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?
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.
Taco Bell is a chain of fast food outlets in the US. They want a slice of the lucrative breakfast market and have created a menu and minor fuss over their advertising.
As a comparatively small player Taco Bell don't have the budget to go head to head with McDonald's. So they have set about getting people talking. For their launch commercial they have recruited 25 people called Ronald McDonald to endorse how good the food is.
It's an unconventional approach in the category but it points to a new strategy that second tier and challenger brands are deploying to borrow interest from their competitors. The idea is to take another brand's idea and make it your own - but bypassing any competitive claim that might have to be substantiated, refuted or legally challenged as 'passing off'. The ploy is an obvious wink to the consumer and in the age of social media the hope is that the message will be shared. It's not very likely that many people are going to be so excited by the Taco Bell breakfast menu that they will share it with their friends on Facebook. But give them an underdog story - 'Hey, did you know there are dozens of people called Ronald McDonald and they eat at Taco Bell?…" (The implication is that Taco Bell's breakfast menu is so good that Ronald McDonald prefers it.).
The Ford/Cadillac ad is similar - though less directly competitive.
Perhaps another perspective is that brands are behaving more like individuals in their use of social media - personification is a part of the brand canon - brands are like people. So, rather than issuing a corporate cease and desist letter from the legal department McDonald's responded on Facebook with a vaguely condescending response - 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. The 'real' Ronald pats a ratty looking Chihuahua. (Never mind that the Taco Bell campaign featuring the dog ended over 10 years ago - though there is probably a subtext there too).
Don't wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and the pig loves it.
McDonald's are clearly not interested in engaging with Taco Bell. Doing so would stoke the fire and effectively be putting money into the underdog's marketing budget.
The Danes have a pretty good life. It's a lot like New Zealand - dairy production is important, it's conservative and has expensive social welfare. At 5.6 million they have a few more people than us and their economy is in good shape - US$211 billion. Last year the UN named it the world's happiest country (take that Bhutan).
But Denmark has a population problem. Its birth rate is stagnant at 10 per 1,000 residents in 2013. Other wealthy, developed countries have a similar problem (Germany 8.3, Japan 8.4 and Singapore 7.7). The Danes are worried. It's not that they don't want kids. Most Danish couples say they want two or three kids but 20 percent of couples are childless. Population growth is a real issue for most countries that, like New Zealand, are committed to the welfare of the aged - who have paid taxes all of their lives for the privilege of healthcare and pensions.
The Danish travel industry are coming to the rescue. They have taken up the issue as a promotional theme encouraging young Danes to go on holiday.
According to Spies travel “Studies show that Danes have 46 percent more sex on holiday, and because more sex increases the chances for more children, we call for a romantic break to save the future of Denmark.”
Whether the stats are real or not Psychology Today says the theory bears up. To help convince Danes of breeding age the promotion seduces with prizes for couple who can demonstrate they got pregnant while on holiday at a romantic location. The prize is a bit of a buzz-kill - three years of disposable nappies (how's that for bringiing you back to reality with a bump).
The ad does its best not to alienate customers who are unlikely to win - it is inconceivable that a gay couple would be in the running within the strict confines of the rules.
When you are developing a promotional idea think laterally. A promotion is a tactical expression of your brand. It helps to align your message with your brand's values - Spies is selling holidays - holidays are, by definition, playful. Holidays for younger customers are sexy - sun, sand, romance…
Make a wild creative leap. Your promotion can revitalise your brand and inject some surprise and delight into it. Taking the static birth rate as a starting point and making the jump to Do It For Denmark - genius. People are talking about it (there will probably be a spurt of inbound tourism too as randy young travellers come to do their bit to increase the Danish gene-pool).
As a promotional message it can afford to be slightly 'wonky' - the real message of the Do It For Denmark is that short breaks to romantic places like Rome and Paris are sexy. They are actually promoting dirty weekends. But it is fun and 'throw away'.
Be careful with sex jokes though. They can fail to excite the audience in a positive way - Telecom New Zealand learned that the hard way with Sean Fitzpatrick's tongue in cheek ad to encourage kiwis to put a black rubber ring on and abstain from sex for the duration of the Rugby World Cup. It was an embarrassing flop.
The Spies website has some helpful tips for conception. Google translate gives the Emerald Isle a helping hand by turning the word Denmark in Ireland.
The Syrian humanitarian crisis escalates every day. But in a universe where lolcats and "You won't believe what happens next" links to Upworthy and Mashable expand to dominate news feeds it is getting more and more difficult to capture attention for anything more than a brief moment of time. Important messages are history almost as quickly as they are emitted, sucked into the black hole of the internet.
This ad for Save The Children features Stephen Hawking's unmistakeable synthesised speech announcing "The children of Syria have no voice. That is why I'm giving them mine. What will you give?". It works on a couple of levels - It is a little bit odd that the soundbites from children are spoken by a computerised voice - like Fred the text to speech option on an Apple Mac. It is disconcerting to hear, and incongruous married to the image of a young child. We are used to the beseeching tones of celebrities like David Beckham asking for your help (actually Beckham is only slightly less robotic), so you have our attention.
