Thursday, March 29, 2007

Row upon row

For an idea of the scale of the judging process at the D&AD global Awards 2007, take a look at this:

Photo credit: Christine Donnier-Valentin

That’s just a glimpse of the 25,000 pieces of creative work that the judges have to plough through, but the good news is that judging ends today. Now that the hard yakka is done, it's just a nailbiting wait to the first week of April before entrants can find out how they fared.

Here’s the link to the D&AD website:

And here’s the link to the awards page:

Marketing’s guest blogger Victor Ng from Leo Burnett was one of the judges for the integrated category at the event, click here to read his entry for a behind-the-scenes look at the judging process.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Full of it

What happens when a multi-billion dollar company such as GlaxoSmithKline, goes head to head against a science project done by two 14 year old girls? Its a ‘vitamin C’ rich lesson in honesty.

Today, the company was fined NZ$217,000 (S$236,000) by a New Zealand Court and admitted to 15 charges of misleading advertising regarding Ribena advertising between 2002 and 2006. This was the conclusion of a discovery made in 2004 by high school girls who used the popular drink in their science project.

The science project found that Ribena contained no vitamin C which was in complete contrast to the drinks’ ad messages which claim Ribena is healthy and that black currant juice has more vitamin C than oranges (Do you guys remember that ad were the Ribena blackcurrants save the oranges?).

In New Zealand, which is where the fateful ‘experiment’ took place – Ribena ads claimed it had at least seven milligrams of vitamin C per 100 millilitres. The experiment showed it didn’t and proved that Ribena ads were full of something alright…just not vitamin C.

GlaxoSmithKline have been ordered to run corrective advertising (so they have to tell the truth) as well as put up a ‘message’ on its website.

It’s a fact that a company as rich as they are, is not going to be hurt at all by the fine but at least it’s a win for Team Moral and Team Principles. I am not saying ads always have to tell the truth (I am just as much of a fan of kooky ads and ads which make you think “as if!” as the next person) but I say if you want to use “facts” in ads then those “facts” need to be right – no excuses.

It’s like buying a toilet that doesn’t really flush – (Ok I am exaggerating and I’ve never actually gone out and bought a toilet but you get my drift).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Please explain

The Health Promotion Board’s latest anti-smoking campaign includes a TVC graphically showing a mouth cancer sufferer talking about the ill effects of smoking – the ad is good, very soul wrenching and hard hitting, but is it original?

Now I am not pointing fingers at the HPB but it is obvious that the video and subsequent coverage by the Straits Times interactive make no mention of a very similar anti-smoking TVC which ran in Australia.

The videos are a splitting image from the ‘Quitting is hard, not quitting is harder’ tagline to the graphic images of the mouth cancer symptoms on the woman speaking – this has all left me feeling a liitle…how should I say this… ‘uncomfortable’.

Can someone help come up with an explanation for all this? Does the Straits Time’s print version credit the Australian campaign or offer up any explanations?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What price media creativity?

I was at a recent International Herald Tribune seminar the other day where the topic of involving media in the creative process and the need for creativity was placed under the microscope.

I managed to attend the first session of the morning with speakers like Deepika Nikhilender, managing partner of MindShare Singapore and Craig Harvey, director for media research Asia Pacific, Synovate kicking off the event (Thierry Halbroth senior creative director of Universal McCann was also supposed to be there and he would have been great to listen to, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it down).

It was interesting to note during the session not only how important the creative process was to media owners but also, how creativity can work against you, if you aren’t careful.

Creative media can mean utilising any media in a non-traditional format, and doing so can mean creating a powerful brand extension for your product and extending its brand equity. Craig pointed out that The Wall Street Journal’s latest cover wrap on Marketing Hong Kong’s inaugural issue was a good case in point -- (The pic below shows what the cover wrap looks like) media owners are now saying “Come to us for good creative media executions, we can provide them!”

