I’ve been a bit of a sceptic about interactivity and FMCGs. Most of the time they just create digital litter.
Maybe it’s just because I’m a big fan of crisps. But Walkers seem to be doing some peculiarly interesting things around conversations and their brands.
Firstly the brilliant ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign. (If you’ve not seen it, they’re getting people to submit new flavors of potato chips. If you submit the winning flavour you get £50k and a 1% share of the profits from the new flavour).
The site’s got a lot of shortcomings. It doesn’t handle duplicates at all well, and the searching isn’t up to scratch. But it obviously doesn’t matter that much to people: 130,000 pages of entries – 6 to a page – gives almost 800,000 flavours submitted. That’s bloody incredible.
But they deserve it. They’ve built the campaign around a great question. A superb conversation starter. I’ve ended up two or three times now in conversations where people have got really excited about coming up with interesting new and bizarre flavours of crisps. And debating what would actually sell. What’s likely to win. Etc. etc. etc.
It’s a brilliant user generated content idea becuase anyone can do it. You don’t have to have any technical skills whatsoever. It’s just about imagining something. And something that almost all of us will have an opinion on whether we’ve thought about it before or not.
Once the submissions round is over. They’re going to manufacture the judges favourite top 6 flavours and let the public choose which of them wins. Generating trial / sales and driving even more conversations. As a genuinely integrated campaign I think it’s quite brilliant.
And now they’ve re-launched Monster Munch crisps. But they’ve not made a new version. Instead they’ve reverted to the old one.
What’s so clever about this is that they’ve tapped into a conversation that’s been going on for decades amongst crisp fanciers. Everyone knows that the old Monster Munch were bigger. They were ‘the biggest snack pennies can buy’. And they had really cool big monsters advertising them. It’s the kind of thing that pops up in those terrible ’50 reasons why things aren’t as good as they used to be’ nostalgiawank TV shows.
Anyway they’ve made them like they used to be again. And I love the ‘old’ flash on the top corner of the pack.
And if you’re wondering how big they are now. This is how big…
Apparently there’s a new website coming soon too. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for it being the next brilliant thing online. If they follow the normal FMCG template it’ll be all about the monsters. Maybe some flims? Perhaps embeddable / sendable monsters? Monster games? I hope they do something really nice though. Building on what they’ve done so far.
And just in case you don’t remember the original Monster Munch monsters from the TV ads…
I wasn’t going to blog about the House of Cards video and it’s brilliant integration with Google and the geekosphere. I wasn’t going to blog it because everyone else has. It is bloody brilliant though. Yet another example of how Radiohead really understand the importance of context.
So I wasn’t going to post it, then I realised it’s a golden opportunity for me to share a presentation I did at the Online Marketing and Media Show last month. I got invited by NMA to talk on a Creative Directors Showcase thingy. Me, Flo from Dare, Sam from Lean Mean Fighting Machine and Dom from Glue all got to chat about things we’ve seen recently that we like. The other guys all did a great job and showed us lots of cool online / mobile advertising things.
Instead of doing it on something that I liked, I chose to do 5 minutes on Radiohead ;-)
Basically it’s all about how I don’t like Radiohead, but how, through being interesting and innovative, they’ve made me like the ‘idea’ of Radiohead. Imagine if normal brands could do that. Make you care about products you don’t even like that much. I reckon there’s stuff we can learn from the ‘head.
I tried to format it for online video as best as I could (I added some extra words so it can be followed without me speaking, and I put some music in it to stop it feeling too silent) – but I’m not good enough at that kind of thing to make all the timings quite right, so please forgive any bits that feel too slow or too fast.
I hope no-one minds that I used their footage in there. I specifically use the examples of:
I’ve just noticed that Radiohead are a bit shit at search engine optimisiation though. With page titles like this:
RA DIOHEA_D / HOU SE OF_C ARDS – Google Code
How is anyone supposed to find them. Like anyone will look for all those spaces and underscores ;-)
Admission: I really posted this because I had an odd experience in the pub on Tuesday night, a bloke approached me and asked if I’d done a presentation on Radiohead. He’d seem me do it. Live. I felt almost famous. For a second.
