Archive

Archive for the ‘marketing ramblings’ Category

The beautiful football index

On Tuesday 19th June, Ed and I attended the 2018 Brand Finance Football Forum at the Brand Exchange. It’s the event at which the ‘Football 50′ report is formally launched – the Football 50 being the annual snapshot of the state of leading clubs’ finances.

As a lifelong football obsessive, talking about clubs as brands used to irritate me – and to some extent still does. But the world moves on, and it’s clear that not only are many of Europe’s major football clubs brands, they are huge brands. Indeed it might be that in future I write a longer blog, requiring more thought, research and effort, analysing the similarities between Real Madrid and Amazon, for example. Bet you can’t wait.

Anyway, bookended by interesting talks from Brand Exchange Director Bryn Anderson (responsible for the football study) and Matthew Birchall’s fascinating study of stadium design, Nuria Tarre gave an excellent and genuinely eye-opening insight into the marketing at City Football Group. That’s City Football Group, who, if you weren’t aware, comprise Manchester City FC, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and a couple of other affiliated clubs who don’t have City in their name. Yet.

It was immediately apparent to me that CFG are operating at a different level to other football clubs/ brands/ groups, mainly because they have created formal, transparent links between clubs without ruining those clubs and driving them out of business (yes, Arsenal, I’m talking about you). And, by taking an underperforming club who were lagging behind some of their rivals, they have had a relatively free hand to instil radical change on the back of their oil-money fuelled success.

harry_kane_goal_england_tunisia_world_cup_group_g_gettyimages-978047946

Here’s a picture of Harry Kane. No excuse required.

The group has clear objectives and is at the forefront of social media-led marketing and e-gaming initiatives, all carefully controlled and on message (compare and contrast with Roy Keane slagging off teammates on Manchester United’s own TV channel: awks!). Within Nuria’s slick presentation and accompanied by several pictures of Kyle Walker arsing around (I suspect there were cheaper right backs available last summer who are not quite so keen to laugh at themselves and generate valuable online content), the nugget that stood out for me was this: Manchester City use a “beautiful football index” to judge, after every game, whether they are playing in the style required by their Emirati overlords. Really.

On many levels, this makes sense. If you are truly creating a brand, you will have some brand values; if you have design on being a world-class brand, you’ll live by those values and stick to them – see my past post about Virgin removing the Daily Mail from its trains to see my thoughts on that.

But from a footballing/ sporting perspective, this is a real eye-opener. Next time you hear Fat Sam chuntering about fans wanting to “win games” more than anything, or Tony Pulis asking rhetorically what people mean by “attractive football”, refer them to the Beautiful Football Index. One day it might literally be in their job description to play attractive football. Their inability to supply this is, after all, why West Ham, West Brom and Everton supporters couldn’t wait to get rid of them.

Maybe the time is ripe for an enterprising club chairman to give Sam a 10-year contract and tell him to construct a “challenger brand” club, whose objectives are to stick it in the mixer at least 20 times a game and keep the grass in the corners longer, a la John Beck. After all, not all brands can be identical. This brand might attract the tiki-taka haters: Wimbledon were there years ago.

Is it time for Arsenal to revert to their true type and return to the ultra-defensive, cynical template perfected by Bertie Mee, Don Howe and George Graham? Or, more realistically, for Chelsea to sink into midtable mediocrity in front of a stadium at least a third-full of ignorant racists? They’re halfway there already. Some fascinating branding opportunities await.

Not all football clubs will be, or should be, brands. But some will have to be if they are to keep pace with their rivals. Their income, and therefore to a large extent their success on the pitch, will be dependant on attracting fans and revenue from places such as China and India, before those nations’ own leagues become so established that they don’t have to look to England or Spain for football. That might not be true for Enfield Town FC or even Swansea City, but it will be for those at the top of the Premier League.

Why? Because the other unstated but self-evident truth that emerged from Nuria’s talk is that a European league is inevitable within the next five to ten years – something  Sir Alex Ferguson also believes. CFG’s business model cannot possibly sustain the prolonged disappearance of its flagship club from the Champions League. The damage to the brand would be too great. Assuming they’re not permitted to continue spending with impunity or gaming the Financial Fair Play rules (and if they keep winning the Premier League by 19 points, the other clubs will make sure they’re reeled in), they, and the other biggest European clubs, will need some sort of guarantee that they will always be playing each other.

