Back when marketing still meant something

Cirque Du Soleil mime on stilts at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton OHToday I was at the farmers market and their were clowns/mimes there from Cirque Du Soleil doing advance work for the Saltimbanco show next week. Call it “street teams” or guerrilla marketing, it was refreshing to see a business go out and actively seek customers in their environment. Doesn’t happen much anymore. We’ve gotten lazy- trying to invite our message in by interrupting their entertainment with commercials, their landscape with billboards and their websites with ads.

But while I was shopping, I was listening to American Public Radio’s Marketplace on my iPhone, and heard a story of how Procter & Gamble invented the market for Crisco- and it reminded me why they are the marketing powerhouse- not just by dollars spent, but by long history of working hard to connect with consumers. Our current industry fixation with “Branded Content” is nothing more than a new name for the soap opera- a P&G invention.

Here is an excerpt of the podcast- and a link to the whole she-bang. Highly recommended short podcast:

Marketplace: Crisco: A marketing revolution
…Crisco maker Procter & Gamble was a pioneer in the emerging science of creating demand. Historian Susan Strasser says the Crisco experiment started in 1911, when the company was selling Ivory soap. Cottonseed oil was a key ingredient.

Susan Strasser: And they decided to develop a product that would use a lot more cottonseed oil, so that they could control that market, really.

P&G’s scientists came up with this white, fluffy substance. It sort of resembled lard, and yet had no taste and no smell. It wasn’t food, exactly, but the company would ask consumers to bake and fry with it. Thus began an American mass-marketing milestone.

Strasser: Originally, they tried to call it Crispo, but then they discovered that a cracker factory already had the trademark.

P&G hawked its new product as a “scientific discovery.” The company sent free samples to every grocer in America. They held Crisco teas — an early version of the focus group. P&G even niche-marketed the product as kosher to the Jewish community….

In the podcast they talked about how P&G educated the consumer in how to use their products- something that the web is incredibly useful for. Yet, how many company websites feature big how-to communities built around their product?

Screen shot of Flash intro to BMW motorcycle Xplor siteFor instance, BMW motorcycles has an xplor area that’s focused on tips and tricks for sport touring – the segment of the market that they have a preferred position. How to pack your bike best, tips on GPS usage, and segments on where to go. However, it’s a members only site for BMW owners- you have to provide a vin number- and not open to the general public. Why not open the doors- so that potential customers can get a feel for what “joining the family” by buying BMW means?

Back to the Crisco story:

Marketing scholar David Stewart says P&G’s genius was not only giving people a convincing reason to try the product but training them to use it as well, with free cookbooks and recipes.

David Stewart: First of all, they focused on the health benefits — recognizing that this was a time we didn’t know about transfat and so forth. And then they taught people how to use it, they taught people how to cook. They gave them ideas. And between giving them a real benefit and information about how to use the product, they were able to get people to adopt it.

Crisco’s crowning achievement was creating demand for something nobody knew they wanted.

In today’s open information economy- putting your “recipes” behind a log-in is as silly as trying to charge for it. Would Google have been as successful if they had asked users to pay per search? Sounds absolutely stupid, doesn’t it? How about having to log in to use Google? Again, very silly.

To make friends with consumers today you have to be informative, useful, practical- and be able to demonstrate value. So, before you do an ad that is either hard sell- or entertaining- think first about what it does to enhance the customers life. The same way P&G introduced Crisco as the consumers friend: “Honestly, with a little Crisco in your frying pan, you can have supper on the table in a jiffy.”

That was marketing.

Ideas can come from anyone in a connected world- Apple ad from UK student

Apple may have missed a golden opportunity by not releasing the original sound bed to the “switch” campaign (Hello, I’m a mac, and I’m a PC)- but, TBWA/Chiat Day isn’t asleep at the wheel anymore.

A user generated ad by an 18 year old student in the UK is getting a quick remake in HD for broadcast after gathering interest on YouTube. [update] If you want to compare the ad- here is the Apple version- although the link may change (due to Apple still not understanding the principals of the social web: http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch/ads/

The New York Times sees this as yet another nail in the coffin for the advertising business- and they are probably right. In a networked world, where the consumer has the ability to be on a level playing field as your corporate mega-site, it’s no longer about delivering a message, but managing the communications between market and manufacturer.

