Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ogilvy celebrates in style

You have to love those crazy Ogilvy folks, they really know how to party.
The team at Bold Ogilvy Athens, Ogilvy’s Greece outfit, recently made this tribute to David Ogilvy.

Its in honour of the agency founder’s 60th birthday and is, as you can see, a very “interesting” homage.

Its got in it everything one could love from European pop music – attractive singers, a great sound and catchy lyrics like “David so bold and avid”.

All I can say is bring on Eurovision 2009.

Monday, October 20, 2008

To pay or not to pay, that is the question

The message seems loud and clear – the pitching process has become an unruly battleground in Singapore and needs to be cleaned up. But is bringing in compulsory pitch fees the way to nirvana?

It’s obvious that ad agencies in Singapore are fed up with the pitch process. We explore this issue in this month’s magazine.

Many are clamoring for a mandatory pitch fee system to be introduced, as is the case in Malaysia. But most recognize this drastic measure would have several negative implications.

Smaller agencies may miss out on more pitches, as clients get selective on who they invite to pitches. Marketers may be less likely to take risks, as adding an extra layer of fees on to the advertising structure may mean the end product is of a lower of standard of work.

And more questions emerge – how big should the fee be? Is there a one-size fits all policy, or would the fee depend on the size of the client’s budget? And how would the process be regulated? In many ways the whole pitch fee issue offers more questions than answers.

One way for forward for making pitching more transparent could be to introduce one-day workshops between clients and agencies, instead of 20 or 40 minute presentations.

It’s a process Trinity P3 recently used in Australia for the Vodafone pitch, and its one that has been used in Europe for quite a while. In the workshop marketers and agencies get to spend time together and build a relationship, giving each more of an opportunity to get know each other and see if a partnership would work.

This technique wouldn’t work for every client, but it may work for some. It’s just an idea, and probably an overly-ambitious one, but overall the view seems clear that something must be done to make pitching here a more open process.

What do you think, how can pitches in Singapore be improved?

Friday, October 17, 2008

When a good idea is pushed too far

A great ad can do a lot for a brand, but the over-flogging of that great ad can also do a lot of damage.

The famous Australian “Rabbits” TVC which was created by the agency BWM a few years ago for BigPond, a part of Australian telco giant Telstra, is a good example.

The ad was a hit, BigPond’s brand grew and grew as a result, and the ad is regarded as one of the best and most successful to come out of Australia in recent years.

The two characters were very well received by Australian viewers – the young son, cute and innocent, and the father who is cheeky but endearing. The quote that the Great Wall of China was built by “Emperor Nasi Goreng'' to “keep the rabbits out'” has become a part of Aussie culture, a claim that few ads can make. And the father and son characters have since popped up in numerous ads for Telstra BigPond over the years, like this one

this one

and this one

BigPond did deviate briefly with this one-off effort featuring notorious American rocker Tommy Lee.

But few of the ads since “Rabbits” featuring the characters have managed to replicate its massive success. The latest one, titled “Australian Day”, was another continuation and was launched with much hype, but failed to reach the heights of “Rabbits”.

Now this early this week I was dismayed to hear that the characters from “Rabbits” were apparently to be turned into a feature film. It was revealed earlier this year at Cannes by BigPond group MD Justin Milne that Telstra was considering turning the ad into a TV sitcom.
For whatever reason this hasn’t happened, but now BWM has apparently started work on developing a script for a film based on the “Rabbits” characters.

According to the report “conversations are underway with some of Australia’s most prominent script writers to work on a screenplay”, and BWM has “been approaching writers from Australian classics such as Strictly Ballroom, The Castle and The Dish to garner interest in the project, though some of these have already declined”.

Surprise surprise that those writers have declined. Common sense dictates that they would be flogging a dead horse.

Telstra BigPond and BWM had a great ad with “Rabbits”. It was a huge hit, it’s still very popular and won a swag of awards. But they have to move on it from it now. If they did want to make a film based on the ad, they’d want to be very, very careful to make sure the film is entertaining. The damage a film flop would do to the brand would be immense.

Later this week Telstra backtracked big time and came out publicly flatly denying the film would be made. A Telstra spokesperson told industry magazine AdNews that reports it plans to create a film based from characters from the ad were a BWM “PR stunt”.

For me, that’s good news and a smart play by Telstra.

There’s a very fine line between having a great ad which remains being held in high esteem for years, both by the public and the industry, to many great ads which become far too exposed and over-flogged so that consumers literally switch off when they appear.

Viewers appreciate and enjoy a great 30-second ad, but I don’t know many cinema-goers who get excited or would pay to watch a two-hour commercial.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A groovy kind of road

Yes you enjoy music, you hum to the tunes, and you’ve seen “plastic plants” dance to the beat. But have you seen or rather heard of a singing road?

Let's rock & roll!!

