At 9.45am last Thursday, the wonderful, erudite and über knowledgeable/ entertaining Rory Sutherland introduced me for my 30 minute slot at the World Advertising Research Center’s Creativity in Advertising conference. Simon Veksner, CD at BBH and Mr Scamp blog, had just spoken about creatives as children (oddly enough, I said a similar thing in a lecture I gave in Prague a couple of years ago). I gave the following lecture and was followed by numerous Ad and Digital industry folk, many of us saying a similar thing – we’ve been doing the same thing for the last 60 years, isn’t it time we moved our work on?
Anyway, have a read of the following when you’ve a spare 20 minutes and let me know what you think.
More Brand ‘Me’
Aka ‘I am what I say I am’
Everything we wear, the food we eat, the car we drive, where we live, where we go on holiday, the films we watch, the music we listen to, our choice of Bank, coffee shop, newspaper, hobby, watch, jewellery, hairstyle, pet, our day-to-day language, the people we hang around with, AND all the things we DON’T do speak volumes about us as individuals. We all choose very carefully each and every part of our lives because we know that in a split second, we are judged by other people every day on all of these aspects of ourselves.
We are all so heavily conditioned and heavily influenced by our peers though, we almost don’t need to make any other choice than ‘I’ll have what he’s having’.
Advertising is at a very exciting point in its history. Never before have so many options been open to advertisers but never before has it been so important to choose the right channels to engage.
But what is creative these days? Every ad break now has another vacuous, meaningless perfume ad in it. A triumph of style over substance. The first 100 pages of any glossy magazine are now filled with monotonous pictures of beautiful people wearing non-descript clothing with a big logo bottom right. Usually idea-less, unchallenging, over-aspirational, veneer-thin glitz that obviously sells product by the bucket load, or Louis Vuitton wouldn’t block book back covers for months at £30k a time. David Ogilvy said ‘If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.’ But just because something sells, does that make it creative? Or just a pretty picture?
And what if you’re not a high-end fashion label?
The Carling ‘Belong’ Campaign
Sheep. No matter how much of a leader you really think you are, you no doubt follow something or someone. To what extent is down to the individual, if there is such a term these days… And as we know, with the fracturing of families and communities by geography, income and, sadly, security, online you can search and connect with any special interest group you so wish. If you really seriously think that you are the only person in the world who is fascinated by your belly button fluff collection, a quick Google search will show you a stack of other odd individuals with the same interest as you. A few years ago, I read that there was an actual word to describe people who get off on eating parts of Barbie dolls. Now, you wouldn’t create a word for one strange individual, would you?
We all like to be part of something. It is human nature to stick together in groups. A sense of belonging. Brand Me has an aspect of group mentality to it and a desire for acceptance. We allow things into our personal brand so we connect with other people.
We all have an inner circle of brands that we want to be associated with – that we’re happy, even proud to be seen with. These brands, like every other out there, will almost certainly invest an immense amount of time and money continually persuading us that they’re there, they’re doing good stuff, progressing all the time, still exciting/interesting/performing well/bringing out new products or services, or all of these. They’re generally being noisy and in your face so you don’t forget about them. Blimey, what a lot of hard work.
Why not flip the convention that advertisers have to do the legwork? Why not use people’s desire for personal recognition in a positive way? After all, 80 hours of video content is uploaded every minute to YouTube. There are a lot of people out there who really do want to contribute to the world. But I don’t just mean allowing people to create crap ads so they can boast to their mates. Dove, Doritos and a few others have dabbled in this with mixed results.
Isn’t the general theory of advertising to engage people when they’re most receptive? And usually, because we don’t necessarily know exactly when they’re at their most receptive, a continuous, unbroken assault on the senses is required to ensure a brand is front of mind when the right time comes. So why not flip this around and invite your prospective customers to actively join in your campaign?
Why watch or read an ad when you could take part in one? I’m convinced that the less we feel we’re being advertised to, the more receptive we are. If you actually get to participate in the work, and that’s the whole point of the campaign, there is not only a reason for you to engage but you feel that without you, it wouldn’t work. Give a little, gain a lot.
Here are a few examples of where I think this has worked well.
Hyundai Case Study
Quite a few years ago, to sell the new Hyundai Coupé, people were asked to help Hyundai put the finishing design touches to the car. They were asked to choose from three steering wheel designs, three wheel trims, and three spoilers. So you had a one in three chance of affecting the design of the car. When you feel like you’re being listened to and the company acts on your requests, that’s a two-way relationship.
Friends of the Earth Case Study
One person uploading a video of themselves wanting to Act Now in terms of climate change is avoidable. 173,000 are not. This site not only gave every day people a voice, it made that voice deafening – and helped change Government policy.
