I hear the word “strategy” thrown on just about everything. Like rhinestones on a South-Texas-prom-queen’s dress, “strategy” is too often a cheap and easy bedazzle on everything from PowerPoint slides, to someone’s superfluous commentary in a meeting that is already running too long with too many attendees. Anymore, in my day-to-day, Strategy is quite the loose little buzzword.
Often, it is a noun, as in “brand strategy” or “I am a strategist." Sometimes it is an adjective, as in “strategic vision” or “strategic insights." Also, as an adverb, such as “strategically developed” or “strategically placed.” And let's not forget it as a verb, as in “strategize” (which for the record, makes me want to punch the speaker in the nose every time I hear it).
And that isn’t to say that I don’t use the word often myself. But I used to accept the word at what I believed was its face value — a sense of something great and purposeful. A sense that when I heard “strategy” — I knew we were talking about the key to winning whatever was at stake, the secret sauce critical to achieving the mission. I knew we’d be talking about something tangible, and most importantly — something actionable. (Strategy is, by definition, a military term that, in a nutshell, means using your brains and your guts to not only stack the odds in your favor, but empower you to make the right decisions when confronted with any obstacle.)
Now, given the bedazzling trend, I’ve made it my personal charge to pay much closer attention when the word “strategy” is presented. Analyzing it quietly in my head, from every angle. Challenging my own application of it constantly. Because the real disturbing trend, is not that the word gets overused, but rather that the very concept of strategy has become a crutch. A well disguised excuse NOT to act. An exercise in lengthy requirements-gathering to plan for problems and scenarios that don’t yet exist. A perceived need to create a long list of tasks for what should happen in the future, when instead we should be driving for real feedback via iterative launches in the present. I see terms like “strategic goals” and “strategic vision” plastered across PowerPoint slides, and the actual bullet points associated with most of these goals and visions, amount to little more than minute tactics positioned as passive options to explore. Presented in the context of “we are working on,” or “working toward,” or “think there is great opportunity within this area.”
And with that lack of conviction, certainty, drive — fucking nothing can be won. It’s all a lot of bling with very little bang.
So here is what I'm really driving at — let's all of us in the industry be more thoughtful with strategy. That when creating, executing, presenting or thinking about strategy in any context, let’s be critical of ourselves, of our interpretation of strategy and when/how/why it matters or is applied. As an example, do we sometimes create formality where it isn’t warranted — like laboring over a “social media strategy,” when maybe all we really need is to just be social? Or when our strategy feels like it is a moving target, and people struggle with how to articulate it — should we check our premises? Are there assumptions at play that have been driving a weak, obtuse strategy? And if the goals are ill-defined, then no amount of “strategic planning” is going to get us anywhere, even if we wrap that anemic goal in a shiny label called “strategic vision.”
Diamonds are a girl's best friend for a reason — because they have real value. The real, lasts-for-a-100-years-and-cut-glass kind of value. Fortunately, making sure your strategy has actual value is really pretty simple — just ask yourself, is your strategy something your team can:
• Articulate without a slide in front of them?
• Apply in any given situation?
• Execute against to deliver desired results?
• Feel empowered and confident in so doing?
Want to watch $275 Million get spent in 48 minutes? Just tune into CBS at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday to see one of America's greatest primetime displays of violence, debauchery and poor impulse control. And I'm not talking about the Super Bowl…
I'm talking about the Super Bowl ads.
In all seriousness, these days it's no surprise that independent research year after year continues to show that over half of U.S adult viewers plan to watch the Super Bowl as much, or more, for the ads than for the game itself. In fact, social listening measurement findings suggested that in 2012 64% of respondents said that half or more of their conversations online with respect to the Super Bowl were about the commercials themselves.
With the average investment of $4 Million on the line for a 30-second spot, it's no wonder why the CMOs of many of these advertisers are looking to squeeze their investment for every penny.
There are three standout trends that have continued to proliferate the Super Bowl ad space for the last several years (and by all accounts will continue even more in 2013).
01. Online Ad Preview and Teasers
Online Ad Previews and Teasers are becoming more of the norm. VW made the most famous splash last year with its Star Wars parodies that received over 56 Million hits after allwas said and done, largely in part to the pre-release of the spotson YouTube.
