So there is a new brief for UNICEF and a new way of taking part in Planning For Good. Brian Reich and myself are going to host. The session will be early (7.30) on Tuesday 6th November. If you're in Boston and want to take part please join the group on facebook here. The brief is here.
"Advertising has been standing on the sidelines,
stuck on the language of positioning," said Randall Ringer, managing
director and co-founder of Verse Group, New York. "Telling a story
about the brand is more engaging, memorable and compelling than telling
a bunch of facts. What worked 30 years ago with a 30-second spot
doesn't work today."
So, here are my issues:
1. It presupposes advertising=branding
2. It presupposes advertising=telling
3. It presupposes the 30 second spot is still the answer
4. It presupposes telling is better than doing.
In a moment of sublime synchronicity, Mark has written a fantastic post triggered by some of the stuff from the connections planning conference that ties in neatly to this.
It’s clear that in an era of increased media fragmentation that media, planning and creative have to seamlessly work together in order to navigate all these possibilities and create an environment that best connects brands and people. But I think simply creating a new structure is not the biggest issue we face; the bigger issue is thinking about what the product of this union should be. Despite the fact that we all say we see the obvious shortcomings of the hypodermic needle or magic bullet school of communications and all the ways of thinking it has created (eg AIDA) we still default to produce communication that have objectives of creating awareness or highlighting an attribute or building image. There’s lots of evidence that these are ineffective objectives and this is perhaps the biggest singular reason why advertising today for the most part isn’t working, We instead need to think about a better outcome for the marriage, an outcome of creating energy around a brand. This sense of momentum and forward motion, data from Y&R’s Brand Asset Valuator and Hall and Partners suggests, is perhaps the best leading indicator of changes in behavior and brand value,
So, how can this marriage of media, planning and creative build a sense of energy around a brand? The rest of the presentation offered 6 thoughts about things we can do to create energy and showed some examples of brands that I feel are best grasping this new model of communication.
1. Be enthusiastic I’ve talked about this before as have Mark, John, et al but this is about the importance of brands today having a strong sense of belief and purpose that guides everything they do. But this is not simply a purpose or belief constrained to themselves or their category, rather it’s about having a point of view on the world and using this enthusiasm to attract like-minded people. Lots of obvious examples (Dove, Method, IKEA, etc.) so I talked most about Howies and their desire to make people think about the world around them.
2. Be interesting or useful (or better still both) The point here was communication and brands do not exist in their own little compartment in the world and people’s minds and guts. Rather, as Jeffre Jackson has brilliantly pointed out, they live in the broader world of culture. So communication based around -er (faster, quicker, cheaper) no longer seem to have the punch we perhaps once thought they had. Our job has to be to give them an idea that makes them interesting and/or useful to people. Talked about AOL UK’s internet bad/good stuff, the Bird’s Eyes pea blog (thank you Russell) and Tate Britain’s ways to view the gallery depending on your mood.
3. Do stuff This was what I talked about with the peacock and the bowerbird, and how actions are more important today than brand image. Used this as the chance to get the obligatory Nike example in as well as the Chevron Energyville site. I didn’t get a chance to play this video that shows the brilliance that was Fallon London’s Tate Tracks idea.
4. Do more than one thing All the stuff John Grant inspired with his notion of the brand molecule, brilliantly summed up I think by a quote in the latest Atlantic Monthly – “any idea is dangerous if it is a person’s only idea.” George Will was talking about the American idea but he may as well have been talking about communications. Took the chance here to ask everyone to stop using the word integration which I believe leads us to make really boring stuff and instead think about the interaction between the things a brand does and how people interact with what you do and produce. Running out of time so I didn’t talk about the 5% thing and the fact that nowadays it’s really hard to predict what is going to work so doesn’t it make more sense to spread your bets.
5. Get out of the distribution industry Stop thinking that our job is to deliver messages by renting media space and instead think about changing the economic model to spend the majority of marketing money on making stuff people care about.
