Augmented reality is 'a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.'
The promo for a B movie to be shown in Australia overlays a storm sequence over the live events happening on the street in real time. It's a clever, promotional gimmick and would be highly entertaining in itself for people passing by.
Augmented reality can also be a useful utility. One of our clients, Frogs In New Zealand - an inbound tourism operator for visitors to New Zealand who speak French - have incorporated it into their guide app - when you are travelling you can can view a scene and see pinpointed places with insider information including offers and deals unique to Frogs.
The limitation of these kinds of applications really comes down to numbers. In the case of the storm promotion the concept works in the context of the street scene. It works because it is specific. The twister races towards the viewer on the street and, for moment their brains are scrambled - the real and imaginary elements are brought together convincingly. The flinch or jump back when the car flies towards them. So, from a promotional point of view, if you'll pardon the pun, its efficacy depends on the number of people passing by, divided by the number of people who pause to look and - it would seem, divided by the number of rainy days in Melbourne during the run of the film/advertising (far be it from me to disparage the weather in Melbourne - but the song Four Seasons In One Day was written about the place) - so to gain maximum effect, for the ad to be really good, the weather has to be really bad.
Offset the numbers with the cost of development, presumably the elements have to be customised to every location - so you get big potential impact but at a relatively high production cost per view.
Augmented reality is a versatile technique and it will only become more pervasive. Large scale, fixed events like the movie promotion have their place but the (un)real action will occur on smart phones and devices. The opportunities are literally mind boggling but, like most issues relating to digital technology their application should aim for scale - proliferation of devices and cheap/free distribution through app marketplaces mean a wider potential audience to offset the costs.
As a footnote, the use of 'ambient' techniques by marketers has been a trend for some time now. Often the companion video like the one I've used in this post is all anyone will ever see of the campaign. Of course, we are not the ultimate audience. judging panels at advertising awards are - hence the over-investment in production for an idea with limited media exposure.
Of course the other markets are video platforms - the persistent, vainglorious hope that a clip will go 'viral' and news media - if television news picks up a story as a tail-end filler its value can be higher than the marketer spends on the promo.
Take care though. News producers are becoming more jaded - to the extent of colluding with marketers and ad agencies directly to manufacture 'news' stunts like the famous driving dogs for New Zealand's SPCA.
Life just gets more complicated, doesn't it?
A sweet suite of channel branding idents for France 3 (produced byCube Creative).
I used to love the BBC's onscreen identity. It was engineered mostly by Martin Lambie-Nairn who began his career at the Beeb when it was all rostrum cameras, showcards in black and white or a statuette of a knight rotating magnificently on a lazy Susan (Martin's work kicks in on this vid at 2':20"). When computers became accessible for animation (before they were called 'motion graphics') Lambie-Nairn developed the iconic Channel 4 branding with its 3D graphics that seem quaint now but were much admired in their day and have had anenduring influence on the craft of TV branding. Perhaps it was the BBC that benefited most from ML-N's approach -especially their BBC2 work - which was even copied here in NZ by TV2 - but the less said about that the better.
So why bring these French idents to your attention?
Well, aside from their whimsical charms and lovely production values - I rather like the fact that they seem utterly existential . the channel is a general one that looks very much like TVOne here in NZ. The items promise nothing, they don't let you know the channel is for you by depicting idealised versions of you (avatars?) having a lovely time as part of some fantasy community while the real you sits about in your boxers and a t-shirt wondering if the yoghurt you just got from the fridge is still edible although the pottle foil is ajar.
Channel IDs are high rotation. They are seen time and again. If they mean nothing to begin with then you can scritinise them until the cows, or elephants - if you prefer, come home. It doesn't matter. You will see what you like and, I suspect, like what you see. If you were to decry them as 'silly', then the maker may simply reply 'merci'. If you see them as a post modern analysis and commentary then, perhaps, you too are correct.
It all reminds me of an interview I once saw on TV (or in an apocryphal dream because I have never been able to track it down) where the marketing guy from Dior explains the business plan for LaCroix.
"We had a five-point plan…" (imagine outrageous French Accent).
"Point one: Exist…"
"Point two: Be Famous…"
And that was it.
Walt Stack - 80 years old.
On the road. Just him, his shorts and shoes. And that's pretty much it.
