Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Landrover scrubbing along but Dacia Duster should clean up


Let me start with an aside.

One of the things that I've noticed since starting this blog reviewing advertising is that good news ( ie when the review is favourable) whistles round the stakeholders' networks, whilst bad news is buried. Strange that.

Anyhow,a couple of car ads with  "cryptic" themes spotted last weekend. Landrover and Dacia.

First up Landrover.

Difficult for us Brits not to like this brand given its crucial role in our recent history.(Churchill's original is up for auction with a reserve of £60,000). 

So anyone working on this account has a built in advantage of the "benefit of the doubt" if the creative work gets slightly stuck in a rut.

This ad ran in the Telegraph magazine on 11 August.It is advertising a chance to "take the millionth Discovery 8000 miles to Beijing, across 13 countries and only 50 days to do it." In addition, we discover that the Red Cross and Red Crescent will benefit to the tune of £1m.
We are then referred to a web site to find out more.The ad is made up visually of a series of (evocative but rather dated 35 mm) film clips showing a Disco on various roads and conditions between here and the Orient, interspersed with road signs that spell out a cryptic message of "discovery" for those who get that far.

As a cryptic crossword fan I really, really wanted to commend this ad.
As a believer in Landrover,ditto.
But as a marketeer I can't. Because the ad is unlikely to work. (And there is a far simpler ad that will work far better, which will come later).
This is not because the ad is unattractive. It isn't. It's not over-original, but it is really rather beautiful. And quite clever. And arty.
It's because the ad has got caught up in someone's conceit, the result of which means we have a piece of indulgence rather than efficacy: art possibly, accountability no.
How it happens goes something like this.Someone, either the agency or the client comes up with what is essentially a promotional idea to plug the 1 millionth Discovery.
The agency creative team, who should actually knock out in 10 minutes a simple ad based on this premise, see an opportunity: (Their names have been changed to protect the guilty).
Gav: Ever been to Beijing Ed?
Ed: No I haven't Gav? Why you ask?
Gav:Fancy about six months out of the agency on a shoot for the new Discovery?
Ed: Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?
The ad shown above slowly takes shape. The Landrover client is then shown the draft for the ad and brought into the plot to ensure it's actually made. ( Ed and Gav:"Why don't you come with us?" Client (who is paying): "Er...thanks don't mind if I do") and the caravan to the mystic Orient is ready to rock and roll.
The point of this is that the creative process involved is not only partly personal opportunism but often loses its way by becoming indulgently introspective and self serving. It does not take into account the way the punter actually receives advertising, how his brain is wired and how much work he is prepared to do to engage with an ad.

This ad looks inwards when it should be thrusting outwards. And for this reason it will be largely ignored.
More importantly, ads like this that deliberately attempt to conceal their message need to have such a major sense of satisfaction when the mystery is finally solved that the benefit of a smallish group of happy solvers outweighs the masses who never felt the urge to engage.The satisfaction in "solving" this ad is unlikely to reverberate around the dinner parties of Esher.
The ad lacks an entry point or hook that might conceivably have saved it.This entry point might for instance have been a (conventional) headline, based on The Challenge, that could somehow contextualise the visual element and encourage readers to solve the clue.
It would be hooking people in rather than "hoping" them in.
What we have in reality are the words in small print "Been anywhere interesting lately?" at the top right ( is this meant to be a headline or a slogan?) and the meat of the offer in even smaller print at the bottom. Both instantly missable.
Correctly conceived, the hooking would be based on some benefit to the punter that appealed to his status, his ambition, his wanderlust, whichever of the psychological drivers one cares to chose. But it has to be overt, visceral and instant or else the page is quickly turned. If the message is over- intellectual, over-subtle, it is easily ignored. ( In addition, although double page spreads look pretty and have undoubted impact potential in the right hands, they are also very easy for punters to turn over.)
Because of this, this ad is a William Morris: pretty, expensive wallpaper.
The ad they should have run would simply feature the car (biggish) and the promotional message (bigger), written in a way that appealed to a sense of urgency, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something that could change your life. It would be based on the idea of what the reader might lose by ignoring the ad as much as by what he would gain by reading it.
And then the ad will "work".

If interested, this and a general framework for deciding what will and what won't work is set out at www.cambridgecomms.com
Next up it's Dacia on the grid.
The overall campaign for the Duster is strong, not just for its clarity and clean simplicity, but because it correctly judges the mood. It gently insists, via a low price focus, that folk interested in 4x4s would be missing out if they do not pay attention to this new entry. Here's an example of the campaign so far:

They do this in a smart and slightly low-keyed way, using the psychology of price (without any other obvious and potentially cliched imagery) and combine it with messages of efficiency, transparency and general 21st centuriness ( you can buy this car at a dealer or online, for instance).This means the brand comes across as smart not cheap.
This concentration on price and accessibility prevents any form of  distracting artifice being introduced into the brand and it comes across as authentic.
And, while the imagery appears modest - in that we only ever see the product - the overall effect is a result of Dacia understanding exactly the position of its product in the continuum of 4x4s: why me, why now?
( Compare this for instance with VW's Touareg, which has failed to create any traction, by failing to answer that question or understand that it exists.)