Orange’s Spot the Bull is back. And this time it’s bigger and better than before. Now featuring:
team play allowing you to win up to 8 tickets per group
live multi-cam video streaming from the field
real time stats and bull-tracking enabling strategic play
and much more besides
If you want to win Glastonbury tickets this is officially the biggest ticket givaway competition in the world – so get stuck in. Today is the first day of it going live so if you get in there fast you’ll be in with a good chance of winning tickets.
Play Spot the Bull now. And get your friends to play with you, you’ll get increased chances of winning more tickets, honestly :-)
If anyone wants more info on the project just give me a shout and I’ll be happy to furnish you with what I know.
I’ve been having lots of bollocksy conversations with ‘industry types’ about whether doing production in-house or outsourcing it is the right thing to do. I’ve always been of the opinion that you need at least a good core of production in-house. Otherwise you miss out on lots of things – especially if you’ve got a good culture of sharing ideas, inspirations, frustrations and stuff.
I don’t think that’ll necessarily always be the case. If the digital side of the industry reaches a point of maturity that could always change. But given the fact that it’s an open platform that anyone can add to and help to extend and evolve I don’t see it being mature (in all respects) any time soon.
The thing that made me think about the in-house/outsource debate was the way that Alan Parker and Ridley Scott used to be a totally vital and key part of the creative team. Making films in the basement of the agency and pushing what could be done in terms of ‘making stuff’. Perhaps I’m not familiar enough with the types of relationships that agencies have with directors and production companies today. But from the little experience I have, this looked like a much tighter unit.
It was only later on that Parker went and set up a separate production company at the request of some senior CDP dudes (if I remember correctly and I might not, I was nodding-off slightly at this point). I’m guessing that this departure and separation was at a point where they’d collectively made their point in terms of creative use and evolution of the medium.
When I say I’m guessing, I really am. But I felt that there was a parallel that helped me to self-justify my myopic view of the world even further. So I’m going to ride it until someone tells me I’m wrong.
In spite of the heinous typo I love this sign (from a little newsagents just off Brick Lane).
I haven’t seen anything that encapsulates quite so wonderfully the problem with a lot of the online advertising that is floating around aimlessly in cyber-space. There’s so many things (good and bad) that no-one has ever seen (or will ever see).
Some obvious causes of invisible web marketing properties:
It’s just not plugged in to the rest of the web properly.
Or it’s not interesting or talk-able enough.
Or sometimes it’s just plain rubbish and no-one wants to see it.
The answer: Advertise your ad(d)s – and it’s only a quid!
This ad for Geometry Wars I liked. It’s almost another kind of entertaining demo, sort of:
It makes me smile and chuckle.
They’ve also got some bonkers online advertising which I can’t actually find right now. And the website is also pretty odd. In a kind of retro-kitch-gaming way: http://www.geometrywarsgalaxies.com – it’s far from being a good site, but it does a nice job of continuing the lo-fi old school vibe (I like the 3 types of navigation you can pick too).
I’ve been trying to post something like this for a few months now. But it kept morphing into a badly researched history of planning mixed with a poor how-to guide. And of course I kept veering off into bloody flag-waving about how digital planners rule and everyone else sucks. And my point was getting lost, very lost.
So what is the point?
I wanted to give a perspective on the big question ‘What is a digital planner?’. I know I don’t have the answer. I don’t think anyone does right now. The only thing I know for certain is that there’s a lot of uncertainty around what a digital planner is. I’ve seen lots of CVs and met lots of people. All of them nice people, some of them great planners, some of them not. All of them very very different.
Anyway I’ve given up on trying to understand what a digital planner is. So here’s a list of skills that I think would be handy if you want to be a digital planner (or a planner who has some digital powers).
(I’ve left out all of the ‘normal’ planning skills there’s lots of people smarter than me who’ve written about those things extensively. About how you have to be an inspirer, a cultural vacuum (as in vacuum cleaner not void), the voice of the consumer, PowerPoint virtuoso, and so on – I’m only talking about the ‘special’ skills that I think are important if you want to ‘do digital’).
