July 22, 2012
From weddings, to birthdays to last days in work – speeches are written all the time. Although often predictable, or lacking in originality, sometimes speeches have the power to change not only our thinking, but our motivations and behaviour. The best speeches are those that inspire.
Brands communicate consistently too. Just like speeches, ads are all too often easy to ignore. Yet sometimes, an ad comes along that’s so powerful, it both moves and stays with us.
I would urge anyone who shares my passion for communication to check out two videos. The first features Lord Saatchi discussing the importance of beliefs. The second is a particularly moving scene from Mad Men. This is one of the best examples I’ve seen of how powerful an insight can be when arrived at properly.
Of course, most ads are made with some sort of KPI in mind, whether its sales or market share. But isn’t it wonderful when an ad holds the power to move us? When we’re forced to revaluate a long held certainty, or when a belief is reinforced?
January 23, 2012
As the end of January nears, a lot of us will be thinking about our new year’s resolutions and how well we’ve stuck at them. This year, more than ever before, a whole range of apps and techie solutions have been at hand to help us along. According to trendwatching’s report on ‘DIY Health’, there are over 9,000 health apps available, with this number expected to rise to 13,000 by mid-2012. The ‘Jawbone’s Up’ product allows users to monitor sleeping and movement patterns by simply wearing a personal wristband.
The popular RTE programme Operation Transformation returned this month once again. With coverage on the John Murray show as well as a mobile website giving the chance to track your own weight loss, Operation Transformation is not just a TV programme but a multi-platform solution to those needing a bit of support to meet their weight loss goals (the recipes on the website are great too, if anyone is looking for a bit of inspiration).
With all of these great resources, it should be easy to stick to our new years goals. Shouldn’t it? Plenty of people would say no. According to Oliver Burkeman, Guardian columnist on self-help, happiness and other matters related to transformation, the very idea of new year resolutions is wrong. The ‘focusing illusion’ often takes place, which means that when we don’t meet our own high expectations of the shiny new person we picture ourselves becoming, we then feel worse about ourselves. Burkeman suggests instead that we set one modest goal, and give it a 30 day trial . This way it’s more likely to become a habit as opposed to an unsustainable grand change in our lives.
If it feels like this advice is coming too late, think of how much easier it will be to set a goal when the weather’s milder, the days are longer and the hellish cash strapped days of January are over. And making a resolution in February means the pressures off – half of people who’ve set new year resolutions have broken them within a month.
December 19, 2011
Something happened somewhere along the line that we all missed. We missed that meeting, we slept through it. We meant to spend a bit of time getting our heads around it, but somehow it kept slipping off the urgent list. I remember when there was no Google and I know that it’s everywhere now. It’s just the in-between bit that I’m sketchy on.
I’m also convinced that there’s nothing we can do about it. So, really, questioning the rights and wrongs and moralities of it, whilst it might be interesting (or not?) is kind of an irrelevance. It rains a lot in Ireland. In some ways I wish it didn’t, it’s pretty annoying. In other ways I’m glad that it does, the green landscape is really beautiful. But I’d never sit around debating whether or not it should rain so much here or not. What’s the point? There’s no ‘should’ about it – it just does. Rainfall is up to God, Superman, ComReg, the BAI, ClearCast or whoever it is that regulates our weather.
Back to Google. They’re on the cusp of being the single biggest ‘media’ vendor in this market and beyond. As I asked at the beginning, when the hell did that happen? It doesn’t matter when it happened. How did it happen? Doesn’t really matter either, it just did. So what are we going to do about? Well, nothing we can do about it. They went straight to the client on this one – that is the consumer, the public, the people using the world wide web. They voted with their traffic and that’s the way it is.
As long as they have a monopoly on the audience, we haven’t a leg to stand on. Imagine a world in which the biggest media vendor doesn’t give you a percentage of discount, a percentage of media commission. No volume deal, no share deal, no early payment deal, no annualised incentive. Even talking to them is on their terms. Depending on which of their client categories you fit into, you get to speak with a specific layer of their sales organisation. Thanks for your business. Paulie in Goodfellas had a similar service ethos.
