Jedward – nil points.

Well, not quite, but a disappointing result all the same. After so much hype, our favourite twins finished 8 out of 25 last Saturday on the Eurovision. Despite being one of the top search terms over the past couple of weeks, Jedward failed to meet expectations. Not only is this disappointing, but also a little surprising. I know I’d give them my vote, why wouldn’t my European counterparts do the same?!


The problem, I feel, lies somewhere in the complicated world of culture. Often, something which goes down a storm in one country just doesn’t quite work in another. This is something of relevance not only for Eurovision acts, but also for marketers. During this year’s SuperBowl, GroupOn ran an ad featuring actor Timothy Hutton explaining that although the culture of Tibet is in trouble, its people can still “whip up an amazing fish curry”. The ad, watched globally, caused outrage, with thousands of complaints relating to its cultural insensitivity issued.

Despite missing out on Saturday’s top spot, however, Jedward helped the Eurovision reach a record number of Irish viewers this weekend. The contest, which ran on RTÉ One from 8:00 – 11:27pm was watched by an average of 1,174,300 – a figure higher than all the previous contests since 1997. Jedward are also currently rising high in download charts not only in Ireland, but also across Europe .  

Perhaps Jedward’s loss lies more in complicated European politics than in cultural differences.

Either that, or people just didn’t get it. Surely not?



In a lovely initiative that was part team-building, part customer- delighting, and part charitable contribution, B&Q executed a UK-wide synchronised flash mob last Saturday in aid of Comic Relief. Flash Mobs are nothing new, but this, I think, qualifies as taking it to the next level!


Owning Wikipedia

December 13, 2010

Anyone who has recently visited Wikipedia will have noticed a new addition to the site.  In order to raise funds, the founder, Jimmy Wales is appealing to those who use the online encyclopedia to finance it through donations. A blog post I recently came across outlines a possible explanation for this. Wikipedia is unique, as anyone who uses the site has the opportunity not only to read information, but also to upload and edit content. In other words, consumers are owners. Because of this, people shouldn’t mind funding the site. They are, after all, those responsible for its upkeep.

                This reminds me of the concept known as the ‘IKEA effect’. This is the idea that if someone has contributed to the production of a something they have purchased, they will place greater value on that product. Once someone has spent a few hours assembling furniture for example, they will view their bed/wardrobe, etc. as that bit more special than one which has been put together for them.

                What this means to me is that the more engaged someone is with a product, the more they will identify with and care about it. This is nothing new, but it is something worth thinking about. There is huge excitement around social media as a way to get people involved with a brand. Sponsorship continues to be an important way of making an emotional connection with a target audience, whether it’s through music, sport or a more niche event. Although brand loyalty continues to be a major objective for many businesses, both small and large, companies should consider setting their goals higher. Brand ownership means consumers are not only loyal users, but also a part of the brand itself.


Product Benefits

September 28, 2010

In September 2009, I posted here that I was sceptical about 3D, particularly about 3D TV. By January 2010, fresh from seeing Avatar, I claimed to be converted. Now, a year after my first post on the topic, 3D is making its way into homes around the country.

For me, 3D had to be experienced to be loved. People could tell me how great it was all they wanted, but I couldn’t really grasp it until I had experienced it myself. The same, I would imagine, has been true for many people.

Until this weekend, I had only seen 3D in cinema, not on 3D TV, but on Saturday, I was given the oppurtunity to do so at an event set up for that purpose. 

We see experiential marketing all the time, brands looking for extra ways to engage their customers and allow them to interact with the brand. Often, it is done very well indeed, but it’s not so often that we see it in its purest form – experiencing the actual product that the company sells.

This was example of a brand understanding exactly what they needed to do and say to reach their customer, making the appropriate investment, and executing it perfectly. We know that the thing that makes a product new and unique from a producer’s point of view might not be what makes it special for their customer. All too often, still, brands start with what’s important to them rather than to their public.

In this case, I was given the opportunity to do the necessary; experience the product and its benefits. I wasn’t told about the technology that allowed it to be brought to me. That wouldn’t have meant anything to me at all. But after experiencing it, I fully understood the benefits it would bring to my television viewing, and there was the win for the advertiser.


I’ve been thinking about inspiration of late, inspired myself by the following paragraph that Harry Eyres recently wrote:

‘Artists, and others, are reluctant nowadays to talk about inspiration. It sounds highfalutin and vague, like some mysterious essence which floats above the earth. But inspiration in its deepest sense, far from being vague or abstract, is very intimate, physical and personal. There is nothing more intimate, physical and personal than breathing, or breathing in, which is the literal meaning of inspiration. An inspiring place is one that lets you breathe.’

