Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Can't Wait Until Data Takes Over

Most creatives aren't excited about data. But I actually think that 'true data' is going to set us free.

Right now, because data-gathering on advertising effectiveness is in its infancy, we are living in an age of seriously shoddy data.

We are measuring things like 'recall', which may or may not translate into sales. We are measuring things like 'persuasiveness'... which we can only measure after we've deliberately exposed someone to an ad, so we have no way of knowing if the consumer would have looked at the ad if we hadn't asked them to.

Which is why so many of the ads that pass research are 'saying all the right things' but don't actually work in the marketplace, where they are competing against (in the case of TV) seven other ads in the break, a toilet, a smartphone in the viewer's pocket, the conversation of someone else in the room, and the chance to make a cup of tea.

I am hugely encouraged by the data being generated from YouTube's relatively new 'skippable ad' feature.

The average skip rate for YouTube ads is greater than 80%. Source.

But an insider tells me that within that 80%, there's a huge variation. The most popular ads are skipped only 10% of the time. While the least popular are skipped 90% of the time. In other words, some ads are NINE TIMES as engaging as others.

This just confirms what we creatives have known in our bones, since time began.

That creativity works.

In the future, technology and data will be able to tell us exactly who saw a marketing message (in whatever medium) and then, from their subsequent purchasing behaviour, whether that ad was effective.

When this happens, creativity will finally triumph.

All the advertisers who thought that it was enough to simply say whatever they wanted to say, and gave insufficient thought to engagement, will be shown empirically to be wrong.

And on that day, I propose we hold a massive party.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

There is no Year 2

On being presented with a piece of work, clients, suits and planners are inordinately fond of asking us to "demonstrate that it's a big idea."

For this we have to prepare multiple executions, in multiple media... and above all, "show us how it would work in year 2, year 3 and year 5."

But in reality, Year 2 never comes.

When I was a young copywriter, nearly every brand seemed to have a long-running campaign. Just off the top of my head there was 'Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach', 'Australians couldn't give a XXXX for any other lager', 'No nonsense' for John Smith's, 'Good things come to those who wait' for Guinness... and that's just in the beer category.

Cars, department stores, food products...they all had proper campaigns.

But today, very few brands do. There are one or two exceptions, such as Snickers' 'You're not you when you're hungry', but the vast majority of brands just do a series of one-offs.

Snickers - last of the great campaigns?

Even some series that people think are campaigns, and cite as campaigns, really aren't. For example, the excellent John Lewis ads are all really one-offs, held together by a tone of voice. So are the Skittles ads, all Volkswagen ads, and BMW ads. 

So why the change?

Maybe agencies have less patience nowadays. Maybe it's to do with marketing directors moving around faster than the wurlitzer rides in a funfair. To be honest, I don't know.

But I actually don't care. I just wish everyone would accept that this is the case, and let us get on with making a series of cool one-offs. As long as they're all on-brand and on-tone, what does it matter?

Nike have almost never had campaigns. Nor have Apple.

So I suggest we all stop spuriously worrying about whether an idea will have longevity, and concentrate on the far more important question of whether it will have impact. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

We Are Now Literally Talking To Ourselves

Is this what advertising has come to?

A snarked-up copywriter hunched in a darkened social-media war room, lobbing jibes at another copywriter in some other bunker in another city, both overseen by their respective clients pecking nervously at a soy macchiato.

Yes, it seems that instead of a brand sending a message to a consumer (traditional advertising) or a brand giving people a way to interact with it (modern advertising) we are now seeing brands just talking to each other.

So at first, I was royally depressed by these examples (from 'Creative Newsroom: Brand Storytelling At The Speed Of Social' by EdelmanDigital).

But you know what? At least they're actually funny.

And best of all, no rational messaging.

I've long been a believer that people buy brands primarily because of their badge value (owning a VW says you're a person of wit and intelligence - the ads work because they're witty and intelligent, not because they inform you that the vehicle has park assist or whatever).

These tweets will enhance the brands' badge value, therefore they will work, therefore even though we're merely talking to ourselves, it's still okay. I'm correct here, no?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Why Don't They Trust Us?

In a survey released last week of 'most trusted professions', Advertising People finished in 29th place. Out of 30. The only people trusted less than us were Car Salesmen.

Clearly this ranking is unfair.

Let's look at who finished above us:

In 25th place - MP's. Despite their inability to tell the truth, or keep their peckers in their trousers.

In 24th place, Journalists. Hello? Ever heard of phone hacking?

In 23rd place, Stockbrokers. Because, like, everyone in finance is so honest. They'd never be involved in insider trading, or sell mortgage-backed securities that they know to be worthless.

In 15th place, Lawyers. Twisting the facts is part of their job description, FFS! 

In 12th place, Ministers of Religion. There is no God. Half of them know that, but they carry on anyway. Maybe they just like having easy access to children...

In 11th place, Accountants. Primary role: helping people avoid tax.

In 8th place, Police. Okay, so most of them are honest, but thousands of policemen around the world are kicked out of their profession every year for corruption. Have you seen Bad Lieutenant?

The top places - filled by Nurses, Pharmacists, Doctors and School Teachers - are fairly unimpeachable.

But still, I can't help but feel we've been placed unfairly low.The rules around what an ad can say are very strict. And the vast majority of people I've met in my profession have extremely high ethical standards.

So for a while, I felt miffed. Then, the universe provided an answer. Or at least, Twitter did:

I've never worked in the beauty category. Or on cleaning products (one swipe of a cloth, and the dirt is gone.)

I've worked on cars, booze, mobile phones, newspapers, video games... and yes, we exaggerate - but openly, humorously - and we put across the product in the best possible light... but we never lie.

Is it possible that certain categories are giving the whole of advertising a bad name? Or is there really something wrong with our industry?