Thursday, 21 May 2015

Shame Masks

I must admit that I don't worry too much about privacy. Maybe I should, but somehow I don't get the feeling that the NSA or anyone else is terribly interested in what I'm up to. But every now and then I see a piece of brand communication that makes me gulp.

Like this one.

What's going on here is a campaign from an initiative called Hong Kong Cleanup, whose agency Ogilvy and Mather has developed an undeniably clever campaign called The Face of Litter to deter litter louts on the streets of Hong Kong.

What they've done is to collect random litter samples and analyse them using Snapshot DNA phenotyping to create portraits of the culprits (or, presumably anyone that has touched that coffee cup including the friendly and responsible barista who handed it out).

There's not enough info to say exactly whodunnit, but enough to create a likeness on posters and online.


My first thought was this might be just the thing for publicity-seeking extroverts to get their next kick. The ultimate selfie, all over town and all over the net.

And then my thoughts ran deeper to tarring and feathering, or the shaved heads and placards round the necks of wartime collaborators, or indeed the Schandmaske of mediaeval Germany.

Back to the future? I find it all a little sinister.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Reinventing the Middleman

The internet has had a profound effect on so many aspects of our daily behaviour. Shopping is the obvious one of interest to marketeers, but almost every area of daily life has been affected, from how we learn and educate ourselves to how we stay healthy and treat illness. The overwhelming trend is towards cutting out the middleman, whether it's self-diagnosis to avid a visit to the doctor, or cutting out that time- and energy-consuming trip to the physical store.

One area that has fundamentally changed is booking a holiday. The first step towards booking a hotel used to be through the high street travel agents, but for many people now, it's straight to TripAdvisor to see what other people (we assume like ourselves) have said about the hotels in our chosen resort. We have learned to go beyond the images in the glossy brochures and to seek out reality. So much so that sensible hotels are now putting TripAdvisor comments on their websites.

But there is always the counter trend. I was very interested to witness a complete reinvention of the travel agent in Black Tomato. This new-style travel agent is bringing personalisation back into holiday planning and using the internet to bring the experience to life before and after the actual holiday. The insight and basis is all about the need for individually tailored experiences and great value for time. Using the power of the internet and the possibilities that digital technology brings to the brand's advantage, rather than moaning that the internet is killing off the industry.

I wonder which other moribund services or industries can be reinvented in this way?

Monday, 11 May 2015

Today's trash and tomorrow's art

Do you ever catch yourself doing it? Complaining at length about your offspring's addiction to What'sApp/Minecraft/YouTube/Instagram, yet in the same breath getting all nostalgic and misty-eyed about obscure 1970s TV shows?

Marshall McLuhan, the great communications theorist, expressed it thus: Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and degrading. Yet the new one turns its predecessor into an art form.

We can see this in the world of advertising, too. I posted here about the beauty of 1920s London Underground Posters, and our cellar bar is full of replica tin signs, mirrors, and postcards of posters from that marvellous age of advertising.

And, coming more up to date, YouTube itself is packed with compilations of TV ads from the 70s and 80s, some of which are already being hailed as works of art.

Perhaps, in the future, we'll be seeing exhibitions of branded apps turned art.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Marketing with mother

I have written from time to time here about the futility of "marketing to the over 50s". A similarly futile exercise, as I see it, is "marketing to mums." I don't know if anyone else felt vaguely uneasy about the much feted P&G campaign a few years back, around the time of the Olympics: Proud Sponsor of Mums. My uneasiness came from a number of angles - first, the obvious, what about Dads? There was also the manipulative, cheesy tonality of the films. But the uneasiness also came from knowing the agenda at P&G, a company whose main brands are household and baby care products. I even worked on Pampers for a few years and I hate to say this, but there were precious few mums around, on either the client or the agency side. More of that later.

There's a article entitled Marketing to mums is broken in Marketing magazine which touches on this issue. It's written by a woman, who is a mother herself, Nicola Kemp. But, curiously, even in this article, three of the six people who are quoted are men, and it's not clear how many of the women are mothers. Now, I know you don't have to belong to a target group in order to market to that group, but the bias in advertising agencies against mothers still seems to be extreme. Of the three women quoted, one of them said this: There aren't enough female creatives and there aren't enough creatives that are mums. If we changed this, we would do a better job.

