Tuesday 9 December 2014

I want my creative done by a suit. Said no client ever

Would you let an accountant come near you with a scapel? How about a bus driver fly a plane? What about letting anyone but a creative come up with your advertising?

To those super modern agencies that think advertising ideas can come from anyone: they can't. Because, while everyone can be creative, not everyone is an advertising creative. 

In business, creativity is the only legal advantage remaining. Marketing plans, business strategy, corporate restructures; these can all be emulated. But creativity is unique. 

And because brands can do all the other stuff themselves, creativity is the exact reason why they come to agencies. And is why: I want my creative done by a suit. Said no client ever.

Or a producer, or a planner, or an MD or an office manager. In fact, if a client learned that anyone but a creative was doing their work, I'm sure they wouldn't be happy. 

It's the equivalent of going to the dentist, reclining in the chair, and just after the gas mask covers your face, noticing it's the cleaner coming at your mouth with a drill.

You're just not getting what you pay for. 

So, while it makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy to say anyone can come up with an advertising idea, how about a little bit of respect for the creatives (♫ just a little bit ♫), who - from juniors to ECDs - work hard to master their roles. 

A football team where everyone plays their position is far stronger than a team where everyone's trying to score a goal. 

So maybe, instead of telling everyone they can do a creative's job, we should be encouraging everyone to be the best at their own position and, as a team, win the game.

Christopher Ott

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Why it pays to be a cheating jerk

Originally published in marketingmag.com.au 14 November 2014

"Increasing your brand’s penetration is all about being a cheating jerk, writes Chris Ott. His furious encouragement of this may sound like a crazy new idea, but read on to find he’s actually advocating for a return to some traditional ways."

Screw loyalty. Don’t waste your time on the one you’re with. Target every woman and man you see. Penetrate as much as possible. Cheat.
On your customers, I mean.
Growing a brand is pretty simple. Either, get the people who already buy you to buy you more, or get the people who don’t buy you to buy you.
It’s the second one, increasing penetration, that has the greatest potential to boost sales – because from nothing to something is a massive jump.
Yet all new age media, digital marketing, social media, data driven loyalty programs, which promise the world, are all inherently built to engage your current customers and go after repeat-purchase – not really good at reaching new customers and growing your brand.
Why is chasing customers you already have, over going after new customers, an inefficient way to spend your marketing budget?
Well, unless people are stocking up for a zombie apocalypse they only really need to buy your brand once in any given cycle. Trying to sell them a new car when they just bought one, or a bottle of shampoo when they have a full bottle of your brand at home is a waste of your time and money.
You can’t get blood out of a stone.
Plus, simply by owning your product already, they are being exposed to your brand more frequently than any advertising could ever achieve.
So, how do you pick up a customer you don’t have, then? How do you reach someone that doesn’t have your brand in their repertoire already? In other words, How do you sleep around?
Simple! You interrupt people with a tried and tested thing called, wait for it… mass media.
Mass media can reach people who otherwise don’t even know you exist, plant a seed in their mind and increase the likelihood of them, next time they’re shopping in your category, buying you.
This is why TV will never die and why digital is too limiting to live up to its promise. TV and other traditional mass media is made to reach non-buyers.
Marketers’ love affair with hyper-loyalty is illogical. You need to get light and non-buyers to buy your brand if you want to grow. Anything else, or focussing on loyalists, only works as a defensive strategy and is a far more expensive way to increase sales.
So, sleep around. Don’t waste your time on the one you’re with. Target every woman and man you see, penetrate as much as possible, cheat, and grow your brand like never before.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

What fires together wires together OR how advertising actually works (repost)

We've finally emerged from the dark ages of advertising. A few stragglers (Seth Godin, Kevin Roberts et al.) aside, we're all now fairly comfortable in our understanding that advertising is principally the art of memory building.

This post is going to explore how it works. 

Mr Donald O. Hebb, an influential neuropsychologist, sums it up with his namesake associative learning adage named Hebb's rule: 

Neurons that fire together, wire together

You know Pavlov's dog? Or in Zoolander, when Derek hears the song 'Relax' how it triggers an involuntary reflex to murder the President of Micronesia? Hebb's rule is that, and despite being a much weaker force, it's basically how advertising works.