Dacia have delivered a proposition with a compellingly high degree of purity about it, with a lot of white space and none of the slightly breathless claustrophia that can creep into the visual expression of other more brashly art-directed car brands.
White space = absence. Absence = freedom, something the luxury brands of this world understand world to good advantage. Yet this is a price brand playing that game. Smart.
The campaign shows you don't need mud and mountains if the central emotional proposition is strongly conceived. And even though this campaign  won't trouble the Awards jury in the way the Landrover work might, I know which approach I'd be happier with, both as agency and client.
So much for the campaign as a whole. Then this happens...
This ad for the Duster appeared in the Telegraph on Saturday, right next to the cryptic crossword.

Its position there is important.It is meant to get crossword solvers involved. It's an old idea ( no harm in that) and we play along with the game a bit as we know what the answer to the clue is going to be, but...and here's the  quibble...Why is there no cryptic clue?
Just as Landrover were over-cryptic when they should have been clear, Dacia has been under-cryptic when they should have been covert.It is lazy writing.
It's not the end of the world. Just a small opportunity missed.
For future running of this ad, can I therefore suggest that a headline clue such as: A car studied, rebuilt, gives a no nonsense SUV ( 5,6) might be more what's required if Dacia wish to deliver an extra soupcon of relevance and engagement to their otherwise strong effort. 
Why not do a clue writing contest with a Dacia as prize?
The extra PR/viral interest achieved could be high.
You do the maths, as they say at Dacia.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

P&G. Will this gamble work?


Only a day to go. My penultimate pre Olympic post is about P&G's, Proud Sponsors of Mums campaign (or Moms in the original US). This is their global branding for the event.

Much of this is well conceived, in that it is emotionally based. So that's good.There is a  fundamental if axiomatic insight, that the competitors are all children of some mother. This is at the core of the campaign, a relationship that is of potentially enormous significance, not just at the time of winning, but also during the time of early awareness of the child's potential, its upbringing and through the dark days of constant training.(You famously see this relationship at first hand when you watch the tight lipped Mrs Murray at Wimbledon).So that's good too.

It is well shot series, perhaps over-sentimentalised even by American schmaltz standards: they find it difficult to move beyond Fame or the Spielberg style of direction, and never quite get the John Lewis factor, but this may be a quibble.
It is also good that they have tried to find a creatively consistent theme that builds beyond the reality of track and field and takes us into family and feelings.
Many other brands that I have written about, eg Omega watches, have created such obvious "Olympic" ads that they blend into each other and merge with the broadcasters' own material.Thus the branding is lost and the money goes down the gurgler.
The irony in these instances is that at the time of creating these wasteful commercials (say 6-9 months ago) they might have appeared exciting and uplifting to the companies creating them, and the research companies testing them. They might even have researched quite well. But they would have been researched in the pre-Olympic environment before people had been exposed to all the other identikit ads.So a good research result then will almost certainly result in a poor commercial result when it's all over. This might be borne in mind by marketeers when the next big bonanza comes their way - project yourself into what other people ( inc broadcsters) are likely to do and avoid it.

(It is understandable, possibly even slightly commendable, that the loopy spin-mistress Siobhan in Twenty Twelve tries to promote the women's football team by specifically not mentioning either women or football, because she is aware of the overload already built up).

So P&G have cleverly sidestepped the first trap and set their own agenda. The campaign is also a fairly major departure for a company who have generally made their money on before-and-after, or comparison style ads, that use reason as the key selling platform: we took this half of  a meerkat, washed it in X and then compared it with the other half washed in Z.

Finally, of course, Proud Sponsors of Mums, as a campaign, is a logistical challenge of mind boggling proportions as P&G weave a plethora of their global brands through the campaign, in most of the 100 countries they operate in.

Creatively, then, this is new territory.

Is it wise territory? Will the departure pay off?
Given what I suggest in www.cambridgecomms.com about the positive effect of emotionally based advertising approaches, I cannot but endorse the overall intention of the P&G campaign even if the saccharin aftertaste is strong. This is not to say that  an emotionally based route is per se self-justifying. It will only work if the background strategy is based on a truth that fits the overall brand or corporate need going forward, resonates with the target, is well branded and has direction associated with leadership into the future.What it asks people to believe and do as a result is the bit that matters.
This allows a few queries,quibbles and observations to be ventured. No more than that.
The campaign marks the first step into a corporate branding approach for P&G: up until now, it has generally, quite rightly, kept its corporate credentials obscured from view, in favour of its individual brand names. It has kept its bog cleaners and batteries apart.
If you make Pampers as well as Max Factor, and Tampax as well as Oral B this is wise so that people don't confuse which goes where.

