Insightation

Post this Facebook!

In response to the new Facebook guidelines (which I have not read) I hereby declare that I am really scared of social media and do not understand the „media“ part in that phrase. For over five years, I have been sharing my private life with people I hardly know (and those people they hardly know) on Facebook and now of course need to make it very clear that I do not trust Facebook one single bit! Also, my understanding of copyright is that it has to be declared in writing on a Facebook Wall to annoy all my friends in order to be of any legal significance. Speaking of significance I also declare that I am extremely impressed by the sound of „The Berne Convention“ because it remotely sounds like a sequel to „The Bourne Legacy“ and almost as important as „The Geneva Convention“. It‘s just cool to be protected by something from Switzerland, alright! So, where was I? Ah, yes: My copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, sculpture, professional photos and videos (even if they just show me getting pissed at some night club), etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention - Eat that Mark Zuckerberg, you‘ve got nothing on Berne. Poke you M****f****!)

For commercial use of the pictures I have taken on my Mallorca vacation in 2009 with my iPhone, my written consent is needed at all times! (Just send me a PM if you want to use them, OK.) (Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place

them under the protection of being a smart ass like myself. By the present communiqué (yes, a  c o m m u n i q u é - that‘s proper diplomatiqué French!) I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents - with utter disregard of the terms and conditions that I have explicitly agreed to when opening my account. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control - because I know how sneaky you are Zuck and am sure that you‘d control people to get to my precious! The content of this profile is private and confidential information that I only share with 350,000 other people in my network. The violation of my privacy is punished (or is it „punishable“ - too bad my native language isn‘t English) by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103, the Rome Statute, The Holy Qu‘ran, The Old and New Testament, The Third Book of Xenu and the Ten Commandments and my mom, who will be mad at you too).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. The only logical conclusion to this fact is that all members now are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once (better do it twice or three times, which makes the Berne Convention even stronger!!), nothing at all will happen - or do you seriously think that if at all, Facebook employees will only rip pictures from people who have not posted „The Notice“ and will turn into dust screaming when they read „The Notice“ on your profile?

Fake Movie Poster: Ray - The Boy from the Woods

Based on a true news story. Michael Cera stars as a mysterious boy, who fools the police into believing that he does not remember who he is and has lived in the woods with his father for the past 5 years.

Bildschirmfoto_2012-06-18_um_00

MyDillr, a location-based drug dealing app from Germany. Incredible…

MyDillr is the latest craze in Germany. Making use of an alleged “legislation gap” a Berlin start-up copied the principle of successful myTaxi and applied it to - believe it or not - drug dealers.

myTaxi is a mobile app that locates users’ and sends their booking requests and location out to taxi drivers’ nearby. Users see which driver accepted their request, how far out he is and after leaving the taxi they can rate the driver and add him to their favourites.

MyDillr apparently has transported the same functionality to the world of illegal substances. Users (now this works on two levels here!) pick a meeting spot on a map interface, choose what and how much of it they want buy and send that request out to dealers in the area. MyDillr seems to offer a rating and favouriting feature like myTaxi too, however it seems to maintain the dealers’ anonimity. Check out the screens below and see it for yourself.

 

Please note, that with this post I am just covering a couriosity. I do not want to endorse this app or any kind of drug use. On the contrary, drugs are bad and illegal in most countries. Do not download this app. Do not use it. Be healthy.

Organisational Creativity: The key to being a creative hothouse

This article argues that real creativity in an agency is rooted not in culture, people or processes but mainly in the organisational set-up.

If you work or have worked in advertising or any kind of brand-related agency environment before, you’ve probably at several occasions heard members of the agency leadership team speak, make promises or hypothesise about how the agency from now on is going to attract, foster, nurture, build up, gear itself towards or simply make happen better creative work. In an industry where everyone’s ambition is world-class creative work, based on simple truths, big, game-changing ideas or thinking, this constant agenda does not come as a surprise. Yet, as elementary as it seems to the industry, only a few admired players seem to get it right and so many others feel it is a constant struggle rather than something that comes naturally.

Instinctively, agency heads seek for explanations when all the work the agency seems to sell in is dull and formulaic compared to a hunky, mellow-voiced guy who sells shower gel, while sitting on a horse. The clients are blamed first: “They just want us to sell their own preconceived ideas to them!”. Next in line are hiring decisions and a lot of money suddenly gets thrown at an award winning creative team or perhaps an entire layer of associate creative directors gets installed. Finally it’s corporate culture’s turn and everyone is asked to share more creative stuff they find on the web. The leadership might also explicitly encourage everyone to spend one hour per week on something more inspiring than work, or perhaps even a creative guru comes to visit the patient, like some sort of miracle healer. All of these things are nice and might even have a slight effect. However, if I may stick to the patient metaphor, all agency heads do with this is fight symptoms. The true cause of the issue lies in how an agency is structuring its people (or resources, or brains if you wish) along the creative process. It’s all about the question whether an agency is structurally set up for creativity or not.

