Friday 30 March 2012

It's taken 100 years to get here.

One of the great difficulties with advertising is knowing whether it works, or not. An age old problem.

Of course Advertising the main (!) and it builds brands, but we just don't know why exactly and by how much. The ridiculous adage of "50% of my advertising doesn't work" now can be binned to history.

Sometimes you produce work that's good and it works, but at a lower level for some reason. You're really really proud of it, but it just doesn't spark. And sometimes you produce mediocre work which explodes. How many awards festivals have I been at to, where the great work fails and the stuff you thought was "okay", wins. A lot.

I remember the classic 1980 Arks Advertising campaign for 'Harp' beer by Frank Sheerin. "Sally O'Brien and the way she might look at you" as a case in point. Fairly innocuous stuff at the time, at least on paper and I'm sure that Frank would agree with that, but once broadcast, it exploded.

Huge success, huge brand impact, huge Harp drinkers for what was well, ordinary creativework - but cleary it wasn't ordinary to the consumer.


Advertising is an art not a science. Get over it.

All we, as advertising creators, can say, is that we learn from experience what tends to work and what doesn't. 

Yes sure, we can measure it to a point through "pre" and "post" research awareness testing, both prompted and unprompted, by I'm not a fan of that at all. Worse still, the craze for research pre "concept testing" which is supposed to "fine tune" creative work, to make it 'better'. Yep, a futile attempt to make advertising a science.Largely of course, produced by researchers who've never worked in advertising agencies. 

In fact, no creative person, worth their salt, should agree to let a pre-research group of men + women on the archetypal "Clapham Omnibus" tell you if your Ads are good or not. Either you're on it or you're not and no research should be allowed to change that. Have the confidence. Either you can do Ads or you can't.

Equally too, concepts that are "safe", work well in concept testing because they're more easily understood. I've no doubt campaigns that are ground breaking do badly, for exactly the same reason. They're hard to understand in research.

Do you think classic campaigns like "you've been tangoed!" would have researched well? Or how about going with Audi's "vorsprung durch technik" on a car commercial aimed at the British market? Not a chance.

So that's the problem. A continual strive to get Results. And as Agencies try to attempt to pretend to clients that they've found the holy grail through dubious metrics, is like selling snake oil. It's frankly, bollocks.

Measurements such as Media viewership is in some ways scientific but I do have this long standing burning feeling that the data is dubious. It's most certainly not regular enough, especially in the print area which accounts for nearly 50% of the spend. I mean a newspaper that promotes readership numbers based on 3 readers a copy? Not in my house anyway.

Online attractiveness to brands is of course, clearer measurement. It deals with this long-standing problem really well.

The numbers who click-thru, the now sophisticated analytics of website traffic, the ability to measure search keywords, the ultimate measure of numbers of online sales...all contribute to a medium that is replacing traditional. 

I KNOW how many friends I have or that my campaign has generated on Facebook and so I KNOW when I post a message how many will see and by using influencer sites such as Klout, I KNOW if it's being re-posted and working. I can measure followers on Twitter, I know the impact on Pinterest and on and on it goes.

Communication now has a return on investment. A further blow to traditional media.

Worse news than that, is what happens when online media activity is sold based on sales instead of space? 

If I have an Ad on a site, and say they say it's completely free until I sell a 100 books and then it's 2% of book sales? Or ticket sales or training course sales or clothing sales? Real hard to argue with that.

Would I not move more money online away from traditional media? Be sure of it.

And don't tell me you can't build brands online. Actually it's the great brand-leveller.

I happened to hear an interview on Sky with a senior Outdoor executive from JC Decaux, the big global player, who said he'd never heard of a brand being built online. What the?

What's Amazon if it's not a brand that has become the biggest bookseller in the world? What's Twitter? Mashable? Facebook? if they're not brands and brands that the world wants to be associated with, big time. The Huffington Post is not a brand?

One of the great things about the web is that it has allowed young, spotty idealists to compete with long established brands and throttle them, quickly. Bezos, Cashmore, Zuck, Jobs and Larry Page.

And do you know what, it's not even nearly there. A new land of brand opportunity of results driven communications.

Just what our clients have been looking for. 
For nearly 100 years.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Homage to Madmen. 10 magnificent magic commercials and 1 spoof

This might seem like a cheap blog. But it's not meant to be. It's just a bit of a homage to John Hegarty, Ridley Scott, Hugh Hudson, Frank Lowe, David Trott + all the madmen who made it terrific.

And anyway, it's one way to store my archive.

If you haven't seen the Carling spoof of Hegarty's Levi Launderette, go straight to it, number 2 on this reel and wait through it..... BTW - It was completely reshot with Hegarty's permission. 

But first up the original. Ahhh possibly the most powerful 30 seconds of film ever shot. Hegarty mastery at BBH and it sold Nick Kamen, Raybans, Boxer shorts and Levis by the truckload. If ever you questioned the power of advertising, just go back to this. 

Hope you enjoy them.


Wednesday 28 March 2012

Remembering Madmen + Better value beats them all

What you see is greatness from one of the all-time great Madmen. This is Leo Burnett (1891-1971) in his farewell speech "Take my name off the door" which is shown to every Leo Burnett employee since. 

His Dad was a dry goods store owner and sold apples. Hence, Apples are still in the reception of Burnetts to remind people where they all came from. But this is about his principles and change as he left the Agency he started.

My Dad made Ads too, but he was no Leo Burnett, except to me. Commercials, like "on the telly" and as a kid I always saw him as almost a  movie director, or so I told my school pals.

"Better value beats them all"; "Get on the scent of the Cookstown sizzle"; "Fiat fights running costs" were slogans consigned to my memory for when I was asked what he did. I would do it casually, like it wasn't really important.

“Yeah shucks, that’s what he does”, as schoolyard pals were captivated and I would swop my Peter Osgood football cigarette cards for two Norman Hunters. Cigarette cards aged 10, talk about advertising regulation....

Our house was full of Oatfield Sweets, left-overs from some TV shoot or other and we were dressed by Dunnes stores. Better value after all, beats them all.

I would crawl out of bed late and unbeknownst sat on the stairs listening to my dad and another agency man, rehearse some presentation in the "good room" where we were only allowed at Christmas.

A bed sheet was sellotaped to the wall showing 35mm slides from a carousel projector whilst making their way through a bottle of Chivas Regal the night before the big pitch.

They'd laugh, knock over the carousel (or casserole as I knew it) and spend the evening putting them back in upside down, a bit worse for wear. Tomorrow didn't really matter because they knew what they were doing. Down to their fingertips.

My dad would truthfully recount presentations where he picked up fellow presenters from the pub on the way to it. Like actors, it didn't matter, because when they performed, they were perfect. And perform they would.

However, only one ego can fit into any one room and ego, or confidence, they had in abundance.

He was a salesman for sure, but a great one and advertising ideas is the hardest sell of them all. Adpeople are all ultimately salespeople or so they should be.

But then it all changed.

When I started in the late seventies, of about 40 Irish advertising agencies then, only 2 were foreign owned. Today it's exactly the opposite.

38 foreign owned and in affect, there is no indigenous Irish advertising business anymore. Pity, in a sentimental nationalistic sort of way, but smashing for the Irish agency owners who collected cheques, most of whom were simply, nicely, stark raving.

Ad agencies then, were never run by businesspeople but simply by pure admen who just did it because they were able to, nor should they have been. Most couldn't read a Balance Sheet and no bad thing either, but they knew their advertising onions.

What happened to advertising since, is that the bean counters took over as they acquired these local agencies as they've done the world over.

The business formerly run by admen, quickly became run by plc's whose concern was share price rather than output. You don't make stock market gains if you do good ads but you do, if you do good numbers.

Saatchi’s acquired OKB Dublin in the 70’s and my Dad was there. What made Saatchi’s famous was that they saw that growth wasn't necessarily organic but rather by acquisition. In other words, you could simply buy the business, buy the clients.

Indeed we all know the Saatchi’s story but you may not know that their financial controller was none other than “shorty”, Martin Sorrel, who went on to buy WPP and now owns major agencies such as JWT and Ogilvy - probably the biggest agency owner in the world today. He had a point to prove that the Saatchi success was not built on good advertising but rather clever financial leveraging.

Agencies with great long track records dissolved into being run by a financial guy. The lunatics had left perhaps, but the suits had definitely taken over.

The lunacy is that the advertising suffered and the "lunatics" were the great Madmen characters - their departure marked the end of real talent.

My old man would tell me about visiting clients who brought him with great deference to their Boardroom, took out the fine china, Marietta biscuits and listened. Because they believed the adman had the magic dust in their pocket, which they could sprinkle on their product, and it would sell. Respect.
It can be great again.
If we apply ourselves - online.

(you might also be interested in this, the legendary pitch for British Rail:

Tuesday 27 March 2012

At last. A great Ad online.

You know I often wonder about the demise of traditional advertising and what if, ad people like me, from traditional ad agency backgrounds, embraced the technology rather than dismissed it?

Honestly, I wish we'd stop doing dismissing it because it's like going out to Dollymount Stand and trying to push out the waves. To sound sophisticated I often say, we're like the peasants in Lamb's essay....we know not how to roast pork other than to burn the house down (good isn't it?)

What I mean is that the game is up. It's over - so now get involved or lose it all.

You see apart from being second generation adman and my son possibly being a third, I was also a spokesperson for advertising being a former President and Fellow of The Advertising Institute (iapi). It's been a long time in advertising - since the breakfast table.

So it's not that I'm critical of advertising agencies, it's more that I wished they just stood up and realised that this is the fun of the 'madmen' era and is actually the most imaginative, creative space they could be in. Instead of being a threat to their livlihoods, it's possibly the greatest opportunity for their talent.

And just when despair became bleak, up stepped McCanns of Israel and creative director Nir whose Facebook page is at the top and who deserves to have his pic repeated here. And no, I've never heard of nor met him, unfortunately. 

Funny too that at almost exactly the same time I was reading an article by Tonia Ries of Modern Media in Social Media Monthly - a publication run by Bob from his Apartment in Washington DC. And if you see it, buy it, it's smashing.

Basically what Tonia is saying, which she bases around a concept called "realtime", is that with the rise of social media, geolocation and realtime services, brands have a massive opportunity to target consumers in realtime, based on 'expressions of interest'. Consumers of course, constantly tell you things about themselves - "likes", status updates, comments, video uploads, location, relationships and so on. 

You know that. And you know that brands traditionally interrupt their day, frequently, not because of expressions of interests but because of their media habits only and they keep telling them about the brand. Shouting at them repetitively whereas this way means you target consumers with relevance.

For example, I tweet that "I'm on my way to the airport". Your brand sees that and Tweets back "flights delayed due to fog so take your time" from say, "Mr. Coffee", then I appreciate the relevance and am likely to remember you.

Or I have arrived late at the hotel (don't we all) in a foreign place and I check-in via Foursquare to see a restaurant on the corner opens late and will give me a free beer. Thanks, I'm there.

Yes it requires automated personal activity based on detailed analysis of activity (have a look at Klout if you think this level of detail doesn't exist because it does). The web is a network of computers so advertising can be as accurate as it wants.

So Nir Refuah, sitting in McCanns in Israel and his team, clearly gets that and he has a problem to promote his client 'Opticana'. So he designs a "banner" based around eye tests. It's called an 'iphone pinch banner'. But he links it to the most common expression of interest that we all do, squeezing the text on an iphone.

If you squeeze it you make it bigger. If you need to make it bigger, you might need an eye test. At Opticana.

So here's an Agency, McCanns, about as traditional as you can get, thinking in the new space and doing a wonderful job for their client. And more importantly perhaps, doing a wonderful advertisement for the ability of admen in the new space. 

Thank you Nir and the whole team at McCanns, Israel.
I hope the rest of us are watching.

Monday 26 March 2012

Google Classic Ad Campaigns. Volvo updated.

You may have been reading my blog about how Google are trying to bring classic campaigns into the digital age.

Coke is a great story - "I'd like to teach the world to sing" and you can read it here:

Next up was a classic Volvo Campaign from 1963, "Drive it like you hate it" and it's here

That story was about finding a man called Irv Gordon who had a Volvo with nearly 3 million miles on the clock.

What's happened since is they're updating Irv's story on his way to the 3 million miles. A great extension and posting the new videos. I love this. Watch these two journeys, if you are interested at all. The first one is called 'Perfume' - "it's not about getting to the 3 million miles, it's about the trips that get me to the 3 million miles" - love it.

The second is a journey to Luray caves. Beautifully shot and great storytelling for Volvo.

Ad Agencies take note. A campaign with real longevity online and not a banner ad in sight.