6. Sweat the small stuff The importance that small, inexpensive things have and how you can make a huge impact through spending some time focusing on things like getting the brand voice right. Talked about Barclays in the UK, Do The Green Thing and brands that use web error messages brilliantly.
I guess I’ve spoken about a lot of this stuff before (as have others) at different times but it felt right for this event – to get people to stop obsessing over structure, working practices and org charts and instead think about what we should be producing as a result of this marriage. Put simply, we need to get out of the message delivery business and in to the business of energy creation.
Anyone who was there (or not) and wants to get a conversation going around this please leave a comment below.
So here’s some of the stuff that was talked about during the connection planning conference in New Orleans. As I mentioned before keep your eye on the polygamous marriage site for a plethora of content that will hopefully be up soon.
The first chunk of the day saw presentations from Robbie Vitrano, Demian Brink and Lisa Seward. There seemed to be a common theme among these presentations that we have to stop getting hung up on job titles and descriptions and instead recognize that really the role of connections planning is to being a catalyst for the industry as a whole in developing ideas that have relevance and power in today’s very different landscape. Lisa talked about the ‘new creative’ (a great reframing of and riposte to ‘new media’) and the importance of invention over collaboration, while Robbie used a great quote by Bruce Mau to define the need for communications today: “create utility and delight in interesting sustainable ways”.
Following this opening salvo was Jim Elms of Barkley who was one of two presentations that gave us an inside look at some of the tools agencies are developing to help instill media thinking into the creative process.
Michael Jager, one of the founders of the great design shop JDK, spoke about the need for brands to create emotion and devotion and was perhaps the bravest speaker of the day using a video projection while talking from the floor and not the pulpit. He talked about how design needs to make brands feel as emotionally charged and memorable as your first kiss, and took aim at the crass way the industry talks about customization and personalization – yes, Nike ID gives you more options but you still have to conform to a very limiting set of rules. He compared this to the Patagonia DIY shoe that they worked on where a basic kit can be put together in millions of ways. Very kindly, Michael had also designed a T shirt for everyone.
After Michael came the ‘Account Planning Power Hour’ (a pretty awful title, and as we talked about the night before may have been better called the BBC World Service given the British accents of the three of us speaking). I’ll post a little later about what I talked about, but Adrian and Ed were great. Adrian Ho (of Zeus Jones) gave a great, engaging presentation about how communication thinking needs to change in an era of demographic, cultural and industrial transformation. A lot of what he talked about is captured in this post but the key thing to me was that we have to develop new ways of thinking and doing as we now live in a post industrial society yet all our tools of thinking about and doing communication were born in the industrial age. He argued that planning has to move from designing communications to designing interactions, and that we need to make marketing less mechanical and more human. Here's Adrian's deck:
Ed Cotton (of BSSP and Influx) talked about the birth of Planning For Good, the results of the first brief and what’s been learned so far. He talked about how it’s an example of what he believes is Planning’s 4th wave, using our brains and talents to help good causes. (If you’re not already a member please join up on Facebook here. There will be a new brief going up this week and a new way to get engaged through the development of a network of coffee mornings in cities (currently 30 and counting) around the world).
After a fantastic taste of New Orleans over lunch at either Herbsaint or Luke, Paul Woolmington of Naked kicked off the afternoon and talked about why Naked came into existence (to liberate communications from advertising) and the culture inside the company. John King of Fallon, one of the initial trailblazers of the discipline, followed Paul. He talked a lot about what he believes connections planning is and why connection planning has to exist as a discrete discipline going forward. What hut home for me most was his call to focus on developing new, better metrics designed for each campaign rather than trying to measure the new world with old instruments. (By the way, John rocked a tuxedo well).
