Sunday, 4 December 2011

GADABOUT: 6OneD Review (written for and first shown on the IPA's Gradvantage blog)

On the 28th November 2011, six of the Direct Marketing sector’s most creative and accomplished minds[1] walked out onto the dimly lit Charing Cross stage.  Their challenge?  To address an issue that currently faces all those involved in the DM sector - creative excellence. 

The evening kicked off with each panellist presenting a DM case study in an attempt to woo the audience into deeming their proffered piece the best DM campaign.
A variety of campaigns were submitted to the house, ranging from Wunderman’s sublimely simple “Hitchhiker” campaign for The AA, to the cross-platform Tour de Force of Nike/Livestrong’s “Chalkbot” campaign.  Ultimately, Sav’s submission of how ROM (a chocolate bar) incited patriotism across the entire nation of Romania was victorious – though personally I liked the Chalkbot campaign (see [2] for a list of the other campaigns – have a look and see what your favourite is). 

Having adequately roused the minds of the collective, the second – more interactive half - of the evening got underway.  The floor was opened up with the goal of inducing industry furthering discussion and debate.  A goal that was undoubtedly achieved.

Prior to recent initiatives such as 6OneD, the DM industry and those who make it up have often found themselves outshouted by the more grandiose ATL agencies that typically dominate pitch shortlists.  Those at 6OneD however relished the opportunity to not only celebrate DM creativity, but discuss industry-wide issues and seek ways to address them. 

The main takeout I obtained from the seminar was that whilst in the modern Adland agencies of varying natures are competing for the same space, there will always be room for DM. 
The current reluctance of DMarketeers to be courageous in their copy or (in comparison to ATL agencies) shout about it when they do, results in a lack of client appreciation for the craft. So in order to remedy this, in what is becoming an increasingly cross-media/platform industry, DM must take the opportunity to push creativity, be audacious, and blur their “line” position that currently stigmatises them.

Overall, the evening was great, and the debate appeared to be highly constructive for all that attended.  With the IPA offering DM a forum in which to exercise their voice, I doubt it’ll be long before they’re shouting loud and proud about their creative excellence.  It’ll be a challenge, but one which all at 6OneD are clearly are fired up for.  Epitomising the vibe of the room was Nicky Bullard’s simple statement:  “Bring it on.”

Owen Lee (@oven121), Starcom MediaVest

Click here for more photos from the event.

[1] The panel:  Cooking and book loving sportophobe Caitlin Ryan, Executive Creative Director of Proximity; failed spy with a love of young “talent” Neil Francis, Creative Director of SFW; youthful playwright-to-be Nicky Bullard, Creative Director of LIDA, tech-loving (aka nerd) Rik Haslam, Chief Creative Officer at RAPP, (I couldn’t find anything out about him from his bio) Sav Evangelou, Executive Creative Director, Kittcatt Nohr Digitas; and finally, a man who’s magnificently overcome his self-confessed permanently poor hairstyle, Steve Aldridge, Co-Founder, Creative Partner and Chairman of Partners Andrews Aldridge.
[2] Others including the nationalistic “The American ROM” campaign, the subliminally Direct “Live Rescue” campaign, the e-comedic “HP ePrint Live” campaign, and T-Mobile’s recent Parking Ticket campaign – don’t ask me how Neil managed to convince us this was DM, but he did.

Monday, 21 November 2011

"Engagement": Accepting an Inadequate Metric

"Engagement".  It's a term that's often bandied about in media, and has been deconstructed and reinvented many times over.  However whilst within the digital sphere, conversation and debate over the concept of consumer "engagement" has evolved, consideration as to its appropriateness as a metric has somewhat fallen by the way-side.

Is it Engagement?  Or is it something else?

Recently speaking at the IAB Engage conference, Michelle Klein stated her belief that the currently used "engagement" metrics of dwell time, sharing, etc, don't accurately reflect the nature of a truly "engaging" experience.  Too often it is assumed that a consumer that plays a game, signs up for a Facebook competition or watches a video has had an "engaging" experience.  Realistically, the only certainty that can be taken from the resultant data is that the consumer interacted with the campaign.  Any meaningful brand connection as a result of that interaction is generally inferred.

Engagement goes beyond interaction or enjoyment of content.  It's an interaction that results in an emotional connection and association with the brand. 
Think of the last brilliant dramatic film you went to see.  One where all of a sudden you realise that your eyes hurt from watching the screen so intently.  Now that's engagement.  That's engagement to a point of personal immersion.  Whilst this isn't achievable (yet) at a campaign level, this example serves to show the extent of what a fully engaging experience can do to you.  This is what the goal should be.  Not the eye-watering part, but that feeling of unbiased personal connectivity to the previously unknown content put in front of you.  Judging whether a user achieved this connectivity through examining whether or not they entered their details or clicked through is clearly insufficient.  Generally, such interactions serve a more functional purpose, it taking a lot more to elevate them to the realms of becoming an engaging experience.

An Unfortunate Acceptance

It would be preferable to measure campaigns in terms of brand perception, consideration, preference, etc due to their superiority in measuring levels of a consumer’s engagement with a brand following content interaction.  Unfortunately however, the lack of science and direct accountability behind such methods renders them to be perceived as less efficient metrics than those currently used.

That said, despite the inappropriateness of current engagement metrics, they are far more preferable for branding campaigns than the more commonly used alternatives of CTRs and CPAs.

Why?  Because they fail to reflect the notion of what branding is.  Clients appear to be constantly asking for branding campaigns; though insist on measuring such campaigns on what are essentially performance metrics.  It'd be nice to say that this is solvable through a snazzy presentation on digital, but the reality is that it's not that simple.  Unfortunately, such demands are generally a result of those in the upper echelons of the client’s hierarchy stubbornly handing demands down to those that have no choice but to follow. 

