Saturday, November 25, 2006

The end of advertising

I'm reading a book by Tom Himpe called Advertising is dead. Long live Advertising. in which he says the future of advertising lies in fusion cuisine. What he's saying sounds yummy to me. Unfortunately, what he's saying is also going to be a bit hard to digest; but then, most new things are. Here's hoping people will stop turning to 'fast food' advertising and move towards a kind of advertising that's a more creative mix of multiple elements. If advertising agencies keep giving clients quick and dirty solutions for their communications problems, like TV commercials, double spread ads, full page splashes and more of the same old formula, they're going to die. Like advertising.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Soft rocks

Livingstones, a French company, sells cushions that look like rocks. Now that's what you call unusual thinking. The next time you have to come up with an idea, try taking things from two ends of the spectrum and putting them together. You might just end up discovering that 'A' and 'Z' are next to each other. Think about it.

Do nothing farming

I took that from Masanobu Fukoka, the father of a revolutionary kind of organic farming, to illustrate an important point that escapes most people. Instead of spending all your time doing something and trying to convince yourselves that you are doing something, sometimes, it makes a lot of sense to simply observe people doing things. It's amazing the kind of ideas you can end up harvesting from this kind of farming. Account Planners, thinkers and other un-thinkers would be well advised to make a note of it.

Name call #3: Zune

I've been thinking about brand names. Makes sense, after all, that's what brand names are supposed to make you do. Well, not exactly think about them, but remember them. When I think of Zune, more than a few negatives spring to mind. There's more than one way to say it. It's got a sleepy feeling about it. It's not as easy to pronounce as it's biggest competitor. And it's from Microsoft. As it is, Zune has picked a very tall mountain to climb, the least J. Allard and his team could have done was come up with a better name. On naming matters, the I-Pod wins hands down. It remains to be seen whether the product delivers what the name Zune doesn't.

Idea v/s Idea

How do you go and sell a really adventurous idea to a client? No, you don't ram it down his/her throat. You make the idea you're in love with sound reasonable, conservative and safe by coming up with another idea that's even more radical. When the client sees the relatively impractical idea, he/she will find the idea you love and thought hard-to-sell, easy to buy into. Got this bit of inspired thought from a chat with Steve Manning I got to via a blog on naming matters called Brandnama. And that's my Newtail blog of the week.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Old concept? Newtail

While surfing the blogosphere, I came across an interesting new concept. Okay, it's not a new concept, but the way I see it every new concept is a repackaged old concept. By that stretch of illogic, it's a new concept. Glad we got that settled. So, what is it? It's word of mouth in a new bottle. It's newtailing and here's how it unravels: Every now and then you flag a blog to your readers that you feel hasn't got the attention it deserves. Let the blogosphere do the rest. Where did we get the idea for this unusual piece of online marketing from? Zigzackly. Who got it from Confused of Calcutta. Who got it from a penchant for new-naming old ideas.

Why the term Newtail? So it gets a bit of equity from the long tail of Chris Anderson's Long Tail.

Briefly speaking: UAE National Day & Etisalat

You're in a country where 75% of the people are expatriates. Expatriates don't care about National Day. What's more, it's not even a holiday. Doing a campaign for National Day in a market such as this one is a difficult exercise. No, doing a campaign is not a difficult exercise, but doing a good campaign certainly is. You can't upset anyone and you've gotta be interesting. Well, you don't have to be interesting but it helps. After all, what's the point in doing an ad if it's not going to be interesting? For billings. Now, now, that's precisely the kind of unthinking we Planners are trying to get away from. And on that challenging note, here's my one line brief for Etisalat's initiative on UAE's National Day: Hello UAE.

The best ads are not ads

Jonathan Rigby from Love Creative poses an interesting question. He asks nobody in particular, which also means everybody, what does an ad look like? Well, if you ask me, a great ad doesn't look like an ad. An ad that looks like an ad is as ineffective as research that reeks of research. To sell, you've got to first disarm. Then again, an ad that doesn't look like an ad is likely to get lost. So what does an ad look like? Put simply, it better not look like any ole ad.

Interestingly enough, Nintendo stepped in and asked to re-shoot the ads for Wii and make them look less like documentary and more like ads. Hmm.

What does Milan Kundera have to do with Advertising?