But instead of creating cues that result in your audience wanting to assassinate an imaginary leader, you simply want to develop clusters of memory structures that trigger memories of your brand in a buying situation. 

Here's an example.

So, when I see the Carlton Draught ad it connects and nurtures two memory nodes in my brain - Carlton Draught and pub. 

So next time I'm out for a beer, and I'm standing in front of the beer taps at my local pub, I will be able to recall Carlton Draught easily and probably order it - Thanks to the advertising.

This is why award-winning ads invariably happen in the "closed world" (Goldenberg et al., 2009) of the brand. Because the "closed world" provides the most relevant links with the brand and its associations (Eg. The closed world of Carlton Draught includes: Pub, pint glass, beer taps, bar top, bartender etc).

Here's a new ad done by the same agency for the same client that doesn't take into account Hebb's rule (And consequently won't achieve much).

Instead of aiming to develop or refresh any memory structures, the advertisement mistakenly attempts to sell the audience on a rational message. 

In advertising, you get a fleeting moment to get your brand into your audience's heads in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them to remember when it counts - in a buying situation.

Understanding how it works will be invaluable in helping you create better ads that have a higher likelihood of working (And winning awards).

"Educating is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a FIRE." 

Williams Butler Yeats said that, but I bet he never realised just how close to the truth he was. Because, as we now know...

What FIRES together, wires together. 

Christopher Ott

Goldenberg J, Levav A, Mazursky D, Solomon S. 2009. Cracking the Ad Code. Cambridge University Press. 

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Is data the death of the idea? Part 2

No, it's not. But the use of data does beg the question from Part 1: Why do you need to create a memorable idea if you can simply intercept a potential customer right at the point of purchase? 

Talking to a marketing friend, who works for  the biggest loyalty card in Australia, he says the numbers don't lie. When they send out a laser targeted offer to a customer using their data, there is unequivocally and invariably an increase in sales - measured and compared to a control group.  

But here's the rub. For a brand to have data on someone, or for that brand's data-made message to be processed by the someone, that brand has to already be in that person's repertoire. 

This means it only has the power to impact loyalty or repeat purchase (over a determined and measured period of time). Knowing that, here's how it falls down:

There are only so many times people need to buy things (The same limited amount of buying occasions from Part 1). Toothpaste is a great example. When a toothpaste brand sends me an offer for their product and I take it up at the cheaper price. They haven't increased buying occasions. They've simply brought the occasion forward. Now I have a whole tube of toothpaste sitting in my cabinet waiting for when the one I have runs out. Had they not used their data to target me, I probably would have purchased the toothpaste at the regular price and the brand would have made more money. 

Or to revisit the example from Part 1. Had the hair dye brand not sent that customer an offer, that customer, and aggregate of customers who received it, would have still purchased the brand, on aggregate, in accordance with their repertoire and the brand's market share (The duplication of purchase law). 

As you know, repeat purchase is only 1 of 2 ways to grow a brand - and the weaker. The second and more effective way is through penetration. 

To increase penetration and market share you need to reach new customers. Something data by its nature is just not good at. You can't have data on someone who doesn't have you in their repertoire, and if you do (through a 3rd party like Facebook) if you're not in their repertoire, they aren't going to notice you anyway. 

You need to reach and interrupt people who don't know your brand exists or have forgotten about you. That way when they're in a buying situation next, and your brand is readily available in their mind, they choose you over a competitor. 

And how do you interrupt and keep a brand fresh in people's mind? Wait for it... Big, smart and entertaining ideas. 

Data can even help an idea. A lot of feedback I received from Part 1 was how data has opened the door for more intelligent ideas. While this is a type of data, it's not the sort that makes CEO's pants tingle. It's not the data that threatens the existence of the idea. 

