Blah, Blah, Halloween.

Apparently it's halloween (It's weird that nobody has put out a halloween themed ad in a desperate attempt to appear topical, always on, 24/7, cultural currency, blah, blah, blah).

Check out Cyanide & Happiness' halloween special. It's actually funny.

It's Been Emotional

I have been wondering lately about brands, and the things people in branding and the like say about them - like what they are and how they build them. I love that don’t you? They always say “we build brands.” But do they?  Anyway I had these thoughts and I have to confess that I haven’t torture tested them, so be my guest. #youjustdontgetit

I have often heard it said that people buy brands due to their emotional attachment to them. You have probably heard similar. If that is so and people buy things that aren’t much different from other things due to their emotional attachment to the brand, aren’t we (Advertising) skirting around a con game of emotional manipulation?

Reader, what brands do you buy that are discernibly different from an own label brand; be it ketchup, beans, mango chutney, bread or ice cream? Do you believe that those items you buy that are branded are qualitatively different from own label items? Or are you falling for their emotional branding?

If branding and marketing people are out there blabbing about how brands use emotional messaging in books, blogs and lectures then won’t people catch on and change their buying behaviours?  A bit like once you know how an optical illusion works you don’t fall for it over and over and over again.

So, if brands are more keen today to get people emotionally engaged with their products in some way (because this is deemed the best thing to do, over say - telling people why your product is actually better than other makers for some reason or another), won’t it all end in tears?

If brands give up on being superior in some practical or tangible way, won’t own brands start to eat away at their market share?  There is an article here on the recent growth of own label products and a Mintel report hereI’m sure that some of that growth is due to current recessionary pressures.  But some of it is also due to the rising standard of own label products too. And so I wonder once those consumers have made a behaviour change to buy an own label product and it stacks up on taste for example, will they go back to branded items?

See I think many of today’s brands have a good story to tell, regarding why they really are better. If they stop telling those stories, be it in a charming and imaginative way, they may end up losing market share to own labels.

Added to this is the trend of own label products copying brand leaders style of product packaging. So in-store it is harder to be distinctive. 18% of Which? members said “they've deliberately bought an own-label product because it resembled a branded one...of those, 60% said they did so because the own-label was cheaper, while 59% wanted to try it to see if it was as good as the branded product.”
A Which? spokesperson said: “Own-brand products can provide good value and several have topped our tests to become Best Buys.
The very reason for my initial wondering, was that I just bought some Waitrose own brand shower gel at the bargain price of £2 for 2. I think it is as nice if not nicer than Molton Brown’s that cost £18 a bottle. And yet I confess I wouldn’t be best pleased if I got own label shower gel as a Christmas present whereas I would be if I got the Molton Brown stuff.

It's been emotional.

Animals In Advertising Resource

Hello there kind reader! To help our advertising brothers and sisters in the pursuit of excellence, we thought it would be useful to put together a list of animals that have been used in advertising, and the brands and products they've been used to promote. I'm sure we've got a couple wrong, and forgotten many - so please let us know in the comments and we'll add to and amend the list...