Nothing. And everything. I'm reading 'laughable loves', a collection of short stories on love by Milan Kundera. It's a lovely book and it prompts me to do a quick post on the importance of being an ecelectic reader to be a good advertising person. Most of the readers I've met in advertising happen to be people from the creative side of things. Rarely have I met a good Account Planner who's one-dimensional. Heck, rarely have I met a good advertising person who doesn't interest himself/herself in many things.

If you want to be in advertising, you must be into a lot of things. Advertising is not about advertising. It's about life. Wannabe Account Planners/Client Servicing people would be well advised to make a note of it.

Going Zune!

Does Microsoft really think people are going to forget who the people behind Zune are? Zune is being plugged as an independent brand, minus the baggage that comes from being associated with the House of Microsoft. I don't think that's such a good move. The one thing Microsoft has going for it is brand Microsoft. If Zune turns out to be a great product, which I suspect it is, Microsoft won't look so smart trying to disassociate itself from it. Agreed, a few people might have stayed away from Zune because of the Microsoft connection, but being afraid of being Microsoft is not a sign of very smart thinking.

Zune is a new generation product and in line with J. Allard and his team's search for the next big thing. Microsoft should have stuck with it. My one line brief for J. Allard: Get away from Windows. Stay with Microsoft. If you don't believe in yourself, why should people believe in you?

Searching for sense in research

Sometime blogger and oftentime friend Anantha sends this nugget from Überplanner Russell Davis' blog to me to mull over. It's about research and it goes like this: "if you want to study a river you don't take out a bucketful of water and stare at it on the shore. A river is not its water, and by taking the water out of the river, you lose the essential quality of river, which is its motion, its activity, its flow."

The next time you try to extrapolate sense from a sample size, think about it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Briefly speaking: The Emirates Foundation

Another public service campaign. Another attempt to penetrate the cynical exterior of humanity and touch the core of the inhuman being. Let's face it, people are selfish. How do you talk to people who think about themselves above all else, and everyone else? You encourage them to think about themselves. You give them yet another way to feel good about themselves. The Emirates Foundation wants to get more people across the UAE to volunteer their free time to help the aged, the orphans, the handicapped and the helpless. My one line brief to make people help these helpless people: The helpless can help you.

Name call #2: Du

The Godin has talked more than a few times about the principles of naming. Keeping those priniciples in mind, I believe Du is a name that works. It's short. It's sweet. It's friendly. It's easy to pronounce. It has the legs for creative people to run with. It's cool. It's Dubai. It's a lot of things a telecom company should be. For those who don't know what Du is, you will. It's the Government of Dubai's telecom company. And it's in hot on Etisalat's heels. What do you think about Du? Think about it.

Briefly speaking: ADDF for life

Yay! Another public service campaign to crack. Yawn. Another public service campaign to crack. How does one bring life to the done to death public service communication scene? As always, creatively. The job is to talk about the Abu Dhabi Development Fund (ADDF) and tell people around the world how much the ADDF is doing for people around the developing world. My one line brief to communicate what ADDF is all about: The ADDF - Bringing life, back to life.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Alternative reality

Why do creative people hate doing alternatives? I think it's because they're lazy. Period. I also think it's because Client servicing people don't know how to ask for alternatives nicely. As a result, often, a request for alternatives is taken by creative people to be a life-threatening slight of their abilities. Understand this, you have to be sensitive when you ask for alternatives. You also must have a very good reason for doing so. The best reason I can think of for the need for alternatives is, very simply, people are different. There have to be multiple ways of approaching anything. Besides, there is no single answer to any problem in the world. Furthermore, the state of the market doesn't afford us the luxury of doing away with alternatives. Of course, you cannot believe there is no best way to do it. But it certainly doesn't mean there isn't another way to do it.

Ask for alternatives. Nicely. Put your weight behind one route. Passionately. The benefits of this approach are too obvious to need enumeration. Needlessly.

Who hates Account Planners?

Client servicing people who don't think anough about briefs. Creative people who think the only people in the advertising business worth thinking about are creative people. And Account Planners who don't realise that their job is to make other people look good. A good Account Planner should strive to be a good Creative Director, for Client Servicing and for Creative. Which beggars the question: What on earth is the job of the Creative Director? Good question. Probably explains why most Creative Directors hate Account Planners. Sigh, it's a dirty, dirty job, but somebody has got to do it.

Come to think of it, Account Planning seems like the worst job in advertising. And that's precisely what makes it the best job in advertising. What's life without a little challenge?

