As the first year of the new decade has now ended, in-between the odd piece of Terry’s Chocolate Orange and bottle of festive grog I’ve been finding myself reminiscing over the highs and lows of the past 12 months.
‘What will I remember last year for?’
Catastrophic earthquakes in the Carribean? Iberian exuberance in South Africa? A cosy little relationship in Whitehall? Yes to all of the above, however me being me, and this blog being this blog, necessitates a more capitalistic slant.
I’ve outlined below my top 10 favourite pieces of brand work that I came across in 2010, some of which I had time to cover here in the months gone by, but some that are new. Channel-wise (if that even has any meaning anymore) we have three, what-I-would-call broadcast adverts, five executions that are digital at heart and two that are of the experiential/live ilk – so a little bit of something for everyone. In regard to my choices, you might nod in concurring approval, you might shudder in disgust and you might even stroke your chin in a wise and mysterious manner.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter because ‘this here be my land’ and what goes, goes. Savvy? Ok, let’s rock…first up…
10//Call of Duty : Black Ops – The Launch Trailer
Ooh cripes. I know what you’re thinking – a launch trailer for a ‘computer game’ with guns, explosions, gung-ho characters and….. well, that’s about it. But before you close your browser in shame, hear this man out. In the US alone, Avatar (on record as the biggest grossing Hollywood export of all time) made $76m dollars in its first weekend.
Black Ops made $360m in one day.
As you can see, gaming is big business and as such, video games brands near and far have begun to start pumping out some equally big comms work. The Black Ops launch trailer is everything a gamer would want and nothing that they wouldn’t – epic cut scenes, cliche seriousness and the Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’, all providing a colourful insight into an extremely cinematic game. So are games going to be next big thing in entertainment? Quite possibly. With interactive innovations such as Microsoft’s Kinect and developers investing increasingly more time and money in game development, it’s highly probable that we’ll be seeing ‘gaming’ occupy far broader cultural territory in future. As Seth Priebatsch from location based gaming start up SCVNGR says,
“While the last decade, was the decade of social and the decade of where the framework in which we connect with other people was built, this next decade willl bewhere the game framework is built”
Although his thinking is a little more sophisticated and tacit than deciding what type of lethal grenade to use in the next team deathmatch in Black Ops – I think you get my drift.
9//SNFC – A Flashmob at Gare De L’Est
T-Mobile recently recycled the flashmob idea again at Heathrow airport. It was ok…but it needed more. Whilst the Liverpool Street Station ad was fortunate to rely on novelty and sheer scale - the latest incarnation falls a bit flat. There’s only so many luvvies you can get to prance around singing Lulu. T-Mobile say life is for sharing but they haven’t really shared much about people’s lives with us here.
Flashmobs are a form of street performance, and with any story telling medium you have to have good characters to keep people interested. Far more evolved, far more fresh (and most importantly) far more characterised was this gem from over the channel from SNFC
8// Arcade Fire - The Wilderness Down Town Chrome Experiment
Let me get this off my chest – I don’t like Arcade Fire. But they shouldn’t take it personally; colleagues, girflriends and family members all know about my rather weird taste in music. So despite being a non fan, I have to send a virtual pat-on-the-back to the team who conceived and executed this Chrome Experiment for the band. It’s super clever.
I think it’s one of the few ‘digicool’ things in 2010 that captured the attention of a lot my friends and clogged up my Facebook newsfeed for at least a week or so. It’s very rare that happens (most of them don’t work in this industry) so something must be working here.
7//The Last Exorcism – Chatroulette Reactions
Brands need to be able to successfully navigate the array of digital touch-points people are using nowadays, this is a given. But with so many choices, what platforms offer the best opportunities to connect and develop dialogue with Joe Public for your new campaign? Facebook – yes, we know this can work. Twitter, yes – we also know this works. But Chatroulette ? Hmm…
I’ve only used Chatroulette properly once. This was at work and in hindsight, an absolutely terrible idea. Other than flashing your tits or chatting to random spotty teenagers about flashing your tits, what usefulness can Chatroulette offer to brands? Initially, you might think not much perhaps. After all, it’s not the most socially sophisticated things on the Internet. But some clever minds who were promoting horror film The Last Exorcism, took all that is usable and good about Chatroulette and came up with some very entertaining stuff.
6//Adidas Originals – The Street Where Originality Lives
I first fell in love with this long running ‘campaign-of-cool’ at the cinema a few years ago. Then, it was the Adidas Originals house party and in the midst of munching my popcorn I was dazzled by Estelle, aroused by Katy Perry and suitably underwhelmed by David Beckham. Sure, sport brands have always used celebrity endorsement as a tactic to build brands but I don’t know of many brands that have squeezed THAT many (and from so many schools of fame) in the space of a minute. AdRants suggested that it totals 18. They also didn’t like that.
