Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let's get sensible about marketing communications in Australia in 2009

I’ve been speaking to quite a few marketing directors recently. Some are new to their roles and some are old hands who have worked through several recessions before. Their brands range from snack food to finance. The consensus in two words is DON’T PANIC.

It only FEELS bad. Did you know that the average Australian is $700 better off than they were six months ago? That’s the same as an $8400, tax free, annual pay increase!

Petrol prices are dropping and mortgage rates are heading towards levels not seen since 1964. Do you remember 1964? I don’t.

But consumers FEEL anxious. Their super is worth half what it was a year ago. They are bombarded with doom and gloom news coverage from the US. And now there is the new possibility of losing their job.

So it’s not all bad. But consumers, like ‘the market’, hate uncertainty. The old cliché, ‘Perception is reality’ is truer than ever.

Smart marketers are adjusting their communications accordingly.

One example is the finance industry. A year ago the message was all, ‘Buy it on your credit card, you deserve it.’ Now the message is ‘Buy it on your charge card, that’s the sensible thing to do.’ Notice the message is still encouraging purchase. It’s just couched in a different way: the sensible way.

Similarly Holden started to run the line, ‘Times are tough. Holden is tougher.’ GM Holden recognised the economic climate but then perhaps predictably talked about themselves instead of their consumer. It was later changed to the slightly clunky, ‘Times are tough but Australians and Holden are tougher.’

Holden is now positioned as the sensible choice. A year ago every vehicle from small hatch to station wagon was a sports car.

Many FMCG brands are talking ‘value’. Small indulgences such as chips and chocolates can be justified if they are of good quality. Food, household and personal care brands are all about quality for less. Look out for more advertising that balances a slightly higher cost with, in the case of laundry detergent, more washes per pack.

Australian consumers still have money. They just need to be reassured that they are not wasting it.

Here’s the three step plan to marketing communications in slow economic times:

1. Don’t panic

2. Don’t do nothing.

3. Communicate quality+value, and sensible purchasing decisions.

If you have a creative advertising problem call Tony Richardson on (02) 9929 0588 or visit Tony Richardson Advertising or

You are welcome to reprint any AdNotes article on your website and in your e-newsletters for FREE. All I ask is that you attribute me, Tony Richardson and include a link to

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marketing in troubled times.

I like journalists and think they provide an essential service. BUT they do have a propensity for the dramatic. While crazy financiers have started a worldwide economic bushfire, the media are cheerfully screaming ‘Run for your lives! We’re all going to die!’ Bad news sells papers. But is the news really that bad?

Is an economic downturn really the end of the world? Or is it an opportunity to review how we worked in the past and to improve those practices for the future? I think it is.

We all know that ‘marketing’ is the first department of any company to have its budget slashed in economic slowdowns. It’s an easy way for the bean counters to save money. But of course reducing marketing exposure leads to reduced revenue and the prophecy of doom is self-fulfilled.

Short of holding a gun to the CFO’s head, we must live with the fact that budgets will be tightened in the coming year or so. The question is then, “How do I maintain and grow my business with less money and fewer resources?”

The answer is that you have to work in different ways. Picking up the phone and calling ‘the agency’ is easy but it’s expensive. Here are some examples from real firms who invested a little extra time to save big money ... and they still achieved outstanding results.

1. YouTube campaign. Company A had a confectionary product that researched well and seemed like a market place winner. Traditionally it would have gone straight to TV (with the associated high media costs). Because it was ‘fun’ and targeted to ‘young people’ a YouTube campaign was devised. Production costs were kept low and media costs were $0.

Cost to the marketer – She had to really work her email database to get the viral traction the campaign needed. And she had to give up the control she would have normally had with a TV campaign.

2. Virtual Agency. Company B assembled a group of talented creatives to execute a one-off creative campaign. They paid about half what they would have done with a full service agency for the same or better minds and options.

Cost to the marketer – He had to find the right people for the job.

