Friday, February 26, 2010

david ogilvy on the future of advertising

There's been a lot of speculation lately about the ad agency of the future. Ironically, I've been reading a new book about an ad man from the past and I'm struck by the prescience of David Ogilvy. He famously insisted on the superiority of advertising that provides measurable results. Ogilvy, Benson and Mather (as it was then called) was the first ad agency to integrate direct marketing (the ancestor of digital) into traditional campaigns. His preference was informed, no doubt, by his experience as a door to door salesman. He began his career hawking stoves, of all things. Not exactly an impulse buy. (Especially to canny Scots in the depths of a Depression. He learned to go around to the back door, to sell the cook first because if she didn't buy in, there was no hope of making a sale to her employer.)

Here's a few Ogilvy mantras that ring as true today as they did in the typewriter era. (Ogilvy never actually used a typewriter, he wrote longhand using only freshly sharpened pencils. For other untold tales about D.O. from the POV of a man who worked with him for years, pick up Kenneth Roman's excellent--and first-- biography King of Madison Avenue.)

The public is more interested in personalities than corporations.

This never changes. The only time someone wants to talk to a corporation, is when they're trying to wangle a refund from it. It may be the age of "conversational marketing" but consumers won't engage with a monolith company unless they're given a reason to do so. (See Alan Wolk's now-famous post on this topic.)

It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement, the more people will stop and look at it.

Hence the rise of embedded marketing, iphone apps, branded entertainment and widgets.

You aren't advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.

Of course, the parade moves a lot faster now, and to many more places. Still, a brand message must move nimbly with it.

Every advertisement must contribute to the complex symbol which is the brand image.

A brand message has to live in myriad environments these days, but no matter where it goes, it must carry the same DNA and core values.

Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.

In his day it was "suboptimize." In our day it's "folksonomy" and "glocalisation" and other words meant to make consultants appear worthy of exorbitant day rates.

Advertising isn't an art form, it's a medium of information.

Ogilvy alienated some colleagues by speaking out against over-the-top TV production extravaganzas and awards. He was interested only in creating messaging that produced results for the client. Here's a pep talk he gave (virtually) to one of his direct response departments. Just substitute the word "digital" for "direct" and it makes for an informative webinar.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Campbell's new label ingredient: biometrics

According to the Wall Street Journal, Campbell's is changing its iconic label in an effort to (duh) make people buy more soup. They spent two years researching package and logo designs by tracking microscopic changes in skin moisture, heart rate and other biometrics to see how consumers react to them. This "neuromarketing" approach is an attempt among consumer-good companies to understand how consumers respond to marketing and advertising.

In interviews, participants said the soup pictured on the can and shelf labels didn't look warm, so steam is added in the new label. And the big spoon full of soup provoked little emotional response, so it was removed.

The company hopes the label and display changes will help shoppers connect on a deeper level to the products and boost its condensed soup sales by 2% over the next two years. Hmmmmmm, good luck with that, Campbell's.

Full article here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

film promo goes beyond trailer, to retailer

Olympics got you hankering for a higher performance bod? Check out a new website where you can put in an order for a bionic arm that "handles twice the load of a human arm" (special 2 for 1 pricing) or a human heart "guaranteed to give you the blood pressure of an Olympic athlete." Faux site may not sell many organs but my guess is, it will be brilliantly effective at what it's intended to do: get you to shell out $12 for a ticket to an upcoming film. Repo Men, starring Jude Law as reclaimer of bionic body parts from unfortunate buyers behind on their payments, is due out March 19. Faux website courtesy of Goodness Mfg, LA ad agency staffed by creatives from Crispin.

Found on AdFreak

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dodge Superbowl spot generates direct response on youtube

Thank god it's the era of CGC and youtube so that Dodge's $3 million man-as-endangered-species spot could be rebutted for a fraction of the price by New York-based writer/producer MacKenzie Fegan. Her skillful parody airs views from Venus. Or is it Mars? I can never remember. But hey, how come only the guys get the car? (Full transcript here.)

Fegan is someone Dodge's agency W+K might consider wooing to Portland. They're in dire need of a female car creative out there, if this spot on Dodge's youtube channel is indication of what they think women want.

found in the twitterverse, via Edward Boches

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Parisian Oops

You knew it was coming. Spoof of Google's "Parisian Love" that revises the story, throwing in a search for "unplanned pregnancy options." Conceived (sorry) by Upright Citizen's Brigade, an NY/LA based improv troupe whose grads go to SNL and other comedy enterprises. Would that, for our sake, they'd end up in advertising.

