Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nestle want to sell food to my dead dog.

Three years ago Bandit, our much loved blue heeler cross, died. My wife had found her as an neglected puppy on the streets of Cairns. For sixteen years Bandit was her constant companion. When we moved in together, Bandit came with her. When our children were born, Bandit was the embodiment of canine tolerance.

When Bandit passed in 2007, we felt like we'd lost a member of the family. Because we had.

Then yesterday, my wife received a spam email from pet food manufacturer Purina, a division of Nestle. It was charmingly addressed to Bandit.

Amongst other things, the nice people at Purina gave helpful advice on what Christmas foods Bandit should avoid this Christmas and how to manage her fear of fireworks (a great tip in a country where fireworks have been banned for decades).

The spam then goes on to gush about a local lost dog's home, and the brand's proud and sincere support of it.

At the top is the Purina tagline 'Your Pet, Our Passion' and the spam is signed off 'Your Friends at Purina'.

The world groans at the seams with astoundingly stupid and thoughtless marketing. But most stupid and thoughtless marketing is, by it's very stupidity and thoughtlessness, invisible and ignoreable. The only damage done is to a marketing budget and an investor's dividend.

This makes me want to burn something to the ground. Something Purina-shaped.

Sending spam emails to dead dogs is just about as insensitive as a pet food can get. Slapping Australian references on an American eDM is just about as lazy as a marketer can get. And faking empathy is far nastier than being properly and corporately selfish.

Maybe I'm over-reacting. Maybe this is just a sign of the times, and we should just put up with it.

Or maybe it is a virulent and dangerous strain of marketing-degree moronism that should be bundled in a hessian bag filled with bricks and thrown in the nearest river.

The floor is open...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Using Celebrities

The latest Lipton Ice Tea commercial, starring Hugh Jackman. It's a classic use of a celebrity, simply taking what we know of him (uncomplicated, talented, friendly, famous) and trying to attach those values to the brand.

The commercial tells us nothing at all about the product. It could just as easily be for a rival brand of iced tea or a mineral water, chewing gum, energy drink or instant coffee.

In fact, the commercial is pretty much his opening to the Oscars a few years back, without the witty dialogue, star cameos and insightful interperetations of the zeitgeist.

Instead of informing or persuading, it tries to dazzle us (probably successfully) with the stratospheric calibre of it's star.

There's nothing especially wrong with this approach. Nor is it particularly new. Aligning your brand with a current celebrity is a fast and proven way of shifting attitudes toward your product or service.

However, the effect only lasts as long as your celebrity retains currency (and your budgetary pockets remain deep enough to run your commercials). In the case of Jackman, his personal brand is probably stronger that the product he's pitching. Should he move on to the next beverage endorsement, he'll take all the the things that make this commercial watchable and effective with him and leave Lipton to pick up the pieces and start again.

Additionally, consumers are so used to this approach (no Bono, no!)that they don't attribute any lasting value to it unless,
(a) the endorsement seems believable
(b) the endorsement is 'left-field'

Let's take the latter first. While there's nothing especially surprising about a movie star endorsing a soft drink, there is something astounding about a Russian communist leader endorsing luxury luggage.

Which gives the Louis Vuitton celebrity endorsement its power. It's unexpected. It extends our knowledge of both the man and the brand. And the headline not only reflects the journey of Mikhail Gorbechev, but also taps into the truth of travel.

The message far outlives the successes or failures of the celebrity because it doesn't attach itself to them. The brand and the celebrity combine to form something new and salient.

We can imagine Gorbechev thinking about the consequences of his decisions each and every day, as we might also reflect on our lives in those quiet moments in cabs, planes and solitary hotel rooms.

Sainsbury's association with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is also successful for slighty different reasons.

Oliver doesn't simply and blandly endorse the produce of the UK's third largest supermarket chain. Watch it carefully. He mouths none of the usual platitudes about 'market fresh' or 'everyday low prices'. That would be a misuse of his own powerful brand.