The imagery of each brand has hitherto been marketed in a discrete, not corporate, manner. Indeed, most consumers would not know which brands P&G make and might be rather miffed if they did, preferring to revel in the image of say Vidal Sassoon shampoo as a stand alone entity rather than knowing it came out of some factory in NW England courtesy of  a monolith that also churns out Silvikrin next door.
Corporate brands like L'Oreal can leverage their corporate strength to consumers because they only make one group of products, all of which have the same emotional flavour. And this is in the glamour rather than the bog cleaning department. By unifying their disparate brands under one flag, might P&G risk a revelation that may back fire on them? It's just a question.
The theme, and its wording, are also worthy of quibble.

Whatever else P&G are they are not sponsors of Mums.
The idea of sponsorship is that the sponsor pays the sponsee; but the reality in the day to day relationship, aka when you go shopping, is that Mums pay P&G. Supporters of Mums might be nearer the truth but then it would not have quite the Olympic ring desired. It's a quibble but quite an important one.

(It is true that P&G are doing something on the ground at the Olympics to provide free hospitality/shelter/water for the mothers (and fathers?) of competitors but this is not what their ads are about).
To sum up, my conjecture is that this has strong elements to like, but  that  Marketing might have over-ridden Sense in some areas on this one. And that in the interests of manageablity a certain line has been crossed that may turn out to be pointless.

That line is the difference between a brand and a company.
Someone at High Command Cincinnati in 2005 just could not resist committing to a 7 year programme that would "put the company on the global stage like never before" ( I can imagine hearing some such words from the Chief  Marketing  Officer). Nice 7 year job if you can get it.
By creating a campaign linking it all back to P&G the thing became manageable, but I am not convinced it meant it became commercial. Or, word of the moment, sustainable: are we increasingly to see more P&G branding of pack?

Will people be searching for the magic logo before buying their batteries?
Will Mums be the main target from now on in?
Will men be out of the running?

My guess on all four would be no.
And that the campaign was (just) a major tactical exercise, of no real lasting value consumer-wise.
Because, when it comes to it, P&G punters buy the individual brand not the company. Someone simply blinked when the sponsorship deals for 2012 came round this time round ( P&G did not get involved majorly in Bejing) and that set the fuse alight.
Where this campaign might work strongest is both at staff and at trade levels.Internal love-ins will have convinced P&G employees that they work for a great global philanthropist.
Further, if you're P&G you are constantly seeing your profits chipped away by supermarket and own label products. If you can reverse this by saying words to the effect of  "this family makes better stuff than any one, whether it's bog cleaners or batteries", you may be able to hold back the wall of own label at a trade level, where the corporate brand does have some sway.
But it is unlikely to be a great stimulant to the consumer.
Er, I mean Mums.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

UPS Good delivery


In the series of Olympic ad reviews, the global logistic and delivery company UPS is next on the blocks. Their role in the Games is to be officially in charge of Deliveries, and they will have paid a handsome sum for this, many times greater than the value of deliveries they will be making. Have they wasted their money?

If you haven't seen their ad here it is:


This whole sponsorship seems right and quietly relevant.
UPS have managed to continue their approach of making delivering packages ( aka logistics) seem glam and professional. And at the same time, subtly calling into question the credibility of the hordes of lesser brands and white van men who compete with them, and who, by implication, perform on a lesser stage.
This ad has got it right too.
It's got the balance between its sponsorship and its ad message right. This means that the service it is offering to the Games a) makes sense and b) fits well with the reality of its day to day business: it has not had to try too hard to get them to coalesce.( Many brands in my previous reviews have struggled to see how to make their sponsorship deal relevant or differentiated).
It's got the overall strategy right: to be simultaneously big and small, global and local, professional but personal.

It's also got the tone right : it feels service orientated, understanding, approachable, inclusive.
It's got the "sponsorship symbiosis" balance in its favour. What I mean by that is that UPS has a clear image advantage in its favour via its association with the Games: this is not always the case with larger or more "famous" global brands for whom the additional kudos is far less tangible than they had originally imagined.In this context, because it has executed it well, UPS gets loads of positive borrowed interest from the Olympics and makes this work for their brand. ( If interested see the BP and Omega blogs below for how to get this balance working against you).
Further, this ad has many of the right ingredients to work.It's been conceived and built properly.