That was a good concept for The Wall Street Journal to take, it certainly got eyeballs. Another good one that Craig mentioned was a respected newspaper cutting a hole in the middle of its front page, with story text running round the hole. This particular example consequently generated a lot of discussion for 2 reasons: one, because it was a novelty in terms of being a creative execution; and two, because it was a novelty in terms of being a creative execution. There were both good and bad pointers brought up about this. That it was creative was a no-brainer, but was it being creative just for creativity’s sake? The panellists thought it was all right to be creative for creativity’s sake, but I disagree. While it can attract attention and have a ‘wow’ factor to it, there has to be some sort of objective and point to the creative execution, and besides, as was brought up by other audience members, there could be a reverse effect, a backlash if you will, if the creative execution isn’t done in line with the image of the product. For example, might the respected newspaper with the hole in the middle have compromised its relationship with its readers? Do media risk jeopardising their integrity in their effort to deliver increasingly creative solutions? It’s a truism that media spend a lot of time building up brand equity, but also spend a lot of time to please and fit in marketer demands in an effort to get the dollars in – this can serve to erode the brand and compromise it. On the other hand, a creative buy can have a positive reaction in that it can attract attention and work to differentiate the product from other competitors in the market.

At the end of the day though, it all boils down to ROI – if you can measure the wow factor and prove to the ROI/procurement guys that the creative execution works, then maybe that’s what the bottom line is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Singapore judges head for D&AD

Judging for the prestigious D&AD Global Awards 2007 will begin in two short weeks, with London expected to play host to 300 of the world’s leading creatives from 25 nations.

This year has seen increases in entries for digital, design, integrated and craft categories, with the virals category gaining a massive 94% from last year.

Asian nations that submitted a notably higher number of entries to this year’s competition include Singapore, Japan and Vietnam. Judges from Singapore, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand will be joining the D&AD jury panels.

Singapore-based creatives slated for the honour are:

Richard Johnson, M&C Saatchi Singapore (Ambient)
Christopher Lee, Asylum Creatives (Graphic Design)
Victor Ng, Leo Burnett Singapore (Integrated)
John Merrifield, TBWA Singapore (Music Videos)
Eugene Cheong, Ogilvy & Mather Singapore (Press Advertising)
Andy Greenaway, Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore (TV & Cinema Advertising)
Sean Lam, Kinetic (Websites)
Jagdish Ramakrishnan, Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore (Writing for Advertising)

“The standard of judging is what makes D&AD Pencils so hard to win. We have the toughest and best creative minds in the world debating – and arguing – about the work that should be recognised for setting new standards in creative excellence”, Tony Davidson, D&AD president said in a statement. “The great thing about D&AD is the range of work you see, from graphic design to gaming, to 3D design, to ambient, photography and illustration – judging at the D&AD Global Awards is truly inspiring.”

Aside from giving a pat on the back to our flag-bearing creative minds, I just wanted to share this picture with you. It put a smile on my face today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Citizen blog

We’re blogging about blogs again – and why not? It seems 46% of the online population in Singapore have created blogs of their own, according to the latest MindShare research.

So if nearly half the online population of Singapore are creating blogs then that must make us a pretty up-to-date and savvy bunch? Guess again – compared with China’s figures which show a staggering 77% of its online population creating blogs, are actually a nation full of early adopters and hi-tech embracing citizens?

So what is it about blogs which has China embracing it tirelessly? The study conducted research on participants aged 15 to 35 across Singapore, China, India, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia, and suggested that China’s youth were more eager to express themselves freely in blogs than Singaporeans’ were. Perhaps they see the positives more than we do?

Forget about the recent negative press blogs have been receiving – just know that blogs are great tool to get peer to peer communications going. We do it all the time here on The Pitch and so without sounding cliché, we do value your feedback. Genuine blogs always have the potential for the consumer or user to engage in a fantastic arena in which they can get educated, entertained and….etc.

If I am not mistaken (as I am doing this from memory) Richard Edelman when he came down in late ’06 argued that nowadays people tended to trust peer to peer communications more than communications from official brand spokespersons. Not surprising then to hear about the growing number of flogs around talking about PSPs and other what have you nots.

I am no blog expert, I don’t pretend to be -- what I want is to hear what my peers have to say. What is the word on blogging in Singapore? Has its time already come and gone? Marketers lend me your ears – is the market in Singapore really not ready for hi-tech campaigns?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Join the club

For a while it seemed FordClubSG would be added to the growing list of forums or blogs who discovered that “what you say can and will be held against you in a court of law” – luckily it all ended happily – the site was shutdown and no one was sued.