Monday, February 8, 2010

mad ave vs. main street

Another reason I'm enthusiastic about BrandBowl, I suppose, is that its robo-pollsters confirm (at least as of this writing) my choice of Google for Superbowl 2010 winner. No half-naked men (or women), no pyrotechnics, no appeal to base instincts. Just the most powerful form of salesmanship there is: a simple story well told to dramatize product benefit. Nice play, Google. But, to demonstrate dispiriting chasm between Mad Ave and Main St, the spot ranks a measly #43 on USA Today's ad meter.

Brandbowl and I part ways on E-trade, however. Call me a sucker, but I love E-trade's talking babies and admire that Grey New York, hard as it must have been to rail against change artists, stuck with a concept that's charmed people for years into handing over their lucre. It's #15 on Brandbowl, but #7 on USA Today. Which I prefer to think means I'm not totally out of touch with mainstream consumers.

mullen's nifty new brand-o-meter

The game play yesterday most exciting to me was Mullen's kickoff of BrandBowl, a microsite that combines tweeting, ad reviews and a host of metrics to let viewers generate and view real time ratings of brands, not just spots. A sweet link to Hulu replayed commercials almost as soon as they aired. Scoreboard continually shifted, and is still shifting this morning, reflecting real-time assessments via twitter hashtag #brandbowl which Mullen promoted earlier in the week. Partnering with Radian 6, they've tallied results assessing content from thousands of players generating almost 100,000 tweets. Next year, I assume brands will be vying for ad space. Brilliant, Ed Boches.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

men lose in superbowl spots

Odd that a televised extravaganza targetting men would be rife with advertisers belittling them. "Hey, guys, you're henpecked, emasculated and illiterate," many spots said, in essence, "but buying our stuff will make you feel virile!" Really? What guy falls for this? Don't brand shepherds realize we've come a long way since Walter Mitty. And why haven't they noticed that 39 million viewers are actually women?

In case you missed it, here's a sampling of commercials I'm talking about, and the hypothetical creative briefs they were based on:

It's not easy being a man. You have to recycle the garbage, put the seat down, listen to your wife and be nice to her mother. Whew! But a big car can make it all feel better. (Dodge)

Walking the dog and opening hard-to-open jars makes you a man. And, oh yes, so does buying our new brand extension. (Dove)

Looked down lately, guys? Something's missing. Reclaim masculinity. Put on our pants. (Dockers)

Any guy who goes shopping with a woman is a wuss wearing a skirt. But wusses can now tote a TV to the mall which will somehow make them feel less emasculated. (Flo TV) (Btw, what's up with menstrual product names? Couldn't iPad or FloTV find any women for focus groups?)

Real men don't read. They swill beer, leaving literature to the ladies. (Bud Light)

GoDaddy's entries? Predictably lame, the same sophomoric attempts at humor we've come to expect. In-house advertising at its sexist, tone-deaf worst. Not worth the trouble to embed em for you. Trust me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

an appeal to make the shorty awards, well, shorter

As my friends, family and followers on twitter are relieved to know, Shorty Award voting ended yesterday. I'm tickled that @BettyDraper finished in what appears to be 2nd place in the Innovation category, though rankings won't be announced until an awards ceremony on March 3.

So now that I've dusted myself off from the campaign trail, and had a chance to gain a little perspective, I'm thinking that if the Shorty Awards really mean to "Honor the Best Producers of Short Real-Time Content on Twitter" they ought to rethink the open voting.

Last year, Shorty winners were determined only by popular vote which meant that awards went to those with the most time and energy to devote to aggregating votes. At least one finalist, @SavvyAuntie, dropped out of the running for this reason. (Technically, she didn't drop out, but stopped asking for votes, which in a runoff determined by popular vote, is the same thing.) "It's not a fair awards ranking program. It's a popularity contest."

Anyone with a twitter account can be nominated (or nominate themselves) for a Shorty Award. The rules encourage nominees to "campaign and encourage their friends to vote for them." This is a great way to ensure that Shorty Awards is a top trending topic on twitter, but a lousy thing to do to the twitter community which is besieged for weeks with solicitations for votes from anyone with a hope of actually winning.

To their credit, Shorty Awards organizers are attempting to make the awards less about vote-getting this year and more about content creation by instituting another round in the process, a review by the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences. The name may be amusing, but the membership is impressive, including MC Hammer, David Pogue (NYTimes), Kurt Andersen (NPR), Frank Moss, (MIT media lab), Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr) and Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist.) According to the Shorty website, the Academy "will carefully review the finalists' tweets and fill out an anonymous survey with their choices for winners." What role their vote will play in determination of winners isn't clear, but their role is promised to be "vital."