3. Website Renovation – Company C had an existing website that was a little out of date. Rather than tear it down and start again the marketing person employed a copywriter to revamp the copy, improve the SEO and add a few new features all within the existing structure.

Cost to the marketer – Finding the time to accurately brief the copywriter.

There are many other ways of maintaining strong marketing communications in troubled economic times. The cost can be as low as looking around for alternative suppliers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How big are you?

In the past few weeks I’ve been asked 3 times how many people I employ. It’s a funny question really, a bit like asking how many pens I have. I guess prospects want to know if I have sufficient ‘resources’ to service their business.

If I were running a mill in the eighteenth century, numbers of worker bees would matter. But the digital revolution has changed all that. Brain-power has replaced man-power.

Choosing a creative supplier has never been easy. One way of judging a company’s success was to count heads. The bigger the better. Right? Wrong.

Take a little company I know of. Last time I heard, it had 5 full time staff and no plans to expand that number. If you met the founder, Jimmy, at a party you might think that he was a slightly nerdy guy who did things to do with computers or the internet. You’d be right.

Jimmy Wales runs Wikipedia, with only 5 full time staff. That's right. Mighty Wikipedia runs on only 5 full time staff! Sure they have thousands of eager helpers. And that's just the point. A modern company can run very well with a few full timers supported by contractors as and when needed.

Wikipedia is probably the best example of the power of outsourcing. But there are many others.

When a friend wanted a full orchestral sound and real opera singers to launch a brand of pasta sauce, did he go hunting for a building that contained just such a group of talented individuals? Of course not.

I went to Raphael May, who has a staff of one (himself) and works from a home studio. Raf hired the best opera singers and classical musicians that Australia had to offer. My mate watched in awe as a small group of musicians laid down it’s tracks and left his studio to be replaced by the next group and the next layer of sound.

Soon they had an outstanding soundtrack that was the core of a very successful TV campaign and launch.

How many staff did Raff have? One. How many did he hire for the task? Twenty or so. Were they the best professional musicians available? You bet!

A third example is Omo detergent. I ran the creative advertising business for about 18 months. We produced 4 TV campaigns and 5 print campaigns. I was alone … but I wasn’t alone. I had a line up of professionals helping me every step of the way with this multi-million dollar account. My client got very effective work for a fraction of the cost.

So when it comes to creative suppliers, maybe the question should not be the quantity of staff we have, but the quality of contacts we have.

Jimmy has thousands of contributors filing entries in Wikipedia. Rafael knows Australia’s best mussos. And I have a little black book bulging with golden phone numbers.

We all create outstanding results ... even if Friday night staff drinks are a little quiet.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Old dogs new tricks

You have the biggest software company in the world. You’re riding the wave of the most important communication revolution, since Gutenberg pinched movable type from the Chinese. Where do you advertise the brand that has become synonymous with the digital revolution?

On TV of course!

Microsoft plans to launch a campaign to counter the ‘I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” ads that have been so successful for Apple Mac (See AdNotes, June 2007).

The Microsoft work is ALSO aimed at smothering the general attitude that it’s new Vista operating system is riddled with bugs and other problems.

Who have they chosen to be the main spruiker?

Another surprise.

None other than Jerry Seinfeld. As you know, if you’ve been paying attention, I believe that Seinfeld is a genuine comic genius (See AdNotes, Jan 2007). And while his TV series was the biggest thing on TV, that WAS in the nineties! The naughties are nearly over for Pete’s sake!

None the less, Gerry’s cut of the $US300 million marketing campaign is $US10 million. Now that’s a talent fee. I wonder if he gets annual rollovers as well.

The creative agency behind the idea is Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky, possibly the coolest creative shop in the world today.

The slogan is (or might be, no one is sure yet) "Windows, Not Walls" and is all about connecting and communicating with others without barriers.

Due for roll-out on September 4, I for one can’t wait to see how works.