Within the solidity of the overall approach, UPS has neatly chosen key ingredients that are likely to result in success (and are detailed as a working blueprint at www.cambridgecomms.com if you're interested). Whether they have done this knowingly or by luck is a matter of conjecture, but this ad is well designed.

As an aside, readers may be familiar with the BBC's hilarious Twenty Twelve. Perhaps not so well known is the fact that this is pretty much how it is in reality: in particular, the ad agency/PR portrayal is not over fanciful - clients are daily fed questionable rubbish, cooked up without design, on a whim, by amateurs. What such organisations tend to lack is a rigorous results orientated process to create and judge their own work. A suggestion for such a framework, and the necessary ingredients, is set out at Cambridge Comms if you're interested.
Of the ingredients I look at in detail, the key one UPS have chosen is Strong tribal leader message.
At Cambridge Comms I suggest that much human behaviour is based on auto responses, quite primitive sub conscious promptings, many of which are the result of an involuntary desire to belong to a group ( a tribe). Ads that show a range of people reacting positively to something have a built in advantage from the start as the message of mutual security in the tribe, and trust in the tribal leader, comes across.
In a recent survey of brands, the "generic cheddar" Cathedral City came high at No 13 in the list of the nation's favourites , and many commentators were falling over themselves to be surprised by this.

But Cathedral City has always based its approach on national popularity, and, by pitching itself as the nation's favourite, and showing a semi-romantic view of  families and individuals across the country tucking in from dawn to dusk, by showing family relevance and nostalgia, it has successfully created a movement that inveigles people in via the inherent perception of popularity: if everyone is doing it I will too. This is how the Olympic torch phenomenon works too (see my previous blog post). Cathedral City also got a number of other key building blocks right including naming, the use of specific colours, and parchment wrapping, all of which helped provide substance and natural "continuum".

There will invariably be more people willing to follow this sort of Pied Piper message than those (arguably with "minds of their own") who prefer to pursue their own course, and  that's why this approach works in so many cases.
Halifax, with their singing choir, have over the last 10 years or so built their brand around this foundation. Ditto Coke and BA.                                

UPS's choice of a range of different enterprises from sport to theatre, from hi-tech to bespoke tailoring, not only shows the constituent parts of the tribe, but also allow UPS to bask in the reflected glory of those constituents: will UPS be seen as a higher tech or more creative company in the future? Will UPS be seen as a company that's creative and  plays fair? Yes, subtly, on all counts.
Presumably, too, the featured tribal members ( the customers shown) are also those companies who are targets for UPS, customer sectors where they are currently light. It's part of the design.
Note, none of the above refers to creative egregiousness in any way.This ad is not going to win any creative awards ( except possibly within the logistics industry itself), but this will not diminish its power to work in the real world.

Of course, a true creative breakthrough, combined with the design ingredients shown above, makes for an even better final product, but too many "creative breakthroughs" fail because they are not grounded in what will work. In such cases the creative world may win, but the commercial world ( the advertising client who is paying) loses.
There are rare exceptions, but these need to be entered into knowingly: and some ads are meant simply to be art and the ad replaces the product story completely.(Benneton in the 80s was a good and rare example).
To conclude.When the post mortem comes after the Games, and the winners and losers in the casino of sponsorship are decided, how will UPS fare?
In image and relevance terms I  believe it's on a certain win. Its advertising should talk to the FD as much as the despatch manager, and to big and small businesses alike. Its brand image is likely to be enhanced as much to current and future customers as to current and  future employees ( so it is actually a decent recruitment ad too).
So, as far as image is concerned, the only way is up.
Prove this on the ground UPS, via meticulous professionalism and punctuality, avoid a GS4 style cock up and try not to lose the Polish long jumpers's jock strap and you can expect a podium finish.

Monday, 9 July 2012

British Airways: Strong idea - Wrong idea


Over the next few weeks I will be looking at how various brands have tried to exploit the vast amount of sponsorship pounds they've spent on the Olympics. For some this will be a salutary experience, for sponsorship is like marriage: where it works it works, but in many cases it's sponsor in haste, repent at leisure.

When it's all over, the post mortems round the boardroom tables will reveal, despite the persuasive patter of the marketing guys, that the tangible effects were limited to an improvement in internal staff morale, and in some cases client (trade) relationships. Except in very well organised instances, with a  high level of  data gathering activity, aka direct marketing,  any commercial effect as far as the consumer is concerned is likely to be difficult to justify for the money spent, non-existent or short lived.

In the sponsorship game, popular marketing theory dictates that a company should spend £10 on advertising the sponsorship for every £1 it spends on the sponsorship itself. This is to make "full use of it".

