6 posts categorized "Advertising"


Unilever goes crowdsourcing

via www.guardian.co.uk

"We believe Peperami is a brand that deserves radical creative solutions and are confident taking our brief out to thousands rather than a small team of creatives will provide us with the best possible idea and take our advertising to the next level," said the Peperami marketing manager, Noam Buchalter (from an article in the Guardian).

I think that Noam is right. I used to think that the crowd can only give you a direction for creative development but, after a first-hand experience with crowdsourcing, I believe that the creative could come from the crowd, given that the crowd is big and diverse enough.

Does it mean that the world has become our creative department and the big ad agencies can be closed down? I think it does, except for the planning department, that should stay open - the planners will connect the crowd with the brand.


Boredom at the Long Tail

In this scene from Tootsie (the first minute of it) Dustin Hoffman makes a mistake - he believes that people (women in this case) really want what they ask for:

The Long Tail allows us to ask for what we think we really want - my iPod is full of stuff that (I think) really interests me - the podcasts and the music. What is missing in my iPod is a surprise. A bit of a different tune coming from nowhere, a bit of pure otherness, oddness, difference and randomness needed for inspiration. In terms of music, last.fm seems to be the half-way answer: it can surprise with a song that you haven't heard...but it cannot really, really surprise since it is still taking you on a guided tour within the confines of your taste (culture?, class?).

The current big thing in marketing seems to be targetting people with messages that they have asked for (gave permission to receive) - because of their interest, hobbies etc. Sounds good but I feel that there is some inherent paradox in this - advertising needs to surprise, needs to be unexpected and often needs to annoy in order to provoke a reaction. If you give me just what I want, I might not spill a champaign in your face but I will definitely get bored and start to ignore you.


Carousel of nostalgia


The famouse scene from Mad Men - click here. 

The self-pitying poetry of an Adman:

It’s delicate, but potent…
Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound.
It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.
This device… isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine.
It goes backwards, forwards.
It takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
It’s not called the Wheel.
It’s called the Carousel.
It lets us travel the way a child travels.
Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.
"Mad Men" Season 1, Episode 13, "The Wheel"

The sweet, decaying taste of nostalgia like 2 days old sacher cake behind a glass in Vienna. In the 18th century nostalgia was classified as a disease.  Today it is only a slightly sickening, paralysing desire to go back to the (not only Persil) soft mum and possibly to the hard, right-winged dad who will clean this place from immigrants who steal our jobs.  


Red Ink

Slavoj Žižek quotes an old Eastern European joke in the introduction to his book Welcome to the Desert of the Real . The  joke goes like this: A Czech (or East German or Polish) worker is transferred to Siberia. He know that when he will write letters from Siberia to his friends at home they  will be read by the censors and so he tells his friends : "Let's establish a code: if a letter you receive from me is written in normal blue ink, it's true; if it is written in red ink, it's false." After a month, his friends receive a letter written in blue ink: "Everything is great here in Siberia: the shops are full, there is plenty of food, there are great and beautiful apartments, you can see all the latest Western films in the cinema and there are beautiful girls ready to go out with you - the only thing that you cannot get here is red ink."

These days, our shops are finally full in Eastern Europe (at least in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary) and there are all the Western movies in the cinemas.  And advertising is wetting our appetite for more.  Advertising in Eastern Europe is shouting loud, celebrating products and services, assuming that people will keep their love affairs with brands that are pushing their primitive messages through TV.

Most of the manufacturers (both local and international) have bought into the cliche that, unlike  Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans must be treated with simple "push" advertising that "really sells."  These ads, packed with product benefits, might be good  for short-term sales but they don't  build an emotional connection between a brand and people.  The people featured in these ads have usually very little to do with the lives of people in the CEE region: they are just mannequins or people who are being used as metaphors for the products in the ads (or their  specific features). It is interesting how this approach has been used to tell the world about ourselves:

If there is ever a contest for ads packed with the most cliches about Prague, this ad must be a winner: blondes, alcohol, nice servants in wigs (is the servant standing for a reformed Czech taxi driver who is no longer stealing or beating his customers?) and Mozart (to signify culture). Has this ad been created to attract  more young English guys to Prague? Those that are stumbling out of their EasyJet planes and barfing before they reach passport control? Probably yes and the ad might do the job there - the guys might be encouraged to come to Prague on Friday evening, get drunk and get laid (if they overcome their shyness and need to do everything in a group ranging from 6 to 10), and then leave Prague Sunday evening, spending there $300 each. Is this ad going to attract to Prague the people that I have met in London - smart and affluent professionals? I doubt it - the ad might take away their  illusions about the creative potential of the people in Prague and Prague's genius loci

Our shops are overflowing with goods and we are getting fatter. The only thing that we are lacking is the red ink - to tell bits of truth about ourselves in an interesting way, as this (I believe) is the only way to build stronger brands - including the brand called the Czech Republic.


Global vs. local - at Millward Brown


I was at Millward Brown a few weeks ago, participating at a discussion moderated by Andy Truslove, who asked us (Richard Swaab from AMV, James Eadie from Coke, Dr. Val Curtis from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and me), "whether international advertising works most effectively with one central global campaign or whether advertising should be targeted towards particular regions or cultures".

I thought that we had a really good debate, without really answering the question. Here are my random notes:

*When we talk about global brands, we are talking about  Western brands (born in the US, UK, France, Germany that are exploiting the opportunities in the East (= Asia and CEE) and South (LATAM).

*The first wave of expansion of global brands that culminated in the 1970's  and 1980's,  consisted of American brands such as Levi’s or Coke, that is, brands based on the mythology and image of America and tied up with America's pop culture.

