The first time I heard Nick Drake was in an ad. A beautiful VW ad. From there I backtracked the music and became a fan.
Nick only recorded three albums during the late 60s and early 70s. None of them sold well. But as time has gone by people have discovered him, even making pilgrimages to his childhood home. It's a genuine popularity that the artist, unfortunately, never personally experienced.
When asked if he was surprised about how popular Nick Drake has become today, the original producer who discovered Nick and created the first two albums with him said:
"No. I always thought he should be that popular. I don't know how to deal with questions like, 'was it ahead of its time?' I don't think so. It happened in that time, and it was a set influences from then. But in a way its failure at the time has been part of its success now in the sense that people growing up in the 80s didn't have parents who were playing Nick Drake to death. There are no films from the 60s with Nick Drake as the soundtrack. It's not identified with that period. It is culturally unanchored. So it's free to be adapted and embraced by people from other generations and people who just come upon it. It doesn't say 'I'm from the 60s. It just says, I'm Nick Drake.'"
What a wonderful sentiment. Most things are locked to an era. But sometimes things aren't. They're free. Unanchored.
In communication there's something called low involvement processing. It states that an audience doesn't need to be paying strict attention to something in order for it to connect.
There have been many studies on this. One of them was done in 1989 by Robert Bornstein and it confirmed that the less aware people are of the elements in advertising the better the ads are likely to work because the viewer has less opportunity to rationally evaluate, contradict and weaken their potency.
When people are engaged in a great story they allow dramatic extensions of reality to happen without questioning. It's why we love E.T., The Bourne Identity and Casablanca. These are all based in "real life" but they stretch it. And because they're all concepted, written and directed so well, we let Elliott and his friends fly over forests on bikes never thinking about how that isn't possible.
And that's why #MonteThePenguin works. You go with it through the end, emotionally connecting and not being distracted with thoughts about how what you're seeing couldn't really happen in real life.
Last year the annual John Lewis holiday ad was the Bear and the Hare. Which was also good. But Monte has connected more with people. On the first day of release the Bear and the Hare racked up 30,000 views while Monte brought in 120,000. #MonteThePenguin was mentioned 436 percent more than #bearandhare and the former's twitter handle already has 20k followers.
There's big pressure for the brand and their agency, adam&eveDDB, to deliver a great ad every holiday. And this one is very close to that classic 2011 spot.
“It combines class winning, um, leading... 'ya know, technology and stuff." And so went Chevy regional manager Rikk Wilde nervously presenting the Game 7 World Series trophy to pitcher Madison Bumbarner.
It was a funny moment and yet everyone could identify with the nervousness. So now we have "ChevyGuy" and #technologyandstuff.
While Chevy execs around the country probably did a collective Patrick Stewart facepalm that evening, someone smart ran with it...
But what did the company want Mr. Wilde to say?
Key statements seemed to have included:
“Along with our dealers...”
“At Chevrolet, we’re proud of the latest and greatest technology in our truck line-up…”
“It combines class-winning,…”
“Wifi powered by On Star…”
Most likely written in a meeting.
If given a choice, viewers at the end of Game 7 would probably rather hear “technology and stuff”.
There’s a saying by Mad Men era advertising icon Howard Gossage: “The buying of time or space is not the taking out of a hunting license on someone else's private preserve but is the renting of a stage on which we may perform.”
Often, you can separate marketing into these buckets. The good stuff takes the perspective of ‘renting a stage’. Things are presented with the audience in mind. In their language. What’s relevant to them.
The forgettable stuff takes out a hunting license. Talking points, buzz words.
Chevy tried to take out a hunting license. But Rikk ended up renting the stage.
Rich Silverstein said at one point that the best advertising leaves some gaps for people to fill in themselves. Like a dot-to-dot game. Because connecting small points of a story with people's own aspirations, hopes, fears and beyond is what really pulls them in. They enjoy the story more because they're involved.
I thought of this when watching Re/code’s interview with Ze Frank.
The President of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures talked about why some content gets shared more than others. His take is good; that it has less to do with the crafted piece and more to do with what people will use the content for.
Or, in other words, people share something because of what it prompts them to personally express when they share it. A funny video about relationships becomes a representation of couple miscues, which applies to a lot of people. It’s not the specific miscues that are filmed, it’s what they represent.
Which is helpful because there's no mystery behind why people share Epic Split. It's an unbelievable feat.
But Epic Splits are rare.
Ze's insight helps explain the larger lot of videos, and how they can be better thought about for more sharing.
The flight from Newark to San Francisco is 5 hours and 46 minutes. In a video that completely captures the boringness of such a flight, Virgin America created a real-time video featuring mannequin people.
Yes, you could watch the full video for nearly six hours. And since it's created by a brand, that would make it a very long ad. But very few people would do this.
Good YouTube videos are built for the user environment. Virgin serves up opportunities to hyperlink forward to a point in the video where a Virgin America plane flies the other way among that brand-distinctive purple-red painted sky. There the viewer can click 'the radical departure' which auto loads flights from the user's detected city.
Virgin America is still a challenger brand. Building awareness about their routes is important. And this was one of several ways they're doing that.
So if we keep our old school hat on, or put our click bait hat on, we would see this as a 6 hour ad. But then it would be a highly-questionable idea.
Whereas, if you look at this as an interactive video that will probably attract an unfair share of media attention, then it's pretty damn great.
It's still "advertising," but it's not a "6-hour ad."
For years Red Bull has used the tagline it “gives you wings”. Recently, a long-time Red Bull drinker sued the company because, despite drinking the brand for years, it had failed to give him wings or improve his athletic or intellectual performance. The consumer won and Red Bull settled for $13 million.
The media is primarily talking about how that $13 million is being handed out to people. They’re missing the more important story.
Red Bull settled out of court for $13 million because they “didn’t want the cost and distraction of litigation”. This might work for them because the company reportedly spends 30 percent of their revenue on marketing making them one of the most marketing-led organizations on Earth. So $13 million, while a large sum by any means, can probably be handled through shaving some events next year.
Red Bull took the easy way out. Because they could.
And now there’s a precedent.
Taglines come in all forms. But now because of this case, taglines that attempt to be directive can suddenly be held accountable for factualness.
I had a Coke yesterday and it didn’t give me happiness.
My Allstate agent didn’t call me back promptly so I wasn’t In Good Hands.
Outback says no rules, just right but I ate there on Saturday and they asked me to leave because of my bad, no-rules behavior.
These sound silly. But it’s what happened to Red Bull.
Maybe Red Bull can easily handle $13 million. Perhaps Outback can too. But most businesses cannot. So let’s not let frivolous actions get swept out the door quickly and have their implications go so lazily unreported by mainstream media.
Strategy sounds great. But unless it moves things into action, what’s the point? The most important job for a planner needs to be creating ideas that are easy, clear and exciting to act on. As Ben Franklin once wrote: “well done is better than well said.”
We are all a collection of thoughts. It’s not one key outlook but rather the kaleidoscope of beliefs that make each of us unique.
I decided to write some of mine down. And what resulted was a rather ugly infographic-wordcloud-type-of-thing.