This has two effects: firstly, it allows the fee-hungry ad agencies to persuade their (generally complicit) client marketing departments to indulge in quite extraordinary levels of advertising activity around the sponsored event. Secondly, it often allows the long term thinking about the brand to yield to the short term of the sponsorship message: this in itself  encourages either sloppy strategic thinking and/or the game of torturously trying to combine the values of the brand and the event into one manageable whole.This is why we will see a lot of ads but we will either not remember them, or not understand what they're for. In the worst instances, we will see, as in BA's case, that sponsorship has played havoc with the brand message to the point of unintentional absurdity.

So for the next few weeks, prepare yourself: we are going to see an increase in activity of a generally dubious nature as brands make full use of their sponsorship deals. I'll be trying to keep up via this
blog, starting with a review tomorrow of the remarkable campaign behind the Olympic Torch.


BA embarked on a strategy that culminates in the message Don't Fly.If you haven't seen the ad here it is.    http://youtu.be/M6VzhDE1Wso

It's a well shot film, the plane driving through London and the special effects are intriguing: in this sense many could call it a "strong" idea. But a strong idea can also be a wrong idea. Indeed an idea can be nearly right, and then fall alarmingly on its sword.

By asking its UK customers not to fly, BA is showing the problem that sponsors have in trying to make their brand coallesce with the event: BA and their ad agency have struggled consistently to find a link in all aspects of the campaign they have run, not simply in this commercial. Their press campaign has been partly on a different strategy but equally flawed. http://cambridgecomms.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/ba-banal-advertising.html

And the problem is clear: in terms of the UK audience, BA are sponsoring  something happening in this country when their main business is in flying people in and out it.There is no reason for BA to fly us in , we are already here.

What the brand is good at and in business to do - eg flying people in - could be well directed at a foreign audience and would have resulted in a campaign based on the following strategy:

Fly people from abroad to London to experience the Olympics in true British style.
This is essentially a campaign to foreigners, and the commercial BA have produced, with a few word and scene changes, would be perfect for the foreign market. (In fact, I assumed this film was made for overseas' use and then badly re-voiced for the UK, probably for an awards competition, but the BA Youtube page says it's UK only).

Given that this would not fulfil the UK domestic side of things, BA could have considered a few other approaches eg

Connect the emotional spirit of the Olympics with the spirit of BA.
Cliche potential, but an epic of Chariots of Fire flavour is not beyond BA. Think Nike/Rooney.

Offer an escape for those for whom the Olympics ( let alone the weather) are a turn-off
Clearly this is a delicate strategy, but could be easily pulled off: 80% how great the Olympics are and 20% well, if we still can't convince you, why not fly to Barbados with us? (As it happens, the rival airlines such as easyJet are adopting a get away from the Olympics/weather approach in the sure knowledge that BA have boxed themselves in and cannot respond).

Gently ask people to put country before holidays
This is the (misguided) approach BA took, but they allowed someone, somewhere along the line, to turn delicacy, which might conceivably have saved it, into crudity. Don't Fly is simply too crude and emphatic summation for the subtlety that this idea might entail. The writing, rather than the art direction, of this thought is the real villain of the piece, the crystalisation of the idea into Don't Fly. (There is an additional flaw: the message is that being there, at home in the UK, is somehow either more involving or more supportive. Like, er, there are plenty of seats available in the stadia, and that, er, the Olympics won't be wall to wall in every bar TV and internet connection in the world).

At www.cambridgecomms.com I show how most advertising ideas will work if they appeal to our emotional and quite primeval sub-conscious brains, and, additionally, are characterised by what I call "tribal leadership messages". This allows marketers a frame of reference to create - and judge -potential campaign ideas, and reject those that do not fit. In this instance, the one thing that people need to rally behind and follow into the future, the rallying cry for the brand and its business - is not just counter-intuitive it is actively designed to dissuade people from following the objectives of the brand.

It is exactly the opposite of To Fly. To serve.

Gracious-minded folk would say it is all a bit tongue in cheek and of course it's not meant to be taken literally. Creative types will have been  hyping it in the corridors of  Cannes and Carnaby Street as the potential creative award winner of tomorrow, for its "brave" stance. Ordinary domestic and business consumers will be either passively non-plussed or actively mischievous, seeing in the slogan Don't Fly an albatross of significant proportions to hang round this once great brand's neck.

In fact, now you mention it, it's odd how little this ad has actually been shown on TV.

Has someone at the top of BA seen the light and stepped in to ground it before it's too late?

