January 16, 2013

Cross-culture creativity

Thanks to the internet we now live in a global culture. Anyone can see the same thing at the same time. Even with the “great firewall” the Chinese have ways to access to the same content as someone in New York, London or Sydney. Because of this more and more brands are seeking to communicate with one global voice because it’s impossible to put up walls between countries.

So how can we create campaigns that cross cultures and are meaningful wherever you are in the world? First we need to be sensitive about cultural differences

It’s not just about translating text from one language to the next. We need to consider cultural values, etiquette humor and slang. A global agency needs local people to help develop a truly universal campaign. Otherwise this might happen…

When Pepsi entered the Chinese market, the translation of their slogan “Pepsi Brings you Back to Life” was a little more literal than they intended. In Chinese, the slogan meant, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”

When Kentucky Fried Chicken first opened stores in China, it didn’t take long before they discovered their slogan, “finger lickin’ good” translated to “eat your fingers off.”

When Ford introduced the Pinto in Brazil, they were confused as to why sales were going nowhere. The company later learned “Pinto” is slang for “tiny male genitals” in Brazil. Ford ultimately changed the car’s name to Corcel, which means ‘horse’ in Portuguese.

Can a brand campaign be universally understood and loved? Look at this recent example from the world of music to see how something can cross cultural boundaries. Gangnam Style has become the most watched video on Youtube. How can a tubby man singing in Korean become a global hit? He stuck a universal chord by combining a simple tune with a dance move anyone can copy. Is it meaningless fun? Of course! But it went around the world like wildfire.

Coincidentally the recent launches of Microsoft Windows 8 and Surface were essentially marketing messages wrapped inside music videos. Easy to use across cultures but can the message be more meaningful?

Global campaigns need to touch the hearts and minds of everyone no matter what their culture of language is. We could learn a lot from Pepsi who recently launched a new global campaign. Their new theme of “Live for Now” is a rallying cry as well as a clear brand spirit that is embodied by a pop-culture-focused campaign. It’s centered around a social and content curation platform called Pepsi Pulse.

“Live for Now” came out of “the desire to build a global positioning for our flagship brand Pepsi,” says president, global enjoyment, brands, and chief creative officer of PepsiCo, Brad Jakeman. “It’s the culmination of 9 months of work around the world to understand the unique place that Pepsi already owns in people’s hearts and minds.” Jakeman says the research revolved around finding out how Pepsi “loyalists” defined themselves, and he says that what emerged as a theme was “the notion of making the most of every moment.”

The Nike campaign “Find your greatness” is a great example of a message that resonated with people anywhere in the world – especially during the London Olympics when ordinary people could only admire the superhuman athletes performing. Running across 25 countries the campaign sought to inspire everyone to find their own moment of greatness and push themselves a little further. The underlying message is simple – if you have a body you are an athlete.

Cross-culture creativity relies on universal human insights to develop a message that connects with people. It can be on a deep or superficial level. But it comes down to understanding the humanity that unites us beyond language, culture or traditions.

Finally, a brand can’t just say something, it has to live it too. So find your truth and then make it real. In every message, connection and action – be true to who you are.

September 23, 2012

Spikes with a conscience

The newly announced winners at Spikes Asia show that marketing with a conscience is now a mainstream trend. Whether it’s sustainability or social responsibility, brands are discovering that doing good is good for everyone – even the bottom line. The best example from Spikes was the Grand Prix winner in the Digital category. The Connecting Lifelines project by Dentsu for Honda, to quote the Spike’s website, “was a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Roads in the region were affected and traffic was put to a complete stop. Within 20 hours after the earthquake, Honda quickly responded to the critical situation by providing road information collected real-time via the Internavi system installed on vehicles. By plotting these real-time data on a map, usable roads are visualized. Information was provided on the internet and through Google Map. Internavi became an indispensible tool for the nation”.

In the Mobile category the Rapid Rescue app by JWT for the Red Cross was a great example of technology making a real difference in people’s lives. The idea was “based on the insight that time is of essence when there is an emergency. It takes 4 minutes for the human brain to stop functioning in case of a heart attack. It takes 8 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. But life-saving help could be around the corner because Red Cross has 12,000 first-aiders in Singapore who are equipped to save lives. Rapid Rescue puts all individuals trained in first aid at everyone’s fingertips. The mobile app that connects a First Aid seeker to a first-aider, instantly. Once pressed by someone in distress, the app sends out an SOS to first-aid trained individuals close to the victim via GPS. Along with the SOS, the app also maps out the shortest route to the First Aid seeker”.