Student’s Ad Gets a Remake, and Makes the Big Time – New York Times
The idea that you do not have to be a professional to create a good commercial is becoming widespread, in a trend known as consumer-generated content. Leave it to Apple to, paraphrasing the company’s old slogan a bit, think differently.

A television commercial for the new iPod Touch from Apple, scheduled to begin running on Sunday, 10-28 is being created by the longtime Apple agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day. It is based on a commercial that an 18-year-old English student and Apple devotee named Nick Haley, who says he got his first Macintosh when he was 3, created on his own one day last month.

His spot offers a fast-paced tour of the abilities of the iPod Touch, set to a song titled “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” by a Brazilian band, CSS.

Mr. Haley said he was inspired to make the commercial by a lyric in the song, “My music is where I’d like you to touch.”

He based the visual elements on video clips about the iPod Touch and other new products, which can be watched on the Apple Web site (apple.com). He uploaded his commercial to YouTube, where it received four stars out of a possible five and comments that ranged from “That’s awesome,” followed by 16 exclamation points, to “Makes me want to buy one and hack it.”

As of Thursday, Mr. Haley’s spot has been viewed 2,131 times on youtube.com. Among the viewers were marketing employees at Apple in Cupertino, Calif., who asked staff members on the Apple account at TBWA/Chiat/Day to get in touch with Mr. Haley about producing a professional version of the commercial…

Creative visionary and leader of TBWA/Chiat Day Lee Clow seems to be amused by this new world- and seems to get the emerging 2-way nature of advertising.

Consumers creating commercials “is part of this brave new world we live in,” said Lee Clow, chairman and chief creative officer at TBWA Worldwide, based in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Playa del Rey.

“It’s an exciting new format for brands to communicate with their audiences,” Mr. Clow said. “People’s relationship with a brand is becoming a dialog, not a monolog.”

The commercial based on Mr. Haley’s spot will be seen on football games Sunday afternoon and on “Desperate Housewives” and Game 4 of the World Series that night. It is also to be shown in Europe and Japan.

As for how faithful the professional spot is to the amateur version, Mr. Clow said, “we didn’t mess with his content” because “it has a charm to it, a youthful fun.”

The changes include more polished editing and filming the new version in high definition.

“My input was totally respected,” Mr. Haley said, adding that he considered the agency’s commercial “pretty similar” to the original.

The experience of working with the agency executives was “overwhelming, surreal and fantastic, all in one,” said Mr. Haley, who is studying politics at Leeds.

“This is my first taste” of advertising, he added, but offered a thoughtful response when asked what it means if consumers like him are willing to make commercials.

“That’s the whole point of advertising; it needs to get to the user,” Mr. Haley said. “If you get the user to make the ads, who better?”

As heartily as Mr. Clow endorsed the concept of user-generated content, he suggested that turnabout is fair play.

At TBWA, “we’re producing films we put on YouTube that we make in a day and a half in the parking lot,” he said, laughing.

The big question is how much did TBWA/Chiat Day charge for the “big idea” that came from a consumer? And does this signal the end of non-disclosure statements, and releases for any suggestions for campaigns? Are the locks coming off the doors of the creative think tanks? Will the best marketers of the future be the ones who throw open the doors with the customers to establish the brand together?

Stay tuned. And what do you think?

[update] note, it seems a lot of people are still confused between an iPod Touch and an iPhone. The product looks so similar and does so many of the same things, that people are searching for iPhone and “Music is my boyfriend”- maybe Apple should have considered a different back panel- not chrome and a different menu look for the Touch- I often look at the main menu of the screen and think the icons should be bigger to fill the screen.

Lyrics to “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” by a Brazilian band, CSS as in the new Apple iPod Touch commercial:

From all the drugs the one i like more is music
From all the junks the one i need more is music
From all the boys the one i take home is music
From all the ladies the one i kiss is music (muah!)