There is some chatter that Jerry and Bill Gates will be ‘acting’ together. That should be interesting. Gerry has never pretended to be anything other than a stand up guy. And I’ve heard that Bill is a pretty stiff with scripted lines and planned banter.

The world's biggest computer software company, an 83 year old medium, and a 54-year-old comic who hasn’t been on air since 1998!

That's creativity.

Adman and author Harry Beckwith claims that good advertising IS IT'S OWN PR. In this case I think he's right. Look, I'm writing about a campaign I haven't even seen yet.

Most of us will never have a budget that could include Jerry Seinfeld. But we can all aim to create a little genuine 'buzz' by being unexpected in our advertising and marketing.

For a web news version of this story visit:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Get Gruen

The Gruen Transfer (named after the bloke that invented shopping centres) is coming to the end of it’s first season. The show about ads and the Ad industry has been a popular success and a second season is planned.

At my first viewing I was a bit concerned that it might give us in the industry a bad name (or is that a worse name?)

But I was pleasantly surprised. The panelists soon overcame their urge to seem clever by cracking a few too many jokes. They settled down over the series to present a fairly good image of what’s best in Ad Land.
Here’s my subjective list of what I think the general public (and a lot of professional marketers) might not have known about the industry and the people in it.

-The Ad Industry is not populated entirely by wankers. I’m sorry I don’t like the word but it’s what a lot of the general public think of us. No, I thought they had rounded up some interesting and interested panelists. Of course there are some industry identities who have very well developed egos. But like bad policemen, those are the ones you remember. A lot of thinking goes into a 30 second spot.

- The panelists were real thinkers. But then they were all very experienced. They had gotten over the ‘let’s copy a shots reel ad and win an award’ stage of life. They impressed me with the way they came at any question from a range of angles. Marketers often are not aware of how much work goes on behind the scenes. You might not always agree with the results but you can be pretty sure any script, copy or layout has been well ‘interrogated’ before it get’s to you.

- As an industry we don’t always agree. Another misconception is that the advertising world moves, thinks and acts as one. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many marketers refer to ‘the agency’ as though it was a single monster made up of glued together people. As a marketer you can choose from a range of creative styles. We are not all the same.

- Ad people are not all heartless bastards. Far from the callous manipulators of the masses, these folks struck me as individuals that are daily balancing the realities of selling product, doing great work and being decent humans.

The associated web site is brilliant too. In Consumers Revvenge my 12 year old constructed a perfectly acceptable TVC in 10 minutes! Should I be worried? The Learn how to AdSpeak section should be compulsory reading for all agency heads before they talk to the press. It’s just good fun.

Who’d have thought that good old Aunty ABC would be running a series about advertising and win high ratings to boot? Good on Andrew Denton (the boy genius) for getting this idea up and running. I think it will help the ad and marketing industries immeasurably.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Zig while your competitors Zag

It doesn’t matter how right you are, if no one notices your communication, you are just tipping money down the toilet.

Most brands in the same category are advertised in pretty much the same way. Look at car advertising! Is every brand done by the same creative team? So while your competitors are trying to be noticed by being identical (huh?), you can be noticed by being different.

To use an advertising cliché, cut-through is as simple as zigging when others are zagging: or just being different to what is on air at that moment. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, be bizarre, just different.

On the one hand there are marketers who create ‘company’ ads. That is, ads that fit the company mould. Their target is their boss or head office. The consumer and the Australian environment are scarcely considered. This is one reason most ads in a category are similar.

But ironically a lot of creative people are just as much to blame.

Most creatives slavishly refer to ‘Shots’ reels, which are a collection TV spots from around the world, deemed to be ‘creative’ or ‘breakthrough’. Some have better communication than others, but most are pretty ‘fresh’ ideas. So creatives start to copy creatives … who copy creatives who …

Technique trends quickly become popular, then ubiquitous. They go from being fresh to being unnoticed, because the whole creative industry is doing it. It’s a kind of cannibalism. And cannibalism is not good for your health.