Whilst a wish to focus on ROI is understandable, just as it would be fine to consciously state a wish to intermix branding and performance.  However to ask for performance metrics to be used on what’s been briefed as a solely branding campaign makes achieving communications goals tricky to say the least.  Not only does it make digital teams less likely to choose more "engaging" rich media over its more ROI-friendly brothers of standard display, but it causes a lack of creativity.  This generally results in a campaign that leaves clients scratching their heads as to why people still don't have a positive brand perception, or haven't increased their consideration levels.


So whilst the current use of engagement metrics is perhaps slightly unsatisfactory, if given budget to engage consumers in a digital landscape, I'd say "go for it".  Affording creatives and planner/buyers much more scope for creativity, it's a far superior branding metric to the currently favoured CPC/CPA system that's frustrating the industry.  Unfortunately, until either the client big-wigs get to grips of what a branding campaign is truly about (or those that do get their jobs), or engagement is measured in enough of a scientific way to sell it in to clients, engagement and branding will continue to be left in a confusing state.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Google+ v Facebook: A Modern Day David vs Goliath?

An Introduction of Biblical Proportions

Who'd have thought that The Bible’s author failed to mention that Goliath-defeater David's last name was actually Googleplus?  Well that may not be the case (in fact it definitely isn't), but apart from using money and not rocks to try and fell the social media giant Facebook, the match-up appears identical.  But is David up to the challenge? 
A Clever Cop-out

Though Larry Page recently revealed that their user base has passed the 40 million mark, if playing social by numbers, newbie - barring their floundering attempts in '09 and '10 with Wave and Buzz - Google+ is dwarfed by Facebook's mammoth 800+m user base by roughly 20:1.
More interestingly however, whilst Facebook happily admit that over 50% of their total user base returns monthly, Google refuse to promulgate any reciprocal stats.   

Despite reportedly being grilled at Web 2.0 Summit for some numbers, the only water anyone's managed to get out of the stone-faced execs is that they're "happy with the figures". 
Now if you're like me, you're thinking this is likely to equate to "not many", and you're probably right.  However according to the Google's big-wigs they’re simply not bothered about such "hard user metrics".  Instead, their MO is apparently "user engagement and cross platform integration".
Whilst appearing to be a bit of a cop-out, it's actually not a bad response.  The approach well reflecting the industry's new(ish) focus on engaging consumers/users beyond the mere impression level. 

Though it's the necessary monetisation of the £585m project that'll likely reveal just how "engaged" these users are, get some smooth-talking Googleites in a room with your budget conscious clients, and they could well lap up the idea of +Advertising.

"Improved ROI" being the in vogue buzz-phrase for media agencies, the supposed opportunity to reach these grail-shaped users that are ripe for their transformation into a brand ambassadors, could be tempting to clients.  Especially since their brand message will allegedly be received crystal clear from these super engaged users, and no longer falling on the deaf ears of the masses, hoping to get that click through.

“I’m Still not Going to go on it”...Or are you?

So, G+ has an up to date approach that will please brands upon the site’s monetisation.  Big whoop. Unfortunately however, as much as they want to avoid it, if they want to have any real clout they need to back up these propositions with some hard facts.  I don't think I've ever been in a presentation where I haven't been smugly shown some impressive stats, which at that moment in time prove that site/product is superior.  Google+ needs more of these stats.

Recently, agency Chitika has reported that over the past month, traffic to Google+ is in a fairly stale state of affairs.  Whilst not necessarily negative, it's far from breaking any records either.  But is Google+ capable off upping their game in order to take on the big guns? 

Yes.  They’ll have to be mighty clever in order to convert the thus far unconverted, but they have the weapons to do so.  With an arsenal containing: 200m Google Chrome users, the Android mobile operating system, the Chromebook, Google TV, and YouTube (with their recent announcement of 100 TV channels), there's certainly an opportunity to get Google+ into your hands. 

At the moment they’re still opting for the art of persuasion to pull people to the site.  However, for example, if they could get Google+ preloaded on Android devices, whilst people would grumble and gripe it’s likely that they’ll at least give it a go.  As is often the way with new/resisted technology, it’s the initial trial that’s the tricky part.  Once achieved, if your product is good they’ll start to realise its benefits, and (importantly for Google) tell others about their conversion to the device.
OK, So I Know About “Circles”, but What’s New on There?

You know what they say "Out with the new, in with the newer" - or at least that appears to be G+'s approach - as on the 27th October, Google+ got its first revamp.  Beyond their original USP of creating “circles” of friends to choose who you share content with, they’ve come up with a couple of new additions:

What’s Hot?
Basically a more visual Trending topic.  Appearing in your main stream or standing along, it shows you the most popular content on Google+.

Visualises how content has organically spread throughout Google+, letting you identify specific events and top contributors that helped your story spread

Creative Kit
A rudimentary photo editing tool that lets you add effects to you pictures and then share them on Google+.

Have video conversations with up to 10 of your friends at once.

(see some videos from Google introducing the new features here

Not all that impressed? That’s what I thought.  Now group chats could be useful, and everyone likes their ego massaged by seeing that their post reached 426,947 people.  However I’ve never needed to speak to that many people outside of work at the same time, nor have I posted anything interesting enough to extend my “ripple” far beyond my friend Bob.  Additionally, whilst Twitter-rip-off  What’s Hot is a fairly commonsensical addition, the Creative Kit is little more than the photo editing tools you had on your Nokia 5 years ago.


Overall, at the moment Google+ just isn't good enough to take on Facebook.  It's not large enough for it's semi-useless intricacies to have a worthwhile affect on users, and it isn't useful enough to drive enough traffic to afford it such extravagances.