Music is my boyfriend
Music is my girlfriend
Music is my dead end
Music is my imaginary friend
Music is my brother
Music is my great-grand-daughter
Music is my sister
Music is my favorite mistress

From all the shit the one i gotta buy is music
From all the jobs the one i choose is music
From all the drinks the one i get drunk is music
From all the bitches the one i wannabe is music

Music is my beach house
Music is my hometown
Music is my kingsize bed
Music is my hot hot bath
Music is my hot hot sex
Music is my back rub
Music is where i’d like you to touch

Claro-que-sim
Fui escoteira-mirim
Direto da escola, não
Não ia cheirar cola
Nem basquete, pebolim
O que eu gosto não é de graça
O que gosto não é farsa
Tem guitarra, bateria, computador saindo som
Alguns dizem que mais alto que um furacão (rhéum)
Perto dele eu podia sentir
Saía de seu olho e chegava em mim
Sentada do seu lado
Eu queria encostar
Faria o tigela até o sol raiar
Debaixo do lençol
Ele gemia em ré bemol
Fiquei tensa
Mas tava tudo bem
Ele é fodão, mas eu sei que eu sou também

It’s the size of the idea, not the budget that counts

Screen Shot of “The Slog” site from Horizon AirWhen friends send you ads because they think they are “clever” – your faith is restored in our profession. Before I did a quick Google search on the ad, I already suspected it was the work of WongDoody out of Seattle. Not that it was stylistically identifiable- but because it was clearly an amazing use of a small budget to create something that was worth passing around.

That, my friends, is the mark of a great ad agency, one that understands our mantra of “It’s our job to make you more money than you pay us,” – that seems lost on many of the mega-agencies.

Here is the synopsis of the ad campaign from AdRants:

Adrants » Horizon Air Convinces Sloggers The Slog Is Not the Best Way to Travel
But the way WONGDOODY crafted the site – a collection of videos highlight each of “the slog’s” oddities and frustrations Old West-style – lends a certain attraction to the road.

In addition to the site, the campaign also includes print, radio and a branded truck with a museum-like diorama of the road that makes stops along the highway. Brochures will also be handed out to travelers on the road convincing them Horizon Air is really the way to go. In all, it’s one of the best airline campaigns we’ve ever seen.

To briefly explain how the campaign works so well on a limited budget:

  • The campaign connects with consumers based on a fundamental truth: commuting by car can really suck.
  • The small video clips aren’t video at all- but sequential stills with a solid voice over. This saves considerable cost to the client, yet delivers a comparable effect.
  • The short vignettes are funny- “the suicidal marsupial, the speed bump possum” doesn’t make it into every campaign.
  • No matter how entertaining, the stories connect back to the consumer/commuter to parts of their regular journey in a way that almost can’t but remind them that “I could have taken the plane.”
  • The campaign was supported by other low budget yet highly visible media to connect to the site.

There are of course a few flaws in the strategy- one being that while the time you save from your I-5 Slog by flying over all those dead possums- you now have to deal with the TSA and their less than friendly shake downs, not having a car when you reach your destination (not as bad for destination Portland where you can find decent public transit- not good for Seattle bound folks where it’s still car culture).

From a delivery standpoint- WongDoody hasn’t made the site as search friendly as possible- and have totally failed on accessibility standards. That’s the norm for almost all agencies today. Without costing the client, Horizon Air a dime more, the site could have been built in a way that met all 508 requirements and had exactly the same effect- only being much more search and consumer friendly.

For instance, there is no way to send you a link to just one of the funny stories- like the one about the dead possum in the middle of the road. I also abhor any site that starts playing audio without specific instructions for it to- just in case I’m looking at something somewhere where I shouldn’t be (like watching this at work).

All that aside, working with a smaller creative shop like Wong Doody can definitely get a client much better results than working with a mega agency. Not only is the work top-notch and yet affordable, they are genuinely nice people as I remember setting an appointment with Pat Doody on my last visit to Seattle on a moments notice.

So, next time you are looking for a big bang for a smaller budget- look to agencies that deliver high value concept- not high dollar production expenses. Making your advertising budget work hard is the mark of a true hot creative shop, and when that happens- friends and strangers will start sending out emails about your last campaign calling it clever.