SSE - Orangutan
PG Tips - Chimp
Cadburys - Gorilla
ITV digital - Monkey
Coco pops - Monkey, Alligator
Mr Kipling - Elephant
Money Supermarket - Cat, Elephant
Bristgas - Cat and Mouse
Diet Coke - Cat
Crusha - Cat
Cravendale - Cat
3 - Cat, Horse
McVites - Cat, Owl, Lemur
O2 - Cat, Dog
Walls Sausages - Dog
Andrex - Dog
Dulux - Dog
Churchill - Dog
Taco Bell - Dog
John Smiths - Dog
Tesco - Dog
Ki Ora - Crow, Dog
Thinkbox - Dog, Rabbit
Budweiser - Horse, Toad
Lloyds - Horse
Anchor - Cow
Laughing Cow - Cow
Compare The Market - Meerkat
Sofa Works - Sloth
Asda - Chick
Freedom - Goose
Easyjet - Rabbit
Caramel - Rabbit, Bee
Frosties - Tiger
Esso - Tiger
Google chrome - Squirrel
Schweppes - Jaguar
Cartier - Snow-leopard
Bosch - Tiger
Betfair - Octopus
Freeview - Budgie, Goldfish
Duracell - Rabbit
Guardian - Pig
Co-op - Sheep
Mercedes - Chicken
Geiko - Lizard, Gecko
Lamei - Lamb
Aldi - Mice
Carling Black Label - Squirrel
Barclays - Hamster
Guinness - Fish
Wolf Blass - Eagle
Privatisation of British Gas - Snake
BT - Chameleon
Ibis - Rabbit
Guinness - Snail
Penguin - Penguin
John Lewis - Bear, Hare, Assorted woodland creatures, Penguin
Hofmeister - Bear
John West - Bear
Bounty (kitchen roll) - Bear
Muller Rice - Bear
Coca Cola - Bear (Polar )
Fox's Glacier Mints - Bear (Polar) and Foxes
Cushelle - Bear (Koala )
Fox's - Bear (Panda)
Kit Kat - Bear (Panda)
Kit Kat - Fish
Old Speckled Hen - Fox
Virgin - Bear, Owl
HSBC / First Direct - Duckbilled Platypus, Lizard, Mongoose
Nando's - Ants, Anteater

Saving Mr Banks

Last night peppermint tea was brewed, slippers were donned, and TV fired up for a good old Sunday evening movie. I chose Saving Mr Banks - a touching story behind the making of Disney's Mary Poppins and life of it's author P. L. Travers.

In short - P. L. Travers was approached by Walt Disney and asked if he could make her novel Mary Poppins into a film. For 20 years he tried to persuade Mrs Travers to sign over the rights, but time and time again she batted him away. Eventually she agreed to meet Walt and the team working on the adaptation in California - but only if she signed off the script and treatment would she allow the film to enter production.

We learn throughout the movie that the novel Mary Poppins was derived from events and characters from P. L. Travers' own trouble childhood - and so when a high flying billionaire like Disney comes along looking to add another brick to his candyfloss empire, she understandably feels incredibly protective of her story. Mr Banks, Mrs Banks, Jane, Michael and Mary Poppins were all her family and deeply personal.

There were countless bust ups during the early readings of the script, and many differences in opinion about styling and treatment - but ultimately a trust was formed between Mrs Travers and the Disney team. Only when she knew that the team truly understood the book and her family were in safe hands did she really allow the creative process of bring her idea to life.

We see this kind of situation every day in Advertising. Whether a family run business or CEO of a multinational, when it comes to putting what you love on show for all the world to see - only once an understanding of what both parties bring, and a mutual trust between client and agency is formed - can an idea be realised to it's greatest potential.

Turned out Dick Van Dyke was awesome as Bert.

Peter Brookes

As part of their Unquiet Film Series, The Times have released this fantastic short about Satirist / Cartoonist extraordinaire Peter Brookes. Perfect friday morning viewing.

You can find his books scattered across Amazon at all sorts of insultingly low prices.

Emailing the fire brigade...

I know we're supposed to live in an "always-on, real time world" but isn't it rather ludicrous that emails have become the default way of contacting someone with an urgent request rather than speaking to them directly on the telephone?

Dove Story

I asked a question in a recent blog post about how Field and Binet in their research differentiate between an advert being emotional or rational. Because in some cases they cite ads as being emotional that seem to me to contain reason / rationale or product benefits.

I think Dove is a case in point.

This post is in response to Martin Headon’s blog post challenge. There needs to be much more debate on this area of advertising and so I thank Martin for that - although I reckon we kind of agree to be honest. Frustrating isn’t it?

Although the ad for Dove that Martin drew our attention to here certainly has no product benefit in it, I think the overall award-winning campaign for Dove that focuses on women and beauty does. I’m not sure the ad that deals with shyness is indicative of Dove’s 2004+ campaign to be fair, although clearly part of it.

