A little bit of work to share. As the X Factor auditions swept the country, we were there with Ford, giving people the chance to be part of our re-record of Che Fu’s Fade Away. With a new Ford Kuga pimped out as a recording studio, here are the Passengers in all their glory…
If you’ve been in the ad business for a while, you’ll no doubt be confident that you know what makes clients tick. Unfortunately, as much as we all believe we’ve got an innate sense of what clients are looking for from their agency, time and again we demonstrate the opposite. Not in big, grand demonstrations of ignorance, but with small, seemingly insignificant examples that all add up to a sense that we don’t quite get it.
Well, here’s the antidote to that disease. Ben Rose, a senior marketer at ASB, was kind enough to give our team at JWT his personal view (not that of his current employer) of what clients look for from their agency counterparts, particularly account service folk. It’s a great reminder of the behaviour that’s likely to add value to the client-agency relationship and what will detract from that goal.
If you’re a suit, read this deck every Monday morning, and have a more successful week as a consequence.
Thanks to Ben for taking the time to share this with us.
Countless articles pronounce the end of advertising, the death of marketing, and a gloomy outlook for all involved. From the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, or pretty much every marketing and advertising conference, the headlines shout that we’re in serious trouble. There’s only one problem. It’s all bullshit.
Whilst it’s an easy win to announce the end of advertising as we know it, the underlying point is that we’re simply at a very tangible turning point, and advertising today and in the future will look very different to all that has come before. But as with Romney’s recent attacks on Obama’s governance of the armed forces, I’m inclined to believe that any calls for calamity based on the travails of individual media or channels are somewhat over-stated. We’ve been here before, and as before, some of us will evolve and adapt, and others will choose to bow out. No big deal.
Looking back on the archives, there was a time when JWT was one of the biggest producers of radio shows in the U.S. Not radio ads, but the writing, producing, casting, and broadcast of the shows themselves. I imagine it wasn’t a happy day when someone walked in to the office and told the team that from now on they had 60 (or 30) seconds in between shows to communicate their brand message. Suddenly, long content was out of fashion. Skillsets changed. Writers would be rewarded for being pithy, not for gently unfurled drama. I imagine some people holstered their pens and walked into the sunset, confident that their trade was dead. Others, evolved, embraced the new opportunities and survived.
Advertising is persuasion, behaviour change, and influence. It’s a group of people dedicated to identifying strategies and tactics likely to achieve objectives. It’s understanding people. It’s working out what will overcome indifference to brands, products and messages. It’s not dead. It’s brilliantly alive, increasingly challenging, and all the more enjoyable for it.
It’s just not easy any more. Which is perhaps why people feel more comfortable announcing its demise. The opportunity lies for those who roll their sleeves up while the pessimists walk away.
This post originally appeared as an article in July’s NZ Marketing Magazine, on sale now.
Do you do digital strategy?
It’s a question that’s frequently asked of full-service agencies with some suspicion. It’s also, to my mind, a slightly odd question, but one that I have to confess to giving time to. So much so that I was extremely excited to go on a course with Hyper Island (with a degree of hyperbole they’ve been called the ‘digital Harvard’) a year or two back.
I waited with anticipation for the digital strategy section of the course, only to presented with a digital agency’s creative brief template that, apart from a few semantic differences, looked exactly like every other creative brief in the world. It was a Wizard of Oz moment. I pushed further and in return was given a lesson in the fundamentals of communications strategy development. The course leader wasn’t trying to be patronising. He just had no reference points from the non-digital world and therefore didn’t understand what ‘traditional’ strategy looked like either. And there’s the rub. There’s no difference.
Here’s what I think has happened over the last 20 years.
‘Digital’ agencies have developed in one of two ways; either as breakaways from advertising agencies by individuals who then spent the first decade or so throwing out anything they learnt from their prior lives for fear of not appearing digital enough. Alternatively, digital ‘natives’ established agencies without reference or learning from the traditional world. As a result, the digital side spent many years ensuring that they looked nothing like their full-service counterparts. It’s taken a long time for the two sides to engage deeply enough with one another to realise that in fact they’re not as different as they think.
Now there are many ways that a digitally-savvy agency will look different from those agencies still stuck in the old world. But these differences are at the process, conceptual, executional level. Strategically, don’t get sucked in to thinking there’s a whole new discipline out there. Good strategy is good strategy. The principles that JWT’s Stephen King developed with The Planning Cycle back in 1977 seem as relevant as ever. With five simple questions (Where are we? Why are we there? Where could we be? How could we get there? Are we getting there?) he provided a brilliantly simple structure for the strategic process. Find a good partner who can help you navigate this strategic journey and you’ll be in great shape. Because of course it’s not nearly as simple to answer these questions as it is to ask them.
The key to great communications strategy lies in understanding human behaviour. Get that right, at all levels of the Planning Cycle, and you’ve improved your odds of influencing that behaviour in your favour. How people currently engage with your brand in the digital world, why they do so, what sort of other behaviours they exhibit that are relevant to your brand or category, how we might influence changes in this behaviour – these are all good questions. But they are only part of a broader strategic understanding of the relationship between brands and consumers and between consumers and their worlds. Carving out digital as a standalone discipline just doesn’t make sense in this context.
Thinking of digital strategy as distinct from the rest of your communications strategy is self-defeating. It’s an artifice born out of the structure of agencies, not the real world. Look for great strategists, not those attached to any particular channel. For whilst the variety of inputs and possible outputs may have increased exponentially since Stephen King ruled the planning roost, the principles of good strategic thinking remain comforting in their consistency.
