On November 30th, 2011, McRobbie Optamedia became FREE.
As an agency we’re used to working on projects for clients. The process of rebranding meant we had to become the client and take an honest look at who we are. The exercise allowed us to rediscover what it means to be a creative agency in #yeg.
FREE was a baby born of a year-long conception. We knew we needed a change, but we also know that this had to be an intentional evolution.
We deconstructed our brand to figure out who we were, who we wanted to be and how we wanted to get there. The road has been a lesson in patience, teamwork and self actualization. Painful as it might have been at times, we’ve learned, better than ever who we are, what we’re good at and how to improve.
Yes, our name has changed along with the signage out front, as well as our business cards, letterhead, etc. But the way we approach our relationships and the way we approach our work has not changed – we’re just articulating it better.
That last bit may sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t. We know what we want now more than ever before, and through this rebranding process, we’ve figured out how to get there.
Sit down and talk with any of us. You’ll be able to sense how excited and proud we all are of where we’re at. There’s an energy here.
An Open Letter to the MOST Important Holiday
of the Year
Dear Single’s Awareness Day (also known as Valentine’s Day),
From an advertising perspective, I’d like to thank you. It’s because of days like you (and Christmas) that our industry continues to flourish. Think about all the different ways you challenge us to remind people of their innate loneliness… people in couples can’t even escape this feeling if we’ve done our jobs properly. We groom everyone early. Who wouldn’t want a Happy Valentine’s Day wish scribbled on the back of a Thomas the Train card? “I choo…choo… choose you!”
Even in 4th grade, an empty heart-shaped, makeshift mailbox feels like crap. In a perfect world, we sold you the chocolate that made you feel better.
Chocolate comfort in grade 4, in turn, may have led to a life-long battle with emotional eating. To which we have the solution: a gym membership. Of course you can’t wear just anything to the gym – how about some overpriced technical gear? We have just what the doctor, or yoga studio, ordered.
When you leave that change room, you’ll probably notice how red your face is or greasy your hair may have gotten. No worry. Use these numerous beautifying products and you’ll be just fine. Ready to meet someone, even. You know, so you don’t have to spend this Valentine’s Day ugly crying at The Vow. Although, we’ve also sold you that idea – that you’ll be sharing your Valentine’s Day with Channing Tatum (or Rachel McAdams… but let’s face it, nobody’s going to choose her over him, myself included).
Some lasting messages I associate your holiday with include:
“Every kiss begins with, Kay.” Technically, most kisses begin with either alcohol or uncomfortable small talk. Score 1 for us.
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Really? In the majority of scenarios, a girl’s best friend is someone of similar socioeconomic status that has engaged in some type of lasting two-way relationship. Rarely is her name, Diamond.
This Single’s Awareness Day, I’m going to capitalize on a new card market with my friend, Jess. These cards will be targeted at the nosey neighbors, coworkers or caregivers who may be aware of any indiscretions you couples have made these past 364 days. They shall read, “Snitches Get Stitches.”
By this time next year, Jess and I will be millionaires. Most certainly we won’t be single then.
The importance of making a connection
not just a selection
So you’re looking for an advertising agency. Maybe it’s for a project or a campaign, perhaps it’s for more of a long-term relationship.
Straightforward process, right?
Simply send out an RFP to three to five reputable agencies, maybe shortlist for an hour presentation to see who best fits your needs, then make your selection.
The problem with this model is that a 20-30 page proposal and an hour in a boardroom is not necessarily indicative of what a real working relationship is all about. It’s not fair to the agencies involved and more importantly, it’s not fair to the client.
Another approach to take is to include a strategic assignment—asking the agency their thoughts on how they may approach a client issue. This is problematic too. Reaching a deep understanding of a client’s brand and the human truths that motivate their customers is challenging, if not impossible to achieve without a great deal of interaction with the client and some really well designed research.
The cost of new business presentations is significant. A study conducted by KPMG for the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA) found that capability-only presentations cost agencies an average of $6,700. When incorporating a strategic assignment, that cost rose to $30,500 on average.1
Ultimately, costs from pitching new business get passed along to clients, which begs the question: Are clients getting full value out of the pitch process? I think there’s a better way.
I believe that an agency search should be less of a selection process and more of a connection process. It should be an exercise in interactivity that sets the stage for a partnership built on trust and a shared desire to create the best work.
Of course, it’s not a perfect science and there‘s no magic formula for how to choose the best agency relationship for you. However, I think there are some things that should always be considered to help you get the most out of the process.
- Clients must really be in a position to get the most out of an agency. They should have enough knowledge to brief the agency and clearly prioritize what they need.
- Agencies must afford the same respect to the client. Proposals ought not to be developed from templates. It’s insulting to the client and we don’t do it.
- Clients can realize a great deal of value from spending time with people from the agency. Touring through the shop is not enough. Be open to real interaction and discussions about the brand or issue. Plus, thinking through a problem is fun.
- Agencies should prioritize business they are genuinely interested in and be more selective about what they work on—and be open to telling this to clients.