Perhaps next year, the Academy could play an even more vital role, helping to nominate finalists. Should the Shorty evolve to be like other award shows that rely only on recognized experts in a field to identify excellence of others in it? (Imagine if the real Oscars were determined by how many votes actors could wheedle out of viewing audiences?) This being social media, I think the Shorty Awards needs to retain a social component in determination of winners. But couldn't the voting period be contracted? A month is a century in twitter time, interminable to contenders who must keep stumping for votes, excruciatingly long for the twitter community forced to endure so many appeals. Wouldn't an open voting period of a week or less be a relief to everyone?

Of course, despite my beef with an imperfect process, I'll be breathless as other finalists in Times Square on March 3, awaiting word of the winners, grateful there’s any recognition at all for an art still dismissed by so many as "frittering."

Monday, February 1, 2010

why i'm voting against @Adbroad in the Shorty Awards

If you've got other things on your mind besides social media, you might not have heard of the Shorty Awards. The Oscars of Twitter. Sans limos and red carpet and televised gala. Election is by popular vote and I'm jazzed to be a finalist in two categories: advertising and innovation.

The first round of voting was last week and there was a bit of a dust-up in advertising, the rare ad awards show in which Lee Clow isn't a frontrunner. @FrankAdman (a fictional art director from the 60s) accused @iwearyourshirt (a guy who wears other people's Tshirts for a living) of breaking the rules by getting robots to finagle votes. Turns out, boosting vote counts via robots (or humans in feverish imitation of them) isn't against the rules. But Shorty organizers reacted responsibly by re-weighting votes, assigning different values to tweets according to content and origin. Ah, the vagaries of life on the digital frontier.

Speaking of frontiers. Very few new ideas come along in advertising. But this may be one of them. Invent a fictional character---emphasis on invention. Don't appropriate a character from a TV show or film or book, a character you own no IP rights to. Invent an original character who can be made to do what you wish, gallivanting from twitter to facebook to youtube to...whatever the next social media platform will be. Use the character to build an audience. Then sell that audience like a media buy.

@FrankAdman appeared about the same time as AMC's Mad Men wandered into the twitterverse. He's a west coast art director living large in the 60s: chain-smoking, skirt-chasing, inventor of the virtual "Twittertini" which has evolved into the lexicon of social media-speak on Twitter. He now has over 14,000 followers. I don't know if @FrankAdman is for sale. But if I were Kodak or Clorox or Dewars or another brand with heritage in the 60s, I'd certainly put in a call. Er, a tweet.

I'm voting for @FrankAdman in the Shorty Awards because I love the idea of a fictional character winning in the advertising category again. (Last year's winner was the tweeter for Peggy Olson.) I want @FrankAdman and @BettyDraper to take home Shorty Awards this year. To help demonstrate the power of brand fiction in the digital universe.

I'm only sorry we'll have to pull AdBroad's campaign commercial.

To vote for Frank, go to the Shorty polls here. Vote for Betty here.

why i'm going to work in a factory

I've worked in advertising almost since Eve sold the apple and have seen lots of changes. But nothing compares to the tidal wave causing fundamental realignments in the business now. That shift is caused by the only thing that ever causes marketers to change their behavior--consumer behavior.

Used to be brands told their story via broadcast but consumers are no longer willing to sit back in their Lazy Boys, content to take in a product story pipelined to them; they expect to be an active part of the narrative. Brand stories must be recrafted to allow for audience interaction and delivered in forms created and produced for whichever environment the audience prefers to receive it.

A few frontrunner brands are recognizing this shift in consumer psychology and recrafting their message accordingly, designing campaigns to provide immersive and participative experiences across a wide range of platforms.

Coke transformed a brilliant concept behind an award-winning TV commercial into a global media franchise with multiple revenue streams. BMW hired filmmakers like Ridley and Tony Scott to create short films that highlighted particular performance aspects of vehicles. Dove deconstructed media portrayal of beauty to relieve its target consumer of cultural baggage and further insinuate itself into her good graces. AMC's Mad Men raised the bar by actually getting fans to do their marketing for them. Not only did they permit fans to appropriate characters and create a twitter-based campaign, they launched a micro-site that resulted in the conversion of over 600,000 social media avatars to what are, in essence, ads for brand Mad Men.

Plenty of smart digital strategists are out there to advise on where and how and when to launch brand stories into the webiverse. But how to decide what those stories should be? How to make a story that's not only engaging but true to the brand's DNA? How to build a mythology that extends current marketing efforts? How, in other words, to do the creative?

Which is why I'm launching Brand Fiction Factory, in the company of other Mad Men on Twitter conspirators. It's a creative content provider for ad agencies, entertainment companies, brand managers and others seeking to use narrative in the digital space to maximize consumer engagement. The factory shop sign isn't spit and polished quite yet. But doors are open and we're open for business. Do drop by!