That said, whilst their most recent renovations aren't likely to entice users into utilising the site, at least it's a start.  In order to draw users into willingly joining and using Google+, it has to be differentiated from Facebook by useful quirks and features.  They need to make people go beyond wanting to have it, to having to have it – and more importantly, use it!

So if they can keep positively improving and differentiating their site, whilst gradually integrating it across the platforms available to them, there's a (albeit very slim) chance that David could end up a pretty good match for Goliath.  The victor?  Well that's up to the public to decide.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Google Wallet: Will it Catch On, and How Will it Impact Brands?


After its recent unveiling in the US, the Google Wallet is expected to fly over to English shores pretty soon.  But what exactly is this “Wallet” that Google are plying as “the next big shift” in personal payment?

Seeking to make redundant that tatty piece of leather currently occupying your back pocket, Google have increased your mobile phone’s capabilities to allow wireless payments for consumer purchases.  Using “Near Field Communication” (NFC), a secondary microchip inside the mobile phone - though SK Telecom have shown that this could be integrated into the SIM in the future (see here)- allows the wireless payment of items when held next to the retailer’s corresponding device.  In addition to currently holding offers, credit cards (currently only the Citi Mastercard and their prepaid card) and loyalty cards, Google prophesise that the Wallet’s future shall entail the storage of boarding passes, receipts and tickets amongst other things.

Sounds cool eh?  But then there’s that little issue of security that automatically springs to the minds of all.  Well Google believe that they’ve got this covered.  Because Wallet’s use requires a PIN, Google asserted it to be actually safer than having a wallet.  Whilst the likelihood of your phone being stolen (and possibly hacked) may make this belief contentious, without a promise of security no-one would ever give it a second thought. 

Will it Catch on?

Whilst a brilliant concept and a seemingly inevitable next step in purchase payment, will the Google Wallet actually catch on?  Though I’m sure CEO Larry Page would suggest this question has as having a resoundingly affirmative answer, the lack of use – at least domestically - of the supposedly “revolutionary” QR codes means it requires scrutiny.

Firstly, the Google Wallet is only being launched with the fairly underused Citi Mastercard (and their own prepaid card).  Yes it’s quite a coup for Citibank, but unless more banks get on board and invoke real competition, it’s unlikely that retailers will consider the benefits of the technology to outweigh the costs of installation and use.  Though Visa’s recent touch payment partnership with McDonalds indicates a push forward towards a competitive market, it also suggests that (considering the sizeable investment in such a venture) they’re unlikely to progress from this stage for a while.  That said, such a heavy commitment may be seen by other banks as an opportunity to exploit.  Either way, the Wallet’s launch looks likely to be fairly more fizzle than fireworks.

Conversely however, considering the now substantial power that Google have in the mobile market, and that they've stated that the technology shall become available on the Android platform, manufacturers will soon be rolling out the majority of their phone devices with Wallet capabilities.  This would likely increase both consumer awareness and demand for the technology and pressurise both retailers and banks to get on board. 

If it works, what are the implications for brands

This latest step towards all things wireless could well be an enormous step forward in commerce, but the Wallet's capability to automatically obtain and apply the latest offers could heavily impact brands at both ends of the pricing spectrum. 

Those willing to discount their products will have the ability to increase the likelihood of their brand being front of mind to consumers when they are at their most receptive to influence. 
The vouchers being in the consumer's personal space - their phone - gives them more control over what offers they pay attention to, and ultimately how they shop in the now overcrowded, offer-strewn streets and shop isles.  To make customers aware of such promotions, there could be a rise in direct mail, particularly with mobile compatible techniques in order to secure at least an impression if not a sale.

With the availability of such offers having the potential to entice consumer trial and brand consideration where otherwise it might not have occurred, more "premium" brands could suffer. How to fight this?  By ensuring that the customer experience and emotional connection the brand provides outweighs the benefits of cheaper, value brands.  Whilst this may not be a new concept, the new and more personalised way that brand loyalty can be interjected by alternatives may mean that this is more important than ever.  As such, such brands may wish to start considering focusing campaigns on brand loyalty well in advance to the mass uptake of the Google Wallet.

Also, the increasingly large amount of gift vouchers bought over the seasonal period may provide another opportunity for brands to exploit.  Using Google Wallet, Christmas shoppers will (assumedly) being able to give gift cards at the touch of a button.  As such, ensuring friends/family members perceive a specific brand to be to the recipient’s taste could be highly profitable for the brand, and also affect general awareness.  But to guarantee this, due to the likely lack of proximity between the gift card purchaser and recipient (for gift suggestions), work must be done on the brand’s perceived demographic and perception.  I.e. If Auntie Jo’s shopping for her 14 year old nephew Sam that she hasn’t seen in 6 months, her thought of “what shop would Sam like”, is answered by the desired brand and not a competitor.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly), should Google Wallet take off, the amount of data that Google and marketers could gain would be phenomenal.  Imagine a world where all purchases and vouchers are trackable at an individual level.  This would provide companies with fantastic amounts of data on the effectiveness of voucher ads to specifically targeted demographics and consumers, potentially eliminating the anonymity of newspaper torn vouchers and providing consumer insights that are currently out of reach.  For a marketer, this world would be a magical and highly profitable place to live. 

Overall, it would appear that Google Wallet may be a bit of a slow burner, and is unlikely to have much initial impact.  That said, whilst NFC technology is likely to merely supplement touchpayment for a while - now being automatically on most new bank cards - considering Google's track record of flinging large amounts of cash at new market ventures, it's arrival as a shopping norm appears a near certainty.  As such, brands need to start preparing now.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Does SM + TV = Zeebox?


