Do ad networks need a restraining order? By Doug deGrood
Creative Director for Gabriel deGrood Bendt in Minneapolis
Not long ago, I went to a well-known shoe company’s website, not because I wanted to buy or research their shoes, but because I was looking for one of their employee’s contact info. Ever since then, no matter where I go online, I’m stalked by ads for the shoe company.
At first it was oddly interesting, especially since I had forgotten about visiting the site. “Wow, what a strange coincidence! I was just thinking about… wait a minute.”
But soon, it became annoying. Like when your little brother used to follow you and your friends around the neighborhood, either hoping you’d let him hang with you, or that he’d spy you doing something he could use for blackmail purposes.
Over a month went by and the shoe ads continued to follow me. “Look, shoe company, I don’t want your shoes! I’m not who your data suggests I am!” It had gone beyond annoying to sad and a bit creepy. I don’t know which was worse: the mistrust I felt toward the shoe company, or the fact they were flushing a chunk of their ad budget down the toilet on a dead lead.
I know I can empty my cache and put an end to the stalking. But that isn’t the point. There’s no bigger ‘turn-off’ than making the consumer responsible for turning off the ads.
It’s not like online display ads had the greatest reputation in ad land to begin with. For too long, they were being used to do the heavy lifting of brand advertising. Bad idea. The sizes tend to be too small, and/or too restrictive (unless you’re selling pencils or Q-tips). And they’ve got all the craft of an old Yellow Pages ad.
Of course, they can be so much more. The entire concept of ‘big data’ is that we now have so much information about users at our disposal that we can tailor messaging and experiences to their interests and place in the purchase funnel. If you want to engage your customer with a contest, or a coupon, or some useful free content, there’s no better medium.
Currently, only the biggest companies with deep pockets are truly leveraging this from an owned media standpoint, but some of these benefits are available to clients with more modest budgets via ad networks.
We can now target by site—contextually (sites related to brand). And by person—demographically, behaviorally (articles read, sites visited, social activity), keyword (search activity), retargeting, offline behavior (offline purchases using store rewards program data), etc.
But back to my original point, as brand marketers, it is incumbent upon us not to annoy, but to engage and inspire.
And as far as cookies-based re-targeting goes, the question still remains. Shouldn’t the ad networks be able to determine an annoyance threshold for the number of times they serve an ad to a user? Maybe they already do, and I just don’t know. In which case, they’d be wise to decrease it. Know when to say when, people. It’ll prevent advertisers from wasting precious ad dollars and consumers from being annoyed. Or worse.
In 20 words or less, what's your creative philosophy? What a great question that surely would generate some very creative responses. The SF Egotist first took to asking San Francisco based creatives that very question, the response was a wonderful glimpse into the thought process of some very talented creatives.
We decided to take the very same question to Toronto creatives, in 20 words or less, what's your creative philosophy? What they shared gives us a look into the thought process of some extremely talented individuals. Take a look - tell us what you think and if you have a creative philosophy of your own share it in the comments.
"Love what you sell.
Then be honest with yourself about
the human emotion why you love it (greed, lust, etc). " - Kevin Drew Davis
Chief Creative Officer at DDB Canada,
We’ve all thought it: If only I worked at so-and-so, my genius would be recognized and I’d churn out award-winning work. But you don’t have to work at so-and-so. Here are some workarounds to getting your best ideas realized right where you are.
What can I say? I needed the money. My kids were small, my own agency had just ground to a halt, and I needed a job--tomorrow. The phone rang. A headhunter told me about a place that wanted me for a ton of money and I could start right away. The only catch: It was a dreadful, dreadful advertising agency. Walking into its reception was like entering a scene in a horror movie. It wasn’t blood on the walls that broke me out in a cold sweat; it was the ads.
If you work in the creative industries, or you’re trying to break into them, then you’ve probably watched some industry legend swagger onstage to dish out career advice. Their life story almost certainly went like this: They got their first job at the hottest shop in the world. They kept working there for years earning the square root of nothing. Then they took a creative director role somewhere amazing, before setting up their own world-dominating company. Well, not everybody can do that. By definition, half the companies in any industry are below average. And somebody has to work at them. For a while, one of those somebodies was me.