This year's early winner goes to the Kate Upton Mercedes spot, which in one week gained over 5 Million views (and counting).
Humbling news as, by this author's account, this is one of the more ridiculously off-brand spots I've ever seen. Given the fact that the CLA won't even be available for the next 7 months, the brand needs lasting impression and awareness. Regardless of the substance, it's clear that Mercedes knows the value of online traction and will do whatever it takes, no matter how low-brow, to get an early lead among its rivals.
Regarding the idea of Super Bowl teasers, the concept is simple,but the debate still rages on about whether or not the big reveal should be saved for the big game. While we don't promote a "one size fits all" approach to advertising, and I'm sure there are errors to the rule, it's hard to argue with the facts. Mashable reports, "According to YouTube's research, ads that ran online before the Super Bowl last year got 9 Million views, on average. Those that waited? 1.3 Million." With, on average, three times as many views online over broadcast, many could argue that the real winner in all of this is actually YouTube.
02. Ads for Social Democracy
Ads by social democracy are becoming more common in 2013. While Doritos pioneered the concept with their user-generated ads in the past few years, this year we are seeing a greater variety of the concept. For instance, one of the biggest brands in the world, Budweiser, has finally launched a Twitter account in itsname. The brand, which had a little more than 600 followers Monday morning, is using the account to promote its upcoming Super Bowl ad, which will feature a Clydesdale foal via their Twitter hashtag campaign. Pepsi is also using their site and Twitterto recruit some of their fans to strike a pose with their can before their half-time show.
But, the big pre-game winners in 2013 seem to be the "choose your own adventure" style ads from Audi and Coke. In what Audi says is a Super Bowl first, they recorded separate endings for their "Prom Night"commercial, and are compiling social votes where the audience chooses the ending. Coke created cokechase.comto tease their spots by highlighting three different sets of teams who are all racing to win a giant coke in the desert. The team with the most votes online will get their spot aired right after the game.
03. Second Screen
This year, more viewers than ever will be watching on a second screen. Now in real-time, technology allows brands to engage with the viewing public on their mobile phone or tablet during the event. For instance, Yahoo's Into_Now pioneered app technology that augments the second screen experience by using the unique audio digital signature in a television show topickup, and serve up, content directly related to that show. CBS estimates ad revenue alone from their second screen engagement to be between $10-$12 Million. Being able to interact with stats,player bios, team formations, highlights and social aspects is an essential part of any second screen approach for the sports enthusiast.
Regardless of all of the hype, a few certainties remain. The Super Bowl represents one of the highest risk: reward ratios in advertising. Because of this, marketers are getting smarter by using not only the right tools, but also the right content to get the consumer's attention. Disintermediation is taking effect and the consumer is finally starting to see large-scale control of and connection with their favorite brands. As our society gets more social and mobile, so does the advertising.
Needless to say, as an advertiser, I am thankful for the Super Bowl. If not for any other time during the year - the Super Bowl gives us an annual magnified window into the progress of advertising. With so much attention to the commercials, it almost makes me feel sorry for the guys on the field.
Yesterday a reader asked us "how do you get into advertising?", our knee jerk reaction was to ship them off to the nearest ad school for a year or so.
Then they told us more about their experiences to date and what a fascinating life they had lived. And as all of us forget from time to time, education is just a base foundation, life is what moulds you into an interesting creative person, ultimately making you more employable than the next guy or gal.
This trending video from Mondo Endruo below seemed an appropriate fit for this editorial.
So The London Egotist went along to Silicon Beach 2012 at Bournemouth - a kind of mini SouthBySouthCoast. It was a 2-day event with guest speakers including President of the IPA Paul Bainsfair, Shane Walters from onedotzero and Nick Darken from Albion. Without exception, each presentation was enlightening and inspiring.
Although much of the event involved London-based speakers talking to digital agencies in the Southwest, it was also a reminder that London doesn't have a monopoly on digital talent; there were plenty of innovators here based outside the capital. These are young people with low overheads, no responsibilities and a hunger to learn new things, experiment and innovate – if only for the fun of it. Not money-driven, just determined to create something new and exciting. Imagine enjoying your day job - kind of like that.
If the brief demands digital, we immediately gravitate towards the web and mobile. But it could just as easily be a case of building something in the real world, triggered by beer bottles. Or goldfish.
