Thursday, 10 May 2012

Beat average!

Yesterday I was attending a seminar focusing on growth companies and entrepreneurship. It was a great seminar with a lot of great examples of companies creating growth based on new compelling ideas and products.

An interesting presentation was given by Michala Marcussen from the London office of Societe Generale. She is a very skilled Macro Economist and she was asked to predict the future economic environment. And as she put it - if she was weather forecaster, she would predict shower and dark clouds - for the next 10 years! To support this she presented some interesting (and depressing) slides - you find an example below:

Translating the slide, it tells the story that most countries will not be back on the 2007 level in GDP per capita before 2016 and beyond. As you can see as well, Germany is the most stable economy.

Not a very promising forecast if you want to create growth!

My immediate reaction was to see this as an obstacle for growth. But my more positive mind-set took over and I realize that to create an accumulated number like those in the slide you add all the minus and plus. Right know this adds up to a minus (compared to 2007) and at least slow growth right now. As well as some companies (and nations) will be below average growth some will beat average. And that should be the ambition and the driver to improve and develop your organisation and the performance over time - no matter how the economic weather forecast is. Advance did so in the early 2000's and during the latest financial crisis - we were beating the average - not dramatic growth, but stable progress. And because we don't let the predictions interfere and depress us, I hope we will beat average again should Michala's predictions come true.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

BETA is supporting creativity

Research is killing creativity. At least that's what I'm told and honestly also sometimes what I experience.

Overall I salute research used the right way, because it will add new knowledge to your work. At Advance we have over and over again been sitting and watching consumers or decision makers talk about a topic or evaluate products or ideas in focus groups. And almost every time  we end up with a crucial insight that can help us create even better solutions. Most creatives at advance appreciate this and they are the first to participate and I have seen great campaigns created with inspiration from a focus group.

The challenge with research is that it very often becomes the conclusion that dictates the direction of the creative work or even worse the specific solution. And it almost becomes the formula that creativity is based on. And even though I believe we need to make solid results and deliver effect I believe rigid formulas will kill creativity. Not a surprising stand point from an advertising guy, I know.

Fortunately the digital era has introduced the concept of being in BETA - making a solution and then launch it and see what the reaction is and then adjust and correct. It's possible in a digital world, because the cost a of launching is small and the time it takes to get feed-back and adjust is short. And to me it's a gift to creativity, because it allows you to try your best idea(s) and see the reaction - live and in the real environment and context.

BETA is in my mind also a way for clever marketeers to run a risk without jeopardizing the entire marketing investment - 20 years in advertising tells me that you need to run a risk to make truly inventive ideas. And the way I know creatives through 20 years - they all want to make ideas that will have an impact and effect, so BETA is a way of optimizing the impact of their ideas, without killing it. But it also requires an ability to kill your darlings if nobody is reacting to it - save that piece for the art club.

So, in my mind BETA is a gift to creatives and marketeers alike and I'm looking forward to get more BETA experience at Advance and in the industry.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Insurance against bad timing

Last week I noticed a very unfortunate example of advertising with bad timing. As you may recall the Italian Cruiser Costa Concordia was involved in the tragic accident in the Mediterranean sea. Berlingske (Danish newspaper) had a significant coverage. As you can see Albatros (travel agency) ran an ad next to the article - unfortunately they were offering "Dream cruises"

I know these incidents happen. And this one is really sad given the fact that people were dying during the accident.

Here is a free idea for Berlingske and media in general:

Why not offer a guarantee to advertisers, that this doesn't happen. As an advertiser you can define the articles (defined by a theme or other relevant parameters) you don't want to be associated with and maybe you pay a premium to have this guarantee (extra revenue in a very squeezed industry). The data is available, maybe in 2 different departments of the Media (Editorial part (knowledge of articles) and Commercial part (knowledge of campaigns and advertisers), but it should be a walk in the park to make this product. And to me both the newspaper and the advertiser give a bad impression in the above example.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

In Trust we trust

Branding and communication can sometimes be hard. Today I have noticed an example that truly prove this.

Last week my son turned 10 and one of his most wanted gifts was a wireless mouse. He is a young gamer and wants gear that's easy to move around.

I'm not an expert, but after some research I found that a wireless mouse would be OK even though a game fanatic might argue that a mouse with cord was even better for gaming. But still he is 10.

