Possibility is easy, Execution isn't

Over the last few weeks, I've read Kevin Kelly's masterpiece, What Technology Wants. If you are at all interested in technology, the future, our past and where everything could be going, you've got to read this work. It's filled with enough insight to warrant a new blog (which I'm thinking about doing) but for now, I wanted to focus on one thought in it.

One of the early chapters deals with the idea that innovation is inevitable - there are examples throughout history that the same discoveries - the lightbulb, the camera, the telephone - were discovered independently by multiple inventors in the same time period. During this chapter, Kelly shows the Inverted Pyramid of Invention which polymath and serial inventor Danny Hillis describes in detail:

"There might be tens of thousands of people who conceive the possibility of the same invention at the same time. But less than one in ten of them imagines how it might be done. OF these who see how to do it, only one in ten will actually think through the practical details and specific solutions. Of these, only one in ten will actually get the design to work for very long. And finally, usually only one of all those many thousands with the idea will get the invention to stick in the culture."

When I read this example, I couldn't help but think of the agency creative process - starting with high level concepts (anything is possible!), selling the high level idea and then starting to work through the core details (well, not anything...), working through feedback towards a prototype (is this even doable?), banging out a half-functioning execution (at least we got it done!), launching and hoping that a mass of people will accept it (..they didn't, but it's not our fault!). And restarting the process again.

Those in digital know that execution is just as important as the creative concept itself. Anyone can think of the possibility of an aggregated content site that magically tailors content to any users desires without them asking anything, but few - other than Google - can actually build, execute and launch it.

More and more, a focus on finding the people who can generate an idea of how it works, outline the details required, build a prototype and enable adoption has become more critical.

Because most agencies are great at the 'Thought of Possibility'. We are creative, at the highest level, and can imagine great experiences. But moving down one level (let alone four) is a massive challenge - and one that if we don't answer, will leave us confined to the corners of a pub where we host nightly 'what if we did this?' conversations that quickly lead nowhere.

This isn't to suggest that creativity is not important. To quote Kelly in a later (unrelated but still relevant) passage:

'And because we cannot image it [a life without technology], it will never happen, because nothing has ever been created without being imagined first.'

Imagination is vital. It creates possibilities and ideas. But a possibility is not a prototype.

What do you think? How could we get better at taking a great possibility and distilling it through the Pyramid of Invention?

The Power of Imprinting: 80,300 Minutes

A few weeks ago, I finished Dan Ariely's excellent book Predictibly Irrational. A number of ideas and posts will come from this great book but one that jumped out at me was the idea of imprinting.

The wikipedia definition of imprinting is as follows:

'Imprinting is the term used in psychology and ethology to describe any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behaviour. It was first used to describe situations in which an animal or person learns the characteristics of some stimulus, which is therefore said to be "imprinted" onto the subject.'

The way that Ariely describes this is through a very simple example - going to Starbucks for the first time.

For many people (myself included), going to Starbucks 4-6 times a week is a routine. But why is this the case?

To be honest, I don't remember the first time I went into a Starbucks and I don't remember what I ordered. But I do know that when I first when into the coffee shop, my rational thought pattern when something like this:

A. I'm thirsty for a coffee (or something)
B. This place is right on the corner
C. I know people who love it here
D. I'll try it out even though it seems over priced
E. If I don't like it, I'll stop going.

Trying out Starbucks - at that moment - wasn't a big deal to me. It was a one-off. But immediately after that experience, I now had an imprinted version of Starbucks (an expectation) that then led to a routine that has cost me thousands of dollars and lasted for year over 8 years. It was an experience that made me feel good (warm cup/good taste), comfortable (quick break before the day really starts) and prepared for success (start the day well and it will be a good one). That first experience led to a chain of events that not only changed my daily behavior (from no coffee each morning to 'must have or else')

Extend this concept to the web. The first time I created a Facebook profile I viewed it as a test. A friend of mine was raving about the site and said that I needed to try it. After resisting for a few weeks I thought, 'I'll give it a shot for an hour or two'. That was on December 15th, 2006 (the first day when I uploaded a profile picture).

It's been almost 4 years since then and I can't remember a day where I haven't checked the site - either for work or personal - on my computer or mobile. Like Starbucks, I start my day with it - run through brand pages I'm a part of and, of course, check through the News Feed to see what my 590 friends have been up to.

The average user spends about 55 minutes on the site based on recent Facebook data. Consider that number in relation to the 1,460 days I've spent since I registered my profile. Some days I'll only spend a few minutes, others (due to work) I might spend a few hours. But let's take 55 minutes as the average and multiply it across 4 years.

80,300 minutes. Looking at that staggering number another way, that's over 55 days solid on Facebook since I joined (3.8% of my time over the last four years has been dedicated to creeping photo's and updating streams on Facebook).

Whether or not it's been 'worth it' is a topic for another post but the important thing, for me, is going back to December 15th, 2006. Opening the computer, searching for Facebook and starting a profile in less than a minute.

Just like Starbucks, that first experience led to a fundamental change in my behaviour - and something that took less than a minute to start, has taken over 55 days of my time since.

The next time you think about 'just trying something' once, remember that it might not be easy to stop after that first experience has been imprinted on your mind.


Pure Advertising from Dior

Being a guy who lives for digital advertising, I've found myself in rooms wishing that big TV budgets were being spent on other things - strong social campaigns, digital out of home ideas that create a big impact, excellent (long term) site experiences that can be built on over time - you know, the usual list of stuff.

Sometimes when I watch a TV spot or campaign, I wonder how much it cost and how that money could have been spent elsewhere. The dollars (or pounds) get added up in my head and I (mostly foolishly) wonder what the ROI on a specific spot would be.

I've got to say, though, that in the world of digital and clients who want less TV and more platforms, tests and experiences, perfume advertising remains one of the purist in terms of old-school thinking: big, expensive films that focus on weird, emotional little vinnietes and stories. Most leave the viewer with a 'WTF?' expression on their face.