There are some great resources out there that can assist in selecting an agency. A good starting point is contacting the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA). They can provide you with resources that discuss best practices in selecting an agency.
All agencies really want to do is create the best work for their clients. Setting up the relationship right at the beginning is a positive first step toward achieving that goal.
Rad. Awesome. Bitchin’. These are the words of my trade. Yeah, I’m a skateboarding lady. It’s one of my great loves. While most 12 year old girls were dressing their dollies and putting on make up I was learning how to ollie and building launch ramps in the backyard with my sister. One summer, I spent every Saturday afternoon in my local Medicentre tending to a broken finger or twisted ankle. The scars on my knees are my badges of honor.
I remember the day I bought my first Thrasher magazine. It changed my life! I became obsessed with the super gnarly ads that dominated the mag. They were covered in skulls, dragons and creepy images that made my mom cringe. These added to my increasing fascination and devotion. I plastered my room with these ads and bought everything they were selling. I was proud to rep the gear and I associated myself with these edgy, independent companies run by skaters. They symbolized everything I stood for; anti-establishment and non-conformity. Little did I know the sport was at the climax of its evolution from an underground movement to where it is today.
The rest is history. Skaters began to market themselves as professional athletes and rock stars. Skateboarding is now a multibillion dollar a year industry. It’s everywhere! When I go to a competition or watch a video or even television shows where the focus should be skating, I am inundated with the message “ If you buy these shoes, you can skate harder”, “Drink this and you will go faster for longer”, “Wear this and you will be cooler”. All I can say is for @#$! sakes! I just want to see these people skate! Has the industry that I loved so much for keepin’ it real changed into the corporate monster that I was so against? Yea, probably, but I still love it.
In 1975, A photographer named Hugh Holland was lucky enough to see a group of boys tearing up a drainage ditch on the side of Laurel Canyon Boulevard. While not a skateboarder himself, he was able to befriend the locals and began documenting their sessions over the next three years, capturing the purity of the sport at the beginning of its culture. He photographed the skaters at sunset, using old negative movie film, giving the photos the warm tone that we now try to copy using Instagram. His work is amazing to me. I owe thanks to Hugh Holland for giving me something to look back on, the good old days when the sport was innocent. Well as innocent as the saying “Skate or Die”.
All images © Hugh Holland, courtesy of M+B (www.mbart.com).
Help us get our Don Draper on for the spring.
Remember when you were six years old and found a piece of paper big enough to trace your friend? Remember how innocent it all seemed, especially when you reached the upper inner thigh? Flash forward to this afternoon at FREE.
So, who doesn’t need $5,000 to spruce up their wardrobe for Spring? Well, maybe Vince (and Mike) as he refused to participate… But everyone else at the agency jumped on the bandwagon. Some had to be shoved in front of said wagon, but we picked them up just the same.
Southgate Centre has a contest on right now: the Office Style Upgrade. Given what’s at stake, $5,000 and a makeover by Eveline Charles for the team, a little sweat equity seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. All we had to do was upload a photo of our office in our less than appealing wears and post it to Facebook.
Spearheading this initiative, I got to know each of my team members quite intimately. I was quick to disclose, however, that I do NOT draw crotches. That shit is free-handed. Oh, and for the ladies, a quick nip and tuck at the hips and thighs is just an extra courtesy. You’d be surprised what kind of awkward conversation can be made as you gingerly balance over someone whilst tracing their bod.
In the end, will all the hard work (and sucking it in) be worth it? We’d appreciate your help if you can spare it. Hell, I’ll even throw in a FREE body tracing… I may even trace your crotch if you’re lucky. Tell your friends.
THE TIME TO VOTE HAS COME:
You can only vote once a day per IP address (if you’re in the same office, you’ll need to vote from a smart phone or at home). The crotch tracing offer still stands! I will do more than one of those PER office!!
Why every ad should aspire to be a Super Bowl Ad
Is there any better way to spend a Sunday than watching an überhyped, Kraken-less clash of the titans whilst pounding back an ungodly amount of beer and pizza, and secretly hoping for another nipple-baring wardrobe malfunction? For my money, the answer is yes. Yes there is. Until you factor in those gloriously entertaining Super Bowl ads, then my answer becomes no. No there is not.
I know exactly what you’re thinking. Who would’ve ever guessed that a strikingly handsome ad professional like myself would love Super Bowl ads? Shocking revelation, right? But please bear with me. This is more than just another blog about how super Super Bowl ads are.
What it’s really about is what us advertising folk can learn from Super Sunday, i.e. people actually enjoy good advertising.
Think about it. What other day do people set down their remote controls come commercial time? When else is the term commercial break not synonymous with pee break? And here’s the clincher: Name another time when people not only look forward to watching ads, but also to discussing and sharing them with friends and family. You can’t, can you?
So what does that say about the state of advertising the other 364 days a year?
It’s not pretty. In fact, it brings me to an eye-opening truth about my job that I had to come to terms with long ago, and if you’re in this industry, I advise you come to accept it too:
PEOPLE HATE ADVERTISING!