Be good at cutting and pasting
If you’ve ever set up a blog or or a MySpace page you’ll probably have seen funny code knocking around the place. You shouldn’t be scared of this stuff. As the web keeps evolving to become more open and customisable the ability to copy and paste odd looking bits of code from one place to another increases in value.
At it’s most basic level knowing how to customise a feed or add a widget to a blog will at least give you some appreciation of the building blocks of the web. Kind of like Lego is to engineering.
In lots of ways this act of copying and pasting funny geek code from one place to another is a useful proxy for what digital planners need to do all the time. I’m not talking about lifting people’s ideas or ripping them off, I’m talking about applying principles and techniques in a variety of seemingly disconnected places.
I’m guessing at this point some people will be bursting to say things like – “this is all too geeky, you don’t need to know how a car works to be able to drive”. And that’s true. But if your job was designing and selling cars to people, you might find it useful to know how the different bit of a car fit together. And everyone ought to know how to change sparkplugs and tyres right?
Be able to deconstruct the craft
You don’t need to be able to do all of it. But it’s really important that you understand it and can talk about it semi-convincingly.
What is this it of which I speak?
It is the craft of making really good and interesting interactive stuff.
It is made from all kinds of things. Graphic design, programming, information architecture, experience design, typography, HCI, good writing, databases, video production, game design, e-commerce, networks, devices…
Be good at knowing why something is good or bad. There’s a lot of very bad stuff that looks very good out there. And a lot of amazing things that look like shit. You need to be able to see through the veneer and be able to judge things on a different level.
If there was one bit of the craft that I think is super-important for planners to understand it’s user experience. It encapsulates a lot of what we should be concerned about in terms of making things that work for an audience.
Be able to expand (and contract) to fill the space available
There isn’t digital planner shaped hole.
On some jobs it’ll be much bigger than others.
Sometimes you might be the lead strategist on a big paradigm shifting pure play turnkey web commerce integration project, where part of your job is helping a client figure out how and why their business exists.
This requires a different way of thinking and being from an ‘online advertising’ project where your role might be to convince the Cheezy-Puffs client that the idea that they’ve been presented about building a Cheezy Radio Station on Puff Island in Second Life and Podcasting the shows into Facebook might not be exactly the right thing to do. This time.
Then of course you’ll have to deal with the fallout of sabotaging the idea (from whoever it was that came up with it in the first place)…
Other times you’ll be part of a multi-agency team working alongside a number of other really good planners. In these cases it can be best to wind your neck in a bit and focus on the skills you’ve got that complement the rest of the team. And just skip over the ritual of intellectual posturing and corner-pissing nonsense that you’re meant to go through. It’s just a bit boring and pointless.
Be able to be big, and be able to be smaller too.
Be a good, and patient, educator
When you’re dealing with lots of new stuff that isn’t particularly well understood you need to be able to explain complex things to people. And do it in a way that’s simple (but not patronising), accessible (but not dumbed-down) and effective (but not overly salesy).
That’s a hard thing to do.
But then you have to do it, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And be as enthusiastic and interested as you were the first time around.
“Right, this Internet thing, it’s basically a bunch of computers…”
Be a cyber-optimist and a hyper-cynic
You’re the person that everyone expects to be really excited by, and interested in, the latest gizmos, widgets and whatnot. And you should be. But at the same time you have to be the one that is able to see beyond the hype and have a critical view on whether it’s just another passing fad or something that we should all care about.
Sometimes you’ll back the wrong horse. We all do. But just as long as you’re backing the horse for the right reasons that’s the best you can be expected to do.
Use the forces of geekdom
Geeks are cool. Well, at least a bit cooler than they used to be.
What is it that planners need to learn from geeks? Maybe it’s passion. Or an obsessive attention to detail. Or is it a drive to understand the how and the why of stuff. I’m not really sure. But there’s an interesting strand of geekism that feels very real, very tangible and very very useful.
There’s something about a need to take stuff to pieces and put it back together again that links the minds of geeks and planners I reckon.
Don’t hate business, it’s your friend
If you’re in ‘the game’ because you want to make film or art then making digital stuff can often drift even further away from your goal than doing traditional advertising.
