Tag Archive: Adnews

  1. Bored with Brands Saving the World

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    Okay, I know I shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to. I’m a little bored with every brand I know trying to save the world. I have just returned from a week in Cannes where it seemed the only prerequisite for winning an award was you did something good beyond selling the brand or product you were representing. I thought our job was to sell the brand or product we were representing first and foremost? Take the example of Bundaberg Rum winning an Effectiveness Lion for its ‘Watermark’ campaign. I’m sure it was a well-deserved win, however it was the judges’ comments that irked me.

    David Jones, Euro RSCG global chief executive and chair of the Creative Effectiveness judging panel said it was a powerful creative idea “with a social purpose”. What? Since when did the rationale for a campaign being effective include whether or not it had a social purpose? I find the moralistic judgement creepy (and it has nothing to do with whether a campaign was effective or not).

    Please check the Grand Prix and Gold winners at Cannes – social purposes everywhere. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that advertisers are now giving a shit, I’m just slightly cynical about the motives – and if the motives are wrong, I can’t help but feel the whole thing will bite us on the bum.

    The other social cause trend that I find perplexing is the one where the agency builds its brands doing purely high-profile social-cause campaigns. Again, my cynical self thinks it’s a little off. There are a few agencies that have made it an art form to build their brand on cause-related work, while continuing to struggle with delivering the same level of creativity to their more corporate clients.

    To me, it’s no longer church and state – of course causes can be attached to commercial products for mutual benefit. However, if I am going to get into the cause-related world, I’m doing it with kid gloves on. I’m doing it with the point of view of, what would Adbusters say about this? That is, judge the work from the most socialist, tree-hugging point of view you can muster, as only then will you be able to completely absolve yourself from the deception we all put ourselves through. Be your harshest, most cynical critic, or someone else will be, and that someone else will probably have a keyboard.

    It doesn’t take much for bullshit to be called on brands these days. In fact, keyboard warriors and clicktivists – whatever we want to call them – are having a profound impact on the cause and social work brands do. Consumers are becoming increasingly cynical about our motivations (perhaps with good reason).

    I know corporations that advertise have the money required to save the world, and largely it’s going to be up to them to spend it in a way that creates shared value between the corporation, the consumer and the planet. However, I worry that if we are too quick to jump on the cause-related bandwagon without sufficient caution, we are going to weigh down the cart so much with expectation that we’ll break it.

    I advocate for a little perspective – that’s all.

    This article first appeared in Adnews about a month ago

  2. Experiential Advertising is Dead, Try Existential Advertising

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    This Article First Appeared in Adnews 

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    Anyone read Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom? Okay, anyone watched Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? Same thing, and both will help you with brand management. Let me explain. 

    If you read Existential Psychotherapy please be careful. I read this book in 1996 and was so moved by it I went to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages the next day and officially changed my name to Max. According to the registrar it still is. 

    The book outlines the four major conflicts we must resolve in order to come to terms with our existence and live a fulfilled life: 

    • Death. Coming to grips with the reality that one day we will die, or as Freud put it, ‘the meaning of life is death’.
    • Isolation. Realising that we are alone. No one can ever truly know what it’s like being you. 
    • Meaninglessness. Accepting that none of this has any meaning at all.
    • Freedom. We have the freedom to make our own choices and hence are responsible for the life we lead.

    Interestingly (but not as highbrow), Groundhog Day was voted the most existential film of all time. 

    You can see Bill come to grips with each of these existential issues as one day is repeated over and over from the start. Bill can’t accept this predicament and goes through many stages of conflict: nihilism, disbelief, shock and social detachment. He becomes hedonistic and cruel, then depressed and suicidal until he eventually accepts his situation and starts to act constructively. It is only this acceptance that frees him from the repetitive turmoil. 

    I pointed out this existential stuff recently to some people from the life insurance industry who had asked me to talk to them. What struck me was that life insurance is a category that is incredibly close to one of the four pillars of life’s great conflicts – death. It’s incredibly rich and meaningful. Yet I see life insurance ads on TV a fair bit, and some are pretty ropey. I’m convinced they could be much more powerful. Getting life insurance should be something that is treated as a high-involvement category, not something with a ‘call now and get a free set of steak knives’ mentality. 

    It’s the same with financial services. Their category is money. Most banks treat money as if it were the most boring, droll category on earth. But money is closely associated with freedom (and can also probably help reconcile meaninglessness if spent wisely). Banks and other financial institutions are in one of the most high-interest categories there is, yet you wouldn’t know it by the communications they produce (with one or two obvious exceptions). 

    But it doesn’t stop there. 

    Toothpaste can help reconcile isolation. Wine can help reconcile freedom. Breakfast cereal? You figure it out. Point is,
    there are no brands in low-involvement categories, only marketers who have a low involvement with their brands. All brands can have a clear purpose and help people reconcile life’s big questions, even if it’s in a spectacularly small way. 