The creative process is hierarchical in as much as there are tasks that contribute more to “creative magic” than others. Client servicing for example is further down the scale than writing creative concepts. We all accept this, when we ask our Account Managers to be more strategic and our strategists to be more inspiring and more about ideas than just researchers. But asking these people to simply “be a bit more this or that” is not enough and not really something they simply can do. They can’t make this step forward individually, as organisational structures won’t let them.

I’d like to illustrate this point with an example that I was able to observe myself in an agency I used to work at. I’ll call it Agency A from now on. It all started with the Producers (or Project Managers, if you want to call them that). Agency A had a few more than 60 employees, only two of which were Producers, who were unbelievably busy with managing the time of the creative teams and the designers. This was basically all they did, which meant that all the client facing project management had to be sorted out by the Account Managers who consequently had no space to get involved in strategy much. This again left a lot of the basic strategic tasks to the Planners, who got so entangled in these nitty gritty basics that they never had the time to step back, think about the big picture and create actual idea concepts. All this conceptual burden was left to Agency A’s creative teams, who essentially had to do a whole creative concept all by themselves. They never had the time to make that creative magic happen, which surprises and delights consumers (and wins awards!). And even if creatives had some great ideas, the Account Managers were too busy organising things to sell them to the clients with strategically sound arguments that actually came from them.

This kind of set up, on a narrow creative base, is the structural cause of substandard creative work. Employees cannot do the right, higher-order things at work, if they are not set-up in the right way. Another agency I worked at (Agency B) did this much better and created much more interesting work as a result.

Even if it was of similar size as Agency A, Agency B had over three times as many Producers. Besides scheduling creative teams’ time and seeing through all projects, they actually were client facing, to coordinate with clients and demonstrate how demanding executions still could be achieved in time and on budget. Client services had more room to be strategic advisors both internally and externally. They also became guardians of strategy, when creative work came under attack by a client. Planners also made a step up. They could rely on client services to answer all small picture strategic questions and focussed a lot of their attention on the big idea concept and worked often hand in hand with the creative teams. More ideas from below, meant more “spring boards” for the creatives, who had more time and more of a platform to really come up with fresh, winning stuff. And they did…

Bildschirmfoto_2011-12-02_um_01
(Agency B is one step ahead of Agency A)


I admit, it is not an obvious place for agency leadership to look at when the work just isn’t good, but you can easily see when comparing the examples of Agency A and B how the number of Producers at the “bottom” of the creative process can make a huge difference to the work that comes out at the top. With the right organisational set-up, the entire agency simply makes one or several steps up on the creative ladder! I argue that this is the single most important contributor to good creative work and can only recommend to agency leaders to look at how their agency is set up.

(P.S.: I am not saying that bringing in inspirational speakers, hiring award winning, senior creatives, or having a great corporate culture does not help. What I do say though is that all of these things are in vain if the way an agency is set-up structurally obstructs more creative work.)

Marketing Managers: 5 things agencies do in pitches to fool you!

This stuff worked for me in university. Funnily it still does! I am not assuming that marketing managers don’t know that all of this is bull, but they seem not to mind too much.

1. Mood films

We all know the ad is not going to look anything like it. It’s just that we think that a catchy tune and some happy children of all kinds of ethnic backgrounds will pull your strings.

2. Pictures from our primary research

This is where we really went all in. Our Planning team stopped the philosophical discussions on Twitter for an entire afternoon to meet with our Senior Account Manager’s aunt Rachel and her two friends for coffee. Luckily one of them had an iPhone on him so we could document this cutting-edge research study we undertook just for you! Actually, it is likely that we just tasked the Senior Account Manager to take some photos when he visits his aunt next time…

3. Pen portraits

If you’ve worked at an agency before you know, the young guy with the horn-rimmed glasses, in the checked shirt and the Chucks is not Gavin, 31 from Stockport, who wants to buy his first car, but James, 24 our Freelance Designer from Hackney who will ride on his mint green fixy bike until he dies. We are confident you will not meet him in our offices because he’s finishing up tomorrow. And if you’re coming in today, we’ll just hide him from you in the kitchen. So don’t even try to find him.

4. Perceptual maps

Two axes that reflect how one of our junior planners thinks everyone in the world feels about your brand and its competitors. Our strategy director personally instructed her to move the Coke logo a bit further to the left, because he read something about Coca Cola in Metro Magazine this morning.

5. Goodie bags

If point 1-4 have not convinced you yet that you are dealing with the best advertising agency in the world, we are trying it with good ol’ bribery. Possibly the most popular piece of content we like to put into goodie bags: A book written by our very own agency guru. Mostly, this is a mildly entertaining record of how great the guy thinks he is.

Generic descriptions of national cuisines

Accepting the risk that this is slowly turning into a foodie blog, I need to write about something my lovely colleague Indie just said.