That's the sort of thing Syd Lawrence does at WeMakeAwesomeSh.it.
Here's a young bloke who wears flip flops in October, has an over-fondness for 'message' t-shirts but will teach himself a new coding language if that's what it takes to get the job done.
He'll think up something cool and make it because no one thought of it before. He'll think of a way to monetize it later, if at all.
Naive? Well his company's just over a year old and his client list already includes Microsoft, Universal, Intel... the A-list goes on.
Have we as agencies been blinded by the bright lights of our big city and become blinkered to the world beyond?
Modern inventions like the Internet and railway locomotives mean it's easy to cast our nets out wider to catch talent with lower costs and a point to prove to the city slickers.
How about collaborating with these outsiders and fast-prototyping stuff to get your clients excited? It doesn't have to be expensive and who knows where it could lead? Agencies get so caught up on the day-to-day, it's easy to forget to be pro-active. And that's where we can create real value for our clients and make ourselves indispensable.
The last time you were in a place with no cell phone reception or where electronic devices were prohibited – were you anxious or secretly relieved? If you felt a creeping sense of relief at being given permission to have a break from the incessant pull of your digitally connected lifestyles then you are not alone.
In the latest Lowe Counsel Future Sign we explore the concept of'New Esc', which looks at how people are increasingly seeking time away from the intensity of a hyper-connected and crowded world. This trend is being driven by a range of factors, from the rise in urban population, information overload, search for meaning and unique experiences, which are all fueling the demand for physical and mental escape and space. It's important to understand that New Esc is not about a new Luddite rejection of technology; it's about finding better ways to manage it so we remain its master and not its servant.
Digital Detox holiday
Understanding the Impact of Hyper-connected Lives
We are only beginning to see the implications of living with constant connectivity. While younger generations cannot even comprehend the possibility of being online not being an integral part of everyday life for many the transition has not been without its challenges. The constant stimulation of multiscreen reality means that we are seldom alone or un-stimulated and this is seen as having negative as well as positive psychological effects on productivity. Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University explains: “It's this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices. People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”
Digital Crack: Online Addiction
Experts are already warning of the addictive power of technology. The constant stimulation in the form of digital pings and updates stimulates chemicals in the brain, which create a physical craving that can be damaging and can even lead to addiction. As Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Centerat the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior explains: "The same neural pathways in the brain that reinforce dependence on substances can reinforce compulsive technology behaviors that are just as addictive and potentially destructive." Teaching people to regularly disconnect is becoming vital for personal mental health and business productivity.
David Lynch - Silencio
The Rising Demands of the 'Always on' Workplace
Our obsession with being constantly connected is in part being fueled by employers. Alexis Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic questions: “Are we addicted to gadgets or indentured to work? Much of our compulsive connectedness… is a symptom of a greater problem, not the problem itself." Employees are now expected to work longer hours with growing numbers going home still tethered to devices, which constantly send them emails and messages. A survey conducted by Xobni, an email and contact management company, found that 68% of American adults check their work emails during holidays, with 79% of those polled saying they receive emails from clients or colleagues during this time. According to McKinsey Quarterly Report: “Always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy.”
Remote cabin, Sweden
The Power of Being Out of Reach
In our over-connected world being alone or un-contactable is emerging as a modern luxury. The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in 'sanctuary spaces', from technology free venues to digital free islands, with many leading edge luxury spaces using 'no reception' as an added value. Increasingly we are seeking space and time away from the constant demand and chatter of technology.
Eva Restaurant deposit box
As Leonardo da Vinci famously proclaimed:“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” People are learning to appreciate quiet time for inspiration and contemplation. Earlier this year David Lynch's Silencio hosted the 'In Praise of Slowness Salon'. Lynch in partnership with the Maharishi Foundation is introducing Quiet Time, where students practice transcendental meditation to awaken their creativity and intelligence, into more than 350 partner schools around the world. As we learn to appreciate silence and contemplation, consumers and brands are realizing the power of daydreaming in boosting creativity and innovation.
Telia internet-free zone
Creating New 'Space’
Progressive companies are recognizing that employees need mental space in order to be creative and make better business decisions. According to New York research brand Basex, half of a knowledge worker's day entails managing information, which causes 'a loss of ability to make decisions, process information and prioritize tasks'. Web consultancy firm Netlife Research have introduced a new monastery-style space at work, designed as a space for employees to seek refuge for contemplation. Google allows employees to take 20% of the time to work on their own projects, or to simply do whatever they want. Some companies are even paying workers to take vacations to avoid burnout.