The reveal of Stephen Hawking's twisted frame is still confronting, even though he has become an accepted part of the cultural landscape. It has the effect of making the viewer feel a little guilty - if he will help (when he looks like he could use a hand himself), then maybe I should too?…With Beckham and other celebrities there is a slight residual impression of 'why don't you flip them a few hundred thousand from your undies endorsements?', not with the prof. I don't imagine his undies endorsements amount to much.
And then there is the clever double entendre…lending his voice…priceless.
In most categories there are conventions. We become immune to even shocking messages. Finding surprising ways to connect is always going to be a challenge - more so in the era where fast, trivial distraction is escalating and immunising people against messages that matter.
We're not given to playing favourites here at MacGregor Media - but this is our favourite retail campaign at the moment. It falls nicely under our manifesto item: Every Expense Spared. Who needs glossy photos? Though they have excelled themselves with a newspaper ad that has more to read than price-offs. Well done. Clever way to keep the NZ owned story alive without being dull.
Campaign by FCB (who have recently eliminated the Draft).
Lightweight digital tools make all sorts of things possible.
Coke filmed cinema patrons in the lobby of a bug-hut in Denmark slurping their Cokes and generally goofing around. Little did they know they were being taped. By the time they are seated their faces have been edited into bogus movie trailers with the message 'The movie is better without you in it.'
It's a nice idea. maybe a little tortured - is slurping really so much of a problem in Scandie movie houses (every culture is different) - or maybe the idea was to get patrons to buy more Coke so they would slurp more (hey, I just judged the CAANZ media awards, agencies and client will do some weird stuff and boast about it in award entries - I would reveal all but have signed a non-disclosure in blood).
The clip is obviously for award jury consumption - I doubt the stunt was used in any widespread way - and the kids featured look remarkably like the kids who might work in an ad agency…it's probably the environmental/digital verison of a scam ad - an idea created to enter award shows, rather than an actual sales/ROI ad. Nicely played though.
It does show the opportunity for creativity using ubiquitous, low cost tools in a fast, engaging way. Something to think about.
There is a showbiz adage about never working with children or animals. But children and animals are perennial 'borrowed interest' favourites in advertising. One of the most popular ad campaigns in New Zealand history was the story of 'SPOT' - a Jack Russell terrier whose name was a slightly clumsy acronym of Services and Products Of Telecom. Rolly the Sharpei was created to attest to the soft and strong characteristics of Purex toilet paper and the Wire-haired Fox Terrier Wilson stars in Lotto's gambling ads. That's just advertising from New Zealand - the convention persists around the world.
The grand-daddy of dogs starring in modern advertising is Spuds MacKenzie who starred in the marketing of Bud Light in the late 1980s. For a while he was everywhere - from TV advertising (Superbowl 1987) to plush toys. He made his way into popular culture - with subsequent references from Futurama to Toy Story (the kid next door's dog was a bull terrior called Scud). In the end Spuds was retired, the brand owner says it was because he was overshadowing the brand, but it is more likely that the pressure from legislators and lobby groups who claimed that the cute dog was just too appealing to the young became too much of a distraction - they moved on and Spuds lived out her retirement in obscurity (that's right, 'he' was a she).
There's something to be said for having an animal as a mascot. They are easily replaced - one Fox Terrier looks pretty much like another to the untrained eye (in fact Wilson of Lotto fame had to be left in India due to quarantine restrictions and was replaced by another dog - causing a carefully managed wave of PR). They are cheaper to wrangle than a human celebrity - fewer riders in their contracts about M&Ms in their trailers on shoot-day. Unlike a human star they won't get prosecuted for drunk driving or throwing water bombs at a neighbour's home. And, of course, they have enormous emotional appeal.
Dogs and other animals may be a cheap shot in advertising, but they aren't going away. Even a lizard can have a human personality attributed to it - to warm up an insurance brand.
We're tempted to say 'it just is' and leave it at that. But there is method to our madness.
Call them postcards, mini billboards or proclamations (our current favourite) they perform a couple of functions - aside from announcing the products and services we offer and being clear about being Cheap, Fast. Good.
1. Social Objects
When you don't have much money then social media platforms present an opportunity not only to distribute ideas for free but also for people to share with their colleagues and contacts. If the information is dull and undifferentiated then that's just not going to happen. maybe it won't anyway - which is why we don't believe in over-thinking social objects. As long as they convey the idea then we're happy. That's the thing about sharing and 'viral' events - you really can't know in advance what will click. Of course we can see exactly what 'works' and what doesn't from the analytics and enquiries. We can talk about conversion in another post.
We are crystal clear about the place we want to occupy in the marketing communications landscape - Cheap. Fast. Good. Idea generation is a process. When we create something it is never going to be perfect. Even the best campaigns in the world are imperfect. Some seem almost quaint or comical not too many years after they cleaned up award shows -"What were they thinking?". Fashions come and go. Today's fetish for hand-drawn typefaces and naive, children's story book style animation might seem odd in the not-too-distant future. That's why we go for signature over style. That's our signature style. Our practice. And it's fun.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.