August 26, 2010

Tom Dot Com

I while back I started a series profiling some of digital industry’s greats. My first profile was Lars Bastholm, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy New York. This time around I want to take a look at Tom Eslinger – Worldwide Interactive Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi.

What does a WW Interactive Creative Director do exactly? According to the Saatchi website “Tom spearheads Saatchi & Saatchi’s fast-growing worldwide interactive capability. He works from New Zealand and London with both a worldwide focus across network clients for interactive creative, strategy and operations, and a London focus with respect to UK and European clients to develop interactive and mobile initiatives and programs”.

Or in his own words: “I spend my day looking for opportunities to connect agency creation, media, planning and account management, with interactivity and keep it as close to the centre of the process as possible. I make way for great ideas to get made and I work on ideas for our clients around the world. I mentor and learn everyday. I celebrate our successes and make sure we learn from our defeats. I’m building teams around the world, so I keep track of talent and try to seduce the good ones to come over to our side. I think I’ve got the best job in the world and I remind myself everyday”.

Let’s take a look at how he got where he is today…

Originally from North Dakota, in May 1990 Tom graduated Minneapolis College of Art and Design with his thesis project: an interactive catalogue for clothing company The Gap. One of his professor’s there, Hazel Gamec, had set up a design school in Wanganui New Zealand and asked Tom to go there to teach. While there he co-developed the Wanganui Polytechnique design degree course, the Design Survival Camp student conference and worked on a CD-ROM (remember those?) project for Charles Spencer Anderson Design that won awards from Communication Arts magazine and Type Directors’ Club (USA). After moving from the academic world to the commercial one in 1995 it was not long until he found himself at Saatchi & Saatchi Interactive as an art director. A year later he was Creative Director and developed projects for Telecom New Zealand, New Zealand Rugby Union and Adidas. At the same time he was a contributing typeface designer to RayGun magazine (USA) 1994-96.

He also created the font BEAST, used for the Swatch International Halloween campaign (1999). It wouldn’t be long until he would be snatched from his beloved adopted home of New Zealand to move to London culminating in his current position as WW Interactive Creative Director.

He’s been a judge at Cannes 3 times and was the Cyber Lions jury president in 2007. Tom is a multiple Cannes Lion winner himself, most recently taking Gold in 2006 for online and mobile innovation with Rubbish Film Festival and receiving 4 Shortlists at Cannes in 2007 across Cyber and Titanium. In 2009 the standout win was for the T-Mobile Dance viral video/TV ad winning Gold in Direct, a Gold and Bronze in Film, Silver in Media, Silver in the Cyber and Bronze in the Titanium category. While Tom isn’t credited he no doubt played a role in making the project.

He remains quite an elusive guy and it’s hard to find out alot about him. We know that Tom lives in London (and as much time in New Zealand as possible), haunting local comic shops and snowfields, snowboard under arm. This interview with Tom for the 2010 Comic Con shows his passion for world of graphic art and scifi.

Some other interesting glimpses into the mind of Tom can be found in this interview on the MobiThinking website where he shares his views about mobile marketing. In AdAge, prior to the Cannes Lions, he gave his views about what he thought would do well in 2010.

But in the end it is the work he helps bring to the world that shows what kind of creative leader he is. This project for UK charity Childline was created to let young people know they can now express how they are feeling online as well as by phone. Their idea was to use music and words so they created a fully interactive campaign based around mash-ups. They got world famous musician Paul Hartnoll from Orbital to collaborate with hot digital film director Dennis Lui. Together they recorded real kids expressing themselves with just a single word or sound. From this Paul created a unique music track. Dennis then projected the track with accompanying images on an urban landscape. The footage was also turned into an ad. The ad drove kids to a website where they could create their very own mash-up and enter it into a competition where the winning entry would become a real TV ad. See the case below…

My next victim will be Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship. Unless I hear from his lawyer.