Rather, Sainbury's resist the temptation to use him as a dumb mouthpiece, or pack their brand as a passenger on the Jamie Oliver juggernaut, and instead take what we know of him (the discerning, infectiously enthusiastic chef and purveyor of quality ingredients) and mix it indelibly with their brand offering.

The creators of the Oliver campaign understood what people liked about Jamie and extended that (who wouldn't like Jamie to come home and make them dinner) rather than simply feeding off it.

And in the process they create something new and believable and powerfully branded.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You don't have to be perfect, just human.

If you follow American sports, you'll know the furore caused by NBL star LeBron James' move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat a few months back.

Twice the league's MVP,'King James'was considered the lynchpin to his team's hopes of winning a first-ever championship.

His announcement to leave was televised live to a breathless nation, the response in his hometown was singlet-burningly vitriolic.

Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert immediately published an open letter to fans, denouncing the decision as a "selfish", "heartless", "callous", and "cowardly betrayal", while guaranteeing that the Cavs would win an NBA title before the "self-declared former King".

If you were LeBron, the sensible thing would be to keep your head down, right? And if you were his major sponsor, you'd try and gloss over the fact that half of America despised the behaviour of your star asset, right?


This is a great spot. It's great because it treats the viewer with intelligence, asks us to challenge our pre-concieved views, and invites debate.

It's great because it doesn't set out to be a monopoly of information, or try to provide you with an opinion.

It's great because it doesn't mind if you walk away unconvinced. It puts its faith in the argument and in the smartness of its viewer.

To be a great brand, you don't have to be perfect. Because you can't be. It doesn't hurt to admit your imperfections if they are there for all to see.

In fact, they might be the key to the way ahead.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Being useful

Precocious bike brand Rapha have this last weekend launched their new iPhone app.

For us it serves as a pretty handy marker as to where brands might be headed.

It doesn't tell you where to buy their expensive bike attire, or show you styles and prices. Perhaps it already assumes you own a piece or two, or have at least heard the talk.

It simply allows you to organise groups of people who like riding to and from the same places at the same time as you do. Which if you are a rider (Campbell isn't but Chris is) is incredibly useful.

From the Rapha site:

We all know the problem. Organising a ride with friends. Or maybe not friends, more likely adversarial training partners, or perhaps someone you have never ridden with before. Arranging meeting for a ride can be a thankless task spread over a multitude of devices and communication methods.

And then, further to this complication of arrangement is the uncertainty involved in the act of meeting. An unforeseen puncture, a headwind from hell, getting lost, another unforeseen puncture (after two they become foreseen) – the epic could begin before the planned epic (or perhaps just a light training spin) has even begun.

It strikes right in the heart of a human being that likes nothing more than getting up in the dark at 5am to ride in the rain with a bunch of people he or she never sees at any other time of his life.

It appeals to the human quarter that he or she believes sets them apart from everyone else. And could anything be more useful than that?

Able and Baker's travel budget didn't extend to sending delegates to last weekend's Caxtons. But we're reliably informed that keynote speaker, R/GA's Nick Law spoke on this very subject.

"If advertising tries to compete on storytelling, you're up against (Pay-TV channel) HBO and Hollywood," he said.

"We think the new formula is innovation plus demonstration. When you create a social (application) you're designing a system of engagement. It's less about telling stories.

"In the systematic space, make it useful, for God's sake," he said.

R/GA has proved this point with their much lauded Nike Plus campaign. Rapha have managed to get to the heart of their people with this app.

But perhaps what's most striking about the Rapha app, and what's most counter-intuitive for marketers, is that you don't have to be a customer to use it.

It's free. No cash, no credit card, no proof of purchase required.

It recognises that while you may not yet be a customer today, if we spend a little time together, you just might be tomorrow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Australia the 'dumb blonde' of the world?