Stop press. News just in: Nike changing slogan to Just Don't It, L'Oreal to No way you're worth it, MacDonald's to I'm Hating It

                                                                 *        *        *

PS Here is the standard BA response to all enquiries about the message in this ad:
Thanks for your comments. The ad is a tongue-in-cheek way of encouraging people to get behind our athletes for London 2012. We understand people will still need to fly during this time and we will be happy to welcome them on board. However, we will be equally happy to fly people after the Games if they decide to stay home and be part of the #HomeAdvantage. We think the song makes a great soundtrack to the ad and the Games and we hope it is a rallying cry everyone can get behind.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hiscox...premium stuff


Insurance ads...urrrrrgh!
New(ish) Hiscox commercial... hmmm.
As in hmmm good, rather than hmmm I don't know.
And definitely a timely departure from its over-intellectualised press and poster campaign which was often negatively conceived: along the "One size doesn't fit all"...."There is no such thing as Mr Average" etc approach.

All red type set against black backgrounds, colours not known for their optimism.
At c £2000 a pop for a poster most of that money was mainly  money lost.

Not so the new TV campaign.

It's decently if quietly produced and won't win any creative awards despite the hiring of top director and smooth voice over.

But I will be surprised if it doesn't do extremely well for Hiscox and win a load of acclaim within the industry.

Hiscox has done a number of things very smartly in this ad.

Firstly, at a technical level, it combines a consumer and commercial insurance message successfully in one execution, so it covers off its twin targets.

More importantly though it has a strong tribal leader message ( see www.cambridgecomms.com)

This ad gently persuades the viewer that the world of insurance owes them a different deal, a deal based on trust.On someone's word being his bond. On being accessible. On offering respect, understanding and "honour" to those who join up to this tribe.Of leading its followers ( in this case a step back) to a place that the rest of the insurance world ( and the world generally) has lost via  superficiality, inaccessibility, smug self- satisfaction, automation and poor customer service.

One very much gets the view that a claim with Hiscox will be sympathetically and successfully resolved, without quibble, and that as a claimant you'll talk to a reasonably trained human being rather than a call centre on auto-prompt.

I might just test this theory, as I very much hope the reality is as positive as it says on the can.

Hiscox correctly judges the "Continuum"that I propose that helps put a brand message into context by identifying how it fits in people's past, present and future. In this case, by targeting  middle to up market consumers and  businesses, it correctly pinpoints a nostalgic view of a time when a handshake mattered and urges an emotional belief in this ( possibly mythical) time.

Compare this commercial with the inanity of Aviva with its disastrous Paul Whitehouse series.
All  frivolity and frippery, it is the antithesis of what an insurance brand should be offering: Aviva has literally disguised its offering under a comedian.
It has no releveance to its commercial interests nor its UK or global image.

What message of assurance does the geeky Whitehouse give with his teeth and wigs and witicisms?
What is Aviva doing showing him using his metal detector on....a cow pat? It is literally bull shit.
Look at the Aviva share price: also in the ordure.
The irony is that this campaign will probably be showered in creative awards, but if  I were Whitehouse's agent I'd be spreading my net at the moment as Aviva must wake up soon.

Ironically, Aviva is a descendant of the company that gave us the only really great UK insurance campaign: Commercial Union, who didn't make a "drama out of a crisis".( Pedants rightly say this should have been the other way around "We won't make a crisis out of a drama" but it makes no real difference as it is an emotional claim).

The Hiscox campaign is not in this league but they  have stolen the clothes off the back of  those who originally owned them.

Good luck to them, I say, you wear them well.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Accenture...much ado about something


This ad for Accenture ran in the Times on 20 03 12. It should do the business.
Accenture has a good record in creating strongly branded and engaging messages, promising that those that buy into its approach will be able to punch above their weight. Its past campaigns work generally on the  "mine's bigger than your's" approach and pretty successful I imagine they've been too. They certainly gave a strong emotional leadership message to be part of the "success tribe"( see www.cambridgecomms.com) and surrounded the message with graphic and easy to remember logos and mnemonics eg the yellow "more than" symbol.

I think this ad is an important new tack.

On the face of it it's a fairly traditional "case history" ad. It's slightly glibber than previous work (punny headline) and won't be troubling any creative jury.

But will Accenture care? No, your honour.

This ad will be effective because of  its visual story and strong  rational message. It moves the Accenture capabilities message into a world that is likely to be both highly profitable to them, and an easy touch. For this is a data world, and one that has been traditionally inhabited by the geekiest of the geeks at the geeky end of the ad industry - those earnest techno-folk in thick rimmed glasses who tell you they can "mine" your data. Many of these types are incomprehensible in their analysis and often lack the power in their organisation to do anything serious about their findings upstream.Caught in an ever growing spiral of data, they tend to live in rooms where pizzas get shoved under the door to them, and blink when the door's opened.

Accenture can gobble this lot up fast. Unlike the ad groups who have a history of appalling self-marketing, Accenture have been smart in building its presence, credibility,brand and relevance over time,and putting their money down where it matters. Can you imagine a WPP or an Omnicom spending marketing money on themselves in this overt way? It's just not the Ivy.

