Sunday 24 April 2016

Artificial vs. Intelligence

The APG UK's forthcoming conference to be held on 25th May, is entitled 'Strategy vs. Robots'. The publicity features the clever idea of a Top Trumps -style card, comparing a robot with a human strategic planner. The robot (slightly) out-trumps Ms Mills on intelligence and processing power while our human hero wins hands down on creativity and sense of humour.

It promises to be a good event, with such people as Kate Fox (of 'Watching the English' fame) and Steve Hilton (whose has published a book entitled 'More Human'). I'm not sure who is going to be representing or sticking up for the robots, but maybe they will invite a special guest from Japan.

Apparently, McCann Japan have appointed an AI robot as a creative director. This new employee will be 'mining and analysing creative databases of adverts to find the best commercials for products and messages.' I am still not entirely sure this isn't a wind-up, as the 'new employees meeting' where AI-CD ß was due to appear was April 1st, which seems a bit fishy to me. However, stranger things have happened.

I've blogged a couple of times about where I stand on the planning - or even creativity - by AI and algorithm debate, here and here .

I'm old enough now not to worry about my own job being taken over by a robot. But I guess in the end, there always has to be someone human working to design and build the robots.

Or does there?

Thursday 21 April 2016

A jolly Happy Birthday!

Celebrations are in full swing back in Blighty for The Queen's 90th birthday, and I will no doubt join in. But I also want to celebrate a different birthday, for another (excuse the 'i-word') icon. Not a lady, this time, but a rather fine gent.

Mr Peanut, of Planter's fame, is 100 years old and celebrated his birthday officially two days ago.

Mr Peanut is one of my favourite brand characters, along with the Michelin man. Not many brand characters reach 100 without being deemed un-PC, too fat, too skinny, the wrong colour, inappropriate or - shock horror - offensive.

Although one or two of Mr Peanut's incarnations are laughable rather than endearing (I am looking at the first NUTmobile here), his longevity surely relies on his staying the sophisticated, nutty gent who promises great quality peanuts. Monocles and spats never go out of fashion.

I'm not sure what year my Mr Peanut mug dates from, but it could as well have been made yesterday.

The history of Mr Peanut is fascinating. In an early example of crowd-sourcing, the original sketches won a competition for 13-year-old Antonio 'Tony' Gentile. Tony won $5 for his idea, which must have been a fair amount of money for a young teenager in 1916. Here's one of his sketches, and you can see the others and read more here.
There's a rather sad end to Tony's story. He didn't go into the world of Madison Avenue, but qualified in medicine and became a surgeon. He died of a heart attack at the tragically early age of 36.

I do wonder, though, what that young boy would have thought if he'd caught a fast-forward glimpse of his creation in 2016.

Friday 15 April 2016

... but I won't do that

The TV ad I've chosen for this blog post may be an odd one, as I'm not a dad, nor do I have a daughter.

But I have plenty of friends that are, and do.

This wonderful ad has been created and produced for McDonald's Australia by DDB together with The Sweet Shop

What's so great about it? Well, for a start, it's based on a huge and relevant insight: Dads make plenty of sacrifices for daughters, but food probably ain't one of them. Having just come back from a holiday together with a meat-eating dad and vegetarian daughter, I can confirm the veracity of this 100%.

And this insight connects to the product they are advertising - the DIY Create your Taste which promises 'grown-up ingredients.'

But it doesn't stop there - the film is packed with little observational insights on father-daughter behaviour which makes the whole thing watchable, funny, warm-hearted and true to life. There are no stupid bogus 'social experiments', no ghastly pulling on the heartstrings plinky music (the Meatloaf track is perfect, and has a neat association with the product), no horrible manipulative messages about empowerment and other such crap.

It's good old clever unpretentious advertising - and almost makes me want to give McDonald's another try.

Monday 11 April 2016

Gripping Stuff

Just back from my favourite winter wonderland, which has turned into Audi Quattro wonderland in the few years that I have been away. I'm not usually keen on blatant commercial activity in beautiful holiday resorts, but I have to say - maybe because I'm an Audi owner - that this works.

Although BMW are an 'official partner' of ski resort Obergurgl/Hochgurgl, it was the Audi Quattro activity that I noticed primarily. Compared to a full size ice sculpture, and a tent where photos are taken and a competition entered, the few posters for BMW that I saw rather paled in comparison.

There are posters for Audi Quattro, too, of course, all around the resort. These communicate the sponsorship and association of Audi Quattro with freeriding skiers such as Nadine Wallner. Grip and challenge - perfect!

But it's not just these rather more ephemeral communication pieces that melt with the thaw. Since December 2013, one of the traditional mountain huts has been rechristened the quattro Festkogl Alm.

I'm a fan of unlikely combinations - in this case, alpine cosiness and state-of-the-art automobile technology. Amid the wooden beams and floorboards are hi-tech interactive tables, giving you something of the Quattro experience.

Above the roaring fireplace is a Quattro gecko symbol, instead of the obligatory stag's head or stuffed marmot. And there were some lovely deep red felt branded drink coasters which beautifully combine both worlds.

Grip and challenge and Audi Quattro - how long before they start making skis?

Friday 1 April 2016

It's tasty, tasty, very very tasty

I quite often read through all those newsletters about new ideas and innovations and think – I wish I’d thought of that. And I am sure that there are more than a few brands these days that see something new in terms of media ideas and wish they’d got their name behind it.

Unfortunately, as much as many established brands talk about agility, many of their approval and testing processes are painfully and restrictively slow when it comes to getting something out there.

The neat new idea I’ve seen on my Facebook feed in the last couple of months is delicious little recipe videos, usually lasting less than a minute. Packed with mouth-watering appeal, these really do make it all look quick and easy. Fast food with a twist. And most of these come from Tasty or Proper Tasty, who describe them as ‘Food that’ll make you close your eyes, lean back and whisper yessss. Snack-sized videos and recipes you’ll want to try.'

Snack-sized videos. Brilliant.

Now, the interesting thing here is that behind the new brands Tasty (started July 2015, over 47m Facebook followers) and Proper Tasty (the UK version ‘in grams not cups’, launched December 2015 and an excellent demonstration of a global brand with local accents) is the digital media company BuzzFeed, better known for its clickbait headlines of the You Won’t Believe What Happens Next variety.

But BuzzFeed have been clever. They have realised that some of their Tasty audience (like me) probably isn’t into epic fails and awesomely cute fluffy kittens.

So you don’t have to like BuzzFeed (on Facebook) to like Tasty. In fact, you don’t need to go anywhere near – Tasty is tailor made for Facebook, and Pinterest, and Instagram, and Twitter, and … you can get it straight from there.

It’s not about ‘driving traffic to their website.’

And, although there are those who maintain that BuzzFeed and their like are driven by data and heavy on analysis, just looking at visitors to the food section of the main BuzzFeed site (14m, in the great scheme of things, not a lot) would not have led to this idea alone. BuzzFeed’s success is based on thorough data-crunching, yes, but combined with leaps of intuition.

It’s just a shame (I think) that a traditional food-related brand didn’t launch Tasty.

But then again, there are plenty more brilliant ideas to be had out there.