In a Sydney conference yesterday, branding expert and author Simon Arnholt labelled Australia as the world's 'dumb blonde', attractive but shallow and unintelligent.

He pointed to the current tourism advertising campaign, Tourism Australia's move to bring Oprah to Australia and the lack of a cultural exchange programme like Germany's Goethe Institute or France's Alliance Francais.

''What you have is an image of a country that is considered to be very decorative, but not very useful,'' he said.

Mr Anholt said Australia relied too much on ''logos and slogans'' in its efforts to change people's minds about the country.

In a similar vein, Paul Hogan who starred in the 'Shrimp On The Barbie' ads of the early 80s, commented;

"If I go to your house to visit and I want to come back, it's because I enjoyed your company not the furniture," he said.

Campaigns like this address the furniture. If you took them at face value, and I'm not sure how much other value there is, the world would get the impression that we all spend our days beach-frolicking in the shallows, communing with kangaroos and watching fireworks in sequinned dresses.

And you've got to wonder what kind of hook that is.

Brand uber-guru Wally Olins, who's been working in this space for decades and amongst other things, helped Spain transition from the Franco-era poor man of Europe to the country that hosted the Olympics less than twenty years later, points out, sun, sand and sea are commodities. As soon as someone else can provide it closer and cheaper, your brand is diminished.

'You have to sell your culture, your history, your food your background,' says Olins. 'Otherwise, you are in the commodity business.'

Compare and contrast the 'Nothing Like Australia' campaign with Tourism Victoria's current campaign featuring Daylesford.

Simon Arnholt probably has a good point.

(If you are a Wally Olins fan, here's an excellent presentation on branding and nations in four parts. It's long but excellent)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Under the influence

Mazda have been a client of Melbourne agency CHE for several decades or so. Which is a lifetime in the cut and thrust of Australian advertising. And in the last couple of years or so, they've been nice enough, from time to time, to ask Able & Baker along for the ride.

As reported in influential industry journal GoAuto, Mazda's advertising has been found to be the 'most likely to influence a buyer to own one of its cars'.

The report said:

'A startling 42 per cent of buyers told market researchers Colmar Brunton that Mazda advertising was most likely to make them consider one of its models – a stunning result for a company on nine per cent total market share.'

In the same month, Mazda failed by just two vehicles to outsell traditional Aussie heavyweight Ford.

Which is nice.

Here's an on-air TVC for Mazda 3.

You can read the full GoAuto article, here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We live in your world

I don't mind the 'Barbara from Bankworld' campaign for ANZ. The scripts are well-written, the performances are spot-on and the end result is pretty funny. And full marks to the client for having the self-awareness to approve ideas like these.

However, I worry a little that it's the right campaign for the wrong client. Or a cute advertising idea with a hollow centre.

The sector is extremely competitive, with any product or service advantage quickly matched and neutralised. The end result is, with a few odd exceptions like the excellent ANZ iPhone app, it's pretty much a level playing field.

ANZ has pretty much the same products, the same service levels and branches in the same sorts of places as the other Big Three. So while Barbara captures the zeitgeist of anti-bank frustration, I wonder what long-term value there is for the brand. We might well laugh at Genevieve Morris' excellent character, but it may not be quite so funny when encountering a real-life Barbara at an ANZ call centre or in a branch.

And as anyone who's ever tried to cancel a credit card or arrange a small business loan will tell, there are plenty of them.

However while in the Collins Street last week, I flipped open my laptop in a cafe to find the following notfication on my screen.

With little fanfare or self-aggrandaisement, ANZ provided free wi-fi in this small CBD cafe. So that people could check their emails, read the news or even do their banking without any hassle.

The tagline to the Barbara campaign is 'We live in your world'. I reckon this is a far more persuasive expression of that brand idea.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

This is like totally two weeks old already...

Technology is really cool. If you don't believe me, listen to Louis CK.

