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Feeling social?

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Social media isn’t necessarily right for all brands. Certainly, as my old mate* the Ad Contrarian has loudly proclaimed, many of the claims made on behalf of Facebook and its fellow data thieves a few years ago have turned out to be rather empty.

It transpires that social is a little more like old media than many people once thought. Maybe that’s why it’s taken this long for Breakfast to produce its first (a brief dalliance with the Phone Co-Op aside) fully-formed social campaign, for our favourite vodka, Moskovskaya.

In partnership with hungry upstarts Studio Appetite, we have been producing some ads (there’s no more appropriate term) for two or three months now, and having some fun while doing so.

(You’ll need to follow the brand on Facebook, Instagram or twitter to see the animated bits, links and accompanying text. Sorry.)

Having avoided being too vocal on the merits or otherwise of social media for building brands, I have now progressed from interested observer into an advocate of treating these channels as opportunities. Thye offer brands without big budgets (or even medium-sized budgets) to reach a potentially massive audience with a relatively small spend.

We’re not mistaking our ‘likes’ for customers, or expecting our audience to become evangelists (the world has more than enough of those at the moment). But we are (we think) producing good work for a genuinely distinctive, strong vodka brand. It might take us a while to conquer the world, and we might not achieve domination via social alone.

But we’re in the game. And enjoying it.

*He’s not a mate: I’ve never met him. But I’m pretty sure we’d get on.

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WTF?

November 13, 2017 2 comments

Making good advertising isn’t easy. The moment when you see the first cut from the editor and realise that the spot you’ve grafted on for three months is a dud, not a D&AD, is horrible. For that reason, I am loth to criticise ads for simply being, in my humble opinion, terrible. It can happen to anyone.

Some ads can be bad and still work: I’ve made a few of those. Others can be good and fail dismally to do their job, i.e. sell stuff. I’ve made a few of those too.

Fortunately for me (if not my clients), the clunkers were TV commercials – bad in a way that would have made them invisible rather than fist-bitingly awful – and endured by the audience in the comfort of their own homes. I never had to observe the public’s reaction.

That is not the case for this – a commercial that actually made me put my hands to my head in the cinema yesterday, while a fellow audience member uttered an audible “What the fuck?”.

Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the script stage. Maybe you’ll watch it and love it.

Then again, maybe not.

 

 

“And how was the campaign for you, Mrs May?”

Until recently, General Elections could be reliably guaranteed to produce ads – usually posters – that by virtue of media coverage, would end up being seen by more or less everyone in the country.

Not in 2017. Can you name a single memorable political poster? I can’t. While the Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket ad from 2015 was a poor example of the form (I blogged about this here), it garnered some column inches and TV airtime.

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Now, it seems, our two main parties are devoting their resources to social media, with Labour in the ascendancy on Twitter (which tracks well with the better educated and metropolitan types) and the Tories ruling the roost on Facebook, which has a broader, more representative user base and might have something to do with the illegal use of data. If you believe what you read in The Observer

Anyhow, with no decent advertising to speak of, the most noticeable marketing-related efforts in this election have been slogans. I wrote back in 2015 about Nigel Farage being ahead of the game in terms of repeating a single, simple message and backing it up in words and deed. He might be a c*nt, but he’s not an idiot.

With that in mind, the Tories hit the ground running with “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos”: snappy three-word slogans which (you might have spotted if you’re a sentient human) they repeated ad nauseam in the first week of the campaign, tethered not to the party, but to Theresa May, whose personal poll numbers must have been only slightly less impressive than Kim Jong Un’s in the weeks before her announcement of the election.

Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a classic case of assertion rather than demonstration, as May has made a mockery of her own USP by looking nervous and guarded in front of crowds and by executing a massive U-turn the day after the Conservatives’ manifesto launch.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses Conservative parliamentary candidates for London and the south east at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in Harrow, north west London

Theresa being charismatic

If (a little bit of politics now) she’d had the guts to stick to her guns and tell us that the only way we’ll be able to pay for social care in this country going forward is to ask those who can to pay for it, she’d have enabled strong and stable to ring true. Unfortunately, “strong and stable but unpopular with your core voters” was deemed a tad unwise in an election campaign, so she folded like an executive order by Donald Trump.

Subsequently, her team have taken her out of the firing line, avoiding TV and radio interviews and ensuring that only party members are present in most of her public appearances. Like many other people, I’ve always maintained that being comfortable in front of the media and able to connect with people on a human level does not necessarily make you a great leader. But it’s fair to say that we all feel a little uneasy when confronted by someone who exhibits all the empathy of a South African prison guard from the 1970s and a truly remarkable inability to think on her feet.

Anyway, back to slogans. “Coalition of chaos” was another catchy, well thought-out line of attack that has endured longer than “strong and stable”, although as soon as the various parties ruled out any deals or pacts the Conservative hierarchy dialled it back a bit.

