I now drive to work…

April 6, 2010

The car I should be driving (I work on the Renault account)

Exciting news, I know.

This development probably merits 16 or 17 separate blog entries to do it any justice, but for the moment lets try to channel and direct the immense interest and excitement that’s just been generated by this revelation to one topic: radio.  I now listen to the radio for 30-40 minutes a day as I rattle along the mean streets of South Dublin in my deceptively spacious and beautifully styled Fiat Grande Punto (first €5k in used 20s secures).  ‘Grande’ means ‘big’ in Italian, by the way.

Yes, radio.  This is not the time or place for a ‘creative Ireland’ style rant about poor ads… I’m going to go the other way with this and call for contributions to the ‘so bad they’re actually good’ radio ad category.  A cheerful angle on the appalling creative standards in Irish radio advertising.  Think Dennis Hickie’s TV gem for Wavin Piping, on radio, if you will.  Let me get the ball rolling with the ad currently airing for ‘Howl At The Moon’ bar/club on Leeson Street.  Anyone else heard that beaut? 

I’m focusing on the hilariously bad variety, because they make up an entertaining 5% of radio ads out there.  There’s also the 5% of decent ads at the opposite end of the scale which are for another time and place.  And then there’s the soul destroying, damaging-to-the-medium-itself, 90% of bland, boring ads that don’t merit any consideration whatsoever.  See my informative picto-graph (am learning from your previous post Neasa 😉 https://theinfluentials.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/a-picture-paints-a-thousand-numbers/):

informative, visually exciting and Easter themed...

How many depressing egg puns did we all hear over Easter?  National Lottery, I’m looking at you…

This is by way of a circuitous route to the point of my blogpost – listening to the radio in the car.  I have one of those MP3 player mini-radio transmitters that allow you to listen to your ipod in the car, but it’s a bit of hassle.  30% of radio listenership is ‘in-car’ and that figure is higher again for the valuable business market.  So never mind integrated music docking systems, which are already becoming mainstream – wait ‘til the car gets fully connected.  Radio is going to have to evolve hugely or really suffer.  This is the future in-car experience: http://www-lte.alcatel-lucent.com/#/home/video/29 

Aside from the really creepy glassy-eyed man driving the car (why is it the man always driving?), how scary is that future and is radio ready for it?



2010 – What will Change?

January 12, 2010

Another year – can you believe it? I remember the millennium like it was yesterday. And I know saying things like that makes you sound old…..but I do remember it! So maybe I am getting old.

Anyway, new year – time for resolutions – time for change. A good time for Renault to launch their ‘Drive the change’ brand film, kindly voiced over by the lovely Ewan McGregor.

Many argue that ‘green causes’ and environmentalism are suffering during the current global economic downturn. Conversely, climate change is becoming more and more of an issue. People fear the outcome of climate change will be many times worse than expected.

Anyway, I’ve talked about timing before, but January 2010 is the perfect time to talk about the future – in 2011 (the future) Renault will launch  4 zero emission electric cars, and by 2015 we will all be driving one.

January is a depressing month, people make resolutions, have no money and the days are long and dark and grey. A good time for a positive message – for Renault the future is electric. Get ready to recharge your car in the way you do your phone, and help combat climate change.


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.



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.  


mad men three guys

I’ve been re-watching series two of Mad Men in eager anticipation for the new series. While most of the advertising action centres around the creative process, Mad Men also offers an insight into the evolution of media as a discipline, through media exec Harry Crane. In the 1950s, (and some would argue little has changed!), media has yet to gain a seat at the ideas table, illustrated perfectly by Client Service director Duck Phillips, when he calls an emergency meeting with the American Airlines pitch team and then disdainfully asks Harry “why are you here?”

When Harry accidentally finds out he earns considerably less than his peer, copywriter Ken Cosgrove, he attempts to step up media’s contribution, by pitching a controversial prime time drama to cosmetics client Belle Jolie. The programme mentions “abortion” fifteen times in the opening sequence. Harry makes the argument that the controversy will bring viewers and young women will talk about it, good or bad. In the end, the approach is too risque for the client but everyone is impressed with Harry’s progressive thinking on the role of sponsorship.

Which brings us to the future of sponsorship and a project which probably offers a glimpse of what this might be. Purefold is one of the most intriguing projects I’ve come across this year.  Essentially it is a series of brand-sponsored webisodes brought to market by Ag8 and director Ridley Scott. The concept is inspired by Blade Runner and the storylines are based around a central theme of what it means to be human, set in the near future.

There are so many interesting facets to this idea – the fact that Hollywood scriptwriters will be crowdsourcing inspiration through lifestreaming website FriendFeed, or that it will be licenced under Creative Commons so that fans can use, reuse and remix the content, making piracy part of the business model.

But what’s particularly intriguing is how the brands will be integrated into the narrative in a way that goes beyond crude product placement. Brands sponsoring each episode will put forward a theme, value or future product, to become an intrinsic part of the storyline. This means the brand has to own something which is interesting and nuanced enough to generate a conversation. Tactical or functional messages will have no place here. The content development will also be iterative, allowing brands to explore lots of threads or stories, keeping the ones which connect with people and discarding the ones which don’t. Another sign that the future of marketing is about being culturally complex and the days of the singular “big idea” are numbered.

This is one to watch.


purefold blog picture jpeg

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