blogging, converging, listening, planning

Listening and learning: Contagious and Naughton on the importance of responding to conversations

Twas the day before Christmas, when all thru the comms industry; Not a planner was stirring, not even a still-drunk buyer from the Christmas party the night before…

and so the last post before Chrimbo brings the loveliest of Christmas pressies from Contagious, who have given us all their Most Contagious review of the year for free.  it's packed full of cracking examples of the best marketing and comms ideas from the last twelve months, some of which pick up on what was their anticipated theme of the year – the conversation:

"If 2006 was about user-generated content and 2007 about social media, then 2008 is about the conversation.’ So predicted Contagious editor Paul Kemp-Robertson in The International Herald Tribune back in January. ‘In other words, brands will have to steel themselves to the idea that marketing is a two-way street, not just a conduit for directing their messages toward pliant consumers."
I hope that's true.  I want it to be true.  I want 2008 to be the year that our conversations stopped being one-way, and where marketing and communications learned how to listen in interesting and relevant ways.  because listening isn't enough; it's easy to say 'we're listening' with one hand yet continue to deploy messages for perception or behavioural change in the broadcast streams with the other.

and if 2008 was the year of the conversation, I hope that 2009 brings the year of informed debate.  the year that we can use those conversations in ways that influence how we go about doing what we do and saying what we say.

this importance of conversation was highlighted in a great article by John Naughton in the Observer, who reports on how a WSJ article failed to correctly understand a story on Google's relationship with ISPs.  more crucially though, when the blogosphere went about correcting the article, their contribution was then largely derided by the broadcast stream.  Naughton observes that:

"Watching the discussion unfold online was like eavesdropping on a
civilised and enlightening conversation. Browsing through it I thought:
this is what the internet is like at its best – a powerful extension of
what Jürgen Habermas once called 'the public sphere'."
this is the ambition, this is the hope.  that brands not just only listen in on the conversation, but then act on the information and opinion discussed within it's increasingly public sphere…  have awesome Chrimbo's guys, here's one last little treat from those crazy kids at AKQA, enjoy.
advertising, broadcasting, cinema, praising

Contextualising communications for their media home: why the Orange Gold Spot gets Mediation’s vote in DCM’s ad-off

to celebrate their new on-screen identity, DCM (formerly Carlton Screen Media) are asking the industry to vote on their favourite ever cult cinema ad.  an panel of illustrious experts has narrowed the list down to ten finalists which you can view and then vote for here.

it's quite a list – everything from Kylie's 2001 jaunt on a red velvet rodeo bull for Agent Provocateur to Tony Kaye's surreal effort for Dunlop in 1994.  the best of the Diet Coke break ads is in there, as is Carling's Dam Busters, some Guinness Surfers and a reworked Bullitt chase with Steve McQueen behind the wheel of a Ford Puma.

but for me there can only be one winner.  in a cinema ad-off, the vote has to go to on-screen communications that have become as integral a part of the modern cinema experience as popcorn and Green and Blacks…  communications that have embraced not just the cinema screen but the Hollywood dream sprawling behind it.  comms that took said Hollywood dream and subverted it to within an inch of it's life – much to our collective amusement.

over the last five years Carrie Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Alan Cumming, Steven Seagal, Sean Aston, Daryl Hannah, Spike Lee, John Cleese, Macaulay Culkin and even Darth Vader have had their projects subjected to the interference of Mr Dresden and co.  the result for Orange is credibility in and associations with cinema that go far beyond the mere placement of an ad.  they own this particular bit of media real-estate in a way few other brands have achieved anywhere, let alone on cinema…

in combination with a BAFTA association and Orange Wednesdays, the Orange spot is the result of a determined focus from a marketing team and associated agencies that demonstrate the power of creating content that is contextualised for the channel in which it's appearing.  the Orange spot could only work in cinema, it's what gives it it's power.  and it's why it's getting Mediation's vote.

advertising, broadcasting, television

The ten tonne zeotrope: how Sony continue to master the art of advertising the advertising

so what do you do when you've done balls, paint, plasticine (and Daniel Craig) in your ads?  you build the world's biggest zeotrope of course.  Sony's next effort was filmed in Italy earlier this month and is set to hit screens in the spring.

but the true success of the Bravia efforts is less the ads, and more the advertising of the ads.  the original balls ad was spontaneously snapped when it was shot on the streets of San Francisco.  since then the back story has been rigorously planned.  for paint – as Faris highlighted in his IPA Excellence Diploma thesis:

"the film was first released online and then screened on television, consciously catering to the differing needs of youth and the Massive Passives. Online, the assets of the film were made available for remixing. The campaign was transmedia, recombinant and collective."

for the zeotrope effort, the above video was shot by Shortlist, loaded by then up on YouTube and written up in editorial on their website and in this morning's edition.  Fallon et al are really starting to master the art of advertising buzz…  now using smart media partnerships to amplify the story.  neat, smart, and of course never forgetting the golden rule – have an engaging enough idea and content to build the model around.  looking forward to the ad already.


