I don’t understand

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There’s a million things I don’t understand. Like why single bachelors of the male variety (aren’t all bachelors male otherwise they’d be called bachelorettes? I think they are, but just to clarify I’ve put the ‘male’ bit in) always have black leather sofas and giant flatscreen TVs in their homes. Or why people like pineapple. Or why we just can’t all get along. And more in that vain.

But lately what I’ve not been understanding at all is why there is such a thing as digital advertising agencies. In particular why there is a need for a specific agency that does digital stuff. Surely, digital isn’t just another channel on the block, it’s a new way of thinking, of figuring out how to interact with the audience or customers or whatever they’re called nowadays. Of communicating. I don’t understand the need for the separation of the different channels in different agencies. I’m also looking at it from a business and outsider’s perspective. Why would I, if I were a brand manager, have different agencies for different channels? Wouldn’t I just want to talk to a bunch of people who understand my painstakingly hard work on crafting and living a brand, and help me communicate that message in effective and clever ways? I’m pretty sure people on the receiving end (aka consumers/customers/audience) don’t give a hoot which channel the message comes through, they most likely are not waiting for your message anway (subject for a whole new post). Whether that’s through a viral on Youtube, a print ad in the free London Paper or by organising a festival in a park on a sunny day with lots of music and ice-cream. Hell, it could be through a song, or a book, or a iPhone application, or by word of mouth. Or Twitter, reverse grafitti or by sponsoring an art show. As long as it’s done in the way that’s most appropriate for the brand, by people who know what they’re doing from a strategic, creative and technical point of view*, why would I want to have specific agencies? That feels like you’re deciding what channel the message is going to go out on, before knowing how you’re going to say it and whether that’s the most appropriate.

So I’m not getting it, this whole integrated versus specialist agencies thing. From an outsider’s perspective, it strikes me as being decidedly odd, and very old-fashioned. Time for the agency of the future, a new model. Anyone want to start one with me?

* so that’s the reason I can see for the original existence of specific digital agencies: you definitely need technical know-how to do this kind of stuff. But surely that’s a historical thing, not a reason for the continued existence of different agencies.

[blogpost sparked by a combination of Tom Fishburne’s excellent drawing on silos and Russell Davies column in Campaign of July 25th which I can’t seem to be able to track down on the Brandrepublic website.]

Mind the gap

11122007527[photo on the left: walking back from a client meeting tonight, today was a beautiful day in London]

I went to a client meeting today, followed by a quick stop at Boots, which is the nation’s biggest pharmaceutical, health and beauty retailer. On the tube on the way back a thought came to me, and in the spirit of the season (boy, I’m really into this giving thing this year, big time), I thought I’d share. Boots, this one’s for you. And it’s free.

What I was thinking is that there’s a bit of a gap in the pharma/health/beauty market. I don’t particularly like shopping at Boots but know they have most of what I need (though not necessarily want, there’s a difference between the two). Superdrug is even worse because it’s always so disorganised that I don’t care the prices are lower, Bodyshop is not my thing, too airy fairy for me, Space NK is too high end, the perfume department in Selfridges makes me feel self-conscious, and in the supermarket I always forget to look at deodorant, hairspray etc. Et presto, here’s your gap. There must be room for a Boots Boutique concept. Have a nicer environment for me to shop in, don’t make it feel so… utilitarian. So stark, so like a chore, so like something I will spend 30 minutes of my life doing that I will never get back and I resent you for it. There must be a way to delight and seduce me as a shopper of deodorant and hairspray. Love in the aerosol aisle. Or at least a little flirting. I just haven’t quite figured out how and where yet, but I’m convinced it can be done. Let me do some more thinking though. Preferably in the shower (with the new showergel I bought today at Boots) where I have most of my brilliant ideas.

[edited: just thought of something else: this would also work perfectly for the Dutch market. Wedge something between the Etos, Kruidvat, Schlecker, enough of a gap there.]

I’m too lazy to think of a title

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[Part of this post was written on Monday, right before our internet connection at home became possessed and we’ve been living with its temperamental whims all week. It seems fine now.]

