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Archive for February, 2011

Advertising effectiveness moves in mysterious ways.

One of the unexpected effects of the Country Life Butter campaign featuring ex Sex Pistol John Lydon was that it funded the reformation and American tour of PIL (Public Image Limited).

As Jimmy Kimmel says in this interview, he is “fuelled by butter.”

Given the attendant risks, I don’t know many clients that would have embraced someone like John Lydon as a brand ambassador. To call him a loose cannon is a major understatement.

But, to be fair to him, he appears to have been steadfastly loyal, whilst also remaining steadfastly faithful to his uniquely unhinged, gives-great-copy, punk persona.

He ends the clip above with this gem about Sarah Palin.

Instead of moose hunting she should put that gun up her rear end. And load it with butter! BRITISH BUTTER!

This isn’t a new campaign. In fact it’s nearing its second birthday. Here’s the TV ad in case you haven’t seen it.

I was prompted to write about it by a radio ad from the same campaign, in which said brand ambassador effectively parks the Country Life tanks on the Anchor Butter lawn.

The offending line from the radio ad is this.

Do I buy Country Life butter because unlike Anchor from New Zealand they support our great British dairy farmers?

And offending it appears to have been, judging by the angry reaction from the Federated Farmers Of New Zealand as reported in this Daily Mail article.

Whilst today is perhaps not the best day to be having a pop at our Kiwi cousins, in light of the tragic events in Christchurch, it is nonetheless an entirely reasonable strategy to draw attention to the provenance of a competitor (as long as it is done in a legal, decent, honest and truthful fashion), especially when 39% of people previously assumed that Anchor was a British brand according to the Country Life marketing director.

You have to like a brand with the challenger balls to go toe to toe with a bigger competitor.

And Country Life appears to have chosen the right guy in John Lydon to perform what is the advertising equivalent of a haka. It’s a taste of their own medicine that the Kiwis at the Federated Farmers Of New Zealand don’t appear to like.

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I have created a couple of robots that are putting the internet to work for me.

It was my first play with the ifttt (If This Then That) application since receiving my beta invitation a few days ago.

And it was the digital equivalent of sticking a few Lego bricks together. Wonderful user experience. Ridiculously easy.

ifttt works by allowing you to link “triggers” (if this) to “actions” (then that) to create “tasks”.

And these triggers and actions can be applied to a whole range of useful channels and applications – the likes of Facebook, Twitter, delicious, flickr, Google Reader, RSS feeds, email, Evernote, Vimeo, Posterous, tumblr etc.

The first tasks I’ve created will allow me to regularly and dynamically refresh my Tumblr blog.

I switched my main blogging activity from Tumblr to this WordPress account in the early part of last year, with the result that Tumblr has lain fallow since June.

Not any more.

Thanks to ifttt my Tumblr account will be automatically updated with content every time I either bookmark a link on Delicious, or star (favourite) an item in Google Reader. Here’s what the tasks look like once set up.

Tasks poll the relevant channels for new data every 15 minutes and so the system works in near real time.

And, hey presto, here’s the first automated post as it appeared on Tumblr.

How cool is that?

At the very least cool enough to have one of my colleagues tweeting jealously…

Green eyed monster victim.

So far so good with ifttt then.

I guess the trick here will be to avoid the temptation to create tasks just because you can. The spam generation potential of this app is quite high I’d suggest.

But, in the right hands ;-), it has the potential to make digital life a whole lot easier and better.

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I predict that this ad will eventually be deemed an experiment that didn’t work.

Whilst it’s always tempting to push the creative envelope, and to explore new and original executions of a long running campaign, there are some things that are best left alone.

Incredibly powerful brand properties being one of those things.

You don’t frig with the Andrex Puppy. Metaphorically speaking.

No-one in this business likes the idea of advertising as wallpaper. But, when it’s done well and when it’s done for the right reasons, wallpaper advertising can be extremely effective.

I bet no-one involved with this CGI, “Nintendogs” bastardisation of one of the greatest wallpaper campaigns of all time is old enough to remember this from Asda Chief Executive Allan Leighton back in 1998.

The most important thing about advertising is that it is consistent and supports the brand. That’s why I’m a bit of a cynic about an advertising world that gets so wrapped up in producing creative advertising rather than asking whether the ad underpins the values of the product. Ours is wallpaper and I love it!

Here’s the full interview with Mr Leighton.

“Asda Price” and the Andrex Puppy. Two examples of effective wallpaper advertising at its best.

Allan Leighton wouldn’t frig with his slogan, and you can bet that he wouldn’t frig with no puppy either. Metaphorically speaking.

If you ask me whether this animated ad “underpins the values of the product”, the answer is a resounding no. Andrex advertising should make you feel warm towards the brand. This one leaves me stone cold.

As is my wont when writing about advertising these days, I’ve also had a look at what Andrex is up to in digital spaces.

Not only has the Andrex puppy gone all games platform on us, he (she?) has also gone all Twitter and Facebook on us too.

Oh yes he/she/it has.

