Stealing ideas but not getting caught

We love it when our ads get stolen. Literally, pulled off the wall and taken home. Because when an ad stops being an ad and is “art” you’ve made an emotional connection.

We also love stealing from the best. Think about it, stealing from the worst sure doesn’t make sense. We spend a lot of time studying the best at advertising and taking all of those parts and creating a remix. Because, as any musician will tell you- everything is influenced by something.

Theft is Quentin Tarantinos go to solution in every one of his movies. He says he doesn’t do homages, he steals. So, why is “stealing” frowned upon in business? Blame the lawyers, blame patent law, blame copyright law, blame the idea that creativity has to be original- it doesn’t. It just has to be original to you.

We were recently looking at other ad agency introduction videos and came across a video from Crate 47. We’d never heard of Crate 47, and we thought they were some creative chaps from across the pond, except, well, their promo reminded us of something else…

So we went and watched it, and at first, we thought, maybe this wildly successful viral video was actually inspired by the Crate 47 video…

This ad went viral with a bullet, and was reputedly made for $4.5K Of course, having a CEO that had training in comedy with the Upright Citizens Brigade sure helps. Most CEO’s frown against humor- and would never say their product “is fucking great.”

We looked at the dates: DSC: Published on Mar 6, 2012 with 25M views.
Crate 47: Published on Sep 27, 2012 with 43,500 views. We’re guessing it’s pretty obvious who was the chicken and who laid the egg. But, does it matter? No. Crate 47 took an idea, and made it their own. Their claim of being “Strategically creative” was on the money. Why spend inordinate amounts of time thinking up a concept- when there is a successful model of one to copy? They aren’t in the same business- one sells razor blades by mail, and the other- creativity on getting their message out.

Did it work? Well, of the agency videos we’ve been finding, they’ve had a lot more views than most. And, when it was made, they just had an office in Brighton, but, now, they’re in London too. We’re guessing they got some bangers for their pounds.

Considering that the world at large has the attention span of under 9 seconds, and the amount of media they consume is growing at an exponential rate, being able to produce a grand slam home run (a viral video) is great, but, often what will win games is a constant stream of single base hits.

So if you are going to jack some ideas, remember, be nimble, be quick and jump right over the old school shtick that stealing is shameful. Steve Jobs stole his idea on stealing from Picasso, we admit to stealing our ideas on what makes effective advertising from the best in the business.

Don Draper, Coke and the fundamentals of advertising in just a few words

The hint of what was to come in the ending was summed up in this very short exchange in the episode before the finale. Don is asked to fix the coke machine

His response: “Don’t they do that”

Coca-Cola is one of the top brands of all time, and they, for the most part, outsource the “fixing” of their brand to guys like Don. They make the Coke- but, the few, the proud, the brave, come up with the ideas to sell it, which Don proceeds to do in the last scene of Mad Men, sitting on a hilltop, meditating, Ommmmmmm…… ding!

Clients often their ad agenices “to give me a new one” when what they really need is a new way to connect emotionally with their customers.

We have a favorite quote from Guy Kawasaki that fits: “advertising is the plastic surgery of business,: a procedure to make ugly and old products look good” from his book Selling the Dream,  and that’s what Don does.

How the big ideas come, is still the magical part of advertising. The really big ideas, almost always fit on a cocktail napkin.


Why everyone in advertising should run for political office

America has changed a lot since “Honest Abe” ran for president. There were no Madison Avenue types involved in politics in his day, no spin doctors, no data mining, psychograpics, demographics, Facebook graphs or Google Zeitgeist- a politician had to be convincing, charismatic, trustworthy and most of all honest.

There was a lot of door knocking, face-to-face time, speeches on town squares and debates- true debates. The candidate didn’t know his numbers- he knew people. His word (and yes his- there weren’t female politicians in Abe’s day) was his bond.

