Friday, July 31, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A bit of a random thought today. I work out in a gym about three mornings a week. They have a dozen or so TV monitors playing various shows. You can plug in your headset and listen to one channel like a normal person. Or like me, you can look at them all at once and try to figure out what's going on. I can now lip read the Family Guy cartoon quite well.
But something hit me this morning after months of silent viewing. The news in Italian is filmed differently to any news show I've ever seen. It's shot wider so the news reader is smaller in frame. BUT unlike all other countries' news you can see their hands!
These men and women lean and wave and flap like there's no tomorrow. It's great. And quite personal as well.
Monday, July 20, 2009
A giant piece of real research into the Australian character has just been completed. You can access it for free. If you watched the final of Masterchef Australia last night, you took part in the study.
Australians have put down the tea towel and wandered into the TV room in record numbers.
It’s been said that Masterchef has captured the spirit of the times (or zeitgeist for the show-offs): that we’re staying in and learning how to cook again.
Maybe so, and that’s nice, but the show has also handed a gold plated gift to all Australian marketers and agencies. What the producers of Masterchef have done brilliantly is turn ‘likeability’ into an art form. They have spent millions supplying advertisers with a picture of the perfect consumer.
Let me explain.
The original gang of contenders were no random bunch of kitchen wannabes. Each had the potential to be Australia’s most loved person. The producers selected a cross section of middle Australia. Young, middle aged, pretty, average looking, Asian, even black.
Then they made them jump through culinary hoops as we grew to know and like them. The contest was not really about cooking, it was about who had the grit to pick themselves up after a near loss, dust off the flour and come back fighting the next day.
Gradually contestants were eliminated until a group small enough for us to remember their names remained.
Up until then Masterchef looked like any TV contest show (albeit a much friendlier one). ‘May the best cook win’ and all that.
But suddenly 3 eliminated contestants were given a second chance and brought back! Back came pretty blonde Justine. Back came pretty Asian Po. Back came gentle black Tom.
Justine was fairly good but Po and Tom were bit hit and miss when it came to cooking. Could it have been that the punters just liked this trio? Were they too good for the ratings for Masterchef to let them go?
The game continued. Tom left. The ratings climbed.
When Justine left the judges cried! Now that’s taking your ratings seriously!
Finally Po, slightly overweight Julie, and zany, hat wearing Chris were left.
Again if viewers thought this was just a cooking competition Chris’ departure answered that. He had been a strong performer throughout. His dishes were for the most part original, tasty and well presented. But had his confidence started to become cocky-ness? Had Australia fallen out of love with him?
Chris was astonished when Julie’s incomplete, unfinished, mess of a meal beat his unusual but professional offering. If Chris had won, as he should have, the final night could well have had a smaller audience than it did.
But as it turned out, over 4 million Australians (a fifth of the nation) stopped to see if Julie would beat Po. She did.
And now we know the kinds of women Australia loves at this moment.
Po is attractive, creative, experimental, hard working, organised, gutsy, determined, and ready to laugh.
Julie is middle class, a little overweight, obsessed with her family, a bit messy, brave, undaunted, focussed physically tough, and good humoured.
Australian marketing community, meet your ideal consumer. 4 million Aussies say so.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
All American school children know that Thomas Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence in 1776.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This most famous quote demonstrates Jefferson’s genius as a writer and an original thinker.
Or does it?
I hate to disappoint American school children and students of history, but Jefferson was not the sole genius behind the writing the declaration, and ‘self-evident truths’ was borrowed from another document altogether.
Admittedly Jefferson wrote the initial draft. But it was heavily amended by the rest of the committee he was part of, and then vigorously debated in full congress.
Jefferson’s original document was mercilessly altered. It lost about a quarter of his original text and 146 new words were added. Like most writers, Jefferson felt his work had been significantly weakened by the help of others.
And the ‘pursuit of happiness’ passage? That was very close to the Virginia Declaration of Independence written some time earlier by a George Mason. With a few changes it was appropriated by Jefferson.
Do these inconvenient truths lessen the power of the declaration? Or do they make Jefferson any less of a brilliant man? Not at all.
But they do bust the myth of the lone genius. And they highlight a few key realities in writing compelling copy of any kind.
1) Jefferson and his colleagues were aiming for clarity, rather than sounding important. In a time when sentences could run for pages they remained brief and to the point.
2) The project was owned by Jefferson but he had help. It was neither an orphan raised by a committee nor was it the sole preserve of one man.
3) Jefferson felt free to borrow ideas that worked for his cause -“all men are created equal”. He and his colleagues felt no need to reinvent wheels when it came to capturing a vital sentiment.
So, if one of the best-known documents in history had to be drastically edited by two committees and used recycled material, then maybe our advertising and communication copy can stand some scrutiny too.
And maybe we copywriters should consider constructive criticism a moment longer, before we automatically reject it.