You will search in vain for that job on my LinkedIn profile; I don’t admit to ever having been there. But when I emerged six months later, I’d got some decent print work out the door and won them their first-ever major award. I’d also learned a lot about the differences between a good company and a bad one - they’re not what you might think.
1. WORK AS IF YOU LIVE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF A BETTER COMPANY
“Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” These words are carved in stone on the wall of the Scottish Parliament. They’re also pinned up above my desk as I’m writing this. If you’re working in a dump, you don’t have to work as if you’re in a dump. Form a startup in your own head. Write a manifesto. Keep showing up for work in the same building, but follow the ideals of your invisible hotshop.
Nancy Vonk is a partner at Swim, a coaching company for creative directors. She recommends creating your own “micro climate” within your company. “Another terrible brief? Find out the business problem. Pull together a group and brainstorm. Go for diversity--somebody who ‘isn’t creative’ from finance, an intern with fresh eyes and an inability to edit themselves. Even ‘terrible’ clients recognize and prize great ideas, in my experience. If going rogue means great work, forgiveness is usually a given."
You’re not the only frustrated talent in the place. There will be plenty of recruits to your startup-within-a-terrible-agency. Find a few and you will already be working in the early days of somewhere better.
2. GOOD COMPANIES AREN’T MORE TALENTED. THEY’RE MORE TENACIOUS
Today, James Bond is the best-known fictional character in the world. How could you go wrong making a James Bond movie? Simple. Give in to every suggested improvement. That’s what happened to the first attempt to make a Bond movie. I can imagine the meeting now:
“Bond is too English for our audience. Let’s make him American. ‘James’ is kinda stuck-up as a name. ‘Jimmy’ is more down-to-earth. The book character is a bit of a psycho. I know! Let’s make him smile all the time."
Nod. Scribble. Nod.
Watch this clip and see the difference a few helpful changes can make.
3. “THIS SH*T DOESN’T HAPPEN AT DRO5A”
There’s always somebody walking round every company saying something like this. They imagine a perfect office where folks just swan in off the street waving a checkbook and asking you to win awards on their behalf. Naturally, they have never worked at such a place, but their friend has. Don’t be that person.
One day you will work somewhere great. And there will still be people walking round saying, “This shit doesn’t happen at Dro5a.” One day you may work at Dro5a. And I expect that exactly the same snafus happen there. When they do, I bet that somebody will say, “This shit doesn’t happen at Wieden.”
The place where “this shit doesn’t happen” only exists in the minds of bitter people. If you must deal with them, then avoid thinking like them. It’s tempting early in your career to look cool and cynical. Nothing will turn you into a hack faster.
David Ogilvy moonlighted. Many of his most famous ads were done outside of his day job. Sometimes he was paid cash. He boasted that his ads for Holiday magazine earned him some “magnificent china lamps.” If Ogilvy, a tony pipe-smoking adman with his name above the door of one of the biggest networks on earth could still bang out cracking work on the weekends, then so can you. For many years, an informal team of creatives at Ogilvy ran a whole national gym account in their spare time. I was one of them. I think ol’ Dave would have approved.
5. YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY IS SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU
Co.Create recently published a list of clients that creative people most wanted to work on. From one angle, it was a disappointing list. Because it was a list of great brands. Where’s the challenge in working on a brand that somebody else has made great? When I started working on ads for IBM, technology advertising was a geek ghetto. The action was all in beer. It meant that there were no rules, few expectations, and if you did a decent piece of work, people sat up and took notice.
If you come out of the elevator this morning and think, “If only I had an Apple brief I could do something great,” then you may have a long wait coming.
Whatever you’re working on today, you have an opportunity to make it really stunning. And if you’re working on something that seems dull, then people should be all the more impressed when you nail it brilliantly. And if you’re being held back by the terrible place you work, then start up a new place in your mind.
Head to your desk this morning as if you work in the early days of a better company. And I promise, you will.
Want to watch $275 Million get spent in 48 minutes? Just tune into CBS at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday to see one of America's greatest primetime displays of violence, debauchery and poor impulse control. And I'm not talking about the Super Bowl…
I'm talking about the Super Bowl ads.
In all seriousness, these days it's no surprise that independent research year after year continues to show that over half of U.S adult viewers plan to watch the Super Bowl as much, or more, for the ads than for the game itself. In fact, social listening measurement findings suggested that in 2012 64% of respondents said that half or more of their conversations online with respect to the Super Bowl were about the commercials themselves.