As advertising as we know it today was in its infancy, one agency, which grew to be the largest in the US- McCann, introduced its tagline in 1912- “Truth well told” which is still in use today. When it comes to great advertising, the most powerful tool at a copywriters disposal is still the same- find the one unique, universal truth about your client- and hoist it as high as you can. If there is one thing that consumers are on to these days its when they are being lied to in advertising (unfortunately- they haven’t figured out how to do it in politics yet).

Yet, a few days ago, I was a speaker at a social media conference- and looked around the room as I watched the back channel twitter stream fill with those buzzword bingo winners that spew out at an amazing rate of about 1 every 3 minutes. These “Big Ideas” get condensed down to 140 characters or less and copiously get sent into the twitterverse to have a half-life of about half a day (yes, Twitter is very temporary- as the service has grown, the length of time your tweet remains in their system has shortened exponentially- see this post of ours “Note taking at tech conferences is passé”) and include such nuggets as “EC=MC” which translates to Every Company is a Media Company- which all sounds great and wonderful, except that “EC≠MC” in my experience- which is Every Consumer is not a Media Consumer.

How do I arrive at that? I’ve run for office, something few people in advertising do- but lots of politicians are becoming more media savvy than us advertising folks- and here’s why:

We have reams of research and data telling us exactly what consumers are like, but it’s easy to get caught up in myths of popular culture — the focus-group-of-one trap — and assume just about everyone owns an iPad, tweets from their phone and times shifts TV.

Because everybody needs a reality check sometimes, we decided to take a decidedly non-scientific look at some Madison Avenue myths.

via Mad Ave’s Myopia When It Comes to Main Street – Advertising Age – News.

And yes- I tweeted a link out on this story as yet another social media experts (the biggest lie of all- as this has become so big, so fast that no one can truly wrap their head around the whole thing) tell us more about how our strategy should include at least Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Foursquare, Linkedin, Slideshare, blogging, and whatever else is trending that week. No less than 5 speakers used both the new Gap logo gaffe (it was in the last 3 weeks) and the Old Spice “Hello Ladies, I am the man your man could smell like” which ended with the hopelessly odd- “I’m on a horse” line.

Yes, you can now be a cowboy that smells good- the flipside of the classic Marlboro campaign I guess, yet- if you read about this amazingly “successful viral campaign” you find one set of stats saying sales are up 107% and others saying that the sales bump was caused by deep discounting via coupons.

Yet, despite all it’s success at viral exposure- as I walked through WalMart (where real Americans do shop- as we “on Madison Avenue” hate to admit) there was a video screen mounted vertically with the man on the horse running an endless stream of “Hello Ladies, I’m on a horse”- driving home the message at the last inch of the sale.

And all those people in marketing and advertising, who have an iPad, smart phone, eat organic, sip latte from Starbucks, has friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter- haven’t actually met mainstream America- up close and personal- like a politician knocking on doors, shaking hands and kissing babies. As an ad man who has, let me share this insight (and remember, I was only knocking on doors of those most likely to vote, because I’d be stupid to knock on every door)- there is a digital divide in this country- where people don’t have computers, don’t use them at work, don’t even have an e-mail address. Our country still is embarrassingly strong in illiteracy (even though we have “no child left behind” we’ve forgotten about all the functionally illiterate people we’ve produced over the last 60 years- the US is 27th out of 205).

Those “consumers” that we know so much about- don’t have health care coverage- so all those direct to consumer drug ads may fall on deaf (and illiterate) ears, they can’t jump online to get a custom video from Mustafa-they don’t time shift shows on their DVR, or order Blu-ray quality video from your streaming server.

What they do have is an increasingly smaller wallet (the economic gap in the United States has grown at an alarming rate thanks to our slick media spinning political types) and a tighter grip on their cash. They may be fooled once, but they won’t be back to buy your body wash twice if they don’t end up with the same magnetic personality of “The man your man could smell like.”