I suspect the Champions League as we know it will soon become a two division midweek European league comprising six clubs from England, four from Italy, Spain and Germany and the odd Ajax or Porto to keep the smaller nations sweet. The top two/four/eight will go into a knockout stage and the Champions League Final will still exist.

In the meantime, I will be at the new White Hart Lane, watching England’s best footballers play the entertaining, enthralling and exciting football that is at the heart of the Tottenham Hotspur brand; my enjoyment only tempered by their other distinctive trait: that of managing to cock things up when it seems impossible.

IMG_20180418_141843

Glory, glory…er…cranes

 

Advertisements

No Cannes do

Regret is an emotion I don’t have much truck with. However, occasionally I wonder what path my professional life would have taken had I begun my career at one of London’s more glamorous ad agencies.

Roose & Partners, my first, longstanding employer, was not a business that paid much attention to our industry’s more self-regarding traditions or trinkets. Not for us the distraction of entering creative awards, attending creative shindigs, or appearing in creative periodicals. To some extent, Roose didn’t pay creative work much heed at all.

Indeed, the eponymous Ted Roose was a media man and I’m pretty sure his creative radar ran out of batteries back in the early 1970s and was languishing in a box in his loft. (“Psycho? What’s Psycho?” “A film, Ted. A very famous film.” “Never heard of it.”)

So it is that as I near the end of my third decade in the industry (there’s a while to go yet, so stifle that shriek of disbelief), I have yet to attend either of the best known advertising festivals.

This morning (Friday 8th June) I received an email from Campaign trailing the talks they’re hosting in Cannes, and, once again, it occurred to me that not only have I never been to Cannes, I don’t even know how one goes about attending. Do you need an invitation? A sponsor? Are there bouncers? Gatekeepers? Is there a no trainers rule? Do you take your own tent?

Cannes-Lion

Some ‘wacky’ ‘creative’ ‘types’ pretending to have fun in the south of France

Kinsale is even more of a mystery. I didn’t hear about this festival until I’d been a professional advertising creative for about eight years. Where is it? Why is it? Is it still going? I can’t answer any of those questions.

I’m so out of the loop, it’s quite possible creatives aren’t welcome at one or either of these festivals any longer (we don’t get budgets nowadays, so you can follow my logic), and because I’m trying to retain a level of plausible ignorance while I write this, I’m not Googling either of them.

It may well be that the more discerning creative people are now gravitating towards SXSW in Austin. Or maybe there are other, newer, cooler destinations. You tell me.

Honestly, tell me. Please. I feel like I an entire chapter in the book of my professional life remains to be written; that eventually, I will stride on to the brightly lit, cocaine-dusted advertising stage and have my moment in the limelight. Or, at the very least, have the opportunity to sip warm champagne while watching someone I’ve never heard of win a prize for attracting 15 people and 89 Russian bots to ‘like’ a brand-sponsored Facebook post. I want to have the opportunity to spend a couple of days (if that’s the duration) signposting my transparent disdain for both these sorts of professional junkets and the people who attend them. Is that really too much to ask?

Another reason why I’ve been thinking of Roose & Partners over the past month or so is that Bob Bellamy, my first creative director and a man I liked and respected immensely, passed away recently. I’m not sure Bob ever went to Cannes, but I’m bloody sure if he did, he’d have sailed there. RIP, the Admiral.

 

Disruption across all touchpoints

May 14, 2018 2 comments

Over the course of my life sentence in advertising long and illustrious career, I’ve seen many trends and fads come and go, as trends and fads are obliged to do.

Some – hello ‘industry jargon’ – are not so much fads as facts of life, constantly evolving (are you a big fan of the word ‘ideation’? Is your thinking ‘disruptive’?) to test the bullshit-tolerance of each generation. Others are more transient, and it was one of these (hopefully) shorter-lived trends that this Guardian article examined today. (It takes about 60 seconds to read this piece so don’t be shy of clicking on the link.)