The story goes like this, a reportedly disgruntled fan of Fords posted comments on the Ford fan club forum, FordClubSG, dissing its dealership Regent Motors for supposed poor handling of the Ford brand.

Regent Motors took offence and launched an investigation into whether to pursue the matter through the courts. Newspapers reported that the IP address of the offending person was located and a decision would be made on whether to bring in the lawyers.

The matter appears to have been settled outside the courtrooms but unfortunately for the forum and its enthusiasts – it has shut down. As of today, this is what the administrator notice says on the site.

So while freedom of speech may be a closely guarded principle in developed countries, how do you guard it in the digital world where everyone and anyone can say what they like – with our without any motives?

While it’s great to see brands increasingly make the effort to engage its consumers for user generated content, the risks involved are evident for all to see. Not only do you have to worry about the potential for crappy made content but you have to worry about amazingly good content being made which not only doesn’t carry the brand message you’d hope for but instead humours your brand brilliantly enough that it gets sent ‘round the world – in less than 80 days too!

All that and I haven’t even touch on all those fake blogs (flogs) that out there, which leads us back to the FordClubSG story – there is suggestion by some that the ‘defamatory’ posting was put up by a competitor.

So that’s the rub of the green in the digital world then – boy likes ford, creates forum, meets other boys who likes fords, mysterious anti-ford person makes comment, boy shuts down forum.

Guess it’s cruel in the digital world too.

Friday, March 02, 2007

When the walls have ears

The current advertising agency landscape in the world is such that many large clients have the clout to demand its agencies do not take on competing accounts -- but considering most large agencies are owned by the big five networks, surely information gets leaked?

For large global accounts like Samsung and HSBC, it is not uncommon for the world’s largest network WPP to handpick its best talent across agencies and field them in pitches. And because of this strategy, WPP puts itself in excellent stead to win these accounts.

Again this strategy has come into play recently, with WPP forming an initiative named Gold to go for the Singapore Airlines business. Gold is led by the Asia Pacific heads of Ogilvy & Mather and Bates.

In this day in age, where technology has revolutionised the way and speed in which we communicate, the ability for service providers to customise their offerings to individual clients is key to keeping them in business.

No one can fault WPP or Omnicom or Interpublic or anyone else for doing business this way.

However, the inherent problem in such ‘team’ arrangements is that the experts being partnered together like a jigsaw puzzle inevitably, in their respective agencies, work on different accounts from each other and surely some are competing ones.

Which is quite an oxymoron considering networks try their darnest to retain large clients, going to the extent of setting up new divisions for a brand which it wouldn’t normally be able to take on because it is already servicing that brand’s arch competition. They go to great lengths to assure clients that their organisations are ‘water-proof’ – no secret information pertaining to one brand will leak to the other because it’s an entirely SEPARATE staff working on the two.

Come on, this business is a people business and people talk. That’s just the way it is. What’s stopping the creative director working on Nike and the one on Adidas to accidentally let something slip during their Friday pub sessions? Afterall, everyone knows everyone else and after a few drinks… you know…

I had the privilege of spending a morning with global creative chief of Leo Burnett, Mark Tutssell, last month, and he was pleasantly surprised at how the Asian advertising types hang out after work, everyone knows everyone else, and it is close-knit community. He compares this with his experiences in the UK, where he says people rarely socialise beyond their own agencies.

This may seem weird to Asia, and I really do like the fact that our CDs hang out with each other, but perhaps in the perspective of over-sharing information, London may have got it right.

If you recall, I spoke with Batey Ads founder Ian Batey a few months ago and one of the things he brought up was this issue. He says, all the major agencies in the world report to that same handful of chiefs from the big five. So regardless how information leaks on the agency level, all ‘secrets’ are revealed to the network bosses so there is no air-tight scenario.

Batey even went so far as to suggest a future scenario where the biggest of clients decide to enforce that, regardless of the agency it works with, that agency’s entire network is not allowed to take on any competing brand.

He says this will force a lot more business out of the networks, allowing many more smaller networks to be established, creating more jobs for advertising, encouraging more entrepreneurial behaviour to cater to demand.

Sure, this ‘solution’ may be rather idealistic, but it is a good starting point to consider how we may progress from today’s network monopolies, and address how to better protect competitive information.