Monday, June 29, 2015

Hidden Gems Of Cannes 2015

While the Grand Prix and Golds get most of the attention, I like to pick through the Silver and Bronze pile, to find the hidden gems.

These are the ads that won't change the world, and didn't get huge coverage (if any) in the trade press, but are nevertheless excellent. In my opinion, obvs.

In amongst the usual big-budget promotions for batteries and Sharpies, there was actually some rather nice print work.

Sweet. Simple. Silver in Outdoor and Press.
Simple and funny. All you want in a beer ad. Bronze in Outdoor. (Click to embiggen).

Why don't more people make ads using the company's logo? The result is inevitably both strong and well-branded... Bronze in Outdoor. (In case you can't read the line, it says "Bi-Xenon Headlamps").

Maybe I'm biased, as this work is from our sister agency A&E DDB London. Or maybe I'm biased because I'm a cat fan. (If you're one too, you'll want to check out the awesome making-of video). But I absolutely love this campaign for Mars Temptations, which won Silver in Outdoor and Press.

S7 Airlines must be from Russia, although they hired W+K to make their ad. Wise choice, because it's brilliant. Starts out like a cliché, then twists hard, so stick with it.

Melanoma Likes Me. Wow, just wow. Best use of Instagram so far? Almost certainly. So simple, and yet so sinister, really. Silver in Promo & Activations, Bronze in Creative Data. (Is that a category now? I guess it is).

Taco Bell Blackout. Ballsy, counterintuitive thinking... that sounds like it really paid off. Bronze in Cyber. 

Honourable mentions to the Dead Island trailer (Bronze in Film), Saving Aslan (also Bronze in Film) and Nazis Against Nazis (Bronze in Cyber).

Something caught your eye in the silver and bronze pile? Share it in the comments. Or just general opinions about this year's work. Why not.

Monday, June 22, 2015

'Twas The Night Before Cannes

I reckon this year's Cannes will showcase the best work our industry has ever produced.

Buoys that detect sharks, children's books that are also eye tests, radio stations for dogs... the sheer creativity is staggering.

But so is the irrelevance.

This article by Havas strategy dude Tom Goodwin, published in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago, gained wide attention. Its title: 'What if Cannes Lions celebrates the worst, not the best of advertising?'

Goodwin's argument is that much of the work at Cannes isn't solving real business problems, and isn't being seen.

It's a tough, tough bind. Last week I was searching for an old commercial, and found it as part of an ad break that someone had recorded from about 1997. The production values were miles ahead of what we have today. And while the work was arguably nothing more than a succession of high-quality pub gags, it was entertaining stuff.

But the point is that this work was being widely seen. (TV audiences were huge). And it was solving real business problems. (Admittedly, business was a lot simpler then. A category disruption meant someone adding alcohol to lemonade, not developing an app that eliminated an entire industry).

I'm not too worried about Cannes. The festival is well organised, it's a lot of fun, and is doing a great job of its core mission - to celebrate and inspire creativity. (Although it's not a good sign that people are taking the piss out of it - witness this Grand Prix Generator thing).

But I am worried about our industry.

We need to ensure our creativity is as relevant and as widely-seen as our clients need it to be, or I fear we may one day look back on Cannes as little more than a highly public suicide note.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This Is My All-Time Favourite Asterisk

There has never, in the history of the world, been a competition that had no terms and conditions.

I don't even know if such a competition could exist.

Okay, let's try to imagine it. A competition without terms would have no entry mechanic. It would have no cut-off date. And it would have no means of deciding a winner. So it would basically be a competition open to anyone in the world, forever, that they could enter any way they wanted, and there would be no way of knowing who won.

That is the grim future that a heroic lawyer at the Mazda corporation is protecting us from, in the ad above.

Unfortunately, this lawyer remains anonymous. We will never know his or her name. Their achievement will go unrecognised, unrewarded.

And I, for one, don't think that's fair.

I have therefore taken the liberty of composing a short poem in honour of this fine lawyer.

As you will shortly realise, I am not experienced - or indeed skilled - in the art of writing poetry.

But I hope that my sincerity and genuine appreciation for this unsung hero (or heroine), will nevertheless shine through.

Ode To A Lawyer

Lawyer, lawyer, burning bright
In your office, late at night
Knees are weak, arms are heavy,
Just finished the last of mum's spaghetti,
Such a long day, your brain feels floppy
But before you go home,
Got to check this Mazda ad copy

It's a one-word headline
Should be simple enough
No dubious claims
Or marketing fluff

But o horror of horrors -
Most unfortunate day
You can't pass this ad
Not like that
Oh no way.