I recently read a piece by someone mistakenly correcting Apple’s famous line to ‘Think Differently’ in an attempt to bestow posthumous grammatical accuracy on the tagline that changed the world, but ‘Think Different’ it was, and if we are to lay the blame at any endline’s door than that’s as good a choice as any.

However, the structure of that line is a little different (ha!) to those excoriated in the article. To my mind, it was ‘Impossible is nothing’ from Adidas that started this staccato linguistic trend; not quite the legacy they were hoping for, I suspect, when they put their minds towards finding a line with the longevity and inconclastic impact of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.

Tony Blair’s unique, verbless mangling of the English language may also have to shoulder some of the blame, with a generation of tyro copywriters hearing him sloganize the language into submission (“Hope. Opportunity. For our young people, a brighter future…”). Maybe we should be grateful for Donald Trump, whose limited vocabulary (“bigly”) makes him an unlikely champion to those who seek to resist this purge of adverbs.

Professionally, this trend is quite beguiling, as it permits put-upon copywriters to staple together random, vaguely relevant words with little thought apparently given to how they might be combined in an elegant, precise way. Ironically, the only line I have written which follows this trend owes its existence to a brief that requested something easy to comprehend when translated.

The line in question, “Find Your Rooster”, for our client Rooster Rojo tequila, is going ahead. Apart from in Russia, where ‘Rooster’ is a slang term for the paedophile victims of same-sex assaults in male prisons. Apparently that’s not something you want associated with your product, according to our brand manager. Honestly, clients can be so sensitive sometimes…

 

 

Torque of the town*

May 4, 2018 4 comments

We’ve been working with Torque, one of the UK’s leading supply chain companies, for two years now. After naming and branding Bzar, their online marketplace, and producing some striking and effective trade ads for the main business, we were let loose on their corporate website, which needed refreshing and bringing up to date.

We began by conducting in depth interviews with the various heads of department, getting direct insight from the people who really matter on what they’d like to see included in the new site, and, equally importantly, what they wouldn’t.

From those pearls of wisdom we crafted some copy that is sufficiently detailed to provide their customers and potential customers with all the information they need to know without being too verbose and daunting, then put it all together in a simple, contemporary design which reflects Torque’s dynamism and fashion industry expertise.

From start to finish, the job took just over three months and is, in the words of Torque’s Operations Director Stewart Firth, “Fresh, punchy and a significant improvement on what we had before”. Take a peek here.

67

Some old media, yesterday

From our point of view, the demand for simple, templated websites with CMS that’s easy for clients to update themselves is great, but only if care is taken to ensure the brand’s values, tone of voice and identity are applied with care and consistency. Lots of agencies can build websites, but not all of them build websites that build brands.

*Torque don’t allow puns on their name, so don’t tell anyone you’ve seen this, ok?

That’s the spirit

April 17, 2018 Leave a comment

I’ve devoted a few posts recently to bemoaning the state of creativity in advertising so it’s time to redress the balance.

Ikea’s TV work has been generally outstanding for years, but went through a pronounced and fairly extended slump a while back. However, I really like their ‘Wonderful Everyday’ campaign and the latest spot is another winner: a lovely idea, executed beautifully and brim full of charm and wit.

This campaign benefits from a consistent and distinctive tone of voice, is always inspired by the product and feels – as advertising should – aspirational and relatively upmarket while retaining the ‘everyday’ ethos of the brand.

It’s no simple thing to produce a campaign this good; as Bob Bellamy, my first Creative Director used to say as he slapped my knee, “If it was easy, duck, they’d all be doing it.” Evidently, they’re not.

Well done to all concerned, etc. More of this type of thing, please.

Norman Hunter would be turning in his grave

He’s not dead, Norman Hunter.

images

That’s Norman, there. Very much alive.

Norman, along with Chelsea’s Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, is often the fella used as a shorthand for ‘old-school footballer, back in the days when men were men and women were in the kitchen’. Not always invoked in praise of progressive causes, then. But I’m bringing his name up now for good reason.

As I say, Norman’s not dead, but if he saw this on his TV at the weekend, he might be by now.