This October, Zeebox - the latest brainchild of BBC iPlayer head Anthony Rose - is set to go live.
Though sounding more like an 80's rapper than revolutionary piece of software, as you'd expect from technowizz Rose, it looks to be a decent piece of kit.  But is it a game changer, and will it last?

What is it?

Seeking to bridge the gap between TV and Social Media, the website and iPad app (to be subsequently released on iPhone and Android platforms) makes watching the box both an interactive and sociable experience.

On its most basic level, users manually or automatically - with compatible 2010/2011 TVs - log into the programme that they're watching.  Others can not only view this, but are capable of inviting or being invited to join them on that channel.  With TVs connected to the app, the internet signal not only then changes the channel for you, but does so quicker than the majority of infrared remotes.

Though pretty nifty in itself, what makes it stand out is the what lies beyond the app's most primal capabilities.  Using an audio fingerprinting "secret recipe" - seemingly one stage on from the technology used in Wieden + Kennedy's "This Unpredictable Life" Honda ad - users can not only interact with the programme they're watching, but can do so in real time. 

Providing a "next generation Red button", the capability exists for relevant, third party content links to arise during a programme.  The example CEO Ernesto Schmitt is giving is that whilst Tom Cruise is interviewed on Top Gear, the app will auto-display "infotags" for spoken topics (say "Ferrari 458", "Abu Dhabi", "Sebastian Vettel" and "Tom Cruise" himself), as Cruise is speaking.

Finally, Rose has said that they'll  "experiment with the full infrastructure" and may eventually allow Zeebox compatible devices to control on-demand episodes.

Will people use it?

Whilst a brilliantly bringing together social media and TV, will it catch on, and what is the benefit to marketers?

Though the number of iPads in circulation is increasing daily, not enough exist for users to create adequate friend circles.  30% of internet usage being in front of the TV meaning people will be able to also access the software by their laptops.  However, to ensure Zeebox arrives with a bang and not a mere fizzle, the software needs to be made available on mobile platforms as soon as possible, if not by the launch date.

Additionally, whilst facebook brings social experiences to  consumers everywhere, will they be willing to let them physically into their home?  The individuality in viewing that the plethora of channels offers, affords people their guilty pleasures of the Gilmore Girls or Jeremy Kyle that they may not want to share.  That said, popular programmes such as X factor and The Apprentice that are predisposed to controversy and discussion may thrive with Zeebox.

Furthermore, it is accepted that drawing friends to QVC to buy a set of towels you know they want is highly plausible.  However, to get them to join the middle of an episode out of context is not.  This is especially true when considering the ease by which people can record TV or watch it on-demand.

That said, considering the number of relevant tweets a trending topic draws on Twitter, a programme similarly trending on Zeebox may well invoke curiosity and cause people to accept invitations to watch programmes they would otherwise neglect. 

What's the marketing potential?

Purchasing these "infotags" clearly provides a great new way for brands to target and measure consumers' actions in real time.  However, the real time nature of these tags means that the constant bombardment that consumers may become swamped by may cause a brand to become zoned out as nuisance spam.
That said, considering that tags can be used to provide nothing more than a link to a landing page, purchasing these tags should be inexpensive enough to experiment and test.  However, much testing need to be done on the consumer susceptibility to the tags, ROI, number of times and length of time a tag is shown etc.

The software having an open API means that developers can produce a multitude of add-ons to Zeebox.  Whilst providing a further opportunity for brands to take advantage of, the software has a narrower use than iPads and smartphones.  This means that whilst such devices can have large amounts of mutually exclusive apps, this could cause Zeebox to become cluttered and gimmicky.


Though it's not certain for Zeebox to be a game changer, there's definite potential there.  In spite of having some big names behind it, to ensure adequate penetration the app needs to be released on all platforms as soon as possible.  Otherwise, providing an innovative new method of social interaction may not be enough. 

Though a highly measurable real-time opportunity for brands, all but the most creative of them may end up losing their voice in what could become an overcrowded environment. 

Whatever the outcome, it will be interesting to see what lies in store for Mr Rose and Zeebox.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Barry Spelling IDM Summerschool 2011 (condensed)

Having made it through the tough application and tougher assessment day, on Monday 27 June twenty-seven bright eyed and bushy tailed university grads headed to the IDM for the commencement of the Barrie Spelling Top Student Summer School 2011.

Summer School group 2011With the (un)usual ice-breakers getting us all giggling and bonding (over some of the bizarre facts we'd revealed about ourselves in the application process), it was time for our first of many seminars with none other than IDM founder and MD Derek Holder. Proving to be both an enlightening an eloquent speaker we were all brought up to speed with the discipline of direct and digital marketing.

After a lunch of a much higher calibre than most were anticipating, the moment that we'd all been wondering about for so long was upon us; the brief.

This year's pitch was, excitingly for us, Bacardi Superior, provided by Rapp's ever friendly and helpful Gavin Hilton and Louise Morgan.

Following a brief period for our groups to discuss initial thoughts, Monday was finished off by a chance to meet and grill some of last year's IDM Summer School graduates, accompanied by dinner and drinks at The Park Lodge Hotel next door.

OgilvyOneGetting straight into it on Tuesday, we were given the task of producing a full campaign for O2 Priority. Each feeding back to the group, everyone came up with some fantastic and wildly differing ideas.

Next up was a wonderful talk from Martin Troughton, founder of Harrison Troughton Wunderman (among many other ventures). With a career tale packed full of anecdotes and advice his presentation made for a truly enthralling experience, and showed us the many twists and turns a marketing career can take.

After lunch was the big trip out, this year to the Willy Wonka's Marketing Factory of OgilvyOne. Packed full of technology and gadgets, the best way to describe it would be as a more purposeful kids section of the Science Museum (though its client-wooing abilities are undoubtedly evident).

