50 brilliant ideas from our first 50 issues. Viewed together they give shape to the new rules of communication.
Issue 50 | February 2019
The new rules of communication
For the last twelve-and-a-half years, producing Directory every quarter has been a labour of love.
Thanks to the sponsorship of Royal Mail's MarketReach, we actually made money for a brief and glorious period around September 2012.*
More valuably, though, Directory has been a window through which I have watched the evolution of advertising.
The 2,500 case histories we've published in 50 magazines are together a history of change.
They reveal that what we think advertising is and the way we think it works have been utterly transformed.
Over the coming pages, I have selected my personal favourite campaigns.
This has not been easy.
My first shortlist came to 219 great pieces of work.
Further butchery and I got it down to 50 ideas from 50 issues.
Seen together, they provide, I hope, evidence of the new rules of communication.
Before the new rules, though, what were the old rules?
1. Clients used to spend 90% of their money on media.
10% went on production.
Today, there are plenty of examples of the exact opposite. Fallon Minneapolis showed the way with BMWFilms. com, when 90% of the spend was on production. Eight Hollywood directors made short films, each starring Clive Owen as "the Driver".
10% of the budget went on small ads directing people to BMW's website to see the films. It was the beginning of branded content. I've just seen it reported that in 2018 there were over 200,000 branded content campaigns in the USA alone.
2. Clients were not media owners.
Twenty years ago, when I was the creative do-dah at O&M London, Keith Weed was my client at Unilever. He gave us a bit of money to explore what Dove might do in this new digital world that was taking shape.
The wonderfully talented Alun Howell came up with the idea of a portal, a general - interest site where women could explore and share ideas about beauty in a complicated and challenging world.
Whatever Keith may have had in mind when he briefed us, it was not to start making TV programmes. Today, though, that's exactly what many brands are doing, putting out short, sharp shows on YouTube and their own channels.
Red Bull has gone even further and now sells advertising space to other brands on its channels.
3. The marketer was in control.
In the old days, the marketing director would devise a strategy, plan a campaign, put it into a test region, roll it out and then pause. Look at the numbers, regroup, amend and then either begin again or go large with it.
Today, the consumer is in control. (S)he'll let you know in no uncertain terms if your advertising sucks. As Pepsi found out within hours of launching the "Riot" film with Kendall Jenner.
You built brands with advertisements.
The problem today is that people will zap, block, delete or fast-forward through anything that looks like an advertisement. However, they can be persuaded to engage with advertising.
At its simplest, an advertisement is a message about a product which is shoved in your face. Advertising is altogether more subtle. It comprises ideas that people choose to interact with in some way.
So, advertising can be content or a 'viral' or it can be an influencer endorsing a brand or it can be a branded app.
Brands communicate today in what they do as much as, or more than, in what they say. (See Optus 'Clever Buoy' on page 36). So Tommy Hilfiger's Adaptive clothing tells me more about the company's values than any ad ever could. (See page 27).
The story of 'Cleverbuoy', a shark detection system, was big news in Australia and helped raise positive awareness of Optus to 84%.
5. Marketing used to be 360°
Today marketing is 365. Days a year, that is. Always on.
Fernando Machado has become a celeb marketer, winning awards and being fêted at Cannes and elsewhere. He deserves the accolades. This is a marketer who fully recognises the value of traditional media, TV in particular, but who also realises that to be 'always on' Burger King needs to maintain a presence in social media. The way the brand does this, with different agencies in different parts of the world, is inspiring.
What Machado has learned is how brands must listen and respond. Listen to what people are talking about and then, respectfully, charmingly, join the conversation.
20 years ago, we used to brag that we offered 360° solutions. More like 720°, I sometimes thought, since we had a tendency to go round and round in circles.
The old rules haven't so much morphed into the new rules, they have simply withered on the vine, the vine being the advertising agency of yore.
Today, those agencies that struggle probably haven't come to terms fully with the new rules.
So, what are these new rules?
Brands have to stand for something. While it is a truism that doing good is good business, brands don't have to be holier-than-thou about it.
In Directory, we have seen P&G stand up for inclusiveness with their "My Black is Beautiful" campaign from BBDO New York (Issue 46), Ford start running Handicabs in Amsterdam, taxis driven by people with disabilities (Issue 47) and Hellmann's try to do something about food waste with Ogilvy Canada (Issue 49).
Rather than posture behind corporate social responsibility programmes, which are often just window dressing, some brands are trying to align with the real issues of real customers and are being rewarded for it.
Dove's campaign for real beauty helped the brand grow in worth from $200 million in the 1990s to $4 billion today. Values have value.
People used to say, "data is the new oil". Only, the oil fields yielded mere trickles of the stuff. But now, thanks in large part to Google, Facebook and Amazon there are gushers everywhere you look.
