Friday, October 24, 2014

Your World? Taglines are not just words.

I think it's easy sometimes to forget that everything that we produce in advertising needs to be accurate. Not that the average agency person lies or sets out to mislead, in my experience it's quite the opposite... but we like to give clients meaningful, powerful words to describe themselves.

Taglines are not just words.

A good tagline says something powerful about your brand and product. The best taglines are created from the truth, with that wonderful balance of being half where the brand is, and half where they are striving to be. Something that customers can believe in, and staff feel empowered by, and want to keep working towards.

I was looking at ANZ the other day, and was reminded of something Rob Campbell once said: "If Qantas truly lived up to their tagline (The Spirit of Australia), they would be the best airline in the world." After 15 months living in Australia, I totally agree.

I think the same is true for ANZ.

Their current tagline is We Live in Your World.

For a bank, that's a powerful statement of difference. Standing out from the general perception of all banks as greedy, profit focused institutions. I think it's a great line, that really gives them a sense that they stand for something. Just as with Qantas though, I don't feel like they are quite living up to that.

Let's just state upfront, that they definitely did live up to it with the magnificent GayTMs campaign. I'm sure there are a number of other schemes or ideas they run internally that live up to it too.

The problem is the day to day, the real world.

ATM fees are such a pain. I bank with NAB, who appear to have a policy of locating their cash machines at least 200m from every other bank, if at all. This means I regularly have to pay fees to take out my money. Surely a bank that lived in the real world would scrap them? After all ING Direct offers an account with no withdrawl fees.

Well. I went to the ANZ Stadium. A hugely costly sponsorship designed to make the brand look good. Where the only cash machines are, obviously, ANZ ones. What better place to show that you live in the real world than by not charging a fee to customers that you are hoping to convert to your service, in a location where access to another bank machine is impossible and your branding is everywhere?


So as with Qantas earlier. I'd like to set ANZ this challenge: Really live up to your tagline. If you do, you'll be the Australian bank that everyone wants to switch to.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Over the years I've noticed there are quite a few members of the follically challenged community in planning and media strategy. I haven't yet established if there's a direct correlation, perhaps thinking a lot requires a cool head? Not sure.

What I find fascinating though is observing other people's reactions to hair loss, and the way they deal with it. You could probably write an entire book on the psychological reactions. The most interesting thing is how some guys opt for hair that is obviously far worse looking than baldness, simply to try and cover it up. Part of me wants to psycho-analyse these people as they walk past... that they are SO affected by the situation that they actually make it worse to avoid acceptance.

I suppose the nearest equivalent I see in girls are those who think wearing waaaay too much makeup looks better than none.

Here are my favourites:

1. The 'Ah fuck it.'
This is the group who see the writing on the wall and trim the whole head short or very short, getting it over and done with. There's a definite confidence needed to take the leap, but the result is smarter than any other look. Disclaimer: I do this.

2. The Donald Trump.
Wigs. Weird right? But I suppose the one thing wig wearers do, is go all for nothing. There's a clarity of response and a willingness to take real action.

3. The Bobby Charlton
Also known as the ridiculous comb-over, or the Homer Simpson. Deep inside these people are saying 'I hope no one notices.' We do.

4. The Meatloaf
I know! If I grow my hair to be 2 foot long, it will hide the fact that half my head is missing it. It doesn't.

5. The Lewis Hamilton
If thinning, spike up! This works well in the short term, but eventually starts to look just as ridiculous as the others. I think emotionally these people know what's coming but haven't yet found the resolve to deal with it, or think others won't notice yet - which is often true.

6. The Pink Elephant
These guys keeps the same haircut they've always had, just with less of it. It seems they want desperately to prove they have SOME hair, but acknowledge to a point that it's not an awful lot. They are easing into acceptance gradually, one trimmer click at a time.

7. The Money Spinners
Paying to have hairs manually inserted into your head? You must be pretty worried about what people will think about you. The fact many of these are footballers or sportspeople definitely says something.

It's an interesting game for those who like to analyse people's behaviour. Try it next time you're on public transport!

Go #TeamBaldPlanners !

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When does a good cause stop being enough?

It's been fascinating to watch the ALS Ice bucket challenge develop over the past couple of weeks. It's clearly been an incredibly successful campaign which has had a huge impact on awareness and donations for the charity.

However I won't be taking part.

There are several reasons for this:

1. The point of the challenge was to raise awareness of a severe condition that wasn't receiving enough attention. Given at least one Ex-President has taken part, as well as many celebrities, the campaign has clearly and considerably achieved that aim already.

2. As well as awareness, they obviously wanted to raise donations. Again, they have clearly achieved that, raising over $30m so far. Most people aren't actually donating, and besides - Bill Gates took part, and he could double that figure with his spare change. (Not saying he doesn't do good charity work, just putting in context.)
It's a great cause to be helping those with such a terrible illness, but there are so many other worthwhile causes that fight just as serious illnesses - which affect many more people. There are also other serious world issues that need more attention.

3. From what I have read, ALS don't have the most wonderful practices when it comes to animal testing. I find it much harder to reconcile helping solve one problem when it negatively affects another.

4. And this is the main reason. The campaign has essentially stopped being about the charity anyway.
It was a challenge to raise awareness. It has raised that awareness to a level where my individual participation makes such an insignificant difference to awareness as to be pointless. The only people who will see it have already seen other people do it.

What's really driving the campaign now is basically peer pressure and schadenfreude justified by a charitable cause. The joy on people's Facebook posts as they nominate people to go through discomfort and embarrassment, in a context they find it hard to escape. It's the same pressure that caused Necknomiation to get so globally shared, but without the humorous setup. Sadly, the Ice Bucket challenge has also had similarly negative consequences.

Like I said, that's not to say it wasn't a valid and brilliantly set up idea for a worthwhile cause. But that campaign is done. The sharing wasn't about getting random people to take part, it was about getting influential people to do so. They have. Awareness found, donations up, job done.

So I won't be doing the Ice Bucket challenge simply to make a few people chuckle. Instead I'll be responding to a cause that has affected people I know recently, and who can make a difference to a far higher number of people - by making a donation to the Cancer Council instead.

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!
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.

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.


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!"


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