Advertising should be about enabling stories to be told

A few weeks ago I did a talk about the ‘Rebirth of Advertising‘ at TEDxLiege. Rebirth was the theme of the TEDx event that day and I wanted to bring a story that proves it is actually a great time to be in advertising today. That is if you don’t think about advertising as the intrusive, obnoxious thing that interrupts interesting experiences. Here’s how I define advertising:

“Advertising should be about enabling stories to be told. Whether those are brand stories, product stories, consumer stories, … Why would I listen to anyone if it they don’t have something interesting to say?”

Also when I started developing the talk I wanted it to have no advertising in it, I wanted it to excite people about a business I am excited about without showing entertaining work. You can see the 18′ talk in the video below.

Thanks to the team at Duval Guillaume for trying to push the boundaries of advertising every single day and special thanks to Mike Arauz (Undercurrent) whose thinking influenced me quite a bit lately. Thanks Mike!

Selling bravery to clients – Sir John Hegarty

How does bravery define great work, that was the question from David Droga to this panel of industry legends at Advertising Week Europe earlier this week. Here’s what John Hegarty had to say about that. He doesn’t like the word ‘bravery’, linking that directly to an element fear and nobody wants to be afraid.

Firstly, he said: “Agencies don’t make great decisions they make recommendations and when we talk about agencies being brave, we’re not, it’s our clients.”

And secondly: “We spend a lot of time trying to get clients to buy brave work and my latest observation is if 10 per cent is bought by clients you’re doing quite well. So you’re being paid vast amounts of money for being ignored 90 per cent of the time.”

Hegarty admits that despite his efforts trying to get clients to be brave with advertising, they are simply not “attuned” to taking risks. His solution? Change your approach.

“There is no point in saying ‘I want you to be brave’. You’re not going to succeed,” he told the advertisers in the room. “We need to challenge this notion that we’ve got to sell more bravery because people won’t like it – we’ve got to think of a different word for it.”

Hegarty revealed he now uses the word “excitement” when talking about bolder work to clients.

Full article/report on The Drum.
Image credit also The Drum.

Marketers underestimate the ‘owned’ in ‘owned media’

Facebook reportedly slashing organic reach for pages. Or Why you should subscribe to our newsletter. Why am I not surprised.

Whatever the online media mix I’ve always been convinced that a company’s website is the central building block. There are many beliefs that have evolved over time, yet this one hasn’t, I think it’s key for brands to consider the main website as the most important owned media. That and the development of an direct email program. The biggest mistake brands can make is to consider social media as being part of their owned media because social media are at best ‘rented’ but definitely not owned. If it were owned, you would be in control. Hence why you want to make sure that the central element of your online mix is something you can control.

It’s like we’re trying to fix a problem that shouldn’t have been a problem to begin with. The same reason why I don’t like to use the term ‘corporate website’. It defines the website as being a boring thing on the web that holds information about the brand, when it was founded, where it’s located, etc. In that regard I get it that we thought more exciting things could happen on social media. But it’s because we’re using it wrong, look at what Coca-Cola is doing with its corporate website, now here’s something interesting. How come nobody is doing that?

Think about the traffic and engagement you could have created if you would have invested in it all along. Think about how search made every page a homepage and how we can use to design user experiences. How you should invest a lot of effort in making sure there’s no link left behind when you change platforms.

Seriously. Do use Facebook and other platforms to experiment with different types of user engagement, I do too, it’s fun and there’s some really good stuff that can be done. But first and foremost, reconsider the importance of your website and your own email program, that’s an investment in the future that is never lost. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s yours. And quite frankly, if you cannot think of anything interesting to do with your own website, why do you think that problem will fix itself when creating content for social media?

What responsive design should really look like

I found this video from the interactive prototype Room-E on the 72U project blog. It’s a prototype showing what will be possible in the near future when you think about a more responsive environment.

“The future of the computer is to essentially make it disappear—a disconnected interface, so the house or the office or the building or the city is the computer.”Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, frog

Check out the video below.

The cure for boredom is curiosity

The first question our strategy interns will ask when they start here will almost always be: “what makes a good strategist?”. There are many answers to give to this question but I will only give one: be curious. I am convinced that this is the first and most important quality a good strategist must have, that’s where it starts.

Mel Exon (BBH Labs) once wrote a post comparing a good journalist with a strategist, pointing out the 3 characteristics both should have:

  1. A relish or hunger to find out new intelligence
  2. The intellectual ability to see patterns in that data; see the big picture and understand the facts
  3. An ability to write beautifully

I like the way Mel defined curiosity. An so did Ian Fitzpatrick, who built further on the importance of it:

“What I’d impart to you is the significance of the second trait: a relish or hunger to find out new intelligence. To achieve this trait — and I think it’s something you have to work at (or at least I do) — you will necessarily adopt an interested posture. We can, and must, build practices of curiosity.

To practice curiosity is to, necessarily, seek out the messy (and occasionally amorphous) perspectives of others. To be great at planning, or I’d posit at any pursuit charged with shaping things for people, requires both that we embrace and develop a profound respect for people who are not like us.

Please don’t forget that people are messy. It’s what makes us (including you) interesting, and what makes it incredibly difficult to design one-size-fits-all solutions (or communications).”

So go out and be curious. Seek out the messy. Find new grounds to explore. Always keep asking questions. Every answer should lead to a new question. That’s what makes it all interesting, that’s how you get to new and fresh ideas.