One example is the rise of the quirky geek in beer ads. I don’t know who started it, but if I see another beer spot staring an obviously ugly guy with bad hair doing odd things, I’ll switch to Pimms and lemonade. What began as a different and engaging way of creating beer ads has become a cliché. If all beer ads are quirky then by definition, none are quirky.

Recently I noticed some commercials that really did break the mould, in an entirely appropriate way. They were for a brand of Tip Top bread. The bread market is essentially aimed at ‘Mums who want to give their kids good food’. The ads used funky low-tech animation. It looked like paper cut outs. Running in a popular gangster TV show among the slick ‘samey’ car ads, the simple animated bread ads stood out like nothing else AND as a result planted the message.

Using animation to sell bread is new. Using jiggly paper cut outs is really new. Result – instant cut through!

Another technique that will guarantee attention is quiet. Yes quiet. A 30 second spot can comfortably have about 60 spoken words. A lot squeeze in more. I created an ad for Tek Toothbrushes that used 16 words total: 5 for dialogue, 11 for the pack shot VO. The silence became the technique and had a devastating effect.

The idea was that a dentist had no patients because the toothbrush was so effective. We had a single shot on a receptionist in a large empty waiting room. After 25 seconds the dentist pops his head around the corner and asks, ‘Any patients Emma?’ The receptionist replies, ‘Sorry Rob’.

We always knew it had a lot of quiet. But when it ran on air surrounded by hundreds of shouting and overly busy spots competing for attention, the effect was sensational. People looked up from their magazines. People left the kitchen to check on the TV. And people bought Tek Professional in droves.

So to create cut through and maximise your production and media spend, ask your creatives to chuck out the Shots reel. Then get them to watch TV commercials in the shows your consumer watches. Then ask for something … different.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Very excited to be included in the top 50

Much to AdNotes' delight, we have been included in a list of the top 50 marketing blogs in Australia.
Click on the crest (over there on the left) to sample the other 49 and become Australia's best read marketer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Squeeze a few fruit

I was listening to the radio the other day and the story was about giant American food stores entering the Australian market. To get the predictable ‘I think it’s outrageous’ comment, they contacted a local fruit and vege shop owner called Nick Mashadis.

To everyone’s surprise Nick thought the arrival of mega food barns would be a good thing. Far from being negative about the idea he thought it would be great for his business and shoppers over all.

The reason? Simple choice.

Nick reasoned that shoppers would try the new places then try his stores and make up their own minds. He was confident that he had what people wanted: quality product, product tailored to local needs and preferences, and outstanding service. He even believed he could compete on price, as his rental overheads were so much lower.

This little surprise story reminded me of the choice facing marketers when they need advertising help. Currently most FMCG clients have ‘an agency’. They have been encouraged since advertising began to make a lifelong attachment to a big agency. (I once met a very senior marketer who was conducting her first and probably only agency pitch)

The theory is of course that the agency is a consistent ‘brand expert’. This idea had some merit 20 years ago, when agency staff stayed put for longer than 18 months, and when the client had a lot less involvement in marketing communications.

But today the argument is a little hollow and starts to smack of a simple (and understandable) need to hang on to business at all costs. ‘We’ve always done it this way’ is no longer an excuse in the public service. It should never be an excuse in the world of advertising.

Large agencies need the ‘wedded for life’, or as ‘long as possible’, model to perpetuate. New ideas and models are mercilessly derided by an industry that ironically prides itself on creativity. Mark Buckman, Marketing Director of the Commonwealth Bank, broke with tradition by going offshore for creative. He used a US ad agency for the ‘Brand‘ part of the Comm Bank business. The Ad Industry’s reaction was predictably shrill and obviously self-serving. I wrote a letter to AdNews congratulating Mark on his ‘creativity’.