In the UK during the holiday's, literally every break contains 2-3 30 second spots featuring international stars. The one that really caught me is for Dior featuring Jude Law. After some searching, I found out that the 30 was actually a cut-down from a 4-minute film that was directed by Guy Richie. It's something out of the mid-80's; extremely well-shot, weird, great track (Muse) and some shots that you don't forget. Check it out here:

I've watched it 3 times and I still can't say whether I even like it. It is so over the top, so expensive, so ridiculous that it's almost, well, awesome. I've never considered buying a perfume product before but if it makes me feel half as good as Jude Law driving at 5am through the streets of Paris, I might need to get to the nearest John Lewis as soon as possible.

Could I have bought this as a client? I don't know. Especially considering the price was probably well over 3 million pounds to get this crew together for a few days. But sometimes we have to remember where this industry came from - emotional, strange, short ideas that make you notice and consider a product you'd never heard of before.

What do you think? Brutal or great?


CBS Chris Henry Thanksgiving Story

Because I'm now over in London, I pretty much miss the traditional American Thanksgiving Thursday that features 3 NFL games. One of my favorite parts of that day is the stories that get told about the NFL teams, the broadcaster crews and the people who are most interested in the game.

The top story - by far - that day was one that CBS put together about Chris Henry. Henry, only 26, passed away last year during the season and his team, the Cincinnati Bengals, as well as the NFL was struck by the tragedy for the remainder of the season.

CBS put together a story about Henry's mother and the legacy that he's left behind. If you don't tear up while watching this, there's something wrong with you:

What I love about this piece isn't just that it's a great story - it's that it is told in a superb way. Although follows a typical narrative, it's incredibly personal and uses the medium perfectly. It is also, to me, the definition of great content: the minute after you see it, you can't help but share it.


Apps - In Our Own Words

I recently came across a great script that the developer of Instapaper wrote in his spare time that highlights some great insights about how we rate apps. The script was designed to crawl through the US Apple App store for the top 100 applications for every category and compile the most common words from the 1-star and 5-star reviews.

Here is the list of the most common reviews from the 5-star group:
  • Awesome, worth, thanks, amazing, simple, perfect, price, everything, ever, must, ipod, before, found, store, never, recommend, done, take, always, touch
And here is the list from the 1-star group:
  • Waste, money, crashes, tried, useless, nothing, paid, open, deleted, downloaded, didn't, says, stupid, anything, actually, account, bought, apple, already
What jumped out at me when I first read this list was that positive reviews really confirmed a lot of the terms that you commonly associate with strong digital experiences - simple, awesome, always, perfect. Applications that are associated with those words have been carefully crafted and thought through. They haven't been rushed to market and they aren't just extensions of something that already exists - they are unique to the device, to the system and to the expectations of the user.

On the flip side, apps that got the worst reviews were summarized in the language of disappointment - waste, useless, stupid, crashes.

Breaking through in the application market is just as (if not more) difficult as doing so on a site. When I consider my own application usage on my iPad / iPhone, if the application isn't awesome or simple within the first five minutes, I'm done. Research into application usage reflects that I'm not alone. Most apps are deleted within the first 30 days of their download. People try them, get bored, and move on.

The interesting insight about applications, though, is that we can rate all of them in the same place where they are downloaded. Imagine if the same was possible for every brand website that's ever existed? I suspect we'd see a lot of the same words associated to the 1-star reviews that we get on apps. If only we had a place to put them.


YouTube Ad of the Year - Embrace Life

Many of you have probably already seen this spot before, but it has just won a new award from YouTube - Ad of the Year. As the winner, YouTube provides the brand with a one-day takeover of the site to 'air' the spot (with about $75K US). Check out the spot here and be sure to let us know what you think of the work.


The Elephant in the Room

The promise of organic growth as a part of any social media initiative is something that's very appealing. The simple belief that 'if you build it, they will come' is an idea that has been around long before the dawn of social media. In fact, early websites followed this logic: spend enough on something special, and people will find their way to it. Create something - no matter how good - and most people will at least take a second to check it out (even though they might never return).

Over the last few years, brands, agencies and marketers have learned the hard way. The number of orphan Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and Blogs speaks volumes about the failed strategies and focus that many have had over the years. Despite the fact that the pages were likely started with good intentions, something about them didn't seem to connect - or so we thought. Months after they didn't acheive a following, they'd be evaluated (mostly on the 'quality' of the content) and new ideas would be hatched.

But here is the problem. It's just simply about the content of the page or the 'engagement strategy'. It's not just about the apps, promotions and customer service outlets.

It's about this - do people actually know it exists?

Or more to the point - did you save any investment for, you know, advertising?

It's easy in the above-the-line world. We have reference points. Spend 80-90% of your budget on buying the media and the rest of it on producing it. Getting airtime on top TV networks is expensive. Shooting spots from a production standpoint are expensive as well, but minimal in comparrision to the actual cost of airing them.

And here lies the digital issue. Getting your ideas published doesn't really cost anything. If you want to launch a page, a blog or a site quickly, you can get it up in an hour or two. As the site becomes more complex and the requirements get larger, costs go up. But again, actually getting a domain and putting it out on the world-wide-web isn't an expensive process - especially when you compare launching that to TV spot.

Media, as a result, becomes an after-thought. Contact the 'hyper-influencers'. Do some outreach. The advices mounts - and it's not wrong, it's just missing a critical component - media.

Believe me, I love social and I'm a big advocate of earned media. But countless studies have shown that paid media leads to a greater share of earned. That the idea of something just 'going viral' without a smart seeding strategy or big TV buy just isn't accurate anymore - there is just to much content out there.

Sure, some of it gets through and we see it (and then share it). But most of the stuff that's not supported in some way, goes nowhere.

The next time you're discussing your social initiative, site or application, just remember that if you do end up actually building it, they won't come unless they know about it

The Future of News...

Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about how the shift in the newspaper industry also mimics the shift in the traditional ad industry. There is a long post brewing on this topic in the coming weeks but to help show you what inspired it, I wanted to link to this article by James Fallows called How To Save The News.

If you work in a creative industry, especially media, this is a must-read. It's a good look at how Google is trying to help the industry that it up-ended and keep news alive (in some form). It's longer than most content you'd read on the web but it's worth it and I think you'll find it has some excellent reference points to anyone working at an ad agency.