After being given a tour round the Design Labs, we were given an audience with such moguls as friendly UK Chairman Paul O'Donnell and the ever tangential Rory Sutherland, alongside the recent Ogilvy Fellowship intake.

Our minds reeling and full of inspiration from what we'd seen and heard, it was time for (you guessed it), drinks! Heading down to the in-house bar, we had a great time chatting with some Ogilvites before heading off for a group meal at Wagamamas.

BacardiWednesday morning changed the pace a little, with Wendy Pearson of Direct Line giving us a crash course in segmentation. Whilst not perhaps the most exciting area of marketing, we all appreciated that it's not all glitz and glam, and any half decent plan is founded on good segmentation.

This was followed by EHS 4D Group taking us through the recent rise of digital, its necessity as a marketing medium, and how it's progressing as a marketing tool. Providing numerous examples of successes such as Intel's "Museum of Me", Nike's "1948", and O2's "3D rugby" (produced by Archibald Ingall Streeton), we all received some interesting insight as to what's being done at the moment, and the vast possibilities of digital as a discipline.

The morning's events causing all of us to become excited over the prospect of being the minds behind such successes, our heads were brimming with ideas for our afternoon of case study work.

The IDM's 8pm closure meant we had to search further afield for wifi, some even resorting to sponging off of Pizza Express. Despite working late into the night to get the pitches as done as possible, everyone's spirits were high. This felt like the real thing.

Thursday wasn't a time for tired eyes, when straight away we Patrons Reception 2011were given the task of improving Laithwaite's Wine's direct mail. After all scratching our heads for a while, we all put on our thinking caps and the ideas started flowing. Before long everyone had come up with loads of (hopefully useful) ideas.

Next up the social experts Sam and Felix of Essential Communications gave many a rude awakening on how easy it was to unearth unemployable info on you on social sites. After this shock, they went into how to effectively brand yourself and utilise social media for furthering your career - something useful both now and in the future.

Soon after, the main event of the week had arrived; the IDM Patrons' reception at London's Goring Hotel.

Heading off in our Apprentice-style suits and black cabs, we were soon greeted by drinks and the obligatory event photographer. Derek Holder then disposing of the pleasantries, it wasn't long before we were mixing with all the senior marketer patrons and having a great time. Representing both clients and agencies, the multitude of experienced and knowledgeable marketers at the event meant that everyone had a fantastic, rewarding and fruitful evening.

Unfortunately however, as all good things do, it had to end. So at 9pm we were unwillingly shepherded back into the black cabs back to Teddington, to get ready for our pitches the following day.

U R the brandNot quite believing that the big (and last) day was already here, everyone turned up with mixed feelings of nerves and excitement, presentations at the ready.

Each group pitched their campaign idea for Bacardi Superior to a panel of 12 (as well as to all our fellow Summer School delegates), all subsequently receiving highly detailed and useful feedback. Overall, everyone did brilliantly. We were all amazed at the variety, depth, and quality of work produced by all, with everyone's presentation skills matching the content.

This sadly marked the end of the week and it wasn't long before we all had to part ways to get our respective trains and planes to take us back to all corners of the UK.

Speaking on behalf of others, I think it's safe to say we all had a fantastic time. We all learnt a huge amount, met some fascinating people, and got the opportunity to do some brilliant work with some like-minded friends.

With such a high calibre of delegates, agencies and clients all involved in this year's summer school, I would highly recommend to all getting involved in any way possible in the future.

Barrie Spelling IDM Summerschool 2011 (Friday)

In what had seemed like no time at all, Friday was upon us, and it was time for the pitches.  All eager to impress and uncertain of what our colleagues had come up with, everyone was a tad nervous.  But (bar some slight technical hiccups) there was nothing at all to worry about, everyone delivering both fantastic and wildly differing pitches.  It was also really helpful that all groups were given highly detailed feedback from the panel, and allowed to see the concept that won Rapp the account.

[Considering that revealing the particulars of our pitch would require examining the issues Bacardi currently have, it would be unfair on the brand to do so.  As such, youll just have to trust me that it was great.]

This sadly marked the end of the week and it wasn't long before we all had to part ways to get our respective trains and planes to take us back to all corners of the UK.
However, with the wonder that is social media, many of us keep still keep in contact, or have managed to gain employment together as a direct result of the summer school.

As such, whilst the fat lady has almost finished singing, the praises of all those whose efforts went into putting the summer school together must first be sung.  Whilst I'm sure there are numerous people behind the scenes that need thanking for the programme, principally Janice Pickard, all those who came in to speak to us, and all those who we spoke to at the Patrons' Evening must be thanked enormously.

Speaking on behalf of the others, I think it's safe to say that we all had a fantastic time.  We all learnt a huge amount, met some fascinating people, and got the opportunity to do some brilliant work with some like-minded friends. 
With such a high calibre of delegates, agencies and clients all involved in this year's summer school, I would highly recommend to all getting involved in any way possible in the future.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Barrie Spelling IDM Summerschool 2011 (Thursday)

Despite all having been working late, Thursday morning wasn't a time for tired eyes, when straight away we were given the challenge of improving Laithwaites Wine's direct mail.  A somewhat different challenge to those of previous days, many of us were initially scratching our heads, unsure as to how to approach such a task.  However, realising that in real working life it would be rare for us to fall into the target demographic, we stuck on our thinking caps and  put ourselves in the comfortable moccasins of Laithewaites drinkers.  Before you knew it, the ideas were flowing, and we all came up with far more than we'd envisioned to begin with (though the Champaign prize for any tested ideas may have helped a teensy bit too).