I’m not saying trash the system if you’re happy and it works for you. But out of the hundreds of marketers I’ve talked to over the years I can remember one, that’s right one, who was 100% happy with his agency’s creative, service and price.

I know that Head Office usually prefers/demands the same agency worldwide. Again if this works well - great. All I’m saying is that there is always choice available, even within a contracted relationship.

The most obvious example is the booming ‘branded format advertising’ phenomenon. Big marketers with rusted on agencies have managed to separate a tactical/short term strategy and use it successfully.

Other examples include quite large marketing companies briefing one-off ‘tactical’ projects out to smaller creative agencies. This usually starts as a simple cost saving measure. But clients are often surprised by the quality and service they also receive.

Project work has many other benefits to the marketer. It gives the opportunity to sample other ways of doing things and of meeting other creatives and suppliers. And just as importantly, working with other companies allows you to build up a ‘feel’ for what things really cost.

Most marketers have no idea of the enormous depth of creative firepower available to them. And why would they? Your average client might have heard of 10 agencies, because that’s all they read about in the trade press.

But did you know B&T lists 794 Australian companies who call themselves Advertising Agencies? Even if half are kidding themselves, that’s still a lot to choose from.

So go on, take Nick the fruiterer’s advice. Try a few shops and squeeze a few fruit. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Avoiding TVC construction blowouts

I have a friend, Scott, who is having a major renovation done to his house. At least when I say he is having it done, I mean he plans to have it done. You see, after many months and tens of thousands of dollars in architect’s fees Scott still has no idea what his renovation will cost. His architect is from a prestigious firm and can’t give him any clues to the final cost. Indeed any queries about cost are greeted with a certain disdain and dismissal.

The creative process goes like this: the plans are hammered out between architect and client, then the council makes whatever changes it and the neighbours deem necessary, then those plans are handed to a builder who prepares an estimate. At THAT point Scott will know whether his dream plan will cost half a million or 5 million dollars. If it’s too much they start all over again … and so do the fees.

I found this story incredible. Then it hit me that this was very close to the way the Ad industry creates TV ads.

The creatives (architects) don’t ‘do’ money. They ‘do’ the script (plan). The idea is developed between agency and client, then goes to research and or head office (the council) who usually want a few changes. Then after many months, quotes are called for to make the finished script (plan) a reality.

As the quotes roll in it often becomes apparent that this well loved script is either going to cost way too much to make properly or will have be drastically ‘simplified’ to fit the budget.

It’s a crazy system. Here’s how you can fix it.

1. You, the client should give a realistic budget up front. Many clients are coy and would really rather not show their hand so early. They are the ones who end up in the mess described above. If you can’t trust your agency enough to tell them a budget, fire them and find one you can trust.
2. Make sure that ‘understanding the budget’ is a key component of the creative brief. Write it in the briefing document and talk about it at the briefing meeting. Make the creatives tell you what you can expect for this money. They will resist because creatives, like architects, are encouraged to pay scant regard to such mundane issues as cost. Go no further until you have them verbalising, no matter how generally, what you can expect to see on film.

For example $100,000 should get you one speaking talent, in a location such as a house, shot over one day, with a 15 second cutdown. If you do this, the agency will know that you are serious about your budget.

3. If the agency is smart they will now realise that the budget is the budget, and they will write the script accordingly. If they are really smart they will talk to directors and producers as they go.

4. When scripts are presented ask if they have been ‘ball parked’ by a producer or some other responsible person. Ball parks are unpopular with agencies and production houses because too many clients think a ball park is a quote. It’s not. It’s a ‘plus or minus 25%’ thing. BUT, at least all parties know that what you are discussing is ‘in the ball park’ and won’t be twice or three times what you expected to pay.

5. When the job is formally quoted there should be no surprises. When you think about it, why would there be? Budget was part of the brief. Budget was part of the creative development process. And budget was part of the script presentation.

