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The answer is digital. What’s the question?

27 Jan

It’s exasperating.

I’ve been doing some work with a charity client and have been given a brief to ‘do something digital’ this year. This is because last year’s digital foray is being hailed as ‘a great success’. This success translates to 139000 page views of the charity’s website and 1000 uses of the campaign hashtag on Twitter.

At the same time, we have been asked to re-run a lacklustre poster campaign that was created last year as an 11th hour compromise after all the good ideas had been rejected.

I’m sure this is typical of many briefs being thrown at agencies by clients who see digital as a cost-effective way out of a problem. After all, why pay for media when you can get people looking at your wares for free? The trouble is, 139000 people? Out of a nation of 60million, that seems, well, a little small.

But what about these 1000 tweets? The snake oil pedlars have fiddled the figures here. Talk is of a ‘3.5million reach’. Which means that if you add together the number of people who follow these 1000 people, you get to 3.5million. Which means? Well, even if you believe that this number is accurate, a tweet will have appeared on the screen of 3.5million laptops, tablets and smartphones. One tweet. Quickly followed by another from, say, Alan Carr, and one from Joey Barton. And one from Ricky Gervais, and the Guardian, and the Onion, and…


In other words, if our 3.5million people haven’t momentarily downed tools to check their Twitter accounts, the tweets will have disappeared into the ether (or is that e-ther?)  I’m pretty sure most of our client team don’t tweet and so cannot see the way these stats have been pimped. In agencies, we are bombarded by stats from digital gurus telling us how amazing the digital medium is, yet most of the time, we ignore online advertising messages ourselves and happily take money form our clients and watch it disappear into a black hole.*

The best digital stuff depends on something being made in the real world – a TV ad, for example – that creates an online vapour trail. This piece of work needs to be brilliant enough for people to want to share it.

Another great way of getting a message across is a stunt or an event which is filmed and put on YouTube or Vimeo, but these cost money, and our client doesn’t have huge amounts of that.

The answer is simple. A ballsy, attention grabbing poster campaign. A brilliantly produced TV ad that cuts through the online clutter. A stunt that captures the imagination of the nation. Put another way, the less money you come to the table with, the bolder you need to be. In my experience, if an idea is strong enough and the client famous enough, people will fall over themselves to reduce their day rates.

But one thing’s for sure, simply running last year’s half baked posters and hoping for a digital miracle is a one way ticket to oblivion.

*My agency’s website states in no uncertain terms our dim view of digital. We only work in media which we believe in.

Race you to the museum

13 Sep

It’s a sad truth that most of the ads I love never make it anywhere near the awards ceremonies. Such will no doubt be the fate of this gem:

No doubt as a response to the London 2012 Olympics, the British Museum has curated an exhibition that shows what sporting competition looked like back in the time when the Olympics were a new idea.

I love the line ‘race you to the museum’ – sport is fun and the line is fun. It actually makes a museum exhibition seem fun. I like the cleanness of the design and the use of an original ancient sporting image. It’s light hearted and simple and clear – certainly a contender for the Adspike poster of the year.

Beautiful lottery ad

20 Jun

An ad has never made me cry before. Cry with frustration maybe, but not cry with any proper and appropriate emotion. But this one just did.

It’s beautiful and sad and the message isn’t swallowed up by the window dressing. A woman never got the opportunity to run competitively and now, thanks to lottery funding, her daughter (who has the running gene too) can compete for Team GB.

I love so much about this ad. I love the sadness of the mum having to give up on her own dream and the joy of seeing it realised through her daughter. I love her hope that her passion for running would live on in her daughter. I love the way it’s written, I love the way it’s shot, I love the way she says ‘I will run with her’ at the end. Best of all I love how intrinsic the lottery is to the message. No lottery, no funding for Jenny Meadows.

It’s a proper tear jerker for a brand that sells tickets for a quid to people who want to be millionaires. From feeling indifferent to the National Lottery, I now feel proud about it. I feel proud about Jenny Meadows, her mum and Team GB. And any ad that can do that is pretty special.

Who’s that man?

28 Mar

I’ve seen a lot of posters around town with a man running while holding a Visa card.

Maybe it would have made more sense if I had seen this ad: but I haven’t. Nor had I seen this: I have heard of Usain Bolt, but would I recognise him in the street? And let’s face it, this poster is on my street. The answer is no. He’s just another guy in a yellow vest. I can’t help feeling that Visa were so excited to get Bolt as their brand spokesman they forgot that most of the world don’t have a picture of his face in their head. If I’m right, it’s a huge wasted opportunity.

Lego ad – Seriously?

19 Mar

These ads have been doing the rounds in cyberspace:

The question is, have they been doing the rounds in German newspapers and magazines? There’s no doubt about their creativity (the titles are South Park and Simpsons). However, it smacks to me like creatives getting carried away and doing a bit of creativity on the side without Lego knowing. I mean. do Lego create ads for grown ups. Are there seriously any adults in Germany (or anywhere) who don’t know what Lego is? And does this make them buy Lego? Does this make you want to go and buy Lego for your kid? The answer, probably, is no more than you already feel like buying Lego.

Personally I fell out of love with Lego (a bit) for giving in and creating green and brown bricks. Lego’s creator, Ole Kirk Christiansen hated war and refused to create bricks in military colours. I also lost a bit of love when the bricks started being so pre-made that it required less creativity to build a house, car or rocket. Still, it’s as much loved as when I was a kid thanks largely to keeping with the zeitgeist and creating sets that match whatever is big in TV, film and popular (kid) culture.

So lets get back to Lego’s Simpsons / South Park ads. Genuine advertising? Cash spent to shoot it and cash paid to insert it by Lego? Not sure. I’m sticking with my original hunch that this is a bit of creative opportunism by a team with time on their hands and no briefs that will win them any awards this year. It’s advertising aimed at winning awards rather than shifting products, and when that is our one goal we are on a downward spiral. I’d love to be proved wrong on Lego and if I am, I will post my apology!

Facebook aint worth the money

17 Mar

As Facebook gears up to sell, it’s credentials as a top retail destination appear a little shaky. This Newsweek article spells it out.

Round up your mates – eventually

14 Mar

Now, the premise for this commercial is that us blokes are terrible at organising a day out. Are we? Says who? Says Guinness. Anyway, the result of this planning insight is here.

As ads go, it’s not bad. I’ve seen sheepdog ads before, and I’ve seen ads where people are given animal characteristics (this was a rip off from an original Big Train sketch) but that’s not my problem with this commercial. It’s clearly a ‘straight to Youtube’ number and thankfully, the views are positive(ish) – 1 and a half million clicks isn’t bad, unless you compare it to an ad in the middle of Corrie which might grab you 6 million. Still, it’s more viral than most and will have saved Guinness a wedge on media spend. The downside of its online presence is that online ads don’t have time restrictions. The director’s cut can go on and on, or in this case, on. I get the gag. I get it really really early on in the ad. I then have to sit through another two minutes of the gag being milked. The resolution is obvious. I see it coming a mile off. There is no surprise after the ‘surprise’ that a dog is rounding up beer drinkers. It’s a nice ad but as a Guinness ads go, not a patch on Surfer. Sometimes, being quick and clever is the best way to win.