Thursday, 17 June 2010

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then let the story begin...

So today marks the first promoted tweet on Twitter for Toy Story. Nice simple action, it calls up all the tweets on the topic, very interested to see how this develops and what the consequent feedback will be...

Let's go to Israel!

or not.

Don't worry this isn't going to be political! I just saw this ad on the tube yesterday and couldn’t help but think that what with everything that's kicking off in the Gulf of Mexico i.e. the 9/11 of the natural world this probably shouldn't have been put live.

Obviously with copy and print deadlines it's tough to make changes late in the day but when your country is getting pretty crappy coverage anyway in the Western media, to then associate yourself with the biggest natural catastrophe of this millennium, isn't ideal.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Beauty in numbers

I was reminded today of a site that I really like, it’s called Information is Beautiful and the I like it for many reasons but predominantly for its simplicity. How brilliant to take what is often a whole load of complicated data and turn into something so accessible. And it’s not necessarily about having loads of data but instead taking a concept and using a relevant analogy to explain it in its simplest form.

With the rapidly changing digital landscape there are often times when we need to explain concepts to clients in their simplest form. We are already developing various dashboards for our clients that help to simplify the huge amount of data we collect from campaigns to make them easily digestible. They're also easily shareable, which is important for clients to present to their seniors who perhaps don’t have time to sit down and trawl through reams of data.

I think it would make a big difference if we applied more simplicity and creativity to our outward facing work. Admittedly a lot of the back end work requires spreadsheets and charts but when it comes to presenting to those that matter why should they have to endure these charts too?

Yes a lot of the time we don’t have the time to produce charts that are made in anything but excel and PowerPoint but if cretivity was the norm and there were templates set up for producing this work then time wouldn’t be a problem.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a client and your product is fairly low interest and DR focussed (financial services, health care etc). Your main focus for any results meeting is to be shown what’s working, what isn’t working, what’s being fixed and what’s in store for the future?
Perfectly reasonable requests, the answers to which would require a lot of numbers and cross referencing graphs and overly populated scales that are difficult to read etc.

Using IIB as an inspiration, how could we look to change this? You might have to start with something that’s recognisable on the first look but upon closer inspection proves to be much more in-depth and detailed such as this Digital Distraction Chart:

Chart found here

And then at a more advanced level you could have an interactive chart that clients could take away and explore in their own time such as this:

Chart found here

To be honest we’re nearly there with some of our dashboards and clients love nothing more than being able to see exactly how their results stack up against their competitors, especially if these results were huge towering trees overshadowing little saplings or piles of notes stacked next to a small stack of coins.

Generally I think clients are fairly content with the way results are delivered but I also think this is because they know no alternative.

This can change, as the bottom line is: Data doesn’t need to be dull, accurate yes, dull no.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Guiding Lights...

What with all the election business that’s been going on I got thinking about the essence of leadership and the principles upon which it is (should be) founded. I then thought about what can have an effect on these principles and how they are perceived by different people depending on their needs and interests and how huge decisions can sometimes be made on small amounts of information.

This thought led me on to thinking about behavioural economics in general and how brands act, and how we, as consumers, react to them.

Ultimately the three main factors that dictate behaviour are PERSONAL, SOCIAL and ENVIRONMENTAL.

From these pillars we can derive some more detailed principles that affect the way we react to and engage with brands which should stand true even in the face of technological advancement.

Before we talk about these principles it’s important to remember that for many brands the AIDA Model (attention, interest desire, action) is being increasingly questioned and a ‘Value–Action’ gap exists where people hold values that are inconsistent with their behaviour.
This theory is known as cognitive dissonance (e.g. Smokers know smoking is bad for them but seek to justify their cognitive dissonance - “I know a bloke who smoked 50 a day and lived to be 100”).

Below I’ve discussed nine principles based on theory from the myriad books on the subject (Nudge, Predictably Irrational, Paradox of Choice etc) and the planners meetings/debates we’ve had over here at PHD HQ.

1) Choices are influenced by how they are framed

• Quite simply if you are aware of the context of the decision you’re about to make and it will change that context positively then you will be more inclined to make the decision.
• The bottom line is that it’s virtually impossible to present a neutral choice to a human being.