More to come...


Is this the Worst Commercial of All-Time?

I think that this commercial, which is on-air literally every break during NFL Sunday on Sky, may be the worst TV spot ever made. If anyone knows anything about this spot - the Agency, the Creatives, the Production Company - please let me know so we can publicly shame them.

Don't think this is the worst? Let's get this conversation going. Send some links in the comments and we'll get a top 5 worst-all time list made up.


Believe in what you do

You've got to hand it to Steve Jobs - he believes in everything that Apple makes and he knows, exactly, what he wants his company to be. He designs in a closed way - his rules, his products. He doesn't crowdsource his ideas or his campaigns and I highly doubt that he listening to conversations in the space to try and guess what people want from him.

He knows. And he's passionate.

Yesterday, on a quarterly call with investors, he went on a 5 minute rant about why Apple is the OS of choice vs. Android. I've got to say that I love the passion here and that he makes a ton of great points. While I still believe that their is validity in the 'open vs. closed' argument, you cannot argue for a second that Apple makes products that just work. No trouble. No problems.

Here is the rant:

Passion. Conviction. Vision. Would you defend what you to this extent?


Storify: The Future of Content Curation

Over the last few months, I've been exploring a number of content curation services. Many are in the early Alpha stages and it's been tough to get access but one that I've been really impressed with so far is Storify.

As anyone in digital knows, the amount of content that is being created on a daily basis is immense. Billions of bits of content created on a daily basis which makes the amount of information to sift through impossible. In a way, our stories are now made out of disparate bits of information - Tweets, Videos, Flickr shots, Status Updates, etc - and the only way we consolidate them is when we tie them together in our minds as we view them (or someone creates a list for us and posts it on Digg).

Storify is hoping to change all that. Created by a former AP editor, the site allows users to create stories by pulling related-content together into one stream. Think of the stories as large articles with the different content bits actually embedded within them. For the iPad users out there, it's sort of like creating your own flipboard channel.

I've been using the service for a few days and have been pretty empressed. It's easier to pull the content together than a blog post would be and more comprehensive than simply linking to a post or video that you like.

I've created a Storify link that I've embedded in this post about Bill O'Reilly on the View. It took about 5 minutes to create and, to be an extreme nerd, was pretty fun. Here it is:

What do you think? Do you think you could get used to curating and consuming content in the way that Storify provides it?


Lexus: Most Advanced Driving Simulator in the World

I love it when companies don't just talk about how innovative they are, but they actually prove it. We've seen this from BMW and IBM and many others, but this Lexus demo video is pretty impressive. What do you think?


Google Instant just made SEM more important

Watch this video (again if you've seen it) or just go to Google and start to search. With the addition of instant I've noticed how much more my eye is drawn to the top paid search result.

The clamshell predictive text box literally pulls your eye directly down to the first result.

Brands time to own that top spot - if you haven't already.

A Good, Creative Minute

Bars & Tones from André Chocron on Vimeo.

Simple stuff. But pretty cool what you can do with a couple tones and bars.


McCain Fries: Same Brand, Different Country

McCain recently launched a new campaign in the UK. I've got to say that when I first saw this spot I thought it was for a camera / printer / photo brand. I was pretty surprised that this was from McCain (especially considering that I'm used to their Canadian ads). The re-watch factor isn't that bad and it's starting to grow on me. Thoughts?



Some nice, creative work from Publicis Mojo...for Coke:

Expectations have Changed

A few hours ago, TechCrunch posted this video that one of their readers had sent in. The boy in it is four. He's mastered the basic functions of the iPad and if you think this is the only kid in the world who can operate the tablet, you're wrong. Most can.

No more mouse. No more clunky, challenging operating systems. This little guy is being raised with the expectation that every screen can be touched and interacted with.

Clay Shirky tells a great story at the close of Cognitive Surplus about a friends daughter. The friend is watching a DVD with his daughter on the couch. At one point, she stands up and walks over to the TV. The goes behind the TV and looks at the cords. Then she walks in front and starts looking around the boarder of the TV. She's looking for something but her Dad isn't sure what. So he asks, 'What are you looking for?'

And she simply turns, looks at him and replies, "The Mouse".

Could this kid operate your experience? Or even understand the basics of it?



One of the areas that I've been thinking a lot about lately is how clients, brands and marketers really know if the people giving them digital advice, knowledge, experiences and ideas are, well, credible.

We all use best in class cases to help show clients (and ourselves) strategies that have been successful. And most digital people know the top examples off by heart:
  • Looking for a great integrated example? How about Nike Run?
  • Co-creation idea? myStarbucks idea.
  • Wicked example of a series of videos going viral across a series of social spaces? Old Spice.
  • Global promotion with a content series and big promotion? Bud House.
  • Sweet look at how Google and brands can use HTML5? Arcade Fire experience.
  • Alternate Reality Game? Remember Dark Knight?
  • Charitable tie in with a brand that choose social media over the Super Bowl (for a year, at least) - Pepsi Refresh
  • Customer service program that uses social? Twelpforce
  • Smart example of a simple banner? Pringles
As a planner, I obsess over examples. In fact, reading the trades and seeing what other people are doing (and learning from their successes and failures) is something that, believe it or not, a lot of people fail to do.

But digital strategy, although easily explained via examples, goes beyond case studies of other (mostly global, large scale) examples.

Evaluating the cases in your own arsenal, based on the work that you've directed, can be humbling. For every Old Spice video there are 1,000 others with less than a couple hundred views. For every crowdsourcing success, there are hundreds of other (well-built, well-planned) experiences that nobody knows about.

Examples help us learn and plan. But until you've launched and failed (or, in the lucky event, succeeded), their just that - examples.

This mentality, I think, helps to explain why many social 'experts' focus on their own numbers.

'I have 80,000 followers, therefore, I know a thing or two about Twitter. Trust me.'

That's fair enough. But I don't think many clients have asked Kim to help them with their social strategies or turned to Brooke and asked her about how to optimise their content streams. (beyond the product placement here and there).

