Thought for Thursday.

How Angelo Badalamenti created the music for Twin Peaks

This is worth a watch. Angelo Badalamenti explains how David Lynch would sit beside him and visualize the mood of a scene. Then Angelo would bring it to life on an beat up old keyboard.

In The Stampede Towards Emotional Advertising, Are We Forgetting The Thing That Consumers Bought Into In The First Place?

Let’s try a little experiment.

Picture yourself down the pub, or cafĂ© or strip joint (okay, I don’t know your lifestyle, just pick a place where you meet your friends and generally chat about normal stuff like what normal people do).

Now, imagine for a moment that as part of normal chit-chat, you find yourself recommending a product that you use to a friend. It can be anything; a car, cereal, your bank, toothpaste, soft drink, jeans, shoes, shampoo, anything.

Have you picked one?

Your friend is looking for a new car/cereal/bank/toothpaste/soft drink/jeans/shoes/shampoo or whatever it is, and you think yours is pretty good, so you tell them.

Now, what would you say to them?

[This is marketing utopia-land isn’t? Because word-of-mouth, everyone agrees, is the most powerful advertising medium there is (term copyright everyone who has ever done a presentation about advertising).]

So, what did you decide to tell them? Would it be something about how the product or service makes you feel when you use it? Would it be something to elicit an emotional response? Or would it be something else?

Chances are, if you’re a reasonably normal human being (outside of business hours), you probably told them why the product or service was good, why it meets your needs, maybe even a little detail about how it does that, a little key fact here, or a bit of performance there, why it worked for you personally, maybe.

It’s less likely that you said to your friend “You know what, George, the car just makes me feel so bloody joyful” or “It might just be a sugary, carbonated beverage, Sandra, but it makes me feel uplifted about the world” You’d probably feel like a bit of a berk, and you friend would probably suggest you talk to a professional (and not a marketing professional, one of the medical kind). And they would likely remain unconvinced about your recommendation.

Yet for some reason, advertising agencies are increasingly convincing brands that the best way to grow is to talk to your friend like that. And they don’t even know him.

Emotional advertising is the current fashionable talk-of-the-advertising-village. That is, the move away from communicating why a product might be good/useful/of benefit, and instead trying to make the consumer feel a specific emotion about the brand, in an attempt to ‘own’ an emotional territory. We’ve seen this approach used to sell chocolate, cars, and most recently biscuits, amongst others. It is the hot topic of fashionable planners and advertising thought leaders. Why is this?

It appears that the theories have been drawn out of the seductive appeal of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and human behavioural studies. The works of Albert Mehrabian, Daniel Kahneman and Stephen Pinker are often cited by intellectual agency planners (sorry, strategists).

But unfortunately it seems like the science has often passed through the pop culture filter and emerged as over-simplified sound-bites that just happen to suit their agenda.

This maybe shouldn’t be a surprise, as these theories are used to support a highbrow view of brand advertising that the planner and agency people preferred to believe anyway.

In this era of middle-class, university educated dominance of the ad industry, you often hear agency people talk about selling as if it’s beneath them, unsavoury or lowbrow.

How much more palatable at dinner parties (and pitch presentations) to treat advertising like some kind of clever behavioural science.

Because of this, it sometimes seems like the agency people are more convinced by the theories than the scientists themselves (who tend to retain a scientific objectivity).

But I worry that their thinking over-emphasises the role that emotional brand messaging plays in the overall buying process, and this over-emphasis in turn leads to advertising that isn’t as effective or compelling as it could or should be. I worry that this approach wastes precious budgets when it comes to using advertising to help build a brand.

People who push emotional brand advertising tend to be of the belief that through advertising you can you can influence consumers’ attitudes to the brand enough to change their buying behaviour.

The trouble with that line of thinking is that they are drawing an over-simplistic picture, and actually misinterpreting cause and correlation between attitude and behaviour.

Interestingly, if you delve into the research of Professor Byron Sharpe, you’ll find that he has largely disproved the notion of emotional brand loyalty driving buying behaviour. He suggests that evidence shows the reality is more likely the other way around – that buying behaviour influences attitudes. (ie. peoples’ behaviour is more like “I buy this product, therefore I like this brand” not “I buy this product because I like the brand”).

This would suggest that a much more effective use of advertising would be to move people closer to buying the product. That hardly sounds like rocket science I know, but it’s the equivalent of shouting “Jehovah” in advertising agencies today. And all too often, clients find themselves being the ones who have to shout it.