But sometimes there is a tendency to get overexcited about the technology itself, rather than what the technology enables you to do.

A brand isn't cool just because it has a facebook page or tweets. A twelve year old can do both those things. Probably better than you.

What's cool about technology is not what it is, but what it does. What it enables you to do.

And when the convergence of an idea and technology is at it's very best, you don't even notice the technology at all. It just becomes a part of the storytelling process.

The new film by Chris Milk for Canadian band Arcade Fire is a co-production with Google, using the the bits of wizardry at the pointiest bit of the pointy end of their arsenal. Which is pointy to the power of ten.

But funnily enough, once you're in, you forget all about the wizardry and just get lost in the moment.

Try it for yourself here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


A hundred hours of painting compressed into a ten minute video. Artist Phlegm (good name) describes himself as someone who 'makes comic books and sprays paint on walls.' You can find more Phlegm at

Thursday, July 29, 2010


This has actualy been sitting in my 'Drafts' tray for a few weeks...apologies

It doesn't look subversive.

It's a slide from Sam Davy, former Global Creative Director for Apple, at last week's State Of Design. It represents Apple's attitude towards marketing and advertsing.

'Help your customers get the most our of their product.'

It cedes control of the brand entirely to the people who use it.

It passes ownership, to them.

It says 'You know what to do. You decide what to do with our products, and we'll help you do that. Whatever that is.'

It's about ownership, not sales.

It assumes that people are to be around for longer than the ringing of the till.

Actually, it is pretty subversive.

Seen in Dan Murphy's, Frankston

Seen in The Age

I just love this, I do.

And I don't even like duck.

Cooking Dinner Vol. I from William Hereford on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The 100% Project launches

The 100% Project was offically launched last week by Federal Minister for the Status Of Women, Tanya Plibersek.

The Project, headed by Frances Feenstra (pictured below), seeks maximise 100% of Australia's leadership talent, female and male, equally contributing to Australia's social and economic future.

Able & Baker have been very proud to help out with brand strategy and identity.

You can find out more, here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fishing for birds.

I saw this poster at the train station near the Able & Baker office.
We're in a rather fashionable part of town. Lots of pubs, clubs and music venues.
The walls around the station are plastered with fantastic posters for festivals, DJs and semi-obscure touring bands. In some places, posters are placed over posters over posters. A dozen deep.
In amongst all this uber-hippery, in the last place you'd expect, there's this quaint, traditional and rather daggy poster for a wedding photographer.
In a wedding magazine, it'd be lost.
But amongst all the cutting edge graphics around it, it absolutely stands out.
In the 1800s, the American writer Washington Irving stayed at the splendid Alhambra Palace in Spain. Perched high on a hill, overlooking the town of Grenada, the Alhambra was circled by birds that had learned to drift above the range of hunters' guns on the plains below.
Irving observed boys from the town standing on the walls of the palace, throwing fishing nets and capturing the birds below from the unexpected angle.
In advertising, there is usually a 'right' way to do things.
A right way to photograph a car, make a burger look enticing, show a family moment.
Because it's the right way, everyone does it that way. And it instantly becomes invisible.
The wedding photographer is fishing for birds. It's not a bad theory, is it?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Blu

Proof once again that imagination and sweat beat money and FX. Every time.

BIG BAG BIG BOOM - the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Small is the New Big?

