advertising, Uncategorized

Advertising. Leicester City meet Boaty McBoatface.




“Let’s have some new cliches.”

Samuel Goldwyn

My friend and kindred blog spirit, Rich Siegel, writes a fantastic blog called RoundSeventeen. Recently he told me a story about pitching an idea. It was for the Olympics. The idea was simple. Do a campaign about the athletes that come stone last at the games. He and his partner Jerry Gentile understood the power of showing an athlete just making it to the Olympics. How that makes them the true winners of the games. It would show the real spirit that creates the Olympic flame. Just imagine the stories that could be told. They were very excited.

You can guess what happened next. It went nowhere. It died. The client went for the cliche. Conventional wisdom. The right thing. Winners breaking the tape with triumphant music. The expected. What is safe. What you have seen before, many, many times before. To those clients I say this. Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. Google the name and the film to see what you missed out on.

In the same week this all happened, I read two brilliant stories. The first was about Leicester City. This is a football team in the English Premier League that is on the verge of winning the English Premier Championship. If this happens, it will be the greatest fairytale in football. Ever.

Leicester City are battlers. Every football fan secretly loves them. They just avoid relegation. They scrap, they fight for every point. I have been to their old ground at Filbert Street. Trust me, it was a long way from the verdant, manicured pitches of Old Trafford and Anfield.

I think every football lover on the planet right now wants them to win. Why? Because it is impossible and it is not boring. As human beings we crave stories like this. The only thing we love more than patterns are when they are broken. With apologies to Manchester United, or Chelsea fans, if one of these teams won, it would be moderately exciting but entirely predictable. And that, can never match the excitement of something beyond your imagination.

The other story was the naming of a polar research ship in England. There was overwhelming support online for one name. 124,109 votes in fact. The name?

Boaty McBoatface.

So, right now, there is some poor bloody civil servant having to decide what to do. I really hope they go with this name. They probably won’t. But fuck I hope they do.

In both these examples, given the chance, human beings love something new and something different. Why? Because it makes them feel good and most importantly it’s a lot of fun. And, in breaking news, people want life to be fun. In a recent study, I just made up, fun is the number one thing that people want.

David Ogilvy once said you can’t bore consumers into buying your product. He said that 50 years ago. Today, that is far more true than when he said it.

Advertising is embracing analysis and it is important to do so. However, data isn’t going to give you stories about Olympic athletes that come last, Leicester City or Boaty McBoatface. We need to remember to embrace fun and joy just as much as certainty.

As an industry, we are at risk of telling the same stories over and over again and expecting a different result.

We will do what is correct and efficient. We will reach consensus. We will look at the data. We will make less mistakes. We also might become very boring.

We need to remember what Einstein said. Creativity is intelligence having fun. Fun is not a nice to have. It is a vital ingredient that we often forget to put into the recipe.

Human beings like the wrong things.  We like impossible stories. Stories, that confirm we can all beat the odds. We like all our odd quirks, things that don’t make sense and weird shit. 

As an industry we often try and smooth these rough edges over. We try and find a middle ground or an acceptable, average answer. Something we can all agree on. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t.

We like these odd shaped things because we are human. In fact, that’s what makes us human.

We like all these things because they make life worth living.

I hope advertising never forgets this.







advertising, Uncategorized

Advertising. What Trump teaches us.

Unknown-1“There is science, logic and reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”

Edward Abbey

I read two articles this week which I found pretty interesting. The first was a piece in the Telegraph. It was about how television spend in the UK had exceeded 5 billion pounds for the first time. In the article it mentioned the biggest new spender on television was Facebook spending 10.8 million pounds. It also mentioned that Google, Netflix and Facebook spend 60 percent of their marketing spend on television trying to give their brands some emotion and feeling. 60 percent. I will let that sink in for a while.

The second article was in an American publication (I think it was The Huffington Post) and it spoke about the differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In essence, the articles point was that Hillary Clinton didn’t have a logic problem, she had a feeling problem. People might agree with her but they don’t feel very much. Her brand makes sense logically but for many there is no connection emotionally. Then there is Donald Trump.

Now, let me nail my colours to the mast. I am no fan of Donald Trump. Like, at all.

For many, when he started he was seen as a joke. We all thought he stood no chance. Even to this day he has almost no clearly articulated policies apart from building a large wall that he believes Mexico will pay for. Yet, despite this, he has been enormously successful. And this success goes against pretty much every poll that was taken earlier this year. The logic said he had no chance. Research got it very wrong. So, what does he have? The simple answer is emotion. Feeling. Watch any Republican debate and you will see how Trump makes the other more rational candidates seem boring. They were like beige, frightened cardigans who didn’t know if they should push their sleeves up or leave them down. They prepared for a polite debate. He turned it into a street fight.

And the street fight has continued as you can see by the unfortunate events in Chicago. He is either loved or hated in equal measure. He has been compared to Hitler. He often says things that no other politician would dream of saying. And, on the flip side, his supporters adore him because they say Trump tells it like it is  All this has created emotion that has fuelled the media to such an extent that he has had to spend virtually nothing on advertising. This emotion has changed just about every rule of running a political campaign and creating political advertising

What he has proved is that something can be logical, make total sense, yet struggle to break through because ultimately when it comes to human beings, emotion will always trump reason. No pun intended.

So, with that in mind, perhaps the media spend of Google, Netflix and Facebook in the UK makes a bit more sense. I think they are obviously trying to reach the mass market and trying to grow quickly which obviously says a lot about the power television has as a medium. However, there is another lesson for me. They need emotion.

As a brand you can make total sense, you can have a great product and can be very useful but you better make people feel something.

The three brands I have mentioned are extremely useful and totally dominate the landscape. But of course the world changes. Just Ask Jeeves. And, if you have a number of competitors that are as useful as you, what do you do then?  Perhaps this explains why very modern, very rational tech brands are making these choices. They need people to feel something about them.

I am aware what I am saying is very unfashionable. For the last couple of years as an industry we have tried to become useful in new ways. Re-invent ourselves. We have created a lot of very useful products and apps. There is also a drive towards the rational. We have become a little wary of what our killer app has always been.

Creating pure emotion.

However, if there is anything to learn from the Trump campaign and perhaps the strange media spend of some giant tech brands, it is this:

The power of emotion rather than logic is still the biggest disruptor of them all.