Respect the Timings!

November 27, 2009

I love the way Coca Cola and Budweiser respect Christmas and don’t advertise till December.

I hold their brands in higher esteem because of this. I especially look forward to the Coca Cola ‘Holidays are coming’ ads in December, and know then, that it really is Christmas. If I saw them in November, I wouldn’t feel the same – three weeks build up is enough for me – and I think most people feel the same.



Is democracy really fair?

November 25, 2009

Should we all have the right to voice our opinion in every circumstance?

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to change the world, or the democratic parts of it anyway.  It’s just a thought that struck me as I was glued to X-Factor at the weekend, no doubt in similar fashion to Vanessa.  Finally, the judges used their power to eliminate the infamous John and Edward.  When it was left to public vote, they survived at the expense of more talented singers.  I’m neither pro or anti the twins and I’m not trying to start a debate over their talent.  What I do want to do, is raise the issue of popularity over talent.

Let me side track slightly to an equally popular talent competition – the Eurovision song contest.  Ireland’s track record in this competition was outstanding for a number of years, to the point where it was almost sending us bankrupt to host it year after year.  But since this competition changed to public vote, we’ve been nowhere to be seen.  The once wildly greeted douze points are now a distant memory.  Ok, so we’ve had some questionable acts in recent years, remember Dervish anyone? But then there was the obvious exception of the dashing Donegal crooner Mickey Joe Harte.  Even when we gave the proverbial two fingers to the competition in 2008 with Dustin the turkey, we were sent packing.  Are our acts that bad?  Or is it our positioning on the outskirts of Europe that’s hampering our chances?  I’m going with the latter.  We’ve no “friends” in Europe.  Public or otherwise, the UK could never be relied on to give us some valuable points (they could say the same about us).  We don’t have to play any political games with any of our neighbours and we can’t walk over the border into a neighbouring country and register a vote for ourselves.  So, to sum up, is the public vote fair?

Is X-Factor a competition of popularity or talent?  Should the public be allowed voice their opinion?  Neglect people power at your peril!


One last time for the boys…


Celebrities in ads. David Ogilvy (and generally speaking, I’m loathe to disagree with him) disagreed with their use, believing that people get distracted, and pay more attention to the celebrity than to the brand they’re hawking. He writes that  “These (ads) are below average in their ability to change brand preference. Viewers guess the celebrity has been bought, and they are right. … Viewers have a way of remembering the celebrity while forgetting the product.”

Paul Dervan notes a recent star- studded ad for ‘Save the Rainforest’, and seems positive about its influence. I’d be wary of making hard and fast rules on this one. It’s not really clear cut; there are lots of variables to consider. It matters both what sort of celebrity are we talking about and how deeply they are associated with the brand. In Ogilvy’s day, an association with a celebrity meant a straightforward message of endorsement. Now it can mean anything from wearing a dress to the Oscars to a mention on Twitter.

‘Celebrity’ is no longer a straightforward concept. They are the famous, the infamous, the people who are celebrities for their skill, their achievements, their associations, their relationships, their parentage or simply for being famous. Levels of celebrity are many; there is a whole alphabet of lists to be on.

And so, using them is much more complicated than it once was. For example, many footballer stars associate themselves with Adidas. Many other footballer stars associate themselves with Nike. I find it difficult to remember which is which, and in general, I just hear ‘famous footballers like both Nike and Adidas’, which is fine for widening the gulf between these behemoths and smaller brands, but it doesn’t help either one differentiate themselves from the other, their main competitor. Other footballers still, associate themselves with Gillette and then find themselves embroiled in an international furore over a handball incident, and incur the wrath of a nation of Gillette consumers.

I think celebrity itself has grown far beyond what it meant in Ogilvy’s day, its bigger, louder and has many more permutations and combinations than he could have imagined. This makes things difficult to predict, and it spells danger. Such ads are probably better than not making ads at all, but I can’t help but think that they may not be as good as a piece of communication based on real insight, that doesn’t use a celebrity.



Jedward + Media = $$$

November 24, 2009

I last wrote a blog on John and Edward on 20th October, and now, 5 weeks later; ‘Jedward’ are a media phenomenon. Two twins from Lucan, unknown a couple of months ago, are (according to some estimates) on their way to earning £2 million in the next year. As we speak, they are considering an offer to replace Jordan on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ in the Australian jungle!

They can’t sing, they can’t dance, but as Louis has always said ‘they have something’. The X Factor Results show, after they got kicked out, was the highest rating programme ever shown on TV3, with a 41% share of viewing on Sunday night. Rising searches on Google include ‘Jedward X Factor’ and ‘Jedward Out’. Pleas to ‘Get Jedward in the Jungle’ are all over Twitter.   It really is a phenomenon.

But what do they have that warrants this frenzy?

I think their media birth is timely.  What 17-year-old boy(s) will unashamedly dress in red PVC suit(s) and sing and dance their hearts out to Britney Spears, in spite of a country-wide hate attack? None – and in the current economic climate (I hate that expression), they are refreshing, fearless and a hundred laughs a minute.

The people, and therefore the media, love Jedward because of these reasons – and John and Edward will bank a million each by this time next year.

It’s amazing – overnight millionaires for – some would say ‘nothing.’ But, to me, their rise to fame is along the lines of the best inspirational stories on Oprah, or Susan Boyle and her Britain’s Got Talent experience.