I joke - but do concede that large followings do show something. That you have a large number of followers. And that something about your stream has attracted them. Nice work.

But when you throw away external examples and personal ones and look at the ones that you've helped real brands / clients / agencies with, how do things shape up? It's OK to fail (it's really the only way to learn) but don't repeat the same mistake(s) over...especially with the same people.

Want to show someone that you can help others succeed in digital? Prove it.


LG Portugal: Let's make a short film...

Some of the latest work from LG Portugal. I really like how more and more brands are starting to realise that the way to 'solve' communications challenges is to create content that - wait for it - people are actually interested in. It's nice to see LG create a strong video that is on brand with a good (and uplifting) story. Thoughts?


Is the web really dead?

In the last two weeks, both Wired and The Economist have run cover stories about the web (as we currently know it) being dead. The old web, as both articles suggest, consisted of users visiting sites directly and interacting with them via their computer (and later mobile).

Currently, though, there is a growing behaviour that shows that many users are more interested in simple, intuitive applications over sites and endless searching. Think about it. If you are an Apple user (either via an iPod, iPhone, iPad or iTunes), you are willing to pay a small premium to access the content that you want right now.

This seemed to start with the $0.99 song. I remember when I was young surfing Napster for hours downloading as much (illegal) music as I could. It was exciting because it was free and the site had almost everything I could ever want. But when some of the tracks downloaded, they weren't what I wanted or the quality was bad. Sometimes the download would just stop (a user turned off their computer) or I'd be placed in a queue that never seemed to move.

Thinking back on this - it was a hassle. I'd get home from school and literally start crawling the web (via Metacrawler in those days) looking for new albums.

Now when I get home, I go to a closed, seemingly safe network called iTunes and access almost any content I want. Even though it costs me money every time I do it, I'm willing to pay it. It's convenient, immediate and high quality.

In this experience - a download on iTunes - I don't use the 'old web'. I go straight to a desktop (or mobile) application, find what I want and download and then watch it from my TV. I still use the web, but I don't go to a website; this experience essentially defines the current debate on the future of the web.

Think about the services that you actually use on a regular basis - Twitter (through an application like Tweet Deck or Twitter mobile), Google Maps (via an application on your BlackBerry), FlipBook, Instapaper, Foursquare - all experiences that start from an application. Sure, the infrastructure that they are using is still the web. But the way into them for a user is different.

As a brand, the challenge of connecting via the old web (and the new) continues to be daunting. Advertising within Apps (via networks like iAd) are emerging and will grow in the coming years but are still relatively untested.

There are no clear conclusions but as a die-hard web guy, the app economy is the one I spend my spare time searching on. I look for great experiences and to be honest, a great experience can't be contained to a site anymore.

What do you think? Is the web dead?


The Real World 'Like'

Loving this idea from Publicis Isreal.


55,000 hours of Warcraft

We've done a lot of posts about the popularity of gaming over the last decade. The video game industry has been bigger (from a revenue standpoint) than Hollywood for a few years now. Teen boys are most likely to be addicted gamers and have been known to play for hours on end.

This video came out a few weeks ago about a kid who played World of Warcraft for almost 5 years straight. The video is him deleting his profile, and every charter, virtual good and item that he gained during that period. It's well done and quickly went viral.

The game mentality is something that is extremely interesting - specifically around levels. Getting to the 'next level' breaks down your task into smaller chunks. You focus on one task, accomplish it and then move onto the next one (almost like episodes of a TV series). Where games get addictive is the quest for the next task, the next accomplishment and the next character. It's a form of storytelling that is extremely interesting, and addictive.

I remember as a kid playing Final Fantasy 6. At that time, the game kept track of the amount of time that a user spent. When, one day, I read that I'd spent 220 hours playing, I figured that it was about time I went outside. Not many games (as far as I can tell) actually put trackers in like this one - like Casino's with window's, if you know how long you've been playing, you might not care about getting to the next level.

Link here to the story.


IBM Watson - Prove your innovation

Not a long preamble on this one. Just a cool concept with some great tech.


Would you pay to use Facebook?

I was reading a recent study on Mashable about research that was done into Twitter. It turns out that zero percent of people in the survey would be willing to actually pay for the service. Is this surprising?

To be honest, I'm not sure.

Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the number of 'layers' in my own digital life. For example, every morning I wake up and open 6 tabs in about 3 seconds in Chrome - Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Reader. I then go through the tabs checking messages and what has happened - responding when I need to.

Then - and only then - I hit the normal information sites - news mostly (NY Times, HuffPo, Globe, BBC) and read any article that catches my eye.

And, of course, on the way to work I check my BlackBerry, continue reading on my iPad and check in when I'm extremely bored on Foursqure.

Question is, do I really need all of this stuff? And what would I actually pay to use these services?

Let's start with the ones I'm already on the fence with - Foursquare is out because I don't really care where people are and being the Mayor of my own house isn't cool. I also hate the Twitter feed integration and think that my stream would be a lot more interesting if people linked to content they liked vs. the Starbucks that they just entered.

If I had to pay for email, I'd ditch the Hotmail account. It was my first and I've had it for about 12 years but I could easily switch everything over to Gmail and be happy (although I do like keeping hotmail around for Spam related requests / new site tests).

So now we're down to four - Gmail, Reader, Facebook and Twitter.

To be honest, Twitter and my Reader do - somewhat - serve the same purpose. I use them both to curate the links that I get and to keep me updated. In a head to head battle, Reader loses to Twitter on this one - less functionality and ability to connect (no..I don't count Google Buzz as an advantage here)

Now, I realise that Gmail vs. Facebook vs. Twitter isn't really a fair comparison. Especially because on Facebook you can do so much more than the other two combined (ie. play games, post multiple types of content, send private messages, etc).

I love Gmail but have a work account so that could suffice (although I do like the idea of private emails). But for the sake of the post, Gmail is out.

That leaves the two hottest social networks right now. So what's my choice?

It would have to be Facebook. More content, better friends and less desire to continually post whatever it is I'm doing at the moment.

But if Facebook charged me, would I pay to use it?

