IPOD together

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with clients and creative agencies lately about radio. Comments which are bouncing back and forth in the debate include: “young people don’t listen to radio” and “our creative platform wouldn’t work on radio”. I feel this does radio as a medium a huge disservice and I’d like to take the opportunity to challenge these assumptions.

(I’d also like to point out as a disclaimer, that I have no connection to the Power of Radio campaign on air at the moment, although our sister agency Cawley Nea TBWA are responsible for the creative – and I personally find it a really compelling piece of copywriting).

We know that the Irish have a particular cultural affinity to radio – daily listenership figures in Ireland tower over other countries (86%). There’s something about the intimacy and local nature of radio that really appeals to us as a nation – it’s like town gossip on a larger scale. And even in the world of Irish youth, the world of Limewire, LastFm, Spotify Apps on the iPhone – young people are still tuning in to radio in droves (half a million Irish 15-24s listen on a daily basis). The regional youth stations, Beat, Spin SW, iRadio NW & NE, mostly new to the market, are rapidly gaining huge followings in a very short space of time.

Creatively, radio is seen as a challenge. With low costs to entry, it means that advertisers without the production budgets of the big boys, can partake.  This democratises access, but it doesn’t always lend itself to the highest levels of professionally produced creative gems. If you are consistently hearing such a poor standard of creative on radio, it’s no wonder you assume that it must be the constraints of the medium at fault – no visuals etc. Whereas in fact, there is no reason the best creative talent can’t get it right – good copywriting is made for radio.

Never fear, we need only turn to Apple, to glimpse the future potential of radio – they have finally introduced a radio function onto their new iPod nano. But this is Apple we’re talking about, and therefore this is no ordinary radio – it’s a “Sky +”. That means you can pause live radio, rewind it and fast forward to catch up with the live broadcast. Most usefully, you can also tag any song you hear on the radio, and then it will automatically sync up your tagged list in the iTunes store, ready for you to buy.

Imagine when this type of function can also be applied to the products in radio advertising.



September 14, 2009


I currently have a kidney infection – pretty prone to them so nothing new there, but it got me thinking about a couple of things. #1 how nice it is to stay in bed all day and not feel guilty because you are genuinely sick. #2 how much you appreciate sympathy and thoughtfulness when you are feeling less than a picture of health. #3 how hard it is if you have no one to help you out when you are under the weather.

 I lived in Dubai for a year and worked as a Grade 2 Maths, English and Art teacher and (given that I was around kids a lot), I got chest infections, throat infections, the usual quarterly kidney infection – you name it.

One great thing about the UAE is that if you are sick (even hungover) you can simply call a number, put in an order for pretty much anything and its delivered to your doorstep in less than 30 mins. This is a really comforting thought. I lived alone in a one bed apartment, as did most people, and I didn’t want to call one of my friends and ask them to get me nurofen, cranberry juice or whatever (in the 50 deg heat) so id call the delivery man and as long as I tipped him, he would be there in no time with whatever I needed.

I know everyone has relations, friends and loved ones, but I think a concept like this could work really well in Ireland. I don’t like being fussed over when I’m sick so the thoughts of just making a simple call, paying a small premium and being hassle free is very appealing.

Over the weekend I got a flyer for a ‘Nite Deli’ that delivers – i.e. for post drink munchies, pasta and meatballs, toasted sandwiches etc – how entrpreneuring! (a step outside the hotdog and chips box) And in Amsterdam, Dominos Pizza have erected mock doors on beaches and in parks, where people can order their pizzas to – another brilliant idea. I think the delivery market is an untapped one, an area that could grow. We should be able to order lunch (whatever food takes our fancy), DVDs, cleaning products. ‘You can’ I hear you say, but the services are as yet too inefficient to warrant any mass usership.

 I’m out of Cranberry Juice, see, a delivery man would be perfect right now.


Now That’s Advertainment!

September 14, 2009

Product placement on American television

Product placement on American television

With product placement to be introduced into UK television, the Irish media community has been live with debate on the prospects for product placement here. It raises some very valid questions on editorial integrity and separation of creative and commercial interests – but will programmes really be compromised and more importantly, do people actually care?

In the last wave of ID, we tested out concepts such as brand created content with young Irish consumers, to find out how they felt about blurring the lines between advertising and entertainment. One of the examples we used was the series of BMW films starring Clive Owen and a rake of other stars from Madonna to Ray Liotta.

Granted, we’ve found throughout ID that the younger end of Irish youth in particular, are much less cynical than the generation before them, when it comes to embracing brands and advertising without guilt or resentment. But overall, there was quite a clear acceptance of content which was funded by brands. The catch, as always, being that this content would need to meet the high standards of any other media creator, in order to grab their attention.

