International Brand of Mystery

I was out walking with Helen on the South Coast this weekend, which was (as usual) mentally refreshing… there‘s something about not thinking about any work or study that makes you idly think about some work stuff…

And it can be triggered by the simplest things; for instance, I appeared to be picking up the French version of the Orange network on my mobile phone, which when standing on the chalky white cliffs of Britain is an interesting juxtaposition.



Which is a nice metaphor for any of us who works on international brands; try as you might to keep the communications you do to one country, they will inevitably spill over into other countries around the world.

For instance, the BMW work in the UK for the 1 series isn’t the same as the work that BMW’s US agencies put out there… their sponsorship of the Onion TV for instance (which has stopped now, but any excuse to show The Onion…) was pretty different to the work seen in the UK




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Breaking News: Series Of Concentric Circles Emanating From Glowing Red Dot


However, whilst their sponsorship was on, The Onion TV was the subject of a two page celebration in the Guardian Guide… therefore pointing lots of people form the UK in the direction of BMW sponsored content.

So, should all ads be the same across all countries? Or just the communications that can be seen across these territories? But then how do you interpret local context, languages, social traditions and the like? And make each local client & agency team feel like they’re contributing valued work in their areas?<o:p> </o:p>

Tricky, isn’t it? I don’t know what the answer is (something around ‘global principles, locally interpretted’ perhaps…), but as more and more people cross international boundaries for their entertainment, it’s becoming vitally important.


Slidecasting – never present in person again…

I found the other day just pootling around the web, and I’m very glad I did: it’s essentially a site to host and share your powerpoint presentations, either publically or privately.  Which in itself is brilliant as a resource for interesting slides, or just sharing presentations with a select group of colleagues and clients and so on.  But it gets better.

Because not only can you upload your slides, you can record an MP3 of you presenting it, and then phase the slides in time with your audio presntation, so very quickly building an audio-visual story for anyone who wants to see it.  Here’s one I’ve done for the IPA Excellence Diploma I’m doing… (turn the volume up for some dulcet Scottish tones…)

It’s fast, easy and a much better idea than emailing presentations.  I expect I’ll be doing quite a few more…


Freedia… some initial rules

Now, before I put up a post on something new I was kicking around; Freedia – essentially the potential for the right brand or company to ONLY use free-to-user communications tools, and ‘home-made’ content.  The original post is here.

Anyway, I was doodling on my pad the other day, and came up with some initial rules:


So, a longer form explanation:

Firstly, by ‘play nice’ I  guess I mean any ‘freedia representatives’ (or ‘freedians’) a company employs to look after their freedia spaces are, well, the kind of folk you get every once in a blue moon talking to a call centre.  Helpful, polite, friendly, engaging.  You know the sort.

Secondly, ‘don’t buy space’.  Pretty self explanatory, but I think a necessary rule because as soon as you start buying space, you’re into a completely different cost dynamic; it’s no longer structured around the cost of the freedian to look after a customer, but back into traditional paid-for-media territory.

Thirdly, any materials you put up (video, graphics, written content, whatever) should be produced by the team putting it up there… the freedia world’s hard enough and too fast moving to have 3 agencies try and coordinate freedia 10 hours a day… that way paralysis of process lies, my friend…

And finally, of course, all these could be wrong, and any other rules you make up, you’ll have to change on a daily basis.

But that just sounds fun 🙂


So close, yet so far

When you’re promoting a new product online, it’s usuall best to let people buy or try it if they’d like to… it took me 5 minutes to finally find this page in Adobe’s new guide to the latest version of Acrobat…


…and then , it doesn’t even let you click through on either ‘try’ or ‘buy’… is this some new devious sales trick I don’t get?  Or just bad testing of a site?  Whichever, it doesn’t make me think any better of Adobe…


Nostalgia; it's not what it used to be…

Sorry, an awful joke to start a post with.  And one no doubt you’ve heard before… just like some adverts you may have been seeing of late…


The first one I noticed was the cartoon Aquafresh family, which must have first aired in the early nineties at least.  And then today there was the Maynard’s wine gum one, with the stereotyped Scottish fella (Oh, how I can relate)…

…and there were another couple old ads that everyone had forgotten back on TV this year, though ironically I’ve now forgotten what they were.

But the point is, all these ads are embedded in my brain somewhere, and not only do they not have to grab my attention with a whole new ad, and not only do i think back with some degree of fondness on the ads, there’s also a client or two out there saving their pennies on making new ads, and reusing things they’ve invested a lot of money in before. 