The other problem the Tories have had is that Theresa May’s stodgy, “best of a bad bunch” message plays so poorly when contrasted with left of centre politicians saying popular, human, empathetic things. Which, when they’re in opposition (as they usually are) play well. Lots of irate right-wingers – and the Daily Mail – took to social media after the BBC leaders debate moaning about bias, but a) the Tories’ policies aren’t by and large the kind of things you’d cheer for, and b) even if they were, many people don’t like admitting they’re Tory in public. It wasn’t a biased audience: it was an audience where the Conservatives (comprising 35% of those in attendance) sat on their hands or clapped politely every so often, while the other 65% demonstrated understandably more enthusiasm for sentiments like “we’ll give you better healthcare/ schools and tax the rich.” It’s really not complicated.

Anyway, while “coalition of chaos” and “strong and stable” have endured a bumpy ride, Labour’s “For the many, not the few” has articulated the party’s USP pretty well, and grown more relevant as the campaign has progressed. Under Blair/ Brown, “the few” fared extremely well, so this slogan isn’t as facile as it might first seem.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unapologetic acknowledgment that the very wealthy are going to be paying for at least some of the largesse he has promised has had the effect of enthusing his base by reconnecting the party’s newly-minted membership with its core principles. It’s exactly what Nigel Farage did: take a truth, communicate it at every opportunity and back it up with your actions.

Unfortunately for Labour, for all UKIP’s mastery of their message in 2015, they didn’t manage to see their increased relevance reflected in the numer of parliamentary seats they secured. They have been a phenomenal success as a pressure group and an irrelevance as a political party. I may be wrong, but I suspect Corbyn’s Labour Party are about to suffer a similar fate. There’s only so much that a slogan – or an ad – can do.

 

Some things never change…

I entered the advertising industry because I liked ads. Sometimes – whether I’m shutting down a pop-up in annoyance or watching a piece of over-researched, idea-free drivel – I have to remind myself of that.

That’s why the IPA’s decison to celebrate their centenary by asking notable ad folk to nominate their five favourite ads is a welcome tonic. Dave Trott’s selection, here, is a timely reminder of some of good advertising’s simple, eternal truths. He quotes Walt Disney’s observation that, “We have to entertain in order to educate because the other way round doesn’t work.”

That wisdom applies to a lot more than just advertising. Anyway, enjoy the ads. I did.

Categories: marketing ramblings

Bet you hadn’t heard of Wayne Shaw before this week

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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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.

Here, Paul MacInnes in the Guardian makes lots of the same points as I did (as well as some other, more considered ones).

Where’s the join?

December 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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…

 

 

 

 

If David Beckham drank whisky…

November 8, 2016 Leave a comment

David Beckham does drink whisky: Haig Club whisky. We now know this thanks to an entertaining and enthusiastic talk from Helen Bass, Diageo’s Consumer Planning Director.

Helen spoke at the latest of our series of Sundowner Socials, held, as always, at the Brand Exchange. Helen began by talking about the role of innovation at Diageo, and the challenges in expanding long-established and cherished brands such as Guinness.

Taking us through some of their historical failed attempts (Enigma, anyone?), Helen introduced Hop House 13, the new craft lager from Guinness. We weren’t able to sample the product but by all accounts it’s a very creditable brew (although as Helen acknowledged, whether a product from a major brewer can actually be labelled as craft lager is something of a moot point).

After a brief Q and A session, expertly marshalled as ever by Breakfast’s very own Ed Will, Helen proceeded to talk effusively about Haig Club whisky, a collaboration with David Beckham.

I’ll confess that despite Becks’ journey from helium-voiced Chingford dead-ball expert to fully-fledged national treasure and statesman, I didn’t really have him down as a credible whisky drinker, let alone spokesman. But in fact, it makes complete sense that he would have migrated from lager, to wine, to whisky as many men of his age will have done. (With a brief detour to aftershave somewhere in the middle.)

The accompanying Clubman from Haig Club commercial which Helen proudly played struck all the right notes for the target audience; stylish and beautifully shot, it didn’t pretend that Haig Club is a whisky for connoisseurs or red nosed Chesterfield-bound soaks, but instead trumpeted the brand’s suitability to be enjoyed with Coke and in the company of friends. All with just the merest hint of rebellion. Handled badly, the whole Becks does whisky thing could have gone horribly wrong, but this has been artfully done and I suspect the target audience will lap it up. And apparently David genuinely does like the drink, which he buys whenever Ribena is not available.*

Helen and her colleague Alice thoughtfully provided some tall, ice cold Haig and Coke for us in the bar, and, like Jamie Vardy in the penalty area, it slipped down all too easily.

The sixty or so guests who attended had another very enjoyable evening. If you’re interested in attending any of our future events, please get in touch with us and we’ll try and squeeze you in…

*This comment is not evidence-based. Don’t get too excited, Ribena.