She went to a Thai restaurant last night and when we asked her what she had she answered (roughly paraphrased of course): “Some little stuff and some coconut rice, with some more little stuff”. This made me realise that we tend to create some very generic descriptions that pinpoint the characteristics of national cuisines. Of course we are certain to construct culinary stereotypes along the way, as we usually only know a fraction of the breadth of the cuisine of a given country, but usually what comes out is something everyone understands and can agree with. Like the essence of a brand.

Some more examples:

Italian: Some basil, olive oil stuff with tomato.

Indian: Little chunks of something hidden in a lot of thick spicy sauce with rice.

German: Big piece of bland meat with a brown sauce and potatoes.

Spanish: Little oily things with ham.

The Food Aether

I’ve realised a while ago that some industry sectors have a stronger collective brain than others. Whether this is just a symptom of basic competitive forces or an actual phenomenon synchronicity definitely requires more research, but looking at the results of this can be quite amusing.

Think about restaurants for example. They always keep on serving up dishes with the same triggerword ingredients for about one year, then they find new ones all of a sudden.

Very “In” at the moment:

  • Beetroot
  • Swiss Chard
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Onglet Steak
  • Almond tarts
  • Sea vegetables

Slowly disappearing:

  • Pork belly
  • Scallops
  • Chocolate fondants
  • Shiso
  • Parsnips

So 2010:

  • Curly kale
  • Orzo
  • Cous Cous
  • Pork knuckle
  • Ceviche

Yes this post is a bit random. Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the list.

Hitman Hart - A lesson in branding

Preamble - DON’T READ IF YOU HAVE LITTLE TIME

I used to love wrestling as a child. And growing up in the 80s and 90s my favourite wrestler was Bret “The Hitman” Hart. I don’t remember why I had chosen him as my favourite, perhaps because he was the best back then. But as with many things from my childhood (and perhaps the 90s) I started to grow out of it. The World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) became less about Wrestling and more about several men standing in a ring, insulting one another. I was sure that I would never again find it interesting. Until a couple of weeks ago that was…

A couple of weeks ago I visited friends in Berlin and after we ran out of things to do, one of my friends suggested we’d stream “Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows”. It was an inspired decision. Wrestling with Shadows is a late 90s Canadian documentary about Bret Hart (his life and career) that climaxes in what in wrestling history is now known as the “Montreal Screwjob” (I am not going to give away what it is, because this would spoil the documentary). Even though it takes off a bit slow, this documentary, despite its topic, doesn’t just unravel into a nearly Shakespearian tragedy that shows Bret Hart from a different, more personal and interesting angle, it is a wonderful lesson in branding, and this lesson in branding is what I want to look at.

START HERE if you have less time:

Lesson 1: The effect of competition on branding simplicity

The film starts out with Bret Hart talking about his “Hitman” character. A character he and the WWF have created and built up over many years. He describes him as someone who always fights hard for what he believes in, someone who protects the weak and sticks up for his word. There was never more complexity in this character and wrestling fans all over the world loved The Hitman. They loved him because his proposition was brutally simple, accessible and connected to emotions that wouldn’t confuse even the most simple of minds. All successful WWF characters worked following this principle and instead of naming the characters the matches could have just as well been: “The posh, arrogant one” vs. “The patriotic people-person” or “The narcistic slimeball” vs. “The mysterious, powerful one”. Few adjectives sufficed to describe exactly what they were about and it all worked so well for the audience.

The documentary clearly showed that when Ted Turner launched the WCW, a rival wrestling federation to the WWF, differentiation became a bit more difficult. New territories for characters had to be explored - less wholesome ones and more complex ones. Story lines became less clear cut and more twisted. Its interesting to see this effect of competition on branding. Agencies and marketers always try to keep it super simple, which under competitive circumstance becomes more and more difficult. The development of the Wrestling industry described in the film, happened a lot earlier in all other industries. As early as in the late 19th century in some. “Wrestling with Shadows” from that angle becomes a rare account of the effect of increasing competition on branding. It is interesting because in wrestling real competition only ensued that late, late enough to create a rich account of what happened.

A rare case of branding war

There is another lesson about branding in “Wrestling with Shadows” and arguably its the more interesting one. When Bret Hart decides to accept an offer to join the rival WCW federation, the chairman of the WWF alters the story line for the Hitman character. The character turns “bad” and anti-American (or pro-Canadian, as Bret Hart actually is Canadian) obviously devaluing the Hitman brand. This is particualrly interesting as Bret Hart, the person, starts to realise that on top of his personal feelings, his entire career that relies on the value of the Hitman brand is at stake. He finds himself caught up in a rather foul competitive tussle, with his brand (his character) being the playball of the two main wrestling federations. In the climax of the film a Hart fights to alter the WWF’s planned “exit” for his character from the WWF franchise, the outcome of his last fight which, would leave the Hitman humiliated, broken and defeated, hence the brand and career devalued. What can I say, it’s essential viewing in my opinion.

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The full documentary “Hitman Hart, Wrestling with Shadows” can be streamed here:

http://www.nfb.ca/film/hitman_hart_wrestling_with_shadows