Tag: youssri rahman

think differently this christmas.

Although this blog isn’t a reviewing website, it’s been a while since I haven’t posted something and what’s better than the Christmas spirit to celebrate (and rant) on what Adland has to offer this year.

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Last year saw a burst of newcomers and as there’s always so much you can say about Christmas, most brands ended up saying the same thing, to the point that Currys and Harvey Nichols shared voice for giftface. That’s probably why everyone is taking on a subversive message for this year’s Holidays. Let’s start with the very Harvey Nichols who clearly didn’t want to risk being imitated this year with this original – if not questionable – execution “Britalia”. In an era of data-driven clients, I’ve read that the retailer recorded a peak in sales of Italian products… Buon natale then! But Harvey Nichs isn’t the only one to have taken an original approach, it’s hats off to the never-disappointing W+K and their latest spot for TK Maxx that brought a brilliant Christmas twist to their new brand promise.

And how can we forget the ball opener that was Burberry’s trailer-like short about the life of Thomas Burberry? Unfortunately for them and as with all things successful, they seem to be on for unveiling the full feature…

In the mean time, Currys stayed within the reasonable with a humorous take on gifting and House of Fraser built on last year’s musical success. One will note my deliberate move to omit John Lewis’ effort which will, by no doubt given their choice of director, be another tear-jerker that you’ll either love or hate.

Merry Christmas Adland, and keep thinking differently for more than just the Holidays!

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bring it on, rio.

The Olympics season is upon us and although Team GB have just started to bag the ultimate prize, Adworld didn’t fail to unload the usual stack of commercials from our favourite sponsors, ambushers and opportunists alike. You could be forgiven to think it will be hard to find great work this year. After all, a brief that has both the words Olympics and Rio in it doesn’t give much space to creative ingenuity. A maxi quadrennial year also means investments had to be prioritised between the Euros, the Olympics and, of course, Zlatan already being a living god in the Premierleague.

I’ll start with one that rarely disappoint – the swoosh. After the Make it Count campaign, our friends from Portland did it again, this time with Unlimited You, their latest positioning building on their tagline (which they shatter in the spot). A clip that is as inclusive (genders and sports alike) as the Olympics are meant to be, and one that still has that edge of personality they’ve recently introduced in their work. Start with the teaser and see it for yourself.

But it wasn’t about personality for everyone, as most broadcasters thought it would be tears of joy that would drive us to the aisles. That was the case for P&G who continued their Thank You Mum franchise ; Always who brought an Olympics twist to #likeagirl ; and Dick’s who gave us a lesson in biology and human nature with Gold in US.

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The greatest show on Earth is also the occasion to offer world-class storytelling, celebrating those athletes and their inspiring stories. Gillette tells us what happens behind the scenes of an athlete’s life in Perfect isn’t Pretty (although I find the link to the brand quite disappointing), Powerade went for the story of a kid overcoming obstacles in his personal life to make it to the big stage with a new instalment of Just a Kid. But one story that was worth telling this year was the one of the first ever Refugees team, the Olympics being the perfect playground for them to prove the world they’re more than what people think. Obviously a powerful story will attract lots of opportunists and Visa really missed the plot here, having such an incredible story to tell but failing to even scratch the surface, or to execute it the right way. Grey London, on the other hand, did UNHCR proud with this clip to celebrate the team’s participation to Rio.

I left my favourite for the end. There were lots of expectations on C4 after they’ve raised the bar quite high with their Superhumans clip 4 years ago. Well guess what, they’re back, moving from strength to unlimited ability (yes Nike, they can). Here’s a clip celebrating those who overcome their disability well beyond the Olympics stage. And don’t miss the short clips telling the stories and skills of the cast in the film. Hats off.

PS: Since I’ve skipped through most of the noise out there, feel free to check Adage and Campaign for a full list.

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right place, right time.

What is Starbucks’ main success factor? Location, location, location.

I was reading one of Dave Trott’s articles on content and the fact that the real question wasn’t about how good it was, but rather how well it was distributed. Although I disagree that content can be anything (people don’t eat ****), I found the point on its delivery quite interesting.

After the year of content and the year of mobile, maybe it’s logical that everything is now about context. What made Amazon successful a few years back is now common practice. You’re much more likely to listen to suggestions if they are tailored to you and if you’re in the mindset of buying. I graduated with a dissertation on the potential of NFC and how supermarket shoppers could be prompted with a relevant promotion when walking past the relevant aisle. Or imagine McDonalds calling out drivers on the motorway with a contextual suggestion on Apple CarPlay?

