I don’t know what it says about my television viewing habits these days, but I reckon every fourth ad I see is for a betting company. While TV ad budgets have shrunk in nearly every other sector, betting has grown massively; partly because until 2006 (or thereabouts) betting companies couldn’t advertise on the telly. (I wrote the first TV ad for a betting company to run in the UK. But that’s another story.)
Since then, the high street giants at Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral have seen any number of new companies enter this burgeoning market. Paddy Power, Betfair, Bet 365… with barriers to entry so low following the arrival of online betting, it’s come down to a straight fight: whose ads are most successful?
And so to Wayne Shaw. The portly reserve goalkeeper had already attracted some attention during Sutton United’s FA Cup run, but nothing to rival the hoo-ha he caused in the final minutes of their fifth round game versus Arsenal. To general hilarity, he was observed munching on a meat pie while sitting on the subs bench. Naively, I assumed he was just engaging in some *arsehole-klaxon* banter, but in fact he was ensuring that several lucky punters landed their 8-1 punt with Sun Bets that he’d be seen eating a pie during the game.
Just as Wayne’s existence had been a mystery to me before this week, I was also unaware of Sun Bets. Naturally given their association with the newspaper of the same name, ethical concerns won’t have been front of mind when they dreamed up the idea for the bet.
Now the truth behind the bet/ stunt is still unclear. Suffice to say, the outcome for Wayne – losing his job for eating a pie – feels a tad harsh, regardless of the rules governing betting. The common sense response would be to ban bets that are subject to obvious manipulation and are thinly-veiled publicity stunts; or to let the firms offering such silly bets suffer for their own stupidity.
This bet did nothing to undermine the integrity of the game: it just made football (particularly Sutton) look humourless and allowed Piers Morgan to use the incident as an example of “PC”. (It’s not political correctness, Piers mate; stop with your overt ignorance-signalling.)
But it has to be said, this farrago has possibly done more for Sun Bets than any number of cheap TV ads would have, and for a tiny fraction of the cost – even if a hundred of Wayne’s mates had piled on. And that makes me as sad as the fact that Wayne Shaw is now without a job.
Why? Because if – and I suspect it’s possible – Sun Bets told Wayne to eat the pie, to generate publicity for them, it’s just very disappointing. The advertising professional within me should admire such lateral thinking, but instead I’m just disillusioned that such a seemingly impromptu and funny act was calculated, commerce-driven and cynical.
Maybe I should forgive William Hill their god awful TV spots. At least they only look cheap.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of our industry is the opportunity to work in myriad sectors and disciplines. It’s thanks to this that three years ago, the Breakfast team became immersed in the world of social care.
Our exposure to the challenges (for want of a better euphemism) in the world of care provision left us in no doubt that this would be one of the biggest issues facing our society going forward. You can read about it in several of our historical blog posts.
Anyhow, recently so many of the chickens in social care have come home to roost that even the most short sighted among us have realised someone’s going to have to build a new coop.
Our work in the sector was curtailed by our clients being among the first to recognise that the state was simply not allocating sufficient money to sustain care at levels which were already parlous. Effectively, they told us they didn’t want us to help them win new contracts: they couldn’t afford to fulfil them.
Subsequently, other providers have withdrawn from the sector. Carers remain hideously underpaid, undervalued and at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.
The government has acknowledged that “something must be done”, but this isn’t a party political issue. It’s a state of affairs that we, as a society, have allowed to fester over the past few decades. Our elderly and disabled – at least those without the means to provide for themselves – have been marginalised and left behind, while some families seem to have stopped caring for their own. If I hadn’t seen a carer open an old man’s fridge and discover that his nephews had stolen the food she’d bought for him the day before (from her own pocket), I wouldn’t believe it possible.
As for carers themselves, they’re victims of a market which invariably values the ability to empathise with, relate to and show compassion for their fellow humans at a fraction of its worth.
Sharon, one of many committed, skilled and invaluable care workers we encountered
So what to do? It seems to me that as a society, we have a decision to make: do we truly value health and social care – whether public or private – or not? The recent stand-off between Surrey County Council and the government is indicative of the tension between central and local government: who is going to risk the unpopularity that invariably accompanies asking taxpayers for more cash?
Our former clients spanned both the public and private sectors and it was clear to us that individuals with the ability to provide for themselves were going to have to do so without any help at all from the state. And the threshold at which that state help is withdrawn will be significantly lower than it used to be.