I’ve just come back from a short weekend trip over to NL to celebrate my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary mum and dad!), which was a blast. We had a cycle tour round Amsterdam (which none of us know very well, we’re not from there. Please don’t ask me next time you see me. Yes I am from NL. No I’m not from Amsterdam. And hardly know anything about it. Which is why we took a guided tour.). Had a lovely dinner, hung out, celebrated. Life is very good!

On my way out I picked up a copy of Monocle magazine (hat tip to mr NW who brought it to my attention), which although ultra-yuppie-hipper-than-thou, something which I don’t think I am at all, I liked a lot. Find out more here [link via the excellent Putting People First].

On a Grolsch update: they’re going to do some cool stuff at the Lowlands Festival this summer. They’re kitting out some festival-goers with an RFID armtag, and there will be camera crews roaming around. If you, the one wearing the armband, feel like being filmed, you hail them, they scan your band and they shoot whatever’s happening. The whole thing will then be uploaded to a website. If you can read Dutch, read all about it here.

[now back to Friday night again, this is some original content written on the day that I’m posting this]
Wow, what a week it’s been. With goodbyes, reunions. dinners, Proms (last night, very good) and of course work it’s been packed. Something no one warned me about, and I should’ve known this but hadn’t realized: a lot of people are saying goodbye because they’ll be moving elsewhere to work. And I’m the worst at saying goodbye. Ever. Dunno why, but I hate them. I’m not good at them, I don’t like ‘em. That’s not true. I stink at them. My own and even more so other people’s.

I’ve been trying to think about what to say about my job (assuming some of you, and I’m pointing at you Rogier, might be curious). I haven’t talked to my bosses about the blog, so I won’t mention any names. However, I feel comfortable saying that I’m working for a branding and design consultancy, a small and entrepreneurial one (just the way I like my employers) with cool offices south of the river close to both here (where I saw this today) and here and doing some amazingly good work (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I ;- ehm, I didn’t mean that I do amazingly good work, but the company does). And I’m really liking it. It’s exactly what I had dreamed of doing post MBA. And of course being a good design company, they have Macs, so my office laptop is a nice and shiny 17inch Powerbook.

Photo at the top taken on my way home from work, curiously enough in the same location as this one. Southwark is a bit of a weird neighbourhood ;-)

Now this is cruel

American Express loves me! Bear with me on this one, I know most of you must receive mountaints of direct mail, but since I’ve moved around so much in the past two years, most advertisers have lost track of me. So when someone sends me something, especially Amex, I tend to open it (beware advertisers, this is a small window of opportunity. If you all start sending me stuff, I will revert back to plonking it in the recycling bin again). But this was just cruel. They sent me an application for an Amex Gold Card. Lord knows I could do with a little credit, almost at the end of my student days I’m running seriously low on cash. However, I don’t think Amex would even let me go near any of their cards at this point in my life and any application I would put in would be immediately denied.

That brings me something else I was thinking about the other day. Why don’t brands do things to delight their customers? I fly BA to AMS from LON regularly, and although I know I can’t be their most profitable customer, I am a loyal one. Even though I know that the flight will only give me 250 airmiles, and to qualify for a free flight to AMS it will take me 4500 points (that’s 18 roundtrips!), I still like ‘em. It’s the hats I think. Or the fact they serve their tea with milk. But how much more would I like them if they would pay attention to me and try and delight me? And I don’t mean with freebies that I don’t want. Instead with something that would mean something to me (e.g. double the miles on your next flight. Or a nice thank you email for flying with us. Or something else, as long as it’s personal) and that says ‘we recognize you’re not our most profitable customer ever. But we still like you. Thanks for liking us too.’

Hey, what’s this?

509444126_6e0d5a63c7I think if you’re a direct marketer, this must be your dream response. I walk out the door, rummage through the small mountain of mail stacked by the front door and see this (see picture on the left) and think ‘hey, what’s this?’. If you can’t make out from the photo, it’s a pink plastic (quite thick) envelope with T-mobile welcome pack in it. A bit weird that it came only now, since I’ve already had my first bill… but better late than never. First impression: wow, impressive, they get me to be curious about what’s inside and opening it instead of chucking it in the bin. Second impression: what a letdown. Inside is a perfectly nice booklet, and a nice letter saying welcome, but nothing out of the ordinary. Darn it, you almost had me with the envelope alone, if T-mobile had only put something IN the envelope that lived up to the envelope itself!