It is the ultimate misguided cliché that Twitter is all about people posting what they had for breakfast. But here we have a person pretending to be a dog and tweeting about what it had for breakfast. Who cares if you’re still enjoying – sorry, pretending to enjoy – the bag of doggy biscuits you were given yesterday?

Well, at the time of writing, 1,546 people care enough about this kind of inane, canine banality to have followed @AndrexPuppy.

And, bugger me, the same puppy has 212,831 fans on Facebook.

I’m generally enthusiastic and supportive when brands do interesting things in social spaces.

But someone is going to have to explain to me why this isn’t really sad and pointless. The Facebook wall is home to apparently serious conversations between grown men and women and a pretend advertising dog. I jacked my built-in tongue-in-cheek meter up to maximum sensitivity but I detect no irony in any of the conversations.

The puppy talks about its morning in the park and, exhibiting best community management practice, ends its post with a question. “Can you run fast?” Forty people reply, 39 of them in earnest. The fact that there is only one dissenting voice of reason in the thread makes me wonder whether Andrex hasn’t hired Derren Brown to manage its social presence and remotely hypnotise otherwise rational people into posting gooey nonsense.

The (lone) voice of reason.

I’m going to cut Andrex a deal.

Given that pet owners are a notoriously different breed (pun intended), with irrational gooey tendencies,  I’ll keep an open mind on its social efforts. For now.

But I’d be very surprised if the Nintendogs approach to its TV advertising survives its first tracking study debrief.

(Disclosure : I am a devoted three-time dog owner. I love my dog’s company. I love play-fighting with him. And he gets me out of the house. But I will never talk to a pretend dog on Facebook.)

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I pay you for your opinion.

So said a client of mine way back when.

(Maybe it’s just me but I never fail to be pleasantly surprised when someone is explicit in placing value on my point of view.)

In this instance it wasn’t any kind of strategic input that said client was seeking. It was counsel. More specifically he wanted a candid point of view on a mutual acquaintance.

And “I pay you for your opinion” was a not-so-subtle indication of his irritation at my hesitance.

I actually think that hesitation in these circumstances is natural and desirable. There are issues of integrity and fairness at play when it comes to talking about other people.

But the main point my client was making has stuck with me ever since.

Candour is a scarce resource and therefore carries a high value.

And candour is scarce because it has consequences.

You’ll know this if your job function involves appraising and developing others. How a person is going to work with you and respond to you in the workplace will undoubtedly be affected by how sensitively you handle those areas where a candid examination of personal and professional qualities is called for. The fact that you have to have an ongoing working relationship with someone can mitigate against true candour.

I’ve recently agreed to mentor someone. And I’ve quickly discovered that mentoring is very different to managing. Separated from the day-to-day consequences of pointed questions and pointed observations, candour comes much more easily. For both parties.

And that degree of separation from the consequences of advice and counsel is one of the greatest privileges of agency life.

Marketing Directors and CEO’s ask you questions that they might be embarrassed to ask one of their own people. Or they ask you questions when they worry that the perceived consequences of a straight answer might deter their own people from giving one.

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is to be less than 100% candid, no matter how much you think the truth might hurt. The truth might hurt but it shouldn’t hurt the relationship. Quite the reverse in fact.

Because they pay you for your opinion after all.

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It took me a while to find an alternative title for this post. “A trip down Memolane” was the first choice but an instinct, finely honed over 22 years working with ideas, told me that I might not be the first person to coin that particular phrase.

Memolane (my Memolane) looks like this. (Mostly Twitter, some Facebook and a few blog posts).

But, if I navigate back to August when I was taking part in the Mongol Rally, it looks like this. (Mainly flickr). (Although these 500 pixel images in no way do justice to the actual interface.)

Memolane describes itself as “your time machine for the web”. Basically it allows you to aggregate content from all (well most) of your social platforms in one place, creating an easy to navigate and easy to explore timeline of content. You have full control over privacy settings. So, in effect, it’s a well organised, beautifully presented, comprehensive social media diary. It’s one of those simple, elegant ideas that makes you wonder why no-one has done it before.

The end result makes it all look very easy but, with multiple API’s to work with and integrate, I dare say it wasn’t. This excerpt from a blog post by Nikolaj Hald Nielsen (Co-founder and lead API bod) serves to illustrate just how cool Memolane is, and that making it work was a non-trivial exercise.

Having had but a brief play with it so far, I’d say that it’s pretty darn close to being  Baby Bear’s porridge (“just right”) in terms of that age-old balancing act between simplicity and useful functionality.

For instance you can share links directly to individual “memos” within the “lane”.

And there’s a lovely looking feature that I haven’t had the chance to play with yet that allows you to collaborate with friends to co-create a Story around a particular event by pooling content from multiple users.

Seeing how different forms of content come together in Memolane almost makes me want to join Foursquare. The content that’s being pulled into my Memolane at the moment makes it clear what I was doing and thinking on a given day, but it could be enhanced with additional data to remind me of where. So, whilst for most users Foursquare is a real time tool, for me its value would be retrospective. Hmmm. Maybe.

From what I’ve seen I’d thoroughly recommend signing up for a Beta invite, or a launch notification. If you’re still not convinced, have a look at the explanatory video (94 seconds) below.

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