The 140 character headline will be big in 2009: watch Twitter as adroit copywriters test their skills:

I thought about writing this post in 140 character Haiku- but that would be tough and time consuming. Twitter is fast and instant. The simple answer to “What are you doing” can be the ultimate test bed for concepts to our attention deficit audiences. Want to find out what people think: test it on your followers.

Leading tweetheads can make hits magically appear on a site in minutes with a 140 character or less tweet with a link. Launching a new product? Want to test a headline? Tweet the variations to different audiences and see what hits show up. A whole new practice of market research will appear- with the ability to get almost instant feedback.

Soon PR and ad agencies will be evaluated by their social network juice. How many people can you connect to who will work as brand evangelists? Crispin Porter & Bogusky launched Subservient Chicken for Burger King when the agency was 150 staffers- by just emailing their friends about the site. Quickly, the site ended up on top of the viral site hall of fame list. Now the agency is at 600+ employees.

While Twitter is still only reaching a small subset of the population at large, it’s reaching the all critical early-adopter, influencer crowd. So along with client lists and credentials, maybe hiring an agency should also involve checking out their social networks. Friends, followers and connections are the new currency of media power- and a great 140 character (or less) headline will be critical.

PodcampOhio- another perspective on viral campaigns

I was in a session on launching viral campaigns with a bunch of non-advertising people (and a few ad people)- all very web savvy, and it was interesting to me that campaigns were being talked about without any reference to the agency that did the campaigns.

Yeah. Believe it or not, no one cares who did the campaign except those of us in the business. But, out of the examples, 2 were Crispin Porter+Bogusky work.

First was the story of Subservient Chicken. The amazing penetration of this site were evident when probably 80% of the room raised their hands when asked if they’d visited the site. The idea of trying to get a major US corporation to post a site that has a guy in a chicken suit wearing a black garter belt, a la online porn peep show was a gutsy move by CP+B. The presenter knew BK’s sales went up- but didn’t know if it specifically sold chicken.

To confirm that: here is a bit from an AdWeek analysis of the campaign:

Dissecting ‘Subservient Chicken’
But, aside from Web traffic, did the campaign actually drive customers into stores to buy the sandwich? About a month after the TenderCrisp sandwich debuted, BK reported that sales had steadily increased an average of 9 percent a week. Since then, Geis says the company has seen “double-digit” growth of awareness of the TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich and “significantly increased” chicken sandwich sales. And the TenderCrisp does sell better than the Original Chicken Sandwich.

The second mention was the “Safe Happens” tv spot for the Jetta. Not necessarily a “viral” campaign, since it ran on broadcast TV- but, it did make an impression through viral sharing.

This spot is the absolute antithesis of the typical car glamor spot that Detroit favors. Showing a real life situation and the car having an accident would make Detroit uncomfortable (although crash test dummies and a test sled have been standard fare for years). It makes you wonder why Detroit never approved this type of work- especially since their main knock on foreign “small cars” was always that they aren’t as safe as the boats from GM, Ford and Chrysler. There was a lot of discussion over the graphic nature of this spot on broadcast- which effectively multiplied the effect of the buy. Some even argued that the fact that the Jetta’s brakes squealed and didn’t stop like ABS, avoiding the wreck – could backfire.

But, once again, everyone in the room knew the spot. How many agencies get the nod two times in an hour by a non-agency pro. Case closed, Crispin Porter + Bogusky is doing memorable, discussable work and that’s worth a lot more to a client than the mundane dreck most settle for.

The other campaign that got mentioned was the Dove Evolution spot, that’s known by all in advertising-

but, the penetration of awareness in the room was at least half that of the CP+B work. (granted, the room was probably 65% male). Also note, the Evolution spot (from Ogilvy and Mather, Toronto) cost considerably more to make than Subservient Chicken (which reportably cost $30K). Unilever has since caught flack for being disengenuous for promoting Dove as the anti-sexification of women, while also running ads for the testostorone overloaded AXE body spray sites. Watch the following disection of Unilevers hypocrisy:

The description of the session, (which was so popular they had to move rooms):

“Everyone wants the benefits of a viral campaign, but few people really understand how to put the pieces together to create the best chance for success. Find out the most common mistakes companies make when aiming to go viral and how a little bit of brainstorming can set you up for success. Jennifer Laycock will walk you through the actual brainstorming process she uses with clients to help you gather information needed to put things together. She’ll also help you learn to identify “key influencers” within your industry and will offer concrete tips on the best way to approach them with your campaign.”

I was impressed with Ms. Laycocks reasoned approach to generating low-budget viral campaigns, and her worksheets for assessing how to put a plan together, however, there is no guaranteed formula for creating viral campaigns. Crispin launched Subservient Chicken by asking it’s own employees to write everyone they knew to check out the site and spread the word and it worked beyond the wildest expectations.

There is one thing that is guaranteed about good viral- that traces back to an old adage- there is noting that will kill a bad product off faster than good advertising. If your viral campaign is based on deceit, a poor premise, or isn’t able to be verified- you will have more problems than you started with (see GM’s effort for the Chevy Tahoe– when gas was only $2.50 a gallon).

We’re currently tasked with creating buzz and hopefully a viral for a re-launch of a retailer online and off, and it will be interesting to use Ms. Laycock’s process along with our own ideas in the coming weeks.

One thing is for sure though in creating viral campaigns, the winning ideas aren’t the safe ones.

Guerrilla ads for a guerrilla political campaign: how to wow on the cheap.

I’m not going to go Sun Tzu on you, but a guiding principle in warfare is to attack where your enemy is weakest. In judo, you try to make your weakness your strength. Political advertising may be one of the areas where this is toughest- since incumbency and large campaign chests are considered prime indicators of product value. Shrewd political contributors don’t give to longshots, they bet their dollars on who they think can win. It’s the nature of the game, and a very hard marketing battle.

Think of it as launching a challenger brand, with no money, no time, and a very absolute deadline to dominate the market (election day). Can you imagine Procter and Gamble launching a new detergent and having to have 51% of the market make a purchase in two months?

Here is our first shot at launching a local political activist into a National Congressional race. Please note, not only did the candidate star in the ad, he wrote it himself (unlike his competition) because of course, the candidate is the same person writing this post.

it is also available as a downloadable iPod version here: http://esrati.com/?p=490

One of the keys of viral marketing and leveraging your low budget campaign is getting others to talk about it- the “word of mouth” factor. You can’t count on this happening automatically. This is where your established network of customers can make or break you. First, you have to actively tell them that the campaign is out there. Digitally- this means sending e-mails, posting appropriate comments in appropriate places, and reaching out to people who think as you do. It used to be marketing to the influencer or early adopter- now, it’s to your social network either formal (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) or informal as I did. Here is what creative genius Ernie Schenck said about the spot:

Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?
Seriously, people, show me a spot in this already tired political year that comes close to this simple little gem from Dayton ad guy, David Esrati, and I will eat my moustache. Attention, candidates: A little imagination, a little self-deprectation and a little ability to lighten up can go a long way. The man ought to get elected on the spot alone. Nice work, Esrati.

A client, and really smart guy, Charles Halton posted on his Awilum site:

it’s the funniest political ad I have ever seen. If politics were more like this it would make election season actually fun!

Another client, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Underground site posted it here:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=385×82652
which quickly became the highest click through on YouTube- even though the numbers are very low for what it has to do. (more…)

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.