1. Because the consumer is not an idiot but the creative is 2. Because the client is the ultimate creative director 3. Because the agency didn't have the balls to take the client somewhere they haven't been before 4. Because everybody in the room gave it a 'nod' of recognition (they have seen it before, therefore the horrible proclamation 'it is a bit like what x did for y...' 5. Because no one got scared of loosing their job by coming up with it, selling it or making it
Just read an article in Champagne about how the agency of the future will be about coming up with the big idea not the 30 second ad. Somehow having the idea of the BIG IDEA drummed into everybody's head has become a form of mass hypnosis for fad-land. What if the brand can have many small ideas? Even better, lots of small ideas that are so perfectly executed in a medium that they cannot possibly live anywhere else e.g. subservient chicken? What if it isn't about who runs the campaign or becomes the architect for it but a rather a dedicated partner who looks after the short / long term health of a brand (e.g. Nike & W&K)? What if the Campaign changes it's name from campaign to Brand Territory? I think our obsession with creating campaigns that may have a big executional idea in it is all well and good but what we seem less obsessed about is the brand territory long term? There is a difference between brand positioning / territory and the expression of that in a form of communication idea. What if brand consultancies start telling fad land what the positioning should be because fad land has been obsessed about creating ads instead of genuinely caring about the brand positioning (they don't make money from that you see) e.g. BBH & Wolf Olins and the case of Sony Ericsson. What if the agency of the future didn't make its money out of creating 'executions'ads / sites etc. but made its money for nurturing, developing brand territories not big campaign ideas over time? I think that this will never really happen because brand owners (marketing directors etc) have an average tenure of 18 months. They don't necessarily care that much about long term brand territories perhaps they just want to make a couple of famous campaigns perhaps in the 18 months then move on. Then another marketing director comes in and wants to stamp his or her mark and there you go the search for another BIG IDEA begins...
I saw this post card in Foyle's over the weekend. Somehow it triggered a thought of disappointment that is probably directly correlated to a sense of loss of fantasy. I felt depressed, where has the beauty gone, where have the dreams gone, where is the zealous aspiration for creating something that is attractive, what is wrong with a bit of aspiration and glamour into let's face it a life that often resembels a wet bank holiday. Got me thinking of fashion advertising and how it is a million miles away from such a post card. Sometimes a bit of fantasy wouldn't hurt.
Another supper club accuasation. A judge (as in courts etc) entered into a heated discussion with me on how advertising works. In his 'judgment' advertising trades on people's insecurities. Promising to fill emotional voids just as an obese person eats to fill an emotional hole. OK so here I am trying to be Marketing 2.0 etc talking about how advertising fulfils a function in economics that of information & inspiration I gave the example of the 'Delete' (http://www.steinbrener-dempf.com/) campaign done by a couple of Belgian artists where they installed blank yellow sheets over the signs of stores in a Brussels high street as protest over the influence of advertising and contamination of their beautiful buildings. Two days later somebody graffitied the yellow sheets with the following statement: 'but I need consumer information'. I think people confuse advertising with consumerism or at least quick to judge it as it is the most visible bit of the consumerist / capitalist system. He took my point but still insisted that it trades on peoples emotions to which I replied yes it does however in the absence of Religion, National Identity, Beliefs, Strong stable systems of allegiance such as a political party for example people use brands that evoke a sense of belonging and identity in fact the better ones always do e.g. Apple's rebel computing for creative people simply pulls a culture that identifies with such an ethos way beyond the manufactured images that aim to attract people with lines such as '...because you are worth it'. I also pointed out that just like everything in life there will be good and bad examples of everything you can't blame anti-ageing cream ads for all the brilliant work done by companies like Apple, IKEA etc. He admitted that that he likes Apple and actually listens to Shubert on his iPOD at wich point I said well the day you are prepared not to buy brands is the day you can judge advertising sir. I was saved by the arrival of the pudding ...