I was looking through some old work recently when I came across this campaign, developed for Vodafone UK back in 1996. It’s interesting on a number of levels. Firstly, it’s a nice early example of an ‘interactive’ campaign – we got a bunch of interesting people to create work that expressed something of themselves, then invited the reader to react, get in touch, and leave the author a message on their pager. That’s right. Pagers – deemed to be next big thing.
At the time, you see, whilst SMS existed on phones there were a number of reasons that Vodafone invested heavily in a youth pager system. Firstly, mobile phones weren’t accessible for your average ‘youth’. They were all on contract, cost the earth, and made you look like a tosser. Secondly, it had been decided that there was little consumer demand for texting – it was great for engineers attending to the network in remote places, but of little value to the consumer. Furthermore, I remember the client brief telling us that there was a significant proportion of the young population that wanted to be able to receive a message, but had no desire to send one back (looking back, I’m guessing that was the sub-set of drug dealers who were bright and didn’t want to be tracked down).
So we developed a large-scale campaign for VodaZap! pagers. Getting people to engage with a press ad was a fairly novel approach back then, and the campaign was pretty edgy by Vodafone’s standards. The downside, as this article from the Guardian recently noted, was that we were also working on the launch of the first Pre-Pay phones at the same time. Shortly after the VodaZap! campaign launched, so too did Pre-Pay, and with it, the discovery by many that text messaging was just like paging, but without the need to call someone to type the message in for you, and with the bonus (for most people) of being able to message back, all for a fraction of the price of a pager message.
Here’s some of the ads from that campaign, directed with love and care by Jason Gormley.
I have to concede that when Pluk launched in New Zealand I was deeply sceptical. Nothing i’ve seen so far changes that position. Pluk asks that you download an App, sit in front of the TV and turn the App on, in the hope that you’ll get excited by some interaction between the TV and Pluk resulting in…a coupon, or more information on a product. In turn, Pluk wants advertisers to go to the extra effort of including Pluk in their ads, for the hope of a handful of ‘engaged’ consumers.
For novelty value, maybe. For sustained behaviour change, I doubt it. Not least because the people most likely to engage are those who we’re constantly told have already abandoned scheduled television. Break down the numbers in New Zealand and I suspect response rates can only be in the dozens.
I’m just not sure the technology is quite ready (or that Pluk will be able to sustain itself long enough to be around when it is). The notion of sitting down, opening an App before the ads come on (because by the time you see a Pluk prompt on air it will be way too late), and getting excited by a coupon seems right now to be too big an ask. So the scale that is required to make advertisers take it seriously, and offer incentives to engage that will make consumers take it seriously is just not there.
BUT, the notion of second screen interactions is a good one. With a bit of luck, Pluk will make it through. Click here for a great report from JWT Intelligence on how the Second Screen is being used around the world, and what we can expect in the near future.
Getting upset over awards shows is pretty futile – they are, after all, simply an aggregate of subjective views in an industry without absolutes. Nor, despite the pressure to do so, do i feel compelled to care too much about them (except when I win one).
That said, I’ll state categorically that Clem’s Ghost Chips was robbed at Axis this year. Echoing the sentiment that has cropped up swiftly on the blogs, here’s a piece of work that signified a huge shift in the category, broke all the formulas of drink-drive ads, and spawned multiple memes, brand extensions (if the LTSA can have such things), and basically blew all that had preceded it out of the water in 2011.
It was also utterly New Zealand in form – idiosyncratic, probably impenetrable to other markets, and all the more culturally relevant for it. At Axis it got a Silver and a bunch of Bronzes. That staggers me. Here was a piece of TV work that genuinely deserved to rise above the multi-media, facebook/twitter/blog awards entries and show just how powerful TV can still be. But it didn’t get there. Why not?
I’ll have a stab at answering that. Several years ago Axis was under attack – accusations of cronyism, judges favouring one another’s work, ganging up on the unpopular kids, and general tactical voting brought the smallness of New Zealand advertising under the microscope. Some agencies publicly withdrew from the show, choosing to focus on international awards instead. So the system was changed, international judges brought in, and this was deemed the right approach to level the playing field. Unfortunately, the result of this seems to be that local nuances are missed by a jury-by-email, and awards gravitate towards ideas that travel well, which like beer, doesn’t necessarily make them the best, just the ones that appeal to multiple palates.
So how then did Ghost Chips come away with a yellow D&AD pencil? Who knows. The fact that the judging is done in person, as the result of debate? The fact that the panel is more anglo in nature therefore more inclined to ‘get’ it? Probably a bit of both. That’s less the point. What I think we missed at Axis was the opportunity to celebrate a great piece of New Zealand creativity (I should point out here that i have no issue with what else was awarded, just that this piece should have scored much, much higher than it did).
But here’s the ultimate irony – if i’m not mistaken, it was Clems withdrawing from Axis a few years ago that led to the re-working of the awards, the introduction of the international judges, and the neutering of local influence in the final winners list. So in calling for that change, they inadvertently created the conditions for their own disappointment.
No system is perfect so perhaps the only way to get through awards unscathed is to know the rules and idiosyncrasies for each show, and enter work that is most likely to appeal to that particular jury. NZ has some experts in this particular game, and they seem to be successful more often than not.