It’s week 5 of the final term and things are finally starting to slow down a little bit, to a tempo that feels a little bit more comfortable. Second year project is handed in (although I’m still working on part of it, long story), and now all my attention is going towards my Creativity and Personal Mastery class, the class gift, the yearbook and the upcoming admits weekend. That and catching up on email and stuff that fell by the wayside in the past 3 weeks of second year project rush. And of course, I’m enjoying the gorgeous weather that we’re having at the mo’!

Welcome to the Green Light District (in honor of Koninginnedag)

  Walked to the bus stop last week, saw this poster and my heart jumped… Grolsch comes from my hometown (well, it used to, although the factory has since relocated, the spiritual home of Grolsch is still my hometown) and I’m always proud when I see it abroad. However, in this case I was also piqued by the ad itself: green light district? For a Dutch beer? (Disclaimer: where I’m from, we don’t have a red-light district. We’re a million miles away from Amsterdam, literally and figuratively). What were they getting at? Are they importing the red light district into the UK? Intrigued, I decided to check out the website and do some background research on the of the who’s and how’s behind this campaign.

Apparently, the campaign was first started in Edinburgh, and is now rolled out across the UK. The idea is to bring a Dutch beer-drinking experience to the English crowd (and Lord knows they could use it… they have no clue about what a proper Grolsch should look like) and to engage the bar staff. The aim of "the Green Light District is all about serving quality beer with quality service" (from this). I think this is a brilliant idea which I can see working well with the crowd they’re after if they’re trying to initiate trial and increase brand awareness (which I reckon what they must be trying to do). It’s fun, quirky, special and stands out from the beer-competition. Nice execution too.

Check out this and this and this on the objectives and a description of the campaign, and this to read what the Publican (a trade rag for pubs) says about the campaign and this for some more background on the agency behind the campaign. And if you want to see some other cool advertising Grolsch has done, check out this on Youtube and this. I wonder what prof Ritson thinks about the Grolsch marketing strategy…

Oh, and happy belated Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day, see here for the explanation) everyone!

What do you get when you cross

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Knightrider with Starsky & Hutch? You get this: Hammer and Coop. I think these are absolutely brilliant. Talking cars, sideburns, moustaches and unbelievably bad haircuts, what’s not to like! And I’m convinced that I’m not the only one who wouldn’t mind seeing an episode of Knightrider again :-)

We’re in the middle of week 9 of our Spring Term (and this week, it really feels like spring, the weather’s been gorgeous) and that means assignments, exams, case write-ups, presentations and businessplans all around, with next week the last week of term. And I’m getting all nostalgic already (which probably explains my newly found love for Hammer and Coop), after this there’s only one more term left at school.

My classes this term have been really good, I loved Wally Olins The Unstoppable Growth of Branding for the great inspiration and best powerpoint slides I’ve seen, Prof Day’s Product Innovation for reminding me how much I love the topic, Prof Lacey’s Leading Teams and Organisations for reminding me yet again that I have so much left to learn and last but not least Prof Bates’ New Venture Development for inspiring me to think about starting my own business and at the same time filling me with dread about doing it.

Speaking of New Venture Development, *start commercial break* one of my teammates and friends, Farhan, is helping out with the Entrepreneurship Conference later on this season. *end commercial break* I couldn’t attend last year’s conference, so I’m definitely going this year.

[what does the picture above have to do with this post? Hmmm. Nothing. But I like it. It’s the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern in the background, one of my favourite spots in London]

Milk with sugar

Afb042One of the nice things about living not too close to school is that I take public transport a lot. And most of the time I quite enjoy it, since it’s a treasure trove of interesting conversation and observation.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about user generated content, and following from that, whether anyone can be creative. Better minds than mine have already said a lot about this, and I don’t have the answer. The optimist in me says that everyone must at least have a few creative bones in their body, the pessimist says that judging by what comes out of most people they might not have anything remotely creative in them.