August 23, 2010

Gaming can make a better world

Fascinating TED presentation by Jane McGonigal where she explores the use of game mechanics to solve real world problems:

“In the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. In her work as a game designer, she creates games that use mobile and digital technologies to turn everyday spaces into playing fields, and everyday people into teammates. Her game-world insights can explain — and improve — the way we learn, work, solve problems, and lead our real lives.”

via Game My Brand

August 18, 2010

How stuff goes viral

Jonah Peretti, the guy behind New York start-up BuzzFeed, put together this presentation on how web content goes viral. According to Jonah the key to success is taking advantage and successful tapping the BWN – that’s the Bored at Work Network. They are the millions and millions of us who sit behind our screens, tweeting, blogging and generally sharing all kinds of stuff we stumble across. While we should be working! via the Wall Blog UK.

August 11, 2010

Are you post-digital?

I posted a previous version of this presentation in April but this new updated version presented by Gareth Kay this week is even better. To sum up, our agency briefs need to change now we live in a post-digital world…

View more presentations from Gareth Kay.
July 8, 2010

Week of Tweets #15

Last update before the holidays. Things have been a little quiet after all the Cannes fuss died down. But there were still a few gems…

RT @glueisobar: Nice campaign for Dulux: have a read of the blog and watch the film in HD on YouTube.

  • It’s been a while since anyone has “Done a Sony” but this campaign by Euro RSCG London does it and more. They are actually making the world a brighter place too.

Inspiring. RT @davidgillespie: Designing the Design Problem – Nice deck from Frog Design’s David Sherwin.

Great thoughts… RT @RobMurrayUK: RT @albionlondon: Albion Blog: How do you make something go viral?! by @p6_ndp
  • Good advice including – Launch at exactly the right time, make people want to share it, make it simple to share it and hit the influencers. Read the full article here.
Hilarious rant (with some painful truths) RT @PSFK: George Parker: Should We Can Cannes?
  • I love it when people get angry. Here is one classic quote about the bean counter in advertising, “Their concern is about how many people can I lay off this week before I collect my performance bonus, stuff it into my numbered bank account beneath the sidewalks of Zurich, and flee the country before the fucking wheels fall off my so-called “Agency of the Future.” An exercise otherwise known as free-market capitalism”.

Another great cover. RT @mattbuchanan fantastic @Newyorker cover. Cute, and then it socks you in the gut:

How Nike keep doing it… RT @danpankraz: #nike ‘we don’t do advertising, we do cool stuff’
  • Very few brands achieve the same kind of status in the consumer’s mind as Nike. They say it is by “an underlying commitment to their core brand idea, having inspiration and innovation as core values and being part of the customer’s life, infusing the brand into the cultural consciousness” and more…
iLike! RT @PSFK: What An iAd Looks Like

  • Looks like the iAd is going to be the next big money spinner for Apple. Don’t you wish you’d bought shares before in good old 1999?

Layar killer? Qualcomm unveils augmented reality platform for Google Android phones – at

  • You don’t here much about Qualcomm but this could be a good way for them to find a new niche. Until people get bored looking at the world through their phone screens.

Small screen 3D. NYTimes: Did a Speeding Car Just Jump Out of My Cellphone?

  • Meanwhile, mobile phones are going 3D!

and finally…

This may be my last blog post because: Prince: ‘The internet is completely over’. The purple one speaks out…

June 30, 2010

Shift Happens

Great presentation from Aki Spicer, Fallon’s Director of Digital Strategy who conducted a workshop at VCU Brandcenter’s Executive Training Program for account planners.

“The Engagement Opportunity” outlines the evolving role and function of strategic planning in this age of digital and social technologies and proposes a methodology for integrated creative ideation.

No doubt Aki added a lot verbally but there is still a lot of good stuff to get out of this.

View more presentations from akispicer.
June 14, 2010

How to write potent webcopy

As regular readers know, I’m going through each chapter in David Ogilvy’s book “Confessions of an Advertising Man” while giving them a digital update. When I came to the chapter “How to write potent copy” I realised that not being a copywriter might put me at a disadvantage. So I called upon my colleague Henk Nieuwenhuis (creative director and copywriter at Ogilvy Amsterdam) and asked if he would be my guest writer. He agreed and below are his words. Thanks Henk!