This ad challenges the idea that the people in your ad should be the people your product is targeted to. (I guess that's why there are so many ads out there in the market with beardo hipsters and young families - or any number of sterotypical markers for the 'target audience'.)
Was Nike targeting 80 year old marathon runners? That's a pretty narrow niche for a mass market brand.
No, they were targeting people with spirit and commitment - everyday heroes who drag themselves out of bed every morning while others sleep for an extra hour and dream of double shot lattés.
Not Walt though. Walt's out there pounding the pavement and putting a smile on our faces. Hell, if he can do it…maybe I can see myself in his shoes.
Well, maybe not his actual shoes.
But I think you know what I mean.
The debate about gun safety can get a bit inflated in North America.
The arguments can be polar and the mere hint of 'gun control' simply means the battle lines form with the frightened on one side and the lunatics on the other.
This ad cleverly makes its point about keeping some things out of the way of children.
It reminded me of something Bill Bernbach said about not putting your logo on a print advertisement because your prior experience with the brand might mean the reader simply turns the page - and then you're screwed.
Dave Trott doesn't mince words.
By that I mean he writes his blog in staccato prose. Hemingway would be proud.
But set aside the form. It is the content that sets Trott apart in the diminishing pantheon of great British ad writers.
He writes simply and eloquently about creativity. As you should expect he is original in his thinking. Not original in the way that James Joyce was with language, Trott is plainspeak plainspoken, but in the way he marries his own personal experience to the the telling of the story.
In his book Predatory thinking he illustrates his points with his own experiences in advertising - like the story of the expensive painting where the expensive coloured squares fell onto the managing director's office carpet or how he stopped resisting his daughter's desire to channel endless cartoons on the TV by searching out animated versions of the Shakespeare.
My favourite story in the book - which is curated from his blog - is that of Robert Stanford Tuck, World War II air ace who shot down an italian bomber only to discover it was not only no match for dog fight honed skills of British airmen - which he likens to some advertising clients.
"They’re not part of the serious business of advertising.
Of taking market share from their competitors.
They just want to make a nice commercial that everyone likes.
Or do some nice online films that might go a little bit viral.
Something that everyone quite likes.
But nothing too controversial.
Not messages that will upset the competition.
Not anything that will make anyone uncomfortable.
They don’t really want to make waves.
They don’t want to cause a fuss.
They don’t really want to fight.
Which suggests they’re in the wrong job.
Because marketing, like war, is a zero-sum game.
If you want something you have to take it from someone else.
In order for someone to win, someone has to lose.
Adam Morgan described it as “like a knife-fight in a phone box”.
There isn’t anywhere to hide.
There isn’t any place for bystanders.
Everyone has to choose.
Do they want to be the predator or the prey?
Because, if they don’t choose, the choice gets made for them,
Like the Italian Air Force."
Read the full post here.
A masterclass in outwitting the competition
Trott is chaiman of The Gate ad agency. He was the creative force behind Gold Greenlees Trott and has D&AD President's Award on his mantlepiece.
He penned the legendary Hello Tosh got a Toshiba ad - which might seem quaint today but was notable for not only its populist riff (when the Poms were still ever so proper), repurposing Alexei Sayle's Hullo John Gotta New Motor - but also for its novel use of computer graphics. (Hey - they were touting flat screen as if it was the second coming…now Samsung are distorting reality with curved screens…how times change).
Read this book - it is timeless.
There's something Maya Angelou said, I think, about how people will forget what you said or did but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Without getting into a debate about whether advertising's role is to entertain or engage or inform (or all of these things by degrees and turns) most ads are supposed to sell something, to be persuasive. If you feel nothing as a response to a message my opinion is that you have failed.
A little while back Kevin Roberts wrote his book Lovemarks - about brands that transcended just being there, credible, worthy consumer choices - to become almost fetish objects in people's lives. What is the opposite of love? Is it hate? No, it is indifference. If you just don't care it is over - sometimes before it begins.
In marketing today there is a lot of conversation about the processes that are being deployed to reach consumers - conversations about content marketing or native advertising, social media, landing page marketing…there will always be another fad emerging or just over the horizon.
What we need to get back to is to imagine how we want people to feel as a result of being exposed to our brand and its messages. Once they are receptive emotionally then the relationship can begin.
