When Do Brands Overstep The Mark?

This is a brilliant sketch from Saturday Night Live, inspired by this year's Superbowl commercials, it captures the conversations that appear to be going on in marketing departments and ad agencies today...



In my opinion, it seems agencies and marketers need a sense check. They need to ask themselves if they really know why people buy what they buy.

Usually the reality is that most people just want products that simply meet their needs and do what they’re meant to do (some economists call this ‘satisficing’ – when people choose, they don’t always search through the detail of every option available to find the perfect choice).

Most people don’t need or want a brand to have a ‘higher purpose’ or to stand for something above and beyond the role that the product plays in their lives. 

Of course it’s a positive thing for brand owners to feel that their products have a useful and worthwhile place in their customers’ lives. But many brands are guilty of vastly overstating and overplaying their role in grand ‘brand purposes’.

Who wants to be told how to lead their life by a beer? Or moralised to by a soap manufacturer? Certainly no one outside of marketing departments and deluded agencies.

“The worst thing about these hyperbolic brand visions is that they lead to equally fantastical and idiotic tactical work.” Mark Ritson, Associate Professor of Marketing, Melbourne Business School.

I think this kind of self-important approach leads to cynical, patronising advertising that has nothing to do with the real reasons we choose the products and services we use.  People aren’t fooled by it. 

But what do you think? Is it okay for brands to get involved? When do you think brands overstep the mark?

More Than 200 Experts Behind You, Our New Campaign For Racing Post

Our new campaign for Racing Post breaks this week. The aim is to establish RP's position as the authority on all things horseracing and the go-to place for the best betting intelligence.

Looking into this brief we discovered that Racing Post has more people working behind the scenes on reporting, data analysis, breaking news and technology than anyone else in racing. But we were conscious that we didn't want to make the typical chest-beating brand ad that people are tempted to go to on this kind of brief. We're always thinking what's in it for the punter? What the horseracing enthusiast or regular bettor (at whom these ads are aimed) cares about is getting the best information when and where they need it, whether that be on the app, website or paper.

So we came up with the idea of wherever people happen to be using a Racing Post product, the RP team are right there with them, whether it's a load of data analysts on the top deck of a bus, a group of tipsters in your bed, or the whole RP staff crammed into your front room. The campaign is launching the new line When You Bet On Racing, You Can Bet On Racing Post, and to bring it to life we went to the team who have helped us to make some great Racing Post ads in the past.

The spots were directed by the excellent Tom King at Gas & Electric, who is now adept at wrangling a live racehorse, a cat and a huge cast into a normal front room (no CGI or tricks used). Tom is a great director who brings a lot to the scripts and is always a pleasure to work with. Music was by the very talented chaps at Yellow Boat Music, who we always enjoy working with to create the right feel and help the ads stand-out form the crowd.

Thanks to everyone involved, especially Racing Post themselves for going with a idea like this, and for being game enough to lend us a load of their experts to be in the ads.

The TV will be followed by print, outdoor and digital ads breaking in the next couple of weeks.






Be Diagnostic Not Dogmatic

Advertising needs to become far more diagnostic and less prescriptive.

Agencies need to break the habit of thinking that their ‘special process’ or unique approach is the only way to solve the client’s business problem.

Many agencies favour a kind of blind absolutism, where one approach is right for everything. It's tempting for agencies to have this kind of dogmatic approach to problem-solving, because they feel it gives them something interesting or differentiating to say to clients.

Unfortunately for clients, as the old saying goes the hammer always sees the nail – but the problem isn’t always a pointy piece of metal, nor the solution a heavy knocking implement.

There’s no one size-fits-all, one way to do advertising that’s right for every product, brand, category and business problem.

To suggest there is makes the advertising industry look quite stupid to those in the business world.

We should always start with the business context, the situation of the client, and what they’re trying to achieve, rather than some rigid ideology that you force the problem to fit into.

Great ideas flow best from open minds.

Our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

Time: 100 Photographs

I love this project from Time, which aims to choose the 100 Most Influential Images of All Time. Partly just because I love great photographs, but also because they've gone behind the scenes of each shot and give the context and background stories, films and some interviews with the photographers. I'm sure everyone will have specific shots that they feel are missing from the list (my own is the Pale Blue Dot taken by the Voyager 1 space probe in 1990) but hey, what a task to choose just a hundred – I'm sure we'd all choose a slightly different 100. A small, random selection of the shots is below, but do check out the whole thing, as it's a great project and the background stuff really is fantastic. Check it out here. Incredible work...

A Man On The Moon, Neil Armstrong, 1969

Tank Man, Jeff Widener, 1989

Black Power Salute, John Dominis, 1968

99 Cent, Adreas Gursky, 1999

Demi Moore, Annie Leibovitz, 1991

The Burning Monk, Malcolm Browne, 1963

Happy New Year!

Morning all. Well we've just carefully packed all the Christmas emojis back up in their old suitcase in the loft, and we're ready to take on the new year. 

Here's to another year fighting the good fight for creative work to be proud of and smart advertising that treats people with intelligence. 

Godspeed to everyone trying to rise above the average and pushing hard to do great work. Let's make 2017 the beginning of the time when creative people took advertising back from the accountants...

Happy New Year!


Alan Waldie's Passing Reminds Us Of Everything That Advertising Today Is Not

We'd like to mark the sad passing of one of the UK's advertising giants, Alan Waldie. We never knew him personally, but one of us Sell! Sellers worked at Lowe Howard-Spink while Alan was there, his influence still huge.

One thing is certain, and that is if you're over 30 you'll know his work, because it represents the best of UK advertising. It's the work that made a lot of us want to get into advertising in the first place.

(If you're under 30 and you haven't heard of Alan or his work, please take the time to get to know it, I guarantee you'll be better off for it.)

It's fair to say he was a well-regarded maverick, two things that you might not see in the same sentence in advertising today.

There's something about the passing of another advertising great that casts a very bright light on advertising today – in that it reminds us that we are lacking the people and work to step into these (admittedly huge) shoes.

It's easy to accuse those who say this of having rose-tinted spectacles, but before you do, just look at his work. There is nothing out there, or that has been out there in the last 15 years, that gets anywhere near this (this is just a small selection)...

Thanks Alan.


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There's an excellent post about the B&H campaign on Dave Dye's blog (from where I pilfered those last two images) here.

More from Campaign on Alan here.

Tumblogweed

Blimey it's been a bit quiet on here lately hasn't it? Sorry about that. And don't think we're back with some brilliantly thought-through in-depth piece that we've been beavering away on either.

We aren't. The reason (Yes reason not excuse. What? Shut it) is that we're thigh-deep in a couple of very interesting but rather hefty projects. Yes, you heard - doing work. Actual creative work. I know!

People writing things, thinking of ideas, designing (sorry, art directing) stuff, shooting stuff, reviewing stuff. Crazy talk eh?

So there. Sorry about no new blog posts though. We do enjoy doing them. We will be back, normal service will be resumed at some point soon, so please do keep checking in.

Anyway, it would be nice to hear from you – what do you think of this year's Christmas ads? I know our readers are very opinionated, brutal but even-handed, so we'd love to know what you think.

I'm particularly pleased with the title of this post, by the way. Put it in the work as we always say.