All posts tagged Advertising and Marketing

Find your Brand Belief.

Some of us have no issue talking about ourselves. I certainly don’t (I’m a Gemini born in 1970, BTW). But when it comes to brands, some are a little too eager to pound their chests. “This is our stuff! Here’s our product! Have you tried it?! Have you got our coupon?!!”

We know about the decreasing impact of advertising, the clutter in the space and the consumer’s ability to skip right past us. Given the choice between cat videos and product information, finicky consumers are actually choosing Morris.

Simply put, nobody wants to be pitch slapped. So many of us agency folk have been telling our clients, “Don’t talk about yourself so much.” It’s right and it’s true. But it inevitably creates the client response,

“Well, what the hell am I supposed to talk about, then?”
Oh. Right. We didn’t tell you that part, did we?

Brands have to elevate the conversation to content that people want to interact with. But it’s not just randomly generated cool stuff. It has to be strategically relevant to the brand and its customers. So how do you do that?

Find your Brand Belief. 

Your Brand Belief is the first critical step in designing your content marketing or social media strategy. Do it and you’ll actually have something to talk about. Don’t do it and you’ll either be haphazardly generating hit-or-miss tactics or worse, you’ll be left to repurpose your list of ingredients as a blog post.

Getting to the Brand Belief isn’t easy but once you get there, it does give you somewhere interesting to go.

One of our clients is Dx3 Canada, the country’s largest trade show and conference focused on digital marketing, digital advertising and digital retail. The show only  happens 2 days a year (March 6-7, 2013) so talking about the product would get old at the second mention of “Register today”.

Their Brand Belief on the other hand, is “We believe Canadian business needs to get more digital.” Awesome. Now their content decisions can be evaluated by asking, “Does this fulfill our brand belief?” opposed to “Does this mention registration?”

I don’t know that’s there’s a better Brand Belief example than Expedia’s new work, “Find Yours.” Obviously, people can find hotels and flights on Expedia but they’ve elevated the conversation to a far more interesting place with an incredible insight.

They’re not a client of the Tite Group and I doubt they used the Brand Belief process but I think their brand belief is “We believe travel allows people to find a lot more than cities and towns. It helps them find themselves.”

It’s a beautiful story. It has great production value. And it stars a couple from the reality show, “The Real L-Word”. Most importantly, it features the brand without being about the  brand. It simply tells a story about how one man found understanding by traveling to the other side of the country. While I assume he used Expedia to book his flights, I didn’t need to see him do it.

I’ve always known that I can go to Expedia to find flights.
Now I know what they believe in. And I’ll be coming back for more.

Who’s guilty? Advertising, Paris Hilton or me?

In yesterday’s post about Dr. Pepper Ten, I explored the need to rise above calling for the removal of sexist ads and instead, vote with our wallets. Today, I watched a trailer for the documentary “Miss Representation” which, I think, further proves the need to do this.

Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, this film calls out the media and advertising for re-enforcing negative stereotypes of women. On one hand, I agree. On the other, I don’t.

Does advertising (and the content it pays for) illustrate women in ways that prevent women from rising above the past? Absolutely. Is it their fault? Maybe and maybe not. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing. Let me explain.

While advertising certainly has done its fair share to contribute to the problem, the only thing that drives the use of negative imagery is success. Advertisers do it because it works. Trust me, if a “sexy” ad failed to drive sales, it would get yanked faster than Qwickster. So who’s guilty? The advertiser for doing it or the general public who reward the advertiser’s behaviour with sales and brand loyalty?

There was a time when corporations didn’t even think about greening their products. Only when the general public started rewarding those who went green did everyone else join in.
The answer is easy then, right?
Maybe not.

As the trailer points out, many men respond to such images because that’s what we’ve been taught our entire lives. By the media. And by advertising. When we buy magazines or watch TV or check out movies, we’re fed images that define what we should like and what we shouldn’t. So when we see Paris Hilton in a Carl’s Jr. spot, we’re immediately conditioned to think, “Blonde? Check. Thin? Check. Not intellectually sound? Check. Oh, right! I like this!! (or at least I’m supposed to).”

Is it my fault for responding or someone else’s fault because they taught me that that’s how I should respond? Or.. and here’s where it gets interesting.. Is it Paris’ fault for contributing to the problem simply for financial gain? Shouldn’t she be held at least partially accountable?

Many of you will point to the brilliant work done by Ogilvy Toronto for Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign to say that clearly progressive forms of advertising work. Well, ya but don’t forget that the campaign targeted people who supported that type of brand communication much in the same way that parent company Unilever stands behind its work for Axe Body Spray. They work because their target connects with them.

Like or not, money drives decisions but it also represents a democracy. I absolutely hate Jersey Shore but man, there are a LOT of people who like it which proves it should exist. Who am I to impose my cultural beliefs on others? Instead of yanking it, wouldn’t it be better if there simply wasn’t a market for it?

I know I’m rambling. I guess this is my point: If we want to make advertising better, we have to rethink what we’re responding to and support those products (and the ads that represent them) regardless of price. And whether we’re Kim Kardashian or US Weekly or a Creative Director at a big agency, we need to make decisions based on our values, not on our bank accounts.