And yet, and yet, and yet… Flip this on its’ head and is this not the best thing to ever happen to a media agency? We don’t want to be commoditised, we don’t want a race to the bottom, we want to add value and be rewarded for more than just bulk buying media space as if it were paper clips or ink cartridges, right? We said that, didn’t we? Alright then, let’s get on with it. Google is a level playing field for every agency, every client, everyone who wants to do business with them. The only differentiator is how well you use their products and services. In other words, the only differentiator is you, the agency, through your people. Which is what we said we wanted all along.
So get out there and start differentiating, get a competitive advantage and leave the moral navel-gazing to someone else.
April 17, 2011
Here’s a thought. And here’s a place to share it too. What if consumers. Wait. Are people consumers? Or customers? Or just people? It bothers me that I’m not sure, but I’m sure I’m not sure. I had a good conversation with a friend the other week who extolled the virtues of owning up when you don’t know something, which sounds like good advice to me. And what do we ever do with the virtues of things except extol them? In fact, I’ve rarely extolled anything other than virtues.
It was Flann O’Briens death-iversary the other day in case you’re wondering what happened there.
Back to my thought – and we’ll go with consumers – what if consumers don’t really tell us anything? And they don’t by the way. What if a rhetorical question wasn’t rhetorical. I’m reminded of a research group on sponsorship I attended a while back and the group were asked what they would like to see the sponsor do. They were completely nonplussed. They didn’t get it, they didn’t have any idea what they’d like to see from the sponsor – and why would they? Which reminds me further of the apocryphal quote from Henry Ford. He said if you’d asked people what they wanted before the invention of the motor car, they’d have asked for a faster horse. And by god I’d like a horse with air-con, power steering and a decent sound system.
Consumers won’t tell us what they want. And arguably the more you ask them, the further you get from the real answer. And isn’t that the rub? It’s also a bit of a linguistic theory – Saussure’s ideas of signifier, signified and meaning. The idea that the words we use to represent things are arbitrary, but they’re associated with a common meaning. But how common is that meaning if that meaning could be different to different people? I mean is my colour red, the same as your colour red? What if I describe something as smelling red – or is that just synaesthesia?
We have to be grown ups about understanding consumers – observe them and figure it out. That’s our job and that’s the fun of it. If they just told us it’d be very boring anyway.
Back when I first got into media I remember reading a year review in one of the marketing magazines where they asked agency heads to speak about the year to come. And I remember Pat Donnelly saying people needed to be less constrained by research, research, research – instead they needed to start trusting their instincts and being bold and brave. And I remember feeling extremely indignant at the time, thinking – typical – sure if the research doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, of course, ignore it and pretend that you’re justified in doing so.
And now I’m not so sure.
I think media agencies need to start having confidence in their convictions. Just because we’ve more data and facts and figures than anyone else, we become too reliant on them. Creative agencies need to be more thorough, logical and back up their reasoning (for trying to flog expensive TV production jobs). And media agencies need to un-clench and borrow a bit of confidence from their colleagues in creative.
And, and, and.
And if I was any kind of slave to convention I’d tie this all back up in a neat bow, re-referencing Flann. But I’m better than that, I’m able to resist – and sure after a pint of plain, that’s probably what he’d have wanted anyway.
April 11, 2011
Charles Darwin was a misunderstood man. But perhaps his most misunderstood line was the supposed doctrine of the ‘survival of the fittest’, by which he meant fittest for purpose rather than the largest or fastest. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives,” he said, ‘nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
As in nature, so in marketing. The speed of technology and changes in society means those responsive marketing beings sensitive to the changing commercial habitat have most to gain from changing consumer trends. With tough times ahead, the Irish marketplace is packed with brands facing threats to their very survival. Almost inevitably, a few dinosaurs will fall away. Yet it need not happen. With insight into the needs of clients and consumers, companies not only survive, but prosper in the ever-changing environment.