A few years ago, the big agency Able & Baker were then working for pitched for a government advertising project.
The aim was to persuade Australians about to travel overseas to check the safety or otherwise of the countries they were about to visit on a government website.
The prospective client was asking for, and expecting, a big television campaign.
What our agency came up with was a very simple, very inexpensive idea.
Since nearly all overseas travel was now booked or confirmed by email and e-ticket, the idea was to develop a bit of software that slipped inside your booking process.
This bit of software would recognise your destination and provide a direct link on your e-ticket or booking confirmation, just next to the departure time, to the latest safety information about that destination.
For example if we was flying to Mogadishu, the little bit of copy that would read; 'We hope you enjoy your time in Mogadishu, Able & Baker. But just to be on the safe side, check the safety and security conditions in Mogadishu before you fly. Just click here.'
And that was it. The whole pitch. No ads, no big budgets, just a simple little idea that would have cost a few thousand dollars and delivered new traffic to the website by the planeload.
Of course, it never happened. The agency lost the pitch, a television campaign was duly commissioned and nobody I know has ever gone to the government website.
In business, as in life probably, there is a tendency to assume that a big problem requires a big solution. The corollory of this is a desire for proportionality: that big inputs should incite a proportionally big response.
Of course, in reality this is rarely the case. Little ideas can have an influence way beyond their ambition (such as Justin Bieber's mum posting a video of him on YouTube), while big ideas can disappear without a trace.
In Victoria, the government has spent over a billion dollars and five years on the myki ticketing system whose end purpose is, without a trace of irony, to 'save money'. When for a fraction of that cost, you could put conductors on every train which would have the added bonus of making travellers feel more secure.
Here's a terrific TED talk by British adman Rory Sutherland on the subject.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is originality necessary?

In April of this year, Melbourne artist Sam Leach won the prestigious Wynn prize for Australian landscapes. His work, Proposal for Landscaped Cosmos (above), borrowed heavily on the 1660 work Boatmen Moored on the Shore of a Lake (below) by Dutch master Adam Pynacker.

The artist himself was quite unapologetic.

"For quite a while now I've been obsessed with 17th-century Dutch painting," he told The Australian.

"I haven't made any secret of where that painting came from."

In film, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocolypse Now won the Palm d'Or at Cannes despite the plot being an acknoweldged reworking of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

In music, Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher quite openly borrowed from the Beatles. As the man himself says; 'Here's what you do: you pick up your guitar, you rip a few people's tunes off, you swap them round a bit, get your brother in the band, punch his head in every now and again, and it sells.'

Even the great Steve Jobs claimed that 'good artists copy, great artists steal'.

In pretty much every creative endeavour, it's recognised that pure originality doesn't exist. The best we can do is take what is good and make it a little better.

In every creative endeavour except for advertising.

In advertising, we're obsessed with being originality. When you're a junior, you dread your creative director saying of your beautiful idea: 'it's been done before.'

Bloggers on the amusing, pedantic and often vitriolic creative blog Campaign Brief inevitably greet every new campaign with claims and proof of other campaigns with similar if not identical ideas.

The current villain d'jour is Sydney agency DDB whose new 'There's nothing like Australia' TVC bears a remarkable executional resemblance to the award-winning 'Boom-di-Yadah' spot for Discovery channel.

No doubt both agency and client have been on a long, extensive and expensive journey to get to the destination they have. Yet the two spots are near identical in structure and concept.

But does it matter?

If DDB did borrow from Discovery channel why not proudly admit it, like Jobs and Gallagher?

After all it was a successful, popular campaign. Probably not too many of the people being targetted by Tourism Australia would have seen the Discovery channel spot. And if they had, why would it truly matter?

Why, when open plaigiarism is good enough for the major creative minds of our generation, but not good enough for those who use creativity for commercial purposes?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fresh Space Monkey: meet Amber Philips.

Meet Amber Phillips, Able & Baker's newest arrival. Before arriving at the aesthetically pleasing yet uneven parquetry at Chapel St, Amber was General Manager at Big Red.

Her job title here is 'Control Freak', which might come as a pleasant surprise to those who've been hitherto engaged with our inverted management structure and frankly unenthusiastic administrative arm.

As well as actually knowing what to do after clicking the PowerPoint and Excel buttons on the computer, Amber has earned her chops on the suity and plannery side of things.

