Sunday, April 29, 2007

Should your ads look like your brand?

A typical execution/idea killing comment is “if you remove the logo, you will not know that the ad is for your brand” or similarly “if you replace the logo the ad would work for another brand”.
These arguments have killed so many potentially good ideas, but let’s take a look at some campaigns that were able to overcome this obstacle and air without getting such criticism.
Here are a few examples of the most successful ads with different endings:

Imagine the Sony “Balls” ad ending with the signature of Skittles or even Samsung.

Or the Honda “grrr” ending with Green Peace or even Toyota diesel engines.

I recently had this argument with a client over a campaign that he claimed was very good, but “if you replace the logo with that of the competition or another brand, it would still work”. I was furious, my argument was as follows “if not for advertising all brands are the same, and the first brand to own a platform or idea emerges as the winner” and in my example I was not only referring to the positioning at the birth of the brand, I would argue that each service or ad can have its own positioning as long as it gets the message across, and entertains/engages the customer.

A typical example you would hear as an argument is Absolut and how all of its ads say absolute without the logo, but I believe that this is an exception and not the rule.

In conclusion, i think that an ad is designed to use a creative platform to sell your brand, and not to use your brand to sell a creative platform.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The future of technology - as predicted by Intel

Intel gives us a little taste of the potential of technology in the very near future... think of the advertising potential, and the possibility of having all of this for free in exchange for a bit of advertising spam.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Impulse Advertising

According to OgilvyAction Shopper Marketing
“A recent study revealed that 38%* of purchase decisions are unplanned, and that only 5% of consumers are actually loyal to one brand. In fact, 68% of consumers are perennial 'switchers', swayed by price cuts, promotions, curiosity, and even their mood.**”

I believe in impulse buying, and that when a person sees an ad s/he should be able to instantly access the service without having to write it on his/her shopping list or try and remember the ad s/he saw on TV when at points of purchase; the conventional remedy to this is shopper marketing. There are however, much more ways to promote impulse buying; yes a shelf-talker allows you to directly pick up the product communicated, so does a vending machine, but there are plenty of other ways for allowing customers to instantly get what they see.

I would say the next step in shopper marketing is something I would like to call ‘impulse advertising’ a new breed of advertising that allows instant access to the products communicated.

Several companies have already started to cater to this need like
shoptext which allows customers to buy an item instantly by sending a text message, and qode which allows people to take a photo of a code (on an ad) using their mobile phone and they are instantly directed to a certain website using mobile internet.

We also have the same problem online, for example when you click on a web banner or online ad for a book, you get directed to the home page of the book with details on the author etc, but why not be instantly be directed to the check-out page at
amazon where the item is already in your cart and all you need to do is pay. All marketers think that people want more and more information about products, when a lot of the time people just have the impulse to buy, and the more details and red-tape they are exposed to the more time they have to reconsider their impulse killing the spontaneity.

On the same note, why can’t you have products that you can instantly buy (with a click) in online games? For example why not have a bookstore in
Second Life in which you can buy books in both the virtual world and reality (amazon is already working on such a project, click here for details)?

Our ads should be more interactive to cater for impulse buying, and with telecom operators and the internet, it has become very easy to do so. A simple example would be linking the internet or a phone to ads whereby you can click a button on the ad and insert your location to order the product advertised (this can be done on a range of media from lightboxes in malls, to bathroom ads in clubs) you can prepay by credit card or cash upon delivery.“With the click of a button” is the motto typically used for advertising all online transactions when in fact you need to log into a website, type something like 50 words and 30 clicks to get to what you want. Instant

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Finally we have online TV: Joost

I just got my joost beta trial after waiting for almost a month and the half, and it was definitely worth the wait. Joost is interactive online TV created by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (founders of Skype and Kazaa).

