Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mum, where do senior planners come from?

I hope I'm not destroying anybody's innocence here, but senior planners do not arrive in a basket, delivered by the stork to the doorstep of each agency once every three years.

You wouldn't think that's a particular revelatory piece of information, but for an industry that loves to bring in low paid account handling graduates we do an alarmingly bad job at hiring young planners (the same is also true for media strategists).

The first time I ever learnt about planning was at a graduate account handling recruitment day at Grey in London. In fact to this day I still don't know the name of the person who told me about it, I think he may have been called James, but I met a lot of people that day! Either way, thanks 'James!

'James' said I seemed like I would make a good planer and should consider that as a career. I said thanks, and asked him when the graduate planning recruitment was. "Oh there isn't one." was his reply.

When people (non-planners) ask why I started in planning so late, I explained that in three years of looking I did not find a single junior planning job to apply for. I had to find my way in by getting to know as many people as possible, and by getting known (hence this blog). In fact, even the first planning job I applied for, which I got, technically didn't exist, and was created because the agency liked me.

The problem is partly that clients don't want to pay for junior planners or strategists, perhaps because planning/strategy implies a seniority and level of experience. Yet we have plenty of account execs and junior creatives - they report to the senior team and all is well. So why do people expect senior planners to just appear out of nowhere?

I used to think that W+K London's policy of hiring planners from other industries and careers was simply a quirky way of getting unusual people into the department - but actually, it was probably just a way of side-stepping the problem that very few people ever seem to be hiring junior planners.

If we don't nurture planning talent properly, we will damage the future for all of us. We need young, hungry planners to keep pushing us to do our jobs better than ever before. If no one currently wants to pay for them, we need to find ways to help them add value.

Monday, June 16, 2014

You ASDA be kidding?

It is said, rightly so, that there are very few entirely new ideas in advertising. A large part of what we do is to view what is going on around us and pull that into campaigns.

However there is definitely a point where an ad goes from 'being influenced by' to 'I'll just take this idea and change the logo'. What is even more infuriating though, is when an ad takes an existing idea, copies it, and manages to ruin it.

I mean seriously. If you are going to steal a 20+ year old idea, at least look at it to understand what made it good in the first place. Take the positive bits, and leave the negative bits.

What on earth the latest Coles Supermarket ad is doing however, I have no idea. 

Yes, it is a price focused ad - but surely we have established by now that they don't NEED to be terrible. Kmart for example, do engaging price and product creative.

What we have here is an ad with all the subtlety of American military tactics as devised by Rambo. It's as if they couldn't stop adding to it.

Add cheesy music!
Cheesier!
CHEEESIER!
No it doesn't matter that the tapping doesn't really match up clearly with the music.
Now make the lyrics about the offer.
I don't care!! Just do it.
Make that caption gaudier!
Make the actors grin like they have had botched plastic surgery.
Now make them dance around like rejected flashmob wannabes.
JAZZ HANDS DAMMIT!

Ok, maybe not the jazz hands, but it's close.


Thing is, there is no way that this work is the best the people involved could have done. The creatives could probably do better in their sleep, the client could easily do better, the director could do better. This is work that needs someone with the balls to scream "What the fuck are we doing? This is awful?!"

It's not like they don't have form either. The Coles 'Down Down' campaign started bad and continues to get worse. At least when Status Quo were there you could laugh at the cheesiness of it all, now it just makes you want to shop at Woolworths purely to avoid the customers that might frequent the store.

In fact, hearing the latest 'Down Down' ad makes me instantly switch channels, no matter what I am watching. Which is kind of a waste of the massive media money Coles throw at everything.

Pretty sure this ad has only been on for a week
or so and already people are  sick of seeing it.
The worst part is, the stores are pretty good. I find Coles products to be notably better than those of its competitors, but its impossible for me to bond with the brand beyond a price/product level because every piece of communications I see from them is just so skull crushingly-bad.