There’s still a need to create desire and make beautiful things . And there’s lots of amazing digital ‘art’ that gets made in our world. Some of it in the name of art, some in the name of marketing.
But a lot of the projects where we’re really able to add value are things where we get to optimise businesses. Creating revenue opportunities. Selling more stuff. Driving efficiencies. Reducing waste. Things you might find tedious and hateful if you’re in denial about how and why you get paid.
Of course you can have ethics. And lots of the really interesting things that digital enables is rooted in empowering small businesses and creating a level commercial playing field.
But let’s be really clear, digital is not just about creating fascinating communications, it’s about how you can help business end-to-end.
Do things, make stuff
There’s a bunch of plannery mantras in circulation around doing stuff. Whether it’s ‘act don’t say’, ‘always in beta’, ’embrace failure’ or any variant of this kind of thing. It’s all pointing in the same direction. You should get out there and do things rather than just banging on about them.
And yes, a blog counts as doing something. But no. You don’t have to have a blog to be a planner. Not yet anyway.
Be Non-Stick and Wipe-Kleen
If you’re out there experimenting and doing new stuff, chances are you’ll fail from time to time. No one likes to fail. But some people are much better at failing than others. It’s natural to be gutted if something doesn’t work as well in the real/virutual world as it did in your head.
But if you’re the kind of person that bangs their head against stuff when you don’t win, your temperament might not be exactly right for a game where the things that don’t work are as important as the ones that do.
Say sorry. Explain to yourself and others why it failed. Learn from the failure. Try not to repeat the same failure again. Dust yourself down. Move on.
(This point was inspired by someone at an above the line agency we work with who reportedly referred to our agency as ‘Teflon Poke‘)
Love what you do
Do what you’re doing for the right reasons. In interviews the thing I try to figure out above anything else is whether or not the person I’m seeing actually loves what they’re doing. If they’re in the game because they’re really excited and passionate about it then they’ll learn new things (because they can’t help themselves). If they’re in it because they think it’s a career opportunity or they fancy a change of scene you’re all in for a much rougher ride.
If you’re in ‘digital planning’ for fame, money, groupies and adoration, you’re in the wrong business. Well until next summer anyway.
And isn’t it much nicer when you work with people who love what they do. It’s the kind of thing it’s hard not to fall for.
Thank you for reading. I’m done. Love to hear what people reckon. Like I said at the start this is just some things that I think would help make you a decent digital planner type (in my eyes).
If anyone would like me to come and present this blog post at conferences, birthday parties, or whatever. I’d be happy to try to do it in an entertaining and insightful manner (as long as the venue is somewhere warm and sunny).
An interesting ‘moment’ in online advertising. BBH win Lynx digital account. To my mind Dare have done some really amazing online advertising for Lynx (Feather and Blow to name but two), and I’m really surprised that the account has gone elsewhere (if the story is to be believed).
In principle I agree with this quote from the article:
John O’Keeffe, executive creative director of BBH London, said: “A couple of years ago, we might have been at a disadvantage in a pitch like this, simply for lack of having the digital craft skills in-house. We now have that capability: whereupon this, and any other digital pitch for that matter, comes down to the same question that decides any such process: who has the best idea?”
But at the same time I wonder if this is really true.
Is it always down to the best idea winning out? Not really. Do BBH have great ideas? Undoubtedly. Do they have outstanding ‘salespeople’? Almost certainly better then most digital agencies.
I’m not trying to put forward the case for ‘digital agencies’ (interesting how I’m now feeling more and more compelled to use inverted commas around various parts of the term digital agency) particularly. However, something I’ve noticed recently is that the nature of our clients is changing. Whereas previously we used to sell our ideas into digital people, we’re now increasingly up in front of a mixture of digital and advertising people.
The way in which you pitch your ideas to these two groups are massively different. Online people typically want to see more of the ‘how we’re going to do it’, where as advertising people take that stuff for granted. You see an idea, it gets made. They’ve never been through the pain of cross-browser testing a complicated website. And they don’t care how it gets done. And maybe that’s the way it should be (for advertising).
My prediction is that we’re going to see a fragmentation of how brands operate online, there’ll be a bunch of people competing to do online advertising. And a bunch of people doing ‘other stuff’.