Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wherefore art thou Romeo, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth ...?

AXE. Romeo Reboot Manuel | Trailer (english) from THE KUMITE on Vimeo.

Hot on the heels of the ad that writes itself (see previous post) comes the personalised ad, from Axe in Brazil. The brand has created 100,000 versions of its Romeo Reboot commercial via programmatics (yes, I know, I don't have a clue what that is, either.)

Four broad audience segments have been identified - based on music taste and previous purchase - with four top filmmakers each shooting their own version of the film. Within each of these, various scenes can be personalised, leading to 100,000 permutations in all.

This is, without doubt, impressive.

But is it yet another case of doing something just because you can? Something in this reminds me of those children's books where you can choose which way the plot turns at a number of points. And although these have an undoubted novelty effect, in the end most children would rather be reading Harry Potter.

Technology can never be a substitute for a great idea, based on human insight, that unites people - whatever their taste in music, deodorants or Shakespearean heroes.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Ads that write themselves?

I wrote a little while back about the brilliant idea of a coffee poster that started an outbreak of yawning on the Brazilian subway. Still on the theme of coffee, and posters, comes what's being hailed as the world's first artificially intelligent poster campaign. Rather an unfortunate choice of words there - I would hope that the world has already seen many, many non-artificially intelligent poster campaigns.

Anyway, it has been created by M&C Saatchi in London for a fictional coffee brand, Bahio, and it's a poster that evolves according to how people react to it facially. This goes on for a month until the 'best' ad evolves through a kind of high-speed natural selection.

You can read more in this article but I thought I'd list some of the key principles at work here:
- Darwinian natural selection
- powered by a genetic algorithm
- analyses strength
- 1,000 images/fonts/layouts/copy
- length of engagement ... and so on and so forth.

Human creativity and judgement seem to be absent, apart from thinking up the whole thing in the first place.

Creative nightmare or the way to the future?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Branding like it's 1974

I've recently had the pleasure of viewing What is a brand? presented by Jeremy Bullmore and Stephen King of JWT, London in 1974.

It's well worth looking at, for marketing maestros as well as connoisseurs of culture. The period detail is wonderful, from the graphics and the music, to the mentions of "a pound and a half of nails from the ironmonger", "brown suits" and "Elton John-style glasses." Even the "perfectly ordinary people" answering that old chestnut about what kind of person Brand X would be if it came to life come up with descriptors including "dainty", "bovine", "mini-skirted", "go-ahead" and "catty".

The content of the talk is excellent. The two well-spoken chaps take us through The History of Brands, What makes a Brand Ssuccessful, and The Role of Advertising without needing childish infographics or any other dumbing-down props. Their talk is predictive of the power of retailers (mail order rather than internet in those days) and the emergence of consumerism, including boycott groups. For all the wet-behind-the-ears new marketers out there blabbing on about "empowered consumers" who are "in charge", please ask your elders about what happened to Barclays Bank in the 70s as a result of investing in South Africa.

There are also loads of ads - most of them from around the 36 minute mark from brands both classic and vanished - Homepride Bread, Brymay Matches, Ritz Crackers, Winalot, Monopoly, Mr Kipling's Almond Slices, Kodak Instamatic.

The best part of all is the case history from the toilet paper market: Andrex vs. Delsey. Delsey cut their ad expenditure and started discounting while Andrex invested in building a personality through its cute and charming commercials. Andrex, of course, ended up being valued far more despite having similar characteristics to its rival.

What on earth happened to Delsey?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Women and children first

So many marketing activities seem rather insubstantial and throwaway in these digital days. But I've seen a couple of great ideas in the last couple of weeks that operate purely in the real world of things you can touch, hold and use to your benefit, both from brands thinking about the values of family and safety.

The first idea is from Hyundai, together with their agency CREO/Y&R in Slovakia. Slovakia is hit by reductions in hospital funding, with the result that many newborn babies are pushed around in supermarket trolleys. Hyundai have developed a hospital trolley specially for new borns, as a generous gesture to help young families while putting just a little branded hint in their direction exactly when they may be thinking about getting a new, safe, family-minded car.

And then there's an idea from Vodafone in India, together with Ogilvy Mumbai. It's an umbrella/parasol that doubles as a weapon (maybe inspired by the late, great Patrick MacNee?). The cultural observation and insight here is that many men from villages are forced to leave their wives and families to seek work in big cities. They send their earnings home via Vodafone's transfer service. Of course, women collecting the wages are feeling vulnerable enough anyway with their husbands away, but even more so carrying the cash around. So the umbrella can help to give them more of a feeling of security.

Simple, but effective ideas of substance. No deep philosophical insight, just a down-to-earth and practical understanding of people's needs at different times in their lives. And ideas that will still be there tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Provocative or plain stupid?