The woman who said this is Roisin Donnelly, of P&G. So that, at least, gives me hope.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Painting for Life

There's nothing more satisfying than a good idea where everything just fits. The product, the concept, the brand, the communication, the timing. Often these ideas come from those New Kid on the Block brands, who are less weighed down from Old School Marketing baggage, Brand Identity manuals and Corporate Guidelines.

So, it's especially cheering when such an idea comes from a brand that's been around for decades, like Volvo.

The idea is Volvo LifePaint, a safety spray for cyclists (and kids' helmets, dog leads etc. etc.) that's invisible at day but shines at night - I used to know quite a few people like that (!). There's a whole website dedicated to LifePaint here.

Volvo have taken their core brand equity - safety - and instead of chucking it out on the grounds of not being exactly scintillating, have re-interpreted it in a particularly Swedish, democratic way:

Road safety shouldn't be for the few...

Less a case of thinking outside the box and more a case of thinking outside the car.

Monday, 20 April 2015

My pre-internet brain

Probably the most resonant of the "21st century slogans" at the Douglas Coupland solo exhibition at Vancouver Art Gallery is this one.

I miss my pre-internet brain.

Now, I imagine that my son (born 2000) would wonder what a pre-internet brain was, and having worked out that it was some sort of vestigial remain belonging to those born way back in the last century, would then question what on earth there was to miss about such a thing.

Douglas Coupland is now 52 and explains his nostalgia so: "I feel like I have willingly or unwillingly become a new person ...we've all been completely, neurologically rewired." Or so: "The internet has burrowed into my head and laid eggs, and it feels as though they're all hatching."

The re-wiring is fact, not just fancy, and it's estimated that 10,000 hours of exposure to a medium - say, the internet, is enough to rewire the neurones. That is less than 1.5 hours per day on the internet for the last 19 years, which I'm sure I must be approaching.

So, for the benefit of those millenials, what was a pre-internet brain like? While the internet brain is spontaneous and even a little flighty, the pre-internet brain was considered, ponderous, deliberate. The internet brain is agile, nimble and smart, but a touch superficial. The pre-internet brain had depth. The internet brain is extrovert, has all the answers. The pre-internet brain was an introvert, and knew that it didn't know.

Pre-internet: never forgets, faithful, with a questioning attitude.
Internet: easily distracted, faithless, demands instant gratification, credulous.

And finally, I have the feeling that my internet brain is transparent, a standard issue, and public property.

Whereas my pre-internet brain was mysterious, original and my own. Private. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Work that works

A few years back, there was an outbreak of manifestoes (or is it manifesti?). I'm not sure what the collective noun is for manifestoes, but I'll go for a manifest of manifestoes. They were everywhere, from boardroom walls to your TV screen.

But, like every fad, manifestoes were popular for a reason. They are a nifty, shorthand (usually) way of reminding you what you're about. I have recently found a great example for Planners on the Canalside View Blog. It's a few years old now, but just as relevant for Planners old and new as it was then.

The first point is the best one. Stimulate work that works. I say it's the best one as, years ago, this was our single-minded proposition for Planning at Saatchis. Note that it's about stimulation, not inspiration. There is a difference.

The other 23 points (OK, a bit much, but I always knew Planners did more work than anyone else in the agency!) are mostly good, with some gems and one or two duds (or, rather, generalisations):

Give a sh*t about the work
Create the conditions for great work
Be brave
Go beyond the brief
Speak with authority
Make research your friend
Be multi-faceted
Be a source of clarity (hooray!)
Speak the truth
Define the problem
Embrace iteration
Offer solutions, not just strategies
Shape behaviour
Deal in the specific
Cultivate many relationships
Work through conversation
Beware of Case Studies
See people not consumers (hooray!)
Balance the new and the old
Be interesting
Make something
Work comfortably in public
Have fun

Not much to it, is there?