I deliberately try not to shill work done at M!, but I wanted to share this because it's the probably the project I've been most excited about this year.
A simple idea - don't just do a one off event for the new top of the range performance Cadillac but instead turn it into a deeper experience for those who participated and interesting for those who didn't.
There's a ton of good stuff out there about how people really do things, and how behavior really spreads (Mark clearly has contributed a huge amount to this). And as someone working in advertising, it's often quite depressing learning that it's not what we do that really matters, but what people do to what we do; that advertising hasn't got the strong influence we might like to think it does (shock horror, people don't do what we tell them or think about things how we ask them to).
So, is there a role and future for communications? Well, perhaps there is but it's a little different to what we tend to think. This week's New Scientist has an excellent article about some research at the University of Groningen that empirically proves the 'broken window' theory. Here's an excerpt:
In the most striking experiment, Keizer left a €5 note protruding from a fully addressed envelope that itself was poking out of a mailbox. The team discovered that people were less likely to steal the money if there was no graffiti or litter on or around the mailbox.
With no litter or graffiti, 13% of the passers-by stole the money. Thefts doubled to 27% when the mailbox was daubed with graffiti, or to 25% when it was surrounded by litter. "It's quite shocking that the mere presence of litter doubled the number of people stealing," says Keizer.
In another experiment, motorists returning to collect their cars were three times more likely to trespass through an illegal, 200-metre short-cut to the car park if bicycles had been illegally locked to railings next to the forbidden entrance.
A massive 87% took the short cut when they saw the illegally parked bicycles, despite a police sign saying "No Trespassing". This compared with 27% trespassing when the bicycles were not locked to the fence.
Another experiment in a cycle park bearing a clear anti-graffiti sign, revealed that cyclists were twice as likely to leave litter if the researchers had daubed graffiti on the walls. The team attached bogus flyers to the bikes' handlebars to put the owners in a situation where they had to decide whether or not to litter.
So, perhaps we should think about communications as being more about environment management, creating an environment where people are more likely to behave in a favorable way. About seeding the right environment where behavior is more likely to take hold. Which puts us squarely back in the culture business...
The heart of my argument at the Brazilian APG centered on the 3 big fundamental problems I believe we face as planners, and, by extension, as an ad industry.
First, we tend more often than not to operate in the wrong 'business' (as we often tell our clients in workshops and pitches). We think of ourselves in the business of the consumer, the brand or the business when really we need to be in the culture business. Culture is what we compete with for people's time, and as I've banged on about a lot before (as have man others), ads are rather flat and boring compared to the depth, nuance and richness of culture. So, we need to think about what is it that we can do to help solve a business challenge in a way that contributes positively to culture.
This links to the second challenge, that we've been doing a bad job of translation. Dan Ariely points out in Predictably Irrational (as Faris has pointed out) that we live in two worlds, one made up of social exchanges and the other of market exchanges. We've tended to try and translate commercial grammar into social grammar, and done a pretty bad job. Perhaps, we should instead be looking at translating social grammar back into the world of business; start with social grammar and work back from that rather than try to awkwardly co-exist. Looking back, this is what we did at M! with Napster - the social grammar of music helped us understand the real business problem Napster faced.
The final challenge I've talked about before is the pursuit of the wrong objectives. You tend to fail when you are heading in the wrong direction, and that is I believe what we have been doing with our desire to chase goals of awareness, persuasion, image, etc. A much better goal is the goal of energy or momentum (as all the data in 'The Brand Bubble' points out).
I then went into what this means for the type of stuff we create and what planning can do to help this. I've said a lot of that stuff before but one thing that seemed to spread on the live stream on Monday was the thought that it's not about social media, it's about social ideas. Much bigger than a channel of delivery, and I believe a different way of thinking about brands and their communication.
I spent my 40 minutes talking about the thing that keeps me up at night,
a fear that advertising is coasting into irrelevance and planning is to be held
responsible for that.
My contention is that if a planners job is to make sure the work works
(as I believe it is) then we're in big trouble. All the data suggests advertising,
more often than not, does not meet its goals and doesn't change behavior. We've
done little to address this. We chase new media channels but we don't
challenge how we think communication works (or as Mark would put it how ideas spread).
So, I talked about the three big, fundamental problems I believe we need
to address. I'll blog about those a little later. In the meantime, here's the charts.
Adrian and I were kindly invited to talk at this year's Brazilian Account Planning conference. Adrian's already posted on this and I share a lot of his thoughts. Amazing energy and optimism at the conference, a real sense of possibility and like Adrian I believe it will be cultures like this that may drive the discipline forward.
It was a great conference put together very quickly by some really passionate planners led by the president of the APG, Ken Fujioka (I'm backing the unofficial campaign for his re-election) with a great mix of speakers that puts a lot of other similar conferences I've attended to shame.
Not just due to a good variety of provocative talks but also a really positive energy in the room and a lot of conversation. One of the speakers showed some data that showed how pervasive social media is in Brazil and the live feed of the conference reinforces that.
Highlights of the day:
Tiago Pinto, the head of marketing for Nike in Brazil was more proof that a) Nike have some of the smartest, most progressive clients and b) are one of the few global brands that can seamlessly mesh themselves into local culture.
Marcelo Tas was someone I knew nothing about before the day. Turns out his career has been a mix of Douglas Rushkoff, Dennis Pennis and John Stewart. He currently hosts a provocative, funny take on news but as also one of the first people to study the internet in the late 80s at NYU. He made some great points on how to be interesting online, drawing on his own, and his children's, experience. (Impossible to follow, so guess who got that honor...)
In the afternoon, after the breakout sessions, there were three great, very different, speakers. Jovem Nerd were hilarious and talked about how they created a cultural phenomenon (the Nerdcast) from scratch. (I'm convinced if Crispin ever get wind of this stuff they're going to be working together).
The were followed by Fred Gelli, the founder of Tatil Design. Great talk on his career in sustainable design and the influence of nature. Lots of echoes of the unproduct stuff Russell, among others, has been talking about.
Finally, Adrian gave a fantastic, personal and brave speech on how failure has taught him some powerful lessons, lessons powerful enough for him to leave Fallon to start Zeus Jones. I guess he summed it up as, "I felt that most of the time I was talking about things that I do not believe, just bullshit. I thought I better get out of advertising."
He made a fantastic observation that advertising limits the power of strategy. All the richness, depth and nuance in the strategy that makes it powerful becomes lost as you hit the thin end of the wedge of making an ad. You can see his presentation here.
A great day. I want to thank everyone there for their warmth and the conversations, and particularly thank Ken, Daniel, Caio and Joao and Paulo for the invitation and their hospitality above and beyond the call.
I'm just back from 3 days in Sao Paulo as a guest, with Adrian Ho, of the Brazilian Account Planning Group. We were the "gringo" speakers at their annual conference. Going to blog a little later about the conference and what I talked about but first wanted to talk about the visit itself.
First, amazing people - warm, friendly, optimistic. Second, amazing architecture and sights, from the old to the new; hotels inspired by watermelons to art deco.
Third, an amazing new Museum of Football. Captured the nation's love of the game and there brilliance at multimedia design.
A great city, wish I was there longer. Thank you everyone for making us so welcome.