What’s so interesting about Shakespeare that we still perform his plays? Well, he wrote about things that move people and make us feel alive. Then and today. Things like ambition, desire, friendship, treason, greed, envy, love. He wrote about eternal human truths. Good copywriting should do the same. Because good copy is not about pretty writing, it’s about finding a way to touch people’s hearts and minds.

Does this apply for David Ogilvy too? Does his advice stand the test of time and still hold true in the digital age? Let’s have a closer look at his copy confessions in the chapter of his book titled: ‘How to write potent copy’.

Should you read on?

Ogilvy starts with the headline, as being the most important element in most advertising. Why? Because this is the first moment your reader makes the decision: should I stay or should I go?

Now, of course David talks about ads. But the principle  of starting off with a strong trigger to grab the attention holds true for direct mailings, radio and tv commercials, banners, e-mails and landing pages alike. His motto ‘you can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them’ is the universal underlying truth about writing effective copy for any commercial means.

Back to the headline. On the internet it could be as much as the subject line of your e-mail. Much is written about subject lines, as to how many characters work best or how explanatory it should be.  Because the nice thing about subject lines is, that they can easily be tested. By mailing different subject lines, you see what works better in an instant and for free. And what do we see? That David’s tips also work for the web Check them out:

1.     Interest your audience in your offer. Talk to them directly and put the product or the problem in the copy line. This still makes sense.

2.     Appeal to people’s self-interest. Still valid: what’s in it for me? was, is and will be the eternal question for any commercial message.

3.     Put some news into the headline. He states that the words free and new are the most powerful ones. Still true.

4.     Mark your words. Use emotional ones. And especially for the web: take SEO and spam filters into account .

5.     Include the brand name in your heading. If readers don’t see it already in the sender column where they make the first shift between read or delete.

6.     Write long headlines with the selling promise. True: subject line tests prove that the clearer you are, the more clicks you get.

7.     Make the reader curious.

8.     Don’t write tricky headlines –puns, allusions, obscurities- David says. And he’s right. I once rewrote copy for an online member-get-member promotion that didn’t live up to expectations. I took the fun and wit out and put the promise and explanation. Results went up 5 times.

9.     It is dangerous to use negatives in headlines.

10.  Don’t write blind headlines you only understand when you read the rest of the copy.

Have a chat with a dinner companion

When it comes to writing the body copy, Ogilvy suggests you’re should pretend talking to a woman sitting next to you at a dinner party. Talk to her in simple language. Try to convince with facts. Use your wit. Can you lead her into temptation?

This reminds me of the Dialog Method of the well known direct mail-professor Herr Doctor Siegfried Vögele, the offline equivalent of the usability-guru Jakob Nielsen. Both of them agree with Ogilvy when he states your copy should go straight to the point. Be specific and factual. And don’t be a bore.

Does size matter? Well, people always seem to have been intrigued about length. Even in his days, there was a popular belief that people don’t read long copy. On the internet it’s the same story. Best advice here is to start short, grab the attention and state your case upfront. It’s the inverted pyramid-principle: start by making your point first, than build on it. The deeper you get in the website, the longer your copy can be: now your reader wants to read. He has clicked, hasn’t he? So reward him.

As we come to the ultimate goal of copy, the idea is the same: your copy should be a complete sales pitch for your product. The really fundamental change is the fact that people don’t read from A to Z anymore – although I’m not sure they ever did-, but they hop, skip and jump through the pages and only read what they think is attractive. Online you make the sale in several steps. Can you make every step a relevant one?

David suggests you always include a testimonial. Well, the internet serves us well here, as user generated content is the latest big thing. You don’t even have to include it yourself: they will talk about your brand and product anyway. Using celebrities or giving advice, as David suggests, can help to spread the news online. We even can add the viral effect if testimonials are funny or remarkable in any other way.

His tips on style are also valid today. Don’t be pompous and avoid bombast but write normal plain language. The classic DM copy rule that you are always talking to a 14 year old, applies also for webcopy. Use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs and make your copy personal.

Don’t just entertain. Don’t write copy for copy’s sake. Write to get results.

June 10, 2010

Devil in the details

Another great TED talk from Rory Sutherland about why the small things matter so much.