A Gold in the Direct category went to BBDO Guerrero and their Pepsi Bottle Lights initiative. As the Spikes website explains, “solar bottle lights are recycled plastic Pepsi bottles installed on roofs to refract sunlight into 55W of light. The brand has installed over 20,000 lights through the combination of volunteer action, online donation and direct sponsorship. Community management was magnified online and via events such as mass runs that collected and recycles used bottles for the activity”.

In almost every category we can find socially responsible, winning campaigns. The Pedigree Adoption Drive from New Zealand by COLENSO BBDO Auckland took Gold in the Promo and Activation category with Donation Glasses. They wanted to “demonstrate the power of a donation in a memorable and fresh way. So they partnered with a production company and developed a way to watch two different films on the same screen at the same time. Utilising this technology, they screened parallel stories; the first of a mistreated dog who gets rescued, the second of the same mistreated dog who never gets found. Before the movie, cinemagoers could choose between two sets of glasses. One pair was free. The other they got for a small donation. That choice decided the fate of the dog on screen”.

Working in advertising it’s not always easy to feel that you are making a difference in this world. This work shows that doing something meaningful is possible. Check out all the Spikes winners here.

May 3, 2012

Best of Webby Awards

Congratulations to all the 2012 Webby Award winners. Let’s take a look at some of my personal favorites.

Akestam Holst won in the Augmented Reality category for their Sound of Football project for Pepsi Refresh – an initiative with the potential to revolutionize blind football but also change everyday life for the visually impaired community. You can check out the full project here. It’s great to see technology being used for the greater good rather than just to amuse the masses.

In recent years Intel has commissioned a series of amazing projects to showcase their spirit of innovation. This project from Nexus Productions won for best us of online media. Using a dynamic mix of live action and animation the action takes place in a series of software windows which open at full pelt. The result is a fantastically clever dash as we follow the heroine’s journey through a myriad of windows in her bid to outwit the baddies.

In the same category the People’s Choice Winner was Wieden + Kennedy’s Back 4 the Future project with Nike that brought to life the famous shoes from the 2nd installment of my favorite movie. All for a great cause too.

We tend to forget email marketing can be a great creative tool but luckily the Webbys have a category for that. The winner from Grupo Gallegos used the act of forgetting your password as an opportunity to tell people to support the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Webbys has always had a more altruistic edge than many other award festivals. Here is another example with the winner of the best Integrated Campaign by kempertrautmann gmbh. In Germany each year, over 100,000 children and young adults are reported missing. The “Germany will find you” campaign covered social, press, TV, events and more. Very inspiring.

Check out all the other winners and runners up here.

March 14, 2012

SXSW – where innovation gets unboxed

For the past few years SXSW has slowly grown in stature to become one of the premier global events for innovative ideas and a launch pad for the next generation dotcom businesses. This year, more than ever it is a magnet for brands, marketers and agency folk looking for the next big thing. Let’s take a look at what’s been going down…

Marvel ReEvolution

The iPad has been a shot in the arm for graphic novels (I won’t say comics) and now we see things going even further as Marvel move into the AR arena. To quote their website, “An industry first, the Marvel ReEvolution seamlessly brings the worlds of print and digital media together for a comics experience like no other. The first two elements of this exciting new initiative were revealed as Marvel Infinite Comics, a new comic book format, and Marvel AR, the first major augmented reality app from a comics company. And fans will not have to wait long to get in on the action as they will both be released with the hotly-anticipated AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 on April 4, when the two biggest super heroe teams in the world go to war!”

In this interview Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso talks to Forbes’ Tomio Geron about the comic book giant’s announcement at SXSW.

Other major brands have been present at the event including Pepsi, Virgin Mobile, American Express with their exclusive Jay Z concert and Kraft. Each one hoping for a bit of SXSW magic to rub onto them as they meet up with the developers and entrepreneurs creating the next digital revolution. You can read more on AdAge Digital here.


Meanwhile BBH were on the cutting edge of good taste with their Homeless Hotspots. They recruited 13 homeless people and gave them 4G wifi hotspots that people could use for a small donation. The feedback has been mixed but it certainly was a talking point.