2) We believe things that we can easily imagine are more likely to happen

• Despite statistics and facts that suggest otherwise, the more tangible is often overlooked for the more fantastic if we believe in it enough. This might explain why people take out “earthquake insurance” and have a greater fear of plane crashes than car crashes

3) We make decisions based on outcomes that have happened before

• This seems like the most perverse of human foibles but is probably the most common when it comes to decision making. If something has a proven record to produce the results you want then this is an understandable approach however when the chances are 50/50 making a call on previous results makes no logical sense, but probably ‘feels’ right. Might explain why gamblers go on an ‘unlucky streak’

4) We’re loss averse, and ‘over-value’ things we already have

• Having something as oppose to not, makes the object much more valuable. Emotional value far outstrips rational thought as those who have ‘something’ or the prospect of ‘something’, imagine what it will be like whilst those who don’t have it apply rational thoughts to the situation and realise it for what it is.

5) We’re naturally inert & avoid decisions - so ‘default’ options are very powerful

• This is a very influential marketing technique when used properly. Thankfully there are systems and checks in place which mean you are far more likely to be given the choice to ‘opt-in’ rather than ‘opt-out’ however in cases such as organ donation, would people actively choose to ‘opt-out’?

6) The more we repeat an action the more automatic it becomes

• Habitual behaviour is one of the most difficult aspects of behaviour to change.

• Campaigns such as drink aware and anti-smoking have to be hard hitting as they show the consequences of individuals actions. The message needs to make consumers not only realise what they’re doing isn’t healthy but that there is an alternative and a way out.

• The more hard hitting the ad the more likely they are to be talked about which then generates community spirit and camaraderie between fellow smokers/drinkers to make a change.

7) Personal empowerment is vital for behaviour change

• Knowing or at least feeling that your actions make a difference can make individuals and consequently groups take action

• Known as “Self Efficacy” - a belief I can do it, is more important than an ability to actually do something in changing behaviour, hence why things like Act on CO2 place great focus on what can be done by the individual.

8) ‘Social proof’ wields huge influence

• When food comes out at a party who dares to tuck in first? And when on a Just Giving page we look at how much others have donated and follow suit.

• The steps Facebook is taking with regards making nearly everything ‘likeable’ mean that social proof by association is becoming increasingly prevalent which will greatly change this behaviour

9) Enabling people to change their behaviour is key

• We can change attitude and intention around recycling for example but providing recycling boxes is likely to be far more powerful in changing behaviour.

• In other words – make it easy for people to behave in the way you want them to.

Clearly these are varied and numerous principles and cannot be applied to all brands and campaigns, however knowing how human behaviour works on a fundamental level will help to simplify the objectives of campaigns greatly. It’s all too easy to get bogged down in research, surveys and trending graphs and be influenced by a channel choice that perhaps doesn’t 'feel' right but can be corroborated by the 'figures'...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Have you seen this Ad? It's crap.

Was having a read of Sport on the Tube last week and the first ad I saw was this one

Nothing remarkable you say, and you'd be right but then I look over to the companion ad on the right hand side and see this

Which is a total rip-off of this

Image Courtesy

...which I think is genius (the cat ad not the Chevy ad).

I've spoken before about ripping stuff off and whilst perhaps the original doesn't have a huge reach and therefore isn't considered plagiarism by the creatives who steal the idea, if you're going to rip something off at least place it in the right context.

There’s a whole host of things wrong with this, firstly it's just a boring ad with nothing particularly memorable about it but more importantly, the idea of changing the perspective to make something funny/memorable has been totally lost. I don't need to explain it but the reason the cat poster is funny is obvious but the Chevy ad doesn't give the reader anything.

They couldn't put it on a lamppost because nobody loses their car and puts up posters for it and there's no other vehicle for the joke because you need the context of the lamppost to distort else it doesn't really make any sense, you end up just telling the reader to look for this car because it's awesome. As a consumer I'm thinking… Is it awesome? Why? Personally I think it looks like radioactive snot which is pretty low down the awesomeness scale.