Or at the very least, they are numb to it. And who can blame them? We are barraged with thousands of marketing messages every day. 95% of which are dull, uninspiring shit.1
But there is still hope for our industry. Remember back about eleven words ago, when I said 95% of ads suck? Based on my math, that means that about 5% of ads are getting it right.
Believe it or not, some agencies strive to create ads that people will actually enjoy. Ads that move people to think, get angry, cry, laugh or maybe even shoot milk out of their noses. Ads that people find engaging, entertaining and worthy of sharing and discussing, much like the aforementioned Super Bowl ads.
Granted, not every client is looking for the next Old Spice Man-like concept and we don’t all have multi-million dollar budgets to cast David Beckham in our ads, but we do all have the power to create ideas every bit as big as the codpiece Becks had Posh stuff down his skivvies for the new H&M campaign that premiered on Super Sunday.
Advertising students, professionals and clients, please join us and take the pledge to approach every ad as though it is Super Bowl bound and together we can make our world a happier, ad-friendlier place to live.
Willie Nelson making me crave a damn burrito.
Full disclosure. I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat animals and therefore I don’t support slaughtering them either. (I also don’t support Coldplay. Fuck Coldplay.)
However, I do believe in good food made by people who care about what they do. It just makes sense. It seems (based on these advertisements—and advertisements don’t lie right?) that Chipotle Mexican Grill cares about food. The Back To The Start spot is a beautifully animated 2+ minute commercial showing the evolution of the American farm, focusing on an independent pig farmer. It starts with an idyllic farm being built small and sustainably, only to bow to the pressure of big industry and accept factory farming practices. Slap some Willie Nelson (covering Coldplay) over that, a cautiously optimistic happy ending and you’ve got yourself a good ol’ heart string pullin’ commercial.
So what right? Every major fast food producer is trying to convince you that they give a damn. It’s good for business. That’s the thing about advertising though. The “spin” has made us untrusting and cynical and we’re inclined to think that every corporation slinging their product is probably lying to us.
So is Chipotle being dishonest? Possibly. Do they care as much as those adorable, happy pill shaped pigs will lead us to believe? No clue, but the fact that they have almost 14 minutes of extra video backing up the 2 minute advertisement sure helps their case, and it sure is interesting to see how some (seemingly) honest advertising is making this vegetarian want to eat a ethically produced carnitas burrito.
Check out farmer Paul Willis’ story here:
Tall Grass Prairie story:
Chipotle’s CEO/Founder talking about food:
How to Draw a Beard in 3D
(the Self Induced Migraine)
Here’s how to create three dimensional beard synergy in 3 easy steps.
You will need:
– A black and white drawing of a face (I stole mine from Valery Goulet)
– Highlighters. 1 red. 1 blue
– 3D glasses
Start by drawing a beard on your face (the drawing, not your own) with one of the highlighters (I chose blue to start).
Once your first colour is complete, draw with your other colour, lines that slightly overlap the originals. In theory, the less overlap the closer the beard will appear and vice versa.
Keep going until you have completed all of the lines/beard hairs. Once complete, put on your 3D glasses and have a look.
You will see that it sort of works. Now remove your glasses and enjoy the aching sensation that has found its way behind each of your eyes.
My experiences with social marketing in China
When I arrived in China as part of a choir tour last year I was greeted by a billboard admonishing me to “mold a well-mannered imagination.” Not quite sure how to react I took a closer look. The accompanying pictures suggested I was not to litter, spit or set up shop in front of a Buddha. Since I didn’t have any wares to sell I got to thinking that perhaps I wasn’t in the target audience. This message was aimed at the millions of local Chinese tourists who were also arriving in Beijing. What my imagination had to do with being a good tourist still eludes me, and why the English translation??
I found similar messages around the city, such as the one below, asking me to be frugal and strive for self improvement. Again, probably not aimed at me. The government had mandated our tour make “cultural” stops at jade and silk factories–more accurately described as glorified sales pitches. I quickly got the not-so-subtle message that I was supposed to spend as much money as possible. So much for frugality!
China’s extensive campaigns targeting “bad” tourist behavior leading up to the Beijing Olympics have been well documented. Apparently, the Chinese government continues to be big on these type of social marketing campaigns.
I was reminded of my experience in China while doing research for one of our clients. We were looking at health promotion as a behavioural challenge. Behaviour can be understood in terms of three aspects: knowledge, skills and attitudes. Behavioural campaigns usually do a reasonable job of addressing knowledge and skills, but have traditionally been less adept at addressing the more complex factors influencing attitude.1
Factors which require us to ask a number of important questions:
- • What is the perception of risk and the associated consequences of a behaviour?
- • What is the benefit or cost of carrying out a behavior?
- • What will other people think of me if I do (or don’t) carry out the behaviour?
- • Am I in control of the behaviour?
- • Am I ready to carry out the behaviour?
- • Is the Chinese government actually scanning my imagination when I walk through the metal detector at the airport?