Ironically, the main qualm they had with the BMW films, was that they were too subtle to be an effective advertisement vehicle – they felt the product placement could have been more obvious. However we found throughout our testing that there was a very fine line to be walked between effective explicit branding and gratuitous overkill.

A recent example of an advertiser who has walked this line perfectly (literally!), is Johnnie Walker (thank you Ignition 5 from Phillipa & Vanessa). Johnnie Walker have created a superb piece of branded content to celebrate their 100th anniversary. In this five minute short film, Robert Carlyle walks through the Scottish Highlands, telling the story of the local whiskey brand and how it rose to global fame. Not only is it a hugely enjoyable piece of filmmaking, but the content is completely focused on the unique brand and product benefits. Art that sells.



Human contact

September 10, 2009

Picture1Gmails gone down! Oh no, the Internet’s broke.  Electronic catastrophe!  One hundred minutes without Gmail and missed so much that it was renowned after three minutes as Gfail. 

If you didn’t notice it, it’s possible you have a life.  If you did notice and it freaked you out, – well go get a life.  I noticed it, you see I was waiting on some really important basic data, but hey, I’m still here.  I remember when we had no phone in our house, no mobiles and no email, but somehow we still communicated and socialized.

A highly respected client of mine, a Belgian guy, called Guy, told me that he was fed up communicating electronically because no one knew how he felt about his business and he didn’t know how others felt about his business either – and it wasn’t a language problem.  It was, as he said himself, c’est trop électronique (it’s too electronic)  He wanted to meet more with people face to face.

Consider this, if you are on Facebook, Bebo or perhaps you Twitter, your loyal followers might know what you think about the new Adam Sandler movie, but do they know that you are really worried about your dad’s heart condition – or do they care?  It’s the same In business, we must understand by sharing personal insights with our clients and communications teams, sitting in the one space together, rather than living electronically as a so called ‘partners’. Okay, they dismantled the full service agency, but they should have kept the chairs the refreshments and the idea generation in the same room – a space for natural human contact.

When I was young there were horses in the field next to us and every now and again they would scratch themselves on the electric telegraph pole (as we called it) and blow the fuses in the whole street. ‘Damn horses’ my mum would say, dinner half cooked, no TV and hot baths interrupted again; – fantastic my dad would enthuse as we gathered to hold hands and chat around the log fire in the dark.  You know, I think I learnt more about my own Mum and Dad and my own family in that space.

Keep in TOUCH with your clients and make sure they keep in TOUCH with you – you know what I mean.


A New Era for TV Ads?

September 10, 2009

People aren’t watching TV the way they used to. In this regard, the US market is ahead of us here in Ireland, but the pattern is clearly set – increasingly, people are using PVRs to record their favourite programmes and watch them at another time, when they then fast- forward through the ads. There is some evidence  that by placing key brand information in the centre of the image, the ‘fast forward effect’ can be circumvented to a degree, but it’s a very small comfort. 

Now, an ambitious new campaign in the US is attempting to prevent viewers from fast- forwarding through the ads at all. The mobile network Sprint has teamed up with ABC to create eight 35 second spots that will air, one each week, during the first 8 episodes of the new season of Desperate Housewives. The spots will form a serial which will be written and produced by the same team who produce the show. None of the show’s stars will feature in the spots, but the storyline will be connected to the Wisteria Lane that we know, and will follow similar themes. In turn, the primary characters from the ads will cross over into the show as background extras, which will, no doubt, serve as a convenient little reminder for the consumer. Very clever indeed.  

Ad serials have been done before, and done very well. In the late eighties, Nescafe ran their own ad serial in which a couple got to know eachother through the medium of coffee.

That campaign ran over 5 years, until they finally got together in time for Christmas, 1992. This project from ABC is much, much more concentrated, running for just 8 weeks and targeting an extremely specific audience. What’s really clever, if it works, is that because they’re creating an appointment to view within an adbreak, these spots will also increase the value of the adbreak for all the other advertisers in it, and therefore, for the network selling that break. It certainly is a bold move and makes for a very interesting experiment.

I’m sure there will be people for whom this is just a step too far. It probably threatens the artistic integrity of the show etc. Personally, I think it could be great; it’s a new avenue for us to explore and it’s a great opportunity to think about how we create a personality for a brand and tell its story. But then, I’m something of a commercialist. Ok, so a line must be drawn somewhere, but I’m not one for rejecting an innovation purely because it could be the beginning of a trend that might end up going somewhere we won’t like anymore. I’d love to do this here. But blatant, unabashed branding goes down better in the States than it does here, and the line between promotional and editorial content is already much more blurred there.