One characteristic of marketing in the 21st century is the way brands are increasingly taking a stance on societal issues. On the whole, I think this should be applauded and I've blogged about various good examples of this in the past.

But the way these good intentions are executed is often far from good. Take the example pictured above, from Weingut Strieth. The owners of this vineyard in Rüdesheim-Aulhausen have decided to take a stand against intolerance and have designed a new label for their Spätburgunder. The intentions are laudable, but I'm afraid that the label design just doesn't do it for me.

Their intention with the "middle finger" gesture and the thoughtfully-copywritten slogan (or is it a brand name?) is to irritate. Well, it certainly rubs me up the wrong way. I had to listen to one of the wine-growers and a radio commentator repeating the thoughtfully-copywritten slogan ad nauseam before 8am this morning on the radio.

Ah, they've achieved their aim, you might think. Disgusted of Bruchköbel is busy putting finger (middle one, actually) to keyboard and complaining about this rebellious affront to decency, bringing the wily wine-makers and their product to everyone's notice.

The thing is, there's irritation of the provocative, powerful sort, and there's the sort of irritation that the Germans call Fremdschämen - to be embarrassed  on a stranger's behalf. The use of English swear words as "cool/trendy and a little bit naughty" has been rampant in Germany for the last few years. It's bad enough when it's second-rate rock stars on casting shows, but when it gets to Angela Merkel talking about a "shitstorm" my cringing Fremdschämen needle goes off the scale.

Swearing in English just makes the wine-producers look as ill-educated and stupid as the Neo-Nazis that they're against.

Why, I wonder, didn't they use the German equivalent of their thoughtfully-copywritten slogan?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Warts and all

a relevant experiment from Jeff Scardino on Vimeo.
The relevant résumé is the first résumé that showcases your failures. To prove it works, I submitted two different applications for ten different job openings — one using my regular résumé and one using my relevant résumé.

Whether it's Facebook status updates or ghastly round-robin emails at Christmas, pumping up achievements to Zeppelin-sized accomplishments, I'm always amused when someone starts to take the mick and sends something out along the lines of 'What a year we've had! In May I had an ingrowing toenail diagnosed and in September the cat was sick on the patio.'

It's much the same with CVs. I haven't updated mine for years, and I'm well aware that it probably does nothing to sell me or my meagre talents. I feel slightly queasy at the idea of describing myself as a 'results-orientated team player who pursues perfection with passion' or some or other similar twaddle.

So I was very pleased to hear about The Relevant Resume from copywriter Jeff Scardino. He has well and truly burst the bubble of those pompous, over-inflated but strangely similar CVs with his idea to 'showcase your failures'. He put his idea to the test, applying for jobs with a traditional CV and the warts-and-all version, including 'missed honors', 'bad references' and 'non skills'. And the warts-and-all version attracted far more positive attention.

I think there's something that can be learned here for brands, too. Sometimes it's the non-perfect bits that don't fit, the stuff you're not good at, which makes you the perfect choice.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Is the internet the new TV?

The question in the title, and its answer, may seem obvious to some. Well, of course! Surely we've known that for some time now. But has it ever occurred to you that the internet is becoming more and more like TV in its nature, too?

Sometimes it takes being away from something to notice changes that are, to the rest of us, imperceptible. Which is precisely what happened to blogger Hossein Derakhshan, author of this thought-provoking and very readable article: The Web We Have To Save. Derakhshan was imprisoned, in Iran, for his blogging among other things, between 2008 and 2014. The year before he went to jail, I joined Facebook, which was still at the early adopter phase and a very different place to what it is now. I was rather late to blogging, starting with that in 2008.

Derakhshan points out a number of developments that have taken place on the internet during his incarceration, but that with the greatest impact is the growth of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. As he says, "lots of people start their daily online routine in these cul de sacs of social media, and their journeys end there." What characterises social media is what Derakhshan calls The Stream - "...getting fed a never-ending flow of information that's picked for them by complex - and secretve - algorithms." These days, you don't even need to go via a browser - just press the Facebook app button on your smartphone and you mustn't even leave the confines of your cosy social media world. He adds: "... and not only do the algorithms behind the Stream equate newness and popularity with importance, they also tend to show us more of what we've already liked. These services carefully scan our behaviour and delicately tailor our news feeds with posts, pictures and videos that they think we would most likely want to see."

The anthropomorphising of algorithms aside (an easy mistake to slip into), this is a fundamentally important point. People want an easy life and they want to be entertained. Nothing wrong in that except when it's to the exclusion of the way people used the internet, predominantly, ten or fifteen years ago: "The web was not envisaged as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking."

The very expression "News Feed" says it all - the social media is feeding people a pre-determined stream of pap. Calling it "curated" doesn't make it any better.

And the internet is less and less about seeking out the obscure, the diverse, the non-conformist and the individual.