It all started in Japan when a dude named Shizuo Shinoda drove his bulldozer over unlevel roads. Road engineers eventually developed a musical road surface turning cars into ‘tuning forks’ when they travel over grooves cut at specific internals which produce different tones depending on the width between the grooves.

This same technology was used in a little stretch of road about an hour from Toyko, built at a couple of hundred thousand yen as a municipal town’s way of creating novelty to encourage people to visit their home town as it was extremely deserted.

But this ain’t something too new, apparently, it was been done at Disney World many years ago with the intro to "When You Wish Upon a Star" playing as one drove down the road towards the Magic Kingdom entrance; Zip-a-dee-do-da was tried too. According to a blogger at a directory website, the sound was freaking some drivers out hence it was discontinued.

Zip-a-dee-do-da from 'Song of the South'

The ad agency for Torrance-based American Honda, RPA of Santa Monica, decided to incorporate the peculiar music-making method into a Civic commercial that will air nationally in late September.

Perhaps the Americans didn’t think much about the repercussions except for its novelty, Lancaster Town in Virginia had a Civic Road with similarity carved track lines which ‘drove’ to the sound of ‘The William Tell Overture’ at 55 mph, the posted speed limit. It lasted for around 18 days when it was forcefully discontinued as it was “creating too much noise”, residents complained.

This hyper-sensitive little town with its graying population complained to the authorities that it was too loud and they could not stomach the ad campaign for Honda Civic.

To date, these roads have been built in cities like Japan, South Korea and Holland. I suppose I wouldn’t complain if they did anything like such is Singapore. Imagine the roads along Esplanade playing ‘Singapore Town’ [… take a little trip around Singapore town In Singapore city bus…] or along the Padang playing [Majulah Singapura]. Think of all the ad jingles!!

It makes me even more motivated to get my driving license!!

However if you think fuel charges are too high and having music while cruising drives you up the wall. You can always opt for something less noisy, and something that you do everyday and most of the time more than once – one of Hasbros’ most popular product in recent years - ‘The only toothbrush that puts music in your mouth” - Tooth Tunes!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Make me laugh

When it comes to delivering a social message, government bodies and affiliates are often faced with two options, a) do it through a hard hitting shock tactic type execution, or b) through humor. Which one works best?

The reason I ask is, today Grey sent me a series of TVCs its Melbourne office did for WorkSafe which highlight, in a pretty gruesome manner, the dangers that young people face in the workplace. It's pretty effective in getting the message across, have a look at the one where the kid gets boiled by scalding water.

Stark contrast to last year's well known 'pinky' ads the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) New South Wales did for anti-speeding which we blogged about here. Closer to home, Singapore has also adopted a less gory approach to road safety. This year's Road Safety Outreach Campaign is a complete u-turn to most of the road safety stuff i saw last year in Singapore (especially from the ones shown in the cinema with the creepy and annoying voice overs).

For me, personally, I prefer the humorous ads but shock-ads, done well , definitely leave a lasting impression.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Politics: The great creative inspiration

What is it about politics, especially American politics, that inspires such an outpouring of creativity?

When ever its election time in the US there seems to be a mad scrambling together of all sorts of creative types, who come up with great content aimed at the voting public. In this instance, ad agency Droga5 has worked with comedian Sarah Silverman to make this pro-Obama message.

There’s also been a ton of stuff directed at Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. As you can see, Saturday Night Live has a field day with several skits about Palin. But so has many other groups from writers, actors, comedians and just the public in general. Here’s one, and here’s another.

There’s also been some interesting ads to get Americans to register to vote. Here’s one with Jessica Alba in a Hannibal Lecter-style mask. Other notable efforts include this TVC, which was done during the Democratic nominations and designed to separate Obama from Hilary Clinton.

The other side of this coin is some of the terrible advertising that gets produced during elections. Like this ad (yes, it’s a real ad) for Republican nominee Mike Huckabee and this TVC for Mike Romney.

And there’s also the attack ads, which have become a big part of elections, especially American elections, and are the other side of this issue. Why does politics inspire the best, and often the worst, in the creative community? And is this lacking in Asia and in Asian politics?

Give us your thoughts.

You know something's wrong when....

Mainland Chinese stop splurging! The Hong Kong Tourism Board yesterday announced that visitor arrivals from Mainland China during this year’s National Day Golden Week holidays reached 481,987, a 9.5% jump on the same period last year. Good numbers for sure, but what's got the retail market in Hong Kong worried is that retail sales were worse than expected. It's long been touted that mainland Chinese would be the saving grace for Hong Kong's retail market in this period of financial uncertainty, particularly in the luxury goods market. But apparently not.
The South China Morning Post is reporting that while individual mainland travellers jumped 14%, sales surged less than 5% compared to the same period last year with expectations from store owners significantly down.
"We're a bit disappointed because this is lower than the 10 per cent target," Lau Hak-bun, sales director at Chow Sang Sang Jewellery, said.
The SCMP also says that Oriental Watch store saw its revenue over the Golden Week dropped by about 20% to 30% for its Central shop, although our Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan shops did better. Maybe it wasn't a Golden Week after all.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Give me your Ideas and I’ll give you my brand...