Maybe you’ve been in one of those meetings between client and agency where the client is keen to emphasise the benefits of their product – on the understanding that if people knew more about why or how people could use their product they’d sell more.

While the tight-trouser wearing planners and creatives moan that they were about to create something really amazing and beautiful until ‘they’ (the bloody client!) insisted we shoehorn the product into the ad. “Bloody idiots! We’d have won awards if it wasn’t for them – they just don’t get it do they!” “Stone them!”

We have a lot of sympathy for these clients actually. In fact one of the reasons we set up Sell! Sell! was that we were embarrassed to be sat in meetings with agency colleagues who seemed intent on making clients feel silly for simply wanting their product to appear in the advertising.

We think that advertising should treat consumers as intelligent, reasoning people, and not as passive zombies. Advertising’s role should be to introduce people to a product based on where it may fit into their lives and how it might benefit them, in a charming, compelling or entertaining way. And when they become customers of the brand, their attitudes will change in favour of it as a matter of course.

So when we set out to make advertising to help drive a brands growth, let’s not forget the simple thing that the customer is most interested in – and most likely drove the growth of the brand up to now anyway – the actual product or service that they buy from the brand.

First published in Marketing Magazine 18.03.14

Wieden & Kennedy's first ever Nike ads

One for all you advertising historians.

W&K have rummaged around in their Portland archives to find the very first commercials that Dan Wieden and David Kennedy wrote for Nike back in '82.

Pre- Just Do It, two of these ads were considered long lost, so it's great to see a bit of old-fashioned detective work in hunting them down.

One thing's for certain, they've come a long way since...

More info here

Cypress Commercial

Agency self-promotion videos tend to irritate me.

They often try far too hard to be funny, quirky or 'creative' to stand out from the crowd.

This one for underdogs Cypress Entertainment is spot on (well, besides the fake english accent).

No Make up Selfies

Few things make me cringe as much as the selfie. Hearing it used in common parlance always results in an involuntary shudder and taste of bile in the mouth. I could go off on one about it being a reflection of our self-absorbed, nazal gazing society... But that's a whole other blogpost.

And the sun has poked its head out, so lets keep it nice and positive, eh?

Over the last couple of days the Facebookers and Twitterers amongst you might have noticed some snaps of lady friends without their makeup appearing in your feed. I can cut these selfies a little bit of slack because #nomakeupselfies are doing a great job raising money for Cancer charities.

Over a million quid and 800'000 donations in 24hrs acccording to the Telegraph. So ladies if you insist on a selfie, do it without make up, and donate some cash to charity.

Or even better, don't post the selfie, wear whatever you want and donate some cash to charity.

A Different Point Of View?

The ad industry's head-long charge towards emotional advertising has been troubling us a little of late. Marketing Magazine have just published a piece wot we rote on this very subject: Why Emotional Ads Can Be Bad For Brand Building.

"By and large the product's shit"

Get your ears round an interesting, spiky and forthright interview with advertising legend Sir John Hegarty as part of the Assorted Nuts project on The Drum.

Many wise words are spoken.

I think it's required listening for everyone in the business.

He calls out the poor quality of current advertising and suggests some ways of doing thing differently.

It's refreshing to hear someone who's still passionate about brilliant ideas prepared to speak out about falling standards.

There's almost a tacit, fatalistic acceptance in some quarters that times have changed and it's just not possible to make great advertising any more.

This is, of course, horseshit.

It's bloody hard to make great work but it's not impossible.

The business needs a healthy injection of never-say-die tenacity and fighting spirit to accompany the  talent that exists in agencies these days.

And that goes beyond just those in the creative department.

You can access the whole podcast in this article here

Stop Headless Betting

This week we launched our new Stop Headless Betting campaign for the Racing Post, on TV, print, radio, Sport magazine cover wrap, outdoor, digital and experiential at Cheltenham Festival.

Back at the end of last year, we were challenged with the task of using advertising to help increase revenue from the Racing Post smart phone app. We're pretty familiar with the product, since we helped to launch it a couple of years ago. The main difference between the Racing Post app and other betting apps is the quality of information, predictions and tipping that it provides. However, the app is free to download and use, with revenue coming from people betting through the app.

This creates an interesting, if not unique dichotomy where the chief benefit to the user isn't the thing that creates revenue for the app owner. Quite a challenge when you're trying to increase that revenue.

Racing Post are keen to keep the app free to help maintain the penetration (simply put, more people download it and have it on their phone if it's free to download – since launch, it has had over a million downloads, which makes it one of the most downloaded racing/betting apps in the category). So to increase revenue, we have to find a way of increasing the number of bets placed on the app.