With the average investment of $4 Million on the line for a 30-second spot, it's no wonder why the CMOs of many of these advertisers are looking to squeeze their investment for every penny.
There are three standout trends that have continued to proliferate the Super Bowl ad space for the last several years (and by all accounts will continue even more in 2013).
01. Online Ad Preview and Teasers
Online Ad Previews and Teasers are becoming more of the norm. VW made the most famous splash last year with its Star Wars parodies that received over 56 Million hits after allwas said and done, largely in part to the pre-release of the spotson YouTube.
This year's early winner goes to the Kate Upton Mercedes spot, which in one week gained over 5 Million views (and counting).
Humbling news as, by this author's account, this is one of the more ridiculously off-brand spots I've ever seen. Given the fact that the CLA won't even be available for the next 7 months, the brand needs lasting impression and awareness. Regardless of the substance, it's clear that Mercedes knows the value of online traction and will do whatever it takes, no matter how low-brow, to get an early lead among its rivals.
Regarding the idea of Super Bowl teasers, the concept is simple,but the debate still rages on about whether or not the big reveal should be saved for the big game. While we don't promote a "one size fits all" approach to advertising, and I'm sure there are errors to the rule, it's hard to argue with the facts. Mashable reports, "According to YouTube's research, ads that ran online before the Super Bowl last year got 9 Million views, on average. Those that waited? 1.3 Million." With, on average, three times as many views online over broadcast, many could argue that the real winner in all of this is actually YouTube.
02. Ads for Social Democracy
Ads by social democracy are becoming more common in 2013. While Doritos pioneered the concept with their user-generated ads in the past few years, this year we are seeing a greater variety of the concept. For instance, one of the biggest brands in the world, Budweiser, has finally launched a Twitter account in itsname. The brand, which had a little more than 600 followers Monday morning, is using the account to promote its upcoming Super Bowl ad, which will feature a Clydesdale foal via their Twitter hashtag campaign. Pepsi is also using their site and Twitterto recruit some of their fans to strike a pose with their can before their half-time show.
But, the big pre-game winners in 2013 seem to be the "choose your own adventure" style ads from Audi and Coke. In what Audi says is a Super Bowl first, they recorded separate endings for their "Prom Night"commercial, and are compiling social votes where the audience chooses the ending. Coke created cokechase.comto tease their spots by highlighting three different sets of teams who are all racing to win a giant coke in the desert. The team with the most votes online will get their spot aired right after the game.
03. Second Screen
This year, more viewers than ever will be watching on a second screen. Now in real-time, technology allows brands to engage with the viewing public on their mobile phone or tablet during the event. For instance, Yahoo's Into_Now pioneered app technology that augments the second screen experience by using the unique audio digital signature in a television show topickup, and serve up, content directly related to that show. CBS estimates ad revenue alone from their second screen engagement to be between $10-$12 Million. Being able to interact with stats,player bios, team formations, highlights and social aspects is an essential part of any second screen approach for the sports enthusiast.
Regardless of all of the hype, a few certainties remain. The Super Bowl represents one of the highest risk: reward ratios in advertising. Because of this, marketers are getting smarter by using not only the right tools, but also the right content to get the consumer's attention. Disintermediation is taking effect and the consumer is finally starting to see large-scale control of and connection with their favorite brands. As our society gets more social and mobile, so does the advertising.
Needless to say, as an advertiser, I am thankful for the Super Bowl. If not for any other time during the year - the Super Bowl gives us an annual magnified window into the progress of advertising. With so much attention to the commercials, it almost makes me feel sorry for the guys on the field.
Yesterday a reader asked us "how do you get into advertising?", our knee jerk reaction was to ship them off to the nearest ad school for a year or so.
Then they told us more about their experiences to date and what a fascinating life they had lived. And as all of us forget from time to time, education is just a base foundation, life is what moulds you into an interesting creative person, ultimately making you more employable than the next guy or gal.
This trending video from Mondo Endruo below seemed an appropriate fit for this editorial.
The London Egotist caught up with Work Club's Al Amin to get the story behind their tshirtOS campaign. It's already generated a lot of buzz in London and beyond. And that's the idea: the more people that register an interest, the more likely this amazing programmable tshirt will come to market.