Our consumers’ lack of exposure to such blurred lines represents both challenge and an opportunity. Granted; those inclined towards being shocked and outraged will probably be extra shocked and outraged. For everyone else, it’s a leap, to be sure, but it’s an exciting leap. It’s fresh and it’s new and I’d go as far as saying it’s welcome. I believe that the opportunity that exists in blurring the lines is much bigger than the threat. Convincing the broadcasters and regulators of this is, of course, a different issue.  


Your Numbers up!

September 10, 2009

090909This week has been the week of numbers; while 32,500 Electric Picnic fans reveled in mud and rain, 927,000 individuals tuned into Ryan Tubridy’s first ever attempt at hosting the worlds longest running chat show, Derren Brown predicted UK lotto numbers on channel 4 on the 09/09/09, and Dublinbikes launched its 40 stations for 450 bikes.

All events triumphed in numbers. The Picnic sold out by the Saturday evening, while Tubridys Late Late audience saw the biggest number of viewers since Gay Byrne in 1999 and the Late Late Toy show. Ryan Tubridys’ success was most probably due to a variety of factors; wet weather, poor competing schedules, Tubridy Tonight fans, curiosity over his ability to host prime time spot. And although Electric Picnic’s steep €240 ticket price saw a slow sales growth on tickets, the weekend of music, art, body and soul still seems to held its appeal to both regulars and festival virgins alike!

Derren Brown with the help of channel 4 staged one of the most extensive Tv events of the year, by predicting last nights UK lotto number live. In a television broadcast first Channel 4 showed the event live across it’s entire network at 10.35pm.

Also, as another incentive to get people back on their bikes, Dublin City Council launched their CityRyde scheme. Cycling in the city center has increased by 44% in the last 3 years, and looks set to experience another boom. The bikes are supplied to the City as part of a contract Dublin City Council signed with JCDecaux in 2006 that will also see public information campaigns, advertising and new signposting to city centre amenities.

 It’s autumn, the weather is beautiful and for the first time in nine months our numbers are reflecting something positive. A record amount of people married in China on the 09/09/09 because the Chinese for 9, ‘jiu’ means ‘forever’, let’s hope things keep in the right direction!


Missionary Brands

September 7, 2009

both gok lizzie

I’m hearing a lot of talk lately about ethical brands, which I’m banking will be a long-term trend, particularly for those products and services which don’t demand a price premium. These ethical brands tend to be mainly focused around either the green agenda or fair trade. We hear less noise about brands taking on social or cultural issues. However, this is a brand direction I think will be hugely influential in the future.

Adam Morgan, who spoke at one of our recent Spark sessions with Cawley Nea TBWA, outlines several types of challenger brands, one of which is “The Missionary”. These are brands which have a view about the world and passionately want to share it. They challenge the fundamental belief system underpinning a category. Dove’s campaign for real beauty is a potent example of a missionary challenger, speaking out against the unrealistic imagery of women in an airbrushed industry.

This championing of “real women” is a consumer trend I’ve noticed gaining traction again. The end of the size zero model has been long heralded, but has had several false starts – one of which was the banning of size 0 models at the Madrid and Milan fashion shows, a move then rejected by London fashion leaders. Recently, the notion has been slowly creeping back into public interest.  

The picture above, of plus size model Lizzie Miller, has been in the Guardian’s “most read” section for the last week and caused a media storm when it was first printed in Glamour Magazine. They’ve followed this up with a piece about the formerly anorexic and now plus-size model Crystal Renn. Coupled with this, is the growing popularity of Gok Wan, a leader in the “democratisation of beauty” concept. Alongside his empowering “How to Look Good Naked “ programme, Gok has now started a UK petition aimed at getting body confidence on the school curriculum. The campaign aims to tackle the “body hatred epidemic”. Gok Wan is another missionary challenger.

Whether or not Dove or Gok Wan succeed in overturning pretty entrenched attitudes about beauty and body image, this cultural space is a really powerful one for brands to occupy. It requires total commitment and a fair amount of bravery, but it offers a platform for longterm and loyal consumer advocacy.


3D glassesEarlier this year, a very wise, very clever man was trying to convince me that 3D is the way of the future. I was highly sceptical, I’ll admit it. Smello- vision anyone?