Post invigorating coffee break/table football match, many delegates were given a wake up call by Sam and Felix of Essential Communications.  Prior to arriving at the IDM, the social media agency reps had done some digging on all of us, and read out some   facebook statuses/info.  Whilst I'd had a tidy up of all the embarrassing frapes that naturally occur when a student negligently forgets to log out, not all had.  To save your eyes from going blind at what was written I wont type the things that came up, but needless to say, everyone's social media accounts are a lot more employer-friendly now.
We were all then educated on how to brand ourselves, both in efforts to gain that first job, and throughout our careers.  Again I was surprised at how few people had gone beyond mere facebook, and into the realms of Twitter, Linkedin or blogging.  However, as the increase in my follows/ers and connections indicate, pretty much all now have a more prominent online presence.

After lunch and a spot of presentation polishing, it was time.  The main event of the week was upon us; the Patrons evening at The Goring Hotel.
Heading off in our Apprentice-esque suits and black cabs, we were greeted at the swanky hotel by a Champaign reception and lots of unfamiliar faces.  However, after the obligatory photos and a brief speech from Derek Holder (in which the fantastic programme coordinator Janice Pickard got the praise she sorely deserves), we were all mingling and chatting away quicker than you could say "job".

Overall the evening was a smashing success.  Whilst the evening being renowned for leading to employment meant that everyone was flexing their networking muscles harder than those at a Mr Universe convention, the covert waiters sneakily refilling everyone's glasses meant that everyone was relaxed and friendly throughout.  From those working client side, established at a highly reputable agency, or those just creating one, the plethora of people to talk to and learn from made the night a definite highlight of the week. 

Unfortunately however, it had to end.  And so all 27 delegates - somewhat merrier than we arrived - headed back to St Mary's in our black cabs, in need of a good nights sleep prior to pitch day.

Barrie Spelling IDM Summerschool 2011 (Wednesday)

Wednesday morning we changed the pace up a little, with Wendy Pearson of Direct Line enlightening us about segmentation.  Though we all knew that a great plan can only be implemented or even conceived after deciding exactly who to target, many of us weren't too savvy as to the intricacies and inherent complexities of undertaking such a task.  However, being set some group work that was fed back to the collective, we all got a flavour of how a company like Direct Line segments as effectively as it does, managing to remain an insurance giant without resorting to aggregator sites.

After this, EHS 4D Group came in to go through the moderately recent rise of digital, it's necessity as a marketing medium, and how it's progressing as a tool for marketers.  Providing numerous examples of successes such as Intel's "Museum of Me", Nike's "1948", and O2's "3D rugby" (done by AIS), we all received some interesting insight as to what's being done at the moment, and the vast possibilities of digital as a discipline.

All excited over the prospect of being the future creative minds behind campaigns such as these, our heads were brimming with ideas  for our afternoon of working on our case studies.  That said, knowing that the patrons evening at The Goring would be the focus  of Thursday, the pressure was on to get our presentations pretty much nailed by the days end. 

The IDM's 8pm closure meant we eventually had to leave the building and search further afield for the work necessity of wifi.  Fortunately for our team however, Kristina's nearby house meant that we were able to work in a bit more comfort than others, who had to sponge off of Pizza Express until kick-out time.

 Trying to get into the Bacardi spirit, we decided to have a few of the cocktails we were marketing, and have our own little "Bacardi Together" moment.  Getting fully stuck in to the task, we had a great night working on our pitch, feeling like  we were getting a true taste of what agency work would be like when the pressure's on.  Whilst it was a long night, we all worked really well together and before we knew it it was 2:30 and our presentation was pretty much sorted.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Barrie Spelling IDM Summerschool 2011 (Tuesday)

The morning got under way with a visit from Chris Jones and Sarah Stratford of Archibald Ingall Stretton (AIS), who having introduced the company and their approach to marketing, gave groups of us a mini-brief  to work on.  We were given just 20 mins to come up with a full campaign based on O2's Priority sector - you know, those texts you're disappointed to receive as for a minute you thought it was  a friend texting you and you were popular.  Each group subsequently pitching to the room, the results were fantastic.  In such a short period of time I was truly impressed with the range, depth and innovativeness of each groups' ideas.  

For example, in a nut-shell, our group came up with the following:
In seeking to acquire an emotional relationship beyond that of a mere phone provider, we focused on live events in our notion of "being the band manager".  As gig attendees always have personal desires of what songs they wish to be played in the set, and in spite of a good gig will often be left feeling slightly miffed if particular songs weren't played, we wanted to give the public a say in what they heard.  
This would be done by ticket holders and online viewers of the gig texting, tweeting, or messaging their favourite songs, with the most popular ones forming part of the set-list.

Allocating 10-15% of tickets at the O2 for a large performer (to be decided upon), we would primarily run a ballot allocated competition for tickets.  Utilising facebook, twitter and owned websites we would require the entrance of details from consumers, and suggest adding friends too, in order to increase the already wealthy Priority database, and acquire new touch points to interact with consumers in the future.  To promote this we would suggest short (15 sec) ads, utilising the current billy-goat style ads to keep in line with the current campaign and reduce costs, alongside a direct mail push.
Having the gig subsequently streamed online to all those signed up would mean that even those that weren't able to win a ticket would still be able to see the performance and feel more privileged than non-O2 users.
People would then be able to interact and discuss what they though of the gig online, with social media being monitored and interacted with to ensure a positive post-event consumer experience.  Video response booths at the venue would help create a viral advertisement for O2 Priority, and show others the level of enjoyment that O2 gave them.