Minus the Chinese conspiracy theories, we’ve been asking ourselves these behavioural questions while building the campaign for our client. An experience I had near the end of my trip reminded me that you can’t attempt to change behaviour without first tackling the key drivers of that behaviour.
I was waiting to cross a major road in Shanghai (which immediately labels me as a foreigner because it is not customary in China to wait to cross a road) when I noticed a woman dressed in an official uniform desperately blowing a whistle and shouting. Who she was shouting at was a little unclear at first because none of the people around her were paying her any attention. That is, none of the people “illegally” crossing the busy road were paying her any attention. Finally she spotted a younger person weaving her way through the traffic–someone she could exercise her authority on. With some more emphatic shouting and a friendly use of force the uniformed lady sent the girl back to the curb to wait with me until the light changed. In the meantime, about a dozen other people paid traffic lights and uniformed officers no heed.
As this sobering YouTube video demonstrates, a proper social marketing campaign addressing both pedestrian and driver attitudes in China may be in order.
Does everyone with a soapbox qualify?
We work with the media a lot, so I’ve been interested in the debate about whether bloggers and people who have dubbed themselves “citizen journalists” should be protected in the same ways that journalists are.
Much of the discussion has been around cases in the US, and because I’m trading in ideas here, I’ll draw on an example set by our southern neighbours. I’m also simplifying greatly, in the interest of brevity. This is a much bigger issue than what I discuss here.
A recent case (this December) involved a lawsuit against a blogger, where the plaintiff was awarded $2.5 million1. The judge in the case needed to determine whether the blogger in question should be protected by the law that gives certain privilege to journalists. Laws like this are designed to ensure that journalists can speak freely; that the risk posed to people who might suffer damage from such free speech is outweighed by the benefit to society of the free flow of uncensored information. In this case, the judge ruled that the blogger did not deserve this protection2.
There is no doubt that for our society to function fairly, we need to allow information to flow freely. And, in order for facts to flow, we need to make sure that there isn’t unreasonable risk to the people sharing.
My problem is that I don’t think many of those “citizen journalists” have earned their title. [and neither have many “traditional” journalists - I had an interesting argument with SunTV’s lawyers about this last year 3 - Click here to see the entire conversation.]
My job as a strategist in the advertising world is to help clients sell their product. I also know that part of my job is to make sure that in doing so, I’m not misleading a consumer. That doesn’t, in my mind, mean that I must “not lie”. I think that the idea of not lying as a standard is a cop out. We’ve all heard of political campaigns, product endorsements and advertising that, while not telling a lie, misleads the people who hear or read it. Not lying isn’t good enough.
As an advertiser, I (and we) have a certain amount of power to sway people’s opinions and beliefs, and I’m very aware of how we use our influence. I don’t want to be known as an advertiser with questionable ethics. I want to be known as a creative, compelling, honest advertiser, and one that puts the diligence in “due diligence”. And fortunately for us scrupulous ad men (and women), packaged properly, the truth is compelling in a way that subtle misinformation never will be.
When an advertiser seeks to mislead their audience, I judge them harshly – and I think others do too.
I think we need to set a similar standard for people to meet before we recognize them as a “journalist”. I’ve seen people who fit under the traditional definition of “journalist” using unethical and misleading statements, and I’ve seen well-researched bloggers making compelling arguments. Simply defining the term based on the medium they use is too simplistic.
In the end, we need to do a better job of clearly identifying what we expect of those who we, as society, choose to protect. And, as always, I hope that rational thought, and not traditions or legal or semantic arguments, wins the day.
How to make work and life work for your life
Its 9 am on a Friday. It’s been a long work week, there’s a deadline looming, the client has edits, I have to book a doctors appointment, I need a coffee, a meeting is about to start, new work is coming in, someone’s kids are calling, the piles on my desk are getting higher, the phone is ringing…… and I just want the week to end and the weekend to start. One more day. Sound familiar? It often seems like so much is going on all at once and there isn’t enough time in a day. So how do we find balance without turning into a hair pulling, stressed out mess of a raving lunatic?
Finding your work/life balance can be a challenge in any job. Making time for everything you want or need to accomplish can be overwhelming, but there are many ways to figure it out. As unique are you are, so is your solution.
Start with a priorities list to figure out what is important, what needs to get done and how to accomplish it. Once you have a list, you can create a plan. A day-by-day agenda will be helpful in busy times as it gives you the opportunity to focus.
When creating your agenda don’t pack your day of just work, make sure to add in a few brief breaks to let you get your focus back and give yourself a break from staring at a computer screen.
• Maybe stand up • Grab a coffee • Eat some fruit • Sit on the patio
• Have a stretch • Pester a co-worker • Take a short walk • Play air guitar
Not only will these mini-breaks help create flow for your day, but they also add to your long-term physical health. At lunch, doing an activity you enjoy will also give you a break from work and allow you to focus and be more efficient while at work. It also lowers stress levels and contributes to a more productive afternoon.
You will find that over time, incorporating balance into your day will provide a lower stress, greater efficiency work environment. It will also help you achieve your goals and contribute to a healthier environment for you and your colleagues.