Joost includes a small software that you download (free) allowing you to access a multitude of TV channels with hundreds of shows (free), all available in good quality full screen viewing; and yes it works on regular broadband networks (I have a 512k and it works very well). As opposed to YouTube it provides continuous viewing just like regular TV you can choose to watch a channel, or even search for a show and after you finish watching that show you continue watching the regular programs on the selected channel. The idea behind joost is that people watch TV as a continuously and sometimes just like to play it in the background. It also includes the conventional web 2.0 gadgets namely rating, search, chat and instant messaging, so you find shows, discuss, and recommend. Joost currently offers the following

My experience has been incredible so far, there are some very interesting programs, including bite sized entertainment that I watch during downloads or when I only have a few minutes.
The most intriguing feature I saw was targeted advertising. Just as conventional TV joost makes its money through advertising; what was particularly different though was ad placement, I was watching a short movie called ‘The Beautiful Lie’ in which there is a scene with a girl putting on mascara. As the camera pans on the girl’s eyelashes, the film cuts to a ‘Maybelline’ mascara TV ad. Other interesting placements included ads for ‘Garnier’ shampoo on hair shots. Other ads include still screens of ‘brought to you by xxx’ before certain clips or movies but I felt that those were annoying – as waiting 4 seconds or so on a still screen is somewhat irritating and feels like the brands did not want to put in an effort to advertise so they just supplied their logos.

Joost is the most advanced example I have witnessed on both convergence and and web 2.0, because it mixes TV and the internet seamlessly, and unlike most start-ups it has a very well studied business plan / business model. It also does not infringe on any copyrights which seems to be a major deterrent amongst such companies. At the same time unlike Skype, it does not use the infrastructure of the very industry it is replacing (skype uses the phone network to make internet-to-phone calls, whereas skype only uses the TV content and not the broadcasting network/infrastructure) which makes the setup much less bureaucratic/political.
As for radical transparency, joost has its own

Sign-up for a beta trial now!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Snacking trends vs. traditional content meal consumption

Web 2.0 added a real-life dimension to the internet; from reality clips on YouTube, to real comments at online forums, to Second Life. This has also led to the observation of multimedia interaction trends similar to those of human food consumption.

As opposed to the traditional consumption of content defined by reading a full article or watching a complete movie (synonymous with a complete meal), a new trend of content snacking is emerging; from RSS feeds that only display headlines/snip-its of articles, to mobile episodes of 24. The same snacking consumers do have occasional online meals, but mostly so when they have sampled the content through a snack and believe there is merit in consuming it. Content snacking is somewhat like receiving an executive summary on elements of interest.

Some examples of content snacks include:
Thumbnails, email headers, widgets on MACs/Vista desktops, 30second Nintendo games, SMS, MMS, YouTube (sports highlights and other), news feeds on Facebook, mobile porn, ring-tones (as opposed to songs), tip of the day, “previously on …” TV recaps (for 24, lost etc.), dashboards in general, and the list goes on…

Time has always been of the essence, and as we drive down the calendar more and more services are catering to time optimization. Snacking services are one example, they provide information overload in seconds and help people know a little about everything and the hyperlinks allow you to click through what you’re interested in for a full multi-course meal.
People’s attention spans are certainly getting shorter especially with the content overload one is exposed to online; an interesting snacking service I came across was Radio SASS (Short Attention Span System) a website that offers shortened songs allowing users to “get the memorable heart of each song, with an average length of approximately two minutes with no self indulgent guitar solos, no long intros, no repetition of choruses again and again.”
I first heard about this trend from the 3GSM World Telecom Congress 2007 in Barcelona.

Lesson learned: minimize content, or provide summaries for your readers allowing them to delve into only the content they are interested in.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Radical Transparency

I just read an amazing article in WIRED magazine. It spoke of a topic I have been trying to sell to clients over the past few months. It’s about exposing your organization beyond the general “letting go” of brands everyone is talking about. Below are a few quotes that attracted my attention.

- “A single Google search determines more about how they're perceived than a multimillion-dollar ad campaign”

- “The Internet has inverted the social physics of information. Companies used to assume that details about their internal workings were valuable precisely because they were secret. If you were cagey about your plans, you had the upper hand; if you kept your next big idea to yourself, people couldn't steal it. Now, billion- dollar ideas come to CEOs who give them away; corporations that publicize their failings grow stronger. Power comes not from your Rolodex but from how many bloggers link to you - and everyone trembles before search engine rankings.”

- “Radical forms of transparency are now the norm at startups - and even some Fortune 500 companies. It is a strange and abrupt reversal of corporate values.”

- “Venture capitalists now demand that CEOs be fluent in blogspeak.”

- “Microsoft now encourages its engineers to blog freely about their projects.”

- “Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system.”

- “When you type in a term, the search engine puts the site with the most links pointing toward it at the top of the list. That means bloggers and discussion boards are extremely powerful in influencing Google's search results, because bloggers and discussion-board posters are promiscuous linkers, constantly pointing to things they love or hate.”

