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.