Archive | August, 2012

Giving birth

30 Aug

A big day today for me, the culmination of eleven months of blood sweat and tears as we created the latest campaign for Carlton Draught.

Whilst this has been a long and often challenging process, it really captures the importance of working with a great team – both internally and at the agency, and the persistence to keep pushing to keep ideas alive.

In this case I’m fortunate to work with the best in the business, the collective creative fire power at Clemenger BBDO, incredibly professional account service and a production team who continually make the impossible possible.

Then at my own end, I’ve been in the great position of having the experience and skills of my boss who was the original architect of the brand positioning and more so has an eye for detail unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, plus two eager assistant brand managers who continually ask questions that make you think.

So yes we had the basis to make something good, but let’s not forget every project has its challenges and for us we had a few. A corporate takeover, new CMO, new CEO and an increased scope of pre testing metrics we had to hit, not to mention ensuring we worked within our various codes and regulations, and from the first presentation of the idea that had robbers being chased from the pub with beers – this was certainly a barrier to overcome!

Now the ad is live and we’ve figuratively ‘given birth’ it’s always that nervous time as we wait and see. And encouragingly early signs are good. Sure we’ve tested and tested to make sure punters like it (and they did) but the real test is seeing people watch it and enjoy it. What’s more, in what is usually an incredibly bitchy world of not praising others work, it’s nice to read folks tweeting and commenting that they like it.

At the end of the day that’s all we’re trying to do. Continue to refresh those memory structures for people so they continue to love your brand and consume it. When it makes you laugh it’s an added bonus, especially when you think this will be disrupting people from watching all the drivel that seems to be dominating our TV screens at the moment.

So if you haven’t already, please check it out


When were you last at the coal face?

25 Aug


I had a good day this week. Slightly over the last few months of meetings, powerpoint presentations and edit suites I made the call to get myself and my team out of the office and back in to the trade to see what was cracking in the real world.

Fortunately for me, when I talk about seeing my brand at the coal face, it’s either in a pub or bottle shop and as a result it’s always good fun. How many other industries can you happily pull up a stool next to a punter or a publican, share a fresh pot or schooner of beer and find out how your brand is tracking? It certainly beats my old world of trawling the supermarket aisles or dodgy milk bars and servos!

I took a lot for this half a day at the coal face. In fact it was probably the most important consumer and customer immersion, and general barometer check that I’ve done in the last 6 months. Sure the reams of amazing consumer, brand health, market share and ex factory reports are beneficial, and more so sitting behind the glass of groups is always insightful; but for me there’s nothing better from seeing it in the flesh. Also in contrast to traditional research groups where we incentivise people with cash for their opinions, just talking to folks who are interacting with your brand in their day to day life is immeasurable in terms of its benefit. The other major benefits of this sort of immersion, is that it’s quick and more importantly free. Sure there will be questions on the sample size, and your ability to extrapolate these insights to a bigger picture, however being out with your brand and consumer in this way will give you enough to get moving, and if you need further quantification by all means commission a bigger research project.

Returning from my day in the trade, I had a long list of things we were doing that were good, things that needed improvement and importantly some simple ideas that we weren’t doing. Be that simple things like POS dimensions or the mix of materials you’ve made, to what punters are saying (and doing) about your brand, to more general feedback from the trade – you know the sort of stuff ‘oh someone from your company has finally got out of the office’ or worse still ‘get out of my venue, I hate you guys!’ Luckily my brand doesn’t get too much of the latter.

What surprises me most is how rarely I, and probably you, actually prioritise this time and actually do it. Sure we are all super busy in the day to day roles, and even sometimes we fear the usual ribbing from colleagues who think rather than visiting customers we’re at the driving range working on our swing. Clearly there’s a huge benefit to your own performance and the brand you work on in getting out to the coal face, and if we’re honest, a far bigger sense of achievement vs punching out a critical path or agency brief. So I’m putting it down in writing. Once a month, without fail I’ll be in the trade connecting with my drinkers and the trade. Sure when talking about beer this is a fairly exciting prospect, however the same should apply if you’re working on toilet paper or tomato sauce. Get out from behind your desk and back to the coal face. You might just be surprised what’s happening (and I may even see you at a pub somewhere when you’re done!)

Why don’t more agencies embrace ’tissue sessions’?

13 Aug

I’m currently working through a three way competitive pitch for some BTL work, and it struck me the other day how underutilized ’tissue sessions’ (as the Sydney agencies, or a ‘review of territories’ or similar as we’d call them in Melbourne) are.

When you think about the traditional briefing process, it’s fairly straight forward. As a client I present a problem I’m wanting the agency to help me solve, then we spend a few weeks not talking, schedule a response and then both parties nervously sit there hoping like hell it hits the mark. Sure the agency will have a section in the response restating the brief, as if to hope that by mentioning this again it will magically make the ideas seem more logical, however more often than not it just serves as a good checklist to confirm how far off the brief the ideas are.

Yet perhaps we’re relly missing a trick to not only get more work, but more so get better solutions, vs just having to settle for something that’s ok.

Contrast this process with the tissue session. Here the agency takes away the brief, makes sense of the often conflicting priorities, googles some of the acronyms, and hypothesizes what the magical consumer segment 17 is, in the hope the brief actually makes sense. Then they have some time with the planners / strategists to get clear on what they need to do, before having a first pass with the creatives regarding some potential ways to solve the brand issue. Sharing this with the client to get their feedback at this time now enables the client to not only confirm if the agencies detective work correctly unpicked the brief, but more so (and this is the kicker) before too much time and cost is wasted going down different avenues, confirms whether they are on the right path in delivering what the client wants (or will buy).