Watch out ad agencies, I say: the Management Consultants stole your right to own "strategy"in the 90's; now they're out to steal your data too.

Monday, 20 February 2012

MI6...an ad in plain clothes

MI6 has got an interesting recruitment ad running in the quality press,including the Times Saturday 18 Feb 2012.It's very smart, and that's how it should be.It's an ad in plain clothes.

It disobeys all the main "rules" of  advertising but gets the psychology dead right.It wants to attract those that take the trouble to spot something that is normally not noticeable: in other words, the ad deliberately sets out to avoid the attention of the average Jo, (a normally undesirable approach for mainstream goods).
Instead, it goes undercover, aiming to seek out those with greater perception, and rewards them fully once they start playing the game.It's a form of recruitment self-selection process that weeds out the time wasters.

Everything about the ad is apparently dull and off-putting  - picture, headline, daunting length of copy - until you get into it. The copy is long, but it is well written, and belies the belief that people don't read long copy ads.

The fact is that people will read as much as they need to - by choice, people read long articles and books everyday. Advertising, being normally an uninvited message, tends rightly to focus on succinct messaging and short copy, but this ad demonstrates that lengthy text is effective as long as it a) holds people from the start and b) allows the gist of what's being said to be articulated up front.

There is no overt branding in the ad, and the conventional call to action is not only absent but prospects are "forbidden" from telling their friends and family that they are applying (for security reasons).

On one level we have the exact opposite of the pass-it-on-share-all-Tweety Pie society we live in.

The ad  only works though  because it is still an ad, albeit in disguise, and it would not work as a banner or door drop.The medium once again is part of the message

The perceptive recruitment target will spot it because it's in disguise, because it doesn't quite fit what they feel should be happening on that page. And this is precisely the type of person the secret service want, Moneypenny.

I hope there's a sequel.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Audi...back on track


My blog last week gave Audi a gamma minus and suggested, amongst other things, that their logo should play an uber-prominent role this year of all years given that it is the nearest legal entity to the Olympics logo. And lo... the attached tactical ad for the Quattro. If you haven't seen the ad it is a simulated tyre tread in the snow. This pushes all the right buttons, talks in a smart way about being safe and in a safe way about being smart, thus combining low risk with high impact.Pity the snow seems to have left us. Gripping stuff as they say in Germany.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Party time


Despite the existence of many political parties in the UK, why is our political landscape shaped mainly by two? And why will the Lib Dems probably never gain any real traction?

The answer is that, like many things in life, political voting is decided on by the vast majority of people by instinct not fact. This instinct looks for ways to protect and preserve the individual whilst sub consciously seeking security in belonging to a tribe.

Tribes find it as easy to define themselves by what they are not as by what they are, and they want this to be as simple an equation as possible. Over-extend the number of tribes that are "not like us" and the thing gets too complicated. The sub conscious likes certainty, likes binary, likes yes or no. Likes United or City, Arsenal or Tottenham. The sub conscious forces you to find a single enemy: God the Devil, and this is the optimal position for a tribe to have so that it can focus and easily manage its attack and defence strategies.Like any other form of prejudice it is largely automatic and irrational, and is characteristic of most democratic systems around the world.

Add to this the continued robust health of the British class system and this country neatly splits along tribal lines: the Haves, who gather in rural areas and affluent parts of cities, and the Have Nots who gather in the spaces in between. Those who cannot escape the Have Not world will continue to vote Labour for now: those who can migrate upwards may stay with their roots, or may alternatively seek inauguration into the tribe that reflects their new status. Some of these may be tempted to vote Lib Dem. Equally, some of the Haves may see the Liberals as a more moral or intellectually interesting option.

The vast majority of both Labour and Conservative voters are essentially opting for a strong tribal preference in the first instance, based on emotion, which is only post-rationalised by active thought further down the line.

Occasionally, as in Scotland a new force arises, but for it to successfully challenge the existing instinctive positions of the established tribes it needs to trump their version of "the meaning of life" with something simple and visceral, otherwise it stands no chance.Alex Salmond is not William Wallace, but he has made an excellent show of uniting the country behind "Freedom!". Note, this is an emotionally led appeal with a simple, clear swipe not at another party , but at another country, with enmities that extend far further back in time and scores that need to be settled with the auld enemy.

The point of Scotland is that the trump card is so powerful because it is so instinctual, not because it is logical. This leads to the issue with the Lib Dems and why they will struggle for votes.It is this: the Lib Dems are based primarily on intellectual rather than instinctive argument: they do not possess a simple strong appeal to the sub conscious. Indeed, rather the reverse, as it would not be too generous to describe them as "the thinking person's party". Further, they are stranded in the middle; even at a time when everything is converging to the middle ground, this is not a good place to be.