After launching a partnership with Spotify, Uber has just unveiled an API for developers to create contextual content and services for their riders (think about Heineken telling you about some cool bars in the area you’re heading to). 4newswall made the news accessible and relevant to millennials, and was hosted on Tumblr. Even the latest iOS is now “learning” your habits to suggest actions based on the context you find yourself in.

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Most marketers are scared of the connected world’s ecosystem, not knowing where to start. That’s probably why most content is still buried within millions of YouTube videos and Facebook posts – the megaphones of social media. The truth is that the countless platforms available offer the richest opportunities in terms of audience and context.

So instead of creating content for the sake of it, start by learning your audience’s pathways. Only then you can reach them with relevant content that won’t necessarily hit billions of likes from some bots in India, but that will engage and move people to their very core. And that’s pretty much what true content should be about.

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learning from dicaprio’s near misses at cannes.

We’ve once won an industry award at my first agency. I remember the planner running around the office, brandishing a creative brief with a mandatory section that read: “this piece of work needs to win us an award”.

My proudest achievement to date – the Puma Dance Dictionary – won us some awards, but not before the international press talked about it. Not before I received a Puma Dance Dictionary message from a close friend I hadn’t talked to in years. If the purpose of what we do is to use brands to fuel culture and make something people will love, then there’s nothing more rewarding than having people talking about it. Unless you’re a multi-awards-winning CD, a Lion is really only destined to sit under some dust in reception or be buried under a lot of blurb in your CV.

Besides, what have awards become today? The backlash from the recent Cannes Lions was clear in pointing out that the strongest ideas had made place to what could be defined as “gimmicks”. Grey’s Grand Prix wins for Volvo and Facebook’s ice bucket challenge are good examples. And with new categories created every year, we are just devaluing what was the most respected awards show a decade ago.

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It is hard to argue against Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances over the time, yet he’s never left Cannes with anything else than a hangover. The year he failed to win an – expected – award for his performance on The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar went to Matthew McConaughey for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club (movie fanatics will remember that McConaughey undertook an extraordinary physical transformation for that film). Perhaps Oscars aren’t rewarding the best performances anymore. Perhaps that’s why Leonardo’s physical effort in The Revenant is likely to finally win him one. And perhaps there is a strong case for awards to be overrated.

Awards give you momentum, which could in turn win you clients and talent, but never should they come before or in the way of what we do in this Industry – culturally defining moments that get people to give a damn.

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the renaissance of lego.

For a recent client meeting, we had to prepare by presenting our favourite brand. In the shadow of Apple and Coke, few would have chosen Lego. I remember spending hours mixing the content of Lego boxes collected Christmas after Christmas to build my own creations, just like, today, some commissioned artists amaze my eyes in the isles of our department stores. Lego might be one of the longest ideas ever created. They come back from nowhere and I have noticed 3 key factors to their success.

Staying true to themselves – the father and son story. In a time of recession, most brands have shifted their messages towards their heritage, going back to their brand’s roots, product classics or local heritage. Lego will forgive you for not knowing they are a Danish brand, as long as you remember their rectangle bricks, and the countless edifices you have been crafting and building with your dad. That story has even been the focus of their recent ad.

lego dad and sson

Innovating and diversifying – They went beyond their category to build a strong, all round brand. Not many toy brands count a theme park, a fashion range (that I surprisingly spotted in Copenhagen airport) and a blockbuster film to their name. From a product perspective, they’ve also diversified through new product lines to reach girls with the successful launch of Lego Friends.

Staying relevant by celebrating popular culture – the partnerships with strong equities such as Star Wars to even create a collector piece, once retailing at $500 (and probably more on e-Bay), the hype around the launch of a Simpsons range or the celebration of Breaking Bad. They have followed a strategy of brand association, which could prove successful (Angry Bird with Rio and Star Wars edition) or disastrous (Cover Girl Hunger Games edition). Not only did they broaden their audience, from fathers and sons to nerds saving to buy their collectors, but they have also managed to respond to a growing competition in the bricks building market by keeping their name at the top of consumers’ mind. To the point that porn star Christy Mack chose Lego when challenging her audience for an interesting reward (mind you, I’m not interested). Or even Cern’s competition by hiding Legos in Google Street View. Speaking about nerds, what about some new ideas for your Halloween costumes?

