Wednesday 26 January 2011

Getting real

In days gone by, one of the inadvertently funniest aspects of my job was sitting behind one-way mirrors with a group of assistant brand managers, none of whose first languages matched that of the poor souls we were watching, in something called a "Concept Lab" where we would "generate consumer insights."

The words "lab" and "generate" are telling. Very little of our generated output would bear any relation to anything a real person might say. You know the sort of thing: "These days I have to juggle so many roles - Supermom, household manager, personal shopper for my girlfriends, yoga coach for my neighbour, Stepford Wife as well as moonlighting as a rocket scientist on the side. Wouldn't it be great if there was a panty liner that was as flexible as I am?"

Now there's a whole site dedicated to this sort of absurdity: "Things Real People Don't Say about Advertising". It made me laugh and it made me cringe - occasionally, just occasionally, I have been there myself. Crackers include "I wonder if my favourite brand of kitchen roll has a Twitter stream I can follow" and "that viral made me LOL so hard, I think I'll buy the car that was in it."

See, that content really is both entertaining and informative. I will now act as an evangelist and pass it on immediately to my friends and colleagues.


Friday 21 January 2011

I'll build on that...

Back when I was a fresh-faced young planner, in the days of faxes and Tippex and things called Word Processors which I didn't have to understand - the secretaries did that - a book came out: "How to Plan Advertising." And in this book was a section on Creative Briefing by Damian O'Malley that became inscribed on my Planning soul.

For the odd person who may not know it, it is a very clever piece on how the Pope's Account Man may have briefed Michelangelo on the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. You can see it here, on John Griffiths' website. As an aside, note the "best" briefing isn't a snappy single-minded proposition. It's more a brand story. Or something.

But twenty years later, we have the case history. Very funny. Very cleverly done and full of all those ghastly cliches that tumble out of our mouths so easily: "messaging included..." "traffic increased by..."

Do have a look.

Friday 14 January 2011


Mimicry is all around us. As well as in the world of nature, mimicry abounds in bookshops, with more Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code or Twilight wanna-bees (at least from the cover picture and blurb) than you can fit in your BILLY. And, of course, if you have the good fortune to resemble any List-designation of celebrity, you can usually give up the day job.

In the world of brands, mimicry has long been with us, manifesting itself everything from those almost-but-not-quite perfumes you find on market stalls, to the belts and bags sold by persuasive young guys in far-off places.

And then there are the supermarket's own brands. Aldi seem to be good at this, with their Kinder lookalike very cleverly imitating the colour-coding of the real McCoy.

Finally, there are those brands that are number 3 or 4 in the market who seem to think mimicking the market leader, perhaps at a slightly lower price, will ensure success. One example of such could be Alpia and Milka.

But that which makes a brand - its emotional added value - cannot be copied. You may be able to copy price. But you cannot copy value.

Monday 10 January 2011

Name dropping

Starbucks seems to be one of those Marmite brands that you either love to bits or hate with a vengeance. So anything the brand does attracts plenty of comment.

In March 2011, Starbucks will be rolling out its new logo in a re-brand. Most of the comment from Starbucks themselves (aka Howard Schulz) has surrounded the dropping of the word "coffee" from the logo. In a rather cryptic sentence (not helped by its strange grammatical construction), Mr Schulz reveals:

"Even though we have been and always will be a coffee company and retailer, it's possible that we'll have other products with our name on it but no coffee in it."

What is particularly baffling is that there is no "coffee" or name - Starbucks - on the new logo. Now, I expect the Starbucks lovers will say that this is the ultimate show of confidence from the global brand - that they are so well known, who needs a name? (The" artist-formerly-known-as" approach).

But the anti-Starbucks brigade will retort that this is nothing more than defensiveness or even shame surrounding the S-word.

Who's right? I suppose it all depends on whether your Starbucks coffee is half-empty or half-full.

Saturday 1 January 2011


I'm going to start the New Year with an optimistic cocking of the snoot (if you'll excuse me) at all those doom-mongers who declare that advertising, specifically TV advertising, is dead.

Here are Horizont's Top 15 TV spots. As well as the international blockbusters, there are German ads celebrating the German national obsessions of cars and football. And although quite a few of these are virals and cinema spots, rather than strictly TV, my two favourites are classic TV spots.

One is for IKEA so I'm a bit biased. The other is for Lieken Urkorn bread - not actually a dream client for creatives, you would think. But the film they have produced is breathtaking. A simple idea, beautifully executed.

Here's to a few more of those in 2011!

1. Nike World Cup
2. Audi A8 "Die Kunst, voraus zu sein."
3. Lieken Urkorn "Aus guten Händen"
4. Hornbach "Faces"
5. Mercededs Benz E-Klasse
6. Gelomyrtol "Welt ohne Schleim"
7. IKEA "Inbus"
8. 13th Street "Last Call"
9. Telekom "Liga Total"
10. Bud Light Viral
11. P&G Old Spice
12. Skoda "Glasmusik"
13. McDonalds viral "Uli Hoeness"
14. Internet Explorer "8 Experts" viral
15. Quirin Bank Image Spot