I don't think so.

Let's take a best case scenario. A one-time annual fee for usage. Maybe $12 a year. I'd consider paying this if it meant no more targeted ads, strict privacy controls and limited application access to my data. But to just keep using the same old services? I don't think so.

The point is that in the age of free, what would you actually pay to continue to use? And if you wouldn't pay for a service, do you really need it?

Think about it another way. How much is your time worth? With the average Facebook user spending 30 minutes a day with the site, that's 210 minutes a week (3.5 hours). If you're on minimum wage at about $7/hour, you're spending about $25 a week to hang on the site.

Is it worth it?


Fat Dove Guy: Old Spice Response Video

One of the beautiful things about the digital world is that the playing field is level. It is just as easy (if not easier) for consumers to broadcast themselves, and create conversations around brands.

This video response below to the Old Spice guy may or may not be sponsored content - I hope it is not for a few reasons:

1)If this is a consumer participating on his own I'm curious to see how Old Spice responds. The reason that I am curious is that a "brand" entering into a conversation of this nature with a consumer participating on their own could be a mine field even for the geniuses at Weiden & Kennedy. Why? Because the consumer doesn't have the brand restrictions or reputation to uphold. The consumer is only constrained by their own personal morals, values and character. They could, in my opinion, cross lines that the brand may not - which in a battle of wits is possibly an upper-hand that allows the consumer (and their brand of choice) to be victorious.

2) I perceive Dove as a leader and Old Spice as a challenger in the body wash category. If Dove put the time and effort into facing Old Spice head-on then that automatically positions Old Spice as a category leader in the eyes of anyone who sees this response.

Found on The Curious Brain (still one of my favourite sites to visit).


Civic or Communal value: What does your campaign deliver?

I think we all know that marketing has changed. It is not about the message anymore but it is about the value you bring.

An interesting TED talk by Clay Shirky discusses how the world is creating value with our cognitive surplus, and this value comes in one of two forms; civic or communal.

Now that you have seen the video how will you utilize your next campaign to benefit from this cognitive surplus? How will you design your campaign to provide intrinsic motivation to benefit from the generosity of your community? And finally, will you design your campaign to create communal value (Doritos) or civic value (Pepsi refresh)?


Ads can't save bad brands

I went to see the play Enron last night in London. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the show but one scene really stuck with me. As the second act started, they played this Enron TV spot:

For those of you who remember, Enron was the company that set records. The most well-known being the largest bankruptcy in the history of the US. Thousands of workers were laid off, lost all their stock and were essentially ruined by a tight group of senior management who developed new 'products' that cheated the financial system.

What interested me most, though, wasn't the scandal or the corruption. But the ad.

To be honest, the spot reminded me a lot of Apple's iconic Think Different. It's well-written and has a montage featuring normal people and brilliant ones. When I watched it last night for the first time, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone watching this in 2000.

If you were just graduating from a top US school, looking for work and saw this spot, you'd probably consider Enron. You'd want to know more and (based on their successful financial earnings at the time), you'd probably want to work there and get a ton of stock options.

It's ads like these that get people into these brands. Nobody really knew how flawed Enron was - the agency that made this spot certainty didn't - but the ads helped keep the brand afloat. It was the idea that they were successful that kept the brand alive for so long. Not just the fake earnings sheets or the profit reports, but the belief that everyone involved with the company couldn't do any wrong.

We all want strong brands. Just remember that ads can't save bad companies. In fact, they can protect them. But only for so long...


I found this classified ad on AdRants this morning. It was found on Craiglist for a Dove photo shoot.



RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.

Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!


AdRants rightfully blasts it for being off brand and horribly written but I want to blast it for something else.

Why are they using Craiglist to find the lucky few for their photo shoot? They have a community of over 150,000 on Facebook alone . Why not reward your fans by giving them the opportunity? I checked and the ad wasn't posted on any of the corporate looking pages. This approach would be found in any Marketing 101 for the digital age book and probably in the first couple chapters.

How does a brand like Dove miss this? How does an organization that has done some great work, shown innovation in both their product development, messaging and approach to building relationships with consumers miss this?


BAS gets the reaper

The grim reaper is low on cash and back doing cameos. This one I like.


What if BPGlobalPR was created by a BP competitor?

If you haven't followed the @BPGlobalPR Twitter account yet, you're missing what might be one of the most talked about Twitter streams on the planet right now. The account, created by a private citizen who likes to be called 'Leroy Stick', consists of dark, humorous tweets that use the oil spill tragedy and shed the worst possible light on the company responsible for it.

In recent weeks, many PR groups have been debating how BP should handle this fake account. The company recently asked Leroy to add that the account was a 'fake' in the bio (which he did) but has not made any further moves to have the account removed (it currently has over 150K followers and Tweets quite regularly).

As a brand digital guy, I've been thinking a lot about what I would do if I were working for BP right now. I think that their strategy is OK - removing the account (or trying to do so) would keep the story going, add more followers and encourage many more fake accounts to sprout out of the woodwork. Placing to much of a focus on the account, getting legal involved to shut down something that is already popular and placing more of an emphasis on the account is only cause for more trouble. BP also needs to keep acknowledging that this fake, popular Twitter account isn't the problem - the Oil Spill is. All their efforts - business and communications - should be dedicated to solving that problem, not this minor one.

But then I got to thinking. What if I worked for Shell or Exxon or another large, competitor? What if a competitor created this account?

For starters, it would be extremely deceptive and dangerous for one to do so (could you imaging it being uncovered that this was the case?). But when you think about it, this sort of 'brand highjacking' by competitors becomes more possible in the world of social media. Unverified accounts, temporary email addresses and a bit of promotion and you've got an untraceable (relatively) account that can cause trouble if it gains steam.

It takes issues management to a whole new level. Is your competitor struggling? Is there a hot topic that is starting to gain traction among your target group? Why not start an account to help fuel the fire against a competitor? It would be like Advil creating a bunch of 'fake Mom' accounts during the Motrin disaster a few years ago.