Lego came from nowhere indeed but – having experienced with innovation – they managed to find the right balance between keeping their heritage and embracing the Now. And that’s just clever marketing. The challenge will be to remain focused and not overwhelmed by spreading around with no clear direction or brand vision. But we shouldn’t worry too much about that since they probably learnt from their past mistakes.

lego man

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is apple getting tired?

Apple’s slick product development strategy consists of permanently avoiding the maturity phase of its products by spreading the deployment of their existing innovations over time. This ensures consumers will keep upgrading their devices and flourish the company’s cash flow with minimum R&D. Perhaps what they didn’t realise is that this strategy is, today, leading the company itself to its maturity phase, as they are seen as lacking innovation as a whole.

Is Apple getting tired? The fact that this happened when Steve Jobs left the Earth is a mere coincidence to me. This trend had already started before he left. Maybe the answer simply relies in the fact that competition managed to catch up. Apple’s current trial with Samsung – the company behind the development of the iPhone’s nemesis – unveiled an interesting letter that says it all about Samsung’s threat on Apple.

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These two companies are differentiated by a key aspect of their marketing. Samsung never really had a strong brand equity, nor vision. If they have one, it is nowhere near the one of Apple (I wouldn’t wear a Samsung T-shirt – would you?). But they embraced Android like no other and managed to create a simple yet innovative and powerful product line in the name of the Galaxy range, which has quickly matched the appeal of the iPhone. Apple on the other hand, have established one of the strongest brands ever and have been challenging the status quo since releasing the first Mac with an ad to remember in 1984. That said, the recent releases of their products have been disappointing to say the least, with some little evolution that has been beaten by Samsung and other players in the market. A focus on a strong brand vs. a focus on a strong product.

What did go wrong for a company that was seen untouchable 5 years ago? Any new technologies they proudly launched have been matched by the competition, be it Siri or Face Time. They released a new iOS, which, to me, seems to take some hints from both Windows Mobile (design) and Android (functionality). Just like they seem to align on their competitors, with the rumoured launch of a bigger screen size after resisting it with the argument that you could reach the whole of your iPhone 5 screen with your thumb. And their anticipated attempt to release a cheaper version of the iPhone – the iPhone 5c, which is basically the iPhone 5 with a plastic colour cover reminiscent of the relaunch of the iPod Nano range – failed to deliver with a hefty price of around £450.

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Maybe that last point is the beginning of the answer. When Apple released what everyone expected as an entry-level iPhone, they were actually never going to trade off their premiumness which is what their brand stands for and simply released a colour range rather than compromising on who they are. Can focusing on their brand keep them out of the water for long? The launch of the iPhone 6 at the end of this year is still fuelling conversations and will definitely be a turning point should they fail to deliver ground-breaking innovation. Their activeness on the patent front might be reassuring. There are also new battlefields this year, such as the wearable tech, with Google and Samsung being key players. So let’s not list them as dead just yet. After all, maybe that mind-blowing ad (and the way it was launched at the back of the Super Bowl storm) is reminding everyone of who they are. The question, though, is not about who they are but about what they will do.

 

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video cv and other ways to market yourself.

Bleustein Blanchet – one of the late fathers of advertising – once said that the Communications Industry was all about difference. I could not be more in agreement with him and have even extended this statement to Marketing and our every day’s life. Having a look at the employment market, the release of the “Doyoubuzz” website highlights this quest for differentiation: job applicants are now more than ever looking at ways to differentiate themselves from the crowd. That’s right, this is individuals marketing themselves on the job market.

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If the CV and the covering letter are evolving, one would be mistaken to think they are disappearing. The CV is, to me, the ultimate way to give the employer what he wants (on top of its administrative purposes). It needs to be simple and almost standardised – imagine everyone using the same template for their CVs just like most corporations are now asking us to fill in these lengthy questionnaires that literally re-organise the information already presented on your CV. With this in mind, the only way to differentiate yourself will be to do anything around the CV that will be clever enough to 1) make your voice heard, and 2) sell yourself.

A (very) basic way to understand the message in Marketing Communications could be to split it between the What and the How. The How could be a ATL comms, raising awareness whilst driving engagement through emotional cues, and the What that could be a retail leaflet or a company website, providing your audience with detailed info about the product in a convenient format. Back to our employment market, the How will be your covering letter (showing your personality and getting your reader to consider your CV), and the What will be that very CV. Again, agreeing that all CVs should be standardised, your only opportunity of differentiation will be your covering letter or whatever this is. Let’s look at an interesting example: the video CV.