Fast forward and this years embodiment of the big ‘Adidas Originals Advert’ swaps house for street, swaps (or at least attenuates) flagrant celeb flashing for hip youngsters and yet again gets some awesome tuneage treatment from Pilooski. Too cool.
5//Nike Football – Write the Future
Football fans are so quick to chastise this World Cup ad because despite its extremely slick production and unusually comedic story, none of the key Nike footballers in the advert had a particularly successful tournament. Meh. Get over yourselves. If adverts were supposed to be ‘accurate’ then you wouldn’t find Gorllias playing percussion would you?
Riding on the buzz and trepidation that football fans get every four years, Nike have delivered a sliding-doors style visual narrative of each players rise and fall in the World Cup : What will happen? Who will know?
But at least by doing it in a pair of Nike’s they can be confident that they can ‘Write The Future’. An across the board all-star Nike cast (fellow endorsers, Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer also get a glimpse) and a great narrative make to be what I consider the best World Cup advert ever made.
4//Tippex – Shoot The Bear?
When was the last time you used Tippex? For me it was when I was at school, before laptops and smartphones were the norm and before typing became my primary way of communicating. So to see such an innovative YouTube takeover from a brand with such a heavy pre-digital legacy was a great surprise to see last year.
YouTube takeovers happen here and there. The first I saw was from Nintendo a few years ago and more recently one for the promotion of Stallone’s all-star action film, the Expendables. Both fun but once you’ve watched them a few times they can lose appeal as they are very linear. Tippex took all the best elements of a takeover (novelty, primarily) but importantly made it interactive rather than passive, which after all is what this Internet thing is all about, no? As with Nintendo they’ve also managed to integrate the product message within the execution rather than just make something random and quirky. So fun and relevant then. Cor, this digital stuff really can work..
3//Smirnoff – The Nightlife Exchange Project
Booze has a natural parity with nightlife. Millions of people, every second, in pretty much every country around the world are 1) partying hard and 2) drinking hard. It never stops, and more often than not it’s done together. So one might argue that building your booze brand around nightlife is a no-brainer? Indeed, for decades booze brands have worked so closely with nightlife culture that the two are entwined to such an extent, that it’s often hard to see where ‘brand’ ends and ‘culture’ starts. But it is a double edged sword; on the one hand a potentially easy win, but on the other hand a well worn territory where many a brand has settled up camp. How do you create distinctiveness?
Regardless of category, the best brands will always be those brands that truly ‘get’ their market’s culture, embrace its nuances and execute smart, relevant and hopefully original ideas. Cue Smirnoff and their Nightlife Exchange project – a bold global music event that successfully ticks all of those boxes. The video below outlines a case study on this international project but in broad terms the idea was to take 14 countries across 6 continents to create one massive party.
Smirnoff is creating a global event that enlists consumers to assemble the best of quintessentially local, but unexpected night life ingredients from their city. These ingredients are boxed up and then shared with sister cities around the globe. On one given date the nightlife exchange will enable one city to experience the best of what another city has to offer. London may experience the nightlife of Cape Town, Berlin may receive the experiences of Miami, and Buenos Aires nights may land in Sydney!
Source : MTV
In general, whilst online might now be the best way to reach and garner interest for the modern consumer, nothing will ever trump the experience one gets from something tangible that is experienced physically. We are humans after all and despite our social media addictions, we have five senses that exist to be stimulated. This is the underlying principle of experiential marketing which has long been used as a very effective way to bring brands to life. Its only drawback is that it can have limited reach – which never goes down well for the marketers who have a hard-on for ROI. What the Smirnoff nightlife exchange has done has managed to combine both digital and physical experiences, taking the inherent benefits from each platform to create a powerful experience, that lasts.
2//Uniqlo – The Lucky Switch
When was the last time you clicked on a banner ad? Hell, when was the last you even paid attention to a banner ad? Relative to the sheer volume we experience every day, the click-through-rates for banner adverts are extremely low; if a campaign even manages to get a rate of 0.5-1%, that would be an unusually good response. So what’s going on here with a very significant majority?
