I was having a debate with somebody on insights and what do we really really look for as planners when we are looking into audiences. It occurred to me and much to my own shame that one of my dirty tricks for coming up with decent insights is to look for the insecurities in the audience I am planning for. For example I am working on a youth brand and I ended up looking for teen insecurities such as their lack of confidence to really be independent from their parents and the fact that their cocky attitude is nothing but a front for their lack of confidence and in that I found a role for this brand to challenge and support them in their quest for true independence from their parents and implicitly encouraging them to turn against their parents all knowing control. Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on my self I mean any candy brand or even the purest of the pure dove is actually playing on people's insecurities.
So, I haven't blogged in a long long while. I doubt that anyone still reads this (apart from me) although the numbers tell a different story. Anyway one of the reasons I started blogging apart from fame seeking and the suspect satisfaction I get when somebody actually disagrees with me is that I surprisingly do want to keep some sort of a record of random doodles in my head. Here is one about pursuasion. Looking into various theories about communication I found that in a world where we are hyperconnected and people find out stuff from their mates first instead of a t.v. ad we still seem to be basing the entire modern marketing industry on ancient models of communication. Take AIDA a model based on attention, interest, desire and action that influence how advertising is concieved and evaluated with various metrics such as awarness, recall, consideration are somehow justified by things like AIDA. I find the whole thing a bit suspect. AIDA was developed by E St. Elmo Lewis in guess when???....1898. And it was a model based on personal selling not mass communication. Since the 70's we've been slaves to Millward Browns awarness index and other metrics that are supposedly what we are trying to achieve with marketing and advertising. Take desire (the D in AIDA) is about filling a brand or a product with emotional meaning and appeal. All the usual lovely ad stuff. However, I was wondering since I was contemplating how old these things are why not go really old. Aristotle seems to have had a better version that I like. Aristotle's model of persuasion was about three simple things you need to have in order to pursuade. Ethos, Pathos & Logos. Ethos is based on the reputation and the credibility of the speaker. Pathos is based on appealing to the emotions of the audience via appealing to their values, speaking to their goals and challenging or re-inforcing their beliefs. Logos is about having evidence and reason to back up the case you are making. Now if Aristotle was alive today he may very well agree that brands convey Pathos through advertising and Logos through product and experience. However, when it comes to the question of Ethos he will probably go 'mmmm'.
Richard's post on brainstorms is essential reading. http://www.adliterate.com/archives/2007/05/death_to_the_br.html#more The big points for me in what he is saying and comparing with my humble experience are: 1. The selection process of the ideas is based on some form of post it note democracy and you can't get original ideas based on the least common denominator of the feasible and feeble. I was in a meeting with Steve Henry once and he said 'I don't know how on earth we are going to do it but that is what we should do' now how can you let something like that happen in a room full of people and a big white elephant called: somebody is going to make this happen and it better not be me. 2. There is only one real 'problem owner' in the room and frankly no one ever really thinks about something unless its their personal problem. If you run anything to do with solving problems or coming up with ideas it should be done with the one or two people who's mortgage depends on it. 3. Original ideas are hardly born like that APG logo with a big flash bulb I always had trouble with that, they are more like a candle in the wind you have to cup your palms around it in order to make sure it stays alive, you only need a maximum of four hands for that. 4. The coupling of creatives with planners and in digital techies too is not just a nice idea it is critical.
I went to the book launch of Lord Jeffery Archer's new book, the Gospel According to Judas. It was a bit unlike most book launches I've been to, this crowed were well into their theology and the finer points / philosophical and theological in the book where hotly debated. The book was co-written with Franncis Maloney a theologian and a leading Catholic scholar. I was fascinated by why Archer wrote this book and his reply was that since he was very young he was fascinated by the bit in-between black and white - he should know a thing or two about that. Maloney on the other hand wanted a rigorous and fact based account of Judas instead of the sort of stuff that Dan Brown and Dawkins come up with. I found the whole thing really interesting, here you have a disgraced peer trying to rehabilitate Judas (perhaps himself too in the process - a bit like Carvaggio with the self-portrait of himself as Goliath in the David and Goliath). And on the other hand you have a Catholic scholar who wants the Catholic church's version to be heard by a mass audience (via Archer). What an odd couple. Religion and author motivations aside as I am reading the book right now I am finding myself sympathising and identifying with Judas instead of falling in love with Jesus. It is a very difficult balance to strike as a writer if your reader ends up identifying with the wrong character or failing to be inspired by one. But I do like that a gospel which should be about the good news ends up a version of Christian reality where the relationship between humanity and Christ is less than black and white for a change.
I am in NYC at the moment doing some groups. You can't be in NYC during Super Bowl and not fall over the talk about the bigger than movie budget ads they show here. However it is interesting that 'several' of the ads in this advertising block buster prime time, show time and for the first time ever featured ads that were either inspired by consumer generated media or done by consumers. Here's a short report. Interestingly a comment from Tim Calking a Kellog University marketing professor about this year's vintage was: 'This year's ads were a mixed bag with everyone playing it safe, no one was pushing the boundaries of creativity nor taste'. Funny that, if he is right, CGM then becomes one of those things that advertising people do for themselves not their audiences to show how 'in touch they are' - personally I didn't think much of the ads but then again, I am not American.
