All posts tagged McDonalds

Advertising award shows are stupid. Or are they?

It’s not the promise of sunshine, warm weather and flip-flops that has the advertising industry excited about the arrival of spring. It’s Award Show Season, silly.

Yup, creatives and production partners will soon start gathering in ballrooms across the globe for some good old-fashioned drinking, back patting and ego stroking.

The pursuit of advertising awards certainly has its detractors. Some think they’re a waste of time, energy and money while others are even harsher in their criticism claiming that they undermine the credibility of the industry and individual relationships between agencies and their clients.

Well, to all those who say that the pursuit of awards is wrong, I disagree.

Advertising awards show are a good thing. Here’s why:

Wake up and smell the employee of the month.
Have you ever picked up a newspaper and seen a full-page ad for the top selling real estate agents in your area? How about an Employee of the Month Glamour Shot at your local McDonalds? Of course you have.

Simply put, every industry and most companies on the planet congratulate themselves. Actors, plumbers, pharma reps, and yes, even clients. I find it funny that those who speak out against advertising award shows usually do so between an afternoon of “personal time” and an awards gala hosted by Jann Arden at a week long sales retreat in Vegas. Like it or not, recognition is something we all crave and we’re no different.

Defining success.
We all know that true success in this industry is helping our clients sell more products. Every respected professional I know truly believes this. Seriously. We do. Still, there are too many variables to isolate the sound design of a pre-roll Internet spot and know the effect it had on results. And while I’m comfortable that clients have their own tools for analysis (I really am), I’d prefer my work not be judged by the quality of a storyboard and Millward Brown Link Score. Award show definitions are easy and precise: This is great. This is not.

They work. Usually.
Does every award winner contribute to positive sales? Of course not. But they usually do. Nothing can guarantee success. Hell, if there was a magic pill that did, I would sell it out of my trunk and recommend every client take it by the bucket full. But there’s not. So, until one is created, we’ll have to be confident that most award winning ads perform better than expected. And pursuing work that is award show worthy is usually better for the brand.

Regardless, It doesn’t take Lee Clow’s Beard to know that an original idea with an insightful strategy and flawless execution SHOULD work better. There’s certainly enough data to prove that. And when a team of people (client included) is able to pull off that holy trinity, they should be acknowledged, awarded and admired because they’ll make the rest of us better and help us help our clients sell more.

Justifying bad ads.
To quote my old North America Creative boss Jeff Kling, “Saying ‘the ad isn’t great but it worked’ is just an excuse for a shitty ad.” Put another way, people used to love talking about Guy Lafleur smoking a pack of butts a day. “He wasn’t healthy but he was successful.” My first thought was always, “Can you imagine what he would have accomplished if he didn’t smoke?” If a crappy idea worked, can you imagine the results if the brand lead with a compelling piece of communication?

Our work is supposed to sell. The real challenge is to make something brilliantly unique and brilliantly successful. Awards shows remind that us that they’re not mutually exclusive.

Pro hockey players are paid millions to simply play the game and that should be enough to motivate them. As we all know, even they need more. So do we. Should we stay past midnight to get it right for our clients? Of course we should. And we often do. But we’re human. So when there’s a remote possibility of recognition, acknowledgement, and career advancement, staying past midnight becomes a little easier. The possibility of an award is why some can stay to perfect an idea at 2am when the client would have been happy with the one at 8pm.

Are award shows perfect? Definitely not.

There’s too many of them, they’re too focused on the creative teams opposed to the advertising teams, and I certainly could do without some of the egos that are generated because of them. While I have won my fair share of awards, I’m not even close to being in the league of some top Canadians who consistently walk home with hardware. But I still respect award shows. They motivate me to do better and in the end, my career and my clients are better off because of them.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing more frustrating and motivating than seeing something and thinking, “I wish I’d done that.” But you have to see it to get it.

Now with a little of this and a little of that!

Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake, Plate 3

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

We’re this. And we’re that.

I recently saw a spot for Wonder Bread (actually, it was for a whole new Wonder Bread SKU with no additives or something, which left me asking myself “It’s still just white bread, right?”) Anyhow, the spot ended with the line, “Yesterday’s comfort. Today’s nutrition.”

I’m not criticizing the writer for the line because lord knows I’ve written my fair share of similar ones. A lot have. So many, in fact, that my good friend Tony Miller, Executive Creative Director at Anderson DDB, actually has a term for this type of tagline: “Badump Badump”. A bit of this. And bit of that.

It wasn’t always this way.  Brands used to be defined by simpler terms.

Volvo? “Safety”.
McDonald’s? “Fast Food”.
FedEx? Overnight.
FedEx owned overnight so much that their original corporate mission statement was just, “Get it there overnight.” That’s what the promise was and (pun intended) they delivered.

Well, those were simpler times with simpler brands.

Somewhere along the way, Volvo began standing for “safety” and “design”, McDonald’s began serving salads and FedEx got involved with less urgent shipping. A little of this and a little of that.

Need a better example? Go to a grocery store, pick an aisle, and see how many brands promise, “Tastes great & good for you!” I bet you count 200 before your kid can dig out a Kinder Surprise from the bottom of a cereal box (but not before they get it assembled).

Simply put, brands have been diluted. Here’s why:

 1. Growth

Publicly traded companies and the investors they serve are never happy with consistent revenue with flat growth. Hey, Papa’s gotta retire happy so unless you deliver 10 pts year over year, we’ll find someone else to lead the charge. As a result, Brand Managers are under a lot of pressure to constantly grow their business so they create line extensions and additional SKUs to try and get it. It can have significant brand implications. Mercedes used to exclusively promise prestige. Now, you can buy one for $30K. Growth may be good for the short-term bottom line but I think it dilutes the brand.

 2. Competition

Even if a brand shows incredible restraint, it may be forced to extend itself because the growth hungry competition mows their lawn. Or eats their lunch. Or hits on their wife. Use whatever metaphor you want. Before you know it, competing brands have similar promises and everyone starts to act and sound like everyone else. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, everybody just moves in with them. Consumers are left reading starbursts that say, “We have that, too!

3. Failure to elevate the brand.

If the Nike brand was simplified as “Fast Shoes”, it wouldn’t take long before they added “…and great clothes, too!”. Luckily, it isn’t. At its core, Nike is about the pursuit of excellence. By elevating the brand to that level, they ensure that line extensions are still consistent with the original mission. Stay away from focusing on product attributes and you get built-in flexibility for the future. And the smart ones know this.

4. Change

While most of us in white-collar jobs absolutely despise any hint of change, consumers crave it. Want to get a better Link score for your 30-second TV spot? Say something the consumer has never heard before. Their ears perk up, they pay attention, and they respond accordingly. The result is communications that shout “Now with riboflavin!”, “Now shaped so it picks up salsa!” and “Healthier than corn husks!” We’re all consumers and as Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Any doubters can go back to waiting in line for the iPad3.