Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Such good manners at DEEPSPACE

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.
Thanks to Paul Isakson for the kind invitation to speak a bit more about Manners for the Modern Brand. It was a great night at DEEPSPACE - lots of challenging and constructive dialog, not to mention the Guinness, that helped lubricate both the vocal chords and the synapses.

Paul rightly urged all to "Stop Campaigning And Start Committing". And Adrian Ho asked (and answered) the question "Can Modern Brands Be Built With Traditional People".

All presentations, as well as news of upcoming events, will be found here.

Dreck + Time = A Weird Kind Of Cool

This is a legendary Australian retail TV commercial, from 1974. I used it as a reference in my recent Manners for the Modern Brand presentation. I'd been looking for an example of loud obnoxious retail advertising from my early days in Australia - I recall long tedious summer nights of watching TV, the re-runs punctuated every five minutes with barrages of screaming hucksters, pushing everything from cars to swimming pools. One memorable series featured refrigerator salesman waving frozen chickens at the camera, yelling that with every fridge sold "Ya get a free chook!!!"

And who else remembers the early, magical days of Chyron supers, and the ability to flash large prices on and off in a strobing, rainbow-colored fashion?

Anyway, I thought it might be of interest to look at the history of the "Where do you get it" spot. It was written byJohn Singleton, apparently from concept to finish in one day. Here's a bit of background on Singleton:

"...Singleton opened his SPASM agency in 1968. His accounts were largely local Sydney retailers but Singo's understanding of his audience enabled him to reach out to the entire nation. Rather than using prim presenters, Singo celebrated the voice and image of the average bloke from western Sydney. One of his most successful advertisements was for David Holdings wholesalers. It simply outlined the retailer's prices before repeatedly chanting the catch-phrase 'Where do you get it?"

Though I intended the spot to be an illustration of the bad old days, I have some concessions to make:

One - the spot was enormously successful. Pinheads like me can moan all we want, but we can't argue with success.
Two - there's a clear limit to the idea of 'manners' within the clamor of free enterprise.
Three - after all these years, it has an oddly refreshing quality to it. I wonder if it would be more loved than hated today.
Four - therefore, it didn't make my point all that well. But I just had to share it. Thanks to my super secret contacts in Australia who uncovered a copy for me.

By the way, John Singleton is considered one of the most influential figures in Australian advertising and media. Whether you like his work or not, he's well worth reading up on. For example, there's a really good interview with him here, in which he talks about such supposedly avant garde concepts as creating your own products and marketing them, something his advertising agency did forty years ago.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rushing to judgment


Social media has allowed us to criticize faster than the real world actually moves. Where will it end?

Say, a candidate makes a speech.

She says ‘My…’

And the scribes immediately jump.

‘“My?” How selfish, like it’s all about her. What about us, the people you represent?’

The candidate continues.


The critics are in a lather. Just two words into this important speech, and she’s already blowing it.

‘”Fellow?” How pandering. We’re not your friends yet, lady.’


‘Oh right, like it’s all about America. This is a global economy. We can’t afford someone to be so plainly out of touch.’

Yes, I exaggerate.

But only to make a point about the new Microsoft campaign.

Seeing as this is my second post about Jerry and Bill, you’re going to start thinking I either have a sad obsession or an undisclosed stake. I don’t. My problem is the culture of criticism combined with the ability to unleash it rapidly and powerfully.

We’re two films into a sizeable communications campaign and each one has been stomped on by the pundits.

Let it breathe. Enjoy.

And if you want my punditry, I say film number two is a very enjoyable piece. It’s Bryan Buckley at his finest.

I can’t wait to hear the speech in its entirety.

Too big to fail

Image by emily-well-mannered

It’s dangerous for us advertising types to sound off about industries we know next to nothing about, but when has that ever stopped us? In fact, you could almost say that’s our business.

The news this morning that AIG has been adjudged to be too big to fail struck a sour note.

We’re glad there are people who can divine the difference between too big and not big enough.

What’s disturbing is that this is coming from an industry that has advised all of us to never put too much into one basket – to balance our portfolios.

So, AIG, a collection of mostly successful, profitable businesses, is pushed to the wall by one division. Their own portfolio was unbalanced.

And the financial industry as a whole has allowed a number of companies to become “too big” - in effect too much of our collective money has been placed in the hands of too few. The portfolio of the entire industry is unbalanced. Catastrophically so, it appears.

What can we learn from all of this, in our own small corner of the world?

Well, to us, it’s one more reason to embrace the brand molecule concept put forth by John Grant in his milestone (IMHO) book Brand Innovation Manifesto.

Having one, monolithic (love that word) brand communications idea is essentially unbalancing your communications portfolio. Much smarter to have a cluster of efforts, all working towards a common goal.

Obviously, the metaphor only goes so far. While a small investment portfolio can be balanced, a small marketing budget needs to be more focused. But somewhere into your brand’s growth, idea diversification becomes very wise business.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The beginning of our era went thump, thump, thump.

Image by Nicole Marti

When the Energizer Bunny marched off the set of that commercial long ago, the modern era of marketing communications began.

The fourth wall was broken. Ideas no longer began and ended within the confines of a media unit. They carried on, out there somewhere in the world. That they turned up from time to time in commercials seemed only a matter of the cameras being on hand to record the moment.

Fast forward to now and see how technology has enabled (demanded) that brand ideas break free of the boxes to become free-floating notions. Conversations if you like. Or worlds. Or stories.

Listen to Bogusky when he says (or whoever it was who said it first) “bring me the press release”.

