December 8, 2016

Only the brave

In the advertising business, either traditional, digital or somewhere in between, every so often you come up with an idea that you know will be amazing. So you do everything in your power to convince your client that it will be brilliant. You tell them passionately why it answers their brief, why the audience would totally love it, why it would get everyone talking about your product and that it can actually be made. Yet something happens, the client shows a flicker of fear or confusion, they might whisper to each other and you know that something isn’t going quite like you imagined it would. In your mind you pictured the client moved to tears of joy, leaping out of their seat to embrace you as suddenly you’re transport to a stage where you’re receiving that Grand Prix. But instead you’re faced with quizzical faces and a damp squid descends eerily over the meeting. Today that all came rushing back when I saw this project for Lexus featuring a car covered in LED. It’s a year since I presented the very same idea to a client. OK, it’s only advertising. But when you live and breathe this every day it’s heartbreaking to see that another client was brave enough to say yes – let’s do it.

How do you help clients be more brave, to take leaps and try things that have never been done before? Some agencies have a knack for it but then clients for there expecting it from Droga5 or R/GA. For many mere mortal agencies it’s a real challenge. Many clients have limited budgets and want to make sure that your project will get results. When you’re presenting an idea that is innovative there are no prior examples to use as backup. So you have to anticipate the arguments that will come up in the client’s mind. If you’re doing something new with technology try creating a prototype or demo to show something is feasible (this is how we sold another project to the same client which was a huge success). Your client’s priority is not being brave but selling cars, toothpaste, computers or whatever. Put yourself in their shoes and show how bravery can also lead to amazing results. Don’t just expect the client to feel the same way you do.

The fact is, you’ll probably lose more battles than you win. As a creative person you are the one that needs the most bravery. Not to come up with groundbreaking ideas but to see them burn down in front of you – only to come back later and haunt you. So I will leave you with this, another painful episode involving an idea we tried to sell to the same client and failing – then seeing it done a year later.


September 17, 2009

Advertising vs. Gaming

kurt-cobain-guitar-hero-5-01“Here we are now, entertain us”. When Kurt Cobain (who was recently resurrected in the Guitar Hero game) sang those prophetic words he seemed to anticipate today’s society, one that is constantly craving entertainment. The internet has stoked the fire and in some ways entertainment has become the new currency for many brands. Whether it is viral videos or other forms of branded content – the audience expects something from brands in exchange for their attention. Now we see branded games from the likes of Coke Zero, Doritos and even Barclays being used to engage with their audience in the hope that a moment of entertainment will turn into brand loyalty and sales.

On the 16th September the Dutch ad industry (and students hoping to be part of it) descended on the Tuschinski theatre in Amsterdam for a special Cannes Lions event. As well as viewing the best print and poster work there were special screenings of the winning films. I was invited to be on a panel discussing advertising and gaming following a presentation from Peter Warman of NEWZOO. He showed the results of a Dutch gaming survey that revealed how more than half of the population plays games in one form or another. Check out the international version of the survey here.

The panel, moderated by Bas van Berkestijn (Woedend!), included Victor Knaap (MediaMonks), Nathan Cooper (RIOT/180), Michiel Sala (Little Chicken) and myself. A lot of the discussion centered around the brand’s relevancy in the gaming experience. Does the audience feel that the brand fits within a game naturally? Can a game be the core of a campaign or an extension? Is the target audience right for a branded game?

Brands offering entertainment is nothing new. Soap operas were developed originally by brands like Unilever to create moments when they can sell washing powder. Fast forward 40 years or more and the Get the Glass game helped the Californian Milk Processor Board sell 10 million more gallons of milk than it did the previous year. It also won Gold at the 2007 Cyber Lions.

Casual gaming, consoles, mobile, alternate reality games or simple quizzes… these are all ways that brands can connect with consumers and see real results. Agencies and game developers need to just work together so the experience is relevant and entertaining to create a win win campaign.

April 26, 2009

Brands matter

Was reading an interesting article on the Time website about how Apple are enjoying huge success with the iPhone and posting stunning results while other mobile companies like Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola are suffering. It talks about the power of branding and how the Apple brand is the main factor in making them buck the trend in today’s economic situation. Other manufacturers have similar handsets – as the artilce says “Samsung builds a smartphone that looks and works a lot like the iPhone. It is called the Instinct and Apple owners think it is junk”.

In some ways there is the question of fashion to take into account. A couple of hundreds of years ago no self respecting gentleman would have been caught without a powdered wig. It may not have been as technologicallly advanced as an iPhone but was just as essential. Today only judges and actors wear them. At which point did the general public put away their wigs for the last time? Was one poor guy the last one walking down the street with one on his head?

An interesting book by Douglas Atkins from a few years ago looks at the brand as a cult.Turning customers into believers. Atkin, a strategy director for a New York ad agency, believes “the process through which consumer brands build customer loyalty is equivalent to the way religious cults recruit members”.

Like many cults there are few with happy endings. The Motorola Razor phone became a cult item for a short time. Jennifer Garner used one in the series Alias to open a safe. Unfortunately they could not spread the love to their other products. Apple have managed to maintain their cult of design since the iPod became popular. They cannot afford too many flops like iBoombox speaker system (or whatever it was called). Have Apple found the magic formula for great brands? They are number 1 in the list of most admired brands. The pressure is on (not unlike Steve Jobs’ other cult – Pixar) to make sure the faithful remain happy.

Next time we see Steve Jobs maybe he’ll be wearing a powdered wig. Will Mac lovers everywhere do the same? Probably not. But it would look great with a black turtleneck.