Remote cabin, Washington
Tech-free time out
Companies are gradually becoming more aware of digital on and off time and are implementing new procedures to ensure employees are taking technology-free time outs. Volkswagen has rewired employees' Blackberrys to stop receiving work emails 30 minutes after their shifts ended, while W Hotels in New York is introducing technology-free Fridays to encourage 'greater communication and creativity among the team'. As part of his Invisibility Project, artist and designer Thomas Stevenson has created 'analogue armor', which is lined with anti-electromagnetic fabrics to prevent electronic devices from working. There has been a rise in campaigns and offers to promote healthy breaks from technology. There is even an annual ‘National Day of Unplugging’ organized by think-tank Reboot who campaigned at this years SXSW, setting the Recordsetter.com world-record for the most people to power-down their devices at the same time.
The Rise of Digital Free Spaces
It's not just in the workplace where people are seeking digital detox. Digital connection is banned in most private members clubs and we are now seeing this practice being adopted by other public spaces such as shops and hotels. US outdoor clothing brand Weatherproof opened its New York store recently with a 'leave your Blackberry at the door' policy, while the Eva Restaurant in L.A. offers customers a 5% discount for leaving their phone with the receptionist during the meal. According to Mark Gold, chef and owner of Eva Restaurant: “We want people to connect again. It’s about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone, and we’re trying to create an ambiance where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company.”
Digital Detox Apps
Paul Butler Facebook visualisation
People are now even using technology to take breaks from technology itself. Digital Detox is a free app inspired by Adbuster’s Digital Detox week, which disables a user’s phone for a specified period of time. Similarly the Pomodoro app aims to maximize productivity by instructing you to take a break from work every 25 minutes. The Freedom app can be set to block Internet access for up to eight hours to allow users time for offline productivity. Anti-Social is another productivity application that disables access to social media sites. The RescueTime app monitors where you spend time online, forcing you offline at certain times. It claims to rescue an average of four hours of productive time per person per week. Taking the approach a step further sees Swedish telecoms provider Telia launch an application allowing customers to disable the Internet for a set time at home, which also has the benefit of being a cost cutting strategy. The company also created physical isolation pods around Sweden called 'Internet-free zones', which people could visit to disconnect from their devices. As Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University suggests: “We need to find ways to make it [digital technology] as nourishing as possible, as we try to do with our diets, and not just turn to what’s easiest.”
Photo credit: Eric Valli
It's not just in the digital realm that people are seeking escapes. From camping to retreats, there is a growing trend for vacations from digital technology that is emerging, allowing people to reconnect with themselves and return to the digital world charged. As part of their digital-detox vacation package St. Vincent and the Grenadines is asking travelers to leave their technology at home. The package includes an onsite life coach who offers advice on how not to let technology control one’s life. There is also the growing appeal of visiting virgin territory. The combination of isolation and the purity of the surroundings are becoming aspirational to a global generation of urban dwellers. A Style Magazine journalist in Sao Paulo reveals: “People are now traveling to spend time with the Xingu, (one of the few indigenes tribes who have remained in Brazil) to live by their rules and be isolated from the modern world.”Glen Morris, writing for BBC, points out: "These days the Arctic, and to a large extent the Antarctic, has become a playground for the wealthy holiday maker." Living off the Grid
Once only for extremists and hippies, living 'off grid' is also becoming increasingly popular and aspirational. The trend reflects the fact that many consumers in the west are moving away from acquisition culture; buying fewer things, adopting new methods for self-sufficiency. According to US Home Power magazine, there are now 750,000 living off-grid compared to 180,000 five years ago. While the New Esc trend continues to gather converts it's interesting to see that the latest trend on the Internet is to step away from the Internet.
Call them morals, ethics, beliefs, principles, I don’t want to get into semantics here. You live your life by a certain set of rules, and we all have a slightly different set. Anyone who reads my column regularly knows I lean very far to the left on most issues, and that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. And I really don’t care. In the same way, you shouldn’t care if your views piss people off either.