Personally, it allows me to commit to what Hal Johnston and Joanne McLeod coined so long ago “keep fit and have fun.”
A recap of the Institute of Communication Agencies FutureFlash 2012
I’d like to start by congratulating the ICA and Contagious for putting on a mind-expanding conference. It was an inspiring week filled with insightful presentations and passionate discussions about the current state and future of advertising.
I wrote this recap of FutureFlash to share with everyone at FREE. However, iit’s full of valuable ideas and insights for anyone in our industry, so please feel free to share it with your clients or colleagues. By no means is this a complete account, but rather a summary of points that were most thought provoking for me.
Rory Sutherland / @rorysutherland
Vice Chair, Executive Creative Director, OgilvyOne
- Rory started out by introducing the idea that since the invention of the spreadsheet, economic models in business have assumed that everything can be quantified.
- The problem with this is that mathematical expressions have grossly skewed the role of human insight.
- There are two ways we as humans make decisions: automatic, affective and heuristic-based (System 1) or effortful, conscious, and rule-based (System 2).
- By way of analogy, Rory got into Darwin and evolutionary theory, describing how signals and indicators of genetic fitness have a “marketing function”, not just an efficiency function, e.g. women don’t need large breasts to nurse and men could mate just fine with a 2” penis.
- To further illustrate, he discussed the role of the peacock’s tail (as marketing) and the utility of a penguin’s body. Enter the most re-tweeted line of the week: “The peacock is a chicken taken over by its marketing department. A penguin is an albatross reclaimed by the finance department.”
- As marketers (and as humans), we feel the need for numbers as they seem to serve more utility than norms.
- If you only use math to solve a problem, you will only come up with one solution. Human insight and creativity is needed to see more than one solution to a problem. The question is, how do we fight back against quantification?
- The McGurk Effect – As humans, we are unable to separate how senses respond. No matter how much you try to rationalize the connection between the senses, we as humans are unable to convince our brains that what we are seeing is not reality.
- Heuristics – Decisions are not calculated, they are intuitive. For example, think of how a baseball player catches in the outfield, they don’t calculate where the ball is going, they fix on it visually and respond. (System 2)
- This tells us that ALL perception is relative.
- For example. Nespresso coffee capsules are about $0.50 each. When you frame that coffee relative to a tin of coffee, it seems expensive. Nespresso frames it relative to Starbucks and it seems cheap.
- Ultimately, logic and research only tell you so much.
Alex Lieu / @42entertainment
CCO, 42 Entertainment
Alex from 42 Entertainment presented their work on the immersive experience for the Why So Serious? campaign. Check out the full case study here:
Michelle Klein / @mklein_NYC
VP, Content, Digital & Communications
Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange
Michelle shared with us a brilliant idea called the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange where nightlife experiences are shared throughout the globe in a digital experience. They also partnered with Madonna to find “the best dancer in the world”. It’s a very impressive brand activation, check out the videos:
Nick Parish / @paryshnikov
Editor, North America
Using Contagious’ method of evaluating whether something is Useful, Relevant and Entertaining, Nick presented the below ideas and the crowd evaluated whether they were contagious or noise. For what it’s worth, I didn’t care for the McSundae Melt—I felt what they were asking of the end user didn’t match up with the reward of a sundae. Really enjoyed the personalized Coke idea—I thought it was on brand, simple and clever.
Social Media Panel
Paul Kemp-Robertson, Arthur Fleishmann, Ari Kuschnir, Laura Simpson
- Laura started by making the point that their research says people are ultimately seeking truthfulness.
- The challenge of truthfulness on Facebook is that people are curating their own idealized story of themselves.
- There was some good thought by Arthur on looking to journalists as “content managers”.
- Arthur also made the point that people go to paid media because they know what they are getting. They can buy GRPs and they know they are (by-in-large) getting the numbers they paid for. The challenge with social media and earned media is that there is no precise quantification, so advertisers are reluctant. We need a better way to get certainty around what advertisers are buying in earned media.
Paul Kemp-Robertson / @ContagiousPaul
Founder & Editor
- The key idea that Paul introduced us to was marketing as “Service Delivery” – the idea of evolved branded utility.
- Traditional advertising has focused on reach, but what really matters is how many and who is reached.
- The question then is whether the traditional advertising model is fitting today? How do we make permanent change?
- The shift ought to be moving from Social Media to Social Business.
- As an analogy, he illustrated the difference between shouting through a letterbox and laying out a welcome mat.
- Social media should be taken from a social perspective, not a media perspective.
- Social media is fundamentally a friendship with a brand.
- For example, KLM is using an opt-in app on Facebook to let you select who you would like to sit next to on an aircraft.
- A service design approach to marketing relies on walking in the shoes of the consumer.
- Nike Fuel is a great example. The Nike shoe is the distribution mechanism for the Nike Fuel service. According to Nike, “the secret is out, Nike is a tech company.”