In her own words;

'I've now worked in agency world for seventeen years, at five agencies (Clemenger Sydney, George Patterson & Partners Melbourne, Young & Rubicam Melbourne, cummins&partners nationally; and Big Red for clients like Virgin Blue, Jetstar, Ansett, Nestle, Cadbury Schweppes, Victoria Bitter and Kraft, to name just a few.

I have extensive experience when it comes to creating fully integrated solutions that not only get results, but inspire loyalty amongst consumers. Some of the memorable campaigns I have led include Virgin Blue ‘If only you got Virgin Blue service everywhere’, launching Virgin Blue’s loyalty program – Velocity; Tourism Whitsurdays- '74 Islands out of the blue' repositioning; Picnic ‘Deliciously Ugly’ and managing a unique and award winning loyalty program for Victoria Bitter.'

We like Amber because she loves brands and she loves ideas. If she dressed more badly and kept more erratic working hours, she'd make a fine creative.

We love her. You will too.

Sport; the killer app

There's a fantastic feature in the online Economist about the future of television. The article documents the passage from the 60s, where the conventional wisdom to ratings success was to air 'the least objectionable shows possible', to today, where it seems the media behemoth is under attack from all sides.
Or is it?
The Economist argues that the proliferation of choice has simply cut out the mediocrity in television. And what we are left with is The Niche ('Bass Masters' anyone?), The Great (The Sopranos, The Wire) and The Live. The Live includes such things as the various nationalities of Idol, simultaneous broadcasts of the final episode of Lost and, of course, sport.
Sport is, the the words of the Economist, television's killer app.
It's live, so people can't record and skip the ads.
It's currency; men apparently talk more about sport than women or sex.
And it's mass. Which is why Nike would have spent the equivalent of the Mining Super Profits Tax on this wonderful spot.

Seen on St Kilda Junction....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Moments pass, so catch them while you can.

I don't know too much about Sean Stiegemeier, but when the Icelandic volcano (or Eyjafjallajökull if you are feeling adventurous) erupted he tried to get there to film it. In his own words;

"So I saw all of these mediocre pictures of that volcano in Iceland nobody can pronounce the name of, so I figured I should go and do better. But the flights to get over took forever as expected (somewhat). 4 days after leaving I finally made it, but the weather was terrible for another 4. Just before leaving it got pretty good for about a day and a half and this is what I managed to get.

Wish I had more time. I missed all the cool Lightning and the Lava of the first eruption. But I figure this will just be a trial run for another day."

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

It's pretty amazing. What resonates for me is that he just went out and did it. Didn't wait for a sponsor, or for a better time. He went and captured a moment.

In our line of work we spend too much time deliberating and not enough time doing. And as a result, sometimes the moment passes.

Sean is apparently trying to raise sponsorship to go back, if you've got a few spare pennies.

(Found this originally through brainpicker, probably the most awesomest thing on the internet.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Much more cleverer

Advertising has always been an industry with big egos. When all you have to sell is your opinion, you have to hold your ideas in some value. But wandering through the halls and corridors of St Vincent's Institute, longtime Able & Baker client and serious medical research heavy hitter, you can meet some incredible people who'll make you feel quite small indeed.

While we're worrying about the size of a typeface or the nuances of an edit, these guys are quite literally solving cancer. And diabetes. And heart disease. And childhood obesity. And a dozen other things besides. SVI has long been a pioneer in the field of protein crystallography, a process by which biological processes are broken down into their most essential elements so that they might be examined in 3D. It's essential in the development of 'smart drugs'.

Researchers travel from across the world for the opportunity to work with SVI's director, Professor Tom Kay. People don't travel quite so far to work with foundation CEO Robin Berry, but he's a convivial fellow, sharp mind and excellent luncheon companion.

