Nice. But what’s the strategy?


It seems ultra churlish to criticise the work Grey has done for the UNHCR.  But I’m going to anyway.

It’s a nice film highlighting the IOC team of ‘Stateless’ refugee Olympians.  It’s a good cause – these are people who have endured extreme hardships and it’s great to see them celebrated in this way.  Isn’t it?  Well yes but….

Let’s be hard-headed about this for a moment.  What is the film looking to achieve?  It must have cost a couple of hundred grand to make.  So, what’s the ROI?  The words ‘sign the petition’ appear on screen for most of the duration.  What petition?  And what will the petition achieve?  What am I supposed to do?  How will that help?  How many refugees will enjoy a better life because of our response?

In the old world where we talked about advertising, sometimes we also talked about objectives and strategy.  Bit old fashioned now.  We sometimes used a shorthand “”.

Embarking on a  communications campaign, a neat start point was to describe the strategy  in this way; get (a group of people, typically defined in a way to identify what makes them our target) to (take a particular action – like maybe buy our stuff, make a donation, put us on their shopping list) by (effecting a change – like shifting their opinions or telling them something they didn’t know already in a way that provokes a change in behaviour).

When you watch a piece of content, it should be possible, with a little imagination, to work backwards and post-rationalise the get-to-by behind it.  That’s where the UNHCR film – like so many well-intentioned campaigns for good causes – fails.  There’s nothing I’m going to do as a result of watching this film which will improve the plight of refugees, nothing that will strengthen UNHCR’s hand in improving their lot and nothing that will contribute to covering the substantial costs of making that film.  Sorry, it’s an indulgence.

It’s made worse by the fact that Grey has a bit of previous here.  Grey Singapore’s I SEA app  won a Cannes Lion this summer but caused sufficient outrage to make them return it to the organisers.  It was described as “an app that crowd-sources the search of the sea for migrants by giving access to the satellite image of the sea to smartphone users.” But if you logged on, there was nothing there.  Nothing.  It appeared to be a nice idea, but the reality was bogus.

We need to stop talking about Kevin

There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on in the advertising industry, after Kevin Roberts’ inexplicable (unless you knew him) faux pas.  In case you hadn’t heard, he used an interview with a business publication to say there’s no problem with diversity in the advertising industry.  Turns out he was trying to drum up notoriety to sell his forthcoming book.

In the ensuing weeks, much has been written about the need for more enlightened attitudes to diversity and more generally, progressive attitudes to gender roles.  Unilever have been seen to be leading the way in this – as with various issues to do with fairness, ethics and sustainability.

A good example is Lynx.  The old campaign, ‘The Lynx Effect,’ made by BBH was based on the compelling insight ‘teenage boys are desperate for sex.’  It was one of the greatest and most successful of all time.  The new one ‘Find Your Magic’ by 72 and Sunny is nice too, but so much more ‘respectable’ it gives me one of those ambivalence headaches.  I want to love it – and it’s got lots to commend it; it’s clever, well-observed, witty and so on.  But will it be as effective as The Lynx Effect?  I have a nagging doubt.

I am also reminded of the circularity of everything.  Older readers may remember that in the early 1980s, we saw the emergence of the phenomenon known as ‘The New Man’.  I believe it was coined in the Washington Post, reviewing Dustin Hoffman’s (excellent) cross-dressing comedy, Tootsie.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the New Man was someone “who rejects sexist attitudes and the traditional male role, esp. in the context of domestic responsibilities and childcare, and who is (or is held to be) caring, sensitive, and non-aggressive”.  Sound familiar?

As so often, it appears to have taken us thirty years to rediscover something we already knew.  For that, Kevin, we thank you.


Two cheers for IKEA


I’m sort of loving the new TV commercial for IKEA.  Mostly.  Well, largely.  If I have a quibble, it’s that this looks like an idea that has been sitting in someone’s bottom drawer for a while waiting for an opportunity to be wheeled out.

