Saturday, November 11, 2006

Briefly speaking: Etisalat meets DSF

How do you find a connection between the world's largest shopping festival and the region's largest telecom provider? You think about it. What does the Dubai Shopping Festival do? It brings people together from different parts of the world to shop. What does Etisalat do? It brings people together from different parts of the world to talk. The one line brief: Etisalat and The Dubai Shopping Festival, bringing people together.

A quick case for Planners

A lot of advertising agencies have a lot of people they don't need. A lot of advertising agencies don't have the one person they do need: Account Planners. I've been waiting for Planning to come of age. I still am. For some odd reason, advertising agencies don't seem to have found much use for Planners. Maybe this will help. Here are a few reasons all good advertising agencies need a Planner in the mix:

a. Creative is too focussed on their egos and awards to salve their egos to worry too much about the left-brained side of creative thinking.

b. Creative thinking is not all right-brained thinking.

c. Client servicing is too worried about billings to spend too much time on thinking about thinking.

d. Agencies are full of people who only think with the right and left side of the brain only.

e. Good advertising is not about the two extremes. It's about finding balance. A Planner is the person who should be assigned that role.

f. The absence of a Planner is what results in creative people getting their jollies only out of doing scam advertising and Client servicing getting their jollies only out of increasing billings.

g. Advertising is more fun when you do real advertising, well. A Planner is the person who can help agencies achieve that.

h. I have already spoken about why a Planner can help improve the quality of creative briefs.

i. A Planner is not on anybody's side. Advertising agencies need a person like that. They're filled with people who are experts at polarising opinion.

There are plenty more reasons I can think of why advertising agencies need Planners. Unfortunately, I'm not a Planner. Like most people in the advertising agency business, I have deadlines to meet. I don't have much time to think about such things or for that matter most things. And that's precisely why we need Planners.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A few words on copy. Thankfully.

Is it just my imagination or has advertising gone increasingly visual? This isn't something new. The last five years or so, has been a golden age for 'visual driven' advertising. Everywhere I look, I see visual puns, I see visual tricks, I see visuals, visuals and more visuals. I also see very little copy. Copywriters seem to have stopped having fun with words. The puns have gone out of the window. The great lines are non-existent. Art Directors are becoming their own copywriters. Why? Is it because we're in an age where looks matter more? Where what you see is what you say? Where the advent of digital technology has turned us into a visual dependent people?

Where time is short and attention spans decreasing, fine copywriting will take the backseat. We want our information quickly. A visual does that better than lovingly crafted words. It isn't just my imagination. Copywriting is dead. Copysupporting rules.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In brief

Why are briefs so bad? Perhaps because few people know what a brief is. Some people think a brief is a data collection exercise. Other people think a brief is an excuse to come up with bad headlines, in the hope that these will inspire creative people to come up with better headlines. And still others think a brief is an excuse to spew jargon. Most people in advertising think a brief is a tool of paper used to assign jobs to a creative team.

I've come across few people who spend time thinking enough about briefs. Most Client Servicing people I know spend most of their time thinking about billings. Good on them. Unfortunately, somebody needs to think about briefs. The creative team cannot be given the job of coming up with ideas and thinking about briefs.

A brief is an idea-starter. It can be one word. It can be one line. It can be one page. It can be an experience. It can be a song. It can be picture. It can be a joke. It cannot be a mountain of data. It has to be a distillation of that mountain of data. A brief is what Account Management must give a Planner the freedom to come up with. Not because Account Management cannot come up with a brief, but because Account Management has more important things to do - like focus on billings.

Name call #1: Greetune

'Greetune' is a brand name for Etisalat's ringback tunes. I believe it's one of the best names I have come across for a ringback tone. As you're probably well aware, ringback tones are that thing your callers hear when they call you. They can be downloaded from the net and come in many varieties. They're usually songs from popular culture. When I had to come up with a campaign for ringback tones, one of the challenges I faced was finding a way to communicate what the product was without going into lines of explanations about it - like this. (After all, who has the time or the space for copy.) When I had to come up with a campaign for 'Greetunes', it was a cinch. The brand name described the service beautifully.

All this to say when you have to come up with a brand name for any service, try and think neologisms or compund words. They are new, memorable and familiar. And that, I believe, is the perfect recipe for a good brand name.

Tips on how to become a Creative Generalist from a Creative Generalist

a. Write a book on advertising.
b. Maintain a marketing blog.
c. Start a column in newspaper or a magazine on advertising.
d. Teach part-time in MBA institutes.
e. Pick small clients for free lance. And use them as case studies.
f. Spread the word to agencies that you can consult with them on a project basis. This way you don't burden them financially and you get to work with many agencies.
g. Once you've done this gig for a year, two paths open up for you - set up a brand consultancy with similar minds or join a big agency as a strategist.

Thank you Anantha. As you can see, there's a lot that goes into a Creative Generalist's head. So the next time you belittle your Planner, think again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Deadline headline

Deadline: That word all advertising people are haunted by. I've got a thing or two to add to the matter. In time, soon, I will. A little more on that a little later. For now, a deadline beckons.

A few quickies later: And we're back on air. I just finished an ad and a radio spot. It was yet another quickie. After so many years of doing quickies, I sometimes wonder whether less time is the best kind of time one needs to do a great ad. As a great adman I don't know, but do know of, used to say, "Given time, any fool can do a great ad. It takes a special fool to do a great ad in 24 hours." Okay, he didn't quite say exactly that, but the point is, do we really need loads of time to do a great ad? How much time is enough time? The human mind is a magical place. When pushed to deliver, it can deliver marvellous things, but when not pushed, it will wallow in mediocrity. All of which makes me wonder whether creative people ought to kvetch less about time. What creative people need is recovery time, not more time to sit on briefs.

Don't try this at home. Do try this at work. Give your creative people tight deadlines and give them time to chill out on things that have little to do with work. In other words, hold those briefs. Let your people have fun. And then, start a fire.

Radio in a spot

I've had radio on my mind. Why is it such a difficult medium to write for? From time immemorial, mankind has been receptive to aural stimulation. Why then, is radio such a neglected medium? Why do we see so much bad radio? Listening is, arguably, a better way to remember things. Why then do advertising agencies pay so much more attention to print and so little to radio? Television is, arguably, the most expensive medium to advertise on. Why then do advertising agencies pay so much more for television and so little attention to an immensely cost-effective, audio/visual medium like radio? And yes, I do believe radio is an audio/visual medium.

Briefly speaking: Sorouh

How do you advertise a real estate company that makes buildings just like every other real estate company. How do you advertising a real estate company that provides facilities just like every other real estate company does? How do you make a real estate brand stand out when it has little to stand on? You don't advertise it as a real estate company. You advertise it as a company that nurtures life. The one line brief: Sorouh, bringing life back to life.

What is 'Briefing Matters'?

Apart from underwear, which we all must wear, the brief is also an important accessory around which great advertising is built. It is the starting point for all great advertising campaigns. It is also the one thing, apart from lack of enough sex, that creative people love to kvetch endlessly about - and for good reason. Because without a good brief, there can be no great creative. Briefly speaking, how to get good creative is what this blog will be about.