Friday, July 31, 2009

The evolution of the logo

I'm not sure what this proves. Some people like to dance around a lot and set their hair on fire. Some don't. Or, as I like to interpret it, drink water. Found this at the Barbarian Blog.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Heavy showers moving in from the web: the Summer of Sandtex

Every so often the (cliché alert, gentle readers!) green shoots of hope manage to poke me in the eye and I cry a little tear for the audacity of hope in this time of such not hope at all. Such a story as this following one is one such.

I've done my share of whingeing here about the slow-to-glacial uptake of digital engagement by Adland. Some part of my D&A just refuses to stop caring about it. And now as the chill gloom of deep August settles on us all and I sit here amidst the early BulMag apple cider harvest, suffused about the cheeks with a faux-retro Kellogg's Country Store vibe, I look back over the short summer of Dublin adland and ask myself what has happened in digital terms, quite apart from all the killings, maimings, torturings, razors taken to budgets and shivs dug into the unsuspecting necks of junior AEs?

But mostly I look back and wonder, as I'm sure we all do: what the fuck was this all about?

I'd seen the zany outdoor stuff and like any sane person I wondered what's Gillian Bowler at now, lads? Then I copped the Sandtex logo and almost at once I elected to forego my sixth annual continental fortnight just so that I could get to the bottom of this deliciously apposite enigma. Because whatever it looks like, it sure as shitty weather doesn't look like an ad for exterior masonry paint. Right?

Er, wrong. Wrong to the tune of 10,307 Facebook fans atcherly. It was a big old gotcha! and I'm sheepishly admitting that I completely missed the viral action that was going on. The entire campaign pretty much lived online - and is still doing so. A blog was set up linking to the Twitter and Facebook page, run by The Sandtex Insider, a national man (?) of mystery known only by the squelching of his wellies, who's been writing (fuckin' incessantly, and quite appropriately) about the weather.

That one thing that unites all pasty-arsed Irish men and women from April to October. The poxy weather. That's how big the creative idea was. It blotted out the sky, maan. So big that you wouldn't even see it in all its pissy glory, but it was that pissy idea that gets you wet all the same.

The campaign cleverly latched on to it because it's something that is just part and parcel of our sodden summers. The blog is frankly downright dull on the old colour spectrum (Irony, right lads? That's irony, yeah?) it did no more than it needed to for engagement on visitors' terms, it gently nudged the Sandtex message here and there and it linked to the other sites. (That doesn't make it viral per se, btw. People passing it along decide if it's viral.) It also just hit the right amount of cultural buttons to make it uniquely Irish. Not to be underestimated, that one. Where else would this reader submission be considered funny, exactly? But right here in Ireland, in this medium, it's a fuckin' riot. (No offence, baby J.)

So yet again, the big idea proves to be a little one. I'm pleased really, because I've had to hang on to the brogans of more than one ad creative as they disappeared up their own jacksie in search of the high art concept. Occasionally they were me. But that's not always what interests punters. The most redeemed giveaway on the blog? Child of Prague statuettes. I kid you not. (Free pint of Sledgehammer not included, btw.)

I'm also pleased that I completely missed it for weeks. I could cite all sorts of reasons for this, but the ultimate why is that the Irish online community is waay too big for anyone to keep a comprehensive eye on. I should've seen this one, professionally speaking, but the fact that it slipped past while I was probably nosing around in someone else's blog means a wider, deeper pool of engagement, where all sorts of tricks will need to be deployed, is happening.

But what real learnings?

Your creative idea can live longer and more impactfully online if you think about it that way from the start. This campaign set out with a two week budget for some posters, bus sides, weather sponsorship on radio and hope in its heart. It's knocked an entire season out of what was to be, at best, a month and a half of activity.
Campaigns like this are few in Ireland just yet, but they shouldn't necessarily be seen as an immediate sales booster. They can do that, no doubt, but certainly to me they look more likely to assist brands to slide into that area beloved by late eighties admen: the hearts and minds of consumers, ladies and gentlemen.
So don't expect immediate sales spikes unless you are pushing a specific promo within your engagement. And as timing would have it, that's exactly what the Sandtex blog is doing with today's post. I'd love to hear how it does. Who knows, we might get an inkling when the numbers are in. What's clear already is that Facebook has been a huge success, with over 10k fans and massive engagement. Second only to Guinness as regards official fan pages, they say. I'm too lazy to check it out. There have been around 40,000 page views. The 'pointless' outdoor alone was doing a good job of searing Sandtex onto my retinas anyway, but add the engagement to it and suddenly it's got a very sharp point indeed. Even if I did miss it initially.