In fact, as you can see, it elevates them. The best example was given by Paul Matheson, President of Planning for Ogilvy in APAC. This Cannes Direct Grand Prix winner here: 

So, does data negate the need for an old-fashioned advertising idea? Hardly. Affecting repeat-purchase is predominately defensive. It works at holding your market share. To grow a brand, you need to achieve penetration and that means you need to reach new customers. And, thankfully, that means the big idea lives to fight another day. 

Viva la idea!

Christopher Ott

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Is data the death of the idea? Part 1

The further away from a buying situation an advert is the better the idea has to be. Why? Because, as a consumer, the further away you are, mentally and physically, the more you rely on having to remember the advertising. In other words, the more you rely on the advertising to do its job. 

It's no surprise then, that the closer to a buying occasion you get, the less need there is for a big idea. The advertising doesn't need to try as hard to be remembered, because it's right there at the point of purchase. 

Data, combined with digital mediums, have the ability to create or intercept said buying occasions. And because there are a limited amount of occasions available (the market size), the use of data essentially helps brands steal the occasions (and customers) from competitors. 

This new ability to reach potential buyers at exactly the right moment with the right (relevant) message, may change how we advertise forever.

A suit friend of mine was telling me about working on the Boots account and how, some 5 years ago, they used data to push an offer on hair dye to their customers based on when the customer had last bought the dye.  

They made the hair dye brand mentally available at the time when the consumer needed it, and using an online shopping cart, even made it physically available, too. 

Data created a buying occasion. It reached potential buyers at exactly the point in time where they were ripe for the picking, and then made it easy to buy. 

Data totally abrogated the need for that hair dye brand to create a great mass-marketed idea that would have aimed to get stuck in people's minds.

Simply put: Data means that you no longer have to rely on someone remembering your message in the future (with an idea), because you'll be right there, in the future, to deliver it.

And creating or intercepting buying occasions isn't the only way data is putting the 'big idea' on life support. 

I've noticed a growing belief that personalisation works in place of an idea. Why 'try' and engage your audience with creativity, if you're assured you can engage them by knowing their name and a few choice details about their behaviour. 

That's what the data-evangelists have been pedalling to our clients, anyway. Scarily, if you follow that line of thinking then, eventually, clients will replace agencies with data machines - robots.

Is data the death of the idea? The evidence above appears pretty damning. But, you've only heard data's side of the story. Save your judgement until part 2; the counterpoint to this argument, where the 'idea' gets its chance to defend itself.

Christopher Ott

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Step right up, social media snake oil here (repost)

I was freelancing at a social media agency recently, and the job included writing Facebook and Twitter updates for a few big brands. The experience has led me to two conclusions:

1. Social Media is a very powerful research tool.  

2. Social media cannot be used to launch or grow a brand. 

Why? The simple answer is: To grow a brand you need to reach buyers that aren't yet consumers of your brand. Stealing them from your competition basically. 

The action of 'liking' a brand on Facebook would follow buying the brand in real life (Attitude follows behaviour). That means the individuals interacting with your brand on social media are already buyers of your brand! 

The implications of this are huge.

If someone doesn't buy you, then they aren't going to 'like' you on social media. If they don't 'like' you, then your social media messages simply aren't reaching them. If you're not reaching them, then they aren't going to buy you. Ad infinitum. (Luckily you can still reach them on tv)

It actually makes a helluva lot more sense to post information about your brand on your competitor's page. That way you're reaching potential buyers, not existing ones. 

It takes a special kind of person to be 'friends' with a brand. Social media skews towards people who are loyal heavier buyers (Creamer 2012). Which simply means with social media: 

You're preaching to the choir! 

It's the equivalent of going to a Collingwood game and asking someone wearing black and white, sitting in the member's section, if they'd like to buy a Collingwood membership. It sounds dumb, but this is the limitation of social media. 

In the same situation, wouldn't it be more valuable to ask the same person what they thought about their current membership? Do you like your seats? Or who's your favourite player? Herein lies the power of using social media as a research channel. (And why it should come out of our client's research budget and not advertising)

The social media snake oil peddlers will jump on their soapboxes and sanctimoniously announce that they've harnessed the illusive power of word of mouth.  