Used properly, data throws up surprising insights and those insights almost always open up ideas. So many to choose from in the last few issues of Directory.
Saatchi & Saatchi London for Toyota in Issue 45. The data showed that 80% of young drivers use their mobiles when driving. 72% text while at the wheel.
Insight. Parents are anxious when they lend their car to their teenage kids.
Idea: an app that uses Google maps to know when the phone owner is driving and blocks all incoming calls. Also, when the young motorist exceeds the speed limit, the app starts playing embarrassing 'mum and dad' music.
Data is transforming our industry, let alone our world. Also in Issue 45, DDB Brussels created a bot to judge the Belgian Marketing Association awards. It analysed 3,000 Cannes winners and then knew enough to be able to spot a future winner itself.
Pearl used machine learning to understand what constitutes an award-winning campaign and then judged the Belgian marketing awards.
This used to mean joined-up media. Telly and outdoor, maybe a bit of print and then some PR with whatever was left. Today, integration isn't the media strategy, it is the entire strategy. Integrate in people's lives. Marketers have to work out the customer journey and then make sure the brand is positioned at the key points with a friendly word.
Integration means understanding that 28% of all people in the UK have bought something on their mobile phones while sitting on the toilet.
It means understanding that people search for emotional answers almost as frequently as they search for practical help. Why do I feel so bored? Why am I unhappy?
Integration is recognising that the same person can regard a brand online with three utterly different mindsets.
This is the genius of the Hero/Hub/Hygiene construct first put together by Dr. Joe Fry and Andrew Bent at Google ZOO (NACE).
In Issue 31 of Directory, we featured Volvo "Van Damme".
The 'hero' piece was the video, which has amassed over 100 million views on YouTube. 'Hub' content is the "In the Cab" video interviews with dozens of different truckers. And 'hygiene' content is the nitty-gritty stuff that explains fuel consumption, adaptive steering etc.
Hero content is a film or an ad you put in front of people. Hub content is so interesting, people choose to go to your site or YouTube channel to see more. Hygiene (or Help) content is when you answer specific questions with a helpful 'How To' video. Not many brands get why they should do all three.
Research has pointed out repeatedly that in any cluttered market, consumers will always choose a brand that offers them an experience over a brand that doesn't.
This is what prompted Malibu to experiment with 'Connected Bottles'. Tap a bottle with your smartphone and a whole load of content opens up automatically. No downloads, no barriers.
In Issue 48 for MINI, serviceplan placed doors, ladders and stairs around Berlin that helped people find shortcuts around the city.
As my old boss Lars Bastholm was wont to say, do stuff that is "useful, usable and/or delightful and you won't go far wrong."
The huge difference this approach is bringing to adland is to encourage makers. Digital studios are influencing traditional agencies through hacks and prototyping. And clients are learning to experiment.
Which brings me to the last of my five rules.
MINI's 'shortcut billboards' helped pedestrians find the fastest routes across the city. Results, hundreds of videos uploaded to social media, millions of views, lots of love for MINI.
For decades, agencies couldn't innovate even if they wanted to.
TV spots were a fixed length. 10, 20, 30 seconds, 60 if you were lucky.
The publishers fixed the size and shapes of the ads on their pages.
Then the internet and - boom.
Agencies were early adopters of new technology and saw that it not only provided new ways for their clients to communicate but new ways for them to own their own IP and grow their businesses.
R/GA has gone from production company to digital ad agency to digital consultancy and start-up incubator.
In Issue 45, MRM/McCann New York were the brains behind a new voice - activated postbox for the US Postal Service. You start with "Hello Blue Box" and then you're off, conversing with the mail service, getting a price for postage and an estimated time of delivery.
I could go on. And on.
The Innovation section of Directory is now a repository of hundreds of ideas. Between them they show that embracing adtech and martech and hiring what I call 'creeks', creative geeks, agencies are being catapulted out of the business of messaging and into making products and services of real value.
"JFK Unsilenced" from Rothco, Dublin, in Issue 45 of Directory was the reconstruction of the speech the President never got to make the day he was shot in Dallas. This was new technology used to bring an idea to life.
The marvellous Mark Ritson, Professor of Marketing and columnist for Marketing Week, has said somewhere that every time he reads some w*nker talking about 'new rules' he wants to vomit.
Apologies to anyone who has thrown up in the last 1,700 words.
They aren't rules at all. They are just pointers towards the sort of communications that seems to work.
In fact, if the next 50 pages prove anything they prove that there are no rules.
Especially now with the increasing fragmentation of media.
But "Five pointers towards some stuff that makes vague sense in the shambles that is the marketing landscape today" is not a good title.
My heartfelt thanks to all the agencies who have sent us work over the last 50 issues.
With your help, I've been able to turn 'the new rules' into a presentation that has taken me to some exotic locations.
And there is a book on the stocks.
Thanks to the past, I can see a future.
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