In short, campaigns like this one are major causes for optimism, imho. New media being tackled appropriately and all that. There's another wave that needs to come right behind it, bringing people with even less 'traditional' advertising nous with it: the application developers. The cat can be skinned more ways than ever. But first let's get to grips with the ones that people are becoming increasingly familiar with. And meantime I'm off to give a lick of paint to the castle ramparts, while there's a gap in the August moisture.

Update: Mea culpa for wittering on about an integrated campaign and forgetting to name other key integrationists. Alongside Bloom on this one are Radical and Pembroke Communications. Nicely executed work from all, and apparently there's more to come.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Irish PR. New levels of precision digital targetting every day.*

I've always been a big fan of incisive, cut-through-the-clutter PR. The science of it. The subtlety of it!! I love the way so many agencies know how to target their message with unbelievably clinical precision, narrowing it down to within nanometers of the cerebral cortex of the intended consumer.
How often have I marvelled at the unerring way that uniquely talented models are used against a backdrop of, oh I dunno, let's take a completely random St Stephen's Green, to promote let's say a rate of return of an amazing 9.7% APR for new customers opening a Switcheroo account. It cuts straight to the relevant heart of the matter, don't you find? The care, exactitude and thought that go with it are often breathtaking. Next thing you know, there'll be a shot of a slightly overweight guy in a sober suit holding an outsized something or other (like a big 9.7% made out of styrofoam maybe) alongside an actress (dontcha know) and suddenly there it'll be, as essential to The Evening Herald as journalists and incisive journalism. The process is endlessly fascinating, the learnings that are applied (use girls, don't go mad on clothing, have a big prop, include the client if possible etc) are always just zingy fresh and new, and the outcomes for client's budget on these photoshoots must always be enormous. You gotta spend it to make it, clearly.

This particularly resonant example was brought to my attention by Brand Ireland. A trip to the post will explain many of the nuances that I simply do not have the space to deal with adequately here. Suffice to say that this extraordinarily creative twist, featuring not one, not two wildly varied models, involves the eagerly awaited launch of Avonmore's new Easy Pour Jugs.

Surely you'll join me in my hat tip to this summit, this azimuth, this acme, this peak, this explosion of public relations at its creative finest. I know its elegant simplicity has inspired me. Thus, in its honour, I am inaugurating a three-semester, 33-week, proto-analytical course in the Dublin School of Advanced Applied Public Relations. Course applications are being taken now, so if you think you have what it takes to be a PR maestro (and only the brightest will gain admittance) then you may be one of the lucky first classmates to pass Cumma sum Laudly through my academic hands. Places are limited to 174, and unfortunately in this inaugural year there will only be one random PR Guru Award. Applications to the usual address. There will be badges for all. (And yes, I know azimuth was out of place there. Smartarse.)

* This post has nothing whatsoever to do with digital marketing. But I know relevance when I see it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I’m putting you in charge of Pittsburgh, Peter. I know it’s perfect, Peter; that’s why I picked Pittsburgh.

From this...

to this.

You can rely on FedEx not to drop it. Unless it's TV advertising during Super Bowl. They've decided instead to go after this internet thing con gusto, hoping that a series of spoof infomercials will hit the spot with the office crowd.

They've started out smart by hiring Fred Willard (yes you know him, you just don't know you do). They'll have their work cut out for them. Last quarter they lost $876 million. 12 months earlier losses were running at a third of that figure. So they absolutely, positively need to start making inroads somewhere.

The FedEx YouTube channel is called Get Infotained and you can see all the spots and get an eyeball on the numbers if you care to take a look. FedEx director of advertising Steve Pacheco says in an interview with the New York Times that they're not deserting TV, just the $3m-for-30-second-slots insanity that is SuperBowl. It's bigger than the All-Ireland Football Final, apparently.

Yeah, right.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Can a corporate blog ask the difficult questions?

Pic thanks Kevin Dooley

Anyone with a blog can mouth an opinion.