I don't have a problem as such with copying ideas but only if you either improve on them or keep them exactly the same and even reference the original piece. As mentioned in my earlier post about this, Car Phone Warehouse did this really well with Kristopher Storm where they loved what he did, got him on board and paid him to do the ads. This is much better and doesn't make your brand look like a total faceless corporate automaton who will just buy themselves ideas instead of actually investing in the talent.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Brand Diversity

Image courtesy

I’ve been asked by a friend for some advice on getting sponsorship on an event they’re running. The event is the Euro Gamer Expo and has grown exponentially over the last few years, so much so it now attracts some 20,000 gamers from all over Europe and is being held at Earls Court. He was asking me whether there were any brands who were more mainstream that could be attracted to an event like this and weren’t just the obvious TV and hardware brands that regularly get invovled.

So if I put my client head on for a minute, I suppose the biggest question is, ‘What value is there for my brand if I associate with an event like this? I understand that games are a multi-billion dollar industry globally and the audience reach is expanding all the time, (with the proliferation of family based gaming platforms (wii, DS) and games such as Buzz), but will being a part of a cutting edge event for a niche audience be beneficial to my brand or will it seem out of place?’

My initial thoughts (if I was a mainstream but non-endemic brand such as Sainsbury’s for example) is that there’s no obvious connect and for those brands that are more ubiquitous with a much larger audience (such as Orange), is there enough of a draw to present the brand in front of what is a specific, tech savvy audience, who make up maybe 5% of my total audience?

With that in mind, the next question to ask is ‘Are there any big brands who have a specific offering to this audience?’

Could Virgin promote their 50Mb optical fibre broadband with the promise that there would never be loss of connection mid-game?

Dominos could offer ‘buy one get one free’ during a national online tournament when you quote a specific code which is given to you when you register.

Gamers are probably fairly big film watchers, so perhaps Lovefilm could do a tie-in promoting not only their blu-ray DVD proposal but their game rental service too?

The amount of investment required is not huge and although there is such a big focus on value and brand perception at the moment, clients are also beginning to understand the importance of testing new areas. I told him that with some of our clients we add an extra 10% to the budget in order to test new sites, formats, channels etc, which shows that clients are willing to investigate, if the proposal is presented in the right way.

The proposal my friend sent me didn’t pitch in quite the right tone for getting brands to explore and discover, it was asking for out and out sponsorship assuming that the audience understands the benefits of what a sponsorship would provide. I’ve spoken before about the importance of understanding your audience and this is another case of making a few tweaks to get the right people engaged and responsive.

If I was pitching this project I would put together a wish list of brands that I wanted and find out exactly which part of their business offering would fit. I would then do my research and find out exactly what they’re trying to achieve as a business and match it with the different elements of the sponsorship. In support of this I would make sure that I had plenty of PR/Case Study material to help substantiate my points as from a planner’s perspective there is nothing more helpful when it comes to selling in ideas to a client then showing them what their competitors are doing!

The Expo is in October, let’s wait and see who they get onboard!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Screen Test

Image Courtesy

Saw this nice bit of creative on the Diesel site.

I'm sure it's been done before in some other capacity, but I think it could very well be the future of online shopping. Imagine being able to watch a programme/film and have the ability (through your wireless enabled TV) to pause the content select an item (whether it's clothing, furniture or a even a car) and find out more information about it with a clear call to action to purchase.

Works on paper but in reality it might make from crappy viewing especially with other people in the room but it would redefine ASOS's offering!!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Lo and behold...

A prediction comes true! (well almost)

Image courtesy.

A couple of weeks back I talked about Chat Roulette and mentioned who I thought would be the first brand to get involved in a campaign predicting that Dr Pepper would do a campaign along the lines of being busted by your mum whilst having no clothes on!

And then lo and behold I read this.

It's only a matter of time...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The bigger they are...

Image courtesy

I'm very fortunate to work on some big global brands who have done (and continue to do) excellent campaigns in the media and advertising world. The one drawback however on working with big brands is that more often than not, they associate themselves with old school traditional creative agencies.

Whilst in many cases this doesn’t cause any issues as quite often the work they produce for TV/Print/Outdoor is of an excellent standard, where they fall down, is when clients ask for the production of digital assets.

I’m being general but over the last two years, time and again ‘big dog’ agencies have let themselves down when it comes to digital. Either they draft in digital agencies who know very little about the client and their business and produce un-integrated work that rarely sticks to objectives (“we recommend a microsite!” Grrrrr…..) or if it does work, we end up having to pay over the odds as the traditional agency take their cut.