Unfortunately for marketers they don’t enjoy the same return purchase habits that politicians do- once selected, an incumbent product doesn’t almost automatically get re-selected again and again. There has to be something more in the equation to buy- like “truth told well.” That’s why this ad agency, with its worn shoe leather leader, has the insight to get buyers to buy more than once with your marketing budget. We know our mission statement has one extra word- “Create Lust • Evoke Trust” than McCann’s and that our promise to “Make you more money than you pay us” seem to come from the less is more school when compared to the mega-global agencies, but we still believe that “the consumer isn’t stupid, she’s your mother” (attributed to David Ogilvy) and that in all this social media mess of buzzwords and “new media” things haven’t changed much since Honest Abe.

Advertising 101: Art & Copy, required watching

Cover of Art & Copy DVD

Art & Copy DVD cover

The number of “students” who come through this small agencies door, drawn by the work on this site is truly amazing. Many are about to graduate from 2 or 4 year programs that specialize in Advertising, Graphic Design, Marketing, Business or even the new buzz-degree “new-media.”

With the economy being what it’s been- we’ve also seen a lot of “seasoned professionals” in the market. People who’ve been going through the motions for 5, 10 and even 20 years- turning out what they believe to be “advertising” and “marketing” materials.

The sad thing is, most may know the tools- page layout, illustration, webdev- but, few- understand the why of what they do. I make everyone here at The Next Wave read, at a minimum, “Ogilvy on Advertising” or “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” so that they understand the reason behind thinking before putting ideas on paper (or in “new media”). I’m seriously thinking of making them watch this too:

ART & COPY introduces the cultural visionaries who revolutionized advertising during the industry s golden age in the 1960s by creating slogans to live by and ads we all remember. You may have never heard of them, but pop pioneers Lee Clow, Hal Riney, George Lois, Mary Wells, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Phyllis K. Robinson, Dan Wieden, and David Kennedy have changed the way we eat, work, shop, and communicate often in ways we don t even realize. From the introduction of the Volkswagen to America to the triumph of Apple Computers, ART & COPY explores the most successful and influential advertising campaigns of the 20th century, and the creative minds that launched them.

via Amazon link Art & Copy: Inside Advertising’s Creative Revolution: Doug Pray: Movies & TV.

An hour and a half of listening to the greats of this business- discussing what makes real advertising work. It’s the real thing, baby- from the genteel West Coast cool of Lee Clow- to the NY Bronx attitudes of George Lois, you get the feel for the business the way it’s supposed to be practiced- with guts and gusto.

Lois steals the show, with his straight forward comments about most contemporary advertising- which is missing as he calls it “The Big Idea”- but, while he’s put on a pedestal for growing Tommy Hilfiger from a no-one to some-one with one gutsy ad- the clear hints in the film about how he basically stole his own “I want my Maypo” to “I want my MTV” show how in advertising originality isn’t always the golden egg- effectiveness is.

If you are a student of advertising and you haven’t seen “Art & Copy” it’s time. If you are an advertising professional, and haven’t seen it- maybe someone should question what profession you are really in.

Because, as is alluded to in the film- we’re all students of public perception, desire, trends- and this film helps us understand how that process evolved from the beginning of the “creative revolution” started by Bill Bernbach, to today.

And if you want more good stuff to further your education, try our booklist.

The Google set top box will change everything

Google and Dish Networks are reportedly teaming up to create a set-top box. The tech blogs are all abuzz about the chips, specs and tech. The partnership with Sony, Motorola, Logitech and all the mips and ghz crap.

Only Marketplace seemed to have a grip on what it really means- Google will have yet another way to learn your behaviors and deliver relevant ads to you.

Google is big brother. They read your e-mail through gmail. They know what you are interested in by what you watch on YouTube, what you search for on Google, they know who you called and what you talked about via Google Voice and they can even read your Google docs and check your Google calendar. It’s a Google life.

As the kings of sponsored search- they provide ads relevant to what your interest is RIGHT now. Tie all that info together and you can see the advantage of you watching TV through their Google Settop box. Forget the networks selling ad time in their show- the Google set top box will have a stockpile of ads that they think will be just what you are interested in already sitting in your box waiting for just the next commercial break in your programming. Sure, they’ll kick some of the ad revenue back to the content producer (they know making content is expensive (sometimes) and that people should get paid for making programming YOU like to watch). They just don’t think you should watch anything that isn’t specifically relevant to you.