What was Ballantines' brief?
Make "Leave an Impression" famous digitally.
How does this brief fit into their overarching brand strategy?
It's at the top. Ballantine's want to innovate their marketing by putting ideas and products into market that truly bring their brand idea to life and make it famous.
But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.
That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:
+ You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.
+ Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.
+ A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.
+ A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.
+ Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.
Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.
Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.
1. WHAT IS THE GOAL
What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.
In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.
2. WHAT IS THE BARRIER
What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.
It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.
Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.
Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.
3. WHO DO WE NEED TO TALK TO, TO CHANGE THIS?
Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?
Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.
Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.
4. WHY WILL THEY CARE
This is where blunt honesty is needed.
You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.
5. SO WHAT’S OUR STRATEGY?
Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.
ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.
6. WHAT’S THE KEY POINT OF VIEW
Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.
It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.
ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.
Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.
You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.
Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.
I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.
If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.
While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.
That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.
At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than 'marketing truth'] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.
Let’s be blunt: NBC missed the mark in their Olympic coverage.
In this digital, social media age – when earthquakes are tweeted about before the Earth even finishes shaking – NBC made the unfathomable decision to broadcast events on tape delay in order to garner primetime ad dollars. Apparently NBC execs figured a few billion people could keep secrets until after dinner.
The funny thing is, even if a few billion people weren’t on Facebook, Tweeting, texting and blogging, NBC’s strategy was so stupid, they spoiled their OWN results. While the broadcast was holding back the biggest events into the evening, at practically every other commercial break, they were encouraging viewers to check out additional content on their Olympic website which… wait for it… showed headlines of results they had yet to broadcast.
Their Twitter and Facebook pages were no better. Before Americans got to see for themselves, the NBC Olympic Twitter stream had already blown the surprise of the Queen and James Bond parachuting into the arena.
NBC, you do understand how the internet works, right? (Rhetorical.)
But wait! There’s more! While you’re stuck trying to navigate a slow, horribly-designed, advertising-laden NBC site to see streaming events, 64 other countries get to view it live on YouTube for free. Afghanistan and Botswana get YouTube. You get McDonald’s ads to pay off NBC’s investment.
Because, you know, THAT’S the way to respond to social media criticism. There’s no way that strategy could backfire.
It sure seems like NBC’s entire strategy was “Let’s just say we’re streaming everything live!” without understanding how the viewer actually wants to engage with their content. Consumers have spent the past decade buying giant-ass HDTVs. Not everyone wants to be forced to their 10-inch iPad screen to watch events live. And certainly not everyone can stay completely away from Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the internet long enough not to ruin the surprise before primetime.
Someday, the networks will come into the 21st century with a digital strategy that makes sense. Unfortunately for fans of the Olympics, that day isn’t in 2012.
When the world was introduced to desktop publishing thirty years ago, proper punctuation marks and kerning pairs were not brought to the party. Foot and inch marks were used instead, and they weren’t exactly the best stunt doubles. Today, I expected a more savvy designer pool with an arsenal of modern tools to rectify this problem. Nope.
Then again, should I expect such a giant leap in only a quarter century? After all, 200 A.D. saw the rise of woodblock printing, a practice that ran the show until 1476 when the printing press was born. It was an era where typography used to be a specialized occupation filled by highly skilled artisans. It should be no different today.
When your keyboard isn’t set up for smart quotes by using the foot and inch key, you can create the proper marks on an Apple keyboard by the following keystrokes. To kern using your keyboard, use Shift-Command combination with your bracket keys shown below.
Tip: Use a serif font punctuation on san-serif design for more pronounced typographic presence. San-serif punctuation marks tend to be lifeless.
Bad kerning (or tracking) is equally destroying design. It’s 2012. We should have enough computing power today to accurately plot any two letters together with good spacing between them. And yet, our design software still struggles with how to negotiate visually-appealing kerning pairs. I’ve noticed the worst infractions between upper and lower case letters. The Heinz example below has issues so obvious, it’s hard to imagine what designer, art director or creative director signed off on this. POUR ABLE MUST ARD. Really?
Tip: It’s ok to have letters crash into each other to create correct letter spacing. The R and A in pourable need to touch due to the negative space created by the slant of the A. The B had to move to the left slightly too to close-up the white space.