June 9, 2010

Best of Bastholm

Well, the rumours were true. Lars Bastholm, Chief Digital Creative Officer of Ogilvy North American has been appointed overall Chief Creative Officer. You can read the full story on Adweek here but essentially it’s an amazing move for an agency like Ogilvy, putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to the importance of digital.

Visual by Diego Zambrano

To mark this occasion (and to do a little hero worshipping) I am starting a series profiling some of the industry’s great digital creatives… starting with Lars.

I met Lars back in 2001 when we were both judges at the Cannes Cyber Lions. He came across as quietly spoken, intelligent and extremely likeable. Not something you could say for all the jury members. By 2001 Lars already had a number of Cannes Lions under his belt from his years at Framfab. Projects like Nike Women and Nike Freestyle really were ahead of their time in terms of production values and technical innovation.

After winning 3 Cannes Grand Prix and many other awards, in 2004 Lars left Framfab to set up the New York office of AKQA. His work included pitching for and winning accounts like Coke, Smirnoff and Motorola globally. He continued to lead projects for Nike including innovative mobile apps like Nike PhotoID.


Here is a video interview from Lars while at AKQA. His comments from 2007 showed how digital advertising/marketing would evolve in the coming years. AKQA were already doing a lot of the things many brands are only today starting to explore. This interview (also from 2007) for the FWA gives us further insight into his thinking….

Where could Lars go from here? The surprise came when it was announced that he would join Ogilvy New York. Not only were Ogilvy looking to hire a true digital leader but they were impressed with his approach to brand communication no matter what the medium. For example, here are 6 tips from Lars about mastering the art of social storytelling and inviting consumers into the conversation:

  • Look at any marketing effort as the beginning of a conversation.
  • Closely monitor the conversation and be ready to respond to consumers.
  • Provide consumers with tools that help them carry on the conversation for you.
  • Leave room for consumers to interact. Make sure your creative universe is big enough that there are unexplored areas.
  • The conversation is over when the consumers say it is, not when the media plan (or the budget) says it is.
  • Listen and learn from the feedback loop.

Asked why he chose to join Ogilvy Lars said:

“It is becoming obvious that marketing shouldn’t live in silos. Consumers don’t distinguish between what’s in which channel, when they shape their perception of a brand. Nor should they,” said Lars Bastholm. “My reason for joining Ogilvy is to get a seat at the table with clients who make the 360 degree brand decisions and to work on the campaigns that will help define what integrated, multi-channel advertising can look like in the future.”

    Not long after joining Ogilvy, Lars was the Cannes Cyber Lions jury president. In this video he explains why the Grand Prix winners deserved their awards.

    If you follow Lars on Twitter you’ll discover a few things about the man. He loves food and was recently in a BBQ coma during the SXSW conference. He’s always on the move and he can be found anywhere from Puerto Rica to Copenhagen. He’s a real film buff and has a movie review website he runs with a friend called Thursdays Without Zada.

    But above all he loves digital. Nothing is impossible, nothing ever good enough and no idea too big. Lars, I can’t wait to see what you will do at Ogilvy.

    June 7, 2010

    Tipping point?

    The unconfirmed (as of 7th June) that Lars Bastholm (chief digital creative officer of Ogilvy North America) is to be named the overall chief creative officer for the agency has many tongues wagging. The comments on AdAge have been fascinating. Here are just a few…

    By digschulman | NEW YORK, NY
    Having been on both sides of this (as an ECD on both the Traditional then Digital agency side), I think we’re making too much of the DNA experience and not enough of the truly hybrid awareness one now needs to be a catalyst for great work in today’s multiplatform creative world.

    Net net, we need to stop looking at this thru the digital native versus digital immigrant lens where we choose between:

    Group A : Big agency traditional ECDs with their massive egos, shoot budgets and director relationships, who see their digital counterparts as the geeks required to extend their big ideas and TV narratives into digital “stuff” that they insist fewer people will see, but is necessary to check all the client boxes of a modern day creative ecosystem (digital word)….errr…right…campaign (traditional word).