Or as Dorothy Parker said:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Is Google Glass the Segway of this era?

Not so long ago Mike Butcher (from Techcrunch) tried on a pair of Google Glass lent to him by a Glass Explorer at a conference and even though his experience with Glass was rather short he made a conclusion that nailed it for me:

“So Google Glass for me will be this era’s Segway: hyped as a game changer but ultimately used by warehouse workers and mall cops.”

I had a chance to buy a Google Glass 5-6 months ago when the original Google Explorers were allowed to invite 3 friends to join the program. As managing partner for digital at Duval Guillaume, I need and want to be on top of major tech innovations and Glass is definitely one of those things. So I volunteered immediately and made some arrangements to be able to buy it whilst not completely following the standard procedure. You have to be a US resident for instance which I’m not. But that was pretty easy to overcome. So I got my Google Glass pretty soon after and once it was all set up (which was pretty easy) I started playing around with it.

At first I was in awe. The little projection screen of Google Glass is crisp, the voice & touch controls are very intuitive and simple to get familiar with and it’s pretty impressive what it can do. It’s the same when you share that experience with others, every time one of my friends or colleagues put on Google Glass and performed some of the main key tasks they were amazed with the result. That and the jealousy of some to get hold of their own.

I took some really great pictures of the rising sun while driving my car, got directions pointed out to a unknown shop while walking in the city, watched Youtube video’s after searching them via voice commands, shared Facebook updates also via voice, … A lot of nice things actually. But then there’s also a problem. There are a few, like battery time for instance (which is worse than on a smartphone). But that’s not the real problem.

The real problem is that actually wearing it makes you look weird – or at least different enough for people to notice. It doesn’t look natural and so people will make a comment about it. They either know what it is and want to try it, or worse, want you to take it off, like if you’re constantly filming people. Or people don’t know what it is and think you look ridiculous. And you can’t blame them because you know you look ridiculous with the glasses on.

And if people ask what the benefits are and you tell them, they will tell you all of that’s also possible with your smartphone. With the difference you don’t have the take it out of your pocket, but then again you don’t have to wear those strange glasses all the time. And indeed, there’s not much you can bring into that. Because there are very few moments that you can say that you couldn’t possible reach for your phone, in which case Google Glass really was beneficial to you.

And for that Mike’s comment makes a lot of sense. When it makes no real difference to use Google Glass or your smartphone for the same tasks, the smartphone is still a winner. But when you’re a policeman, or a flight attendant, a medic, … and you need your hands for other things then the Glass makes total sense. Therefore it cannot come as a surprise that NYPD is testing Google Glass or Virgin Atlantic.

I’m not sure how the final Google Glass will go to market nor when that will happen. But it still needs massive change before people will adopt it because it don’t think it is appealing enough to the masses how it is right now. Let alone the price tag of course, you can buy yourself some pretty sweet smartphones for USD 1.500.

Don’t get me wrong by the way, I’m still pretty happy to have one and I will keep testing the device for quite some more time. It does help to get insights on where wearables might go to and it still is pretty amazing if you’re willing to unthink the fact that you are wearing empty glasses with a battery pack on the side. Let’s see what comes next.

Note – I wrote this on the plane about a week ago, since then Google announced Android Wear which subsequently makes a lot more sense to me than the Glass does for the moment. Or maybe I should just wait until we see what RayBan is going to make of it.

An ‘audience’ is an organisational convenience from a broadcast age

Activities not audiences. Russell Davies wrote an interesting post about how organizations are thriving upon ‘marketing thinking’ and how digital breaks most of that traditional thinking for good. It’s not about technology, it’s about a change of mind.

“An ‘audience’ is an organisational convenience from a broadcast age. It’s a reasonable way of segmenting the world so you can buy media but as a way of actually talking to people it doesn’t work. Most good advertising gets round it the same way good art does – by using the specific to illuminate the general, but most advertising isn’t good. So you end up with crude panderings like appealing to women by making all men seem like feckless idiots. Or by saying everyone born in a particular decade has a particular way of looking at the world.

The whole point of ‘digital’, the very opportunity of it, is that you don’t have to segment people like this. They segment themselves by looking for the thing they want to do.”

It’s just an idea. Really?

A lot has been said about creativity and this sure won’t be the last thing written about it either. At the agency we often get a question to quickly think about something, quickly help on finding an idea for something small. We have the creatives right so can they not just help on that, it’s just an idea.

This brings up the most difficult and the easiest part of our job. We do have a group of really good creatives, really talented and all award winning creatives. So finding ideas is quite easy. For them. The thing that we forget here is that they are ‘trained’ creatives, they’ve lived their whole private & professional life to be good at what they are. So talking about finding ‘just an idea’ is as disrespectful to their talent is it would be to ask a baker to ‘just bake a cake’ or a tax consultant to ‘just find a way to avoid some more tax’. If that is your talent, if that is what you learned to do well then it deserves every bit of credit and isn’t just a small thing.

So it’s easy. For them. Then again it’s difficult. When you want to find ideas it’s important that you know where to go look for them. You need to figure out what is exactly the problem you’re trying to solve and how to develop the best possible ‘creative boulevard’. It needs to be right, relevant and inspiring enough for the creatives to start searching for ideas. Ideas that will answer the client’s needs, however big or small that need is.

So, if I may, I’m not a creative but please never ever again ask for ‘just an idea’ when you need talented creative people to solve one of your problems, big or small. Create value, value creative remember.