have a chance of “fulfilling” the demand that was generated elsewhere.

And perhaps, with this, Facebook also have a chance of fulfilling people’s expectations that they can make money from all of the time people spend on their platform.

Tagged , ,

The real reason that banners don’t work.

Eye tracking reveals banner blindness

Eye tracking reveals banner blindness

Banners have a dismal record. People are literally blind to banners.

But why are they so much worse than other forms of advertising?

Maybe because advertising should be more like the content it supports.

The best TV ads fill the screen with short stories that compel you to watch them. Sometimes they are better than the shows they interrupt.

Print ads in Vogue are often beautiful fashion photographs, appealing to the tastes of the reader.

PR experts will make sure that a brand makes the news in a way that makes sense for the media audience.

The best branded Youtube videos need to be as good as the best user-generated content. If they are not, they will be ignored. But at least the content is a similar format.

Search ads look very much like search results, and will not be shown for long if their relevancy is too low for people.

Sponsored Tweets are still Tweets, so do not jar too much. Facebook it starting to have more success with sponsored stories.

But banners are relegated to the sidelines. They look nothing like the content you actually want to read or see on websites. Which is probably why, 20 years after they were first introduced, they are still ignored by nearly everyone, and are still so very ineffective.

Branded Content is older than your Grandad.

It’s funny to me that people think that “Branded Content” is a new idea.

It’s so old. (Vanha, as we say in Finland).

Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 3.30.11 PM

MIchelin first published its Michelin Guides in 1900. Michelin Stars are still the thing that all the world’s restaurants strive for.

I found a new example today. A radio show, completely commissioned by a drinks brand, in the 1940s.


The 10-2-4 Ranch was aired in the south during the second world war. Great tunes, and a great connection to the brand which was (according to their research) consumed mostly at 10am, 2pm and 4pm. They used the 10-2-4 thought in their print advertising too – a true 360 campaign based on a real insight and including branded content.. almost 70 years ago!

Tagged , ,

Why advertising pitches are like ‘The Bachelor’.

For most of my career, I was The Client.

Whenever we needed to pick a new agency, we used to think that pitching was the responsible thing to do – we tested out agencies “for real” as we got to see them work on our problems, not other people’s.

But now I work at an ad agency, and the truth I’ve come to realise is: pitching is the worst way to start a relationship.

Pitching is the equivalent of the TV Show The Bachelor: one guy picking from 30 women according to a pre-defined process and time schedule, regardless of initial chemistry and compatibility.

You get a winner, but you rarely start a genuine relationship.

Just like with personal relationships, it is great when we meet a team on the client side who is so close to us in terms of thinking. It could be the start of a great relationship, a true partnership.

However, nearly always now, we have to pitch creative ideas next. My experience of recent pitches is that, even if we win, it is not a good way start to a relationship:

  1. It distances us from the client at the outset: it sets the relationship on a path of “us” vs “them, of “judge” vs “competitor”.
  2. Partnering and collaborating are not part of the pitching game: Media agencies are told not to intervene, time with the client and other information is limited, and the result is a contest that is more a test of endurance than a test of suitability.
  3. It also frustrates creatives: they know that the work they pitch is only a test, that it probably won’t even be used.
  4. Perhaps, most importantly, by setting agencies against each other, the competition – winning – becomes the important thing. Helping clients and building a true understanding becomes secondary to just beating the other guys.

Instead, when it feels right, when the chemistry in the relationship is there and both parties want to party, then maybe we should just start working and collaborating together and not competing for the prize of a new account. In my experience, working on a real project is the best way to get a team fired up and passionate about the new relationship.

So, to any clients reading this, here’s my advice: have a few “dates” and talk to a few people, and look at their previous work, but then make a decision and start working on something. You’ll find out pretty quickly if it was a good decision, and you’ll be much better off for it.

Tagged , ,

Volkswagen use The Force of emotion.

