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Friday, October 27, 2006

Chocolate to get you talking

Recently, there's been a lot of focus in the marketing press on digital communications. In amongst that, it's easy to forget that there is still room to be innovative with more traditional (or can we say analogue?!) means. It's not easy to tell from this photo, but the poster above is actually a giant 3-d replica of an actual Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar. Or to be more precise a half-eaten Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar. But it wasn't always that way. Just a week ago, this bar had only just been opened. Somebody has evidently been a bit hungry... Whilst not quite interactive, this poster does something that most others don't. By being dynamic rather than static, it draws and deserves repeated attention. Combine this with a placement at a busy central London junction and you're onto something. By creating something that is really noticable, this Cadbury campaign has the potential to really get people talking about their brand. Who says you have to use microchips to be innovative?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Trust me, I'm an ad researcher

Had a fun little encounter last Thursday with a friend of a friend. Met up late after I'd finished groups. Anyway, it turns out this guy directs ads for a living - and next thing I knew this aggressive short bloke stands too close to me asking me what I do (had a feeling he knew already), telling me that he thought advertising research was crap and that being 'a creative' he didn't 'agree with' asking a bunch of unqualified people about their views on unfinished ideas cos they just couldn't possibly imagine what they might turn out when fully realised blabla. As one may imagine, this was just what I needed after having spent 3 hours trying to hold constructive discussions with consumers on a piece of advertising…I was a bit too knackered to ask him whether his theory of mind allowed for other people's imagination at all or whether he thought only he had a birthright on ideas. No, to my shame I actually defended our work - he didn't deserve it and also didn't want to know. But at least he did made me think - about the ingratitude of (luckily only SOME!) ad people and of how the work of the qual ad researchers after all these years still seems to be misunderstood - not just by random bar encounters but also by some clients and even agency folk, less so planners obviously but creatives and some account people …It's frustratingly and tediously obvious to us but apparently still needs re-iterating…we don't take consumers' word as read and it is our task to try and assess potential against the objectives agencies/clients have set for their advertising. In our work we need to be able to make a call when people in groups are being bloody minded and literal and when on the other hand there seem to be fundamental problems with an idea. We work hard at trying to understand whether problems are 'just' executional (which by the way does not mean the same as unimportant, another little hobby horse of mine…), to do with the creative idea or with the whole strategy. This means of course that we do need to deploy our imagination - as well as encourage consumers to use theirs - to extrapolate what may/may not be possible. We try our best to facture in 'real life' factors, for example media context - though admittedly we can't forsee everything. In Geoff's immortal words our attitude throughout is that of 'paediatricians, not morticians' - trying our very best to give other people's babies a chance in life. (Honestly, good ad researchers don't enjoy picking ideas apart - we'd much, much rather try to help making the most of good stuff.) And finally, we're comparing responses to ads to a rather large database in our heads - of thousands of people's reactions to previous ideas, finished ads, ideas which were then turned into finished film... Come to think of it, we are rather qualified… There's a couple of problems though - . One - let's face it, we are often talking potentialities so there is a chance we may be wrong about some ideas which may turn out rather better - or indeed worse - than we predicted. Still though, I'd maintain that consumer response can help us to make quite a good assessment of underlying potential of an IDEA and we try not to be crass nor too definite when making executional recommendations. Secondly, we remain outsiders to the proccess so there can be resistance to taking in what we've got to say. We do our best work with agencies who trust us - and respect our intelligence, insight into people, our appreciation of advertising. At best they even concede that we may have some imagination…

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Warning: Contagious!

Here's a great source for keeping track of some popular and innovative online advertising. With up to 10,600,000 views these executions must be doing something to help raise brand awareness. It would be interesting though to have stats for click throughs or, even better conversions, to actual products/services along with the viewing stats. Interesting content doesn't necessary equal a punter willing to part with his money! Just be warned if viewing during work hours. Some of these games can seriously waste your time...