    I make this point in a time when marketers are still being convinced by agencies that tone, values and personality are so important to get right (they sort of are but they’re the easy bit). Brands with too much focus on values and personality are doughnut brands – they look sweet and desirable, but there is a hole in the centre. There is no reason for being. The more difficult part of marketing is to be clear about the purpose of your brand and how it helps people in both a practical and meaningful way. 

    So with this I suggest you grab a glass of red wine, purchase a copy of Existential Psychotherapy or any other good book with real ‘meaning of life’ type questions (all the stuff you skipped over at university as you were too busy trying to get laid) and establish where your brand fits in the purpose of life. Failing that, watch Groundhog Day again. It’s still pretty funny.

    P.S. Image taken from Wanderstan, interesting post
  3. It’s Like The Beams Crossing in Ghostbusters

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    I was in the airport lounge yesterday when I heard over the pager ‘Could Professor Noam Chomsky please come to the reception area’. What?!?  I then realised Noam was in town to pick up his Sydney Peace Prize, so thought, unless it was a coincidence of linguistic proportions that it must indeed be the Noam Chomsky (that is the distinguished American social scientist, author and human rights campaigner (including spotting that 9-11 was a terrorist act that differed from other terrorist acts only in that it was committed on American soil and not by Americans on other nations soil).  


    I went to the reception are to wait and try and get a glimpse of the great man but to no avail (he didn’t turn up after being paged – no manufacturing consent with Noam).


    Anyway, thinking I had missed my chance I left the lounge to board my plane, and there he was, sitting in business class looking bemused!  I went to my seat and wondered how I could meet him – I’d get him to sign something.  The only thing I had was todays Adnews, so I grabbed it and off I went to have it signed.


    So now I’m getting what must be the only piece of advertising trade press in existence to be signed by Noam Chomsky framed.  It will hang in my home among works by Shepard Fairey, an infamous Australian serial killer, and my sister Tania Ferrier.


    I wonder what the Occupy crew must think?

  4. A Feeble Minded Hipster, Focus Group Junkie and Murderer Walk Into A Bar…

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    Why did you watch that ad, buy that silly fixie or commit that murder? Understanding your own motivations for your behaviour can be…difficult.

    I’ve never murdered a person, but I would imagine it would be quite a ‘high involvement’ task. Even the most brazen and seemingly spontaneous murder would require a degree of thought and planning. However, put a murderer in a room and ask them why they did it and, well you may as well run a focus group and ask them why they liked a particular ad on TV.

    It occurred to me when watching a police interview with a recent murderer (there are loads on youtube) the police had no idea what questions to ask this chap, and this chap had no idea what to say to explain his behaviour.

    Police: Why did you feel the need to kill her?

    Murderer: I don’t know

    Police: So why did you feel the need to kill any of the girls?

    Murderer: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

    Sound familiar? Done any qualitative ad testing lately?

    How about this? On Twitter (@adamferrier) I asked the question “Why would anyone buy a Fixie (a bike with one gear) other than to be cool? What I got back was hilarious.

    Hipster 1: “You feel closer with the road.”

    Hipster 2: “You feel more at one with the machine.”

    Hipster 3: “It wont break down.”

    Hipsters everywhere trying to grab at anything other than the truth – they bought it to be cool, and fit in with all the other feeble minded hipsters. The murderer and the Feeble Minded Hipster (FMH) have a lot in common. They don’t have enough insight or motivation to tell the real reasons for their behaviour for self-report measures to be accurate.

    So in truth, we rely on self-report measures in marketing not because they are accurate but because they are easy – they are available. Now lets look at ad testing:

    Moderator: Why did you like that ad?

    Focus group junky: I don’t know….it was funny.

    And so we learn that we need to make the ad funny. It’s not that the ad needs to be funny – its just the only thing the consumer can say when asked to analyze their own behaviour “I like funny things”. Frankly they don’t know. This is captured beautifully in this clip that has people analyze and “improve” the iconic Apple 1984 TVC.




    What’s the alternative? It’s tricky. It involves understanding the causal relationship between the piece of communications and the behaviour change you have in mind. Any thoughts on how to do this would be greatly appreciated.

    So let me finish this rambling little piece by saying I’m a huge believer in research, and a massive supporter of focus groups – but only when they are used for the right purpose. We ran focus groups in the prison, to help inmates talk about particular issues and uncover insights used to develop behaviour change programs. Same goes for qualitative research. Do it, but do it up front in the process not when you’re evaluating stuff. Self-report is a lousy research tool when the subject matter is murder, it’s even worse when it’s about what cereal tvc will make me buy more cereal.

    This article appeared in the latest issue of Adnews