Anyway, back to the track.  Our last pre-lunch session was filled by Martin Troughton supplying us all with tips for successful career development.  With insider anecdotes galore, the tale of Martin's illustrious career proved to be both entertaining and highly insightful.  From his time at OgilvyOne to founding Harrison Troughton Wunderman to his current position at Anglian, it was clear to see that he had reaped such successes due to his highly inquisitive nature, ambition for greatness, and dedication to the industry.  Whilst his lessons were numerous, these were his top 7:

  1. Treat yourself like a brand.
  2. Only work for the best people.
  3. Don't be afraid of moving jobs.
  4. Don't seek praise, seek criticism.
  5. Don't take short cuts, they never lead anywhere worth going.
  6. Don't promise what you can't deliver.  Over deliver on what you promise.
  7. Keep learning.

After lunch was the big trip out.  Each year the summer school takes it's delegates to one of the bigger patrons of the IDM, to give us a glimpse at what working at such an agency might be like.  This year we were shepherded off in true year 8 school trip fashion, to Canary Warf and OgilvyOne.

For those who haven't been there, wow.  I must say I've never been in a place like it.  The only way to describe it would be a more purposeful kids section in the Science Museum.  With motion reactive floors, 3D TVs, jukeboxes, and a LOT of awards at every turn, it was a fantastic place to woo potential and current clients.  

During our time there, not only did we get a tour of the impressive (if slightly show-offy) Design Labs, but were also treated to an audience with moguls such as friendly UK Chairman Paul O'Donnell, and the brilliantly quirky (and quirkily brilliant) Rory Sutherland.  Also getting a chance to speak to this years Ogilvy Fellowship intake, we got to hear about industry life from similarly minded industry newbies, as we were all hoping to be.

Minds reeling from all that we'd seen, heard, touched, and generally experienced at one of the industry's biggest companies, it was time for a drink.  Heading downstairs to the in-house bar, we were treated to some lovely drinks, and had a great time meeting and chatting with some of the company's employees.

Eventually having to leave the agency (many a lot tipsier than when we entered), we headed off for a group bonding meal at Wagamamas before heading home to work on our briefs and get a good nights sleep.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Old Spice Guy v Fabio: A Promising Continuation for the Brand

A little under a year and a half since the magnificently muscular Isiah Mustafah first said "Hello ladies", he's back for the latest instalment of Weiden and Kennedy's Old spice campaign.

Originally briefed to target both men and women (as they're normally the one that buys their partner's body wash), the innovatively interactive Old Spice viral responses produced by Weiden and Kennedy enormously exceeded any expectations.  The 186 videos received 40 million views in the first week, and led to 75% of sector conversations being about Old Spice for the succeeding 3 months.  Ultimately, after 6 months sales had increased by 27%, and "firmly cemeted Old Spice as No.1 for mens' body wash in the US" (see further impressive stats and a full case study here).

Considering the campaign's enormous success, the question "what next?" begged. 
Whilst brands often over-keenness to jump on the success of a campaign destroys any buzz and connection that the brand has with consumers, Old Spice managed to resist this itch.  Instead, they waited until the experience began to fade in consumers' minds, and a fresh new interaction was needed, and not just wanted.

So what happened?  Well, further utilising the enormous base of followers and likers gained from the first phase of the campaign they sensibly decided to stick to social media.  In what was coined the "Mano a Mano in el Bano" (which translates as "hand to hand in the bathroom") Italian model Fabio Lorenzo sought to win the Old Spice crown from the Old Old Spice Guy.  Again creating real time video responses to users questions, both "battled" for votes, with the winner becoming the new Old Spice Guy.

Some may say that taking such a similar tack to their previous  phase is somewhat unimaginative.  However considering that the focus is now more on retention than acquisition, they have reached those already recruited to Old Spice in a way now familiar to them.  Not only does this (due to the time lapse in phases) have the capability of invoking a nostalgic response that causes them to revisit the videos that caused them to use Old Spice originally, but the brand image is also adequately kept. 

The initial stats also appear promising.  Whilst the Google search index for Old Spice is little over a third of the first phase, their Twitter followers has lept by over 23 thousand in the past 10 days.  Also, whilst the healthy progression of "likes" of their facebook page in the past 6 months (approx 300 thousand more) may suggest that they would have obtained this many followers without this spend, the July jump is perhaps enough to justify the campaign's progression, especially as the majority of activity was via YouTube.

Whilst it hasn't hit the heights of the first viral experience, the responses have often achieved over 100 thousand views, with "Challenge", "Challenge Acceptance", and "This Must End" (in which it's revealed that Old Old Spice Guy Isiah won the contest) posts obtaining 3 million, 1.15 million and 700 thousand views respectively (approx, to date).  Additionally, with more widely recognised PR that will immediately place the brand front of mind to many, the outlook for Old Spice is certainly promising.  Not only that, but considering the relative lack of search for the brand, it indicates that the social media platform is working well for them, and will act as a great touchpoint for more 1-to-1 conversations with consumers in the future.

A few other responses (more can be viewed on the Old Spice YouTube Channel)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

10 Lessons learnt from David Ogilvy's "Confessions of an Advertising Man"

Whilst on the Barry Spelling IDM Summer School 2011, I was fortunate enough to be permitted entrance beyond the glass gates of Ogilvy's Canary Warf office and into the belly of one of the biggest global communications networks alive today.
Marvelling at the eccentricity and grandeur of the agency's "showroom section", we were treated to an audience with friendly UK Chairman Paul O'Donnell, and the ever-tangential (but undoubtedly brilliant) Executive Creative Director Rory Sutherland among others.