A delve more deeply into usage of the app tells us a few more things. The app, as above, has had over a million downloads since launch, but only a percentage of those downloads become active, regular users of the app (this is 'normal' behaviour in the category as far as we can see). Then of those active, regular users only a percentage of those people use the app to place bets (the rest use it purely for the information, tipping, and predictions, then bet on other apps).

This pattern seems fairly consistent as the number of downloads increases – that the use of the app is like an inverted pyramid, the widest end at the top being downloads, the middle band being users, and the bottom being those who use it to bet.

We know that through advertising alone we aren't going to get bettors to suddenly stop using betting apps that they habitually use, and switch to betting on the RP app (that behaviour is locked in by habit, and by account memberships and other things) – but we can show them why they need this app in addition to the ones that they currently use. And we know that from those new users, a percentage will start to habitually bet on the app.

So where advertising can best help increase revenue in this case, is in widening that pyramid - that is, increasing the number of downloads at the the top, which will in turn increase the number of users (and therefor increase proportionally the number of bettors. Another plus of doing this is that it'll naturally remind and prompt a number of people who already have the app to revisit it, which will move people from the top part of the pyramid to the middle (a percentage of whom again will become bettors on the app too, increasing revenue).

So even though the end goal is to bring more bettors (and therefor revenue) to the app, that isn't what it looks like we're doing. But the good thing about this is that we can expand the pyramid by getting people into the app because of its differences and advantages over other apps - the information, predictions and tipping.

To get the best bang for our client's buck we always aim to do advertising that's differentiating and distinctive in the category. Why do I say differentiating and distinctive – aren't they the same thing? Well no, differentiating is on a functional level - we show that the app can do things that others can't do - and what the benefit of that functionality is to the punter. Distinctive is how we do it - to do this in a way that is different to other brands in the market. To behave differently in the category

The betting market is characterised by shouty, blokey ads, all directly imploring you to BET NOW, in varying degrees of cockney, with odds and offers playing the primary role in content. So it's pretty easy to be distinctive.

One of the key things about how we work is that as creatives, we're involved and instrumental in this strategic thinking from the beginning of the project - there's no baton passing or briefing where this thinking gets handed off from one person to another. So we are always thinking ahead to how possible it'll be bring the approach to life in a way that'll be strong out there in the real world.

We thought it was important to bring to life the gap that the RP app can fill, not just show what it can do. We know there is a huge potential market of people out there who are betting on bookmaker apps, but aren't the type of enthusiast who would pick up a Racing Post newspaper. They tend to choose what to bet on from dubious advice from friends, or spurious reasons like name, colour of horse, odds, or tips in newspapers.

So we came up with the idea of labelling this kind of mindless betting: headless betting. Like the proverbial headless chicken. It gives us something to push at. We can point out the difference between betting with your head, or without it. We position the Racing Post App as the tool that enables you to bet with your head (with good tips and information), and we can characterise people who are making mindless bets as headless bettors. Which gives us a strong visual idea to bring the idea to life. So now we have good language to label the problem, and to offer the solution, and a strong visual idea.

The fun bit is bringing it to life. We decided it would make for arresting images if we depicted normal blokes – the kind who headless bet – in very normal situations, the only thing different would be they don't have heads. That meant we could have fun with the reactions of people, that everyday situations would immediately become interesting and distinctive, and we could play around with other touches that would be funny if people didn't have heads (how would they eat or drink? What do they see in the mirror? etc.).

We enlisted the help of ace director Tom King from production company Gas & Electric to bring the ideas to life on film, the great touches of performance and clean, graphic compositions really bring out the fun of the idea, but importantly behind that fun facade the job was hugely technical, involving shooting scenes many times over with actors and headless mannequins that would later be put together. Tom brought in the talented recent Oscar and Bafta winners (for the film Gravity) Framestore to give the ads the strong look and to pull off the technical trickery need to remove heads from actors who are moving naturally - we wanted it to seem perfectly natural, but the headlessness to be perfect and seamless.

We wanted the soundtrack of the ad to be something that was the total opposite of the technical nature of the visuals, to be characterful and light - and something that would be immediately distinctive in the ad break. We worked with Yellow Boat Music, to try out some different approaches – the winner by miles being the rather unusual comb and paper and tuba music you hear in the finished ad. We combined this with a great voiceover by Peter Serafinowicz – again we wanted the tone to be different from the shouty ads that dominate the category, so even though we tell people to "Stop Headless Betting" it's all done with a natural charm and wit. This was then all brought together sound design-wise by Wave.