This sounds freaking amazing! You can see how any marketing manager would love the sound of it, but it's just not a reflection of reality. 

People may talk about brands on Facebook, but the conversation definitely didn't begin there. The conversation more likely begun when someone saw an engaging TVC with content that stuck with them - taking us full circle back to good ol' fashion traditional media as the genuine spark to flame a word of mouth epidemic. 

Another claim by social media experts is its ability to encourage more frequent buying, which, of course, will positively affect the brand's bottom line. Let's consider this for a moment.

If it's your heavy loyal buyers you talk to on social media, and then you run an exclusive promotion, or even a memory-refreshing brand campaign, communicated only using social media channels, what can you achieve?

Well, not much, because the people you are reaching with these messages were already heavy loyal buyers to begin with (They had to be otherwise they wouldn't be friends with you on Facebook). They already know about your brand, and they were already going to buy it.

Presently, social media quackery has brands (our clients) adopting a pay and pray mentality. 

I've been at an agency, as would have you, which ran a whole campaign, for an FMCG brand, through social media. No above the line at all - not even on packaging. Even if it was successful it's hard to understand what it achieved. 

But, if you're like the social media agency I was at recently, then there's still hope that social media channels will be used smartly. 

If social media experts continue to promise the world and deliver Geelong, then as soon as clients realise that it's not the cure-all it claims to be, the bubble's going to burst. 

Creamer M, 2012. (Study: Only 1% of Facebook 'Fans' Engage With Brands) http://adage.com/article/digital/study-1-facebook-fans-engage-brands/232351/

By Christopher Ott

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Buyhaviour 5: The Spotlight Effect

Metamorphosis of Narcissus - Salvador Dali

You know when you have a pimple how you think everyone's looking at it? Or, let's flip that, how about when your partner gets a haircut, of course you always notice it, right? What about when a brand tells you about their amazing features. You're lapping that up too, aren't you?

Brands are narcissistic egomaniacs. Marketers mistakenly believe people care about and pay attention to them. Yet, in reality, brands don't get noticed half as much as marketers think. 

In an experiment in the 80s, uni students were asked to put on a Barry Manilow shirt (something equivalent to a One Direction shirt today) and wear it to class. Afterwards they were asked to say how many people they believed noticed them wearing the 'embarrassing' shirt. The result: The number predicted was around twice who actually did - wearing a 'cool' Bob Marley shirt produced the same results.

This, thinking you're the centre of attention, is the Spotlight Effect and brands demonstrate this bias all the time. And the implications are huge, especially on creative.

The Spotlight Effect helps explain why marketers are happy to simply create ads that pontificate a laundry list of features. In their spotlight-affected minds, they think consumers are looking at them already. They're not.

This misconception creates roadblocks to creative ideas. Creative is used to achieve cut-through or noticeability. If a client believes they are already noticed then they aren't going to want a creative ad. Hence why so many ads we see are wallpaper. 

So, dear marketer, if you freed your brand from the Spotlight Effect, you would realise a single-minded creative ad that gets noticed will trump an uncreative one expounding a list of product features that doesn't, every day of the week. 

Because, even though you think people are looking at you (like you were wearing a cool Bob Marley shirt), they actually aren't - they don't care about you, you egomaniacal jerk. And an ad that's not noticed is a waste of money and, just like getting a pimple the morning of a presentation, would be better if it didn't exist at all. 

Discover more from the Buyhaviour Series:

Buyhaviour Series: An Introduction 
Buyhaviour 1: Availability Bias 
Buyhaviour 2: Status Quo Bias 
Buyhaviour 3: Confirmation Bias 
Buyhaviour 4: Conjunction Fallacy 
Buyhaviour 5: The Spotlight Effect
Buyhaviour 6: The Matthew Effect  
Buyhaviour 7: Fight or Flight Heuristic
Buyhaviour 8: Imposter Phenomenon 
Buyhaviour 9: Red Queen Hypothesis 

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Christopher Ott

Wednesday 16 April 2014

This is why people hate advertising

Dear Barnes Catmur & Friends, you are morally bankrupt and creatively lazy. And if you truly "believe in using creativity to solve a business problem, not to show off to our mates." as you say on your site, then you're deluded as well. 