Planners are the sorts of people who are prepared to go where no one else wants to, does or dares. For example one quick way to find out what intimacy means to people go surfing for porn. Given that 96% of men online surf for porn and 63% of women do too, it would be silly not to find out what our audiences are into -:) 'Dogging'. Is a relatively new phenomenon where swingers engage in sex with perfect strangers in secluded car parks. Naturally this is not what everybody does but it highlights that somehow wired to our mentality the sense of 'illicit pleasure'. Nothing new here but dogging is just one expression of such a principal. Glue successfully exploited the idea of 'dogging' for Pot Noodle a couple of years ago in the Pot Noodle web: a series of spoof porn sites promising guilty pleasures with clips of people engaging in dogging-like back-of-the-seat Pot Noodle snacking in secluded car parks. 'Reality Porn'. Nobody is going to believe me when I say this but long before the advent of reality t.v. reality porn was pushing the boundaries of voyeurism online. Just as bands get rated, reviewed and promoted and discovered online in My Space, amateur porn sites have done all of that ahead of everyone exploding people's fascination with the 'girl next door' fantasy. What I found fantastically curious is outside of the 'produced' porn sites the amateur sites had abundant number of women who are perfectly attractive and quite happy to engage their insecurities by displaying all and actively soliciting votes in order to post more pictures. No different from big brother really but with full on sex. OK so what might be the next 'public' thing we see that comes out of what is happening in porn online: Public Pornographic Performance. I came across porn sites dedicated to frat parties in colleges in the states where young men and women compete to show how good they are at sex for an audience of fellow students. It seems that the idea of 'achievement' and public displays of such achievement is transforming the dirty act of porn into an opportunity to show off just one more of the things you may be able to do (puts vodka chess into perspective). Strip Dancing classes in various gyms in London are a mild version of turning sex into sport where skill, technique and audience support has transformed a traditionally private act into a public display of sexual prowess. Now I wonder which brands might play in this area? Well guess what... beer brands in the states are head over heals trying to sponsor such college parties and spring break trips. Internet Gratification. In a recent survey by One Plus One it was found that 72% of users of pornographic chat rooms online were married or had a long term partner. Another survey by Yahoo showed that 26% of women respondents had sex with someone they met on the internet. Now no one is saying the answer for sexual marital problems is to go online but it taps into a bigger thought of an 'alternative life' where we are able to escape mundane realities for exciting online fantasies (the girlfriend without the five year plan as a Coke Zero ad says). Now who does sexual fantasy-like holidays for jaded couples that are not cheesey Hedonism II? Or if you are not prude which clubs open up opportunities for gratification that are out of this world? Or if you are into gaming what else can you hide or functionality can you add to live multi-player games? Group Sex Anyone? Belonging is naturally a big thing for humans, and nothing gets to show a sense of belonging than group sex. With divorce rates at 2 in 3 in the UK the idea of monogamy somehow feels nostalgic. 76% of men want it and astonishingly 57% of women endorse the idea of group sex. As unimaginative a line as you can get but Lynx's SPRAY MORE GET MORE ads are nothing but a reflection of something that is on a substantial number of men and women's minds. It's just one of those things that you can't talk about it but what else can you do? Porn Tech. If anything pornographers actually are quite good innovators of online technologies. If I am not mistaken the notorious pop-up ad was first spotted on porn sites before any advertisers knew how to use them, phone dialers were a pre-cursor to instant chat and SKYPE, 'the play with me' game that DARE did for Lynx was actually an already existing game that some pornographer did, virtual reality sex tools sensors and gloves were shown at porn exhibitions in the states already, hot linking, peer to peer sites, video sites innovations such as GUBA are just full of porn. OK ok I am going to stop talking about porn now this is sooo rude.
Lots of things are said about what planners are, should do and be. Walking up the street it struck me that the difference between planners and everyone else in the agency in the way they apply a core part of their discipline, namely insight. It is about being absolutely fearless. Here is what I mean: Planners are champions of the TRUTH not just the consumers. - in a client meeting where everyone is scared of the client and the account girl playing more the role of a P.A. than a business manager (instead of an account manager) the planner is the one who should have the intellectual courage to stand up to the client, debate the belief in the idea and the evidence for it, something that no one else in the room does or can do. - planners should take inspiration from journalists who go out to war zones genuinely seeking to report the truth of what's going on (unless you are CBS reporter) I often felt jealous and ashamed when comparing how far I go as a planner to get underneath a compelling insight or truth in comparison to journalists. - planners should take inspiration from Star Trek, I recently replied to a question in a supper club about what I do for a living with the answer 'I boldly go where no one in my business dares to go'. And as Bill Bernbach once said: "The future belongs to the brave"
Davis wrote in his blog once the seven things he learnt while at W+K one of them was this: 'Ideas that influence culture sell more'. For example: 'Chuck your Chintz' IKEA, 'Think Different' Apple etc. This is a fantastic principal but somehow felt like it's not quite right. Maybe I don't like the word influence so here is my take on the same principal: 'Ideas that are carried forward by culture live more'. A recent example: Snakes on a Plane. Snakes on a Plane is a new film starring Samuel L. Jackson and as the title suggests it is about Snakes on a Plane. Here is what the film makers did in order to make this an idea carried forward by culture: - They asked film buffs online what to call it and the reply was Snakes on a Plane - The movie wasn't shown to media in advance a typical thing in film marketing (they had to see it at the premier like everyone else) - However they only released 'audio trailers' of Samuel L. Jackson saying 'there are snakes on the motherfuckn' plane' - It is arguably the first Wikipedia-ised movie created by the users themselves. - Producers scanned fan sites for what should go in it and agreed to such gems as Samuel L. Jackson to say: 'I've had it with these motherfucking' snakes'on this motherfuckin' plane'doubtlessly going to go down in Hollywood as one of the finest lines ever written -:) And another one where the captain predicts the fate of a plane with snakes on: 'Go down quicker'n a Thai hooker'. - There is of-course endless blogs, spoofs, sites, films, virals etc that were created by fans around similar or same idea for example: - Snacks on a Plan - lamenting the decline of airline food - Steaks on a Train - about a steak on a Parisian train - Blanks on a Blank - a film making competition around the same theme The film topped the US box office in its openning weekend there is no doubt in my mind that allowing culture to carry the idea forward allows it sell more and live more an aspiration for all brands not just cool entertainment brands.