Brands and corporations have been aligning themselves with student bodies for a long time...offering book prizes, scholarships, exclusive internship opportunities etc… Nobody ever complains as these schemes benefit the students and are likely to influence their job opportunities after gathering these accolades.

In recent years we’ve been seeing more marketers willing to work with schools in several different ways - sponsoring competitions, giving out bursaries etc. Business schools have their sales, branding, and marketing competitions, (Think ‘The Apprentice’ on slightly smaller less glamorous scale). Creative outlets have also been holding competitions looking out for their next protégé.

Mastercard, Microsoft, Toyota, Nestle, Yahoo and Vidal Sasson, to name just a few, are some of the brands out there who are capitalising on young, untapped energy and talent.

Perhaps I am a little to harsh and skeptical here, but I can’t help but wonder if this is the new route brands are taking - capitalizing on students' ideas as a cheaper alternative to consultancy firms.

“Hmmm I could hire a consultancy or an agency to work on my next branding campaign, but why don’t I try to see if any of the marketing, design or tech students out there can create ideas to lift my brand from obscurity? Or even better, get them to develop a programme that will make my new product less susceptible to hackers and the likes?” Executive A thinks.

Executive B continues, “Perhaps they are can be very run of the mill and unexciting but some can be a little more innovative and daring, we don’t have to pay them gazillions, just offer them a prize, an internship, a token sum for their efforts.”

“In fact, I can get a couple of schools to take part in it. Wow!!! Think of the potential of many ideas from students. It’d be like a pitch, free ideas galore!!” Executive C shrieks.

“ And that is not all, we can get publicity too for our CSR efforts!!” Executives A, B, and C chime in unison.

But there's a sliver of truth in it isn’t there… when companies move in favour to support communities and students, other than the fact that the students benefit from the relationship, these marketers are likewise banking in on students’ “eagerness” to be associated with the brand.

Perhaps as budgets get slashed and marketers are told to cut costs, more student activities woill be held across the island as the services of such young, talented individuals are procured for the “simple want for the better good”.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The worst kind of PR

The Chinese poisoned milk scandal just goes from bad to worse. It kind of reminds me of George W Bush’s American presidency, it started off in controversy, took some more big hits and still continues to get worse at an alarming rate.

The complete inability of the Chinese government and the Sanlu Group (the company at the centre of the crisis) to actually deal with the scandal is astounding. The latest installment, according to a story in today’s Straits Times, is that Sanlu had actually asked the Chinese government for help in covering up the crisis. The authorities were made aware of the problem about a week before the Beijing Games began, and chose to sweep it under the carpet.
Apparently they were worried about the scandal ‘tarnishing’ China’s image before the Games, and wanted to “avoid creating a negative influence in society”.

Well they were ‘successful’, on some levels, as they did cover up it during the Games so that China’s first Olympics went off without a hitch. That is of course if you forget the dramas surrounding the Olympic torch and Free Tibet protests, the pollution in Beijing and the attempts to stifle the freedom of world media before the Games started. Yeah sure, the 2008 Olympics were problem-free.

And trying to avoid creating a negative influence in society? Well they’ve failed miserably at that. When babies die, you have your negative influence right there. It’s unavoidable. Child fatalities kind of do that to you. Any sort of cover up of that is simply pointless.

The reaction to the tainted milk crisis from those involved as been pitiful at best. It took the intervention of the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to spur the Chinese government in to action. Since then panic has spread, and more milk related products have been pulled from the shelves on a daily basis. The affect on the milk, confectionary and dairy sectors has been devastating, and will continue to be so for months, maybe years to come. The crisis has spread from China to the rest of APAC, and global giants such as Nestle, Cadbury, Unilever and Heinz been tainted.

China has not managed to contain the crisis, or managed to minimize its fallout. Some of this could have been avoided by going on the offensive.

Taking cues from the reactions to other product contaminations in other countries, the Chinese government and Sanlu should have ordered a massive product recall. Before there is a chance to test all the products, get them out of stores, even if some may be OK. The mere question of possible contamination should be enough to pull it off the shelf.

Secondly, there should have been a huge public information campaign to inform consumers of what was happening and why, and to reassure them that the problem will be fixed. At a time like this information is vital, and to stop harming more people and creating more hype you have to get active. But now this is basically too late. 53,000 children are ill and four babies are dead. Consumers in China are enraged, and rightly so, while consumers the world over are skeptical about buying anything that might hail from Asia and be milk-related.

Trying to cover up information that will eventually get out is pointless and very harmful. It is much better to try engage with the community, to work to solve the crisis, rather than trying to avoid it or to point fingers at those responsible.

The damage has been done now, and it’s going to take a hell-of-a-lot of advertising and marketing dollars to put the likes of Sanlu and the other brands involved back to the position they were in before the scandal began.