But when it comes to doing the job we do, is the best creative work done by people who don’t give a flying fuck about their morals when they cross the agency threshold? Or by people who can, by some extreme act of willpower, disengage emotions and just get on with the job? There have been several times in my life when my morals were really pushed to the limit.
It started in my first ever job out of college. It was, by no stretch of the imagination, a job that was a million miles away from the glitz and glamor that I thought advertising was all about. Most of my time in the first six months was spent working on credit card mailers, slimming products, local car ads and other such crap. There were bigger, more glamorous accounts at the agency, but they were reserved for teams that were not fresh out of college. Those accounts were earned.
Then, one day, the creative director said he was giving us a chance to work on a big account. But it had one slight drawback. He knew both my partner and I were anti-smoking, and it was a cigarette account. To be precise, a cigarette account in a country that was very poor.
Hmm. Do we want to say no, and delay the chance to work on great accounts for another six months? Or do we do it, and sell poisonous shit to people who cannot afford it, and will go hungry in order to buy a pack?
We chose the latter, to our shame. And we did a cracking job on it too, with the campaign being loved by the client and outperforming any previous campaign by a good 20%.
YES! We had succeeded…in selling more death sticks to people in poverty than any previous team before us. Talk about a double-edged sword.
Over the years, other such challenges have raised their heads. Most of the time, I kick my morals or beliefs to the curb and just get on with the fucking job. I’m a professional, I get paid to keep the clients happy, and my personal beliefs have no room at the conference room table.
Being such a lefty liberal, I had to bite my tongue and advertise a Republican candidate on more than one occasion. He wasn’t even a moderate. He was the kind of guy Rush Limbaugh would consider a bit too right wing. And yet, I did it, and he got elected on the back of the work we did.
I still regret that one. Much like a lawyer who gives a criminal the best possible defense, I did the best job I could on his campaign. Should I have thrown it?
I’ve also been directly responsible for pushing ads that I knew, beyond a reasonable doubt, were “conning” people out of their money. Everything was legal, but my God, I certainly walked the line. Thankfully, that company is out of business now.
I could go on, but I am way more interested in what you have to say. Maybe this is some kind of catharsis for me, to see if I’m not the only one who says “fuck it” to my beliefs in favor of doing a good job (and keeping it).
Would you work on the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” campaign if you were a strict vegetarian or vegan? And could you really do a great job, even if you try and kick your own beliefs to the curb?
Could you advertise alcohol if you were on the wagon? Could you really convince other people to drink booze even though you’re off it for good?
What if you’re anti-war? Would you happily work on the Army or Marine Corps accounts? Would you do it begrudgingly? Would you “just say no?”
Could you ever work on advertising for the KKK? What if your job depended on it? Would you do a piss poor job if you had no other choice?
In the past, when it was easy to go from job to job, having morals was a little easier. It was possible to turn down some accounts, or raise objections if pitching for work that you believe the agency just should not have.
But these days, with the industry (especially in Denver) being so fragile and work being so hard to find, could you dare stand up for your beliefs and sacrifice a good job? Would that make you feel better, when you had no food to put on the table for your family that night?
We all, to some extent, do things we don’t like to do for money. No one really wants to work on shitty credit card mailing packs. No one likes doing godawful radio spots for local clients. It pays the bills, and we know it.
But where is the line, and when do you refuse to step over it? Do we, as advertising professionals, have any right to let our own personal morals and beliefs interfere with the job we are being paid to do?
Go on then. Chime in.
Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.
But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.
That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:
+ You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.
+ Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.
+ A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.
+ A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.
+ Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.
Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.
Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.
1. WHAT IS THE GOAL
What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.
In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.
2. WHAT IS THE BARRIER
What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.
It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.
Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.
Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.
3. WHO DO WE NEED TO TALK TO, TO CHANGE THIS?
Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?
Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.
Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.
4. WHY WILL THEY CARE
This is where blunt honesty is needed.
You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.
5. SO WHAT’S OUR STRATEGY?
Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.
ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.
6. WHAT’S THE KEY POINT OF VIEW
Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.
It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.
ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.
Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.
You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.
Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.
I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.
If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.
While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.
That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.
At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than 'marketing truth'] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.
The inspiration to make something culturally and psychologically strong enough exists when you get back to what blew your mind.