That brings us to another enjoyable aspect of advertising and marketing; that of employing creative thinking to solve seemingly intractable problems. Much in the way that an experiment in Stockholm rewarded drivers who obeyed the speed limit by using fines from speeding drivers to enter responsible drivers into a lottery, isn’t it time that government utilised our creative minds to solve seemingly impossible challenges, such as paying for social care and the NHS in a rapidly ageing population? It might save them – and us – a fortune.
Here at Breakfast, we found the opportunity to work in the broken care sector fascinating: we’d love to be part of a solution too. Creativity is one of our nation’s most valuable assets. Let’s deploy it wisely.
It’s been all quiet on the blog front for the past few weeks. Sorry.
None of the Breakfast team has, as far as I am aware, sworn off alcohol during January, but with a number of projects on the go it’s been all work and no play for the most part, save for the enthusiastic business-related consumption of several exotic Latvian alcopops (Chris). Blogging has had to take a back seat.
In December we turned around a video for medical equipment giants Omron, completed a large research product for our good friends at AutoRestore and embarked on two pitches (one down, one to go). A social media project for Moskovskaya kept us busy over Christmas and this year we’ve already conceived, written and produced an email campaign for Energy Scanner (see below).
We’ve had the go ahead on jobs for four new clients and are pushing ahead on another exciting AutoRestore task, as well as beginning the next stage of our campaign for the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
In fact, 2017 has started so well that it’s tempting to think the only thing between Breakfast and world domination is the implosion of western democracy in the hands of an incompetent American President and a subsequent nuclear apocalypse.
You can’t move at the moment for end-of-year thinkpieces explaining why people all over the world are rebelling against whatever they believe to be responsible for their sorry circumstances. Articles suggesting solutions, however, are a little thinner on the ground.
In my previous post I suggested that business would have a role to play in providing individuals with the power to protest against the encroachment of right wing agendas and fascism. That’s because many of the utopian left wing/ progressive solutions that sound wonderful in theory tend not to work in practice. Why? Mainly because it’s highly unlikely that sufficient numbers of people will vote for any party espousing them – in the short term, in any case – given that humans possess an innate desire to enjoy life’s material benefits. Persuading us to give up something tangible and nice in the present to achieve something theoretical in the future (i.e. stop flying everywhere to reduce carbon emissions and slow down climate change) simply won’t work.
Here are two articles that I found pertinent to this ongoing discussion. The first, by Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg, supports my theory that unless the opportunity to make a profit is present as an incentive, meaningful action on our climate is unlikely. The second, by the ever thought-provoking George Monbiot, attempts to “champion new approaches to politics, economics and social change.”
It’s too late now – and the risks are too great – for us to rely on education and thinking to turn things round. That model doesn’t seem to have worked. Business has to take the lead – and it has to do it now.
You may have noticed that 2016 has been a tough year. Choose your own lowlight; there have been so many. It reminds me of my favourite TV commercial…
…only I’m still waiting for the “I won!” part.
Anyway, no one wants to read a whinge. So with an eye to the new year and all the optimism it brings, I’ve been trying to identify who or what is likely to ride to our aid and save the world from irreversible climate change and the worldwide rise of nationalism and its close cousin, fascism. No pressure…
It’s a tough job, but if anyone can do it I reckon it might be business.
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients – from large multinationals to tiny regional start-ups – and despite the suspicion in left-wing circles that business is a force for evil, I haven’t found that to be the case; indeed quite the opposite.
From the environmentalists working at British Energy to the care company bosses who genuinely spent their days trying to work out how they could provide better care for the elderly and better conditions for carers while government spending is slashed, the vast majority of businesspeople I have met are intelligent, well-rounded and conscientious.
Exactly the type of people who, with or without a helpful nudge from the public, would definitely think twice about advertising on Breitbart or in the Daily Mail.
(By the way, if you’ve never visited Breitbart, you never need to as every article they publish is exactly the same: I was bullied at school and my encounters with women are exclusively transactional.)
Businesses don’t take kindly to employees making threats on social media – whether in or out of work – and generally believe in many of the “tiresome EU regulations” they’re forced to observe because they actually value their employees’ health, wellbeing and satisfaction.
They also value long-term planning on things like energy provision and infrastructure, hate ideologically-driven change, and like being able to employ who they want; regardless of where they come from.
