Saturday, 13 August 2016

A winning idea?

As we're right in the thick of holiday time, I thought I'd look at a couple of ads associated with airports. The first one is First Flight, Heathrow's first ever TV ad, to celebrate the airport's 70th birthday. Using the tried and tested John Lewis formula of a cute kid and music to pull at the heartstrings, this is the story of a first flight through the eyes of a little girl with an owl trolley and a very fetching pilot's cap.

It's a watchable enough ad, but I'm not sure it really captures the magic in the way it should. Is flying still as magical as it was when I was a young lass, when we'd go to the Queen's Building as a day out, just to watch planes take off and land? This film doesn't show anything of the crowds, the delays, the mangled and lost luggage, the confiscated drinks and children's scissors (I speak from experience ...)

But, OK. I still think it's a brave thing for Heathrow to do, especially in these times of terrorist threat. And it's marvellous to hear that Bowie track again.

My second example is something I saw on my way back from a week away on business, when I arrived back at Frankfurt. An ad for the Bad Homburg Casino in the baggage hall. I hope my pictures will do it justice:

A baggage carousel disguised as a roulette wheel. OK, again the cynical may say that putting your luggage in the hold is a bit of a gamble, but I don't care.

After a long and hard week away, this idea, involving no apps or digital cleverness simply made me smile.

Good one.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Everyday absurdities

There's a weekly feature in Campaign called something like ' Three Great Ads I Had Nothing To Do With'. Well, I make no secret of the fact that I work with IKEA, but I had very little to do with the commercial above, which is why I think I'm entitled to write a post about it.

Why is this a great ad? Well, where to start?

It's watchable. I defy anyone not to keep going to the end. What is this 18th century scene all about? Why does the meal have to be painted? Why is the painting being carted around for approval?
Involvement with the story results in active processing, which means it ends up in the long-term memory.

It's bursting with insight. It's not just an observation that people these days are always taking photos of food and putting them on Instagram and Facebook. The insight is how absurd this behaviour is, if you think about it, and how this is just one of many expectations these days that prevent people enjoying the simple pleasures of life at home.

It's beautifully done. From the casting, to the scenery, to the costumes to the lovely few bars of that jazzy number at the end, this is a beautifully conceived, directed and produced film. One that you can watch again and again and discover something new each time.

It's very IKEA. Finally, although the first part of the film may be unexpected for IKEA - 18th century costume drama? - this is maybe what makes this commercial so very IKEA. IKEA is a combination of the familiar and the surprising. This spot is for the catalogue launch and sets the theme of the year - Let's Relax - and the whole idea and thought behind it exemplifies the IKEA attitude - common sense, pointing out the absurdities of our behaviour with a twinkle in the eye, and ultimately showing that there is another way. This is exactly the tonality of the famous 'Lamp' commercial from over a decade ago. Not so fitting to today's times with sustainability upfront on the agenda, but nevertheless classic IKEA.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

A long time ago, in the last century, I travelled to Los Angeles with some colleagues on business. At the weekend, we took a trip to Universal Studios and had great amusement in a magazine cover-shooting booth, dressing up and becoming cover girls and boys for Cosmopolitan, Playgirl et al.

How quaint that seems now! Technology means that we can get our name or picture on just about anything these days, in a matter of seconds and at minimal cost. Brands have been picking up on this for a few years now. The 'Share a Coke' promotion was the biggy, and since then many brands have followed suit.

At Christmas, Oreo capitalised on the craze for colouring books with 'You make the wrap, we send the pack', a promotion whereby people could design a gift wrap online. This summer, Lay's have had a 'Lay's Summer Days' promotion partnering with Instagram. The first 200,000 to register online with a special code got to have their summer photo printed on a packet of crisps.

A marketing spokesperson for Frito-Lay commented: 'Engaging our consumers is really important to us, so we want to continue to give them a voice and a way to connect with our brand in a meaningful way ... during the summer Lay's plays an important role in their lives and in their moments.'

An aside: Marketing people - please imagine a 'patronisometer' whenever you speak to the press. You are not 'giving them a voice' - people who buy crisps are generally not bound and gagged with duct tape, imprisoned in some inhumane jail.

Moving on, closer to home. At my local dm I noticed the Sofortsticker service. In-store, in a matter of seconds, you can knock up a sticky label with a photo for your homemade jam or for a personalised gift - a bottle of mouthwash or tube of hair-removal cream, maybe?

Although Ms Frito-Lay thinks that a packet of crisps plays an important role in people's lives and 'moments' (come on, make up your mind!) I think that may be over-doing it. What are you going to do with a greasy, empty, crisp bag with a photo of your kids in the paddling pool? Chuck it out, most likely. It's a throwaway thing, just as that sort of personalisation is a throwaway idea. One of those ideas people have because they have heard 'individuality is a megatrend', and because they can - due to technology.

But there are instances where this idea is used in a thoughtful, imaginative and meaningful way. Who wouldn't want one of these?

Monday, 1 August 2016

We need to talk about Kevin

Anyone that works or worked for Saatchis can't have missed the brouhaha surrounding Kevin Roberts, the Saatchi CEO, this weekend.

Following remarks made in an interview for Business Insider, Roberts has been suspended for a month. The Publicis Groupe has made it clear that opinions expressed in the article didn't agree with a policy of inclusiveness.