For just a moment, you’re a kid in 1970s suburban Los Angeles, ok? Pedal your bicycle to the big Topanga Canyon Boulevard record store. See what I saw: an epic, billboard-sized reprographic image of Pink Floyd’s album, Wish You Were Here, bolted to the side of the record emporium and taking up huge amounts of sky. Big record company marketing budgets could afford to blow a lot of minds in those days.
It was a mysteriously huge, Godzilla-sized piece of pop-surrealism that captured my imagination: A man on fire obliviously shakes hands with another suited man. It’s a random meeting in an abandoned soundstage backlot, like a dream in constant production. The handshake, a blithe and obligatory social grace, appears to hide the true burning intensity of ulterior motives. Or is that something about the fear of getting burned?
This was all the proof I needed for what I had suspected in my young mind all along: People are weird. And deep and funny. And this was weird, deep, and funny marketing.
I got lost in a new kind of alchemy, a mixture of what I both did and did not understand about this album cover. I actually liked not understanding the imagery. There’s power in mystery. Though I knew the marketing for this album was about dreams. Not Disney-esque life goal dreams, not those dreams, but the unsettling world of dreaming. And was this a billboard for an uncomfortable dream? Pink Floyd knew how to show you how dreams really feel. That’s what they do. Later, I’d find out that they made music, too.
Something else that astounded me—although I didn’t know how to name what it was in my monosyllabic, child mind. I can find the word now. The imagery was alluringly unwholesome.
Unwholesome? Yes. Every bit of product marketing I had ever seen in my limited time on earth seemed to dance a giddy dance of the effusive, wholesome-hypnotic, the good—and good for you—wash of the brain. Secret ingredient: sugar. (Or, substitute the word, trustworthiness).
This album cover on the other hand, was marketing that used dream language to call no bullshit, and for me, great marketing began with that album cover.
Eventually, I saw how this imagery shared the same surreal power of the Buddhist monks who had self-immolated in protest of the Vietnam War. Add the imagery of Rene Magritte’s Victorian men floating in the sky, perhaps. That was the era. The era of the inner mind meets social upheaval.
Artwork for Wish You Were Here had a power that purposely reached for what was wrong and yet beautiful about the world.
Like most album covers produced during that slim psychedelic and post psychedelic creative era, meaning and hidden meaning trumped safeness, and it’s difficult to not regard album artwork created of that ilk as a true slice of cultural honesty through the language of symbolic imagery and playfulness.
Chances are, like me, you’d recall the marketing you probably don’t regard as actual marketing, but as something meaningful enough to feel and recall on a deeper level.
That might require you going back in time. When you were a kid. When you were raw-minded. Re-experience what affected you, the unspeakably good montage intro or trailer to a film, the world of colors in the Maoist propaganda poster you saw on Canal Street in NYC, an album cover you forgot you loved, a commercial that rocked your world, a PSA that pulled like a maddened emotion, desperate to free itself from the leash of the everyday.
That’s where the inspiration to make something culturally and psychologically strong enough exists, because it’s still living psychologically and culturally in your mind. That is, if you believe that marketing is actually part art, part storytelling, part psychological event, and is powerful enough to act as a sociological medium that does something amazing.
The article is interesting, but I wonder if there is more at play here.
If you’ve ever gotten me liquored up, you may have heard me mention my belief that the internet is forming the foundation of what will eventually become the first artificial intelligence. Which is to say, I believe that someday, our collective activity online will reach the right density and type and the connections between us will become synapses. Somewhere in the digital aether a light will go on and a new kind of life will exist. The first self-aware machine, born of the wetware of a billion+ humans.
If you take this as a given (!), that we are all nodes in the network of a massive machine, then our move towards transparency begins to look more like system optimization on a cultural scale, encouraged through new memes and behaviors, as expressed in all sorts of unexpected ways, like Foursquare checkins, reality television and CEOs volunteering their failures.
A lie holds no information beyond what it says about the lie teller. An exaggeration stated in conversation does nothing but breed false expectations in the mind of listener. A great experience not shared is done so at the detriment of the collective. If my laptop was forced to run on the inefficiencies inherent to the day-to-day communication styles of a typical person, one full of nuance, assumption, and false starts, its processor would slow to a crawl and burn out altogether.