Creatively fabulous, but strategically?

IKEA’s proposition of informality is simple, relevant and attractive.  It’s also ownable for them and it’s creatively fertile.  I see the new line is ‘Let’s relax’.  Fair enough.  That’s also succinct enough to be memorable.  It’s just that poking fun at our obsession with sharing food photos or seeking approval from others is funny and insightful – but it  isn’t really a statement about informality.  Do you post food pics on Facebook because you crave others’ approval?  I don’t think so.

Pokemon Go – are you a fan?

Pokemon Go eh?  Is it the next world-changing marketing phenomenon or just another short-lived, over-hyped PR-fest?

Well, it’s both, of course.

Tom Primrose, writing on the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising blog, is joining the crusade.  He believes brands are right to be excited and furthermore, they can learn lessons from Pokemon Go –  they should follow these principles which it embodies:

  • Be accessible
  • Embrace technology
  • Create a community
  • Have a higher purpose
  • Unleash the inner child

Above all, it’s the higher purpose – the way Pokemon Go encourages people to take exercise – that makes it powerful – more so than previous crazes which were basically sedentary.

Meanwhile Marketing Professor Mark Ritson is unconvinced.  To say the least.

His rant has a classic Ritson-esque climax: “The real lesson marketers can learn from Pokémon Go has nothing to do with the game, and everything to do with the wobbly, ephemeral state of marketing these days.”

He tells us the numbers of players cited are unproven, the revenues quoted are misleading and the implications people have drawn are misguided.  He goes on to point out that, like other crazes, this one will be over soon.

He’s right of course, but over-hyped ephemera are hardly new in marketing.  Nor are they necessarily a bad thing.  If only because they get this kind of heated debate going.

Just when you thought….


Is this a new low for the advertising industry?

The regulators (love ’em) have previously washed their hands of political campaigns, but the Brexit referendum, contested by ‘Project Fear’ on the one side and a series of barefaced, brazen lies on the other, may force them to reconsider.

So far, the industry bigwigs appear to be leaning towards maintaining the ‘free-for-all’ nature of political campaigning. They say politicians’ claims and counter claims are difficult to prove one way or the other and are often simply opinion anyway.  They also point to the immediate time frame – by the time you had evaluated a piece of content it would have already served its purpose.  So taking it down wouldn’t help.  What they don’t say is almost more interesting – that getting banned is one of the best ways for content to become famous.  So being controversial becomes an end in itself (Paddy Power? Protein World?)

All of these points apply equally to lots of other advertising categories, but we would be surprised if the regulators washed their hands of those.  So why the resistance?  Something to do with the power and influence of the players perhaps (that’s the media giants as much as the politicians themselves)?  Don’t make waves?  Surely not.

In a world, now being described by proper journalists as ‘post truth’ this is all a bit disturbing.

People wipe their bottoms online

Today’s online banality from Think with Google was the final straw that didn’t quite break the camel’s back but did make it want to howl with derision.  See if you can spot the flaw in this:

Political decisions are made online, before voters even hit the booth. Political consultants Julie Hootkin of Global Strategy Group and Frank Luntz of Luntz Global Partners discuss new voter behavior data and what it means for political and brand marketers.

Other recent email alerts inform me:  Consumers watch TV online.  Your customers buy their groceries online.  We are becoming a nation of gourmets online.  We now learn about illnesses – online.  People read the newspaper online.  Who knew?  I don’t want to hear any more about the new and unlikely things people are doing online.  Why?  Because it’s bloody obvious.  Stop Press.  The Internet exists. So people do lots of things they used to do offline, online.  No shit?

I also don’t want to hear about the increasing share of advertising revenue which is going….online.  Or the proportion of time my children are spending….online.

Yes.  I get it.  Now just leave me alone.  And before you say it – yes, I know, the irony of writing this content in this particular medium is not lost on me.