Good for clients, good for media agencies, not so great for creative agencies… unless they get some sort of % points on the back end…

Anyway, here’s some that probably won’t be coming back… more’s the pity

…and a personal favourite

When did ad’s stop having weird/funny/bespoke songs?  Maybe the dying music industry can actually be put to good use after all…


Copy my product, but bow before my brand…

As I wandered around my local Co-op food store the other morning, picking up a few bits and bobs for breakfast, I found that Tropicana seem to have finally got round to launch a smoothie product… it’s right beside the innocent smoothies, in a similar shaped carton, and is even in the same flavour…

…so, being an innocent loyalist (and weirdo), I thought I’d buy a carton of both, and take them home for a taste test.


Now, the tropicana smoothie seems to be a bit more ‘raw’ (there are ‘bits’ of seeds, roughage etc, like they haven’t whizzed it round for quite as long), but by and large the smoothies taste pretty similar to be honest.  If I had a blindfold on, I doubt i could tell the two apart without extensive tastebud training…

…but then you’d expect that really; there’s only so many ways you can blend together strawberries, bananas and the other fruits that go in to it.

And the price difference isn’t that huge either… they both come in around the £3 mark, with innocent a little more expensive.  Neither use concentrates, so it’s a pricey old game I guess.

So what’s the differentiating factor going to be?  Brand.  It’s true that marketing folk go on about the innocent brand ALL THE TIME, but for good reason; it’s an honest, new, fresh, friendly company (and therefore ‘brand’) in a world where there’s not that many (despite all the innocent-like companies which have emerged in their wake in different sectors).

It’s unlikely that the innocent brand loyalists will switch to Tropicana to save 20p on a £3 product.  What’s perhaps more likely is that Tropicana brings more of it’s OJ audience into the smoothie market… they will grow the sector.  The opportunity for innocent then is to maintain their market share of a larger sector… just as well they’ve got a great brand to help them do just that.


How often are you doing it?

After doing the Actionplanning training session about ten times now, it’s time to look back and survey whether it’s done any good.

My first impressions are it’s something that, like everything, you get better at the more often you do it.  The teams here at PHD that are in Actionplanning sessions every other day are the ones that are getting really into it, and doing different variations, and trying different things… they take the various principles, and then do something new.  And the ideas they’re devloping are constantly challenging and fresh.

But it’s perhaps that because of the nature of the businesses they work on, they get more of a chance to do that… they have multiple smaller briefs, rather than one big ongoing one.

So for teams that don’t think they get the opportunity to run sessions that often, because there’s not a brief that often, I wonder if there’s a different way of doing it?

Perhaps a ‘scenario planning’ session every week for an hour, where each of them proposes a question like ‘what would happen if X launched into our market, what would we do to combat it’?  Or switch it the other way round, ‘what if our client launched into this other market?’

It’s not seeking to create work for work’s sake, but instead taking your knowledge of the brand for a stretch of the legs… a quick stroll down a different route home, to see if you bump into anything interesting…


What happened, Thom?

Last year, the world gasped as Radiohead ripped the music market model asunder, with MP3s for free, and box sets for £40.  I opted for the later.  It’s a beautiful thing:


And now?  As soon as they strike a deal with a record label (yes, a passionate, artist loving, music fan label, but a label nonetheless…), they do this: You can get the separate ‘stems’ (i.e. separate tracks featuring just the vocals, or the guitars, or whatever) for the new single ‘Nude’… but you have to pay nigh on a fiver for them. 

And, if you were really into remixing, you’d want all the guitar tracks separate, as opposed to just all lumped in together… it’s not how you’d start remixing properly.  If it was all the proper separate stems, then ok, but this half hearted effort… no, just no.


…it smacks of lazy, label, money led thinking; the wrong product
for the wrong audience at the wrong price.  I’m REALLY FUCKING DISAPPOINTED.


The physical world…

I’m doing the “IPA Excellence Diploma”, which is, by and large, excellent; the knowledge it gives you/lands crashing down on your head is phenomenal.  If you ever get the chance, grab it with both hands.

The reading list is, to say the least, extensive… here’s the newly set-aside bookcase at home dedicated to it; books, folders, the lot:


…although the animals don’t come with the course (shame!).

But it’s nice having the physical books there, because they might, just might, remind me to pick them up again once in a while, and learn something new.  If I had digital versions, would I browse through a folder to see what I have?  Probably not.  I don’t with MP3s, I raid the CD racks instead…

I guess whichever part of my brain that deals with ‘things wot I own’ is built for analogue.  I wonder if the MP3 generation would alos be happy with a folder full of digital books?