Laura Simpson / @mccann_wg
SVP, McCann Worldgroup
The Truth About Privacy
- McCann Truth Central did a study that showed erosion of personal privacy as a greater concern than climate change and increased levels of terrorism.
- Globally, 75% agreed that people share far too much online.
- There are new privacy norms that are developing as a result of technology.
- Laura has noticed that when prompting people in focus groups about Facebook usage, those who are not on Facebook tend to defend their lack of use of it because it is the new social norm.
- People are tending to share augmented, idealized versions of themselves online. This begs the question of what persona should brands interact with?
- The majority of people are savvy of the connections between personal data and online marketing, some even encourage it.
- Younger people are in fact better at managing their privacy settings on Facebook, despite that being claimed by older people.
- Amazon’s model of privacy demonstrates a way to use personal information in a manner that improves the lives of users.
- Key tensions that will share the future of privacy: Global vs. Local, Customization vs. Serendipity, Anonymity vs. Authenticity
Martin Blinder / @TicTrac
Lifestyle Design Through Numbers
As humans, it is in our nature to track “how we are doing”. We do this by looking at history and looking at others, what is normal, and what are the outliers. Data is usually collected and analyzed linearly.
Tictrac allows people to track data about their mood, stress, e-mail volumes, tweets, and hundreds of other data points and setup personal projects to help them improve their lives. On the flip-side, Tictrac can look at huge amounts of data in a non-linear way and correlate and predict behavior. For example, you could look at the data and setup a case where women who eat vanilla ice cream also listen to a lot of Coldplay.
This product is amazing, I am not doing it justice. Check it out for yourself at http://www.tictrac.com
Ari Kuschnir / @arikuschnir
m ss ng p eces
The Rise of Branding through non-fiction Storytelling
Before Ari began, he shared the story about how m ss ng p eces came out of the desire to make something happen. Something unique and special. So they created “something” – literally. A shiny black block with “Something” stamped into it that was sold at the MoMA store and given to people throughout the world.
- Great advertising creates emotional connections between people and brands. This has always been true.
- In a world of constant disruption, people seek honest and transparent communication.
- We want stories, but we want them to be true.
- Three things that they have been thinking about: 1) The Audience of One, 2) Brand Documentary on the Web, 3) The Power of Intention.
- 1) Audience of One – The way we are viewing media has changed. We have progressed from a movie theatre of strangers to the family room TV to a solitary experience with an iPod.
- 2) Branded Documentary – It gives brands a chance to place themselves and their values in the real world.
- 3) Power of Intention – Matching outside communications to the inside of the company; being proud enough to reveal what is going on and letting people inside.
Ari then shared their work on product development for a clock that tells time by the year, not by the minute of hour. Have a look at the video.
AN EVENING WITH LUKE SULLIVAN
Note: Jon didn’t write this, he just posted it. We just hired a new designer and his name is Gord. This is his experience at Cultivate. Gord, meet the Internet. Internet, meet Gord.
Us FREE folk recently had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Cultivate presented by the Ad Club of Edmonton. Hosted by seasoned ad man and “Hey Whipple” author, Luke Sullivan, this latest installment got into the grit of advertising, discussing pressures that exist in Western culture that can help fuel new ideas, as well as how advertisers can meet tough challenges head-on.
No doubt, there’s functional conflict that exists in many of the world’s greatest ad campaigns. Plenty of great ads have some sort of good vs. evil story to them–with focus often on the antagonist. Some brands will stick to using soft and gentle ideas, but as I’ve heard before, nothing guarantees failure faster than the “safe” option. Nobody wants to read the headline, “Plane lands safe and passengers arrive happy.” There needs to be conflict, some sort of noticeable dissonance. We want to hear about the crazy hijacker on the flight who dove into the ocean just before arriving. Because, according to Sullivan, when everything is ok, we are not interested.
People want to know about the bad guy, sometimes they even cheer for him. Every once in a while in my childhood, I really wanted Dr. Claw to outsmart Inspector Gadget. Alas, luck was always on Gadget’s side.
The story of an antagonist has the potential to be far more interesting. On Halloween, you’ll cross paths with a dozen Michael Myers costumes, but will you even see one person dressed as Jamie Lee Curtis? I don’t think so. That would be weird.
Another topic Sullivan got into was finding truth in the product you’re trying to sell. When the audience recognizes truth in a brand they are much more likely to buy into the idea and purchase the product. Unfortunately, some of the most commonly believed truths about brands or companies are not the most appealing to the brands themselves.
In the words of Mr. Sullivan “Inject truth and social tension. Do everything they told you not to do. Do something perfectly wrong. Be mischievous every step of the way. Be the bad guy.” Or, in my case, let Dr. Claw have his day.
I’m a non-designer copywriter who drove down to Calgary with a bunch of real, actual factual, award winning designers. We headed to the shining chinook mecca to see famed designer, Aaron Draplin (If you’re not familiar with his brand of awesome, have a looksee at this here URL). Our method of travel was two vehicles, segregated naturally with all the stink men in one car and all the rave-on ladies in another. Their VengaBus had indeed come.