Listen to Droga when he calls for “ideas with momentum”.

The stand-alone commercial or the stop-start campaign, as interfaces between brand and customer, are lost opportunities at best. Even the singular, 360 brand idea as we know it has its shortcomings.

The challenge we all face is to weave stories, conversations, actions, and, of course, traditional communications, into a cohesive something that can represent a business through time. Thump, thump, thump.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why they don't like your idea

Image by Nemo's great uncle

I used to think it was because they thought I was a hack. Or that they resented how clever I was. Or that they took my idea as a challenge that they had to beat.

It never occurred to me that the knee jerk rejection of an idea by other creatives was anything other than nefarious.

Yes, that’s right, nefarious.

Then, I had an ah-hah moment about… the ah-hah moment.

The reason creative people don’t like other people's ideas isn’t anything ill-willed at all. It’s because they – we – use that feeling we get when we generate something wonderful, as a signal that something wonderful has indeed been generated. If we do not generate the idea, we do not get to experience the eureka, and therefore we do not trust the idea.

It isn’t a matter of ‘not invented here’. It’s simply ‘not experienced here’. Think of that next time you're dealing with some seemingly recalcitrant creatives. Pity them that gut instinct is the best judge yet invented.

The only measurement that matters

Image by karindalziel

We’re big on measurement at Persuasion. It’s sorta weird for a supposed creative company to be this way about numbers. The way we see it, if only someone somewhere could figure out a way to truly measure the impact of ideas on a business, we’d fancy our chances.

But while we’re big backers of people like Carol Phillips and Don Sexton, we’re also pragmatic. Who knows when we'll ever get a level playing field? In the meantime, we must all do what we can do.

Which brings us to the only measurement we know of that matters: the one your client has their bonus based upon.

If you haven’t already done so, ask her next time you’re out at lunch. “What measures do you have to hit, personally, in order for you to have a nice annual bonus?”

It could be visits to a website. It could be sales figures. It might be credit card sign-ups, or calls to a 1-800 number, or amount of foot traffic.

Forget that this is perhaps not just a pragmatic approach but also a cynical one. Trust, instead, that these measurements are put in place by the company’s senior management for good reason.

Then make sure your communications help hit that goal. Make your client a little richer, personally. You know that matters.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

7 cents worth on Microsoft


Seeing as everyone is piling on to the new Microsoft ad starring Bill and Jerry, and I'm really energized by community activities, here's my own piece...

1 cent: Everyone is piling on. When was the last time this many people had anything to say, positive or negative, about a Microsoft communication? Score for CPB.

2 cents: It's one ad, the first salvo in what is going to be a much, much larger effort. I find it odd that the people criticizing this one single ad are the same people who say successful marketing communications takes more than one single ad.

3 cents: The ad itself is funny enough. It warms Microsoft up, which of course it sorely needed.

4 cents: The underlying message that Microsoft is bringing you the future is a fair enough place for them to play. For the vast majority of computer users, it's the truth, no matter what we Apple nuts think.

5 cents: Every creative who has ever touched a Microsoft brief for the first time has wanted to use Bill Gates in their work. And every time, the suggestion has been shouted down. Congratulations to CPB for finding the path.

6 cents: Using Seinfeld in a commercial, doing Seinfeld, has the same creative freshness that using John Cleese doing John Cleese once had.

7 cents: For some, the presence of Seinfeld will make Bill Gates, and by extension Microsoft, look cooler. For others, me included, the contrast will not be a positive one, only confirming their prior opinions. Jerry is funny and natural, Bill is geeky and forced.

There. 7 cents worth. Which coincidentally is the royalty that Microsoft first charged IBM per installed copy of the DOS operating system.* Now that was a great idea.

*Okay, I made that number up. It was actually $1 a copy. But who can find 100 cents worth of stuff to say about one, single opening message from a $300 million effort?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Persuasion Chocolates

While Autumn Cleaning the other day (see, we ZAG, people. No mundane Spring Cleaning for us) we found some left over boxes of chocolates from last Valentine’s Day. How they escaped consumption, we do not know.

Our “8 Assorted Tactics” were…

Twenty-eight unrelated flavors crammed into one place.

Boozy Lunch.
Expense account indulgence with Amaretto chaser.

Dark chocolate with a sobering hit of caffeine.

Sweet Talk.
Sugar-caramel with infusion of saccharine.

Blood red center of raspberry pulp.

Legal Action.
White tiramisu sprinkled with asterisks.

Dizzying spiral of chocolate and hazelnut.

Cherry lost in a thick blanket of chocolate.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The other side of simple

I learned a lesson in simplicity the other day, courtesy of my three-year old daughters. (It might be kids who go to school, but it’s us parents who get the education.)

Anyway, I had a rare day with my girls, no work, no big brother, just them and me. My knee jerk impulse in these situations is to go for the over-achievement – perhaps there’s a ballet we could go to, maybe go find an elephant ride, or a zero-gravity simulator.

Fortunately, none of these were available this particular Labor Day weekend, so instead we went for a walk along Minnehaha Creek.

We came to a foot-bridge, arcing twenty feet over the stream.

The girls spent the next hour completely absorbed in finding different leaves to float down to the water’s surface, watching to see which ones would survive the rapids.

And as I watched them, I realized that this is what simple is all about. As a visual thinker, I'd always thought of simplicity as the art of reduction. But a process of elimination can result in spare, sometimes Spartan imagery.

I wondered about the other side of simplicity. A dedication to what is essential. Like wondering if a maple leaf would make a good kayak.