People think they make logical purchasing decisions. But they don’t really. The completely rational man of classical economics is as much of a hoax as the Piltdown Man.

When it comes to great communication, it’s much more important to get the emotion right than the rational arguments. Emotion is the lubricant of reason; without emotion we are unable to make decisions.

I was reminded of all this when I saw the awesome new Volkswagen advert, The Force. I’m sure you’ve seen this ad already; as of today over 30 million people have seen it on youtube.

It went viral because it is sweet and funny, and because it leans heavily on Star Wars, the meme that just keeps on giving.

Volkswagen seeded it out a week before the Superbowl, getting over 14 million views before it even appeared on TV’s most important ad break. But apart from that good seeding strategy – which understood that the web loves a scoop – this is actually a very old-fashioned ad with a very old-fashioned strategy. A strategy that works because it is based on a fundamental truth: emotion beats logic.

One of the commenters on Ads of the World said: “I don’t understand what makes this such a good ad. Is there a connection between VW and Darth Vader? What is the force and how does it relate to the car? Where is the concept and what exactly is the idea? To me it seems successful just because they used a kid and Darth Vader. If i’m missing the point can someone explain?”

You are missing the point, and I will explain.

The ad doesn’t have to differentiate the product, or tell you all the features (that’s what Google is for). It doesn’t even have to convince you of a USP – certainly the remote-control engine-starter is not the difference-maker!

So what does it have to do? Well, Treacy and Wiersema, building on Porters classic work, put forward the idea of customer intimacy being a path to market leadership. A great ad can use emotional storytelling to promote the idea of customer intimacy, of knowing the customer better than the competition does.

This ad very clearly identifies a certain person to whom it wants to ultimately appeal: the 30-something Dad, who loved Star Wars growing up and wants to remember it. He knows he has to buy a car that fits his family needs, but he absolutely does not want to buy some kind of uber-embarrassing Dadmobile. He wants a car to represent him as someone who still knows how to have fun (the remote-controls are therefore symbolic of the Volkswagen’s fun elements), but who cares deeply for his slightly crazy yet super-creative kids.

I know all this because I am that guy.

And, thanks to a brilliantly simple and rather old-fashioned bit of marketing communications, I found out that Volkswagen know about people like me and make products for people like me. And so I will be checking out their range of cars soon. As will, I am sure, thousands and thousands of people like me.

This is a well-executed ad, but even more so, it is a very well planned ad with a fantastic insight.  Well done to the guys at Volkswagen and their agency Deutsch.

Tagged , , ,

Can music videos funded by brands be cool?

Brands like Levi’s have always paid great attention to the music in their ads, and we have got used to product placements in music videos. But the creation of actual music videos and other bespoke pieces of content, paid for by brands rather than record companies, is quite new. With both the music and the ad business suffering, brands are now playing the role of pop-culture patrons. There is actually a rich heritage of patronage of arts (Faris Yakob has written about it) – it has always been a way to bolster reputation – but patronage of pop music is quite new.

There is a good discussion over on Hyper’s blog about the Doritos-funded video by UK rapper Professor Green. I quite like the 360 video they made, but the link with the product is tenuous, and I can’t imagine that many people will pay any attention to the Doritos ads on the side; They might as well have just paid for a banner placement.

There was also the recent Fiat Faithless music video, which at least incorporated the car into the band’s video. It got good coverage in the press as a “promercial” (NB I hope to never write that word again). It ended up feeling like any another car ad though, and was even shown during ad breaks just like traditional ads.

We made a short-film / music video called Dragonfly Love for the Nokia N8 with the band Kap Bambino:

We had the luxury of shooting with the product itself, which freed us up to not do too many product references. In our case, it was part HD device showcase, part bonkers entertainment.

It is increasingly difficult to make any money out of selling music, so it will be interesting whether more bands and artists look for an advertiser to pay for their videos. Of course artists don’t want their art to be compromised. Some people were highly critical of Faithless for selling out so completely to a brand for example. But as Jay-Z put it: “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man!”.