The Dove ad campaign in question features what you might call every-day women and it talks about what beauty really is. That must be reason enough for a beauty product aimed at every day women, no?

I think there is reason there albeit not as much as it used to focus on say in 1996 here. However, we still see campaigns by Dove post 2010 that returns to product benefit for deodorants here and a product demo here for soap. Not that I love these ads by the way.

There are two areas that I’d like to talk about concerning Dove.

Firstly how it came about as a product and how much of the heavy lifting in terms of growth in market share up to 2004 was done with a different form of reasoning what some may call rational messaging or product demos of sorts.

Within that hopefully I cover Martin’s point – “Perhaps when your competitors are closing in, and your product no longer has a rational point of difference, making an emotional but relevant connection with consumers is the only way to carve a distinctive platform for your brand.”

Secondly there is an arena that Dove and Unilever has stepped into that I really do not agree with which is brands becoming agents of social change.

The history of Dove as documented here on AdAge, which I quote throughput this piece, is fascinating. A patented product up until 1991, Dove started as a soap for soldiers in WWII, then attempted to become a dishwashing liquid in 1965 and failed, note not all brand extensions work.

A major boost came in 1979 when Unilever seized on a report (rational info) that Dove irritated skin less (due to its PH of 7) than other soaps, they used this info to help sell their products.

By 1986 Dove was the #1 soap in the US, so lets not think that Dove just arrived in 2004 this was a big brand already.

Another interesting fact, in 2004 - 25% of Dove Soap users did so because they were recommend to by their GP. Not a bad recommendation I’d say. And I’d wager people would still say they use Dove for this very reason - so why would advertising choose to ignore these selling points?

The real market share battle began in 1991 when Dove’s patent expired and they went head to head with Oil of Olay (another WWII product invention now owned by P&G) who could now discover Dove’s secret ingredient. Why were P&G interested in Dove’s active ingredient? Surely they of all people should know that people buy emotionally - couldn’t they just build a stronger brand - why did they feel the need to get all rational about soap?

All through the 90’s P&G and Unilever were battling it out, Oil of Olay took the lead back for a while and so on and so forth.

The battle really took off with successful brand extensions all through the 90’s. It seems that Dove took one direction and Olay another after 1996. Dove went for deodorants, shower gels, facial cleaners and shampoo and conditioners. Olay went for facial cleansing, face cream, skin hydrating and anti aging lotions although still having ranges of soaps and gels too.

The other massive success of Dove was going global with its range of products and being one of the largest marketing spenders in the Unilever portfolio. The steepest growth occurred between 1998 and 2002 according the article. Does that mean that much of its success was built on Dove marketing its product benefits to a worldwide market prior to 2004?

So although Dove grew by the numbers Martin mentions $2.5bn to $4bn between 2004 and 2014 cited here I don’t know if that is a lot or not, seems a lot doesn’t it?  In 10 years revenues grew by 62.5% but not its steepest growth to date.

I also will never know if it would have grown more or less if it had stuck with its more rational style product benefit campaign? And why does Unilever continue to push rational messaging at all? Will they bother inventing better soap? Surely it’s cheaper to push brand messages than look at product development that takes years and years?

Having said that my biggest bugbear with the campaign is that it has become a crusade by Unilever and I think it is disingenuous campaign and is beginning to show signs of flagging, see here.

The Dove campaign moved into the territory of getting involved with social issues of low self esteem in young girls (see here) as well as for women with its patches ad / content here, attempting to position themselves as an agent of change. 

All this despite the fact that it appears that Dove has in fact used photoshop in some of its ads, see here. Not to mention Unilever are simultaneously okay with Lynx and Axe ads featuring women like this, or selling skin whitening creams in India, like this. It’s as if they only really care about the money, and I’m more okay with that in fact than I am with their attempt to position themselves as opposers of women’s demeaning portrayal in the media / advertising.

