Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Polish up those tin signs

I was rather cheered to read in the JWT trendletter that analogue marketing, or the "renaissance of non-digital mediums (sic)", is back.

On closer inspection, the article is more about music and musicians - Coldplay and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, bringing new albums out on cassette and advertising them in quaint old-fashioned ways, such as small ads in local papers, or personally-typed postcards to fans delivered in the good old post.

But there's no reason to stop there. There are so many ways to advertise your brand or cause in real life, from posters to trams to vans to blimps - even on bricks and mortar.

I did learn a new word from the article that I'll have to use somewhere soon: anemoia - nostalgia for a time you've never known.

In the meantime, let's market like it's 1899!

Monday, 9 December 2019

The war against plastic (words)

Good advice, generally, doesn't go out of fashion. I make no excuses for posting this memo from David Ogilvy. Nearly 40 years on, it's as important as ever.

I particularly like points 2, 3 and 4, which always remind me that the best presentations are the ones that are to the point. They get into your mind and stay there. They do this through using everyday, natural language, not what Ogilvy calls jargon and others have called "plastic words."

Plastic words have that Humpty-Dumpty quality that they mean whatever the user wants them to mean in that context - or sometimes they mean diddly-squat because the user doesn't really know what they want to say, only that a particular word gets a head-nod and ticks a box somewhere.

As the authors of that article point out, our language is polluted with these words. I often wonder what on earth we said before we started started talking about engagement, or agility or diversity. Not to mention purpose, impact, sustainability ...

Time to battle with the verbal plastic, as well as all that junk in the sea?

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

How green was my valley?

In the last few weeks, I have noticed crosses by the side of fields while driving. The first couple, I probably didn't register - assuming they were shrines put up at the site of road accidents. But then I noticed something unusual - the crosses were green.

While walking the other day, I came across (ha, ha!) one by a local field, and attached to it was a notice addressed to walkers:

This campaign - Grüne Kreuz - is a "silent protest" from German farmers to lobby the government and powers-that-be to respect their work. It's about everything from dumping prices at the supermarkets, importing cheap goods and giving in to public pressure (maybe too hastily) on environmental protection issues, such as the use of fertiliser and pesticides.

The protest took on a new angle last week when thousands of farmers (and tractors) descended on Berlin. That, I expect, wasn't so silent.

Whatever your views on the issues regarding agriculture and the environment, this does strike me as a masterstroke in terms of campaigning. Using fields as a medium for the campaign and a symbol that immediately evokes interest. The mainstream press tends to be one-sided on this topic and I know I've heard a lot more in the last year about saving bees than I have about farmers' livelihoods.

Farmers for Future, perhaps?

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Off-the-peg strategies

Five years ago (gosh, how time flies when you're enjoying yourself) I wrote a couple of posts about crowd-sourcing: not crowd-sourcing the general public for ideas for a new flavour of crisps, or naming a boat, but going into a creative pool (I hesitate to say community) for design and creative ideas.

My conclusion at the time was that I was sceptical, especially when it came to what the creatives got out of it - and that the logical next step, which I rather hoped wouldn't happen, was a similar set-up for strategy.

Since then, I have joined one freelance pool for writers, and I must say upfront that I don't have a problem with the idea of freelance pools in general, and matching up freelancers to clients.

But it's the competitive element that I find destructive.

In theory, accessing good thinkers ("an exclusive, worldwide community of the finest Creative Directos and Planning Directors") to solve tough strategic problems sounds fine. But if this organisation (and others like them) are throwing the client brief out to a number of "the world's best thinkers" then picking the best of what comes back (in their view) for the client, then that is worrying.

It devalues the work of any one particular planner and turns strategic thinking into a commodity that can be bought in bulk.

As a freelancer, I take pride in becoming an independent plug-in for my clients for as long as I'm working with them. I take time and care to listen and learn about their organisation - how things work today, and where their hopes and vision are leading them tomorrow. I ask lots of questions. I'm a part of the organisation for the duration, but an outward-facing one.