Dr. Pepper recently ran a national campaign with a blatant kerning error. That is, unless the 10 Bold T Asting Calories was the primary message.
Now, look at this “Professional Sign’s & Lettering” company mark (of all businesses). Yes, they did use the proper apostrophe over inch mark, even though it’s still grammatically off since chances are unlikely the company is owned by some guy named Sign. But all the points they scored were lost when they left a gaping hole between the n and s. But we can give extra credit for the use of Brush Script.
Tip: Reduce the size of your apostrophe and lower its relative position to characters in the word. This gives it a better lockup in the word. You don’t have to accept where your design program plots your punctuation.
If I had to just kern one thing on any piece of creative, I’d spend extra time with your headline—especially if your layout is type and/or copy driven. Because when your all-type headline layout looks good, it is your visual. Treat it that way.
Good typography isn’t always about where the computer places your 26 characters. It’s about how it looks, flows and feels to the reader. And that takes effort. Effort takes time. If you don’t have time for good typography, another line of work might be in order. Goat herding, perhaps?
The inspiration to make something culturally and psychologically strong enough exists when you get back to what blew your mind.
For just a moment, you’re a kid in 1970s suburban Los Angeles, ok? Pedal your bicycle to the big Topanga Canyon Boulevard record store. See what I saw: an epic, billboard-sized reprographic image of Pink Floyd’s album, Wish You Were Here, bolted to the side of the record emporium and taking up huge amounts of sky. Big record company marketing budgets could afford to blow a lot of minds in those days.
It was a mysteriously huge, Godzilla-sized piece of pop-surrealism that captured my imagination: A man on fire obliviously shakes hands with another suited man. It’s a random meeting in an abandoned soundstage backlot, like a dream in constant production. The handshake, a blithe and obligatory social grace, appears to hide the true burning intensity of ulterior motives. Or is that something about the fear of getting burned?
This was all the proof I needed for what I had suspected in my young mind all along: People are weird. And deep and funny. And this was weird, deep, and funny marketing.
I got lost in a new kind of alchemy, a mixture of what I both did and did not understand about this album cover. I actually liked not understanding the imagery. There’s power in mystery. Though I knew the marketing for this album was about dreams. Not Disney-esque life goal dreams, not those dreams, but the unsettling world of dreaming. And was this a billboard for an uncomfortable dream? Pink Floyd knew how to show you how dreams really feel. That’s what they do. Later, I’d find out that they made music, too.
Something else that astounded me—although I didn’t know how to name what it was in my monosyllabic, child mind. I can find the word now. The imagery was alluringly unwholesome.
Unwholesome? Yes. Every bit of product marketing I had ever seen in my limited time on earth seemed to dance a giddy dance of the effusive, wholesome-hypnotic, the good—and good for you—wash of the brain. Secret ingredient: sugar. (Or, substitute the word, trustworthiness).
This album cover on the other hand, was marketing that used dream language to call no bullshit, and for me, great marketing began with that album cover.
Eventually, I saw how this imagery shared the same surreal power of the Buddhist monks who had self-immolated in protest of the Vietnam War. Add the imagery of Rene Magritte’s Victorian men floating in the sky, perhaps. That was the era. The era of the inner mind meets social upheaval.
Artwork for Wish You Were Here had a power that purposely reached for what was wrong and yet beautiful about the world.
Like most album covers produced during that slim psychedelic and post psychedelic creative era, meaning and hidden meaning trumped safeness, and it’s difficult to not regard album artwork created of that ilk as a true slice of cultural honesty through the language of symbolic imagery and playfulness.
Chances are, like me, you’d recall the marketing you probably don’t regard as actual marketing, but as something meaningful enough to feel and recall on a deeper level.
That might require you going back in time. When you were a kid. When you were raw-minded. Re-experience what affected you, the unspeakably good montage intro or trailer to a film, the world of colors in the Maoist propaganda poster you saw on Canal Street in NYC, an album cover you forgot you loved, a commercial that rocked your world, a PSA that pulled like a maddened emotion, desperate to free itself from the leash of the everyday.
That’s where the inspiration to make something culturally and psychologically strong enough exists, because it’s still living psychologically and culturally in your mind. That is, if you believe that marketing is actually part art, part storytelling, part psychological event, and is powerful enough to act as a sociological medium that does something amazing.