- “It's hard to trust anyone who doesn't list their dreams and fears on Facebook.”
Read the full article here

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Technology Incest

Let’s look at the semi-conductor as the mother of all our technological advancements today that has given birth to the computer who in turn bred the internet and procreated the likes of You Tube and Skype.

Would we be considered hypocrites if our society considers incest a taboo while praising the act of the TV coming on our mobile phone, our Palms Hot Sync-ing with our laptops, having Second Life unload on the internet, cameras shooting their flash through the shrinking mobile phone, fixed lines plugging in to the internet, or even online anti-virus applications checking out our laptop when in sleep mode?

Just as homosexuals started becoming accepted in some societies, the inter-relationship of technology is becoming more legitimate and liberalized. What used to be copper is now bursting out of the closet and seeing the light of fiber optics. What started off as a civil marriage between AOL and Time Warner to breed content for the online world has turned into a giant orgy of technology leading to the convergence of telecom on a bed known as the IP platform – and the only person enjoying the orgasm is you, the consumer.

This ongoing orgy has been getting more and more intense over the years and has resulted in several off-springs until today. Similar to the evolution of mankind, the evolution of these offspring is continuously adapting to suit our needs and allowing the survival of the fittest.

What started off as ICQ and mIRC has manifested in what we all now know as Skype, and what was once known as a website developed and edited by a programmer is now known as an amateur’s blog, and Google Video has evolved to You Tube and Joost.

More and more gadgets are being developed to feed the fetishes of these technologies, ranging from the basic USB memory stick, to iPods, PDAs, digital cameras, smart phones, and media centers. The mating was heeded through different calls, from GPS and RSS to Vlogs and Vod-Casts. Many Viagra-like applications were also developed to sustain this activity and eliminate potential impotence like You Tube, Google Earth, Google Desktop, My Space, and Flickr to name a few.

This incest has led to the blurring of boundaries, not only those of TV, Internet, Telephones, and mobiles; but also the boundaries between people and industries. Examples of this include having the person who takes your order from the McDonald’s drive through based in a call center miles away, or tutors for children in the states based in India.

Many different technologies have been developed over the years and each has spun off on its own route. As the internet gained market share every technology wanted to use it for leverage. Such industries include TV and Radio (streaming), telephones (VOIP), the mobile industry (WiFi and WiMax), newspapers and magazines (online news, RSS etc.), the government (egovernments) credit card companies (online payment) and even life (Second Life), this list can go on forever. Convergence is the use of the internet to create one linking platform between all of these different technologies and making them talk to each other eliminating the need of humans (data enterers, programmers, operators etc.) to do so. Convergence definitely brings the spotlight on the internet, and calls for major reform to accommodate all usage, and a lot of standardization to ensure compliance among the different usages of the net and ensure compatibility across the board.

In summary convergence is intended to leverage the wisdom from each individual technology into one platform. This would eventually make everything smarter, and is giving rise to the smart phone, the smart car, the smart home, and eventually as the whole nano and biotech industry kicks off the smart you. This would require a smarter lifestyle and a change in everything we do from the alarm that wakes us up and the machine that makes coffee to how often (if at all) we visit the doctor. (An example would be a global clock linked to your workplace working hours, that generates your coffee in the morning with instructions from your barista in Italy, tests your DNA as a morning medical check-up directly consulting with your doctor, and syncs with your mobile phone generating your diet of the day.

Convergence is giving rise to user generated content which is becoming the hottest commodity today according to TIME magazine who named ‘YOU’ the person of the year, and Ad Age who named ‘The Consumer’ as the advertising agency of the year. With convergence consumers can access all the tools necessary to create their own content as opposed to receiving it from someone else. An example would be you and friends making your own movie since you have access to the most advanced movie making tools and movie making experts through online forums; as opposed to watching a Hollywood production.

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Conversation with Robocop

Tone of Voice: “Our brand needs to sound human, and our copy should read as if you are having a conversation with someone over coffee”

Brand Values: Approachable, Honest, Humble, and Friendly.

If your dreaded brand guideline booklet does not have any resemblance to the above, I’m sure you have come across many brands that do. As trivial as it may sound it is the sole yet high rising and mighty pillar that holds up marketing managers’ false sense of hope. Everyone wants to have an approachable brand that is friendly and human-like; but is setting strict communication guidelines and adhering to preset values the best way to do it? Do you actually set guidelines, values, and conversation parameters before you go out to have coffee with your friends? Imagine that, human beings with tone of voice guidelines…I believe the closest we can get to imagining that would be a cup of coffee with Robocop.