I was a bit late so I skipped my initial thought of buying on-line. In Fona (a TV/Radio retailer) I found the right product (a fast and accurate mouse). Not cheap, not expensive. And a promising name (maybe the alarm clock should have been ringing?):

My son was excited (he is not yet brand conscious) and the installation was an easy fix. But, but a week later the mouse stopped working. I tried everything, but the mouse had rally stopped working. Suddenly it's hard to call your brand Trust. It becomes pretentious and a bit of a laugh. Only I didn't laugh. Maybe it was a great idea in the beginning and really a promise they as a brand wanted to pursue and deliver on. But today they don't.

Fortunately Fona took the chance to use a "bad product experience" to brand themselves. I got a complete new product in 3 minutes - no arguing. Only professional service.

And now I'm here with a new Trust mouse. I'm hoping the best. But I trust Fona.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Problem in Brief

In most agencies you spend a lot of time discussing the brief that you (normally) get from clients and internal briefs as well. What's the objective and what are we asked to do (campaigns, product development etc.).

In some projects we get a very clear and very detailed brief and everybody is happy. Now we know exactly how to approach the project and maybe even what to deliver. And within the limits of the brief we can be extremely creative.

Lately things are changing dramatically. Since we preach a more holistic and multi disciplinary approach the briefs and projects Advance get involved in become complicated. And it's hard to be creative, because you lack information or a complete overview.

Part of the solution is to spend more time on defining and discussing the problems that we are trying to solve rather than a predefined brief. What kind of problem are we trying to solve with a campaign and can the problem really be solved with a campaign. Today I saw an article in a danish new paper discussing if brands can buy a better image (making campaigns). See it here

Of cause they can't, but if the problem is a poor brand image, there are solutions to it (a complete product, organization and communication solution would be an Advance bet). But if the brief is a campaign, you never get to the right solution.

This means that creativity from an agency perspective is also in the way you approach the problem. And the clients will have to approach the agencies with a more (open) problem oriented discussion. At least to get the most effective solution and more value out of the agencies. I'm sure that the concepts that we get out of this will be more holistic and much more relevant than traditional solutions. And fortunately we can see it working with the most courageous of our clients (and client owners within the agency). The beauty of it, is that you produce an alignment between clients and agency (you measure against the ability to solve a problem that you agree on) and between competencies within the agency. Long term I believe only agencies that can facilitate this proces and who can create a trustworthy relationship with the clients will make it to the top. And that's our ambition.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Don't try this at home

As a lot of my colleagues from Advance Cph I'm planning to have duck as the main course at our X-mas dinner.

I plan slow roasted duck. To make sure that I do it right I was looking up a recipe. By mistake I ended up on a Google translated site. And I'm still laughing. Here is a small taste:

"Fill the other with prunes and apples and place it with your chest down on the grate. Cut the drumsticks from. Start by putting your thighs in the oven approx. one hour (editors advice - don't!). Come on then the rest of the bird in the oven.

Turn second (anden - this is really a fun and meaningless translation) after one hour and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until cooked."

I have been bitching about automated service and the example above shows that automation can lead to unexpected amusement. Everybody with an iPhone can confirm this. And both Apple and Google are the most celebrated brands and companies on the globe and still there is room for improvement. An somehow thats nice.

I will stay out of the oven and let the duck stay there for 6 hours at 130 degrees, turned once after 4 hours if you shouldn't know. If you need inspiration for the X-mas sweets see:

Have a lovely X-mas - hope to see you again in 2012.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Too much service?

In a world where the consumers are less likely to spend money and the competition is fierce I would imagine that the more service a company can give the better.

But during my Christmas shopping I experienced a situation where I felt the company was trying too hard.

Telenor is offering a a concept they call Double Deal. You can buy two cheap phones and two very cheap subscriptions. A cool offer - my kids could get 2 new great phones for Christmas at lower total costs than they have today.

I agreed with the very service minded guy in the shop, that the new phones should only be active after Christmas. No one should know what type of gift they could expect for Christmas.

So far so good - great experience. Only when I came home my son told me that he had received an SMS from Telenor (and my daughter as well)

SMS text on my sons phone - (seeing the screen you also know why he needs a new phone from X-mas:-)
Telenor was so eager to improve the service, that they almost gave away that I bought a phone for my son. And the day after I received this letter:

One of three letters from Telenor the same day

Here they tried to help me activate the new subscription and congratulated me with the Double Deal. Thank good they sent it to me and not to my kids.

Telenor is really trying hard, but they almost lost me. And I simply don't get why they don't foresee this situation. Of course it's automated. But the guy who did the rules for this either doesn't have kids or doesn't buy phones for Christmas. Telenor, you have 11 months to improve your system for next Christmas and maybe just give me little less service and dialogue, thx.