They’ll be so good at analyzing all that data that they’ll even offer to run the ads for next to nothing- as long as you use Google checkout via your Google SetTop box so they can skim off the credit card processing fee plus a few points for delivering the sale.

No other company has as much access to data as Google does right now. The few other players in the field- Amazon, Apple, Netflix and a few dating sites including the really interesting dating/market research site OKCupid- can only put a few pieces of the puzzle together. Even Apple with it’s Mac/iPhone/iTunes environment can’t also provide search results (although they could gather data via their Safari browser and their elegant operating system).

Is this move by Google good- or to be feared? Their mantra is “don’t be evil” but, at some point, life can get pretty boring with everything coming to you picked by someone else. What happens with political ads? Public service messages? At what point do we want to step away from the giant database of human intentions?

It will most certainly change the world of advertising and media buying. Clients will be freed of all media buying planning- just serious demographic/psychographic profiling in order to identify target markets. Then again- maybe that will be part of the next Google algorithm.

The only problem left will be how to figure out what content to watch- but, then again- Netflix and Amazon have already figured out the whole “you like this- then you’ll like this” deal- so maybe, it won’t be an issue. Google’s only remaining hurdle is how to deliver all this data- but, that’s why they are starting the Google Fiber project, so it won’t be long.

Posts about the Google SetTop Box:

How a Google-Powered Set-top Box Could Make a Splash

All Giz Wants: A Google Set Top Box That Doesn’t Suck

Google and Partners Seek TV Foothold

Popularity contests for user generated content marketing = FAIL

A local newspaper does it. Puts a non-inclusive list of pizza shops online and runs a poll for “best of the city” pizza. This will grant “bragging rights” for the next year as “This cities best pizza.”

Now, pizza is a very subjective subject- some like it with thin crust, some thick, some believe in wood fired and others like deep dish. The “contest” is really not about the pizza- but about the paper driving traffic to their site and selling ads.

But, it can have real effect to the winners and the losers. The winner get’s bragging rights- and possibly a business bump. The losers all get ticked off. Next thing you know, you’ve lost a subscriber, a reader, or respect from the pizza aficionados who really know pizza- all because the contest wasn’t really a contest, but a popularity contest- and with internet voting, for the most part- a very imperfect system that can and will be gamed. Bragging rights for pizza is one thing, but a contest for a hybrid school bus takes this to another level. This is a real prize and required the students to invest time in creating a video/work of art to compete. Now, you’ve asked for free labor (crowd sourced creative) and then left the “judging” up to whomever can rig the system best.

We will choose the top 10 finalists, then all of America will be invited to vote online for the ultimate champion. Students of any age can enter (although a parent or teacher will need to sponsor students under 13 years of age). Group or class entries are also encouraged.

via America’s Greenest Schools – Contest Overview.

There is no requirement to watch all 10 videos before voting, no way of verifying without a doubt that voters are actual voters. It’s not like the Superbowl ad meter- which is a more scientific system, although not perfect by any means.

While all the voters may actually be made aware of your new hybrid bus, the 9 losers won’t be happy. And, does the stunt of the contest really advance your brand? Or does it alienate the losers it creates?

Contests for contests sake are fine, but once you tie in user generated content and ask people to do your work for you- make sure that the user gets more benefit that you do. Considering YouTube is the second most important search engine- consider requiring key words or links to a page that you want to have at the top of search- instead of allowing it to be a popularity contest open to all- have a real panel of judges to filter the final entries- and allow all the other entrants to judge the finalists- with a random prize for those who take the time to review the top finalists.

Just like you wouldn’t bet the farm on a spot that tested well with bad methodology- why run a contest that way?

Unless you like being tagged #FAIL by those who believed in your contest in the first place.