Thoughts for parties and their marketing. See also http://www.cambridgecomms.com/

All parties: don't put too much value on the logic of policy: find simple, visceral and emotional messages first.

Labour: watch out. Tribal adherence to the "working class" may have only half a generation of strength left in it, and is hugely at odds with the modernisers in the party. 20 years ago people were proud to be working class - all the focus groups that I have attended over the last 10 years show that this veneer is wearing increasingly thin - whilst working class solidarity might once have been nurtured strongly when UK manufactured things,that same solidarity is not engendered via the call centre or shelf stacking. Consider name change once and for all: Democracy is the word to own.Miliband is not the firebrand to make it work: drop him. Invest enormously in social media as the Tories still struggle on with fax machines.

Lib Dems: decide on who your enemy is -  Labour or Tory - and forget the other one. Find a message that is essentially emotional: back fill it with as much intellectual as you like if the decide the enemy is Tory, and with as little as possible if it is Labour, as you will need to sit comfortably in the Daily Mirror.The alternative is to stay permanently in opposition, coalition  or local government, a useful but scarcely ambitious strategy.

Conservatives: focus on pushing the Great into Britain.This is the natural heart of the Tory and is an appeal that  resonates deep down in the psyche.Ensure that Great Britain is based emotionally on success as the central core.Own the territory of hard but fair  play and forget other distractions. Ensure that every ounce of Olympic publicity*,every medal and every Jubilee cup has the word Tory stamped on it. Success is sexy, use it.Get digital and spearhead a strategy to recruit the 9 million (older) people not currently on line. Then call an election as soon as is practical.

* Update 16 08 12 ....and here it is:  http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/1145540/bolt-farah-help-dcms-thank-britain-new-great-ads/

Politics and the sub conscious

Hello I will be writing on advertising and branding issues, and the psychological drivers that encourage preference of brand A over brand B, so here's a start : Ed Miliband.

Yes, exactly the same factors are in play when choosing a leader as when choosing anything else in life, and most of it is driven by sub conscious instinct not reason.

The mistake the Labour party made in appointing Miliband was to over-intellectualise his strengths when they should have asked  themselves one simple recruitment question : "Does this man have the charisma to lead?"

In the millisecond it takes for the average human  to react to his physical characteristics and presence, and  in the absence of potentially redeeming features such as conspicuous past political bravery, brilliant wit or history of radical successes, the battle is all but over. Add to this the impression that he was the grass roots' second choice over his more charismatic brother, and the urgent need to eradicate the greyness of Brown with the glitter of someone shiny and new - indeed someone who might even be a valid successor to Blair- and the rout is complete.

The charisma thing is largely physical and increasingly de rigeur in modern politics - Miliband comes across literally as a lightweight, looking perhaps like a junior maths teacher - but the leadership signals that candidates give off are equally critical, and can overcome physical shortcomings.

What is leadership? Put simply, leadership is about suggesting to a group that you have a better fix on one simple thing than any one else: and the name of that one thing?... The Future. The future is the big unconscious fear that won't go away. It is the territory that kings and chiefs and popes and generals and successful business people have used for centuries to persuade people to follow them: "I know what will happen tomorrow, so trust me." The conviction with which they carry off this clairvoyance is the decisive factor. Cameron's vision is unclear and bitty,but he fills the vacuum with an easy-going charisma and occasional acts of populist bravado (eg Europe).

Thoughts for marketers:

Plan: Ed Miliband was rushed to market.His win was probably a surprise to him as well as his team, and because his background PR was so ill-prepared he has been on the back foot since. The supportive emotional groundwork behind his claim to be adopted and loved by the grass roots was not carried out.

Package: However, even in the time available, his physical presence should have been beefed up: Susan Boyle proves everything is possible.

Understand the continuum and his place in it: Whilst his past credentials were undramatic, Miliband's fix on "the future" is equally weak. Without a strong, tribally emotional message to follow him into the promised land - together with some immediate evidence of progress or some overt act of bravery - his message, such as it is, will fail. Like any brand , he needed to position himself strongly in the continuum of the market (past, present and future) to answer the question: Why me? Why now?

Employ "Match and Move": Miliband does not connect because the signals he gives out do not match the picture of what the party (or the electorate as a whole) have in their hearts as a Labour leader. Because there is no match there is no possibility of a move. See http://www.cambridgecomms.com/

Cut, run and regroup: I worked with a major brand of shampoo once that failed in the UK after about 2 months following a negative PR campaign against it: it was a terminal case and should have been withdrawn at the time, but it continued to be promoted for some 7 years at very large cost until it eventually died a death. Labour will  compound their error if they keep faith with Miliband, they should act decisively now, before it is too late.

Change the team: The Labour party grandees that presided over the election, together with the PR advisors behind EM should look to themselves.They gifted the Tories.