In reality conversation is not a science, and therefore advertising cannot be one either. To give justice to the tone of voice statement above (mentioned in most corporate guidelines); a brand should not have preset values and tone of voice guidelines. When one goes out for coffee or to a bar s/he change conversation topics more than 10 times, and as one does s/he changes tonality, facial expressions, and attitudes so how can brands stick to preset characteristics and be human? A person who speaks in the same way all the time is considered monotonous and boring, whereas a brand that does that is praised for its consistency.
Nic touched on this point a little with his post on karaoke brands.

I believe that brands should communicate in different ways and have constantly evolving values, from friendly to frustrated, honest to sarcastic, and non-fiction informative to fictional entertaining. Similar to the human stream of consciousness and the constantly evolving conversational topics that pick up on ‘values’ from previous ones, brand communication should narrate a story linking all of their communication together. As with human conversation, there need not be an overarching theme, but there needs to be continuation or a trail. Here’s an example of a human evolving conversation: Hey did you watch the game yesterday, that referee made a really bad call; he certainly did I wonder how the NBA would treat such an offence. At work if I make a bad call on my inventory shelf-life I get a 20% pay cut. Yeah I hear you, at home if I don’t notice that my wife changed her hair color I get to sleep on the couch. Speaking of your wife, are you free for poker next Monday?”

For brands to be human and friendly they should not be what the industry labels as ‘consistent’, they should create conversation and build on that conversation; also contrary to old school advertising rituals a brand should not have the typical smile and friendly attitude in everything it says – unless you want it to sound like

On the same note and somewhat building on transmedia planning, when a addresses you (similar to anyone else), it should not have the same tone when talking to you over coffee as it does when you are at work, or having a drink in a pub. Humans naturally change moods, talk about different things, and have a general dynamic personality; therefore if brands want to become more personal, human, and engaging they should do the same.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Human Element

They say to include humans in all telecom ads to make them more emotional, and make the product/services resemble the lifestyle of the audience.
The reason given behind this request is technophobia; people are afraid of technology, not afraid in the sense it will invade their countries and kill their children, but in the sense that they will not know how to use it or it would make their lives more complicated. Given technophobia howevr, would it really make a difference if one reads “you can now make calls at half the price” on a plain background, or if s/he sees a person on the phone somewhere (with or without the phone) and reads “now you can talk twice as much with your friends and family”?
What I’m trying to say here is that portraying the human element, be it in terms of showing human imagery or adding a humanizing twist to the message does not necessarily make the ad better.
Personally I’m pro simplicity, and believe that the less number of words and the less unnecessary elements; the more effective the ad would be and the simpler the service would be perceived.
This does not typically apply to all communications, as in certain situations an image can help clarify the product/service for example Video calls, MMS, or in some cases mobile internet. But why focus on the human element specifically the over-used facial expressions that are splattered across all image banks showing either a person with his/her mouth open in awe or with a cheesy smile to represent the comfort this service has provided – why should we show the people how they should feel, as opposed to making them feel it as a result of viewing the communication.
Shouldn’t telecom advertising be simple, especially when the product is good enough to sell itself? Why should all services be oversold in an ad with a twist that takes the reader to mars and back? In many cases creativity can be illustrated through a metaphor but what most ads try to do is play on the metaphor more than the actual service, only to follow it with very high level talk about the offering as if it’s god’s gift to mankind.
In conclusion having humans in an ad do not make it more emotional, and definitely not simpler. Most importantly it should not be a mandatory for all ads.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Communication Blasphemy

In my five years in the telecom industry, I have developed quite the allergy to certain words.

I sit in a briefing or a brainstorming session and I cringe at the sound of certain words used across all products, services, product managers, marketing people, even ad agency reps (who think they understand the industry). These washed-out words should be banned from the telecom industry; and more so in telecom advertising.

Some words have embedded themselves in the jargon of telecom services advertising and have become synonymous with vomit-inducing headlines like ‘the art of’.