Typing “video CV” on YouTube will give you a broad range of good, bad and even ugly executions. I have given myself a try at this risky exercise (risky as, if it will undoubtedly give you fame, that fame can easily turn into bad publicity) after graduating, and therefore having a fairly “light” CV in terms of experience. Here are my advices to any fellow ambitious risk-takers:

  1. Have a clear goal. This will narrow your ambitions, making your video to the point and relevant. There is a huge difference between “I want a great marketing job with great money” and “I want to be a successful advertising account executive in London”.
  2. The idea. This is not a CV but an inspiring deliverable with sole goal to inspire your employer to read your CV. Ideally, the end frame will actually call the viewer to download your actual CV.
  3. Relevance. I have seen some fairly bad examples that were so famous they probably destroyed these guys’ careers. Why? Because you don’t make a video of yourself if you don’t have that minimum of charisma, creativity or if you have nothing better to say than reading your CV in front of a camera for 5 minutes. Relevance also covers the Industry you are after. You wouldn’t do a video CV to land a part time job at McDonalds would you?
  4. The execution. Remember that the execution supports the idea, and not the other way around. You could simply post it on YouTube and wait for the buzz to take off, or send it directly to employers with a catchy line, or you could combine both into a clever activation plan whereby you will start broadcasting it (online and auto-generated buzz) to then narrowcast (direct emails)

The video CV is just one of the ways to market yourself on the employment market, just like putting yourself on eBay for auction. Remember to always stay true to yourself, to showcase your personality instead of replicating your CV in audio, and to execute it as part of a well-thought activation plan. Here’s mine open to critics… I would steer away from Barney Stinson’s execution!

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is any publicity good publicity?

Is there really no such thing as bad publicity? Probably the biggest unresolved mystery on Planet PR. Blogs are full of it and no publicist will be able to give you a proper answer. First of all what is publicity? Above and beyond its definition from the schoolbooks, it’s greatest strength – gaining true trust from consumers – relies on its greatest weakness – a lack of control in its creation and deployment.

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Isn’t that adage misleading? Ask BP after its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, who had to spend millions to rebuild its image, and is – regardless – remembered for it, whether it is through some bad press or through infamous Halloween costumes. How about Tiger Woods and the loss of 6 sponsorship deals, let alone his recent performances on the green? Toyota and its products recall? And the list goes on. As it would be too easy otherwise, there are also examples of brands that did benefit from bad publicity. Kanye West (like other singers) and all his related controversy ended up being at the top of consumers’ minds and saw his albums sales jumping. How about these awful movies which always end up landing at the top of the box office?

Last summer, at the Cannes Lions (the biggest worldwide annual event of the advertising industry gathering agencies, clients and like-minded), Grey thought they’d make a splash by hiring a plane with one of those trailing banners. One human mistake later, they were all over the press and blogosphere as an agency that cannot even ensure quality-checks on a 4-word banner – hardly a reliable partner for a client. Working for that same agency, we discussed it internally, not accepting that it was a “mistake”. Some argued that if the job was to get Grey’s name out there at an Industry event that is pretty much the equivalent of the Superbowl, the job was purposely well done. Some accepted the mistake but thought the best way to handle it was indeed to claim it was a clever stunt.

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A study ran by Alan Sorensen (Stanford) showed that when a known author was subject to bad critics, his book’s sales would plummet. He also realised that the opposite was happening for unknown authors. We can therefore claim that bad publicity actually helps unknown brands. That school of thought can be supported by the fact that a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 people whereby a satisfied one will only tell 3. If it’s noise you need, then maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So, is there really no such thing as bad publicity? I don’t think there is a straightforward answer. It’s all down to the specific brand and publicity (no doubt that if Kanye West would have rapped a teenager, that controversy wouldn’t have helped him sell albums, let alone that he’d be writing it from jail). If one thing is sure though, it is that all publicity is good if it is intelligent, whether bad or good and depending on the way it is handled. Grey managed to be famous and to get people talking, Apple managed to reinforce its strong position and to seize the opportunity to trash its competitors, and some politicians managed to gain their audiences’ sympathy using auto-derision. Is all publicity good publicity? No, but all publicity is good if it is intelligent.