Is love the only desirable feeling? Not really. Revulsion can work too - I will never forget an ad by the advertising legend David Abbot that showed a dead dogs in a sack - a doggy bag. A strong statement to make an urgent message (from a more genteel era, admittedly).
When you produce and advertising message don't forget to consider how people feel as a result of being coming into contact with your brand. They will forget the details but will never forget you make them feel empowered, hopeful, energised or even loved - or any one of the gamut of human emotions. Likewise, if you make them feel angry, cheated or insulted you will probably never have another chance.
As that advertising legend from the other side of the Atlantic, Bill Bernbach, also, famously, said: 'The facts are not enough'.
I have to confess that Apple's advertising in recent years hasn't really rung my bell. It could be that their products are just iterations of things that already exist (and competitors are snapping at their heels with products that have features every bit as good and in some cases better than Apple's). In the past they had news - like the Mac, the iPod, iPhone (early days) and iPad.
The ad kicks off emphatically off as a tribute to how the iPhone can augment the experience of making music before meandering off into the back blocks of wherever on motorcycles, boxing gyms and in-home planetariums - wrapping it all up with the message 'You're more powerful than than you think'.
It's a bit of a Bohemian Rhapsody kind of thing set to the Pixies Gigantic song. In other words - it's a mess. It seems as if Apple's flat industrial design and flat UX design is a triumph of focus and clarity of purpose - while the marketing department has lost its way. The iPhone may well be just about all things to all people (there's an app for that) - but if you throw everything into the pot at the same time then nothing shines through.
Frankly I think the ad is a bit of a clunker. It almost comes under the heading of - if you have nothing to say then sing it. Though, rather than finding an elegant riff and sticking with it, they went with an atonal mess.
Ads work better when you have a clear proposition - one that potentially resonates with a person. People can't focus on too many elements at one time (especially when they are distracted - or you are distracting them from their purpose - like watching their favourite show on TV).
There is an old advertising trick to demonstrate this to clients when they want to jam pack too much information into a commercial. Get five ping pong balls. Toss one to the client. They'll probably get catch it. Now throw all five at once - good luck with that one. Maybe Apple's agency didn't have the balls to remind their client of that communication truth.
A strong, single minded proposition will beat a complex sequence of information every time.
The ad comes from Colombia - the headline says "The Kitchen you are imagining is in Hipercentro Coronna.". The (fake) classified ads on the page morph into a dimensional representation of a kitchen with range hood. It's a little bit funky and I don't really know if if has all that much impact - but it is interesting and interestingness goes a long way.
The ad reframes expectations. Sometimes this can be expressed a 'make the strange familiar and the familiar strange'. If you were flipping through the classified ads (do people still do that?) and came across this message would you look twice (all things being equal - if you were in the market for home improvement supplies the ad would have a high degree of salience - and if you were just passing through perhaps you'd think the retailer was more interesting and file that thought away until you were ready, able and wiling to buy).
A 'retake' is better than being ignored or lost in the 7 point type of a listings page. Come to think of it the same rule applies even if you are making a glossy double page spread in a fashion magazine. Is there something that surprises and delights.
Your mind is wired to look for patterns. We 'see' things that aren't there - mentally joining the dots. One of the most vivid examples of this phenomenon is the moving image - movement is simulated by showing static images in sequence. Movies typically screen at 24 frames per second. That roughly coincides with your brain's processing capacity - we stitch the sequence together in our our minds - seeing fluid motion. If some other images that don't follow the sequence are inserted you will notice them (no, I'm not talking about the fabled 'subliminal' messages). The foreign material will disrupt the flow.
In a sense that's the job of creativity in advertising - to interrupt the flow while still being a part of context. Your fashion spread will be wallpaper unless something about it upsets your equilibrium - the mindless rhythm of flipping the pages of Vogue Italia or Wallpaper magazine.
The best advertising does this well. You are reading Vogue in the comfortable reassurance that it will contain this month's expressions of the fashion continuum (in a way every month is like a frame of the film of culture - a step by step progression from the early 2oth Century to the present day). Ads in Vogue ten to look like ads in Vogue - so a little disruption can go a long way.