In fact, the only redeeming feature of this ad, is that alongside 'Down Down' - the work is SO terrible that nobody could possibly mistake it for another brand.



Disclosure: I used to work for the agency that produced the original ASDA ad, but have never worked on the campaign!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Beautiful Advertising

It's not often you can say the above, but for this ad - saying goodbye to the legendary VW Hippie Van - it's definitely true. The image, the sweet copy, and the use of the classic Bernbach VW ad layout; it all shows real craft and care.

Wonderful.

Image and ad from: AdsoftheWorld.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Advertising I just don't understand...

I see a fair few ads on Australian TV that make me cringe. Not to say that it is different to any other country in the variance of quality... but I have to wonder how there are people working in marketing who haven't figured out that these are terrible ways to sell their brand and product.

If you were challenging Telstra, whose approach to selling TV bundles includes a simple but brilliant mechanic of putting a big screen in their store window and allowing passers by to switch channels - you might try and think of something smart or an idea that connects with people.

Today however I heard this...

"Hello shop assistant"

"Hello potential customer"


"I am interested in a broadband and tv bundle deal, and would like to have more information thrown at me in two minutes than I could possibly take in with a team of shorthand assistants please."

"That's convenient, as our marketing manager has decided that we need to fit every single product feature and benefit in our complex package into a single two minute promo."

"All of them? That's wonderful. I always find having 300 stats flung at me randomly is much more helpful in making my purchase decisions than two or three useful ones."

"Brilliant. You are my favourite customer!"

"So why are you being weirdly friendly to me?"

"Well we read some information about how an emotional connection helps customers bond with your message."

"That's very true."

"But we have no space for an emotional message what with the four hundred pages of copy, so instead we're going to make all of my actions seem cheesy and false in the hope that will suffice."

"It truly does, may I ask who whitened your teeth? They look lovely."

"You may. Would you like me to tell you all their price points and features too?"

"Would I ever!"

Etc.

On the subject of bad ads. Some people should really consider how the details make a huge difference. Take the 200 different brands of healthy vitamin/krill oil/chewy vitamin/etc/etc currently advertising, they all try to mimic a cheesy infomercial style, but they look so false. On a topic as important as your health and that of your kids, surely you'd want to come across with as much authenticity as possible.

Further to the importance of details. If you are filming ads, at least try to pay attention to how people actually hold your products. Because if your ad features a product being held like this:
STW acquires 60% of Brand Power owner















Or like this:

Screen shot 2012-03-19 at 11.51.30 AM.jpg
















Or like this:


It probably looks shit.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

In the name of progress

It's always nice to see a campaign find its way. This week Jeep appeared to finally find the right spot for their Don't Hold Back campaign.

Sure it's not revolutionary, but there's something nice and simple about the idea that buying a Jeep is a sign of being adventurous and energetic in a world of Utes and status 4x4's, yet for me the ads have never quite felt right.

However this week I saw the latest version, and it really starts to move the campaign in the right direction. Where the first few ads felt a bit blunt and forced, the latest takes it to a far nicer place. More subtle, but more relevant and engaging at the same time.

The simple change of representing the adventure of Jeep through an external object rather than a person directly expressing it makes so much difference.

For a campaign that has been labelled annoying by many people, it's a nice change to see it improve and start to live up to the potential of the idea behind it.


Advertising as a reflection of society

I read a great post by Richard Huntingdon the other week, which discussed how advertising should be more representitive of society, and how we can help break down barriers.

In the last two weeks, two huge brands have taken small but important steps along that road - and whilst we should always be mindful of what our target audience's preferences are, sometimes, reality is too important not to show.

Coca Cola and Chevrolet have done a great job of taking the realities of life in America, and bringing them into their advertising. Both are excellent examples of how the vocal conservative minorities should never stop what we do from reflecting the world around us.