Of course SXSW continues to be a place for experimentation as this project from Steve Clayton shows. Hrvoje Benko and Andy Wilson presented their Beamatron, an augmented reality concept that combines a projector and Kinect sensor on a pan tilt moving head – of the kind you may find in a nightclub. The setup utilizes KinectFusion to build a 3D model of a space and enables projected graphics to react in physically appropriate ways. For example a virtual car can be driven around the floor of the room bumping into actual obstacles and running over real ramps.

No festival is complete without its own awards so check out the finalists for the SXSW Interactive Awards here. I’ll follow up with a post about the winners.

June 14, 2010

Week of Tweets #14

Welcome to another edition of my regular roundup of favourite tweets.

Instant advertising… NYTimes: An Ad Engine to Put ‘Mad Men’ Out of Business http://nyti.ms/by4u4L

  • How automated can advertising get? This article covers some new developments in banner advertising.

Great idea… RT @intersphere: Condom brand uses#Chatroulette to create an HIV awareness campaignhttp://bit.ly/a7g4vl

Hope the video below doesn’t offend anyone. No doubt Steve Jobs will stop reading this blog now. Nice way to use fun technology to get a serious message across…

Another one converted 🙂 RT @adage: Bring on Digital: Why I No Longer Consider Myself a Traditionalist: http://bit.ly/9P0ufM

  • Liked this article showing how one “traditional” creative discovered the creative possibilities that digital provides.

RT @PSFK: BMW Brings “Joy” To Singapore With Interactive 3D Building Projection http://su.pr/20cYz5

Interesting… RT @BrandRepublic: Pepsi launches location-based iPhone app with check-in rewards http://fwd4.me/Ra2

  • I’m the king of the castle! Has Foursquare unlocked our inner children or started the next bandwagon? I still believe in location-based marketing but maybe not the version we know right now.

RT @pyesawichjr: Will the future be filled with data displays and 3D holographic objects projected into physical space? http://bit.ly/dyVmBv

  • I love a good futuristic story. This article imagines what things might be like 10 years from now. Oh how we’ll laugh when we look back at Layar (no offence guys).

Sorry, we don’t serve Flash… RT @anguswong: Restaurant replaces menus with iPads.

  • Will this replace waiters? Not really. They’ll just be wiping grease off iPad screens instead.

Now that’s a YouTube channel! RT @leorayman: DDB/Tribal launches Budweiser World Cup/reality show mashup www.BudUnited.com

  • Reality TV continues to be a great way to draw in an audience. This campaign is a great execution of a YouTube-based campaign.

Great article… RT @Razorfish: Digital advertising out; engaging experiences in (via @psfk) http://bit.ly/brIXu3

  • Does advertising work these days? Can we connect more with our audience through “brand-fueled” events and content?

and finally…

I Like!… RT @PSFK: Facebook ‘Like Button’ Goes Physical http://su.pr/2vmUhw

June 10, 2010


Pepsi seem to be betting their marketing dollars on socially conscious marketing. Now their (and related brands) barcodes are being used to unlock karma-positive initiatives. It all began late last year when Pepsi decided to switch their budget from huge traditional campaigns, starting by dropping costly ads during the Superbowl for a social media campaign that offered to give people grants for ideas that Refresh the Planet. It was all about Power to the People (that drink Pepsi – hopefully).

Now (as reported on POPSOPPepsiCo is “exploring a new initiative to communicate with consumers through its products. PepsiCo will share custom content on the social impact of PepsiCo products which will be accessible by scanning a bar code with a “bar code” reader smartphone application. By exploring how a Universal Product has the potential to be a “Universal Purpose Code,” PepsiCo believes there is an opportunity to deliver consumers the information that matters to them, while creating a two-way dialogue between PepsiCo and consumers”.

The idea is being piloted during Internet Week and is powered by Stickybits, a start-up technology that brings digital content to real-world objects through barcode scanning. POPSAP go on to say that “this collaboration marks the first-ever branded page experience or “official bits” for Stickybits. To advance this technology, PepsiCo is assembling a council of leaders in social responsibility and social media—led by digital influencer Gary Vaynerchuk—to explore the potential of the Universal Purpose Code concept”.

How many brands will be jumping on the karma bandwagon and will consumers care? Brands need the goodwill of customers and this is certainly one way to make it happen.