My good friend, Bill Sharpe, once told me, “A principle is only a principle if it costs you money.” I couldn’t agree more.

As a consumer and as a brand guy, I know I’m not perfect.
I’m just trying to do the right thing.

What do you think?

Has Sid Lee sold out?

Image representing Dell as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I was fortunate enough to work on the Dell account for a few years. It’s a tough business. Or at least it was back then. The clients were really nice and respectful and I thoroughly enjoyed working and collaborating with them. But it was tough. With a culture that examines advertising performance almost hourly, Dell’s approach to advertising has historically been transactional in nature.

Remember the headline, “Double your memory. Double your hard drive.”? I wrote that. And about 400 more just like it. There was direct response print, FSIs, catalogues, and a little bit of radio. Not really glamourous, trips to the podium kind of stuff but we certainly added a ton of value to their business and I’m kinda proud that I played a miniscule role in their ascension. While we can all debate whether their approach is best, it certainly is a valid one given their success.

When I heard that Sid Lee won a piece of the worldwide Dell business, my first reaction was “Good for them.” I’m always happy when Canadian agencies do well on the global stage and I think it makes the rest of us better. But the more I thought about it, well… the more I had to think about it.

Sid Lee’s win wasn’t an obvious one.

Sid Lee has been taking a unique approach to advertising for the past few years by integrating architecture, retail design, urban planning, and experiential activities into brand communications. They were recently named Agency of the Year by Marketing Magazine and they’re about to launch the one of the largest global advertising campaigns that Adidas has ever done. Impressive.

But Dell?

Normally, creative hot shops avoid accounts like Dell, afraid that the agency reputation will suffer when the work falls well below the creative bar they’ve established. They continue to fight the good fight, focus on awards, maintain their standards and take on a “Call us, we won’t call you.” approach to new business. Meanwhile, the rest of us sit back and wait for the “jump the shark” moment when they take on a client that is more about the financial rewards than the industry awards.

Well, at the height of their creative reputation, Sid Lee has done the exact opposite of what most of us expected them to.
And hear me now: Sid Lee has NOT sold out. They’ve matured.

Whenever an award winning creative’s ego gets too big, I want to point to Dell and say, “Oh, you think you’re good, huh? Trying making THAT advertising brilliant.”

Well, Instead of whining about the work, Sid Lee put up their hand to try and make it better. And I’m curious to see what they’ll do with it. Congrats to Dell for going beyond the usual suspects to choose Sid Lee and Arnold (another shop with a great creative reputation) for its two new assignments as well.

With offices in Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto and Montreal, Sid Lee isn’t content to do edgy work for a small set of clients. I think they want to play with the big kids. They want to make money. They want to grow.

Some may call that selling out. I call it success and wish them luck as they strive for it.

Don Draper is dead.

Bye Bye Mad Men (It's going to Sky)

Image by mrrobertwade (wadey) via Flickr

There’s a lot I like about Mad Men. The characters, the art direction and naturally, the brilliant one-liners from Roger Sterling:

 “She died like she lived. Surrounded by the people she answered phones for.“ (Season 4, Episode 9)

 “Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people’s names before I fire them.” (Season 4, Episode 12)

As brilliant as the Roger character is, Don Draper gets most of the attention. In fact, when someone outside of the business finds out I work in advertising, they’ll innocently ask, “Who are you on Mad Men?” I can see them waiting in anticipation, hoping I respond ‘Don Draper’ so they can pull out tired jokes about his philandering, binge boozing, and heavy addiction to butts.

The reality is this: Don Draper doesn’t exist anymore(Hell, he hardly existed in the 60’s).
And it’s not because smoking is prohibited or because the only drinking allowed is the 10am shot of Diet Coke. 

No, being a Creative Director is a pretty tough job these days. Here’s a couple of reasons why. 

The Left Brain Coup.
Whether it’s an endless parade of focus groups or an expectation of specific ROI, the left brainers have a lot more clout these days. It’s not right. And it’s not wrong. It’s just different. On one hand, a Creative Director is expected to deliver original, breakthrough ideas that have never been done before. On the other, ROI forecasting is only possible when you measure ideas against everything that has been done before.

Diverse Clients, Diverse Needs.
Draper had it easy. He only had to master TV, print, and a couple of billboards. As a trusted consultant, a CD in 2010 should be able to advise clients on the latest opportunities and how to best leverage emerging channels. But it’s tough to be an expert on anything when one client needs a DM piece and another needs an Android app. 

The Economy
In 2010, clients cut budgets as they responded to economic realities in North America. That put a lot of pressure on Creative Directors to sell more, push more, win more, and accept more. As a good friend and Creative Director of an international agency said to me recently, “I’ve never worked so hard for so little.”

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll share a couple more.

+ Be sure to read more about this in Jeromy Lloyd’s piece, “Rumbles in the Jungles”, in the upcoming Marketing Magazine.
In addition, I’m hosting a panel discussion of some of Canada’s top Creative Directors on the subject, “It’s not really fun anymore.”
It’ll be available in video form next week through Marketing. If you have any questions that you’d like me to ask them, leave them in the comments below.