Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Why no creative progress is usually better than some

A fascinating piece of post rationalisation from my colleagues Clare Rossi and Dennis Lewis. More than half way through a tense and important creative development process the sum total of our efforts was close to zero. This launched an already nervous client into wave upon wave of panic until Dennis drew him the chart you see here.

He argued that much though we might like it to be so, creative development is not a linear process. Instead, getting to a big idea involves rumbling along the bottom trying lots of different things until gold is finally struck. In doing so Dennis argued that by having nothing of any note to show at the intermediate review was therefore a good thing and that we were completely on target for greatness (the asterisk in the above chart).

Conversely, if we had a few half baked ideas we would almost certainly end up with work that was quite possibly good, but not good enough.

I've found myself using this argument a lot ever since.

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Power of No

Amidst the endless repeats and Xmas specials on TV over the holidays I managed to cram in 2 hours watching Crash by Paul Haggis. I hadn't seen it since it first came out in 2004 and as well as being enjoyable in its own right it was strangely prescient of my first week back in the office.

Three or four storms in a teacup have now developed into major hurricanes, the origins of which go back weeks and months into 2009. It seems that all too often our agency took the path of least resistance when digging our heels in would have saved much of this new year heartache. Just like in the movie (sort of), the origins of crashes are multifarious and complex. They usually occur a long time before the event.

If 'yes' is the consumer response we spend our time and effort trying to generate, I have a new year resolution of saying "no" more often to help get it, even if I know it'll put a few noses out of joint in the short term. I know we're all up against it and the last thing we want to do is upset those we depend on, even in the short term, but by simply saying yes all the time we're doing them all a disservice. And no one wins from that, least of all us.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The biggest challenge for food & drink advertising in the new decade

Google the words “food and drink advertising” and you’ll be left in little doubt as to the most important topic of 2009, that of increased industry regulation particularly in the HFSS and children’s categories. The general gist of the coverage is that the authorities are having to step in to protect unscrupulous marketers from exploiting the country’s most vulnerable individuals.

Yet while a few companies try and shift the odd case here and there by sailing close to the regulatory wind, the enlightened have already recognized that consumer sentiment was leading regulation in the first place, and reacted accordingly.

These brands, both big and small, understand that consumer perceptions are no longer framed by one way conversations. In short, you can make all the fantastic advertising you want but if it’s dissonant with the other aspects of a brand’s behavior, such as corporate provenance or sourcing of ingredients, then consumers will at best ignore you and at worst attack you.

Many ad industry experts cite share of voice as one of the key determinants of success. And while it clearly has a role to play, the important thing to recognize is that it is only a means to an end. In 2010, the most important channel is people. Advertising can help encourage conversation but it’s only one element. A more wise move is to see it in context alongside the other elements of the brand and frame it accordingly. 

Has OTC advertising moved on from Mad Men?

A prominent pre-testing company recently presented “breakthrough” findings on what makes effective OTC advertising.

Their advice was to avoid “visual vampires”, that problem/solution is always best, having a single minded relevant idea is vital, believability is key, mention the brand name within the first five seconds of the ad and that creativity is not a critical ingredient to effectiveness.

Sound familiar.  They ought to.  These insights are the very same ones you would have found 50 years ago in the golden age of the Mad Men.  Amazing how little the accepted OTC advertising formula has changed.

Like it or not, the way in which people view and interact with brands has changed, and that pace of change is increasing. Winning brands and categories constantly find new ways to fuse cultural and category conventions that help define the markets in which people live and think in the present day. I can't help think that most OTC advertising would struggle to qualify in this regard.