Times are changing of course and I attempted to challenge this whole idea at ‘Brief’ a couple of years back, and just recently I’ve been exposed to some excellent work from purely digital shops. So much so, we’ve had increasingly awkward meetings where the Goliaths are having digital pebbles smashed at their heads and being made to look a bit stupid, and in all honesty I’m all for it!

Why shouldn’t they be challenged? In a climate where everything is about value and tracking, engagement and sales, spuffing a load of cash on non trackable ATL media with no discernable results is something that can’t be accepted. Even creating digital assets that have very little obvious value other than getting £60k signed off from the client, are also being scrapped. (microsites I will get my revenge!)

This video helps to summarise all of the above nicely…

Currently, and in my specific field, clients are now looking for one of two things:

1)A DR campaign...

that drives as many potential customers through to their site in the hope that they convert into sales. This only works for some clients though and has unfortunately been employed by brands that should stick to brand campaigns as DR in digital can often get cheap and nasty and does high end brands no favours! This strategy also makes our jobs very difficult as it is often coupled with a cost per arrival of something unattainable dreamt up by the procurement department!

2)Sustainable social media campaign

In my opinion everything that’s created digitally should have social in mind. There has been a shed load of literature on the benefits of such an approach so I won’t spend time going into any more detail here, however the early signs suggest by incorporating such a strategy into creative and media executions, it's all looking positive (ignore Nestle when I say this!).

I firmly believe it’s all headed in the right direction and I feel very positive about the future, especially if the quality of work remains at this level. The sooner big brands understand that a slightly more long term, less cut and dry approach to digital branding and advertising can reap great rewards, we can start to really make some progress in this field. Technology is developing faster than we can pre-order our ipads and whilst we shouldn’t be pushing clients to take on and test everything that’s emerging, small pebbles can cause deadly damage.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Chatroulette provides another gem...

In amongst all the pervs and exhibitionists there is some real gold on chatroulette.

If you haven't seen it yet have a watch of Casey Neistat's summary, it's interesting and nicely put together.

chat roulette from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

I found the below on Friday which I thought was genius. Ultimately it's simple inprov with a piano but somehow it works so much better for being topical and unexpected. There's some really nice natural reactions , especailly the heart hands girls and when he plays ‘firefly’ by ear...

Whilst watching it I was thinking is this Ben Folds…? The style of music and his voice sounded a bit like him and then lo and behold this morning I see this...

No sure it's as good as Merton's, although his is clearly edited and Ben's is cut short a bit, but still I got more pleasure from the grass roots effort recorded in Merton's living room!

Odds on the first brands to get involved in Chatroulette:

2-1 Dr Pepper with a parody about being on CR and being convinced to get your bits out by a sexy female who’s identity is hidden until you realise it’s your girlfriend’s mum. LMAO…

7-2 – they’ll develop an app that searches for people currently online who fit your criteria. It will bomb as only 0.0005% of people using CR are 21-24 blonde, slim, sporty, GSOH, independent women interested in ‘a fling’.

12-1 Nestle – will have a live feed of their staff flicking V’s at their few remaining fans whilst torturing orang-utan babies and laughing at pictures of starving African kids

25-1 David Cameron – trying to be down with the kids…

50-1 Gordon Brown – unintentionally….

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Photos from Afar

I recently got back from Thailand for an extended trip (managed to get 2 1/2 weeks through the system!) and I took a friend's DSLR with me which was a real treat. I was using a Nikon D40 (Canon would be weapon of choice of course) but it was a nice bit of kit and took some nice photos. Here are few of my favourites (edited down from 2,498!!)

If you're very bored the rest can be found here (FB tends to compress the hell out of them though!)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, 19 February 2010

Understand your audience

Image courtesy

I've just been given a presentation from an online property that got me thinking about both the product and the way in which it was presented.

My initial thoughts were what is this product? Why should I care, and if I do, how will I sell it into my clients? This was not answered until about 20mins in, by which time I was quite confused and lacking interest.

