Thursday, April 16, 2009

The power of music.

The late Paul Arden once said that music is 50% of your script. Monty Propps' treatment of the Diff'rent Strokes titles proves it.

“Man’s greatest fear is not being inadequate, but powerful beyond measure”

There is a place for every brand in the universe, if only it has the courage to be something. Even if that brand's name is Joel Bauer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Work (sort of)

Our good friends at Fenton Stephens scored an invite on the Gruen Transfer. The brief? To sell synchronised swimming as a participant sport to teenage boys. Last count on the Gruen website had the Fenton boys as clear winners.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

0.25% Compassion.

Every now and then we get asked to prepare an advertising campaign for a bank and generally the marketing problem is the same; 'people think we're money-grubbing pricks'.

Now partly this is a perception issue; banks do perform an essential function in society and do a lot of good. But the rest of the time, they have a tendency to behave like, well, money-grubbing pricks.

It's something they don't like to hear.

Take yesterday's interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank. To manage the ravages of the global financial crisis, in a climate of crumbling industry and lost jobs, the governers of the nation's monetary policy decide to reduce interest rates by 0.25%.

The aim of this policy was to reduce the financial pressure on households and get them spending again, to speed the economic recovery.

This event was widely reported, and the nation's families were eagerly anticipating the cut.

And the reponse of the banks? To keep most if not all of the cut as profit. Westpac, ANZ and CBA passed on just 0.1% of the cut while NAB passed on nothing at all.

The RBA fired it's best shot in the locker, only to see it almost entirely absorbed into the bottom lines of the Big Four banks, who've taken advantage of the GFC by buying up smaller lending institutions and consolidating their oligopoly on home mortgages.

The recession, and the near-perfect exchange of information enabled by the internet, has made this high-handed behaviour unacceptable to the modern consumer. As the article in the Economist says, it's compassion that people are looking for in brands now, not vaucous statements.

If you're going to behave this way, why bother running ads like the one below? You're treating your customers as less than stupid. And in the end, your bank's brand will be the one to pay.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's more important to be interesting than right*.

Wouldn't it be great if your advertising idea was so interesting, that people would want to watch it, not just in the ad breaks but in the program too? (See the original Cadbury 'Eyebrows' ad here).

(*Thanks to Richard Huntington for this assembly of words.)

Change your tone, or change what you do?

Just as the Federal Treasury was printing Kevvie's $900 cheques, there was an article in yesterday's Financial Review about adopting the right tone of voice in your marketing (I'd offer up a link, but the AFR make you pay to view. Sorry).

Industry luminaries talked about whether you acknowledge the recession, or pretend it wasn't happening. The AJF Partnerships 'Times are tough. But Australians and Holden are tougher.' got a mention, as did the simple pleasure of Cadbury's 'Gorilla'.

It makes sense to take the GFC into account when plotting our strategies, but I'm thinking that maybe people are after a bit more substance from their marketing messages. Wanting to see something that's actually different, rather than the same thing painted a different colour.

Holden didn't actually change the build of their car to suit the times, nor did Cadbury alter the formula of Dairy Milk. But when Hyundai found new car sales plummetting in the US, they actually altered the substance of what they did.

Uncertainty about job security was leading many Americans to put off getting a new car, so Hyundai created Hyundai Assurance.

Essentially, if you lose your job within 12 months of leasing a new Hyundai, they'll let you out of it and take the car back. Covering up to $7,500 in negative value.

Sure there's a bunch of fine print, and no doubt there will be folk who miss out, but as a brand statement-wow!

Even if you weren't in the market right now, or even if Hyundai isn't your brand, you can't help but admire the audacity of the move and the understanding of where their customers are at.

Not too hard to write a compelling ad to that proposition.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to not write copy.

Flicking through the Good Weekend last Saturday, I came across this ad for the HTC Touch smart phone. It caught my eye because it is so painfully wrong in so many excruciating ways.

The layout is dreadful (seven shots of the same phone and a target market Gen Y-er in his Dad's jacket), two or three pointless headlines and two logos specifically placed to confuse and disorientate the reader.

But as a copywriter, it was the words that really hurt me.

I'm no expert, but I understand that the HTC is actually a pretty good phone.

But being a touch-screen 3G gadget it's playing in a sandpit dominated by iPhone. So this ad should be weaving a pretty convincing argument as to why I should shun that beloved device and choose something that looks liken every other phone in the Telstra shop.

So how did they go?

Let's start with the headline;


Hmmm...the 'power' here helpfully explains that the Touch runs on electricity, not steam or uranium like other, less modern telephones. A quick scan of the ad doesn't reveal where the 'passion' comes from unless it refers to the Gen-Y'er, by whose glazed smile we can presume is watching downloaded Japanese porn on his 2.8-inch screen.

Look if you're going to have one, the headline is where you set out the stall of your argument.

HTC's biggest brand issues are that;

(a) nobody knows anything about them

(b) it runs on Windows, which everyone loathes, and

(c) it's not an iPhone

This headline adressed none of this and was a waste of 1.23 seconds of my Saturday morning.

To the first line of copy;

'HTC, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of smart phones, brings you the Touch 3G, a phone that combines their innovative TouchFLO interface technology with the awesome power of 3G.'

Crap. Until six months ago nobody outside the industry had ever heard of HTC, and most still haven't.

A quick Google reveals it to be a Korean company that made its name making components for other phone companies.

HTC stands for 'High Tech Computers', a name that conjures up a dusty PC shop off the Oakleigh high street before a global colossus striding the smartphone stage.

And bin the self-adulation; 'world's leading', 'innovative', awesome'. That is your puffed-up opinion of yourself, not a fact that will persuade the equivocating buyer.


'The category-HTC Touch 3G (no, the iPhone defines it) powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional (I hate Windows on my computer, why would I want it on my phone?) takes your touch experience to the next level (there's that puffed-uppiness again).'

'With next-generation TouchFLO (if it's next generation, how can this generation have it? Waste of words), voice and text communications (you know, talking to people), web browsing and media playing are now more intuitive than ever before (how? How? Are you going to tell me? No.).

The touch-reponsive interface of Touch 3G is designed to respond perfectly to finger gestures
(yes, it's a touch screen, you've already said that) helping you navigate seamlessly through contacts, media and web pages with speed and precision (so it doesn't take you to the wrong places, slowly? Wow!).

Look, there's a whole other paragraph of this rubbish and I can't be bothered going though it all. But it doesn't get any better.

If you're going to interrupt somebody's Saturday morning with a wad of words, try to make it something useful or funny or informative.

Tell me why Windows is better for a phone that OS/X. Give me the ammunition that will persuade my friends at the pub that this is cooler than an iPhone.

Tell my why HTC are better at making smart phones than Apple.

George Orwell once raged agains words that were mindlessly erected into sentences, 'like pre-fabricated henhouses'. Lord help any battery chook that has to live in this.