If you have any interest in the field, Robin or Tom regularly take tours through the institiute. They also run a series of high-profile and excellent dinners throughout the year (David Parkin, Daryl Jackson and Kevin Rudd being notable speakers). And of course, the researchers on the ground are always looking for funding, so donations are always, always welcome.
Oh, and they're nice enough to let us do their annual report for them each year. Photography by Andrew Wuttke. Special mention to the immensely patient Dr Anne Johnston.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

WIRED magazine and a possible publishing future.

As advertising creatives, we're caught.
We know that what we do is changing, and that the iPad, TIVO and such are changing the fundamentals of our interruption-based trade. Yet the cheese still plops out from the same hole in the Skinner Box, and the briefs for TVCs, outdoor and magazine ads still vastly outnumber (and out-budget) those for the digital stuff.
Our clients aren't leading us, so should we be leading them?
And if we should, where to?
Even Rupert can't work out a paid-online model for us to advertise on/in/within/however.
But maybe WIRED is heading in the right direction. Watch this. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writing better briefs

As a creative, I've read literally hundreds of briefs. Nearly all of them were rubbish. If you are a planner or a suit, here's the best explanation of how to do it, by some chap called Nick Emmel.


We did this for the Sydney Olympics. It never ran (as far as I know) but I still like it. Directed by Steve Rogers of Revolver.

New TVC for Mazda 2

Mazda has been killing it this year. Hopefully with this ad, guided by the lovely Mike O'Hare and Georgine Toole's parting gift to CHE before moving on to DDB, that will continue. There's some print too, which we'll post later.

What happens if you don't allow for a real model in your photography budget.

You get the Creative Director in there instead. For an upcoming annual report cover for St Vincent's Institute.

Real photographer (not the monkey with the iphone) Andrew Wuttke.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chapel Street Junky

Shock! Ads work!

Here's some nice statistics from client Mazda, for whom we do some work through the good offices of agency CHE.

* Mazda CX-7 January 2010 sales up 99.4% year-on-year
* CX-9 sales for January up nearly 40% year-on-year
* Mazda 3 finishes 2009 as the best selling small car, shading the once mighty Corolla.

You can read the full press release here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finally, our name on the door.

Well, the name of two space monkeys at least.

Be my Bastard

Consumer insights are a good thing. Knowing how people think about your issue or brand gives ideas a handy reality check.
But insight alone is not a strategy.
Take this poster pasted up at Windsor station.
The insight is clear; people think banks are opportunistic, fee-hungry undesirables.
Hence the headline: Sign up to fight unfair banking. And what I presume to be the new NAB tagline: More give, less take.
Which would all be fine if you were something other than one of the big four banks who created the unfair banking in the first place.
Bendigo Bank could run this poster. The teacher's credit union could run it.
But NAB can't.
Every time any of the big banks report those multi-billion dollar profits, people think of all the petty little ways their hard-earned savings have been siphoned off.
Two bucks to use another bank's ATM. Six bucks for making 'too many' transactions. Thirty-five bucks for bouncing a cheque.
The irritating nature and random lack of generosity of these charges (ATM fees are a particularly naked brand of opportunism) stick in the craw most.
While it may well be true that the ninja account has no 'unfair' fees, it's certain they're gonna get you somewhere else.
So why persist with this strategy? There must be something in it since each of the big four are all doing variations of the same theme.
ANZ has 'Barbara' the bank manager.
CommBank has their good marketing folk protecting us from the shallow American ad guys.
Westpac's have their 'Dog WIth A Bone' managers.
And now NAB.
No doubt that all these spots will 'track well'. They play to our preconceptions.
But they don't change them.
Nobody likes being sold to. And we're pretty good at spotting phoneys.
Because banks won't and can't stop charging the infuriating fees they do, the strategy of 'we're your friend, we're just like you' will, in the end, fail.
They're banks. Big, huge, behemothic banks.
And THAT surely is where the gold lies.
In fact, the big four banks are all amongst the twenty biggest banks in the world. And through acquisition both here and overseas, they're only getting bigger.
They're also rated amongst the world's safest. And most profitable.
If my bank is big, safe and knows how to make money, I'll forgive them the paltry fees. Because they are doing the job I hired them to do: keep my money safe.
So that's the rolled-gold, Able & Baker-approved Big Bank Strategy. We might be bastards, but we're good at being bastards. So let us be your bastard.
I'd rather have a hard-nosed bastard in charge of my super than a nice chap with a pleasant smile and a flair for tea-cakes, wouldn't you?
Of course, as a strategy it isn't especially new.
Over to you, Hannibal....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Advertising Creatives Shouldn't Have Jobs.