There are some obvious places and platforms for inspiration. The world of is a favoured destination. We frequently refer to the brand that is Jamie Oliver and his TED talk is rightly filed under the heading of inspiring. As is Matt Ridley’s piece on ‘When ideas have sex’ – definitely worth a watch over a lunchtime sandwich.

At OMD we start our week with our Ignition 5, where Vanessa and co inspire us with some cool things they’ve seen from around the world. This week’s post, shared on this blog, includes washing powder with in-built GPS tracking – an idea that could certainly be ‘borrowed with pride’ in other categories.

I think Harry is right when he refers to the personal nature of inspiration but paradoxically we in the communications business try and create that intimate relationship on a mass scale. This is probably easier to achieve than it sounds. I had the great pleasure of seeing Leonard Cohen play at Lissadell House recently watching the sun set behind Benbulben listening to his ‘gift of a golden voice’. A personal moment for me, sure, but one I shared with 10,000 others. Brands can behave in the same way and at an obvious level the development of social communities as part of marketing programmes and brand experiences is a sign of this. One of our favourites here is the Irish Blood Transfusion Service donor community on facebook.

A few of us are reading Paul Arden’s book ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.’ He finishes with a few quotes which can be inspiring in themselves. A little scary perhaps as when Grand Prix driver Mario Andretti states ‘If everything seems under control you’re not going fast enough’!

If all else fails, maybe we should follow the inspirational words of Dr Scholl: ‘Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell and advertise.’


Charity at Christmas FM

December 10, 2009

Christmas is all about presents and parties and catching up. Those things done, it’s about charity. So I’m taking this opportunity to plug Christmas FM.

What a simple concept!

5 weeks of Christmas music, text in your request and €1 goes to the Simon Community. DJs generously give up their time free of charge, a sponsor covers the cost of running the project (the Daily Mail this year) and the rest of the cash from text messages and donations goes to the chosen charity. They play Christmas songs all day and night from a duke box of 400 and break up the music with traffic and travel, stories about Christmas traditions in other countries, and anecdotal clips from the Simon community.

Lots of brands are going the charity route these days – Fairy Liquid make a donation to Make a Wish foundation for every promotional bottle bought, Jimmy Choo made a special boot where 25% of proceeds went to Autism Ireland, and Marks and Spencer partner with Breakthrough Breast Cancer to sell bespoke products each year with all profits going to the charity.

It’s a great time to develop charity partnerships. I think people are starting to revaluate the importance of materialism and a charity donation gives justification to any purchase. On top of that, charity donations are proven to increase during recessionary times – people can see themselves in a worse off position very easily.

Anyway, if you want to check out Christmas FM it’s on 100.3 FM in Dublin and 106.7 FM in Cork. And advertisers are welcome to sponsor a show, with the cost taken as a donation 🙂


Jingle All The Way

December 8, 2009

Jingle All The Way

Ah Christmas, a time for partying with friends, buying gifts for your nearest and dearest, quality time with family, visiting long lost relations, mulled wine, fairy lights, last minute shopping, turkey and trifle.  And for advertisers, the quest for infamous cut through during the busiest advertising and shopping time of year.  Everyone wants a slice of the Christmas shopping frenzy and as a result, we as consumers are bombarded with messages from all angles.  For me however, there are a number of ads that I just love seeing at this time of year.  By this time of year, I mean December, like Vanessa, I applaud brands that wait till December to run their Christmas ads.

I know its Christmas when I see a truck decked out in lights rolling into town, Christmas wishes from the home of the black stuff, a snowman flying through the sky and a mother turning on the electric blanket for the return of her prodigal son.

If I must elaborate, my all time favourite Christmas ads are Coca-Cola, Guinness, An Post and ESB.  Even now, I’m humming the tune to each of these ads.  And there it is, that’s what does it for me about all those ads.  Yes, the imagery is amazing, I’d absolutely love for the Coca-Cola truck to visit Caltra, a white Christmas would be magical etc, but it’s the music in those ads that gets me every time.  Even though I see most of these ads every year, some slightly updated, some in their original form, I’ll never get sick of seeing them.  As soon as I see or hear these iconic ads, I get a happy glowy Christmassy feeling inside.  I look forward to driving home on Christmas Eve and seeing our Christmas tree lights for the first time and knowing that the ham will be boiling for hours on the stove.  Even though these ads are obviously about a brand and commercialism ultimately, for me, they actually make me remember what Christmas is all about.  And to the people in ESB, I implore you to resurrect this ad!



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.



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.


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.


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