I've never been a sales person (in the traditional sense) however I have met a huge amount in my career so far and spend a lot of time selling in ideas to clients, everything from the mundane (which adserver they should use) to the extravagant (sponsoring the dance tent at Glastonbury) and in every case you need to lay out the nub of your idea in the opening 2 minutes.

Many people argue that it's important to set the scene, put things in context, recap on the brief, but I disagree. We both know the context and I believe this can be incorporated into your idea and answer the main point in the brief. And please don’t recap the brief, I know what it is, I wrote the bloody thing!
Also don't give everything up straight away though, as the art of good story telling allows for your audience to fill some of the gaps. However be clear, succinct and knowledgeable. Don't ever talk about something you can't substantiate, it makes you look foolish and lazy. Obviously you can't legislate for curve ball questions from your audience but if they are handled correctly and answered at the first opportunity after the meeting then you still maintain control.

Having control is another important point to make. Many sales individuals are considered good because they can close the deal quickly and efficiently, however if you're trying to sell in the benefits of a back office social media network, I think you're in a far better position getting a dialogue started amongst your audience. Explain the benefits, show some relevant case studies and then suggest some ideas that you've had for the brand in question. Unless you are exceptionally well informed your audience (planners in this case) will know far more about the product/brand and will start thinking about forthcoming events/promotions that might be relevant, that maybe you’re unaware of.

I think due to the diversity of digital media, there is a far longer gestation period both with the planners and clients, as what you're getting is not always cut and dry. This isn’t to say that response to briefs should try and cover everything off if they can't, as this will result in everything being vague and often vapid.

The bottom line is, understand what our clients do, and where they are headed and want to achieve, understand what it is you do, have the courage to tell me that your product isn't a good fit or conversely that it really is, believe in it and don't, whatever you do, start your presentation with a load of stats about how many unique users and page impressions you have, this is of little importance at this stage as I know the site wouldn't be commercial if it wasn't hitting at least 200k a month and it’s a sure fire way to kill the attention before I’ve even had a chance to have my first sip of coffee.

It’s a tough market for a lot of people currently and many proposals are insightful, purposeful, clear and get me excited and interested in the product and how my brands can fit in, so no disrespect to those, but for the ones who let me down, I'm afraid the plan will go on without you.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Image - it's mine! Khao Lak beach early morning. 20/01/2010

In my humble opinion, 2010 will not be a return to the ‘way things were’, as many old fashioned brands hope, post recession, but instead a year of opportunity for brands who put digital at the forefront.

Whilst there is still plenty of value to be driven within the market media owners are becoming increasingly savvy to the value of their products especially those who can differentiate themselves from the mainstream. The behemoths of the media world (MSN, Yahoo!) still provide the reach required for relevant campaigns however I wonder that now the relevance, measurability and engagement of digital has been showcased during 2009, whether just being able to secure 15million page impressions in a 24hr period for a very hefty sum (MSN Homepage), is going to fit into client's key objectives…

Impactful and high reach media will still be relevant to product launches and film releases, however this will often be in conjunction with a whole array of other (predominantly ATL) advertising. Smaller or arguably savvier clients might look to find out more about their audiences and engage them directly. With this in mind, I think the focus in 2010 should be on communities rather than audiences. Many different profiles can make up a community and it’s the brand that taps into them that will find the most traction and consequent success.

As you would expect, most communities can be found in the social space as this is where they are most active, however whilst a social media campaign is often difficult with the nature of many brand's offerings – there are less intrusive methods available which still target these specific communities. I won’t go into these methods in detail as people have written whole books on the subject, but what is worth bearing in mind for both planners and clients, is that you can't just have a separate line on the plan where you assign £25k to 'social media' hoping that by creating a few profiles and 'talking' to your audiences you'll suddenly have thousands of brand advocates running around shouting about how amazing your product is.

Digital (and especially mobile) will be the centre of attention this year. It has earned it stripes by being one of the only channels that clients can rely on in tough times due to its measurability and diversity. Clients are also beginning to notice that online can work on a brand level equally well, whether this is getting 15 million impressions served for your new film trailer or tapping into your un-official fan base through social media, it's all there for the taking.

Clients, be brave, be open minded, stay true to your beliefs and don't be afraid to invest! 2010 is going to be the year when it all makes sense.

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