Sure not every brief requires this, but especially those where it is a competitive pitch, or a new problem, it makes a lot of sense to me to make sure that agency and client agree to a tissue session before the final response. The alternative approach more often not will see the unsuccessful agency reaching for their own tissue as they miss out or lose the job.

Most importantly this isn’t only limited to brands and agencies – I’m sure the same approach can be applied to all facets of business and our life. Ask the questions to make sure you’re on the right track before you go so far down, you can’t come back…

If video killed the radio star, did brands kill the athletes?

4 Aug

So it’s official. The London 2012 games have been a massive case of over promise and under deliver, and no doubt the various sporting bodies and institutes and more so the media will conduct a rigorous review of just went wrong. Sure the athletes that started to believe their own hype, or spent too long reading every tweet and that messed with their mojo whilst they were on the blocks. Maybe they just weren’t good enough when it counted.

But that’s not the point of this post. More so the interesting thing I’ve noticed out of this campaign is the role of sponsorship and endorsement in the lead up to the games, and the negative impact for brand and athlete when things haven’t gone to plan.

Top of the dais has to be James Magnussen and the terrible “Can’t” campaign. Unless you’ve been boycotting the coverage you would have seen the spot – Magnussen running along what eerily looks like the infamous Gap in Sydney known to be a popular place for those choosing to end it all with a dive off the cliffs. As he’s running he is seen to be talking up his chances, before the pesky T comes along and puts doubt in to his head. Unlike real life, the T ends up making that fateful dive off the cliff and James seems all set to dominate in the pool. As we all know now, it appears that T ended up following Magnussen to London and turning “can” in to “can’t”.

Ego aside, I really struggle to understand why an athlete would agree to be involved in such a spot, and more so why a brand would accept such a risky script from the agency. What could you possibly gain from being in a campaign that totally puts a success noose around your neck. Sure if he won we’d be cheering, but for him, not Com Bank, and as history has shown, the ultimate take out of the whole campaign is can’t , certainly not can and neither brand nor athlete win out of this.

Then there is Swisse, a very switched on business, doing some great work and more so propping up many athletes with endorsements. Now for them, I think this is more a case of bad luck, having a spot featuring Cadel Evans with the music track singing “how many times in my life did I feel like giving up?” Usually, given the strength of Cadel the track was a good fit – especially the reprise “But I’m staying strong, ain’t no stopping me”. But alas, after a big TDF Evans was ruled out for being “too tired to compete” so viewers sitting at home watching spot after spot after hearing this news start to call BS on the brand.

Then even before the games there was the interesting case of reigning Olympic champion triathlete Emma Snowsill. Despite some patchy form, you’d expect the reigning champion to be a walk up starter to the games, and Qantas were obviously very confident she’d be there, so decided to use her as a part of their Olympic campaign. So there proudly adorning airports around the country were massive signs wishing Emma luck on her way to London. Unfortunately for both Qantas and Snowsill, due to some ‘subjective’ selective entry requirements, whilst Emma has gone to London, it’s to be a commentator for channel 10, not to win gold.

All of these brands had to rapidly pull these campaigns given the public comment on them and the fact they looked so stupid in retrospect. So not only did it ultimately damage the brand perception but more so it would have cost them money in terms of canceling media or pulling together alternative creative to make the use of the media inventory.

So it seems that singing up athletes prior to the games is a risky business. Sure get it right and it’s a master stroke and you’ll both be heroes, but get it wrong and I’m afraid all you have to look forward to is the please explain from management.

The counter to this strategy, is to sign up the athlete post games, once you know they have been successful. In a previous life we did this with a swimmer now residing in the ‘where are they now files’ named Jodie Henry. Like many athletes, Henry hit her straps at the right time, being the Athens Olympics, and in addition to a world record, she game home with about 4 gold medals (contrast that to the current teams performance!). So awaiting her as the door of the Qantas flight opened was us with a cheque book, and a multi year deal. We were approaching the Commonwealth Games in two years in Melbourne and as a sponsor we wanted a ready made star who could proudly front our chocolate and soft drink brands.

Now besides no obvious brand connection, this was the a gold medal performance in wasted money. Maybe it was a bad sign when the character in the Freddo suit vomited at the launch, but it really hit its high note when we rolled Henry out to a national sales conference to talk about motivation and what it takes to have gold winning performance (selling sugary products??). Her response is still etched in my mind, as is the look of the sponsorship manager and market director when she responded with “For me winning isn’t really important. I just enjoy swimming, but I don’t like competition and training” cue the crickets here, and despite the emcee trying his darnedest to link it back to selling more, it was a lost cause. What’s more her performance at the Com Games in 2006 failed to live up to the hype, and what’s worse the lasting memory most employees had (besides the awkward motivation speech), was that a one tonne chocolate carving of an athlete will always look pretty crap (yes this was actually done – google it!)

So clearly signing up athletes post winning glory is also fraught with danger, so what’s the answer? Clearly there is a powerful role athletes can play for brands. And more so it is a good thing when brands can help give back to support the lesser known athletes with endorsement money to help achieve their dreams.

For me, I think it’s all about the messaging and tone of the campaign. Definitely sign up potential stars prior to them achieving their ultimate success. Not only will it mean you can get in with a better price, but you also have the credibility of showing consumers that you’ve been involved with the athlete in their lead up, and hopefully your product or brand has in some way helped them achieve their success, showing all important relevance of the brand fit. But the kicker for me, is to go softly, softly. Be honest and humble; messaging such as ‘proudly helping on their road to glory” or the like will show consumers you’re not only supporting the athlete, and therefore relevant for the Games coverage, but you also ensure you don’t look overly cocky and only interested in cashing in on their (hopeful) success. The alternative of course is you just make brilliant brand campaigns that don’t rely on athletes seemingly looking interested in your product.