Miles Davis never caught a train at 8am, rode into the city and up an elevator to the 7th floor.
Miles Davis then never walked under strip lighting, past rows of manned, partitioned workstations to a white laminated desk and a phone list.
Miles Davis then didn't answer emails for twenty minutes, attend a work-in-progress meeting, attend a second meeting about a blowout in the stationary budget before tidying his section of the office in preparation for important visitors later in the day.
Miles Davis didn't do this, because he was in the business of creating sublime, original and wonderful music. And commuting routines, nondescript office spaces and work-in-progress meetings are precisely the wrong environment for creating anything.
Yet this is the daily routine for most advertising creatives in the world. Particularly those in the larger multinationals that churn out the majority of messages on our screens, magazines and newspapers.
Agencies spend fortunes on brilliant creative directors, who in turn spend slightly smaller fortunes on talented art directors, writers and producers. Having harnessed this prodigious talent, they then crush the living daylights out of it by imposing regular office hours, hollow working environments and the filling-in of timesheets.
In my last multinational job, as a creative director, my whole day was filled with administration and meetings. The only time we got any creative thinking done was after 5.30, when the rest of the office (and my clients) had gone home.
In the two or three years since then, this seems to have become more prevalent, not less. Tighter margins mean fewer people are doing more work. Client-side procurement folk want more evidence of labour. And agency management, keen to meet new business targets, seek new ways to provide it.
The upshot of all this is that creative people in agencies are spending less time being creative.
Not only are the hours spent in WIP meetings hours not spent creating, they turn the creative process into a grind. We find ourselves having to create on command, during small 20-minute windows between internal reviews.
This is an horribly inefficient use of resources.
The worst place to have a good idea is in an office. The worst time to have one is when someone else is telling you to have one.
The best time and place to have ideas are the moments and spaces when you're not looking for them. The time between turning off the light and going to sleep. Soaping your armpits in the shower. Driving the kids to school. Jogging. Between the third and fourth beer at the pub. Talking to your mum.
These are things that every creative person knows. So why do we go to an office every day, as if we were doing data entry, kidding ourselves that hours spent equals more genuine progress?
Because of head-hours. This is, traditionally, how agencies charge their clients, and thus how they reward their employees. The more chargeable head hours per employee, the more profitable each one becomes.
The trouble is, this doesn't necessarily lead to better ideas, and often results in worse ones.
The solution? Maybe creative people shouldn't have jobs.
Rather than expecting copywriters and art directors to be at their desks at nine every morning, simply give them the brief, the right information and a time when you need the answer back.
Rather than being paid a salary, pay them to produce ideas. Those that produced the most and best ideas would be paid more, those that produced fewer and weaker, less.
Where and how these ideas are produced becomes immaterial. If sitting in an art gallery works for you, go for your life. If watching polar bears mate at the zoo gets your juices going, ditto.
The only thing that matters is the quantity of quality ideas you come back with.
Good creatives could consult to multiple agencies. There would be more scope to develop high specialties, such as car, beer, pensioner insurance or itty-bitty computer chips.
Agencies could offfer clients a broader range of creative thinking than simply that of the folks they can afford to have on staff.
With less time lost on non-creative activities, creatives have more time to develop their skills. Producing better ideas, building better value into their own careers and delivering better value for clients' money.
What do you think?