If you were wondering why people have a low opinion of adland and the people in it (We come in second to last of least trusted professions after used car salesmen); this billboard answers your question.

Sure it successfully achieves communication goals: Disruptive, earns free media, gets cut-through, and certainly the audience will not forget the message. But the way it does it is despicable.

Annoying, offending, embarrassing or guilting people into action is no way to advertise. You don't need creatives for this. Any asshole can think up this crap.

Just because rabbits are a pest doesn't give you the right to nail their skin to a billboard. They are living creatures. While achieving communication goals, you have also successfully created another association for your client:

Hell Pizza are heartless douchebags. 

They're the the guy at the party that does anything for attention - the desperado, the try-hard. The one you stop inviting because he's an embarrassment to himself.

Pizza is eaten by everyone not just bogan rednecks who would find this funny. Why would you create advertising that ostracises the majority of your potential customers?

I believe advertising can be used as a force for good. And, lucky for us, we live in a golden age of marketing where clients are on the same page. 

Just think about the billboard that makes water in Peru or the vending machine that unites India and Pakistan. All great stuff that we can proudly show-off to our non-adland friends. 

Then this junk comes along and all the good work is forgotten. Not cool Barnes Catmur & Friends, not cool. 

By Christopher Ott

Tuesday 11 March 2014

If you think this ad is good, you don't understand how advertising works

The Bell's scotch spot from South Africa. It's a highly arousing, well written, well crafted advert that has the capacity to inspire real social change with adult illiteracy. But what's the scotch doing at the end? 

For advertising to work it has to be remembered. This ad doesn't work because although the content will be, the brand, Bell's Scotch, certainly will not. 

Why? Because Bell's is irrelevant to the story. It is simply bolted on at the end. Celebrating a personal triumph by cheers-ing with a scotch is flippant and forgettable. The advert will be remembered for its story, which is adult literacy, not about the scotch. 

The advert also fails to execute the story within the closed world of the brand. You do this to develop associations which help create and refresh memory cues so the brand is easily remembered in a buying situation. (E.g. Carlton Draught Beer Chase)

How simple would it have been for the guys to play scrabble in a pub rather than a cafe! 

And finally, it's simply not branded. Similar to Eaon Pritchard's what-should-have-been uncontroversial comments about the John Lewis Christmas ad, it would have been easy to insert distinctive branding throughout this spot. Again, helping build memory structures and make the brand come to mind easier. (E.g. Nike Possibilities) 

A brand that is not remembered is not bought.  

This may be an exceptional film but it is not a good Bell's Scotch ad. It is our job to use creativity to get brands both noticed and remembered which ultimately leads to them getting purchased. Failing this, like this Bell's spot, what value are we actually adding to our client's business? 

By Christopher Ott

Pritchard, E. (2013). How John Lewis get away with something 99.9% of brands should be wary of attempting. Mumbrella

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Creative Directors and Zen Masters

What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? How does the brand own this idea? Is the unexpected part really that unexpected?

What do Zen masters and Creative Directors have in common? Good questions. 

In Zen Buddhism the masters ask these questions called koans. Koans are used to help the Zen students attain enlightenment. They are riddles like the ones above. They are brain hacks that split your mind open for a moment of omniscience (called a satori). Kind of like the green data-stream scenes in the Matrix.

Not unlike Zen masters with their koans, a creative director's role is all about asking the right questions. Questions that, similarly, open up their creatives’ minds and help them get to some truly breakthrough thinking - Questions that delicately nudge an idea towards greatness. 

In our line of work, the right questions also allow a sense of ownership to grow organically within the creative. Compare this to simply giving your creatives the answers; where they lose that sense of ownership, and you’ll discover just how powerful the right questions (koans) can be.   

All the great creative directors I've worked with have had the knack of asking just the right questions. These right questions have lead to the right answers, which have turned out to be the game-changing and much applauded ideas. One handed applause that is.

