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?
John Oliver has a a news and satire show Last Week Tonight on HBO that follows on from his popular segments on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. In this piece he asks some interesting questions and makes some valid points about 'native advertising' - ads that are camouflaged as editorial content. It is a practice that is becoming more common. Partly because people don't want to pay for their content (any more than they every did). So news gathering and reporting outlets are having to compromise to pay the bills and compete with newcomers like BuzzFeed that have no tradition of journalistic integrity or independence to preserve.
Oliver is unflinching. As he points out he can afford to be. HBO is a subscriber funded channel - so brands who want to reach their audience have to do it in other ways (like product placement in their shows - which isn't discussed in this item).
The point that is most important is whether consumers will, ultimately, backlash against this kind of subversion. Oliver's barb that 'deer aren't stupid' is a reference to this. Nothing spoils trust more than the realisation that you have been cheated or played for a fool.
I make my living from advertising but I realise it is a lot like fishing. If you treat your resource with disrespect then the catch will collapse. I've always felt that it is important that there is balance in the transaction between brand and consumer. If an ad has hyperbole to make an extravagant point then it should obviously be hypebole - not just some crazy claim. pretending to be a fact. When 'native' ads or content marketing are used to promote products where the facts are either sketchy or 'repurposed bovine waste' then nobody wins. Consumers will not only turn their backs on the advertiser and the media brand that provided cover and violated the trust that they have earned with the consumer - via a reputation for quality news and information - but they will also turn to social media (their own channels) to spread the word.
There has to be genuine value offered and received by brands who want to enter this space. Done well and transparently then everyone will be happy. Covert, creepy invasion is never a good way to start or maintain a relationship.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Last Week Tonight Website
Here it is - your Friday Frolic.
The first ad agency I ever worked for was called Brown Christensen & Associates. Pretty much forgotten now. But in their day they were an important independently owned kiwi firm. They famously introduced Coruba to New Zealand and made it a best seller - and New Zealand the only country in the entire world that preferred dark rum to white rum.
I joined as a production assistant - doing analog work that doesn't exist today: filing and retrieving transparencies, making bromides for finished artists to paste down onto layouts, marking up type, checking galleys…it might as well all be in Anglo Saxon…meaningless in the digital era. I finagled my way into the creative department by teaching myself to render and by leaving my layouts out in plain site of the principals of the company.
Brown Chris were a plum that was riope for the picking - we served clients like Amex, Panasonic/National/Technics, Fisher & Paykel, NZ WInes and Spirits…DDB came knocking and bought the agency. As part of the indoctrination there was a copy of a book called Remember Those Great VW Ads. Brown Chris were bought and I was sold. I still have the book somewhere - I read it over and over, copying the writing style.
The presentation I've put together is the fist time I've used SlideShare as a maker, rather than a consumer. Thought I'd translate the classic parody by Fred Marley and Hal Riney that I used to share with my advertising students at Massey University school of design. Study it carefully. And remember it next time you just want to add a little tweak or apply some cockamamy rule or convention to a product or an idea.
There's something to be said for Newcastle Brown Ale - unfortunately it's not 'mmm, nice beer.'
But it's amusing that they have created an adorable little campaign with comics not doing their best work and b-list acrtresses doing their best in an internet campaign - because they can.
I felt this was appropriately a little flat and lukewarm.
And why go to all that trouble to be vulgar then bleep out the bleeping vulgar bits?
And now the educational part.
This is a description of newsjacking.
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.
This is a guest post by Craig Love - just quietly Craig did rather well for himself at the Cannes ad awards held in Cannes, France recently. He's based in Hong kong. He shares some sound thinking about technology, novelty and those wah-wah-wonderful folks who want you to believe technology is the answer. (What was the question?)
Some years ago, I watched some episodes of series on the history of Hollywood films. One episode was about the arrival of sound, and it included a fascinating interview that I think applies directly to the state of advertising today.
Hollywood had spent years learning how to make good silent movies, then new technology arrived, and for a while, they forgot everything they had learned, not just about making good silent movies, but about making good movies at all.
They interviewed an old film-maker who had been around at the time. He explained that when sound arrived, nobody really understood it, but you had to have it.
Consequently, for a brief but unhappy period, the most important person on set was not the director, or the star, or the producer, or the cinematographer or the art director, but the sound man.
If these guys, who mostly had no background in film-making, wanted to they could effectively direct the movie from the back. And some did.
Armed with microphone and BS, the sound guy could declare, 'No that doesn't work for sound. Have the stars walk over here and say it this way. Otherwise you'll have a bad case of the wah-wahs.'
The result was a lot of really, really bad movies. Bad movies with sound, but bad movies nonetheless.
It took some years for the industry to learn that sound, important though it is, should enhance rather than over-rule the arts of storytelling, emotion, cinematography, acting, and directing which the industry had built itself on.
Today, instead of 'sound-men' directing from the back (and none of this btw is meant as any slight on the skilled professionals working in film sound today), advertising has a host of 'digital / social / data / IT' experts who know fuck all about advertising but are calling the shots from the back.
The result is a lot of really bad advertising.
It will eventually pass, but for now, I would say that today, advertising has a bad case of the wah-wahs.
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'.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.