In fact, in both cases, the inclusion of gay couples is so natural and subtle, that it's hard to understand how anyone could object. We know better of course, some people are just that reactionary. But those few seconds are very important to both advertising and the world around us. These are big brands, HUGE brands, who have produced campaigns that truly reflect their audience.

This is not some minority focused campaign, these are superbowl and olympic ads. No escaping or hiding from reality here. I think it's magnificent to see brands take this step, where many would have backed away. I trust and hope that for every idiot who can't see through their own xenophobia or homophobia, there will be a decent minded person or two to replace and increase their sales.



With that in mind, I'm sipping a coke as I type this. Well done Coca Cola and well done Chevrolet.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Australian Ads Part 1

As with every country, advertising is generally divided into great and terrible. Australia is no exception. For every Dumb Ways to Die there is a guy shouting about barbecues whilst giving a thumbs up.

Whilst there isn't quite the number of brands perpared to make great creative work as back in the UK, from what I've seen, the standard is definitely improving.

Here's a couple of good examples.

Carlton Draught. Not my favourite beer, but it's definitely better than the cheap stuff in the UK.
This police chase ad from last year is everything you expect from a brand whose creative work travels far wider than the product.

A silly chase that parodies the movies, and avoids taking itself seriously in any way. It's fun and entertaining, taking the semi-mandatory 'several guys in a pub' setup and taking it to somewhere likeable.

It doesn't hurt that Carlton Draught has one of the best taglines of any brand in the world either.




Australia Post. Sometimes an idea is just so simply brilliant that you don't need to create an elaborate ad concept, you just need to show people. It's also another blow for people who keep going on about how QR codes and the like are useless, without realising it was the way people used them that was the problem, not the medium itself. Any postal service that doesn't consider creating this functional


Happy Australia Day!

Yes yes, I know techincally it was yesterday. but I was too busy joining in to post then!
 
Australia Day is a tricky thing to get right. On the one hand, there are a lot of terrible things that have happened to the indiginous communities that were here first. I heard several people (all white I should add) wish everyone a Happy Invasion Day.
 
My perspective is that whilst we should never forget the bad things that have happened in the past, there is little to be gained by holding onto anger of the past. Let's use Australia Day as a time to celebrate the survival of the Aboriginal people, and the fact that things (whilst by no means perfect) are gradually improving.
 
The other thing for me, is that having spent six months in the upside down part of the world, I have very little to conclude that doesn't talk about how brilliant it is.
 
Melbourne is an amazing city. A melting pot of people from all sorts of backgrounds, friendly and social, with enough art and creativity to fill a city of double the size and population.
 
So whilst I spent a good few moments yesterday thinking about those who suffered over the years in the building of this country. The place it has developed into is definitely one worth celebrating.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Been a While!

Hello folks.

It's been quite a long time!

As you may or may not know, I have been living in the upside-down part of the world for several months now. I have been enjoying the warmer weather, well, I say warmer weather, apparently this was one of the coldest Springs for many years. Still warmer than Blighty though...

In the flurry of moving and starting a new job this site has been getting dusty. But worry thee not... The Ad Pit shall return soon!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Recording Wimbledon on the BBC - A Guide

So. You want to watch the Andy Murray game at Wimbledon, but you are away from the TV for the first half hour... How do you record it so you can catch up later?

Here is a step by step guide.

1. Choose the match you wish to see. In this case Andy Murray

2. Find out whether the game will be on BBC One, BBC Two, or the red button channels

3. Find the appropriate Wimbledon channel (BBC One) and press record

4. Use your psychic ability to predict the exact moment the match will move from BBC One to BBC Two

5. Enjoy the highlights of the doubles match now on BBC One

6. Record BBC Two to catch what's left of the Murray game

7. Use your psychic ability to predict when the game will move back to BBC One

8. Enjoy the rest of the doubles match on BBC Two

9. Switch back to BBC One to find the game has ended and the score is on screen

Honestly, it's so simple. Keep the important games on ONE BLOODY CHANNEL.