But I’m being forced to rethink it. Sony is behind it; they’re planning to sell 3D TV sets globally by the end of next year. Sky is bringing in a 3D channel next year too. Its not just TV either; Sony are introducing it to the Playstation and their VAIO laptops. Nokia has created a 3D mobile phone, Disney have four 3D movies ready for release here before the end of the year. Panasonic are behind it too; they have developed their own 3D home theatre system. There are lots of very clever people at these very large companies, so there must be something in it.

Basically, 3D gives the viewer the illusion of depth in the image they’re viewing, which is cool. I’m not sure how cool though. I think I remember seeing a few 3D movies when I was a kid, I certainly remember wearing the silly glasses. I can’t remember what movies I saw though, which makes me think that the experience didn’t make much of an impression. Ok, so the technology has improved a lot since then, but we’ve just been asked to switch over to HD TV, now we need to buy a 3D HD TV? That’s just sort of annoying.

I’m actually a fan of HD; I think it’s amazing to see the individual blades of grass move as the golf ball rolls across the putting green. It’ll be great too, I’m sure, when I get around to watching an epic action movie. It doesn’t really make much of a difference to the Nine O’ Clock News though, nor will 3D. In fact, most of the things I watch on TV aren’t really effected by these advances in technology, which is why I think 3D TV might just be a bridge too far for the mainstream.   

In the cinema, 3D enhances an already incredibly rich visual experience. For gaming, anything that helps you feel more involved with the action is fantastic, but I don’t think I need to see The Late Late Show in 3D.


Venice in the Summertime…

September 3, 2009


I recently took a long weekend trip to Venice. It was a well needed break, a chance to recharge my batteries, and chill out for three days. We wandered the streets in a haze of Prosecco, avoided the crowds in St Marks Square, and took the obligatory Gondola ride.

It was only on the third day that I realised something was missing. How did it take so long for the penny to drop? Maybe work was so far from my mind, and the peace of a carless Mecca shielded the extraordinary reality – Venice is a city with virtually no advertising!

It’s incredible really once you realise it. Every day on my way to work, I am confronted with upwards of 50 messages on bus stops, billboards, buses themselves, in the freesheets, on the radio etc, never mind the rest of the day and night. But last weekend, I spent three full days away from this.

This became even more interesting when I uncovered the Venetian streets lined with Chanel, Prada, Pucci, Fendi, Vivienne Westwood and so on. And around the corner was Mc Donalds.

Venice doesn’t need to advertise – the majority of people there are tourists – they know about Mc Donalds and if they want to eat there they will sniff it out (literally). For the upmarket designer brands, the beautiful locals strutting their stuff in head to toe Chanel run a more effective advertising campaign than any marketing manager could ever dream up.

Finally on the way to the airport ‘bingo’ I spotted some posters while waiting for the water bus – A big Chanel ad (like a long ways six sheet) and some smaller restaurant ads in the bus shelter. And suddenly I realised I’d been singing ‘Just one Cornetto’ all weekend. Hmmmm, not so immune after all….


Swine flu the Viral

September 1, 2009

Swine flu 

A trip out to Dun Laoighre last weekend, for the ever entertaining World Cultures Festival, saw me confronted with my first swine flu poster. HSE launched its campaign on the 21st of August. The five-week radio, TV and print, targets parents preparing their kids to return to school as well as general information, such as how to recognize and treat the symptoms.

 My friend thought it ironic that I sit under the DART poster. My current state of health (cough, stuffed nose, blood shot eyes), makes me look like another victim…turning the poster into some sort of 3d warning to all passengers. I don’t have swine flu; I do have a rather bad chest infection, along with an increasingly low tolerance to pig jokes. I’m a walking talking swine flu leaflet of the symptoms, the recovery, the cure…all information I’ve gathered from other people.

 In Unleashing the Ideavirus, Seth Godin says your idea is contagious, like the flu. If you think of your idea as a virus, you can “infect” the marketplace by motivating customers to talk about your product. He stretches this metaphor to explain how to captivate powerful “sneezers” so they will spread the word. Not a pretty picture, if you are a literal type of person, but you get the concept. For the right product or service, this is an alternative to advertising (or, as Godin calls it, “interruption marketing”).

 People respond to other people’s sick stories. We sympathise, we learn from them. We’ve been hearing about swine flu for the last 3 months, we’ve heard about it in the news, we all know someone who knows someone who has it. We talk about it, we spread the word. Complimentary to the horrible virus that it is, we spread the word virally. The value of its WOM (https://theinfluentials.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/wom-en/) is much more than any media campaign can add.  While my particular symptoms might not be contagious my WOM certainly is.

Philippa. (acchhuu)

%d bloggers like this: