January's Ad Week Post
Recently, I dug deep into my post-Christmas-where’s-all-my-money-gone coffers and went to see 80s UK ska legends Bad Manners skank up a storm. It’d been awhile since I went to a ska gig, and I’d forgotten how much fun they are, not least of all because of the colourful crowd.
During the support act, a man danced across a relatively empty dance floor, middle-fingered either the ceiling or the entire crowd (it was multidirectional) and then continued to dance straight out of the room, never missing a beat.
Adding to the genial nature of the whole event was the cup of coffee placed on the stage, presumably for the band during a break. Not your usual drinking-neat-gasoline rock gig.
Suffice it to say, everyone was in a good mood, having a good time.
And if the people around us are in a good mood, it’s likely to rub off on us.
“People often get a sense of happiness, even though they don’t know where it comes from; it’s probably very likely to come from the happiness of other people,” says Jack Dovidio, a Yale University social psychologist (MSNBC.com).
This is pretty obvious when a social and emotional event like music is involved.
But why should it stop there? Why not when you get a cup of coffee? Or go to the Post Office? Maybe happiness isn’t the right way to look at it – after all, we can’t be happy all the time.
Maybe it’s about being nice.
• I’ve mentioned before about companies being nice, and the word-of-mouth – and other – advantages of giving a $#!& about what your company is perceived as. Which is why it remains frustrating to me for there to be so much bad customer service out there in the big wide world. I’m not expecting false smiles and a (apologies) stereotypically American, “Have a nice day now!” attitude. That would drive me nuts if it happened every time. But it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to be courteous.
• The best act of customer service I experienced recently came from buying an Internet top-up voucher from a pub on New Year’s Day. Now you KNOW that means that the barman I bought it off was either working the night before – so extremely tired – or partying – and therefore, extremely hungover. But he was just…nice. He even offered me a glass of water while I was waiting. He didn’t up-sell me anything, didn’t try and convince me to stay in his pub and drink, he just asked how I was doing. That’s all.
• And that is all. That is all it takes to get people to come back to your business time and time again. Forget elaborate strategy, forget digital media, forget ATL, BTL, FBI, PTO, whatever. For me, as a consumer, I will almost always go back somewhere if someone was nice. While traveling, you realise that often the best places are the ones that have none of those things that we solicit professionally. They’re small, they’re out of the way, they’re frequently less expensive, and they almost always have good manners.
December's post for Advertising Week
Over the last couple of days I’ve been watching Charlie Brooker’s latest series, Black Mirror, a series of Twilight Zone (not Twilight series)-inspired, darkly comic dramas about how technology is affecting our modern life. I’m sure the irony would not be lost on Brooker that as I’m in New Zealand, I was having to watch them on YouTube; Channel 4’s On Demand service 4OD, is “not available in my area”, no matter how much I demand.*
Anyway, gripes about On Demand television aside, for those of you not familiar with Brooker’s cutting sense of humour and cynicism, and indeed disdain for…well, almost everything, there are a million clips available on YouTube (as is Black Mirror).
He’s essentially like some sort of British anti-Santa.
Do not expect Christmas cheer.
The first episode of Black Mirror involves somebody kidnapping a princess and demanding that the Prime Minister does something very un-ministerial with a pig on live television.
The second episode takes place in a sort of Orwellian TV nightmare, where almost every surface is a mind-numbing visual stimulus, and the only way out is basically through achieving fame courtesy of an X Factor-esque game show.
There’s one more to come in the series, but until it’s broadcast and someone pirates it and puts it on YouTube, I can only sit around Tweeting about it.
Brooker’s blows are hardly subtle jabs, but they are poignant.
We’re obsessed with technology. Obsessed with it. And reality TV. And social media.
I’m just as addicted to Facebook as the next person. And no matter how you try and justify it – I’m only on Twitter for work – we are all constantly checking and rechecking these streams of information like junkies scratching at their arms. And we all – and I mean that in a “we are the 99%” sense – take some pleasure in watching people who are terrible at doing something embarrass themselves.
It’s a mind-numbing, panic-inducing amount of information that we’re bombarded with. And that’s before we even turn on the news. There’s so much clutter these days that it really does make it difficult to filter the good information from the bad. And, like a sheep being herded by the Border Collie of technology, I fall into the same traps as anyone else.
I’ve started sharing pictures of animals at work.
I resisted and resisted. Then caved. And now no matter how much I shower, the water doesn’t ever get hot enough to wash away the shame.
OK I’m overreacting. That definitely sounded melodramatic. And it really was a funny picture of an owl. But the point is that we have all this power and information at our fingertips, and Justin Bieber is the most watched video ever, and I check to see if anyone has “Liked” anything I’ve said every 30 minutes.