Christopher Ott. 

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Never get high on your own supply

"They may be right" is what Bill Bernbach had written on a note he kept in his pocket. Whenever anyone challenged his ideas this simple message helped him stay objective.

It helped him Never get high on your own supply. A rule every one of us should follow.

Ideas are like your children. And If you've ever waited to pick your kids up from school; you understand how insanely biased parents can get. 

They are getting high on their own supply, and this is the same crazy way you are blindly biased with your own ideas.

The confirmation bias, the sunk cost fallacy, and the IKEA effect all play a part, but mostly it’s an over dose of old fashioned hubris. Or, in other words, being a jerk.

So, next time you’re in a review and another team is presenting their ideas. Instead of  defending your own by way of finding holes in theirs, stop and think: they may be right. 

This goes double if you're a CD where it's your role to manage and motivate people. 

We’ve all worked with that CD, who after late nights and sleepless mornings, he ends up going with his own idea. 

There is nothing more demotivating than this. 

So how do you avoid getting high on your own supply? 

You could borrow Bernbach’s clever little commitment device. 

Or, I think, every creative in an agency should agree on what a good idea is, create a guide and then, when it comes to a creative review, the ideas get compared equally against it. (See: What makes a good (advertising) idea for a guide).

This way everyone's playing on even turf, not hunches, opinions and biased knee-jerk reactions. 

Or you could simply not be jerk, and in the astute words of Ice-cube: “chiggity-check  yo self before you wriggity-wreck yo self!”

By Christopher Ott.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

How to come up with a good advertising idea

Did you know you have around 50 thoughts a minute? That's 70,000 thoughts per day and over 25 million each year. Evidently, it’s easy enough to come up with ideas. The hard part is coming up with good ones. Here's how I do:

(If you're like me, after holidays, like an old car on a cold morning, the brain takes time to warm up. So, this post is as much for me, to help get my brain into gear, as it is to share how I do.) 

1. Noticeable

Your idea needs to be noticeable. Otherwise known as getting cut-through, or what I predict will be 2014's darling buzz word, 'disruptive'. Your creative needs to get noticed. This is the reason we, creatives, go to work. Because if an idea doesn’t get noticed the brand may as well be talking to a wall.

Money can get you noticed. Buy a lot of media space over a long period of time and you’ll get noticed. But it’s because our clients don’t have an endless pool of money that they employ advertising agencies (creatives specifically) to achieve noticeability.

How do you get noticed? Simple. Do something unexpected, something original. Break people’s guessing machines and surprise them.

2. Memorable  

Make the brand or product you're advertising memorable. Ideas need to be ownable by the brand. There’s no point in making an ad if it’s not remembered for the brand. Without being remembered, specifically in a buying situation, then your advertising is meaningless.

How do you achieve memorability? By using the right tone, using the brand's market based assets (logos, colours, taglines), making the setting of the ad and its contents all apart of the closed world of that product or brand. And, most importantly, make the brand or product relevant to the story being told in the advertising. To see how this works go here: What fires together, wires together OR How advertising actually works

3. Likeable  

And the most obvious one, yet bizarrely most overlooked - make your advertising likeable. Like getting noticed, this can be achieved through spending a lot of money on media and achieving like-ability through familiarity, but because clients don't have that money tree, again, they rely on great creative to achieve this. 

We have to stop advertising and start entertaining. (Advertaining, anyone?). Being noticeable and memorable isn't enough, because this can be easily achieved through the dark arts of advertising: jingles. An ad has to be likeable, so when it is remembered, it's remembered in a positive way, which leads to your audience reaching, on autopilot, for your brand and not your competitors.

The Message

But all this is for nothing if you don't communicate a message. What's the point of communicating if you have nothing to say? 

The message doesn't have to be a so-called unique selling proposition, it simply has to say something (ideally a category benefit) and be noticeable, memorable and likeable. 

I’ve written ‘Message’ in the middle of the triangle above, because it's the starting point (but not finishing point) of an idea. You read your brief, pull out the message, say it straight and then using the triangle, say it great. 

Christopher Ott