    Group B: Digital ECDs – steeped in User Experience/, Web Development, Direct Response, Social Applications, Flash vs HTML5 and database know-how, who see their above the line counterparts as overpaid, old school linear story-tellers (as opposed to digital ones) clinging to the holy grail of the Big Brand Idea – as if no one on the digital side could ever come up with such a thing.

    Whose line is it anyway? It’s the marketer’s line!

    The truth is, there are too few ECDs out there who are intuitively hybrids – and know it’s not just a bigger toolbox of channels to create for, but requires different narrative skillsets required to create for them.

    The ones like Lars who do, know what a big brand platform idea is and whether it has the teeth to generate cultural currency or not. They respect the craft of the :30 spot and how hard it is to write, sell and execute a memorable one or pool of them. They get that creating a great social application or twitter visualizer or print ad or radio spot or world cup widget or whatever… are all powerful tools to help expand messaging and engagement around a brand – just as a TV spot is.

    No matter the DNA, any ECD worth their salary these days recognizes that linear and non-linear storytelling skills, digital design prowess and technology are all pre-requisites for creating and executing big brand building programs in today’s multi-channel, multi-platform ad world.

    But digital native or not, it’s being a catalyst for big ideas and broader thinking that results in great work that will always win.

    By afinkelman | Boca Raton, FL
    Looking at the reality of consumer experience we see increasing integration of digital technology in daily life. Digital is no longer a channel option, but rather, has become central to how people interact with each other, and the world.

    Looking to the future, at some point putting the word digital in front of marketing will become meaningless as most marketing will have a digital component as all of our daily experience will be augmented by technology.

    Consumers have embraced their digital empowerment and this trend will only increase as Gen Y, born to the digital age, comes of age and flexes their economic muscles.

    Whether the creative hires discussed in the article are truly forward thinking attempts to evolve agency thinking, or merely a cosmetic approach to positioning the agencies as digital leaders, may not ultimately matter. These new creative leaders will have the opportunity to innovate an ensure the ongoing relevancy of their agencies. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

    By Iga | Chicago, IL
    I enjoy reading all your comments, especially digschulman. Seems like we are all on the same page as far as our assessment of interactive impact. Digschulman however, made an interesting delineation between two groups: one led by a ‘traditional’ ECD and the other one let by a ‘digital’ guy. Here is my take on that.

    I also have background in traditional (print) media and several years ago transitioned into interactive. Over a period of a few years I freelanced at several digital shops and that gave me a unique perspective on this subject, as I could see how agencies are run. Now, I am one of the creative leaders working in e-commerce.
    First of all, it is not so much about who leads the thinking in the agency but how. Although- I want to make a point right here, that a CD who has only print, or only broadcast experience is irrelevant and obsolete. Hybrids are the most sought-after skill set right now. Now, let’s go back to the ‘how’ point.

    The basic mistake pretty much all big digital agencies make is that they adapt the old-school, traditional-shop, waterfall process and way of working. That leads to a lot of inefficiency and confusion. What works for print and broadcast doesn’t work for digital.
    The creative leader needs to understand that digital is not only different channel or medium but a different product as well. Here, you are creating an environment, a setup for content consumption, vs brand messaging interruption. It needs to carry a value for the user, not just fill the periphery of the web page with flashy stuff, or creating mini sites that are neither informative or entertaining. The digital process is much more involved and complicated, so the traditional top-down, waterfall method doesn’t work. This requires ECD’s to be involved, almost hands-on in every aspect of creation and production. Some call it agile way of working, some call it iterative – where the team consisting of several disciplines: visual design, copy, UX architects, developers, IT (backend), analytics, content creators, project management. etc – is brainstorming together.
    The traditional model (first creative, then production)is too segmented and disconnected.

    Putting digital people at the top of the ladder without overhauling the entire approach won’t change the outcome. It’s just a matter of time before the clients will see through that.
    I am on the client side now, and the trend is to do away with most of the agencies that we’ve had. Instead, we set up an internal agency to handle most of our needs, hiring top talent from best digital shops. Our competitors are doing the same.

    When the news is confirmed no doubt the opinions will be flying around like hot fat spitting from the frying pan. This kind of move has been on the cards for some time and could finally be the tipping point for many agencies that have been considering this kind of move. Watch this space…