This morning on the bus I stumbled on a little treasure. I heard and saw a little boy and his mother on their way to school, and the boy asked all these really good questions. My favourite one was: what does tea with milk and sugar taste like without the tea? Just the milk and sugar? He drove his mum nuts and she quickly put and end to it, but I thought he was very insightful normal for a boy his age (he was about 6 I think). When and why do people lose this ability to wonder about the things around them and why things are the way they are?

This morning in Product Innovation, Mat Hunter from Ideo London came and spoke to us. I enjoyed his talk last year a lot (I can’t seem to find my blog entry about it, so no link I’m afraid), so I was very much looking forward to this and I wasn’t disappointed, he rocked. Insightful and humble, with great slides made for an interesting presentation.

[added: two interesting examples of crowdsourcing, i.e. the creativity of a group, in creative projects: Penguin‘s attempts to have a book written by using a wiki, and Aswarmofangels which is trying to get people to participate in and funding of a movie.]
[edit: thought about whether this was insightful or normal 6-year old behaviour. In an adult it is creative (or irritating, depending on how you look at it). In a 6-year old it is normal.]

Snowvertising

20060208_sneeuw_2So the snow came. And is still falling, although it’s now halfway between snow and rain. And it was a white world this morning, but luckily, it wasn’t too bad for me (apart from literally hugging a tree to keep myself from sliding down a hill). I was at my appointments on time and it was fun seeing London all covered in white (which by now has turned into grey sludge).

And of course, someone is using snow as an advertising opportunity! See top left, these were made in Munich, but would work anywhere else, I reckon they’re brilliant! [found at MarketingFacts]

… en 1 melk

My_girlMy favourite course at Stern this term is called Advertising Management, taught by prof Green. He’s a very experienced ad-man, and is passionate about what he teaches, which make his classes fun, interesting and insightful. What I particularly love, is that he uses a clear framework to go through the course, so that everything you’re learning in individual lectures makes sense in the bigger picture. He runs through

  • ‘why should you advertise (should you advertise?)’,
  • ‘who are you advertising to’,
  • ‘where and when can you reach them’,
  • ‘what do we say to them’,
  • ‘how do we say it’ and finally
  • ‘how do we know how it worked?

The companion text is Jon Steel’s Truth, Lies and Advertising : The Art of Account Planning, which is written in an easy style with lots of humour, and most of all lots of insight into the function of planning. I can highly recommend it if you’re interested in advertising or marketing in general. (And he’s got a new book out, which is rumoured to be very good too, it’s on my to-read list).

Some more sources of information I’ve found really interesting with regards to advertising and marketing:
* David Ogilvy’s Ogilvy on Advertising, irreverent look at someone who really knows his advertising stuff (any b-school library will have a copy of this book)
* Advertising Age magazine (in US, but have a good online version (which has just released it’s Marketing 50, the 50 best marketing ideas (in the US of course) of the past year, for the PDF, check this link)
* Russell Davies’ blog (one of my favourite reads on my RSS feeds). He’s a planner, and writes about planning, advertising and general cool stuff. Highly recommended.
* Wieden + Kennedy London’s blog, an candid look at what goes on inside an ad agency
* Brand Republic, UK magazine for marketers
* Adcritic.com, does what is says on the tin
* Fallon Planning Blog, from the bright minds at Fallon
And not exactly marketing or advertising, but very interesting
* Springwise, which is a trend-spotting blog, I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff on here, definitely worth a spot on your RSS feed list.

So, where does the milk come into this whole story? (the title to this post is the tagline to one of the Netherlands’ most succesful ad campaigns, promoting milk) In his book, Jon Steel mentions the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign in California which he worked on. And that got me thinking. We had a similar campaign to promote the consumption of milk in the late 80s and early 90s in the Netherlands. So thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I found the original ad (see below). To this day I can’t hear this song without thinking about this campaign!

[edit on Nov 17th: this came in on my RSS feeds today: Russell Davies has interviewed Jon Steel about his new book, you can find it here.]