People might think that everyone can win
And that is no state for society to be in

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
Ignore the agency when they continually moan
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are totes losing their shit
Then you're doing your job well
So you don't falter, not one bit

You won't be deflected, you won't be deterred
You act out of love, you're protecting the herd
With shift 8 on your keyboard - the asterisk key
You keep the world safe, you keep our world free*

*'Free' in this context refers to free as in 'freedom', not free as in 'no cost'. Charges for living in our world may apply. E.g. for food and whatnot.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Soon, You May Not Be Working In An Ad Agency

I had dinner with a friend the other night, who happens to be a headhunter. Her general comment on our industry was this very straightforward bombshell: "It's shrinking."

Of course there's still the same amount of stuff being made. It's just that less of it is being made by ad agencies.

It's starting to be made by clients in-house (e.g. Apple), by media agencies, by media owners (including the 'new media' owners like Google and Facebook), and by a barbarian horde of all-around content providers, such as Vice, Maker Studios, etc.

Have you seen 'Dear Kitten'? (above). If not, watch it immediately.

This was made by BuzzFeed.

Not an ad agency.


(Incidentally, I love the way there's a header at the beginning which announces 'BuzzFeed Presents'. Wouldn't it be cool if we could open our ads with 'DDB Presents...')

An article in last week's Wall Street Journal picked up on this trend.

Titled 'Tech Firms Pull Talent Away From Ad Agencies', it cites someone called Amy Hoover, the president of recruiters Talent Zoo, saying that "almost 50% of creative jobs available today — including copywriters, designers, creative directors and content creators — aren’t at agencies, compared with 30% in 2010." 

And more than 50% of Facebook’s North American in-house creative unit, Creative Shop, come from an agency background.

Despite perceptions that the pay is higher at tech firms, money isn’t necessarily the draw at these new creative destinations. There is “pop-culture cachet that some of these new players can offer, which is attractive to people in their 20s and 30s,” according to Bob Jeffrey, non-executive chairman of J. Walter Thompson.

It’s a challenge for agencies, but if you're a creative person it’s surely good news, as it means you have more options.

So in summary, I'm actually feeling a little less doom-and-gloom than usual.

Because despite the seismic changes that are tearing through our industry like an electric carving knife through a pair of testicles... we will all still have jobs, people!

They just might not be in an ad agency.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Everyone Is Saying 'We Need To Know The Client's Business Problem'. Do We?

This post is basically the same as last week's - I just thought of a new way to write the argument.

So if you've read last week's, you can skip this.

One day, Jonathan Topp-Guy - managing director of AdWow, one of the biggest advertising agencies in BigTown - had a eureka moment. Why were AdWow restricting themselves to solving crappy old marketing problems? It was just so damn limiting. Didn't they have the brainpower, the skills and the creativity to tackle real business problems?

So the next day, he made an appointment to see the CEO of FineBread.
"I'd like to know - what's your business problem?" he asked.
"Oh, I'll tell you," said the CEO. "The supermarkets are selling bread for $1, as a loss leader. They're killing us. We reckon it could be classed as anti-competitive practice, so I've hired an expensive firm of lobbyists to try to get the politicians to sort it for us. Can you help with that?"
"Um, no."
"All right, well can I tell you about our marketing problem?"
"We're struggling against our main competitor, TasteBread. Consumers seem to prefer their products over ours. It's pure image, really, since the breads are virtually identical. But it's a problem that's far from trivial - each point of market share we win from TasteBread is worth $7.5 million. Can you help with that?"

The next day, Jonathan Topp-Guy went to see the CEO of the well-known airline, SkyAir.
"What's your business problem?" he asked.
"Oh, I'll tell you. The price of jet fuel has shot up. It used to be 23% of our operating expenses, now it's 28%. That's a whopping 5% reduction in our margin. I've had several investment banks come in to talk to me and the CFO about buying fuel derivatives, but I'm not sure which is the right deal. Can you help with that?"
"Um, no."
"All right, well can I tell you about our marketing problem?"
"We could sure use some help advertising our new flat bed - it's better than any competitive offering, and a genuinely better experience for our customers - and we've run ads about it, but somehow the message hasn't gotten through. Can you help with that?"

The next day, he went to see the CEO of travel agency HolidayShop.
"What's your business problem?" he asked.
"Oh, I'll tell you. People are becoming more and more comfortable booking holidays online. It's only the older crowd who feel the need to come into bricks-and-mortar stores like ours. Currently we have 700 stores but we believe that in ten years there will be none. It's basically a dead category - a technological innovation has rendered our business model obsolete. Can you help with that?"
"Um, no."
"All right, well can I tell you about our marketing problem?"
"While we manage the decline, we're still spending millions of dollars a year on TV ads, but they're rather formulaic. I believe that if we had better ads, we wouldn't need to spend as much on media. Can you help with that?"

Look, I'm being extreme here, to make a point. Of course it's helpful to know the client's business problem, and maybe sometimes we can use our creativity to solve it. And hey, we'll at least then have more context around their marketing problem. But let's not be so self-effacing as to decide that our marketing communications expertise is not significant and valuable. It is.