Eye-tracking research has shown that in many instances, people simply do not look at banner adverts when browsing webpages. With all five senses at our diposal and with many hundreds of thousands of years spent on a planet that offers constant stimulation of those senses, we have evolved to be very efficient at filtering out information that we deem un-neccessary or unimportant. It makes our lives easier and makes it easier to focus attention on the things that matter to us. In the comparatively minuscule time the Internet has become a standard part of everyday living, it seems we have also developed similarly efficient behavioural habits, that in turn make our web-browsing lives easier and more conducive. So in short, we are in a situation where in general, banner adverts rarely manage to capture our attention and even more rarely are they compelling enough to motivate us to click through. So when Japanese ad agency Dentsu managed to completely disrupt this conception with their HTML hi-jacking, ‘Lucky Switch’ widget for Uniqlo, it made many blogger heads turn, but more importantly many mice click.
At heart it was a widget that when embedded into a blog, displayed an innocuous looking Uniqlo branded button. However, upon being pressed by any visitor to the blog, the widget cheekily changed any other banner ad on that blog/website into a Uniqlo Lucky Ticket that could be used in an online competition to win items from their 2009 end of year sale. Clever? That’s not all though, Lucky Tickets that weren’t winning tickets remained on each site as banner ads. The campaign was a viral smash. In the space of one month, apx 4,500 bloggers embedded the widget on their blogs and as a result the Uniqlo website pulled in massive amounts of traffic. They also report that their online sales increased by over 100% in this period which they claim be directly attribute to the campaign.
So not only did the campaign usurp the pre-conception that embedded website advertising can be boring, largely ignored – and in the scheme of things – quite ineffective, there was also a underlying collaborative layer to the idea. Bloggers who embedded the code also automatically benefit with the chance of winning stuff too; the viral nature of the execution heavily relied on incentivisation and on the relationship between blogger and blog reader.
Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
— George Kneller
1//Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
The interactive revolution the Internet has endowed on us, has allowed brands far and wide to explore many new and interesting ways of reaching consumers. Through the new (largely) socially driven technologies that the Internet has bequeathed us, a sophisticated mixture of technology and creativity can lead to extremely innovative thinking (see Uniqlo above). But despite the enormity of opportunity that there is for reaching people in fresh ways, engaging with them still requires some basic rules. You need to be interesting. Purposeful. Involving. Entertaining even.
When I graduated I landed my first job at a market research agency working in a team that had a specific focus on brand communications research and at the time there were a few ‘models’ used to help our clients understand how people were responding to their advertising, after all – ads are all quite different. Does the advert tell you something new? Does it make you want to find out more? Does it irritate you? Do you enjoy watching it? Of all the campaigns we worked on I always found that the ads that scored highest on ‘enjoyability’ were the ads I liked best. The ads that made me smile. The ads that made me laugh. The ads that I would talk to friends about ..
And fast-forward, in the open graph - ‘I like this’ - world we live in, the potent mixture of enjoying content and wanting to share that experience can lead to insane amounts of virality. With almost 24/7 access to the Internet, the modern consumer is no longer passively consuming stuff, they are also actively distributing stuff. So the great thing about digital, is that if people love something – they will more than often share it. These principles are exactly what made the Old Spice ads from last year, so tremendously effective and so worthy of the top spot in my 2010 review.
Born from the insight that in the US women often purchase their partners shower-gel, Wieden and Kennedy focussed the ad’s message to women. At its basic level, it’s an oration from the Old Spice Man to your girlfriend or wife – an acknowledgement that you could smell like a real man (i.e him) if you used Old Spice shower-gel. In all fairness, the communication in the advert isn’t particularly ground-breaking or inspiring. But this is shower gel after all and anyway, what territory is there left to own? Lynx (or Axe depending where you are in the world) own sex. Sure own reliability. Right Guard own something a bit like Sure (?).
The brilliance comes to life in the hilarity of the execution of which there were two main ones over a period of six months or so
First there was this..
..then the follow-up
But it didn’t stop there. Those clever clever bods at Wieden and Kennedy took their very popular concept and in the space of 48 or so hours, made the campaign ‘live’ by scouring the web for comments people had made online about the Old Spice Man. In total they made 186 personalised messages to fans and celebrities which were uploaded to their YouTube channel. As you can imagine, this veritable social media ‘A-Bomb’ ignited the web and the statistics are completely insane. For a more comprehensive overview of this campaign, below is an agency case study :
Whilst the genius of the campaign’s social media strategy have won it awards and a place in the heart of many a social media fan-boy (and also consummately fundamental in its virality), it’s my number one because it is the only thing that I have found genuinely enjoyable this year. You see, the more complex media choices become for consumers and the more fluid brands are amongst those choices, I really find it harder to generate clarity with so many things to think about. Attention really is the currency in this decade and something simple will always be conducive to clarity. What’s more simple than having a giggle?
Phew. That’s it for this year – thanks for reading It’s become far longer than I had initially anticipated so if you’ve got this far then good job you. I would like to thank you ever so much for your time and warmly welcome any comments and discussion.
Happy New Year x