More and more brands it seems wish to become agents of social change, not content with providing great products, which they are, they seek to fill a gap that seems to exist in current western societies. 

I’m far from convinced that brand owners are the right institutions for dealing with the ills of modern society, but making deodorants that last longer or soaps that are neutral ph are more than okay with me. I think they should be proud of their products and develop more and tell us why, albeit in interesting, entertaining and surprising ways.

There will always be unanswered questions. But hopefully I have made a valid attempt to answer Martin’s challenge?

My take is that I don’t think Dove as a campaign is devoid of reason, talking about beauty and women seems congruent with their product range. Also I think understanding a brand’s positioning in context is helpful, in order to understand how it got to where it is. Often its original reason / benefit helped them grow market share. 

Throwback Thursday

Here's some classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon intros to feast your eyes on today. Those animations were great, particularly the Flintstones one. A short animated story with lovingly crafted visuals and mini-score.

I Am Hashtag Industry Talking Person

You can see me on YouTube, you can listen to me at a conference. You can read my piece online, on my blog, you can see me quoted on Twitter. I am Hashtag Industry Talking Person.

I arrange words into sentences. Long words, short words, fashionable words, clever-sounding words. Words like programmatic, or conversation, or real-time, or engagement.

My best sentences combine those words together into phrases, like real-time programmatic engagement.

Then I'll throw in a few predictions, well maybe not predictions as such, but I'll talk with authority about what the future will look like.

That will lead to sentences like in the future marketing will be a series of real-time programmatic engagements with the consumer.

I like saying consumer. Quite a lot. I make sure I get consumer into most of my sentences. And creativity. People like hearing the word creativity.

That's why I'll say things like future marketing will engage the consumer in real-time with programmatic creativity.

Brands is another good word. I use brands quite a lot, people pay attention when I say brands in sentences with the other words that I use.

I'll say, for example brands of the future will need to engage in real-time conversations with consumers.

These are some of my best sentences. Lots of people like to retweet these sentences, they'll often hashtag the initials of the latest conference or workshop that I'm talking at #strw #marconf – you get the idea.

I love it when they do that.

I don't make things, but sometimes I'm in a room with people who once made something. That's close enough for me. I don't like to get my hands dirty with making things. I'm more about the words. Hopefully these words provide inspiration for others. And fill column inches.

No, talking is more my thing, or writing down the things that I talk about.

I am Hashtag Industry Talking Person.

Hear me soon at a conference or workshop near you.

Co-operative Bank Tattoo Ad Cringe-Fest

Sometimes an ad comes along that is so misjudged, so ill-conceived, so toe-curlingly bad and just so, er, wrong that it simply cannot be ignored.

If you've been watching prime time television recently you might have been exposed to the advertising shambles that is the new commercial for the Co-operative bank.

You know the one. The one where the embattled bank defiantly demonstrates that its serious commitment to ethics and values is skin deep by showing an intensely unlikeable knob-head having those words tattooed on his back.

It's been labelled as 'edgy' by their chief executive. Probably because it was directed by Tony Kaye.

Well, I think it's about as edgy as a sponge. I think 'negligent' is a far more accurate word to describe it.

In fact it makes we wonder whether it came about during one of ex-boss Paul Flowers' crystal meth and crack binges rather than in any attempt to restore and rebuild trust after the recent shame and scandals that have engulfed the bank.

From a business perspective it certainly makes sense to publicly try to restore trust. However, by producing something so contrived and lacking in sincerity and substance, this commercial actually raises more questions than it answers.

A fluffy, corporate chest-beating brand ad might well make the people inside the Co-operative Bank feel better but the lack of any concrete actions or promises will do little to convince prospective customers and investors.

OK, so they've refused to lend money to businesses that don't meet their ethical standards. So, that's a tiny glimpse into what the Co-op doesn't do. But what do they actually do? What can they say that the everyday person in the street can buy into? What else do they stand for that is genuinely different to other banks? What the bejesus are these inky ethics and values?