I realize that it takes time for a fake account to create an impact. And BPGlobalPR has spawned a ton of spin off accounts that have little to no followers. But as a competitor of BP, aren't you quietly smiling at the PR coming off of this Twitter account? (not at the Oil-spill related as it's hard to smile about the worst environmental disaster in US History)

It's a strange thought but this type of brand-hijacking has been done before. If you visit artist forums or communities, you see it all the time. Don't believe me? It's the primary reason why Trend Reznor left social media after blazing the trail.

Fake accounts exist everywhere. Anyone can by a URL with your brand in it and it's hard to get it removed without adding fuel to the fire. Social brand hijacking is going to become more frequent. Do you have the team and policies in place to deal with it? Or are you one of the brands that is (secretly) a part of it?

IBM Seer Wimbledon App (Update)

It's nice to see IBM continuing to create relevant applications around their major events. Once the application is installed on a handset, they can follow up with the user as often as they like (even when the 2-week event is complete). Great stuff.


Timely, entertaining and product-centric. Nice one, Lego.

When brands think about how to be relevant for their consumers, they typically look inward and think about the core product benefit that would be most meaningful to their target.

Not Lego.

The formula? Product + Timely Event (World Cup) + Dramatic Event = Viral video rooted in your brand. Love this:

(Specifically relevant for the pain felt by every English Football fan right now...)


An ad from Microsoft that isn't awful? Weird.

A tactical ad but so true. It's not often you see good advertising from Microsoft these days but the message here is a good one. The sheer amount of data that we share online is staggering. And it doesn't take $500 American to make us do so. Mostly we just want to creep on someones photo's so we create a Facebook profile.


Hi Marketers it is the future calling

If you and your agencies are still relying on TV to get the message out you have in my best pulled out of my ass estimate 2 years to get your shit together. Why because changes in technology are going to make your campaign even less effective then it is today. If you rely on interrupting your consumers favourite shows to get your message across versus creating content that your consumer wants to watch, engage with or learn from you and your brand message will soon disappear.

For the sake of post-length I will skip over all of the talk about how in 10 years an entire generation going to be the 24-34 year olds that are used to turning to the web for entertainment first and TV second or lower. Add to this that TV itself is changing as the web has rocked the boat of content creation and put control, creation and choice in the hands of the consumer not the big networks.

Goodbye Cable box. Hello Google TV (as soon as I can get my hands on it).


The Chat Roulette Killer

Warning: Some slightly gory stuff for a new campaign.

What do you think?


Being creative makes life more fun

Genius. Pure Genius captured with my iPhone in Downtown Toronto earlier this week.

Do you think about sound?

If you don't think about sound you should. It impacts productivity, sales, mood, your health and more.

It can also define a brand. What is the sound within your retail locations, your advertisements, your on-hold message and how does it all work together to create a positive and healthy world of sound.


Stanley Cup Finals

If you aren't Canadian you might not get goosebumps like I just did - but watch anyway.

Go Hawks.


The Glee Effect

For all the talk about TV being dead, it still has a huge influence over our behavior. When we see something we like on TV, we surf for it, try to find more of it and broaden the experience we just had.

Here's a recent example of this effect:

, a popular American TV series (one that I am forced to watch with my girlfriend...right), is a show based about an American Glee club that sings 4-5 popular songs each show. Essentially, it's a musical sitcom to songs that we all know by artists that people love - think Madonna, Aerosmith, etc.

So what happens when a new Glee episode airs in the US? The world searches for the songs on Google.

Take the May 18th episode 'Dream On' as an example. One of the major songs in the show? 'Dream on' by Aerosmith. Let's look at Google Trends for Search for 'Dream on aerosmith' and see what happened on May 18th:

Searches rose almost 300% on one day. And it wasn't just because that was the best song on the episode. Here's the results for 'I dreamed a dream' (from Les Miserables):

You might be thinking that this was just a popular episode (it was, Neil Patrick Harris was in it, how could it not have been sweet?), so let's look at one more example from an old episode that happened early in Season 1.

The episode, called 'Mash-Up' aired on October 21, 2009 and featured the one-hit-wonder 'Thong Song' by Sisqo. Here is the result:

Again, a huge rise in searches the day the episode aired. (and I'm not sure what that second bump was but Vietnam was coming up so I'm assuming someone sang it on their version of X-Factor)

Clearly the behavior exists among a large group of people. We see content that we like and we jump to our laptops to get more of it.

So here is my question. Is anyone searching for more after they see your TV campaign? If you can't notice a change in search trends, your campaign isn't working.

Skittles: Tube Sock

I love the risk taking that lies within the marketing department of skittles. I also love how they are able to capitalize on other trends or pop culture phenomenon in a way that doesn't come across as copying or contrived.

Betty White put old people back on the map as being funny and entertaining to youth like no one else had since Grandpa Simpson rose from a supporting cast member to front and centre in the early 2000's. While Betty White's putting old people back on the cool map handing out awards for MTV, starring on SNL and posing on magazine covers Skittles comes out with this.

Nice work.


Social media success starts with asking the right question

For the last five years, I've done a lot of work with brands and clients in social media. From podcasts to blogs, Facebook to Foursquare, social platforms have been - and continue to be - the hot topic for brands across the globe.

About two years ago, many brands entered what I would call the test period - they took a small percentage of a campaign budget - say 5-10% - and asked their agency, media company or PR group to brainstorm a few 'extension ideas' to 'bring the campaign to life' on a site like Facebook. The agency thought a bit about it, pitched some ideas (usually a FB page and a few ads, an application and definitely a promotion) and for a moment - a few months - progressive brands were heralded as the ones who tried something new. The ones who connected with their target via these 'new' mediums and - we were told by countless social experts at the 200 conferences they attend every year - the results were amazing, fantastic and mind blowing!!!

So more brands entered the space. More brand pages were launched. More promotions that involved voting for something, uploading a photo or sharing with your friends. And for awhile, everyone was pretty happy. (if I had to put a year on it, I'd say this was during the back-half of 2008 in North America).

