Click here to see the new Got Milk spots that brilliantly use and twist the context of the MLB steriod scandal. Lots of brand and cultural relevance, people talking about them and an angry MLB commissioner...
John Grant showed a great example of a brand that gets it at the IPA conference - American Express. Not for the superficiality and bandwagon chasing of the Superman and Seinfeld movies, but the genius of the City Reward cards that helps people in a growing list of cities (Chicago, Boston and NYC) get more out of their city eg VIP treatment, researvation benefits, etc. As John pointed out, this is a case of a brand helping in a city and fulfilling the role of what a mutual society used to do.
I've been lucky enough to make a research trip back to the UK coincide with the second IPA strategy conference. It was good to catch up with some old friends and bloggers like Richard Huntington and to see some interesting speakers entertainingly chaired by Peter York.
I found in particular John Grant's eloquent argument about why our focus on 'the message' and advertising ideas are now redundant and the need for this to be replaced with a focus on ideas with social significance and cultural relevance a much needed to call to arms. Wendy Gordon's clarification on the hyped topic of neuroscience put to bed some ugly rumors taking hold about the magic bullet nature of this new field, as well as giving strong academic evidence to give new ways of thinking about how communication actually works, not least the power of emotion.
The one talk that I disagreed with was Charles Vallance's discussion of the power of visual narrative and positioning over concpetual ideas. While a powerful argument - VCCP is doing incredibly well - it all seemed to boil down to a call for executional visual integration which I believe really limits the potential power of brands and their communications. Brands come from a place of belief, not an identity system. The brands that get this - Nike, Honda, HUMMER - understand that integration is not about executional sameness but embracing the complexity, depth and nuance of the brand.
There's been a lot of talk over the last year or so about the problems facing the holding companies - IPG, Omnicom, WPP. Well, with Unilever's decision to award the lion's share of its detergent business to BBH, rather than JWT or Lowe, there's more evidence that the old dots on map model is becoming increasingly broken. And while BBH may be the agency that's blazing the trail at the moment you need look no further than the success of other micro-networks like W&K (who should have P&G roster agencies worried), the 'new' looser holding company model being defined by MDC or the reaction of holding companies trying to build their own micro networks - Red Cell becoming United, the changes to Lowe. It feels like clients are realizing technology makes dots on maps pretty unimportant. The real kicker is going to come for the networks that rely on servicing global business and do pretty poor local work in the major markets - they're going to get run over both ways.
Many of the new 'creative' media ideas have been produced just because the technology exists, with little regard to what it says about the brand. So Smirnoff deserves credit for using new media in a way that's true to the brand - a triple distilled ad for a triple distilled vodka (thanks to Media Guardian).
And while we're on the subject about being sensible about new media, this poll from DDB London makes interesting reading and probably holds pretty true in the US. It shows that in the UK less than one in three hairdressers, taxi drivers or pub owners (aka the British cultural barometer) understand the phrase 'blogging' and only one in ten 'podcasting'. Yes, it's our job to lead, and to help spread the new, but we should always keep a grip on reality.