What you won't find too much of is a corporate entity jumping in there and saying the unexpected, because they're far too often petrified by the prospect of what genie they'll let out of the bottle. Truth? We never needed it before, why should we be all warm and fuzzy now?

You won't, you can be damn sure, hear a bank in Ireland asking out loud whether Western economies will struggle to return to growth. And it wouldn't ask if we are in the eye of the perfect storm, or whether we're facing years of foreclosures or if those shoots of recovery, of which Mr Cowen spoke, are really visible. Safer to play accentuate the positive, even if you're only admiring the napp of the wallpaper in your first class cabin on board HMS Titanic.

But if it were to ask these honest questions, a major bank in Ireland would never ask them outside the boardroom. It wouldn't ask a naysayer like David McWilliams for fear that he'd answer with the truth, or at the very least an honest opinion. And it most definitely wouldn't put the bloody answers on its blog out there in the skittish public domain, now would it? No, because you can't trust people with unvarnished information. Even if they trust you with their precious resources. No no no. Blogs are the Bic of Satan. Dangerously true information has to be filtered through the correct sieves. Reassurance mechanisms like PR and advertising and official spokesper- what?

Oh really? They did?

Oh. I see.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What would Coca Cola do?

I found this on Linkedin, which is making more and more sense to me these days. Particularly the groups. We Are Social is one, and here's a presentation found via them on what Coke is doing with media digitally and socially.

BlogWell New York Social Media Case Study: Coca-Cola, presented by Adam Brown from GasPedal on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Facebook Garage report (moderate geek alert)

Way back there on July 2nd, I took my tired chassis to the Facebook Garage in the decidedly non-pitlike surrounds of the Radisson SAS in Golden Lane, D2.

Why? As I said somewhere else before, because I am reassured to know that there are serious geeks out there who know how to build serious applications (or 'apps', as we in the 'biz' 'call' them). I won't ever learn how to do it myself, but these dudes show the way.

Most impressive of the geeky ones for me was Flavien Charlon's MyCity. You may know this app already from FB. He had a modest way of explaining how his hobby of building a Sim city for FB went totally apeshit and now has 500,000 people who 'live' in the app. Putting on the morkeshing hat for a minute, I could see the instant application of this, erm, application for advertisers. Check out the slideshow.

But beyond geeky was cold, hard business. Colm Long, local boy and Facebook ruler of EMEA (I think it's, like, somewhere beyond Narnia) gave a great topline presentation on Facebook and apps (and the apps of apps) from the perspective of adlanders. This is the money shot.

And fyi (now that this is a gossip rag) people from the spitoon of Satan (ie agencies etc) who were in attendance included Unnamed from IIProximity, Undercover from Kick Communications, Unshaven from Cybercom, and Underexposed from MaxFilms

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Congratulations! I am the one millionth person to title a blogpost "The end for advertising agencies?"

Piece by piece the structure of advertising agencies is being disassembled. That's the polite way of saying it. If you've seen any of the Saw movies that might work as a more incisive visual. Just last week I heard unconfirmed reports of nine people being let go from Cawley Nea. It could be the Chinese Whisper figure I heard, but more often than not there's substance to the story. It's always glum to hear, and even more difficult to accept when it's from a good agency, doing good work for its clients. That alone is not enough right now to save anyone.

Ad agencies have their head in the vice alright, and it's not only the economy that's turning the handle. A rampant spend culture, the seeds of which were sown over the last decade, is now being harvested. Across town the memories of the office Christmas party that simply had to happen in some other continental capital aren't too distant to be forgotten yet. The endless, needless taxi trips to locations ten or fifteen minutes away on foot. The ugliest, most expensive furniture and bibelots scattered around reception.

It's not fair to blame a high-on-the-hog agency culture solely. I think that at this moment in time a lot of clients (unquestionably under pressure themselves too) are using stringent wartime conditions to let a bit of a wanton cruel streak cut loose. Agencies are scrabbling for project-by-project appointments, expending a huge amount of effort on mini-pitches. It gives the illusion of a busy beehive but it's based on vapour. The majority of it is energy and expense that is spent unrewarded. Not sustainable for very long. I hear of clients who demand more work on a purely speculative basis, more often than they ever have previously. It's fun to toy with the agency, I guess, now that it's turned into a mouse. Maybe it relieves their own stress in these faltering days. And with each genuine big account that is pitched and moves (or stays, it doesn't really matter) the staff at the unsuccessful agencies will hold their breaths and the management will most likely have to make that horrible call to the singled-out few.