Harvey Nichols, the high-end retailer in England have a reputation for creating ads that defy conventions in their category but which also conform to the model for fashion and beauty. In doing so they not only announce their retail events - like any retailer they have a seasonal calendar and have to compete for more than their fair share of the market.
Whether the kitchen retailer enjoyed any benefit from the ad that kicked off this conversation is hard to know. The ad appears in a creative portfolio on the Behance web site (it may never have actually run in the press). But it does serve to remind that even the most moribund media can present an opportunity to cut-though with messages that surprise and delight and which can take on a second life as social objects - something that gets people talking - as we are here).
This ad for the Waitrose supermarket chain is very nicely made. It uses the talent of a big name director Tom Tagholm (who proved his chops convincingly with work for the 2012 Paralympics, taking the tape for Gran Prix gold at Cannes with Superhumans). Three things strike me about this ad:
A young boy researches gardening and makes the decision to plant his own crop in the back yard. His mum obviously supports his endeavour - but doesn't interfere, except to bring him in out of the rain. He tills the soil, plants the seeds, scares the crows and is no slug on pest control. When the bounty of the harvest is revealed and he proudly serves his assembled family a feast of roast veg.
The commercial is beautifully shot, edited and matched to a music track that evokes empathy without stretching too far into schmalz (even if it is a bit too Coldplay for my taste). Avoiding the temptation to show the family as loving supporters gazing on in admiration (or any other layer of unnecessary emotion to prove some communal bond or interpretation) and neither is the kid shunned or neglected. He's just doing his thing.
The segue is to Waitrose's produce aisle. A young employee is restocking the carrots and the voice over announces: "When you own something you care a little more - everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose.". When I realised what the ad was for I half expected an obvious pronunciation that the produce was as good as if you'd grown it yourself, or a condescending - we grow it better than you could yourself. But no. It is a simple statement about the one thing that makes Waitrose different from, say, Tesco - implied, not stated - human scale and humanist values.
The story, the technique and the point are all are neatly and economically interwoven - though the sotto declamation at the end clearly signifies that this is an ad.
There are conventions in categories. They just evolve and become universal truths - it's marketing entropy - everything ultimately migrates to the black hole of the centre of the positioning grid.
Beware of universal truth - your ads should project something of your brand that no-one else can claim. That might be something oddball - the classic VW ad - it's ugly but it get's you there - comes to mind.
Waitrose are part of the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. The staff are called partners and are participants in a cooperative scheme that grants bonuses to employees based on their pay scale and discounts on goods. The claim in the ad is completely aligned to their practice.
Seems as though everybody is talking about 'content marketing'. It's one of those topics that really depend on who is talking to figure out what they mean. Some ad agency talk content up because - well because that's what other people are talking up. Who doesn't want to be on trend? (For the record, ads, even long ones that simply push products, aren't content marketing. They're ads.)
Here's the thing about content marketing - it's not what you say - it's what you do that counts. I stumbled across this exercise via Shutterstock - who do an excellent job of developing interesting, useful stuff that is relevant to their customers - they add value to the experience of interacting with the Shutterstock brand and its products. I guess they are marketing with content.
The following is based on a live workshop programme the company ran. It looks like an interesting way to bump start your thinking. Give it an hour to give it a whirl and let me know what kind of results you get.
Step 1: Find your product "truth"
What problem does your product solve? What opportunity does it provide? When do people use it? When do they regret not having it?
On provided Post-its, each team member writes 10 initial strategic or creative thought-starters for one specific business goal. (10 minutes)
Step 2: Find your topic
What pop-culture or other interest does your core audience gravitate toward? How can that relate to your brand?
On provided Post-its, brainstorm at least 10 trending topics or activities that a large portion of your audience watches, reads, listens to, plays, etc., for fun or leisure. (10 minutes)
Step 3: Mash It Up
As a group, brainstorm "what if" scenarios, mashing up your product/brand with a trending topic. (20 Minutes)
Step 4: Sell It
Figure out the format and an irresistible headline to sum it all up. Is this a video, a poster series, an installation, a mini game, or something else?
Draw or storyboard your idea and write the irresistible tweet or article headline that would make the target audience immediately click through. (20 Minutes)
Visit the Shutterstock Zeitgeist part of their site - it's really interesting and useful.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.