From the Next Web article:
I’ve literally stopped telling little white lies because it’s much easier to be honest. Instead of cancelling a meeting with a PR rep and using the excuse “I’m not feeling well,” I say, “I’m exhausted and taking tomorrow off to go to the beach!” because I know I’ll likely take a picture of my beach trip on Instagram and wouldn’t want to get caught in a lie. And you know what? Most of the time they just say, “Have a great time!”
As a society, we’ve had 10,000 years to choose to be open and honest with each other, and we have generally chosen not to. But now we’re at a point where new technology plays a critical role in our lives, and technology has no use for our half-truths and doublespeak. They are disruptions in the flow of information. As we are all becoming parts of the machine, our relationships with each other are being ground down to purer, more efficient forms so that they can be put to better use.
We are becoming more honest because it increases the speed at which information can travel. We are becoming less private because to withhold valuable knowledge from the rest of the network is to act selfishly. We are becoming more transparent because that is what the evolution of technology asks of us.
It is said repeatedly – planning is a crucial component to the success of any project. It may be the global launch of a new product or a local community promotion, proper execution of any initiative requires preparation. As valid as this statement is, unfortunately, there are some situations one simply cannot anticipate. These unforeseen problems have affected some of the largest companies in the world. So, what separates the successful companies from those that allow crisis to forecast their failure? Crisis management.
Carefully modulated, one-voice messaging is critical among myriad of audiences during a crisis: press, social media, internal stakeholders/staff, customers, stockholders, unions, and industry partners. No brainer, right? But easier said then done. If and when a situation arises, there are certain provisions that must be taken to resolve the issue, rescue the company’s reputation, or even better, enhance a reputation during adversity.
Gather the team and maintain perspective.
Times of crisis can cause chaos and hostility among team members. Leadership must understand this concept. Review the issue and objectives with the team, and remember, to keep an open dialogue among employees.
In order to properly assess the issue, first one must understand the factors that contributed to the crisis. Ask the following questions:
What caused the situation to occur?
Who is affected? Consumers? Employees? The community?
What is the severity of the issue? Can this be resolved internally or does it have far reaching effects?
Has this problem affected other businesses? How did they address the issue and
what was the outcome? How does this impact the industry?
Do we need additional resources to aid in the conflict resolution?
Develop an action plan.
Even with a well-documented and a rehearsed crisis plan, the plan cannot cover every possible scenario. However, with a properly trained team in place and an objective review of the situation, an action plan can be quickly developed. Consider these topics when formalizing the plan of attack for a specific crisis:
How can the problem be resolved? Make sure to consider factors such as company goals, audiences impacted, ethics, environmental, etc. What precautions can be taken to ensure this problem does not occur again?
What is the best method to communicate with the individuals affected by the problem? Social media? Phone? Distributing a press release? Press conference? Email?
As part of the pre-prepared crisis communications plan, tap the individuals who have been designated to manage the various audiences. For example, direct journalists to one central location so they are not receiving conflicting messages.
How often should the company provide updates to internal and external parties?
To give a real-world example, In 2008, an action plan was developed when Orlando-based, Golfweek inserted itself in a racially charged scenario by placing a noose on their cover. To the chagrin of Tiger Woods, he led a charge to have advertisers pull their ads from the magazine– and 70 percent did. But, evok advertising was there to clear a new path for the publication and reclaim their valued advertisers.
Evok conducted situational assessments with both internal and external audiences (including advertisers), messaging was developed and a plan was plotted for dissemination. Within eight months, press coverage was limited to the golf industry and the agency helped to stabilize revenue putting the magazine on a growth plan exceeding where they started through rebranding, industry and community outreach, and the launch of Central Florida’s first-ever, First Tee Chapter, which teaches youth life lessons through the game of golf .
Monitor the situation as a group and be decisive.
A situation can change by the minute, so it is paramount to continue to monitor the situation closely. When making decisions, the staff must be decisive. This is not a time to second-guess the plan. The scenario was reviewed closely based on the available facts. Don’t allow the team to Monday morning quarterback the decisions until after the crisis has passed, and potentially new standard operating procedures can be established based on the lessons learned.
Managing a crisis isn’t easy for any business. However, by taking the proper provisions, the pain and duration of the discomfort can be minimized, the respect of internal and external audiences can be enhanced, and perhaps even reaching heighted brand loyalty.