It was all on show last week in Lisbon, at the OMD EMEA Insight Conference. This is where our European counterparts were falling over each other in an effort to showcase inspiring examples of how they are responding to their own market conditions. In Lithuania, the OMD office faced a very specific challenge. The beer company Utenos, spotting a gap in the market for a dark beer for female drinkers, wanted to fill it with their own brand Utenos Tamsus Lengvas, (Dark Light). The campaign kicked off with a huge display of lanterns, lit up by members of the public and then sent into the night sky. The event sparked a campaign across traditional media including tv and print using images from the event. An emotional connection with the target was made, and sales went through the roof.
Smart insights are needed now more than ever. Tough economic circumstances and changing technologies mean it’s a fight for survival. Firms who respond to their changing surroundings will come out in a better position than before. Ask Darwin.
March 29, 2011
Blame this blog post on a hungover Friday. My mind goes to odd places at such times…
Where to begin? A friend of mine works as a vision mixer in RTE TV. Vision mixing is like a live version of editing, with a director shouting at you through a headset to cut and transition to and from different camera angles and VTs. So she works on live TV programming – like the News, current affairs shows and live sport. Champions League weeks are busy for her, as are elections.
The other programme she also has to work on is Mass. Mass has to be broadcast live as the miracle of transubstantiation must be seen live to be experienced. So you might be out on a Saturday night having a pint with her and she’ll make her excuses as she’ll be up early to cover Mass in the morning. It was the Council of Trent in its’ 13th session, ending 11th October 1551, which officially approved the term ‘transubstantiation’ (as opposed to ‘consubstantiation’). And which also, unofficially, cut short my friends’ Saturday nights on occasion.
But do people actually watch Mass live? Or do they record it and watch it later – and therefore miss out on experiencing the miracle? Well, since ‘consolidated ratings’ (recorded on your NTL / SKY box and watched within 2 weeks) were introduced to the Nielsen system, we can now answer such burning questions. And the answer is, by and large, no, people don’t record Mass. They watch it live. Only 3 transmissions of Mass, since the introduction of consolidated ratings, have shown any impacts for non-live (consolidated ratings) – 3rd Oct, 1st Jan, 6th Feb (total of 1,400 impacts).
Roger Chilids, editor, RTE Religious Programming, kindly answered my emailed query on the subject. As to whether it has to be watched live, he said:
“I’m no theologian, but that’s certainly the advice I’ve always been given. Mind you, I also find that the priest or archbishop celebrating is usually the first to ask for a DVD. I’m not sure how that works – a repeat viewing of the miracle!”
When Sky and NTL introduced their Tivo style devices into this market, a lot of us thought that this would be a significant blow to spot advertising on TV. Why would anyone watch ads on TV if they could record everything and fast forward through the ads? There’s many reasons as to why people continue to watch ads, even with the proliferation of these devices – but bottom line is, they still do. In fact for Jan-Feb this year, for the total market, only a half of a percent of all ratings were ‘consolidated’ (non-live). Studies by SKY TV would also show that when people invest in the hardware and subscription for their home (SKY box and station package) they watch more TV overall, be it recorded or live – just more. So in fact their advertising exposure increases as a result. Going out being the new staying in these times and all that.
So there you have it, bit of a circuitous journey, but thanks for taking the time!
March 9, 2011
Uk and Germany sample surveyed but still some really interesting stats relevant to the Irish market,
January 14, 2011
As soon as the Christmas over indulgence is over, I expect the onslaught of New Year’s resolutions ads. So, on St. Stephens’ day, I’m prepared to be encouraged to give up cigarettes (not applicable), eat healthier (applicable) and get active with various exercise options (applicable). But one I wasn’t expecting was to see the New Year as a chance to address my love life (pending nuptials, definitely not applicable). It’s the first year that I’ve noticed such a high volume of online dating agency activity straight after the festivities. At the risk of insult, is Christmas really that horrible single? I guess 12 o’clock on New Year’s Eve does separate the couples from the single, but only for all of 10 seconds. Or are they trying to ensure that you have someone in time for Valentine’s day? Maybe they have a shared risk arrangement with Hallmark and Interflora etc. to boost their sales on the most made up, unnecessary and pointless day of the year? Whatever the reason, I found it an amusing addition to my TV viewing over the Christmas period. If any singletons have any insights, please feel free to share!