68% of all t.v. aired in the world is reality t.v. Two thirds of 18-25 year old Americans said they would go on a reality t.v. show. One third also said that 'anyone who would go on a reality t.v. show isn't normal'. Young people typically watch 4-5 reality shows a week. These random stats got me thinking the following: 1. Everybody is a Celebrity. Most young people are getting used to the idea of being on a screen of some form, traditional t.v., youTube etc. This may be creating a long tail of celebrities (v products) who would have a fair chance of getting on a screen of some form. This can create new niches of celebrities e.g. Lonelygirl15, Peter the 70 year old from Norlfolk on YouTube, George Gallway -:) But the question is: does this erode the idea of celebrity in the classical sense? i.e. somebody famous for something extraordinary: George Best in football for example. 2. Celebrity is not the same as Legendary. Celebrity is becoming such a commodity, people no longer dream about their 15 minutes of fame but demand it - or blog like hell to get it. The next level of aspiration has to be more than just being famous for being famous it has to have some level of authenticity, grounding and yep talent. Perhaps the next level of fame is that of Legend. Legends are truly iconic, immortal and impossible to miss. Now how many YouTuber's can you name that can sit comfortably next to Churchill, Steve Jobs, Dyson, Tim Berners Lee, Pele, John Grant? Perhaps the new legends will be those that truly change the landscape left behind them and the concept of traditional legend itself will shift with the time, I just hope that tomorrow's legends won't just be those who got the most visitors to their MySpace simply by doing nothing except sitting there all day tagging each other. 3. Lo Dumb Down Culture. Given that nearly 70% of global t.v. programming is reality based is mind numbing. If you wanted anything of cultural, intelligent, artistic or craft based products you probably have to look elsewhere like Banksy's Santa's Grotto on Oxford Street. Grant once mentioned in one of his books that we've become the society of the spectacle. Today we want the sizzle not the steak we want the sensationalism of seeing sex on big brother we want the lowest, basest of human common denominators yep we love trash but perhaps the masses love trash and whoever has the job of giving them or inspiring them with the more deeper, higher, more meaningful and slightly more demanding forms of culture and art simply don't give a toss. This stuff doesn't sell t.v. ratings and doesn't guarantee eyeballs to sell to soap advertisers who crave coverage. Therefore you end up with 70% of t.v. being reality based. The sad thing is this is not new. Theodore Adorno as far back as the 50's lamented the mass produced, dumbed down culture as a threat to higher forms of artistic or entertainment products. Adorno observed that the culture industries for which t.v. and radio at the time were the main organs cultivated false needs driven by capitalist agendas (ratings, revenue etc) while true needs they stipulated were creativity, freedom and happiness. But maybe this won't go on for ever. In the Economist's new year edition an article on post modern marketing highlighted how accessibility of niche products (long tail stuff) and consumerism are allowing people to become 'artists of their own life' people who are capable of building their life, with individuality and sense of self-expression by tapping into what technology and variety provide. However, the question that still bugs me is: where will people get their inspiration from? Sure as hell it ain't going to come from watching big brother. Mainstream inspiration will still play a huge part of how people find out about things to make their life more individual (like everyone else's) ... but somewhere, sometime, some people may just make the effort to side track the whole mainstream dumb down drivel and start discovering, exploring on their own what is genuinely interesting and meaningful to them. Perhaps the biggest tool that they may use to do so is the Internet but I hasten to add there is nothing like actually living in an offline world with genuine face to face interactions with people you've never met and being in places you've never been intellectually, emotionally and physically. Discovering it for your self is by far more rewarding. Arthur Scheopenhauer once said: 'Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one else can see'. Perhaps it is too optimistic to expect modern day culture industries to show us the genius stuff that we have to find out for ourselves.
Brands spend extraordinary amounts of money advertising themselves. Imagine if instead of plugging all this money into 'communications' they instead created, cultural products, entertainment, services, innovations, applications of their brand idea. In other words they did stuff instead of said stuff. Brands should do more and say less.
There is a nice quote in Inspired about how a guy in a black polo neck shirt, tucked into his black chinos with a word 'imagine' stuck on his chest went around the room and asked the participants in an innovation workshop 'what's your fear?' - somebody replied - 'you'.
You can't force ideas out of a structured process real ideas hardly come out of those highly structured manufactured workshops. They come out of something else: conversation and conflict.
I am yet to meet an artist who organises brainstorms to come up with ideas and yet to find a great ad or brand idea that came out of an amazing workshop if you know of any let me know.
Previously, Branson pledged huge amounts of money to fight global warming. Today it was announced that him and Stelious and some other Asian gizza are planning to launch the world's first global lo cost airline. Isn't this a bit hypocritical?