Joe Gomez and James Milner react with disgust as Mignolet drops another one

I had to watch that spot through my fingers, as the hairs on my neck prickled in discomfort (at least I know how to get rid of them now). Where to begin?

Norman’s nickname back in the day was “Bites yer legs”. It’s not the most elegant effort, is it? But you’ll notice it wasn’t “Shave yer legs”. In Norman’s day, players only took a razor blade into the communal shower if they intended to do some damage to one of the opposition or perform an impromptu circumcision in the plunge bath.

The idea that one might shave anything in a communal shower area is, personally, something I can’t condone. I’m still getting over Keith Vanderpant’s black head dye inadvertently rubbing off on a Lucas Sport player’s arm in 1989 when I played for Cuffley in the Herts County League. Traumatic times.

But my problems with this ad are not limited to the vagaries of male grooming or the rights and wrongs of changing room etiquette.

How did the agent for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner persuade their clients that ‘starring’ in this would be a good thing? Milner, especially, has cultivated a no-nonsense image that his recent arrival on Twitter seems designed to cement. Wincing at the Ox’s imperfect shaving technique while, presumably, naked, doesn’t seem to be quite on brand.

I realise that women have been pressured into depilating almost every part of their body for decades now and it’s up to men if they want to go down the same perfectly trimmed path, but I’m still reeling that this is now sufficiently mainstream practice that there’s a TV ad using semi-famous footballers to sell this to the young men of today.

My focus group of one (18-year-old son) was quick to assert that he wouldn’t be joining the ranks of soccer’s smooth chested any time soon, while I’m just glad he doesn’t clip his finger nails on public transport (here’s looking at you, anonymous former colleague).

God knows I haven’t got a problem with hairlessness but something about watching this ad shortly before Sky’s live football coverage began on Saturday made me feel more out-of-touch than any number of autotuned pop songs in the office.

As I write, no one’s approached Norman for a comment. So I’ll let the last word go to the commenter under the YouTube clip who asked “Can I use this on my balls?”

Nothing’s stopping you, lad. Let us know how it goes.

 

 

 

Rhyme and reason

In the week that the NME finally gave up the ghost and scrapped its print edition, my Twitter feed was full of like-minded souls (most of whom used to write for it) mourning its demise.

Back in the day (from about 1983 to 1990-something), I loved the NME. It, along with John Peel and a couple of friends, shaped my musical tastes. Apart from being a huge fan of many of the bands it championed, I loved its worldview, and the certainty which accompanied it. At the age of 13, when a journo who clearly worships the same bands as you tells you that x is great and x is not, you don’t question it. At least I didn’t.

As a result, I have always possessed some rather firm opinions about music. Is it musical snobbery? Possibly. I will never be persuaded that the execrable Queen aren’t the worst band ever. I can’t think of any occasion when I would be more conflicted than having to endure ‘We Are The Champions’  should Spurs ever win, well, anything. It would be the ultimate mood-killer.

queen-biopic-casting-news-freddie-mercury-1-920x598

It’s really not a kind of magic, fellas

Anyhow, snobbery takes many forms, and during my time in advertising I have encountered significant resistance to rhyme, and especially rhyming endlines.

Somehow, it’s considered cheap and easy to produce a brand line that captures the desired sentiment and also carries a built-in sonic mnemonic (tah-dah!). Let me tell you, it’s not. I can remember many occasions when my creative director heard one of my apologetically proffered rhymes and turned his nose up while sporting an expression that said, “Really, you little moron?”. At least that’s how I interpreted it at the time.

Why? I can only assume that one man’s rhyming genius sounds like hapless doggerel to another. And maybe that’s the case. But it sure helps people remember what you say.

As my own boss, I happily bought ‘AutoRestore. Repairs at your door’ for one of our founding clients, and would do the same again. And the strength of rhyme was reiterated last week, when everyone in the country said the phrase ‘Beast from the east’ at least twenty times in four days, and Dave Trott wrote this paean to rhyme in ads.

I’ll promise to set aside my musical snobbery if you’ll give me rhyming copy. Ok?

Ok. Just don’t get me started on puns…