Brands will continue to pay for original, high-quality content and musicians will continue to look for new ways to finance their work, so the question becomes: is it cool? Is having a brand pay for your music video a step too far in terms of selling-out? Are brands assisting and supporting creativity, or stifling and ultimately inhibiting it?

Tagged , , , , , ,

Keeping the cooks from the broth.

Every now and then you are shown an idea that is so great that you tell as few people as possible, hoping that no one gets in the way and ruins it. That was the case with Dot, the animation created for Nokia by the brilliant combination of Wieden & Kennedy and Aardman Animations.

It started with Professor Fletcher’s CellScope, which was originally invented to send pictures of blood cells from Africa to doctors abroad, for expert diagnosis. The CellScope used readily-available phones like the Nokia N95, so was a great example of our campaign tagline: “It’s not technology, it’s what you do with it”. We created a video that told the story about Dr Fletcher’s technology, but the team at W&K asked if they might experiment with the microscope to create something fun. They came up with the idea of a tiny stop-motion animation, to showcase the amazing imaging capabilities of the Nokia N8. They said they wanted to try to break the Guiness World Record for the Smallest Ever Animation*

Once Aardman’s Sumo Science team was on board and seemed genuinely excited by working within the limitations we set, then I was sure we were on to something good. I told virtually no one, to protect it from the excesses of a major corporation that always, inevitably, has too much to say.

As a client, it’s rare that you see a finished film that is everything you were promised, and also much, much more. The craft, the timing, the magic of it is just breath-taking. As a commenter on Youtube put it “I’m an iOS developer and am thinking, at this moment: “wow! nokia is cool again!”.

Also, as a client, I can’t take much credit for the film. My job was just to believe in the idea and to protect it from the inevitable squabbling, opinions and unhelpful suggestions from stakeholders trying to “add value”. Too many cooks would definitely have spoiled this broth. Sometimes less is more.

Really, the credit goes to Mark and Richard at W&K for having the idea in the first place, and to the geniuses at Sumo Science and their incredible animating skill.

* BTW, it did break the record: Guiness World Record for Smallest Character in a Stop-Motion Animation!

Tagged , ,

Is this the worst ad in Finnish history?

This piece of work appeared at my father-in-law’s restaurant, inside a cardboard tube with some extra-cheap beads as a gift.

Best Worst Ad Ever

In order to entice people to use their firm’s advertising services, it basically says: ad men will take the shirt from your back, and the time of the dinosaurs is over.

How very, very true.

Throw in some sexist photography and some rather racist references to “medicine men being from Africa” and ad men “being greedier than Ahmed Ahne”, and you have yourself a mighty fine advertisement for the firm, and for the Finnish advertising industry!

ps the colours were truly spectacular too, but unfortunately i’ve only got a black and white scanner…

Tagged , , ,

don’t hate the playa

I’ve found myself hatin on this TV ad in the UK for T-mobile

It’s a cute enough clip. It also does what I think a TV ad should, which is create conversation. The comments on Youtube are full of people saying it is genius, the best ad ever etc etc.

But to me (and a handful of the commenters on Youtube) it’s just a copy of the work of Improv Everywhere, mixed with a bit of Philipino jail dancing. It was exactly what I expected as soon as it strarted, with no element of surprise. The only surprise was that it was on TV and not just a viral. (ps viral is not a noun, but a consequence of something having KUDOS)

My team talked about doing almost this exact same thing over a year ago, and I’m sure we weren’t the only ones.But we didn’t get it done. And they did. And they are hailed as geniuses. Of course they’re not, and neither were we. They saw a fairly obvious opportunity and managed to get it done, and then they put it on TV at a time when people needed cheering up.

As with entrepeneurship ideas don’t count. It’s all about timing, and getting it done.

And anyway, as Jim said, nothing is original anymore.

Jim Jarmusch

Tagged ,
%d bloggers like this: