Friday 25 January 2013

Microsoft under constant pressure. New commercial here, focuses on nostalgia, the Microsoft of old. Will marketing like this work?

Microsoft are under pressure. Basically they found themselves the leaders, in the wrong market - PC's - and having a dominant position didn't help as PC sales tumbled. So they've tried to re-invent themselves without a product innovator (a Gates or a Jobs) at the helm and rather have the most peculiar salesman, Crazy Steve Ballmer, instead.

Search him on this blog and you'll see the videos and you'll see what I mean. Enough said.

Their foray into Windows 8 recently doesn't seem exactly to have set the world on fire and their 'Surface Tablet' has contributed to strong revenue in the last quarter to December no doubt. But what of the future and where they're going?

They plead for their relevance today by promoting their past. In other words, use nostalgia.

"We're the brand that's always been here", "We're the brand of establishment, of trust", Remember us? That kinda' thing and in that way, hope to jolt happy memories from former Microsoft users (which we all were) into thinking, you know what...they were there at the start for me. Aaaahh. 

But it will work too. The commercial is nice and clean with viral potential as we all do a "do ya remember that!" and pass it onto our friends.

It's very brand rather than substance and targets children of the 90's. The endline, "you grew did we" is a direct plea.

The final copyline "Reconnect with the new Internet Explorer" establishes trust around a thing we all knew - IE.

What it will do is to help 'trial' and get people to take another fond look at Microsoft but that has to be followed by substance - by relevant, useful product. And that's the problem. 

Advertising can get people to try a product again, but only once. The worry is, that it's exactly because Microsoft has nothing to say, that they chose this route. When you've nothing say, talk about past glories.

And they'll be found out.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Good news from Google. Revenue up, Margins up, Ad rates holding-ish. It's clear - more advertising is going digital.

Google's core revenue is up and beats analysts expectations. Its shares have increased by +5% and notably its Ad rates, although a slight fall, seem to be "holding". Good news.

A 9.83 billion usd in revenue in the 4th quarter is up from 8.13 billion usd last year, growing both their core business and their margins - the sweetest thing a business can do. A +23% growth in international revenues too with cost-per-click (CPC) rates down only 6% whereas it had previously been on a bigger slide.

The 4th quarter is a critical, a seasonal time for Ad sales (Christmas).

One of the reasons is the growth in mobile search where users access Google by smartphone and those CPC rates are always lower. So if you like, the averages are down because of "blended product". Or in other words, an increase in its lower-cost product brings the overall price down.

But a "hold" on Ad rates is good news for the Ad community - things may be bottoming out. Clearly too, there's increased demand for Google Advertising and so, one might assume, more demand in general. It's clear - more Advertising is going digital.

Equally too, it must be remembered that Google hasn't yet seen the full force of the recent launch of Facebook Search which has to eat into their business. Google's Motorola Mobility acquisition too, hasn't paid dividends showing ongoing losses of 353 million usd in this quarter. But they've indicated that this is now a focus to turnaround.

It has already sold the Motorola set-top TV business for just over 2 billion usd.

All in all, encouraging numbers not just for Google, but for the trade itself. They are market leader and so tend to show the trend. And this trend is up.

It came too on the day that RIM who owns Blackberry Crackberry, say that they'll launch their new phone on January 30th. And that, in contrast to Google, is really make or break time.

But this is all good.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Jan 24 1984. Steve Jobs launches his personal computer. The Apple Mac.

In 1982 a young Steve Jobs started developing a personal computer with a graphical user interface with 'Woz', Steve Wozinack. He is often the forgotten genius.

2 years later, The Mac was launched with a very famous, masterpiece commercial called '1984' shot by Ridley Scott (who had just completed 'Blade Runner' 2 years earlier).

Conceived by Agency Chiat Day and shown in The Superbowl break (during the 3rd quarter on January 22nd). A 900,000 usd spot which then, was huge. It clearly targeted "Big Brother" IBM and perhaps the most influential commercial ever, along with Hegarty's "Grapevine" Levi's commercial. '1984' was only aired one other time on TV so that it qualified for awards.

It borrows a lot, if you ask me....from Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis', a movie I strongly urge you to see. That's not to take away from it one bit. It did exactly what it needed to do and still is in line with the 'Think Different' concept. Individuality. And I personally think it's world class, have no doubt.

The Mac came with 128 kilobytes of Ram (it was known as the 'Mac 128' or the "thin Mac"), a floppy drive (!), a mouse, Black and White screen, and with MacPaint/MacWrite and later, MacOffice as the software. A beige case, a handle on the top to make it easy to lift and sold at 2,500 usd. It was convection cooled (rather than by a fan) because it was quieter - a Steve Jobs marketing decision. You can see him present it on Jan 24 1984, on the video at the top of the page.

And it talked! Briefly. A truly world changing day.

Happy MacBirthday.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Samsung new TV and Online Video targets one thing. Blackberry.

Samsung are already known for TV Commercials and online video that goes after The Apple user. Now their new campaign targets Blackberry, already this won't help.

Although they don't mention Blackberry, they make it clear whom they're talking about, showing clueless employees who persist with out-of-date phones using keyboards. So it's aimed at the business users firstly.

It's supposed to be a start-up office launching a game called 'Unicorn Apocalypse' pretentiously enough.

Perhaps not the best commercial ever at all but it's hard-hitting enough for Blackberry users to understand. And it's a symbol of Samsung's ongoing attempts to take on all-comers. They recently were the stars of the show at The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Samsung are not prepared to stand still. With world domination clearly in their minds, the brand is going from strength to strength and producing unbelievable profits. They are afraid of no one and even prepared to kick a brand like Blackberry, when it's down.

Unlike Apple, they pay a little less attention to branding commercials and tend to go aggressively for the jugular.

Watch out for Samsung.

Atari files for bankruptcy. Another world class brand that ignored digital.

Anybody who grew up in universities in the 1980's, as I did, knows Atari very well, which started in 1972. Between lectures or just not attending them, pool tables and Atari games filled the gap. Asteroids was genius, played on gaming machines that consumed money, never mind Pong.

This was the cool and dominant games company that started gaming. We wore their logo on T-shirts.

The 40 year old company has now filed for bankruptcy in the US - although in part, to draw a distinction from its French parent. The French company bought Atari in 2008 and has seen a 50% share price collapse.

The US company only employing about 40 people, has moved more into digital and mobile gaming and it's seeking protection from creditors. It intends to sell off its assets, its brands, which are so recognisable.

The collapse of Atari is the familiar story of the demise of companies like HMV, all the music brands that let Itunes kill them, Blockbuster, Borders, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and all the dominant brands who let digital get past them. Brand leaders that just ignored the web.

Thought it was a "bit of a waste of time"...."Can't make money on the web" etc... and all the platitudes of old men that cost thousands of people their jobs. Families ruined by a lack of foresight from middle aged men earning millions.

And they're still around.

Atari could have owned online gaming.
They now could be bigger than Znyga.

Oh ye, of little faith.

Monday 21 January 2013

Lance Armstrong and Nike.

The problem with celebrity endorsement in advertising is that you're banking on human frailty. It's a real quick way to get credibility and cachet for your brand but a super fast way to lose it.

Once celebs get accused of something, they're tainted goods. I was involved in a campaign for Suzuki cars for example, featuring Ronaldo at a cost of 1 million  stg. Then he was accused of rape, just as the campaign launched and we spent the week editing him out and re-shooting it. But, in some ways, the damage is done once you start announcing it.

Tiger Woods moments also cost him dearly but cost his sponsors too, like Nike, who had so much aligned themselves to him. Michael Jackson child abuse charges caused problems for Pepsi - clearly.

And yet at the time, no one was more sponsorable than Tiger Woods and Michael Jackson - both clean, home living boys it was thought.

And so too Lance Armstrong. Clean living, cancer survivor, good looking champion of 7 Tour De France. The All-American boy but now we know differently. Although I watched the Oprah interview and I have to say, I saw redemption although few did. A new honesty that will help him re-build his brand, I think.

Worse still, his featuring in a Nike commercial actually gets Lance to say "What am I on?" ....."I'm on my bike". Yep, sure, almost defying the rumours. Which of course now, makes it worse and makes it viral again to Nike's chagrin.

And that's the problem. People.

We all make mistakes, we all do things we shouldn't and when a brand puts its future in the hands of those human frailties, it takes a chance. A really high profile chance that it probably should never take. Nope, probably never.

If you're going to enter these endorsement stakes, spread the risk - by sponsoring a team rather than a person.

There's safety in numbers.