Would your ad survive at a cocktail party?

cocktailWhen clients evaluate their brand ads, they should think of the ad as a person they’re meeting at a cocktail party.

You know the list of characters:

1. Chatter box – Yammers on, non stop, about his job, colleagues, kids, and everything else under the sun and doesn’t ask you a thing.

This is the ad that says too many different things and doesn’t care who you are.

2. Boring guy – Doesn’t have an opinion on anything. Has monosyllabic vocabulary.

This is the ad that tries to appeal to everyone.

3. Fashion disaster – Purple plaid jacket with yellow pants, white socks and red shirt.

This is the ad with no design balance, 4 font styles and bursts (i.e. 20% off!!)

4. Salesman – Won’t stop going on about his time share in Cancun.

This is the ad that screams “Buy NOW!”

5. The genius – Talks down to you like you’re eight years old. Usually has ‘doctor’ in his name.

This is the ad that spoon feeds the concept to you so you won’t miss the point.

A cocktail party is a lot like reading a newspaper or watching TV. There are lots of people (ads), and many of them would like to talk to you. Many clients do not consider this when evaluating their ads. So, next time you’re criticizing your ad, consider this:

If your ad is:

A. Interesting
B. Interested
C. Easy to understand
D. Well groomed
E. Not pushy

You probably have a good brand ad on your hands. And what’s more important is you’ll have a brand personality that people may want to meet again at the next party.

How can David beat Goliath?

davidMalcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and Tipping Point, recently wrote a terrific article in the New Yorker about Davids and Goliaths. He referenced historical conflicts that demonstrated that when David fights Goliath on Goliath’s terms (i.e. conventional battle), he wins 28% of the time. However, when he fights on his own terms, he wins an astounding 64% of the time.

This gave me a moment of pause. Not because of the radical percentage swing, but because how many of us out there, when you think of our talent, skills, company influence, experience, etc. can really call ourselves Goliaths? I would have to say that the majority of us out there are just plain old Davids. And if we’re David, then everyone else out there, to us, is Goliath.

So, what are we doing differently to succeed against the Goliaths of the world? Gladwell references a girls basketball team that used a full-court press to overcome the fact that they were smaller and less skilled than their opponents. But really, you can use this methodology in any aspect of your life.

For example, next time you’re applying for a job (which many are today) and you know that you’ll be competing against people with more experience and deeper skill sets, what will you do differently? If you go by Gladwell’s stats, when you apply like everyone else, you stand a one in four chance of getting that job. But if you change your tactics to focus on your strengths, you can change the playing field.

This philosophy, in essence, is how we look at advertising. Often, our clients do not have the same budgets, reputations or brands as their competitors, so we have to change the game in order to increase our odds of winning. This can take the form of an innovative media placement or use of media, unusual messaging, and a host of other areas. It’s all about cutting through the clutter and getting noticed.

In fact, this is a great way to look at anything in life where you feel you’re at a disadvantage. If you go up against the Goliaths straight up, you’ll probably lose. But if you change the game, you can accomplish anything.

PS – Thanks to condron.us for adding my blog to their roll.

Today is the end of news

latimes-logo1All Things Digital has just released an article that shows the LA Times‘ new strategy for revenue generation – selling ad space to TV networks who then produce content that look like real articles (sort of). Does this mark the end of factual news as we know it? Or are newspapers finally accepting their fate as quasi news sources (like the news networks) that will only survive this downturn as ‘infotainment’.

Are we the best marketers for Doritos?

250g_doritos_bilingualI’m a big fan of Doritos. Not just their product, which I’m sure keeps my local gym happy, but their approach to marketing. You may recall a few years ago they ran a campaign promoting a contest for the best TV commercial, that would air during the Superbowl. It generated so much buzz that they did the same thing again this year. The winning entry didn’t only win the Doritos contest, it was widely recognized as people’s favorite Superbowl commercial. Take that, Chiat Day.

Well, Doritos has done it again. Now they’ve launched a high profile contest in Canada to name their newest flavor of chips. People are encouraged to name the chips and create a TV commercial. The winning entry will receive $25,000 and 1% of net sales for the brand.

Pretty good tactic. Or is it?

With 10 times the population, it’s a pretty safe bet that in the USA at least one commercial generated from the thousands of entries is going to be worthy of broadcast. But what if we Canadians come up short and produce something god awful? Will Doritos still run the crappy ad that wins by virtue of most online votes?