*Since the Berlin Wall came down, the world has become one world (in theory) and key Western manufacturers started to develop global brands, exploiting opportunities in the East. (Even conservative manufacturers such as Wrigley or Masterfoods were suddenly looking at global needstate and at the way how to make their brands work across markets).

* The new generation of global, Western brands (late 90's until now) was built on broader positioning (against the earlier, more narrow, functional "American" positioning). These brands have been built on "pieces of human truth" and  higher order human needs. Their territories are bigger and rewarding and they (in most cases) work across borders, e.g. Dove's "Real beauty," Coke's "Optimism and connectivity," Omo's "Dirt is good", Apple"s "helping everybody to express their creativity".

*The broad brand territories are rewarding but they entail the danger of "virtual consumption", i.e.  the "human truths" resonate with people, people are being entertained BUT without giving the brand an emotional ownership of the "truth" or an insight...

*The feverish effort to generate new "consumer insights"  doesn't help - we often grow insights away from brands by being focused on consumer needs only and forgetting about the needs of brands.

*Brands cannot pick and choose which piece of human truth to own. To develop an ownable territory takes effort, time and consistency. Coke owns the territory of " optimism and connectivity" successfully, because they have been dominant and consistent in this territory for a long time (going back at least to the post-WWII optimism in the US and Europe, to which Coke was attached).

*If a brand truly owns a broad territory, it can then move beyond executional uniformity. Every piece of communication will be recognized as belonging to the heart of the brand (without the need for uniformity or excessive use of literal brand cues).

* These broad brand territories often challenge existing stereotypes. We talked about the difficulties in communicating the counter-cultural messages to people in developing markets who haven’t had the time and resources to experience the stereotypes that we are trying to challenge (i.e. the "beauty" stereotypes that Dove is challenging). In this case, executions need to be adjusted in order to remain aspirational.

*The structures of the different companies that market global brands are similar: there are global centres that generate strategy and global campaigns and the local markets that generate cash. The relationship between the centre and the local markets is often difficult but could work well if the locals stop endlessly challenging (global strategy, campaigns...) and start concentrating their effort on activating in stores, and if the global centres listen to the local markets and recognize great local ideas with the potential to travel (and that requires humility)

*For instance, the 2006 World Cup advertisement for Coke was developed in Argentina, recognized as outstanding by the centre and then run in all countries.  Here is a Chinese version of it:

* Market research plays an important (and often problematic) role in the global vs. local (and regional) split. It is being used as weapon by both side to promote arguments and counter-arguments. Often, what seems to be more important than the research findings (which are often relative and open to interpretation) is the physical getting together and the bonding (local, regional, global) over the findings.

*We touched on the "global sources" of creativity (in advertising). There are many places with great talent but the two key global centers when it comes to creativity seem to be London and Buenos Aires, i.e. the British use of humour (Richard said that humour is the closest the British can get to any real emotion) and the visual and poetic Argentinian style:

So, one global campaign or a few ads targeted to key markets? It depends.
What does it depend on? The region (Is it the Czech Republic we are talking about or China?), the budget, the category, the brand and on the task...


The Coast of Utopia

The Coast of Utopia is Tom Stoppard’s new trilogy about 19th century Russia and its radicals: Bakunin, Belinsky, Herzen. Nina Raine has joined Stoppard for rehearsal of the trilogy in Moscow and has written an article for the Guardian. Nina Raine describes a scene that happened during the rehearsal:

Herzen, his wife Natalie and their friend George are discussing Marx:

H: But Marx is a bourgeois from the anus up.

N: Alexander! I won't have that word . . .

H: Sorry, middle class.

‘I don't understand when you're having fun and when you're being sincere,’ Stoppard interjects.

Ilya [the actor playing Herzen] is baffled: "Is it a joke?"

The Russians then explained to Stoppard that the joke doesn’t work because they until recently they didn’t use the phrase “middle class”. There are no spaces between the opulent palaces and the old, dilapidated factories on the banks of th Neva River in St. Petersburg. However, materialism is on the rise in Russia. The Russians (and the Czechs) have successfully distanced themselves from the communist propaganda in the past. They paid lip service to it only when needed: in public, at work - and then they laughed about it and its promises of happiness and future paradise, in the privacy of their homes. During communism people took refuge in jokes, alcohol and classic Russian literature.

The Russians also laughed later on when they saw, in the beginning of the 1990’, the first TV ads and the promises of happiness through shining hair, miraculous yoghurts and life-transforming fruit juices. And then they succumbed. It was stronger then them, their minds were invaded by shining hair and radiant skins. The image of artificial woman with applying anti-aging cream with an empty smile, strangled the subtle portrait of the lady with a dog. They have their Chekhovs and Tolstoys on the bookshelves but I bet that the jars with the anti-aging creams get opened hundred times more often than the books. (The bottles of vodka seem to get opened at the same rate through the centuries).   

Actor and director Sergei Kokovkin says, in the Guardian article, that something is missing in the Russian actors. “The spiritual fire has been blown out,” he says.

The spiritual fire burned through Russian literature. The literature and theatre have always been about passions and excesses – high and low, heaven and hell (sorry, middle-class).

Most of the Russian (and Eastern European) advertising has no fire or passion in it. It is boring and obvious. Unlike in the UK, there seems to be thick, dividing lines between the academic, artistic and the advertising/marketing communities in Eastern Europee. The advertising community alone is not willing or able to challenge their clients and create engaging, emotional and unique communication that would tap into the “Russian soul”.  Ads are being created mechanically, according to old formulas; divorced from the wider and deeper circle of culture (There are exceptions to this, obviously).

This is an example of a crude and obvious ad that exploits passions without creating any:

(via Russian marketing blog)