It’s possible that while improving the standard of living for billions, our GDP-driven globalisation model will also be our downfall – if you have a spare 15 minutes, you might find this article pretty informative and depressing – but business, and the people who work for businesses (i.e. most of us) might just be alert enough to right our wrongs before they’re terminal.
Happy New Year.
Since those heady days in 2009 when we formed Breakfast, one question has stumped us more than any other. (Apart from “Why is James Corden popular?” I really can’t help with that.)
“What kind of agency are you?” is difficult to answer. We’re not an advertising agency – although we often create ads. We’re not a branding agency – although we invent, define and develop brands. And ‘marketing agency’ is just too general.
We settled on the description ‘brand agency’, because in one form or another all of our clients are, or possess, brands. But the nuance of brand/ branding has confused as many people as it has informed, and it feels a little general and vague.
So it was with some interest I read this article. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read it, I’ll summarise: it’s entitled ‘Is advertising redundant?’. Apparently only 5% of 18-35 year olds think it’s worth brands investing in advertising, because consumers want and admire brands with “a clear value-provision mindset”.
The theory is that we – the consumer – can find out all we wish to know about brands on the internet, where one can find “impartial information”.
A couple of points. First, no one has ever produced a survey (I can’t prove this but do your worst) where the actual, real-world influence of advertising has been acknowledged. (“Yes – I genuinely believe that Coca Cola taught the world to sing”, was probably never uttered.) We rarely admit to being influenced by ads but that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t bother advertising.
Secondly, the idea that the information we find on the internet is ‘impartial’ disappeared among my peers about five years ago. Anyone paying the slightest attention to the current shitstorm surrounding fake news knows that ‘impartiality’ is hard to establish.
So far, so obvious. But the real point here is that brands don’t have to be ‘admired’, or ‘liked’. Brands that are neither aren’t ‘pointless’, they’re possibly fulfilling a function. A function that doesn’t necessitate them being mentioned in a list of most-admired brands…
Everything agencies like ours create for clients, whether it’s advertising, branding or some hard-to-define hybrid, is communicating on a brand’s behalf; whether it’s some copy on Google or a 48 sheet poster. If, somewhere on the internet, there’s a forum where a few consumers are saying Moskovskaya is the greatest vodka they’ve ever tasted (there is), then great. But I can’t know beyond all doubt that those reviews aren’t paid for. Similarly, we all, I think, realise that people generally only share exceptional or awful information about brands online. The truth – and the vast majority of brand interactions – are somewhere in between. What consumers can do is notice and trust the advertising and branding produced by the brand, and then make up their own minds whether to purchase. In other words, much the same as it ever was.
Are Ryanair liked or admired? Can I read thousands of positive words about them online? Are they a highly profitable and successful business? Erm…yes.
So it’s all very well that a non-advertising brand like Lush is so well thought of, but they have clearly placed significant attention and care into their brand. And, I suspect, the first time someone suffocates in one of their bubble baths they might need some paid-for communication to help them recover…
In summary, the article concludes by suggesting that the definition of advertising has changed or needs to. And that’s a conclusion the Breakfast team reached some time ago.
So what type of agency are we? We’re an agency that solves problems for brands by having good ideas. It’s not catchy, but it’s the best I can do…
It’s November, and the John Lewis ad is already on TV. Christmas party arrangements have long since been finalised. And next year’s marketing plans have almost been signed off.
If it wasn’t for the imminent arrival of a narcissistic demagogue in the White House and the very real possibility of nuclear armageddon, prospects for 2017 would be looking pretty good.
Or would they?
Before the ink is dry on your 2017 activity, take a look at your brand: a long, hard look.
Could it be better? Is it built on a coherent and rigorous brand essence? Does its visual identity emanate from a brand idea that permeates every aspect of your communication? Does it possess a distinctive and consistent tone of voice?
If it does, great…you’ve only got the Donald to worry about. Oh, and Brexit. Mustn’t forget Brexit.
But if it doesn’t, you might want to talk to Breakfast. We help Caffe Nero and Pets at Home, amongst others, with their brands, and they’re doing ok. We’d be happy to talk to you too.
What have you got to lose? Get in touch with us and we’ll happily pop one of our brand workshops in the diary for 2017, to give you something to look forward to.
In the meantime, enjoy the John Lewis ad. At least it doesn’t have James Corden in it.
Breakfast Managing Partner Ed Will in full flow at a recent brand conference