Black Mirror is a cynical, sarcastic look at what we spend our time bombarding ourselves with.
As a species, we don’t have a track record of using things responsibly.
But maybe over Christmas, it might be time to take a wee break. Just from the cat pictures and The X Factor. If you want to start a revolution, that’s OK – just trend it under #xmasrevolution.
That way I can follow it from my sofa.
*On a side note, the idents for 4OD gleefully – and slightly sexually, if I’m not reading too much into that voiceover – tell me that “4 on demand lets you watch channel 4, whenever you want”. Yes I know. That’s what “On Demand” means. It’s not “maybe if you buy me dinner and make the bed”. There’s no foreplay.
I'm making a simple wee video for the lovely and talented Jake Morley (as I've been saying I will for ages now - doing this internationally and when you're both two very busy people is real difficult, it turns out) but I've knocked up some tests. It's going to be a lot cleaner and more interesting, but I wanted something simple that a) you'd want to watch more than once, b) was lighthearted and fun and c) let the song do the storytelling. It's such a nice song, I didn't want to overcomplicate. Anyway, here is a wee test from that, with the full video in production and hopefully finished in a few weeks. You can listen to the full song here
So I officially was awarded a Finalist for the Young Guns Digital Awards the other day - not bad considering I was up against a huge amount of talent, including DDB, BBDO, Saatchis, John St....the competition was huge, and I'm chuffed to have been place "in book". Check out the full list of awards and Finalists here
Animated by Mark McGrotty/Dan Castro
Creative Director James Betts
When freelancing in the UK I was asked by Hookson to animate some amends to their corporate film, animated mostly by Mark McGrotty.
I was catching up with some old clients and realised they'd put this on the web at last.
This morning I was shortlisted for a Young Guns Digital Award for The Saatchi Experiment - bit of a result really. An excellent case study for me on Social Media. But more importantly, hilarious fun to do. View it here
As far as I can see, literally every single tourist that has ever been to New Zealand has been to Queenstown. And not without reason - a gorgeous lake surrounded by mountains, perfectly situated for skiing come winter and wine tasting in the summer. And that doesn't even mention the fact that it's one of, if not THE, adventure sports capital of the world.
Sufficed to say there's a reason Queenstown is so popular. But ask anyone what they did in QT and I would put money on them all having taken part in a backpackers ritual in New Zealand. You won't find this place on any tourist posters. In fact, you won't find it on any posters at all. It doesn't advertise on TV. And don't even start on digital. Sure it has a website, but everyone does these days, and it's Facebook presence is lacklustre at best. So how on earth does anyone know about this mystical place?
Fergburger prides itself of having some of the best burgers in the whole world. And they're good. Seriously good. So good, in fact, I illustrated the one I ate (see below - but that's beside the point). Fergburger seems to have created a whole identity for itself as one of the best burger joints in the world purely through word of mouth. This is the most valuable praise a brand can enjoy - that people come to them uninformed by advertising, and like it enough to then pass it forward.
Word of mouth is no global phenomenon of course - anyone who goes travelling knows that the best places aren't in the guide books, you ask the locals. But I've personally never seen somewhere that literally EVERYONE who has been to a city has had a shared experience like this. That's right children - sit back and marvel at a world of social media BEFORE the internet. One where people in 1950s dress told each other "oh you MUST see…." instead of Foursquare telling all their Facebook friends where they'd just been (conceptually - not literally).
So how do you, similar brand of a lower standard but with a huge marketing budget, latch onto this kind of wonderful free advertising? That's the best thing about it. You don't. You can't. You take that money you have, and invest it in making your product the absolute best thing since eggs on a burger. And you be nice. Then maybe people will pass on the good word. Customers don't respond well to mean people.
I can't help but feel that if more brands adopted this kind of thought process, and if we became more demanding of brand and less willing to accept adequacy, the world would just be a little bit more interesting. Sure there would be less Starbucks - but I'd have a coffee from that new place down the road. I heard it's great.
So with that, dear readers, I offer you a challenge. This week, ask someone else who lives in your city (but doesn't eat with you regularly) for somewhere nice to eat that's off the beaten track. Try it. And let me know how you get on.
Self-initiated/Tourism Holdings Ltd.
In an attempt to turn my travelling experience into something a bit more practical, and getting bored of seeing just the touristy sights, I'm attempting to travel around NZ using only other people's recommendations - no guidebook.
The project quickly got picked up by Tourism Holdings Ltd, who are using it as a case study for their future marketing strategies. They gave me a free van and kitted me out with the equipment to access social media channels along the way.
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