I see that as my responsibility, and it goes far beyond the weeks or months that I am working with the brand.

I've tracked down the 1994 all-staff memo from David Abbott that talks about the dangers of "a giant ad factory where quantity is more important than quality". It's just as relevant for strategy as it is for creative: "great work comes with ownership, understanding and time."

I may be old-school, but I firmly believe that strategy is not something where you can fail fast, test and learn and all that design-thinking tra-la-la.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Manhattan or Mainhattan? My favourite campaign of 2019

2019 is far from over and can still throw us a few surprises, but I'm going to stick my neck out and say that this is my favourite campaign of 2019.

Normally, expressions such as "programmatic advertising", "data-driven creativity" and "personalised ads at scale" leave me cold (and feeling old, to boot.)

But the campaign from Deutsche Bahn to encourage summer holidays in Germany is all of those, and a masterclass of how it should be done. You see, behind it all is an idea. It's a clever idea that would make a fine poster campaign. Indeed, it may have stuck at being a poster idea had the client had a higher budget.

The genius of the campaign is how Ogilvy Germany personalised the campaign, using destinations that people were searching for online, and matching them with their German Doppelgängers, faster than you can say ... Doppelgängers.

It's a triumph of collaboration - at times over adversity. As well as the budget, which forced the thinking down the "digital only" route, there were challenges sourcing images ("how many do you want"?), with GDPR (using people's Facebook data). And that's before you start on the different mindsets of advertising creatives (the BIG Idea) and the digital performance people (trained to test and learn).

But Ogilvy, Getty Images, Spirable and Facebook all got it together for the client, resulting in the 2 million special price train tickets being sold out in two thirds the normal time.

Who needs exotic locations to do a wunderbar ad campaign?

Monday, 18 November 2019

Real Life Rebels

I've read a number of articles recently about how young people are shopping less than older generations online and more in real bricks and mortar shops. OK, most of these articles focus around the US, and malls, and Black Friday.

But I wonder - in the same way that Facebook now resembles the Darby & Joan club, and grocery online shopping and delivery services are mainly used by the well-heeled and grey-haired - whether younger generations will start to rebel in more and more areas by using the real life option.

Maybe rebel isn't the right word. It's more a sense of doing something different than what you grew up with, or to what your parents did. Discovering, experiencing, trying stuff out - and on.

The wild world of the Internot is ripe for discovery.

Friday, 8 November 2019

In Flanders fields ...

When most people think about campaigns, they are usually short-term. Branded advertising campaigns, election campaigns, even military campaigns - they are all relatively short-lived compared to the granddaddy of all charity campaigns - the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal.

The Poppy Appeal had its roots not in the UK, but in France, and the author of the 1915 poem who inspired it all was a Canadian Medical Officer, Lieutenant John McCrae.

After the war, a French woman involved in fund-raising, Anna Guerin, had the idea of selling poppies made by widows and orphans of the conflict in remembrance of the fallen. The idea was adopted by the British Legion and the first "Poppy Day" held on November 11th in the UK.

The poppies have changed over the years a little in form, and the material from which they are made, and the meaning has shifted from the 1st WW to encompass military personnel in subsequent conflicts too. But the overall idea - and the symbol - has remained constant - unique, meaningful and relevant - for nearly 100 years.

There are questions, of course. Recently, many feel that the profusion of poppies at this time of year is over-the-top (sorry) - undignified, garish. The ceramic poppies at The Tower of London were spectacular, but maybe that should have be kept as a one-off, without later attempts for increasingly dramatic shows and installations. And it has all become politically charged. How predictable. Surely many of the brave men and women who died in conflict would turn in their graves if they could see some of the petty social media spats on the subject.

But all of that aside, kudos must be given for one of the longest-running campaigns ever.

Back in Germany, a different kind of campaign starts on November 11th: the beginning of Fasching or Karneval.

I am sure the Daily Mail could write a suitably barbed article on the subject.