Following John was Scott Lucas of Dosage who talked about a classification of media he’s developed and that I won’t share as I sense it was pretty proprietary stuff. Scott was followed by what I thought was one of the best presentations of the day from Rob Perkins and Sidney Bosley of Goodby, They shared why and how Goodby has melded together its planning and media departments into one strategy group and how they are developing deceptively simple tools to create collaboration and communications full of depth, nuance and interestingness. I really liked their definition of the media planner as the architect of opportunity and the account planner as the architect of the story – gives very clear roles for each discipline and how they can best collaborate.
Last up was Rob Walker, who writes, among other things, the Consumed section in the New York Times and the blog Murketing. He talked about the genesis of the notion of murketing (murky marketing) and some of the stuff that’s going to be in his new book. Great guy and very funny – he poked fun at the Goodby guys presentation’s use of a day in the life timeline and said at least you lot haven’t worked out how to market to me when I’m sleeping.
Great day, and hopefully there’ll be a repeat next year. Thanks again to the guys at Trumpet, especially Robbie, Pat, Mike and Debbie.
I’m back from New Orleans and the ‘polygamous marriage’ of planning, creative and media thrown by the extraordinarily fantastic and generous folk at Trumpet. Without a doubt it was one of the best conferences I’ve been to in a long time that put the usual industry ‘mega’ conferences organized by the usual suspects to shame. A lot of reasons for this: great, diverse set of speakers; lots of short (twenty minute) provocative presentations rather than a handful of long sales pitches; lots of opportunity for conversation among the attendees; a deliberately manageable size of attendees; an amazing location (an old Masonic chapel rather than the usual anodyne conference room); the fact that there are no answers yet, just lots of experiences and perspective. But the biggest reason I think for its success was the amazingly generous hospitality, friendliness and energy shown by Robbie Vitrano and the folks at Trumpet who put the event on, and the passion of Michael Karnjanaprakorn for having an idea and making it happen. They not only helped create a forum where a mixed set of experiences and points of view could be shared, but gave us a taste of the resurgent spirit in New Orleans, whether lunch at the brilliant Herbsaint (if you are in New Orleans, you have to go), the pre-conference night at Vaughan’s or the opportunity to talk with a handful of interesting folk from the community (I had a great chat at lunch with the Director of Marketing of the NOCCA Institute who are doing some amazing work to keep the city’s rich musical and art heritage alive). I’ll put a post up a little later today of what was said during the day but keep your eyes posted on the site where they will be sharing much more detailed content including video of some of the presentations. Hopefully they’ll be an anniversary next year. And if there is I urge you to go. In fact, the one sad part of the day was the lack of creative and client representation – perhaps if they won’t come to us then we should go to them and have an event that ‘hijacks’ the conferences of these audiences. It’s too important a subject to ignore.
I'm busily distracting myself from trying to work out what to say at the Polygamous Weddings connections planning conference on Friday - so far two drafts have been thrown away as they were boring me, let alone anyone else. Anyway, anyone who's there please come and say hello at the conference or drop me a comment below. I'm excited - there's going to be a bunch of really good people there.
Hall and Partners in New York have had the great idea of organizing some evening discussions for the advertising and planning community in New York called Fresh Meet. The first one is on November 13th in their offices and is on the subject of 'seeing and selling the great idea'. After some cocktails there will be 3 short provocations from Sara Bamber (of Anomaly), the legendary Charlie Robertson (one of the first planners at BBH and the founder of Red Spider) and myself; and, more importantly, lots of conversation. All the details are here.
Alan Snitow at SSK has commendably taken it upon himself to do a mini survey among planners to investigate the industry use of and attitudes towards this thorny but important subject. Obviously the more who participate, the better the learning. You can take part by clicking here. It only takes a few minutes.
So Ed put together the presentation of the ideas from the Planning For Good collective. Really good response from the Idea Village in New Orleans and for a first run it feels that there may be something in this idea. Keep your eyes open on facebook for the new brief but thank you to all of you who contributed ideas. You can see the presentation here.