Among these words are:
1. Efficient
2. Convenient
3. Get more (as each telco considers this as a soft blow on competition)
4. Innovation
5. Peace of mind
6. More for less
7. Customer experience
8. Better value

Here is an example:
“Mobile email is a very efficient service because it lets you access your email while on the go, whereas it is also convenient because you should not be stuck in one place; it allows you to get more things done at the same time and it is extremely innovative. Wouldn’t you like to have peace of mind, and not worry about being at your desk all the time? Mobile email offer better value to customers, and enhances the overall customer experience

Did you understand anything about the service? These ‘filler’ words are used by telecom people to make briefs have more text and look descriptive mostly to cover the ignorance of the people writing them. If the chocolate industry can differentiate the positioning between Snickers and Mars, the least telco people should do is clearly diversify their services’ positioning.

If the cliché term of ‘out of the box’ is to apply, these words would be in the wood used in the manufacturing of such a box.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Telecom Advertising

I’m sure that anyone of you has seen at least 10 repulsive telecom ads…
Telecom advertising is an overlooked field. Almost all ad agencies would love to have a telecom operator client as they are among the top 10 advertising spenders in all countries; usually they regret that afterwards though due to the short lead times, long working hours, and over demanding clients (mostly from technical backgrounds); all of which result in a relatively low quality end product.

Telecom advertising is a very specific industry in many ways different from conventional advertising mostly due to the nature of the beast (it is a media within itself that is constantly expanding to include more and more industries) and constant evolution. Advertising agencies rarely have such experts though, due to the high turn-over of people on the accounts, mostly due to the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph.
Despite their differences all telecom operators require the same campaigns, usually in the following order from launch date (I will use a mobile operator for the sake of the example as they do the most advertising):

1. A teaser / announcement to indicate their launch date
2. A brand launch campaign
3. Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns (showing that they care about the community)
4. Core Product campaigns (usually prepaid and post-paid)
5. Coverage Campaign (to show that their networks are now complete)
6. Payment methods campaign (listing the channels in which can pay their bills)
7. 3G campaign (focusing on their innovative technology, and claiming first to market)
8. Roaming campaign (mentioning how many operators they have roaming agreements with)
9. Airport campaigns (selling their ‘visitor’ lines, asking inbound roamers to switch to their networks, promoting their mobile internet roaming capabilities, and mentioning how you can feel at home while roaming on their network)
10. Store opening campaigns (indicating that new stores are opening and mentioning their locations)
11. International call rate reduction campaign
12. Tariff reduction campaign
13. Mobile Content campaign (focusing on the mobile portal and what content it includes, mostly music, ringtones, ring back tones, news etc.)
14. Value added services campaigns (these are dispersed throughout the communication plan depending on when a new service is rolled out)
15. Mobile Internet campaign (on both accessing the internet through your phone, or data cards that plug into your laptop)
16. Customer service campaigns
17. Business campaign (launching their business services division)
18. Business product campaigns (mostly data-cards, push email, and closed user groups)
19. Focusing on the Youth segment (through universities, and hip music)
20. High end packages (special numbers / elite services etc)
21. Loyalty programs
22. Bundling of products and services
23. Bouquet ads mentioning all of the offerings of the operator

Usually due to urgency, wanting to communicate so many messages at the same time, and the need to claim first-to-market (because innovation is a key platform); these operator end up with badly managed campaigns that are not fully integrated (mostly newspaper ads and mentions on their website and in stores), and sacrifice on the creative quality of their communications. All of the above results in a confused customer who knows that an operator has many services but cannot indicate or quantify them.

Several global learnings can be made from the above, these include:
1. Ideal campaign roll-out plans (starting with print and moving to ambient media, online ads etc)
2. Touch points management (deciding on what to communicate at which touch points)
3. Simple communications (mentioning the key benefit of a service and not listing all of its attributes)
4. More focus on PR and making most announcements through press releases that induce viral support
5. Updatable bulletins on new products and services
6. Developing more targeted advertising to specific segments
7. Focusing more on direct marketing and database building
8. Creating online forums in which customers can better express their views and usage patterns
9. Creating simple template ads that can be adapted and published as soon as new products and services are developed and need to be instantly rolled-out for claiming first-to-market
10. Media management (deciding on what are the best media for each campaign and where each product is most likely thought of by the customer – i.e. mobile payment at cash registers)
11. Giving autonomy to marketing-communications departments at telecom operators separating engineers from creative communications

The objective of this article is to highlight the need for telecom advertising expertise which can boost revenue for operators through simple communication management solutions that do not apply to other categories.