Given the suspicion and low esteem in which most banks are held, there's clearly a place for an ethical bank that stands apart from the competition. However it's not just values which are important. It's what a bank offers customer and how it acts and behaves that really matters.

It's just not enough to use advertising to passively remind people that the Co-operative Bank has ethics and values. The communication needs to work much harder to go beyond the superficial and give people a reason to care by showing something far more tangible about their approach to banking.

I can't believe that an organisation coming out of a crisis, especially one that's been losing  money hand over fist, has been so poorly advised to produce something bereft of credibility and belief.

Apparently, a £1.5 billion black hole was found in the Co-operative Bank's accounts. As well as the cash, it's a crying shame that the script for this own-goal of a commercial didn't disappear into the same black hole.

Wow Steve...

... you look like an 'after' in one of those before and after things - and where the fuck has your back fat gone?

What's Wrong With Creative Awards?

I was thinking back to the ad from our Tuesday post, the Lidl price match ad poking fun at Morrisons. These are the kinds of ads that make me frustrated about the current state of creative awards schemes.

That Lidl ad has, rightly, been praised all over the internets by advertising people. It is a proper piece of advertising, an example of advertising smartness and creative craft. But do you think we'll see it win any awards? I doubt it.

And that's the problem. All the awards seem to go to some wizz-bangy execution, or cute art direction, or epic production job that is simple enough for jurors from five continents to get. Whereas less showy ads like this will invariably be overlooked.

Creative awards are rewarding the wrong kind of creativity. They award stylists and big production jobs, not thinking or smartness. They award showy craft over craft that is brilliantly invisible. They award the novel over the excellent.

That's why I don't think creative awards are relevant or useful any more. That's why we don't enter them. And I simply don't care whether some dickhead from Brazil or fashion victim from Shanghai thinks it's super-awesome.

The creative award scheme that awards that Lidl ad, though, that I would consider.

Mercedes-Benz "Dirty Driving"

Yesterday I had the misfortune of seeing this Mercedes Benz thing. I say thing because it ain't an ad, and I refuse to call it content and well, I don't really know what the fuck it is. But thats a subject matter for another day.

Anyway. I was lost for words.

Their vehicles look the business and the film looks great, in that way car film things with great looking cars look great. As you would expect from one of the world's pre-eminent vehicle manufacturers.

But the crude gag seems so misjudged. Mercedes-Benz is a sophisticated brand selling premium products (that van retails at nearly £30k). So their target market isn't teenage boys, (although the youtube comments suggest it is going down well with them). Surely they could have come up with something better than actual car-porn.

I would liked to have been in the meeting where that idea got presented though.

"We want to show the top of the line Mercedes Benz S 63 AMG Coupé and the Actros truck actually making love to produce a Mercedes Van..."

Another great Lidl ad.

Aldi and Lidl are not only winning the battle of the supermarkets right now. They're also winning the advertising wars.

Both retailers are producing creative work that is head and shoulders above anything else in the category. This latest example of a brilliant take-down of Morrisons new loyalty scheme by Lidl being a case in point.

It's so refreshing to see such comparative advertising being done with intelligence and charm. And it ably demonstrates you can do value messaging in a way that isn't cheap and tacky.

If the meteoric rise of Aldi and Lidl continues then Tesco will need to plug more than just a £250m black hole...

Interesting times in the world of retail.

Judge A Book By It's Cover

My morning commute has recently changed, and now takes me through London Bridge. Whilst traveling I've noticed a big difference in the adverts placed on my route. Big commuter stations are obviously huge points of traffic for...well... commuters. 25-55 Year old working men and women, with more than an hour of travel time.