I can't say my heart bleeds for Kevin Roberts, but I was a little surprised about the wrath and ire that the remarks seem to have inflamed around the internet. Apart from some rather catty personal comments addressed in the direction of Cindy Gallop, the main thing that seems to have stirred things up was the observation (perhaps not well-expressed) that there are people in the ad industry who are less motivated by wealth and power and more motivated by happiness and personal fulfillment via creativity. And that some of these people may even turn down promotions because it'll mean being a manager and getting involved in dreary financial, political and HR stuff that you can do in any company, instead of creating bloody good ads.

My observation on my colleagues, past and present, is exactly that. Although I don't really notice how many females fall into one camp vs. males, because that's not the way I've been brought up.

One of the best comments I read on the whole storm in a teacup is from Rory Sutherland:

"Also his critics miss the main point, just as he does. The real question to ask is why so many of the financial rewards of the advertising industry now end up in the hands of administrators and managers and financial engineers, rather than accruing to the many (male and female) people who create the real value. It's now much more lucrative to spend your day twiddling with a spreadsheet than creating an idea worth millions.

This business will soon end up like 1960s English Football, where the administrators end up rich while the players spend their retirement running a chip shop.

I have never understood why people in this industry want to work in management. Running an agency is really boring. If I wanted to run a company, I'd work for a big mining conglomerate where you could do really interesting things like staging coups and hiring mercenaries, not settling arguments about meeting-room allocation."

Why do you think I went freelance?

Talking of which, no doubt Kevin can always fall back on his other business (see above) if times get hard. Plumbing leave?

Friday, 29 July 2016

New brands on the block

Interbrand are well-known for their Best Global Brands annual report, which is something of a marketeer's bible, chronicling the good and great of the branding world. Now there's something new from Interbrand, which takes a look at the new kids on the brand block, the movers and shakers, maybe the star global brand of the future.

Interbrand Breakthrough Brands is like one of those '30 under 30' or 'faces to watch' lists that you get in the marketing press. Rather than a ranking or rating, it's more of a hand-picked selection of emerging brand-led organisations, all of whom are 10 years old or under.

200 brands were nominated by a group of 'key influencers', chosen by Interbrand people, and their partners in this exercise from Facebook, NYSE and Ready Set Rocket. These were whittled down to a list of 60 featured in the report, using criteria such as Change, Growth and Buzz. All those represented could be described as 'the start-ups, upstarts, challengers, problem-solvers, innovators and category creators.'

So, to the 60. Goodness me, this made me feel old. There are brands featured that were founded in 2014. That was yesterday, wasn't it? Of the 60, I'd heard of a handful, maybe 6 or so.

But I was pleased to see there was one brand I've blogged about. And another that I use every day - DuckDuck Go.

It will be fascinating to see how these breakthrough brands fare. Because I know that being on one of those 'faces to watch' lists can kick-start your career to even greater things.

Or it can be the kiss of death.

Friday, 15 July 2016

'Time present and time past ...

... are both perhaps present in time future'
                               T.S.Eliot, Burnt Norton

I have noticed two examples of brands that have made news this week by combining past and present to (maybe) create the future.

I'll start with the one not absolutely everyone has heard of, which is Polaroid Swing. I've often wondered how the Polaroid brand lives on, while the Kodak brand seems to have died, or at least retired and disappeared from view. This is one reason: a nifty little app that combines the heritage of Polaroid (for the name inspiration, see the groovy ad above) with bang up-to-date technology. In this case, moving photos. These are kind of like gifs, put different. 60 frames are captured in 1 second and the picture comes to life when you tap it or get swinging your iPhone. The world of Harry Potter has nothing on this!

The people from Polaroid and their collaborators at Swing have high hopes - could this be the visual version of Twitter? The insight is that we perceive the world as a series of (very short) moments. I'm not 100% convinced, but let's see.

The other new launch needs no introduction - Pokemon Go . You can't avoid having heard about it unless you're living under a stone (although that, too, is unlikely as you're probably sharing your under-a-stone space with a funny little yellow creature.) As well as combining old (well, 90s) with new to appeal to at least a couple of generations, much has been made of the combination of real and virtual worlds. Here is one of the better articles about the success factors.

So there you have it - for a successful brand extension, maybe we have to think like a bride and combine the old, the new, the borrowed (preferably via collaboration) and the blue - or yellow.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The brand who saved the world?

Funny how fashions in marketing often go full circle.

Take 'Purpose'. For most of this decade so far, Purpose has been the marketing buzzword. I think a lot of it started with the popularity of Simon Sinek's 2009 book and talks - Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to take Action. Purpose has even found its way to be included as the 5th, or 6th, or 101st 'P' of marketing.

And just last week, I received a trend report from Trendwatching, entitled 'Big Brand Redemption', all about how Big Brands can be the solution (not the problem) when it comes to a sustainable, ethical, brighter future for us all, citing examples such as Unilever's Lifebuoy.

But, but, but. To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, or whatever. For every brand with high falutin' ideas about saving the world, there's another who wants to come down to earth. One of the biggest brand repositioning stories in the last year is from Coke with the move from 'Open Happiness' to the more functional 'Taste the Feeling'. To quote Marco de Quinto, the Coke CMO: We are a simple pleasure, a product that refreshes. Not one that's going to save the world. If by refreshing, you save the world, fine. We are going back to this truth.

And then, in Millward Brown's BrandZ: Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, this view is reflected:

pg 27: Brands may not need a purpose as high as saving humanity

Intro pg 5: Brands seem to be shifting from higher purpose (making the world better) to narrower purpose (making the customer's life better)


Brands do not need a higher purpose ... they need to be seen as improving the life of the consumer in some way

Hang on - isn't that what we used to call a benefit?