What Advertising Can Learn From Radiohead

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:


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.

30 thoughts on “What Advertising Can Learn From Radiohead”

  1. Ah I always wanted to do a post about the Radiohead franchise. I guess you’ve beaten me to the punch. At first I didn’t like them either, but the last months have changed so much. Not only because of their marketing though. The new album is really superb and much more accessible musically. Really good presentation!

  2. I feel the same about Innocent, smoothies make me feel a bit bloated but I like the ‘idea’ of Innocent and their “sustainable capitalism” and I’m taking the kids to the village fete thing in August.

  3. Love it. And very timely. Was pondering doing the precise same preso. But you’ve done it a gazillion times better than I would have. Mind if I steal it? :-)

  4. Nice presentation, I love the ‘extra words’ approach, it look like it might be easier than the whole MP3 synching thing (which I always struggle with being too perfectionist on and it takes ages).

    It’s like something someone said on a Guardian Music podcast the other week about the context being part of listening to the music. What you know about the ‘background’ behind the music affects how you listen.

    So if you think of Radiohead as experimental, boundary pushing geniuses, it affects how you listen to their music.

    Or if you listen (or watch the video) to Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ with the knowledge both he and his wife passed away soon after, it changes how you hear the song.

    And much as I’m sick of the whole car-crash spectacle, the travails of Winehouse adds context to her music for people.

  5. Was just talking about this last night, that even if a person dislikes a brand, a great job for marketing is to encourage people to feel predisposed towards an brant/entity.

    Something like I don’t like that beer but would stick a six pack in the fridge for guests who come over to a barbecue. That’s where brands need to be.

    Gareth Kay has just name checked you as I write this at the PSFK conference in San Fran. You’re famous!

  6. awesome. i have exactly the same radiohead paradox, a weird brand experience. it makes me keep thinking i should reconsider something…yikes. like, maybe, i should try listening to them again.

  7. funny really, as “i don’t like Ian Tait, but i do like the idea of him”

    next question for Ian to answer for me is:

    who is the creative director of Radio Head, what is her (clue) name and where was she working before she joined them….

    join the dots, and you’ll “like the idea of me too”

    still ~ very nicely done and i’m now sharing your thoughts, cos where would we be with out collective amplification…

  8. Giles,

    If you listened to my tricky third album you might grow to like me ;-)

    You raise a really interesting point, and one that I was debating with a couple of guys at work. Who is responsible for all the great stuff ‘around’ Radiohead? Sure the videos are great, but so is their attitude to their blog, and the decision to release the album as they did, their use of community and so it.

    I’ve got no idea what size and shape of team it takes to drive such things in such a way. Another thing that is managed really well is that it feels like it all comes ‘from the band’ which is another part of what makes it all so brilliant.


  9. Loving this, not just for the content (which is genius) but also for the fact that it is a great example of why our presentations are so much better when we don’t just use Powerpoint.

  10. Here’s how I made it:

    The presentation was in Keynote.

    I then switched all of the transitions from ‘on click’ to timed transitions and chose to export it as a self-playing quicktime file.

    I then stuck it through iMovie to add some sound into the gaps between the videos.

    I’m sure you could get pretty close to most of the stuff in there with PowerPoint, I’m just not entirely sure about the video handling capabilities of PPT.

  11. I too would be very interested in finding out who’s responsible for Radiohead’s digital stuff. Planner? Creative Director? Clued up person? I imagine it’s not an agency as they would probably have made a lot of noise about it by now if it was. How do you go about finding that out though?

  12. Fab stuff…

    In response to one of the final questions re: why do Radiohead get marketing when the pros don’t… I think it’s because they don’t think like marketers and probably focus on doing things different and well. Or maybe I’m just naive and been duped by the old ‘the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist’ trick ;-)

    Keep keeping on.

  13. Love this, the question is will there be another? Once challenge would be an Obama case study, just attempted one myself.

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