Friday, October 13, 2006

We're all going on a... free trip to Barbados?

According to an article in yesterday's London Lite, Cliff Richard can no longer remember the lyrics to some of his old songs At the age of 66, Cliff, nicknamed the Peter Pan of Pop for staying at the top for 48 years, has told those working behind the scenes of his forthcoming tour of Great Britain and Ireland that he is finding it hard to remember all the words Some might say that's not such a bad thing... But when seen in the light of another report - that Sir Cliff has allegedly been lobbying (successfully it seems if true) for an extension of the duration of the protection granted by current intellectual property laws - then some interesting questions are raised. I've written about my views on IPR before - I won't drag up those concerns again here. Of course, Cliff wrote these songs and he deserves to be recompensed for that. Legally, they do still belong to him. But in another sense, can he really be said to own a song that he no longer remembers. Don't those members of the public who do remember the song not own it in a way that he can no longer claim to? What applies to songs, also applies to brands. Once an idea is out there, in the collective heads of the public, they too then own that brand. The copyright holders may hold the legal rights to a brand's use, but the public own it in their minds and it is in there that they will decide whether or not they want to be a part of it. And there's a chance that, like with the words to Cliff's songs, some may even know it better than many within the company itself...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Where would you buy your mobile phone from?

On a recent trip to Chicago, I came across two rather diverse mobile phone retail outlets. The first one was the new Nokia concept store in Chicago (this is actually the second one to open in the world since the opening of the Moscow store last December). According to Nokia, these stores are designed to inspire and educate consumers about the latest mobile communication trends and products by making the visit experiential and interactive. The Chicago store is designed to look more like a lounge bar than a typical mobile phone store. In the store there are ‘stations’ with ready to use phones plugged in and the staff offer advice or information to the customers of the latest brand innovations and technologies. The other outlet I came across during the same visit in US, was not really a store as such but a vending machine; the InstantMoto - obviously Motorola branded. You swipe your credit card, choose the number that corresponds to your preferred model, and wait by the slot to get your new handset in a course of few seconds. No hassle, no time wasted. From a European, Asian or even African point of view Motorola's approach is heresy. A fashion accessory, status symbol 'my lifeline' from a machine that sells chewing gum and Mars bars? But of course we've talked on this blog before about the commoditised American mobile phone climate, in which the vending machine superficially make sense. On the basis that Motorola is the most successful mobile phone brands in the US, introducing the ‘easiest’ and ‘quickest’ way to access the device could be seen as a ‘clever innovation’, fully branded but also tailored to the type of relationship consumers have with the device in that market. But being European one can't help but wonder whether Motorola are doing themselves - and the whole US market - any favours with this latest initiative. Aren't mobile vending machine likely to lead to further commoditisation? Does Motorola really want people to think of their phones as disposable? How do vending machines phones reflect on expensive, higher tech models that surely they will also want to sell? Interesting one to watch!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brands for the Bored

Have just found a little entry on the brandtarot blog which touches on something I've been thinking about...ie marketing and the 'less involved'. Whilst there is of course absolute validity in the marketing move towards trying to ENGAGE consumers with your brand - and the Web offers all sort of opportunities here it's just worth remembering that this approach will simply not work for everyone. It really does concern me (partially admittedly for selfish/business reasons) that this neglects large amounts of people who simply don't care all that much! (And let's face it, there's quite a lot of low involvement sectors where most consumers' attitudes would be one of indifference!) And as John Grant and his correspondents point out, it is the less involved who may actually be the ones who really look to brands to 'guide them through the maze'. 'Expert' consumers who are happy to spend time helping brand 'owners' are much likely to be into product detail and - to some extent - miss the point of marketing/branding. At the same time it would be hard work to engage those in a natural dialogue who don't normally give your sector much of a thought without the help of your friendly qual researcher. (Phew, existence justified for another day!) Anyway, this has some implications on the role of blogs as research tools - more on this soon!