Fun, fearless, innocent 17-year-old Irish boys + Media = $$$….the only questionable thing is their shelf life.


Ignition 5

November 24, 2009

The first installation of OMD’s Ignition 5, a weekly round up of the top 5 creative ideas that caught our attention from home & abroad!


November 19, 2009

I wasn’t the only person in this country holding onto the edge of my stool last night. I wasn’t alone jumping and screaming when Robbie Keane scored the opening goal against the French side, not alone either burying my face is my hands when Henry “scored” the goal that was to deny us entry to 2010’s world cup. Figures just in from RTE confirm an average of 1,074,000 people (based on Individuals 4+) tuned in to watch the game representing a 62.4% average share. That‘s over 1 million people who saw Henry’s hand foul be replayed in slow motion from the stadiums multi-angle cameras, just incase we didn’t get it first time round. The moans and boos from the crowds in my local was palpable to the first few performances of The Grime Twins in the X factor. Are we reduced to the two from Lucan being our only hope now?

The media has been awash with complaints from the Irish public. People are vowing to boycott Gillette, and any brand with any remote association with France. My inbox has been flooded with forwards with obscenities probably not suitable for this forum. Radio, Tv, Web, Newspapers all taken over with Irelands sense of disappointment, betrayal.

The power of the people cannot be underestimated. In an already challenging commercial environment, any type of association with Thierry Henry or with France for that matter may prove detrimental to marketers. All brand expressions have the potential to enhance or detract from a brand’s reputation…it will be interesting to see how The Gillette story will unfold. Procter & Gamble look set to have a challenge on their hands for 2010, in Ireland at least.


That’s So True

November 14, 2009

The new Boots Christmas Ad parodies the Christmas lunch with a healthy dollop of the anthemic “Here come the girls” soundtrack from last year.

boots 2 jpeg

I love all the recent Boots Ads. They’re strongly driven by consumer insight, in a way that also manages to be highly product focused. The type of insights that Boots tap into, mainly highlighting obvious gender differences in common rituals, I think illustrates something really important about what an “insight” actually is.

Some people can get very hung up on the idea that insights have to be “new” to be a real insight. Often that means we as agency strategists, end up struggling to come up with “undiscovered” information on a brand, category or consumer base, when the reality is that our clients are already very aware of the finer dynamics of their business.

Alternatively, we do sometimes uncover morsels of information which are genuinely “new”, but these tend to be learnings which are weak drivers of human behaviour like “your customer’s favourite colour is teal”.

I’ve always found the most powerful insights into human motivation are rarely new – just newly exposed, interpreted or narrated. In the same way writers might argue that there are really only 7 types of storylines, perhaps there is a similarly finite number of truly influential insights. So in thinking about insight, maybe we should be focusing less on “I never knew that” and more on “that’s so true”.


Topshop Fail

November 7, 2009

topshop jpeg


One of the learnings in our recent Evolution of the Consumer research project, has been the increasing level of justification consumers seem to need these days, to loosen their purse strings.  Rationalising our spending isn’t a new phenomenon. But whereas in the Celtic Tiger years, the fact that it was a Wednesday was reason enough to treat ourselves, now we require something more substantial to alleviate shopping guilt.

So it’s understandable that retailers are trying to devise clever ways to get us spending. I was on the receiving end of a couple of these techniques during the week, one success, one failure. Marks & Spencers have got a range of lunch products for Christmas, in support of Focus Ireland. A percentage of all profits made on these sandwiches goes directly to the charity. There was no price premium for me and I got a lovely feel good factor in buying my lunch that day. I’ll be going back soon.

In contrast, I also received a 20% off viral coupon from Topshop. These viral coupons have been really popular over the last couple of years and they whiz around amongst girls – I sent this one on to all my friends. I love Topshop, 20% is a generous discount and it was all the justification I needed to visit. I made a special effort to print out the coupon and go in, as it was for a limited time period. Instore however, I saw that the 20% discount was plastered all over the shop and was available to everyone. You didn’t need the coupon at all. In fact I didn’t actually have a coupon, I just had a printed out advertisement for a Topshop sale.

I couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated.

Receiving and passing on an exclusive voucher that’s of benefit to all my friends, that’s motivating. Acting as a free advertising medium to publicise a Topshop sale – what’s in it for me? Next time I get a Topshop viral, I won’t be pressing forward.


The Fun Theory

November 6, 2009

The campaign The Fun Theory of Volkswagen is a series of experiments, captured on video, to find out if making the world more fun can improve people’s behavior. The video “Piano Stairs” has become a Youtube hit with more than 6 million views.

Their accompanying website,, challenges the Swedish public to find their own evidence for the theory. For the prize of €2500, people are asked to submit written explanations along with some sort of visualization of the prototype (sketch, photograph, video), to prove that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior … the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better”.

It’s an interesting experiment! It has got people talking….and more importantly it’s got people talking about behaving more responsibly! Often, people tend to do the easiest thing, rather than the right thing. Volkswagen wanted to challenge this.  Ultimately VW’s goal will be to get people to think about driving an environmentally friendly car. Previously the government introducing tax incentives has had little effect. What Volkswagen propose, is that if you introduce the ‘fun’ element, you can persuade people to do the ‘right thing’ a lot easier.

The experiment is seen in full light with the piano stair case, ”66% more people than normal chose the staircase over the escalator when ‘fun’ was reintroduced to staying active.” Something that started out as a local Swedish campaign has captured the imagination of the globe.


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