“Europeans have often come to grief looking for Gold in South America”

My favourite quote of the day.  That was Kevin Mitchell writing in the Guardian.  Context: it’s the Monday after the weekend when Great Britain have just won a sackful of medals at the Rio Olympics.




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 “get..to ..by”.

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.