The ads fall into 3 main categories :
- Musicals (incase the working week isn't painful enough)
- Informative poems by TFL (incase the working week isn't painful enough)
- The Latest Celebrity Autobiography

It's the last that has become a little surreal, with a definite pattern in how these ads look. Obviously their name; the title is typically 'Autobiography', 'My Autobiography' if they are proper friendly like, or a pun relating to their career; and their portrait. In these shots 90% look like they're touching cloth, desperately concentrating with all their might not to pinch - the remaining 10% have a self assured post-pinch-but-cool-with-it grin.

These may well be amazing people with tonnes of interesting things to say, Gandhi and Churchill had a autobiographies after all. Honestly though, if any of these people below, looking as they do on their covers, approached you in the street and asked to chat - would you :

a) stop and listen for an hour a day for the next week and a half
b) avoid eye contact and dial up the pace
c) suspect a stroke and call 999. The faster you act, the more of the person you save.

So hot right now.

There seems to be two very prominent types of ads at the mo.

The 'hilarious' dancing people and animals ads.

And the 'hilarious' man-looking-down-camera-everything-is-so-bastard-ironic ads.

What if I told you, the best way to stand out against these types of ads is to not to make another one of these ads. Just some food for thought.

Nicely done Lidl.

So this appeared in today's Metro and has popped up in some of their stores as well.

A good little dig at Sainsburys.

Here's that Sainsburys poster in case you haven't seen it.

Will It Be Emotional Chips Or Rational Spuds?

(Sing along)
Will it be chips or jacket spuds?
Will it be salad or frozen peas?
Will it be mushrooms?
Fried onion rings.
You’ll have to wait and see.
Hope it’s chips, it’s chips.
We hope its chips, it’s chips.

Now many of you may well remember that ditty from a TV ad back in the eighties. It featured some workmen on their way home in a van, singing along, speculating on what they will have for their tea.

I bloody loved that ad. I still sing this way too often as a meal time approaches. The interesting thing is who was the ad for?

Would you be surprised to know that it was not for chips? Can you hazard a guess why I thought it was chips? It was in fact for a steaky burger thingy-ma-jig made by Birds Eye.

Is it helpful to an advertiser for me to remember their ad in some way – in this case a song that appears to me to be about chips – but not the product they would like me to add to my shopping list? To be honest I'm quite happy with the song, but are they okay with that?

Increasingly I see people talk about the idea that brands need to make advertising that is fun and entertaining, and I don’t disagree.

I think if I am going to sit through the ads, they might as well be interesting in some way. But if I can only recall that I watched something fun, and what made it fun, but not what it was advertising, isn’t that a waste of money?

Don’t brand owners want people to remember the ad by saying I like the ad for product x that was funny / interesting / entertaining because of y?

Of course, you can get the message drummed in by spending millions on ad space but that isn’t a particularly strategic argument is it?

And this is where I get very confused. Take this brilliant research done by Peter Fields and Les Binet.

They make great points regarding loyalty, retaining prices and the use of TV as a medium. One key point still confuses me a lot – that advertising should not just be more emotional than rational, but that advertising barely needs any rational at all. In fact in the long term, brands that advertise using purely emotional beat solely rational or a combination of the two.

“The more emotions dominate over rational messaging the bigger the business effect. The most effective advertising of all is those with little or no rational content.” They go on to say “that campaigns that aim to get their brand and marketing talked about are particularly effective.”

Are there ad agencies that don't have this aim, I ask myself?

They continue, “Most ads of this nature are highly emotional but the additional element of talk value seem to boost effectiveness further. A good example of this would be Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) food.

This is my confusion. I remember those ads, I am sure you do too. They put their name in the strapline – “This is not just food, this is M&S food.” If that's not rational thinking I don't know what is. My mum still says that strapline at Christmas when she brings out M&S smoked salmon, nibbles or cake etc.

What’s so good about M&S food, you might say, and is it even important? Well the ad tells you, it talks about the provenance of the food, how it was produced, how it is cooked or prepared. What can be more rational than explaining the product to the viewer?

So is the problem the definition of emotional advertising? Does what a lot of people call emotional advertising actually include advertising that has a rational message in it?

My mum bloody loved that ad.