Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On the ride to work this morning

I could see it was an enormous fire as I rode towards Shepherds Bush along Goldhawk Road.

As I got closer, I could tell the smoke was coming from Shepherds Bush Road. I was afraid it was the art deco block of flats opposite Five Star car wash (not owned by the pop group.)

As I turned left onto the one way system, I looked right over the heads of hundreds of spectators to see the church beyond the flats in flames.

As I cycled along the north end of the green, I smelled the smoke. I got an idea of what it would have been like to be in the flats next door - terrifying.

How's your smoke alarm? Have you checked the batteries recently?

In other cycling related news, I berated a driver for pootling along at 2mph without indicating. Was he going left? Right? As he was going so slowly, his sudden moves could have been dangerous. Hence, my 'word'.

He beeped me once I was around 10m past him.

The sun was shining and I was in plenty of time - so I went back for a chat. He was defensive at first but by the time I'd finished, he apologised. This is a first. Huge headline: DRIVER APOLOGISES.

This is a real breakthrough. Dialogue is replacing shouting 'C*NT!' And it's working.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is this headline even necessary?

Reading and writing are fundamental and essential in business. But sometimes, pictures work best.

According to Dan Roam, author of The back of a Napkin: Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures, visuals can convey more specific and memorable information than words.

Pictures of complex concepts can 'stick' better than bullet lists.

Pictures can communicate many ideas simultaneously and immediately.

And they can transcend language barriers.

Amen to that. I can go home and watch telly.

Before I go, I just want to point you in the direction of a presentation by David McCandless, ex UK Doom Champion, at this year's Under The Influence, hosted by Iris, called 'A picture and a short line.'

Interesting, because he supports this idea that pictures/graphs help us understand complex ideas in an instant. As George Nimeh (aka I-boy), points out, it starts off pretty annoying. But stick with it and you might get something out of it. Might get something out of it? Christ, not much of a recommendation, is it? What do you expect? It's ten o'clock at night and Big Brother's on. Seeya.

David McCandless - The Dip Inn from iris Under the Influence 2008 on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Piss on me

I've got news for you. Flies can't speak.

More news. Even if they could, they probably wouldn't say 'piss on me' (would you? Actually, don't answer that.)

But apparently that's what men do when faced with pictures on flies on urinals. They aim for them.

Put the fly in the right place and you can reduce spillage by 80%. Could you achieve these results with a sign that says 'please don't piss on the floor?' Not if my experience at my last agency is anything to go on. It didn't help that the urinal was a tiny, space-saving design that actively directed more liquid on the floor than went down the drain. But I digress.

The urinal fly is a perfect example of a 'nudge' - a small feature of the environment that nudges people in a useful way'

Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness is written by Richard Taler, professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago and Cass Sunstein, professor of jurisprudence at its law school.

And it's just about the most interesting thing I've heard about in a long time.

If you've ever been persuaded to do something by someone else, tried to persuade someone either in real life or in an ad, you'll enjoy nudge's central idea: that it is better to gently nudge people to change their behaviour than FORCE THEM.

Read more here

Buy on Amazon here

And if you haven't already got it, buy this at the same time

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back to the dark ages

I spoke to a Head of Marketing the other day to try and get a better steer on a brief.

We've been working our arses off since the beginning on this one.

With only a few days to play with, we got around 20 people from about five different departments to buy into our campaign idea.

Only to see our exact words appear on one of our client's major competitor's website and billboards. Our global campaign idea was their global campaign idea.

The fact that we'd done it much better and involved the reader far more didn't matter. The idea was out there and we had to be original.

So we developed some more work. Only for new global brand guidelines to appear half way through.

Then suddenly we needed three press ads. We got two out and the third needed this phone call with the head of marketing because she'd had some feedback from a focus group.

Basically, they hadn't liked what we'd done - always hard when you've been given no brief in the first place. Anyway I thought I'd share this verbal re-brief with you.

We need a clever headline. We need a really colourful, clever image. Some of the messages were really thought-provoking but we need more clever visuals. And the strap lines (headlines) were really basic and straightforward.

Basically, we need to say who we are, what we do and why we do it so much better than anyone else.

The trouble is we're talking to so many people, we just want a really, really generic ad.

'How about the ad I wanted to recommend?' I ask. The one that focussed on what we know from research is one of the number one problems/concerns of our target audience.

Oh that things been tackled by so many other people.

We need something bold. Something provocative.

I hit her with an idea I'd been keeping back that was bold and provocative.

She starts to stutter.

Part of the problem is lack of communication. Another part of the problem is that I'm not CD and probably appear a bit too 'hard line'. But some of the problem is that here is a head of marketing who is willing to leave us with no USP, no proposition, no point of differentiation for her brand, and is also willing to say she'd like a clever headline and (one of my own least favorite brief instructions)a really general message.

So what should you told when you're asked for a 'generic ad' by a very senior client?

I said 'no' but I'm having to do it anyway (what choice do I have?)

What would you do?

Do we need Planners?

Should accounts people have to write the brief?

Are you allowed to say 'no' to a client?

Share your experiences.