October 4, 2010
Steve Jobs said recently, “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want next, it’s mine”. Given the success of all things Apple, this made me wonder, do consumers not know what they want from a product? Are we merely on the receiving end of big ideas, waiting to change our lifestyle and habits based on clever brainstorming by big organisations?
I can’t agree with Jobs completely on this one. If what he is saying is true across the board, then a lot of money, time and effort are being wasted each year on market research. In relation to focus groups, a recent blog post from Amárach pointed out that although someone may hold a certain opinion, they cannot always explain why. A lot of skill is required to uncover why someone thinks the way they do. A skilled moderator therefore plays a huge role in revealing what people want. Perhaps to the disappointment of Jobs.
The role of advertising falls somewhere between guiding the consumer towards something new and responding to what they want. It does not ignore the beliefs that are held by a target audience about what they want to see in a given product or service. In fact, advertising often seeks to incorporate this knowledge into the message that is being communicated. Despite this, there is a huge need for creativity within the advertising world. With so many messages out there, advertisers must strive to be original and engaging if we want our message to stand out. It’s a careful balance between knowing the consumer, and giving them something new. Which is perhaps what Apple has been doing all along.
August 24, 2010
I had a nice chat with an eight-year-old on Sunday. She was showing me her REAL baby, a doll that ingests, digests, and cries, the doll on which this child spends all of her pocket money – buying clothes, nappies, and the all-important ‘accessories’. Our discussion took place at a Christening, and she had dressed her baby for the occasion, in real clothes, no less. She force-fed it water all afternoon, prompting numerous nappy changes, (lest the child develop a rash).
This eight-year-old speaks with an American accent. Really. I took a while for me to place it, but there it was; that undeniable, slightly Southern, but fairly neutral, Disney twang. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but you see, she has lived in Dublin her whole life. So, there were only really two possible explanations; too much Hannah Montana, or too great a wish to be like Hannah Montana. Probably both, I fear.
So I ran a few questions by her, while I had her attention.
Q 1): “Which company has a ‘tick’ on its stuff, like the one a teacher gives you?”
A: (tut) “Easy….Nike!” (pronounced like ‘Bike’, but full marks all the same)
Q 2): Which one has three stripes close together?
A: Adidas (2 out of 2)
Q 3): Which has an apple with a bite taken out of it? (Ok, so that one was pretty simple, a bit obvious, even to an eight- year old, but the answer astounded me)
This is a sample of one, so I’m loathe to read too much into it. But there is very little atypical about this child, so I can only think she must be reasonably representative. She is from a very regular, suburban, nuclear family, who are neither rich nor poor, and she goes to an ordinary National School.
I recently caught myself, and then berated myself for, lamenting the fact that we don’t have more insight into children’s attitudes and opinions about products and services. Probably time to step away from the computer screen, you say.
So much is being taken away from children, especially urban/ suburban ones. For a multitude of reasons, they have so much less freedom than in times gone by. They are bombarded with messages from brands, and as a result are much more commercially aware than previous generations. Amongst even very young children, most have their own cash and many have the power to choose where they spend it. They are constantly being stimulated by TV, Video Games, play dates, playgrounds, websites, basically, organised fun of all kinds. I remember when playing meant running around. Whatever happened to going out your door at 9am on a summer’s day and being told not to come back until lunchtime?
Leave them alone I say, return their freedom, let them be children and protect their imaginations at all costs. After all, if we kill their creativity completely, who will come up with the killer campaigns of the future?