I’ll be honest, I know very little about design, especially when it reaches outside of the ad world. I know what I like, and I know what works for our clients. But apart from that, I’m an outsider in a strange, functionally beautiful land.
We arrived in Cow Town an hour before Draplin’s presentation. Naturally, we graced a record store with our presence and then moseyed on down to a watering hole. The sun was high, the heat hot and our mind grapes, oh, they were ripe for some Draplinfication.
After a brief safety meeting out back, a few of us joined the line for the theatre. I was super surprised when Draplin’s face was the one at the door telling us to come in. That’s different.
The presentation started. He talked. It was amazing. And even though I’m not a designer, I took away some incredible tidbits of inspiration that won’t necessarily affect what I do as a writer, but more so, how I approach it.
I was amazed, shocked, horrified and delighted as Draplin regaled us with stories from his life and career. Rather than paraphrase all that, here are three big points that warmed the cockles of my cold, hard, heartless heart:
- Not all creative work is about pizazz. Make each detail as important and meaningful as the last. If it helps, you can even turn Saul Bass into a verb.
- Do the work that matters most, and do it for people you love.
- Appreciate what you’re doing. Us creatives get to do a job that a lot of people only dream of. It’s okay to be thankful.
After the show, we snagged up as much merch as possible. I even got one of Draplin’s fancy “Hair Organizers” to manage all my pesky cowlicks. On the ride home, my newly discovered appreciation for Draplin was affirmed by the fact that we could not stop talking about how great his presentation was. I especially appreciated the “designer perspective”.
So, even though I’m currently not a graphic designer, I learned a little bit and cultivated some newfound respect for the people I work with who are brilliant at making other people, and shapes and stuff, look so good.
Advocating change through design
Brands are cliche. Brands matter.
No matter which side of the brand fence you are on there is one certainty – brands exist. In their simplest form they are a promise and they have shaped who we are as individuals and as societies. They influence our behaviour, our opinions and our lifestyle.
By aligning ourselves with brands, we open ourselves up to mutual criticisms about what the brand stands for and how the brand ‘acts’. This is ever so evident when we introduce the aspect of being environmentally responsible. Brands are becoming green. They are being forced to examine their ecological footprint and some brands are finding ways to increase brand loyalty by becoming advocates of change.
in 2010, footballers including Cristiano Ronaldo and Robinho took to the pitch in the World Cup in South Africa wearing shirts made out of recycled plastic bottles. Each shirt is made from up to 8 recycled bottles – bottles that were discarded, recovered and melted down to produce new yarn that was converted to fabric. Manufacturing in this method reduced landfill waste by 254 tonnes and the process of creating the polyester resulted in a 30% reduction in energy consumption. Nike has continued with this innovation through 2012 – designing and manufacturing uniforms for USA basketball and track & field uniforms that will be worn by athletes from USA, Russia, Germany, and China for international team competitions
Nike claimed the move is its biggest ever commitment to sustainability.
‘We are equipping athletes with newly designed uniforms that not only look great and deliver performance benefits, but are also made with recycled materials, creating less impact on our environment.’
Some brands just get it.
I love music. I always have. I thank my mom for opening up my mind and heart to all kinds of it. She always made sure to bring home the best albums! I remember being a child and spending hours listening to music and flipping through stacks of vinyl, mesmerized by the cover art. The elation I would feel from getting lost in the cover while the music played in sync with my thoughts. From Roxy Music and The Velvet Underground to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, I saw and heard them all. How many kids do you know that got an original copy of The Beastie Boys “License to Ill” from the Easter Bunny? I did and for the record, I still have it. Album cover art rules and is often considered to be one of the archaic fields of design due to digital albums which is a shame because they can be extremely expressive and convey the message of the album in a number of creative ways. Some covers were interactive, others changed the way music was marketed. One thing is for sure – they are the best way to get the attention of a potential buyer.
In no particular order, here are five albums who’s cover art and design have had a major impact on the way I listen to music.
Breakfast In America – Supertramp (1979) – Artist: Mike Doud
One of my earliest childhood memories was the cover for Breakfast In America. I have always had the words “Take a look at my girlfriend…” playing over in my head. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what I once thought was a funny diner in need of a box Fruit Loops or at least some colour, was actually an overlook of New York City from an airplane. The waitress “Libby” was his Statue of Liberty and the city is made up of forks, spoons, bottles of ketchup and other breakfast necessities. Brilliant.
The Information – Beck (2006) – Artist: The Fans
With it’s blank cover and one of four sets of stickers, Beck’s, The Information, was fully customizable allowing the fans to design their own cover and ensuring that no two would be the same. Some called it a marketing gimmick which lead to the album being banned from the U.K. charts, while others, like Forbes Magazine, called it ‘A Genius Innovation”.