But then the test period ended. The results came in and beyond the number of fans, amount of photo's uploaded, page views and general metrics, few people really knew how to make sense of social. Was it working? Did it actually help the brand attributes? Did it move sales? There are plenty examples of brands that do this and each platform highlights a ton of them in their sales presentations (which, for some reason, tend to highlight Hollywood movie releases in almost every one, Adidias, Nike, Starbucks or Apple). Yet most clients (and to be honest, agencies) still felt that the whole picture wasn't there.

And most of us still feel this way.

That's where the questions start. Unlike in 2008 when the question was, 'should we be using a bit of our budget to test social?' the question is now 'who should be managing social among our agency partners?'

This - inevitably - leads to a more fundamental question that some (but not all) brands are asking themselves: 'Who should be managing social within my company?'

For brands that have a couple hundred people, are concentrated within one country or region and sell a specific set of products, this answer can come a bit easier. But for the ones with a global presence, ones with thousands of brand managers across multiple regions, languages and locations, it's a lot harder. This effort is made tougher by the fact that some brand managers may have embraced social during the 'test phase' but others are just getting started. Some have already seen success and failure while others are still asking what a 'ReTweet' is.

To often, it seems that brands look outward for the solution. Give social to the PR group because they manage our brand reputation. Or give it to the digital agency because they do our sites. Or give it to the media group because they buy media and have a 'social expert' who seemed smart.

But the real question starts from inside. And, in some organisations, simply asking it can lead to trouble.

The product team, marketing group, customer services, tech and everyone else within the organisation wants (and needs) a say. But they are mostly isolated form one another except for the Christmas parties and all-staff meetings. They've got their own objectives, bonus schemes and priorities. Success for one group in social means nothing to another.

And that's the challenge. Unlike the early days of the web where organisations could slice up digital based on their pre-existing structure (marketing makes the banners and campaign sites, customer services has a 'live web chat' on our corporate site, PR sends the press releases out over the web, and we all keep doing what we're doing), social is more ubiquitous and forces these groups to come together - even if they don't want to.

The brands that have internally come together and had conversations about structuring, social metrics that they all align towards and have set the goals that they want to use the space for are the ones who are succeeding. They can then look at their agency roster and divvy up the priorities to their specialists and set sub-targets based on their individual objectives and priorities.

But the brands who haven't continue to be fragmented. They might have a social hit but they have many failures and their social strategy doesn't go much further than 'we should run an ad on Facebook for that'. The result is hundreds of tests but few long term platforms. Dozens of community pages but no engagement strategies.

Before you think about which agency should 'run' social and the millions of different social tools and campaigns that you want to launch, ask the question about how your organization is structured for social success. If it's not, get help. There are groups, brands and (of course) agencies who can help educate your organisation on what structures they have seen currently working vs. the ones that don't.

The help is there. But in order to get it, you've got to ask the right question.


I Have An Idea Portfolio Night 8: Advertising is Calling

I remember doing sponsorship sales for Portfolio Night in Canada 2 when it was only in Toronto & Vancouver - now look at it. Well done Ignacio and team.


Oh the humour: Darth Vader for TomTom

"You should have seen his face when I told him I was his father"....priceless.

Great stuff from TomTom.


I love this guy...

Funniest American commercial actor? I think so. Playstation...keep up the good (hilarious work). Thanks to Jason via Facebook for the original link.


Lawtons Ad Experiment

Lawtons is a drug store in Atlantic Canada and they have partnered with Atlantic Business Magazine to offer the Great Ad Experiment. Simply put 6 agencies submitted creative, people are voting and the winning campaign is run.

Interesting approach as Lawtons is getting 2 campaigns out of 1 but unfortunately the campaigns are only being rated based on print ads, not a whole campaign or the strategy that brings all touchpoints together to deliver on the campaign objective. Honestly I thought we were well past the world of thinking a print ad alone can achieve brand success. Regardless that is how it is going down.

The agency I work at (Extreme Group) is ad #1. Click on the embedded viewer below (view fullscreen), then visit this link and vote for us :)


Samsung: 3D LED TV

I thought you needed glasses to see this? Product over-promise in the ads? Or am I wrong?

Discussing the dynamics of regional advertising in the context of national campaigns

Next week in Toronto following The Canadian Newspaper Conference I will be participating in a discussion of sorts with a group of Publishers, Media Directors and Ad Agency types.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the dynamics of regional advertising in the context of national campaigns.

I'm interested to hear the view points of the group that includes a lot of VP's, Presidents and I expect a group from a much different demographic then I.

I don't think this will skew my viewpoint much on the discussion topic as I won't be thinking of a specific media, more the needs of my clients but it will impact my view as to how Newspapers can play a role in answering these needs. I'll let you know if it gets to that point.

In the meantime how about you share with me your thoughts on the dynamics of regional advertising within a national campaign from your experience (client or agency). If they are good you can count on me sharing them - and stating they came from my blog which will instantly make me hated as us bloggers have stolen so much money from Newspapers :)

I look forward to your comments.


John Lewis - 'Woman'

I'm really enjoying this spot from Adam & Eve for John Lewis. For those of you not reading from the UK, John Lewis is a traditional British retailer that has done some great work over the past few years.

I write a lot about great storytelling here on AdJoke and I think this is another prime example of how a simple idea, well executed can create work that you want to share with others. I didn't have any perception of John Lewis (other than passing them on the high street) but I can't help but know that the next time I walk by one, I'll consider stopping in.

Thanks to adliterate for the link.


G-Speak - Minority Report is now here...

I've been doing a bit of work lately with touch and Surface systems and really hope that we can start to see this Minority-report-style tech hit the market in an accessible way. When the first systems hit (think mall event instillations or conference centers), it's going to be very tough to ignore.

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.


One. Dramatic. 5 Year-old.

Cinestud 2010 Trailer from Chris Christodoulou on Vimeo.

Nice spot. Although I can see some groups and associations getting pretty upset with this in the coming weeks. Found via copyranter.

Stella Artois: Up There

Up There from Mekanism on Vimeo.

Found on The Curious Brain.


Creative Inspiration (5 Links)

It's been awhile since I've posted. I've really missed it but have been a bit slammed on the work front. But I do have good news. I've been checking out all the latest awards sites and have 5 links that you've got to check out (these are all from the Webby's but there are a ton of good repositories out there).