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imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The word “inventing” comes from a lot of meanings. Whilst an “invention” refers to something new, an “inventory” refers to something existing. I find that quite interesting as it can be a way to understand the concept of innovation. Going back to its Latin roots, innovare means renewing or changing an existing concept/ process/ product or what have you. One might therefore be mistaken to believe that innovating is bringing something totally new to the world. Sit down Steve J, I’m only starting.

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Innovation tends to be massively used in dynamic Industries such as the high technology sector. This is logical since differentiation in this sector is driven by the novelty of its products, even though the brand can still play an important role e.g. in Apple’s case. But innovation means patents, industrial spying, many (many) lawsuits and other childishness. Which brings us to the question: can imitation be considered as a form of flattery?

I have been using an HTC Desire HD for the past couple of months and I must admit that some of its hardware and software features clearly come from the iPhone’s famous innovations. One day, I have shared my new purchase on my Facebook profile and most of the underlying comments were quite disrespectful to HTC, stating that they had “cheated” on the iPhone to make a break on this market. Yes, HTC wasn’t the first to use multi-touch and other – once groundbreaking – features that today became a standard in smartphones. However, they have – alongside the Android OS – brought a lot of new innovations such as its processor for an improved speed, a revisited interface and the ability to customise your device the way you want. They have done what is standard practice in open source software: “study how the program works, and evolve it to make it do what you wish”. This trend isn’t specific to an Industry either: new advertising techniques are also imitated, then improved and so on.

Competitors tend to rely on what one has created to improve their own products and services. While some might see this as cheating and disrespect, others will see it as a recognition of the initial innovation as well as taking part to the ongoing improvement of the product, and in turn, to the dynamism of the market. The trick is then to ensure consumers remember you were the first one to introduce that novelty.

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big freeze, big loss, big profits.

Mother nature was far from a Christmassy mood last December in Europe, impacting on our travels and our shopping sprees. Bearing in mind I’m living in London (the most dynamic hub of Europe, located in the North hence likely to be affected by bad weather), allow me to ask why this is happening for the second year in a row? Was our very own BoJo too busy launching his cycle scheme and starting a war with tube drivers? I mean is Helsinki airport closed half of the year? I hear you saying that the required equipments are costly, but aren’t they worth limiting the huge loss witnessed by our economy?

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We have learnt for the second time in a row that our economy – now more than ever weakened by the recession – does not like catching a cold. The impact of heavy snows around the UK almost feared some of a double dip recession, with numbers far from reassuring. Quite a logical assumption isn’t it? For starters, transport – that wasn’t at its best this year with terrorism fears, business travel restrictions, increasing oil charges and the Icelandic volcano eruptions – was a heavy loser of the Big Freeze. Construction was also badly hit, as well as high streets retailers (this happening on a key consumption period), agriculture, the entertainment sector, as well as energy (no doubt many of you worked from home all day with the heat on and a relaxing bubble bath break).

But was it really that bad for everyone? As BBC’s Anthony Reuben rightly discussed, it’s all about the point of view we stand by. For instance, UK airports surely had to hire more staff to handle the huge rush of people flooding their terminals – that’s giving temp’ jobs to those who didn’t have any at such a key period. Sales of cold weather gear also surely rose above expectations. Doctor’s appointments, garages for car repair, energy companies, salt mines, snowploughs drivers and you name it! One huge winner was the online sales sector. 25% rise year on year is just crazy, bearing in mind this sector will be winning even beyond that since it will have attracted first-time buyers who had mainly emotional barriers to purchase online (fear of data security, lack of familiarity with high technology etc…), and who now will form part of their productive databases. However it is not that simple. The fact that people were unable to move might have boosted online sales but the hard weather meant that deliveries could not be handled in time for Christmas, adding in yet another barrier to online shopping. There are also some interesting facts about the relation of consumers’ stress on price sensitivity in that “consumers experiencing higher stress levels will demonstrate a higher level of price sensitivity”, meaning marketers will have a tougher job in conveying value for their products.

Marketing is about understanding its environment to spot underlying opportunities. A problem means a solution just like a virus means an antidote – the trick is only to find it first and adapt quickly. A new situation means winners and losers. It also means losers can diversify to winners’ activities. The recession meant that people were less likely to have dinners in town, so Sainsbury and M&S started to launch appealing campaigns to show how you could make a great dinner at home with their grocery products. Again, it’s all about the point of view you stand by. After all, ask G.W. Bush what he thought of the 9.11 attacks.

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