All you have to do now is sit back and watch as the experts build your house, sorry, shoot your commercial.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A media match made in heaven

Harold Mitchell, of Mitchell Communication group, makes a very interesting point in a recent AdNews article. He’s touched on a theme that has been troubling me for some time. Let me get it off my chest.

For the past 10 years, proprietors of various specialist communications companies, and eager journalists, have been telling me for that old media is dead. The web will replace everything. No one reads the paper. TV is a waste of money. And who listens to the radio?

I want to get with the times, but I feel as though I’ve been letting the side down a bit. While I downloaded the final episodes of the Sopranos I ALSO continue to watch TV. While I check SMH online during the week, I ALSO love to read a ‘paper’ paper on the weekend. While I listen to pod casts of radio shows I’ve missed, I ALSO listen to live radio in my car. While I search for good prices on Google, I ALSO scan through catalogues.

Am I doing something wrong? To my relief, Harold tells me no. It seems that I am not alone in sampling the best of both worlds. 303 million Americans are used to having old fashioned ‘emotional’ TV commercials that direct them to websites full of ‘rational’ information. Harold talks about TV, but any of the traditional media could benefit from working WITH the internet.

In Harold’s words, “Internet is no threat to TV, it is a great ally. The passions that TV fires are satisfied with the informational depth the internet provides. Never before have we had the opportunity to influence the emotional and the rational as we have with this communications combination.”

It makes a lot of sense and yet it’s a plan not carried out much in Australia. Promotions aside, when was the last time you saw a TV ad that really drove you to a web site dedicated to that message? And I don’t mean slapping the corporate url at the end of the spot. I mean a concerted effort to let TV and Web work together to answer the same brief.

But why stop at TV/internet? A poster style print ad (or Poster) can lead to web-copy as long or as short as you need. Radio spots can only say so much (60 words in 30 seconds). Why not make a whole spot about a web site?

I’ll leave the last words to Harold. “The combination of TV plus (my italics) the internet is the biggest thing to happen in advertising communications since television in 1956. It promises, and delivers, accountable results. Every marketing manager’s dream come true.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Website Insights

Many marketers talk about creating a dialogue with consumers, rather than talking at them. It surprises me then that these same marketers have websites that quite simply are love letters to themselves.

A corporate website is the perfect place to present your company and it’s brands as a helpful advisor to your consumer. At the risk of repeating myself, communication to your consumer should be ‘all about them’ not ‘all about you’.

If you talk about your brands it should be in the context of how this helps your consumer. But why not talk about human situations THEN how your brands help those situations?

Scotts Australia is a perfect example of how to get it right. (I must admit an interest here. I wrote and produced the TV ads that Scotts run on the site.) Notice how ‘Need Help?’ is the first tab you see. And ‘About Scotts’ is near the end. The site is chokka-block with useful information presented in a simple way that ultimately leads the consumer to the brands and products.

Kimberley Clark Australia’s site for Huggies is similarly informative and engaging. To a new mother her baby is the most important thing in the world. So KCA talk about babies and motherhood and slip their ‘plastic and paper fibre product’ in right at the end. The home page layout does this and the tab bar does it too. 10 out of 10 for consumer focussed design.

Kraft’s site makes me hungry just looking at it! Fantastic food photography, recipes, and health information. Products neatly alphabetised with easy links to specific brand sites.

Continental’s site goes one further. It has recipes, that lead to family meals together, that lead to real conversations between parents and kids. You couldn’t get much more emotional than that. The Continental brand becomes a part of real life.

Now for some sites that could lift their game.

Why do I feel that Telstra is unashamedly trying to squeeze every last dollar out of my wallet. Am I letting the constant call centre sales pitches blind me to a helpful site? I don’t believe their corporate home page is the right place to sell, sell, sell.

Procter and gamble haven’t bothered creating an Australian site or even a re-direct address to the US. Does this speak volumes? They do have sites for some of their Australian brands, but these are not accessed from the US site. So at random I tried Pantene. Product and packaging comes well before any consumer benefit.
The contact section has no phone number: you have to fill out a form. So much for a dialogue with consumers.