For print we commissioned the talented portrait photographer Nick Dolding from Horton-Stephens to shoot the fantastic stills depicting headless bettors, again the reactions of the other people in the scene bringing the idea to life. Again we wanted the ads to be distinctive, so in a category dominated by large screaming type shouting odds and offers, we created image-led ads that are stripped back and simple (no hashtags and facebook logos for example). You see the ads and get the message in an instant, you don't have to work it out or go to a website for the answer or the fun bit, which means they also work well in outdoor.

The campaign is supported by deeper print ads that show off the different features of the app, and by headless people at race courses across England (starting at Cheltenham this week) handing out Stop Headless Betting cards.

Thanks to everyone involved in the campaign for your great work helping to bring it to life.

It's a Wrap

Our new Stop Headless Betting campaign for Racing Post breaks later today on TV and this morning as the cover wrap of Sport magazine. On the blog next week we'll have all the ads and background on the TV, print, radio and other stuff.

Rusty Spoons

Here's a blast from the past for you this morning. David Firth's Salad Fingers.

Prison Landscapes

I'd like to share a body of photography by Alyse Emdur called 'Prison Landscapes'.

Prison Landscapes is a collection of photos looking at inmate portrait photography in America - a rarely seen sub-genre usually reserved for the eyes of the inmates themselves and their close family and friends.

Walls are painted by fellow inmates with all manner of scenes from a sunny park or country house, to fairy tale castle or urban street complete with a big cadillac. The inmates will then have their pictures taken infront of them, for a brief moment escaping to an idealised place beyond the prison walls. These can be on their own, or sometimes with loved ones when the visit. 

"Prison Landscapes offers viewers a rare opportunity to see Americas incarcerated population, not through the usual lens of criminality, but through the eyes of inmates loved ones."

- Alyse Emdur

Reading into this area more, and there are services on the internet for those who desire more than just a painted background - and specialise in retouching inmate portraiture, comping the subject into an idilic environment of their choosing from their vast archives. For example, friends beyond the wall -

A truely insightful body of photography, and fascinating genre of portraiture.

Idea Piss Drizzle Cake

Take an neat insight, observation or truth ; for example how some people nowadays are stuck on their phones, glued ironically to social media and in doing so are rather anti-social.

Then add the entire Marketing Team from a global corporation. You'll be able to find these in most big businesses - right next to the Procurement aisle.

Stir it around for at least a month, making sure it's really mixed up and everyone feels involved and thoroughly coated in the idea.

Then pour the mixture into a tray, but make sure its spread really really fucking thinly - so thin you're not even sure an idea is there anymore... and you're like "is that grease proof paper or idea?".

Now place in the oven until charred - constantly opening the door to see how its looking and if its ready.

Then tada! Share with friends together with a cool refreshing glass of Coca-Cola.

Pancake Tosser

Enjoy Shrove Tuesday. Hope you have more success with your pancakes than this gentleman.

World Press Photo of the Year

News, news, news.

Stuff happens every day all around the world. Some affects us directly, some doesn't.

2013 had its fair share of bad shit - the recent civil war in Syria, typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines, and the massacre at the Westgate mall in Kenya - and with so many terrible tragic events, the World Press Photo of the Year judging committee must have had their jobs cut out sifting through piles of the fucking harrowing. #FuckingHarrowingFieldDay

I'm not going to throw 10,000 words in this post on what makes good Press photography - but it is definitely not pure shock or invoking guilt. If you want to see morbid photos of dead emaciated people, there are tonnes of websites out there full of corpses.

Effective photojournalism tells compelling narratives.

It's great to see the winner this year by John Stanmeyer doesn't rely on a crying widow or a poor bugger with his face hanging off. It tells a really interesting story that makes me want to find out more.

(images+captions from

World Press Photo of the Year 2013: 26 February 2013, Djibouti City, Djibouti African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East © John Stanmeyer, USA, VII for National Geographic

1st Prize Spot News Single: Survivors of typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa, on the eastern island of Leyte. One of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, Haiyan left 8,000 people dead and missing and more than four million homeless after it hit the central Philippines © Phillipe Lopez, France, Agence France-Presse

Massacre at a Kenyan Mall. Second Prize Spot News (stories): A woman and children hiding in the Westgate mall. They escaped unharmed after gunmen had opened fire at the upscale Nairobi mall on 21 September 2013. At least 39 people were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya’s history © Tyler Hicks, USA, The New York Times