Needless to say, I'm generalising quite a bit here. Not all clients are complete tossers and not all agencies are in headless chicken mode. And maybe soon that'll all be an academic question anyway, over redundancy pints in Smyths. But other questions need to be asked in the meantime. Fundamental questions. Like What is the agency now? What does it represent for clients? Can it reassume a place of relevance at the heart of client communications needs?

I'm skeptical. The last 18 months have seen wholesale changes, but the erosion for agencies has been going on for a lot longer than that. The removal of the media function that began 15 years or so back was huge. The growth of external researchers. The outsourcing of production facilities. The splintering effect of creative-only agencies, or service-led agencies that would hire in creatives on an ad hoc basis. The setting up of independent BTL agencies. The growth of digital media that have largely remained unharnessed by agencies. All these changes have led to an emasculation of the agency's raison d'etre in client terms. And clients have grown exponentially more sophisticated in marketing terms. It's been a long time since any decent-sized firm would simply rely on an agency as its go-to guy for all its needs, preferring instead to operate an a la carte system. Who could blame them? Nobody really expects one body to have all these competencies and be master of each one. Not gonna happen.

And more pertinently, when clients are exposed to the cost structures of various marketing specialists, it quickly becomes apparent as to who is costing the most and who is the least effective. Nowhere to hide. That became true in the late eighties with investment in direct response advertising and the set-up of direct marketing houses. Not as sexy as the big ad campaign makers, maybe, but effective and far more valuable to a lot of clients because of it.

Measurement has become ridiculously more quantifiable now (yes, I am aware of the tautology, but cannot be arsed to take the time to improve, better or refine it) with the true ascent of digital agents. 'Digital marketing is a speciality full of specialities.' That's how Jonathan Forrest of Cybercom put it recently in an interview with Pat Kenny. Recession or no, why would a client give any ad agency a huge chunk of business, welded as they are to an ever decreasing portion of the way we were?

Is there a way forward for agencies? In my stomach I don't believe there is, unless it's as a reinvented entity. And I don't mean rebranded. I mean as a valuable go-to resource for clients, a hub where expertise can be marshalled, so that even when an agency does not possess the skill to complete the required task, it can be an essential part of the overall equation that does. Nobody possesses all the specialities. Film production companies have always operated on this basis. You form the network for the project. Next time out you build to order all over again. But always, you have the option of positioning yourself at the centre of that hub. The brand guardian, if I may use that wanky old scrote of an expression. But it necessitates knowing all lines of communication, from Google Adwords to what the hell use an iPhone app might be. Things that you didn't need to know before, when everything was just radio/tv/press/outdoor lovely. There's no time for complacency at all. There's barely enough time to decide to act. The steepest learning curve adland has ever faced is pointing up to the sky right in front of everybody's face.

Last week's Business Post had a great article on the current state of affairs for agencies in general. It had a perfect cross-section of panic, denial, optimism and pragmatic decisiveness. Sometimes all from the same agency spokesperson. But what stood out clearly was everyone's fixation with digital. For some because it's what they do, for others because it's what they know they need to be doing. Necessity, to tweak a phrase, is the mother of reinvention.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Your Economy needs you!

Terracotta Army
Originally uploaded by Eugene Regis

The soc meej army continues to mass its ranks. A couple of ways to enlist.

One gratuit: Thurs July 16th, Social Media Networking at the Clarion Hotel IFSC at 6pm.

One paid: MediaContact's Social Media Unspun on July 23rd at 10am.


Oh my goodness goodness me. It's been one of those most unusual things for me of late: a terribly busy two weeks in offline adland. I know! I'm as surprisder as you. I've barely had the time to fit 140 characters onto my private yacht, Das Tvit, for the annual five weeks of orgiastic July excess.


We've put together a 20" TV ad for a new superclub that's opening (in TRT!) in Maynooth, and it's rather tasty. We're also helping some festival frineds launch on radio and in press. Radio requirements throughout July seems to be enjoying a bounce after frankly a non-existent June all round. 
Anyway, there'll be more from me with some real substance to it later, I hope. Here's a picture of my neighbours meanwhile. I don't know about you but that guy in the middle freaks the fuck out of me.