Having had a fantastic time at the agency, upon leaving each of our party were gifted a copy of David Ogilvy's notorious "Confessions of an Advertising Man".  With a small window between finishing my degree and the commencement of my marketing career with Starcom MediaVest this September, I relished the opportunity for some much-missed leisure reading.
Whilst this is not an in-depth book review, it can safely be said that this book is a must.  A must for those entering the media world for the first time, a must for successful MDs, and all those betwixt and between.  Whilst Ogilvy is overly (albeit deservedly) self-appreciative at times, the wealth of knowledge, experience, passion and ambition of this man oozes from every page.  Whilst my scrawled notes on almost every page exceed what can comfortably be read on such a platform, here are the main lessons I learnt/musings that resulted from reading the book:

1. In order to truly create and innovate in an overcrowded marketplace, (whilst still maintaining brand identity) it is necessary to differentiate the brand from market commonality.  Whilst perhaps fairly obvious, many brands are currently failing to fully grasp this concept and are merely "getting by" on loyal consumers.  This is especially true with new brands, as once the client's place in the pecking order has been established, it's not easy to change, so making that initial impact can help propel a brand into the big leagues.

2. Personal/internal aspiration is key to creativity (and subsequently success).  Complacency and innovational staleness are bred from monetary greed and stational ambition overtaking industry passion and thrill.  As Mr Ogivly stated "everything looked different when my bank account was empty" [p27].

3.  An agency exists as a brand's champion, expected to win them battle after battle and gradually create an empire for them.  Within such a precarious relationship between an agency and client, it is best to allow them to win the smaller quarrels in favour of the grander strategy.  Whilst vocalising a "we know best" approach may sometimes be appropriate (depending largely on the quality of the agency/client's rapport), a client's stubbornness commonly makes these opportunities rare.  Supplementary to this, many a comedian has stated that a wife gets her way by making the husband think an idea is theirs, and though a subtle approach is naturally required,this tactic is also available here.

4. Consumers aren't idiots, so don't treat them as such.  Generation Y is far more savvy as to what's out there and are far more likely to do their research during their journey from browser to shopper to purchaser to loyal consumer.  People want to be addressed appropriately, with research showing that youth culture even want to be addressed by language 2-3 years more mature than their age.  With consumers less susceptible to advertising than they once were, in order to stand out, a specific issue of the consumer must be addressed on a personal and (where possible) emotional level, offering them a clear life benefit.  Be direct.  Be succinct.  Be creative.  Connect to every consumer on an individual level and make them feel cared about.  With such areas as SCRM rising in necessity and availability, there's more opportunity for personalisation than ever before.

5. Choose diplomatic honesty over situationally pressured acquiescence.  Whilst (especially as a recent graduate) speaking your mind may seem daunting and overstepping your place at times, both colleagues and clients will respect you and appreciate you more for it.  Firstly, if you've been asked to a meeting, you're in it to contribute your opinions not serve as just a "yes man".  Secondly, if you have an issue with something, it's normally for a reason.

6.  A creatively fantastic idea must also make business sense.  The innovativeness and forward-thinking nature of the of the industry is part of what makes it great, but ultimately agencies are hired to make clients money.  Whilst monetarily endowed clients may be more willing to spend large sums on brand awareness, the vast majority merely want bang for their buck.  If possible, build business into the strategy.  Make payment not just the light at the end of the tunnel, but create opportunities to make back the spend during the campaign.  A recent example of this is AIS's O2 3D Rugby campaign, where the return acquired by selling tickets to watch the England rugby match at cinemas ensured they were able to gain a vastly greater initial budget.

7.  Always aim to make history.  Whether you're working with a sports brand, holiday operator, or supermarket, every new campaign is an opportunity for greatness.  Nothing could be worse than seeing a direct competitor create a brilliant campaign and steal consumers away from you.  Have the ambition and drive to be the envy of others.  To do this, every move considered should be scrutinised and subsequently reflected upon and learnt from, regardless of degree of success.  Proper reflection ensures that for each new question issue, you'll have that little bit more experience from which to draw upon, and increase the likelihood of making history.

8.  As previously alluded to, client's have expectations of your agency, and failing to deliver on any promises made will likely lead to a parting of ways.  The best way to avoid such a divorce is to gain as much brand-intimate information as possible.  This allows greater insight into their desires, a more accurate realisation of what you can achieve, and a heightened understanding of the brand's identity and inner workings. To do this you must ask clients questions, and listen to what they have to say.  There's a big difference between merely hearing a client's views and listening to them, and it's one that is too often ignored.  Try to get under the skin of the business.  Find out what makes them tick, and most importantly, why.  Speak to as many representatives as you can to get as broad a picture as possible, reflect on what they say and how you feel about their views.  A brand is far more complex than any one individual you're speaking to, so to accurately and adequately represent that entity you must immerse yourself in it.

9.  Research everything.  More than others.  Whilst books and books could (and have) been written on this topic, succinctly there are a couple of things to be said.  Whether it's for:  Insight, general sector knowledge, knowing who you're pitching to, to learn how you actually feel about a product or how your friends feel about it, improving your next/current campaign, being able to network better with specific people, finding new business ventures, or for the next step in your career.  The list is almost endless.  As are the benefits

Succinctly put:
1.  Experience everything on a consumer level.
2.  Give yourself the best opportunity to impress.
3.  Become an expert on whatever you're doing.

10.  "Everything you do contributes to the brands image".  Be it DR e-mails, TV commercials, pop-up stands, facebook pages etc, all contribute to consumers' view of the brand.  Whilst some naturally carry more risk than others, one wrong move can heavily (if not irreparably) damage this image.  For example much controversy arose over a homophobic tweet sent out by a Vodafone employee that was widely reported upon.  Whilst this is a fairly anomalous slip-up, brands constantly trying to push boundaries means that care must constantly be taken and risks assessed. Upon an underestimation of people attending the American Apparel rummage sale, riots broke out and police became involved.  However, their 365 approach ensured that the damage to their brand was managed comparatively efficiently and effectively compared to the scale of the problem, with brand identity damage minimised.