The Carphone Warehouse Case Study
Ever wanted to see your name or hear yourself on TV? Celebrity culture, 15 minutes of fame, show me TV – here was your chance to ‘perform’ before the X Factor. Record yourself singing on your phone, upload it and you could appear in one of the bumpers before and after the X Factor show throughout the entire series courtesy of The Carphone Warehouse. Brilliant use of the medium, great for word of mouth PR and sponsorship idents that weren’t sponsorshit.
Queensland Tourist Board Case Study
When was the last time you had 34,684 applicants for one job? I know it’s a recession and there are few new jobs to go around, but that’s one heavily over-subscribed vacancy. Some of the original applicants even had tattoos done to show how committed they were to getting the job. Perhaps these people really should be committed.
This is a marvellous example of participation advertising. Create a framework and let the world fill it in. So long as there’s something in it for the user, they’ll do our job for us. They tell the world so we don’t have to.
You can see that the agency has genuinely thought about the audience and given them what they want rather than simply telling them how wonderful their product is. You only have to look about how traditional and old hat the Baz Lurhmann Australia ad is comparison. Millions to make, millions in media costs, millions of homes filled with more moving wallpaper.
A few small B&W press ads, word gets around and you’ve got people from every country in the world uploading their pitch. And that’s the power of PR. You can watch a hundred ads to see a film but if your best mate tells you they’ve seen it and it’s fantastic, you go. Will anything ever beat recommendation?
I know a recruitment consultant who told me about new sites where you can upload video CVs – job applications with you as the star, chatting about just how wonderful you are. Bejant.com opens up an ethical debate about how much of you is given away and how many assumptions are made by watching you talk for a few seconds on a matchbox size screen. Back to Brand Me. If you match the requirements of job, this speed dating approach could well help recruiters who don’t want to waste anyone’s time let alone their own. On the other hand, the level of discrimination would be impossible to track. And it pampers to the wannabe celebrity in one, hampering the shy and nervous nature of another.
I work directly with LinkedIn.com – the networker’s dream site. This place gives you greater access than ever to control your personal brand online. From the personal recommendations to how selective you decide to be with your career history, it is up to you how you’re perceived these days.
Money. Money. Money.
But I can hear every client asking now ‘but what’s my ROI’? How many people asked this of Mark Zuckerberg? In just 5 years, Facebook now has over 175 million active users worldwide. If all you ever think about is money, you’ll end up like the banks. Create a honeypot and the bees will come. Charge them when they get there and most will fly away. LinkedIn’s whole philosophy is to give everyone free access. They make their money in other ways.
In fact, what we’re seeing more and more is that internet sites are offering all their services for free. Only if you want their ‘premium’ service do you start to pay anything for it. The entire business model has changed. It’s now a numbers game. Somewhere to belong, something you happily say you belong to, something you suddenly feel foolish if you don’t belong. Somewhere that finds its way in to your Brand ME. And once it does, it’s hard to let it go.
I signed up to Twitter last July. I didn’t know what to do with it but I signed up. I use it now every day. I signed up relatively early to LinkedIn and Facebook but it took me quite a while to really start using them too. They aren’t so important to me I couldn’t live without them but they are each a small part of my day.
Til death do us part
There’s a hell of a lot of people out there whose allegiance to a brand takes them into a lifelong commitment. Harley Davidson and Apple logos are tattooed on thousands of people, for example. A friend of mine told she’d seen a girl with a Penguin books logo on her upper arm. Now, I’m a big fan of Penguin but I’m not so sure about how permanent my love will be.
When you look at your next brief, I urge you to see it differently from the usual ‘what clever headline can I write for this?’ or ‘what quirky image would look great here?’ Who are you doing the work for – the company or the ad jury? The majority of advertising hasn’t changed for 60 years. We are one of the most conservative industries and yet we think we’re so creative. I believe the definition of ‘creative’ really needs to be looked at. If you stick a car to a billboard, is that creative? Or is getting millions of people worldwide to look up, engage with and tell everyone they know about a client’s new product creative? I know what our client’s collective answer would be.
Settle only for the remarkable. Entertain where possible. Anything else is wallpaper.
If you can break into the collective Brand ‘ME’, be a name that is mentioned with pride and is actively sort out, you’ve changed behaviour and you’ve won the ultimate prize for your client and for you – fame.
A note of caution
My only worry is that our clients see the Queensland campaign with its mini press ads, stock footage TV ad and simple microsite in terms of cost to deliver. So agency budgets are slashed but they demand a worldwide response… But that’s another lecture.