2 Live Crew – As Nasty As They Want To Be (1989) – Artist: 2 Live Crew
Misogynistic and over the top are the best way to describe this cover which was the first album deemed legally obscene by the United States Government. Have you ever seen the Parental Advisory stickers that plague covers? This album (and a few others) are the reason why. Despite that, the album was 2 Live Crew’s best seller, being certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – Artist: Peter Blake
Leave it to The Beatles to have the most famous cover of all time. The concept for this cover was “people we like”. Peter Blake has been known to say that “In my mind I was making a piece of art rather than an album cover.” It’s playful colours and unique design delve into psychedelia while rumors of McCartney’s death and the subsequent clues left by Lennon sparked controversy surrounding the images and design. I would highly recommend that any music aficionado investigate and come to your own conclusion.
Black Sabbath – Self Titled (1970) – Artist: Unknown
I remember looking at this cover just to scare myself. It was almost like I enjoyed the torment. Little did I know that it would become one of the most influential and historical albums of all times (it was the first heavy metal album ever). The self-titled album is an excellent example of art and horror and is the reason why I am a horror movie junkie.
A topic that has been on my mind is how traditional agencies have handled brands in the digital realm. As we have seen the web evolve, I think that it is fair to say that ad agencies have treated digital as a tactic, akin to any other sort of media. A traditional advertising model has been applied where, perhaps it ought not to have been.
The good news is that I believe that agencies are changing this thinking. At a recent meeting of the Institute of Communication Agencies Forum of Independent Agencies, I heard Ted Boyd and Jill King from One talk about the merger between 58Ninety and Due North. Ted talked about how they have structured One free from separations of traditional and digital advertising. There are no “Digital Account Managers”, but the expectation is that digital is built into all client work. I agree with this approach. It is smart.
Interestingly enough, the agency I founded prior to the FREE brand started as a digital (or as it was called then “web”) firm – not everyone knows that. We then moved more towards the agency model because it allowed us to be part of the discussions around brand and campaign strategy. Unconsciously, I have found that we have never thought of digital as separate from brand strategy. It has always been part of our DNA. It is a bit unique to go from digital firm to full service agency and I think there is power in that thinking.
As marketers, I believe that we may say that digital is integrated in the strategies that we develop, but I would question whether that is actually the practice. I suspect that the “oh, and we need a microsite” discussion is more common.
I still believe that there is thinking out there along the lines of the agencies as the “adults’ table” and digital as the “kiddie table”. Incorrectly, the perception that the adults are talking about important things (like the client’s brand) while the kids are flicking peas at each other (and building websites). The problem is though that the the kiddie table is a bit too small and it’s pretty tough to sit at those small chairs when your legs have grown so much.
It’s time for the kids to come to the grown up table.
Digital should be brought to the forefront alongside, and as part of, brand and strategy discussions. In some cases, digital can and should even
Dad, can you pass the mashed potatoes please?
“It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you need.”
These are words that I should either have tattooed on my inner wrist or should emblazon across every shirt I own. The above words of wisdom were a gift from a fellow co-worker, someone who had the foresight to know I’m opinionated for all the wrong reasons… I’m stubborn and always think I’m right. Oh, and I think I have good taste. Although, she managed to position my “wrong-ness” in a much nicer fashion; she argued that I was falling into the same trap that many people in the ad industry, especially clients, can fall prey to: subjectivity.
To review a piece of creative or messaging with a predetermined idea of what something should look like is best left to the professionals (i.e. people who can use Macs in ways that you or I can’t). I’ve seen it firsthand. When creative is presented, sometimes it can be tough to remove oneself and give an objective opinion. In order to form said opinion, first you need to have clear objectives. Our role as an agency is to ensure that we work with the client to clearly understand objectives and what they hope to accomplish with a campaign or project. From here, we can all get on the same page as to what we’re aiming for.
Now the hard part, TRUST.
SIDENOTE: I’m still talking about the creative process. This is not about dating. Although, think long and hard about the lessons here… You need to trust that someone else is willing to give you what you need. Oh, and sometimes it’s not about what you want. Bye-bye washboard abs or legs a mile long (or whatever blows your hair back). Needs only.
Back to trust… an agency is full of experts. Usually we’re too shy to say so, but we are. We’ve been hired because we have the skills that you may lack (or we have the time to obsess over it). I promise you that whatever we present has been vetted and revised numerous times before it ever sees the light of day in your office. And the reason we’re sweating when we present it, that’s because we know how important it is that you agree that this is indeed the right solution. We are clenching our butts hoping that you’ll truly view our work objectively… knowing that in the end, this is what will accomplish your goals (the ones we worked together to understand).
Sure, we can change the blue to pink or Times New Roman to Arial (I’m not a designer… I do not have design-y typeface examples), but that may not be what you NEED. It’s a want. Much like I WANT to have a cookie. However, I NEED to keep my lips sealed and get on a treadmill. Apparently this lesson applies to more than just creative and dating.
So, the next time you’re in a situation where you have to choose, think to yourself… it’s not about what I want, it’s about what I need. At least you’ll know that any objection you have moving forward will have merit. Unless of course this is about a date… in which case, don’t let me give you any advice at all. My want category far exceeds my need category… and who am I to deny any washboard ab?