A thought on good and bad agencies. Bad agencies tend to think their mission in life is to be big and rake in the cash fleecing the clients and the consumers they are talking to in the process. They will do whatever they can in order to do so. They tend to behave in a laddish manner where it is all about how big their revenue, profit etc. Good agencies love the work.
It occurred to me that the difference between bad marketers and good ones is that the first genuinely think that it is a scientific prodecess whereby if they tick enough of the right boxes add the right chemicals apply the right formula you will have an explosive effect on consumers. This is rubbish because the good marketers that I've worked with tend not to repeat the 'formula' that was pre-developed by common marketing sense but genuinely fight such temptation and force themselves to discover what's missing from the culture and allow good accidents to happen. In fact those that take the bigger risks by going 'out there' intellectually and creatively are the ones that come up with ideas that seem well, less formulaic.
There is nothing wrong with loving your job and injecting a sense of pride in what you do. I mean you have to. To justify your choice of career and why you are advertising a cigarette brand for example. Recently I noticed a strange phenomenon. Some of the best people I worked with and know in advertising with a history of making revolutionary ads had one thing in common, they actually hate advertising. Or at least hate to make ads that look like ads. Some even actively try not to make ads anymore because they feel that they are making the equivalent of a fizzy can of Coke instead of a LAB cocktail. If I was to segment the people who work in ad land I would say the majority want to make ads and nothing else that, sadly this is the height of their ambition while there is a small niche minority who are in advertising because they are interested in communicating with and influencing culture with ideas. The ones who think they are in advertising will never learn that this is exactly what they will ever do for the foreseeable future - just that - advertising. While those who are in the business of communicating to people and influencing culture the method is genuinely as important as the idea and hence gets equal amounts of innovation. The thing that annoys the hell out of me these days are ad lads pretending to be doing all sorts of ideas (e.g. digital) when they don't mean it want to or believe that they can. If advertising is what you are good at then why don't you just become the best at that don't bloody pretend you can do something else when you don't actually give a toss.
A new John Grant book. Ahead of its time? John's latest book is useless. Useless if you work in a big ad agency the size of the Titanic, turn corners as fast as a tortoise and still think your job is to take briefs from clients. This book is ahead of most people in the ad industry. The implications of the forward thinking in the first half of the book on shifts in the way we should think about brands and culture is not for every body. If anything the book leaves you thinking how backward ad land is. But then again this is John Grant who co-founded an innovative and ahead-of-its-time agency - St. Lukes - at the age of 28. While needless to say brands need to innovate everything about them from their product to their vision, to the process and management there are big barriers. Sadly, as John says in the final paragraph: 'The very notion of a "creative department" suggests that the other 95% of people working in marketing are not supposed to be creative!'. This book is compelling reading and should inspire you to get over real life constraints. The biggest challenge is as it has always been that you are not making ads your are evolving and developing ideas. John has an interesting thought about this. 'Brands as clusters of strategic cultural ideas' is the central thought of the book. John having the brain that he does (about the size of Jupiter) takes on the concept of brand communication as a structured approach (onions, pyramids ads and matching luggage below the line executions) and turns that into an 'Anti-Structure' - he proposes the brand molecule as such a structure. It is a fundamental shift almost backwards into how innovative ideas are really developed through being opportunistic and entrepreneurial in your approach and not confined to rigid structures for thinking and planning. He then extends the chemical analogy into a periodic table detailing typologies of pretty much all the brand ideas from different categories around. This is one of the great things about this book, I've already used it in a brainstorm to stimulate a client out of the conventions of his category by trying ideas from other categories. And it works. The best thing about John's book is that it takes you out of the 'we have a brief for a 30 second ad now what's the idea?' mode and forces you to think on a much bigger picture how your brand influences culture through its ideas and innovation not through trite communications. You can apply the thinking not just read it which makes this not a book but a valuable tool for stimulation.