It's the size of the idea, not the budget that counts

Screen Shot of “The Slog” site from Horizon AirWhen friends send you ads because they think they are “clever” – your faith is restored in our profession. Before I did a quick Google search on the ad, I already suspected it was the work of WongDoody out of Seattle. Not that it was stylistically identifiable- but because it was clearly an amazing use of a small budget to create something that was worth passing around.

That, my friends, is the mark of a great ad agency, one that understands our mantra of “It’s our job to make you more money than you pay us,” – that seems lost on many of the mega-agencies.

Here is the synopsis of the ad campaign from AdRants:

Adrants » Horizon Air Convinces Sloggers The Slog Is Not the Best Way to Travel
But the way WONGDOODY crafted the site – a collection of videos highlight each of “the slog’s” oddities and frustrations Old West-style – lends a certain attraction to the road.

In addition to the site, the campaign also includes print, radio and a branded truck with a museum-like diorama of the road that makes stops along the highway. Brochures will also be handed out to travelers on the road convincing them Horizon Air is really the way to go. In all, it’s one of the best airline campaigns we’ve ever seen.

To briefly explain how the campaign works so well on a limited budget:

  • The campaign connects with consumers based on a fundamental truth: commuting by car can really suck.
  • The small video clips aren’t video at all- but sequential stills with a solid voice over. This saves considerable cost to the client, yet delivers a comparable effect.
  • The short vignettes are funny- “the suicidal marsupial, the speed bump possum” doesn’t make it into every campaign.
  • No matter how entertaining, the stories connect back to the consumer/commuter to parts of their regular journey in a way that almost can’t but remind them that “I could have taken the plane.”
  • The campaign was supported by other low budget yet highly visible media to connect to the site.

There are of course a few flaws in the strategy- one being that while the time you save from your I-5 Slog by flying over all those dead possums- you now have to deal with the TSA and their less than friendly shake downs, not having a car when you reach your destination (not as bad for destination Portland where you can find decent public transit- not good for Seattle bound folks where it’s still car culture).

From a delivery standpoint- WongDoody hasn’t made the site as search friendly as possible- and have totally failed on accessibility standards. That’s the norm for almost all agencies today. Without costing the client, Horizon Air a dime more, the site could have been built in a way that met all 508 requirements and had exactly the same effect- only being much more search and consumer friendly.

For instance, there is no way to send you a link to just one of the funny stories- like the one about the dead possum in the middle of the road. I also abhor any site that starts playing audio without specific instructions for it to- just in case I’m looking at something somewhere where I shouldn’t be (like watching this at work).

All that aside, working with a smaller creative shop like Wong Doody can definitely get a client much better results than working with a mega agency. Not only is the work top-notch and yet affordable, they are genuinely nice people as I remember setting an appointment with Pat Doody on my last visit to Seattle on a moments notice.

So, next time you are looking for a big bang for a smaller budget- look to agencies that deliver high value concept- not high dollar production expenses. Making your advertising budget work hard is the mark of a true hot creative shop, and when that happens- friends and strangers will start sending out emails about your last campaign calling it clever.

What ad agencies need to learn from Rupert Murdoch

Back in 2005 Rupert Murdoch was interviewed in Business week, long before he purchased the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones:

The Birth of Murdoch.com
BROAD VISION. “Our strategy is quite simple,” Murdoch said. “News Corp. at its core is about content. The Web at its core is about personal choice. What we are aiming to do is combine the two, and in the process redefine the meaning of [an] Internet vertical.”

And in buying up newspapers, which ad agencies and CMO’s are writing off as an advertising medium- Murdoch is proving he’s way ahead of everyone else: he’s buying content generators, which will give him eyeballs. He’s planning on earning attention the old fashioned way- by providing useful content.

Which brings me to advertising as practiced today. We’re no longer generating ads to ride along with content- now more than ever the ad has to be able to stand alone as its own content. Not by intruding, but by being invited as content worth watching. So fun, interesting, informative that consumers will actually want to share it, interact with it, or use it to expand their own personal equity stash.

So, before you look at your next media buy and your new ad campaign, look at it as content first, and think what you would do with it? If you would want to hang it on your wall, share it with friends, save it to solve problems, or just keep it because it’s beautiful or funny- then go ahead and run it.

If it doesn’t do any of those things, or is mostly you beating your chest, maybe it’s time to select a new ad agency.