Or, is the way to look at this exercise that regardless of the outcome, Doritos has created a bunch of buzz around the brand. The proof, I suppose, is in the results.

Am I too dumb to be marketed to?

gmc_truckAdvertising is generally guilty of assuming its audience is much denser than it really is, but there are some commercials out there, in my opinion, that assume we know more than we really do. I was watching football this weekend, which generally means having to endure a generous slew of truck commercials. After viewing what seemed to be the 83rd truck commercial of the day, I realized that I have no idea what they’re talking about. More specifically, what the little acronyms in the financing offers entail. I don’t profess to be any smarter than any other consumer out there, but if I work in advertising and I don’t know what ARP or OAC mean, how does the average consumer? Should I be surprised that these statements came from American car manufacturers?

My advice to car companies (and all other companies who advertise) is simple. BE simple. If I don’t understand what you’re selling me, odds are I’m not going to buy it.

Oh, by the way, ARP stands for Annual Rate of Payment and OAC is On Approved Credit.

Can you think of any other commercials you’ve seen where you don’t understand what they’re talking about? I’m thinking of starting a support group.

4 reasons why ad agencies no longer have value (and a few things we can do about it)

moneyPeople keep asking me what the future of general service advertising agencies looks like. As they are today? Not good. Here are four reasons why these agencies are in trouble and a few things they can do to fix themselves.

1. Information asymmetry no longer exists. Clients used to come to agencies because we had proprietary information they didn’t possess. Perhaps it was unique media knowledge, or intimate research on consumer behavior. Regardless, clients paid us partially because we knew what they didn’t. Today, with the internet, clients have just as much access to information as agencies do. So, professing unique knowledge as an advantage doesn’t wash anymore.

2. Desktop publishing is widespread.
Ten years ago clients had no idea what Adobe Photoshop was, let alone how to use it. Today, almost everyone knows about it, or enough of its use to put together an ad or some collateral. The expertise we possess in our software tools has been compromised.

3. The defection of agency personnel. This isn’t a new story, but more and more agency folks are defecting to client side and bringing all of their knowledge with them. Generally their first course of action is ‘ditch the agency’ because they feel that they possess all of the required knowledge (it also helps them make a good case for their own remuneration).

4. Marketing departments need to prove ROI. Generally speaking, ten years ago, marketing budgets were deemed ‘necessary evils’. “I know I’m wasting half of my advertising budget. I just don’t know which half.” No one understood what was working, therefore no one knew what to cut. Today, a need to prove a return on marketing dollars spent is raising marketers’ scrutiny of the work they receive from agencies. Agencies that do not address this need are in trouble.

Okay, there’s the bad. Now here are a few things we can do about it:

1. Be accountable for ROI. This is an area we are aggressively researching at our agency. Tie our compensation to the performance of the campaign.

2. Narrow the scope with respect to software and knowledge. Anyone can know a little bit about everything. But few people know a lot about one thing. Agencies that focus on fewer things will possess expertise and will increase their geographical market. The analogy I use is the difference between a GP and a Brain Surgeon.

So there is hope, but only if we’re willing to change. Of course we can also close our eyes and hope that nothing changes, too. But anyone who has been in this business for any length of time will tell you – our industry is all about change. To ignore it will be at our peril.

How to create ads that talk back

This is the tag I created

This is the tag I created

Microsoft has come up with (or reprised – Japan has another kind) a revolutionary new technology called Tags. These tags are unique barcodes that can be placed in almost any media environment. If a cell phone picture is taken of one of these tags, it automatically redirects the user’s cell phone browser to a preloaded web site, v-card, etc.

For example, you could take a picture of the tag at the top of this post and it would redirect you to (gasp!) this blog. More exciting uses would be to put a tag on the bottom of a movie poster, which could redirect someone to a trailer of that movie. Or a restaurant could place one of these tags outside its doors which redirect people to its online reservation page. The options are endless. A colleague of mine suggested that porn stars could tattoo their tags on their bodies, that led to their personal web sites.

For now, the technology is free while Microsoft beta tests it. Phones supported are the iPhone, new Blackberry models and a few others. Naturally they need to have a camera and an internet connection. You’ll also have to download the software to your phone first. To learn more click here.

To create a tag click here. It only took me about 30 seconds.

Do you have any suggestions for interesting ways this technology could be used?