Commercial take

The best commercials are those that find a way to be commercials without being commercials. Make the commercial entertaining and it will sell. An entertaining commercial might be hard to sell to a client, but it's the perfect way to sell a brand. Find a way to plug that into your presentation when you're trying to sell a good commercial. Ask the client about the commercials he/she remembers. There's a very good chance that every one of the commercials the client remembers will be, first, entertaining, and then commercial.

A commercial is just like a good movie - it must have a story with a message that's not rammed down the audience's throat. (Remember Munnabhai's Gandhigiri?) And that's my quick take on commercials.

Media matters

I've worked in a few advertising agencies and have been briefed more than a few times for creative work. In most of these briefings, the one thing I've found wanting, apart from a good brief, is a media person. As Überplanner Jon Steel says in his interview with Überplanner Russell Davies, the single most stupid thing to have happened in advertising in the last decade has been the separation of media from the advertising agency.

Good advertising is impossible without creative media choices. Next time you have to brief a creative team, consider asking for a media planner to be present in the process. I guarantee you it'll help the team come up with better work. And in case you're already doing it, we need to talk.

Picture this

Can an image be a creative brief? An image tells a story. A picture can be inspiring. A visual says a lot. I believe an image, in itself, cannot make for a good brief. An image is too vague a stimulus. A brief cannot be vague. An image is open to interpretation, which is also how creative people look at a brief. Hmm...the issue is debatable. It's an interesting one. I wonder how a creative team would react if they were given a brief that's an image? Would an image-brief work better with a headline or a caption to go with it? I'd argue yes. Note this beta: The next time you have to write a brief, try not writing it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Reality doesn't show

Were reality shows the new black because we were becoming an increasingly cynical race? Are reality shows the old black because we're becoming an increasingly cynical race? Planners would be well advised to make a note of it. If a Planner's job is to help create engaging advertising that also sells, he/she must keep thinking of ways to get behind the cynicism. In other words, think even harder about the brief to enable the creative people to think beyond.

What's with the Wii?

Couldn't Nintendo come up with another name for their new product? Maybe they didn't want to. The Godin's comment on the name set me thinking. Perhaps it's because they're not reaching out to hardcore gamers. Maybe the name Wii sounds really dumb because it is being compared with names for products that are targetted at hardcore gamers. Maybe we're just too used to macho, aggressive sounding names for gaming products. Maybe Nintendo is not targetting hardcore gamers. I suspect they're aiming for a larger market here. I suspect Nintendo is not looking to be another Playstation/Xbox. I think they're looking for the next Gameboy, another name that didn't speak to hardcore gamers and went on to be a huge success.

Agreed, Wii doesn't sound out the Übercool. I say Wii is for a larger, much larger, group of people who want to belong. Wii is for us, a people much more valuable than the Übercool. Übercool is a segment too small for Nintendo. Thus spake Übermaniam.

Briefly speaking: P2P recharge from Etisalat

You realise you're out of calling currency. You're too lazy to go down to the grocer and buy a recharge card. You don't have an internet connection to get an e-charge. Besides, you find the online world a bit daunting. You don't even have an extra card on you. What to do you? You go in for Etisalat's P2P recharge. It's as simple as borrowing a buck or two from a friend. My one line brief for this simpliservice from Etisalat: P2P recharge, the friendly recharge.

Briefly speaking: E-list from Etisalat

The challenge is to find something interesting to say about a product everyone offers. If you don't, your creative department will skewer you - they better. A Planner who takes his/her creative people for granted is a lazy Planner. A lazy Planner will not find anything inspiring to say in a brief for a campaign advertising a service from Etisalat that gives you discounted rates on calls and SMS messages to the 3 most frequently used numbers on your list, unless the Planner is creative. My one line brief for the E-list from Etisalat: The cheapest way to show you care. And since people find it easier to remember brands, the name we came up with for the service: E-list.

Milton Friedman, Father of Advertising

I've been asked by many people who the Father of Advertising is? Some say David Ogilvy. Others say Rosser Reeves. Many say Bill Bernbach. A few might go so far as to say it was Eve. I say since free markets and advertising are inextricably linked to each other, Milton Friedman is the Father of Advertising. Planners would be well advised to spend time understanding the Economics of Friedman and Economics. As those rare animals that can process large amounts of information efficiently, it's best they do it. It's a dirty job, but somebody in advertising has got to do it.