So here are my favorite five (in no particular order):
  • Banners that actually are useful (vs. ones that you never see / wish were never there) - from VISA
  • Lonely Planet and Surface come together to create one helluva book experience
  • The Economist shows people where great ideas come from (from great people)
  • Nike Japan uses some cool technology to launch their flagship store
  • NFB Canada tells water stories in a way you've never seen (shout out to a former creative colleague)
Have you checked out any awards lately? What's your favorite?


No Challenge is too big

Some clients get it. They see the challenge and opportunity, then give their agency the time and money to make it happen.


Shower together: Axe

In the words of my colleague Mike B., "It's great. Purpose without leaving the realm of the brand."

I agree.

Thanks Martin for sharing.


Drambuie: The Greatest Golfer You've never heard of. Moe Norman

This is phenomenal. I love brands that understand how to tell an intriguing story and through telling that story they elevate their brand, capture consumer attention and in this case deliver a product focused message.

Why does this work for me? What do most bartenders do better than mix drinks? Tell stories. They could have taken some douchey metrosexual bartender at a Vegas club or high-end London bar and had him tell us all that we should try this drink because he thinks its cool. Instead they took a bartender we've all met at one point and gave us a reason to listen to him.

Well done. Drambuie has never caught my attention before but today they own my conversations.

Thanks to Brooksy at Design Axiom for sharing.


In case you missed it the sub is $2.99

Even price focused ads can be fun. Laser Knifes, Fireworks & Flames.


Old Spice continues to have fun

Loving the latest TV work from Old Spice. It's fun, over-the-top, ridiculous and hilarious all at the same time. Plus, Old Spice made a ton of different versions which will probably air on YouTube and in specific regions in the States. If you've got a PVR, you're not going to fast forward through this stuff (at least the first time). The re-watch factor is amazing.

Here is the first one I came across:

And my favorite:

You can check out more of the versions here and here. What do you think?


The King Steals McDonalds recipe

Now this ad is unique. They come right out and say we are basically copying our biggest competition. It instantly puts their product in the consideration set for any fans of the McDonalds product and adds some personality.

Thanks to Mr. Millett for sharing.


Nissan Toy Car

This ad is pure fun. Great stuff.


Tiger & Earl: The rebuilding begins

I don't know what will be more talked about this weekend - Tigers Play or this video. I can already see the arguments as to why it is good, bad or ugly. For me the question isn't about whether this is right or wrong but how did they get to this spot?

Was there someone sitting at W+K listening to audio, watching footage salivating every day about the opportunity to find this gem? Was this an outtake from one of my favourite TV spots of all time (Never)? Or did Tiger offer it up?

I have always been interested to find out how involved in his campaigns Tiger gets as the TV spots are in a lot of cases more about his brand than Nike. Nike benefits from being a part of the story, building the drama, the character and the legend that is Tiger.

We'll just have to wait and see what he does this weekend and what Nike's next move is.

BlendTec Continues its viral dominance

No surprise but this video is at 3.2 Million views in less than 2 days.


Absolut entertainment

I'm sure some of you have seen this already, but it's a new piece of branded entertainment directed by Spike Jonez. It's about 15 minutes but well worth it. Is this an ad? I don't think so...but it's entertaining, that's for sure.



It's one thing to say that your brand is cool...

...and quite another to actually communicate it. No headlines, explanations or special offers. Just an attitude and a perspective. If you don't get it, Adidas doesn't really care...they're not for everyone...(the new work from London...)


The Decision Paradox

Lately, I've been reading a lot about the effects of the abundance of choice on consumers. With the internet offering limitless choice - from different blogs to any product you imagine to any type of niche community you could want to be a part of or create - we've all got a lot more choices to make.

Technology (ie. the internet) was supposed to make things easier. Email is faster (and cheaper) than a phone call, some would argue. Smartphones allow you to answer your Email even when you're on the go. Digital PVR's allow you to watch TV when you want. RSS readers let you aggregate all your favorite stuff in one place.

We think that more choice equals more opportunity.

The problem? There is to much of it. And our 'free time' is fixed. We can try to squeeze more into it, but there will always be only 24 hours in a day.

The truth is, studies have shown that more choice leads to paralisis - or what some call 'The Decision Paradox' (popularized by Barry Schwartz in his book 'The Paradox of Choice"). The famous example often cited in marketing books occured in a grocery store.

Here is the example from Schwartz book: Researches set up a small table with 24 different jars of jam on it. They offered consumers the ability to try any jam they wanted. Consumers then had the option to purchase any of the jams if they liked what they had (and they could try as many options as they wanted) and get one dollar off on the purchase. Weeks later, the researchers returned and set up the same table in the same place. The difference? They only provided 6 different types of jams. Consumers could then try, and buy, if they liked one of them.

The results were telling: “Thirty per cent of the people exposed to the smaller amount of jams actually bought a jar; only three per cent of those exposed to the large array of jams did so.”The examples go on. From mutual funds to different types of iced tea, Schwartz references a variety of examples that you can't ignore. I'd recommend watching his 2006 TED talk to check out more on this topic.

In digital, and in all communications, we each have a ton of choice. The number of sites that 'aggregate' content are in the millions. I can connect with friends on dozens of platforms and technologies. I can read, write, comment or share anything I want. I have a ton of choices to make on how I use my time.

Deciding how to make these choices doesn't necessarily mean sitting down and truly evaluating every one I have. I don't have time and you don't either. So I fall into patterns, I make choices that are easy and I make ones that are enjoyable and (hopefully) beneficial in the long term.

As a brand communicating, I don't want you to try to do everything. I don't want you to create a site that aggregates every type of content imaginable and let's me find something that's relevant to me. I want you to guess and focus on something that is relevant to you and hopefully a segment of your consumers.

True, you will get people who don't care. But if you give them a simple choice to make, they might actually stick with your communication experience. If you tell them that you do everything and all you have to do is find it, I'm gone.

To end on a quote from Schwartz:

"The more options there are, the easier it is to regret the one you've made".