In the words of David Ogilvy, ‘The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.’ Gender issues aside, if a consumer has bothered to tap the keys, we as communicators should make the process as easy and fulfilling as possible.

It’s pretty simple really. 1. Talk about consumer needs well before you talk about your neat new products. 2. Help, don’t sell. 3. Make contact easy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Beat

I’ve just seen some little primary school kids play in a rock band. The full thing – singers, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums. Great fun. They all played very well. Well there was one small exception. The drummer. He held the beat OK for a while then tried a few tricky moves. This lost his place a bit and he would suddenly be out of time. There is nothing more noticeable than a drummer in a rock band who is out of time. There’s nowhere to hide. A drummer’s job is to keep the beat. If he or she doesn’t the whole performance falls apart.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously, the line, “It has to be right before it can be clever.” My little drummer mate lost track of being right (keeping the beat) in an effort to be clever (doing a few tricky solos).

Sounds like a lot of advertising that’s around at the moment.

Examples please? OK.

1. Nando’s pole dancing, patch wearing mother of two. What the? I really wanted to like it but I couldn’t even get it. I watched it over and over but still nothing.

Visit the strip club here.

2. Mars Bar meets John McEnroe. He gets angry, eats a Mars bar, and then wins. Here, clever cutting and editing don’t make up for a non-existent idea. Why a Mars bar? Why not a slice of Pizza, a new shirt or a read of a magazine? I really don’t understand how the Mars Bar has helped him. Also, does anyone under 45 know who he is?

Check it out here.

3. The creepy Heinz ad where a middle-aged man meets his childhood sweetheart … only she’s had a sex change. Didn’t see that coming. In the words of Pauline Hansen, ‘Please Explain?’ Gender re-assignment? Beans? Have I missed something?

Australia's only trans-gender baked bean ad

After viewing this lot I feel a bit thick. I’m sure other consumers do too. Did the marketers really want to come across as elitist smart-alecs who are superior to their consumers? I doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having a go at being funny and entertaining. There should be more of it. But not at the expense of the message or the marketer’s production and media budget.

So next time the creative team are getting all clever, stop and ask, ‘are we keeping the beat or are we doing a little solo while the rest of the band falls apart?’

Monday, January 7, 2008


It’s a small word, but one that makes such a difference. It can mend fences. It can lift spirits. It can build relationships. It can even save you money. The word is … ‘thanks’.

Business, and our lives in general, seem to be getting faster and faster. Common courtesies are no longer common. But a few seconds invested in uttering or emailing a thankyou can pay big dividends.

I try to remember to say thanks to my suppliers. Without them I’m sunk. It could be an entirely commercial transaction, but life is too short. I try to remember to say thanks in person and later by email. Cost $0. If it’s been a particularly tough and drawn out job I might shout lunch. Cost $50. At end of year I might give a nice bottle of wine. Cost $40.

I do this for two reasons. 1. It’s a nice thing to do. 2. I get thousands of times the value back in vital advice, small jobs done for free, discounts when needed, and favours.

It means that I get much more for my dollar and so do my clients.

This is a very unusual practice. Most large creative agencies treat suppliers like crap, thinking the money will make up for it. It doesn’t. Many suppliers hate large agencies with a passion.

It’s also nice when my clients say thanks for a job well done. I really go the extra mile for them next time.

Luckily most marketers are not like one I’ve heard of. I don’t work with her I hasten to add. She is routinely paying between 10 and 20% extra for all creative and production work because she is such a pain. Her reputation has preceded her. I’ve been told suppliers either suddenly get ‘too busy to help’ or add on ‘smile’ money. This is the extra cash needed to continue to smile through the process! What a waste.

So, for reading AdNotes, for your comments, for your referrals and for your work, I say ….