X Factor Tipping: FINAL Results

it's been a while since Mediation updated the X Factor Tipping scores.  so long in fact that the final scores are in.  people it's not good.  Mediation finished joint 9th, with the final scores as follows:

1. Richard 165
2. Lizzy 160
3. Maria 155
4. Nicole 150
5. Davey 140
5. Paul 140
7. David D 135
7. Stu 135
9. Mediation 130
9. Dale 130
9. Emma 130
9. Simon 130
13. Carole 120
13. Nuala 120
15. Phillip 110
16. Jason W 105
16. Nick 105
18. Jason K 100
18. Tom 100
20. Bree 95
21. Laura 60

you can see from the below chart where it all went wrong…


Mediation never recovered from Laura's exit in week five, losing five points and never beating the momentum of the pack to make it back up.  but lots of fun so a big thanks to Dale for organising and a big congrats to Richard for winning.  of course Richard wasn't the only winner on the night…

Alexandra won big time.  her single – a version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah – is (I'm informed by my MD) the fastest-selling
download ever across Europe, despite only being available since yesterday.  HMV
believe it is unstoppable for Chrimbo No. 1.  so well done Alexandra.

well done too to Cheryl, who in six months has gone from the pretty one in that girl band, to the nation's favourite girl done good…  not only did she win in her rookie year but did it with a style and passion that left certain other judges looking rather cold indeed.

not left in the cold were ITV who won an astounding 58% share of audience in the results show.  the ratings peak of 14.8m viewers made it the highest rating UK programme since the Only Fools &
Horses Christmas Special
five years ago.  at the network's upfronts presentation in October Peter Fincham et al described ITV1 as the home of event TV; Saturday's performance must have been a welcome boost to ITV execs in the run up to Chrimbo.  all that and Dancing on Ice hasn't even started yet.

but the biggest winner of the night was Cowell, who will profit from a successful Alexandra, and popular Cheryl and a happy Michael Grade.  Show business eh, there's nothing like it.

X Factor Winners: (from top) Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole, Michael Grade and Simon Cowell


When finance gets friendly: how Barclays and RBS are using comms to charm customers

spotted.  sign in a Barclays bank window in Buxton, Derbyshire.  if you walk into this bank you are – officially – one of the loveliest people in the town.  welcome to marketing post credit crunch; where the banks are the bad guys with the perceived need to re-engage with the customers on whose savings (and borrowing) they depend.

the problem is that I'm not quite sure a sign saying 'you're lovely' is quite going to cut it given the spate of irresponsible banking practices that helped in their own little way to bring about a global credit crunch.  it's a fine gesture but does feel rather duplicitous given the scarce availability of credit and the limited extent to which government interest rate cuts are being passed on to consumers.

I'm told (thanks Phil G) that this started out as a employee-facing initiative, to make them feel (even) better about working at Barclays.  this makes sense and in many ways extending it to customers is analogous to what Halifax achieved for a long time with Howard et al.  but you have to question the tone in a customer-facing communication given the current economic climate.

unfortunately being overly nice seems to have caught on like a flu in the banking sector of late.  this from Stephen Hester, chief exec of RBS:

"At RBS we will take seriously our duty to support our customers and
try hard to avoid a repeat of the events that have weakened us. We need
to rebuild our strength, to work closely with Government and the
communities we serve" (source)

supporting communities, that's nice.

from Mediation's point of view there's a real opportunity here for a bank that's prepared to break the mold in the current climate and take customer commitment beyond window displays telling them they're nice or press releases about community support.  something like a First Direct approach for the credit-crunch age…

communications that provide advice and education in a rapidly changing financial climate.  communications that offer transparency about the positions and propositions of banks.  communications that talk honestly about the state we're in rather than the currently emerging knee-jerk reactions that lead to 'you can trust us because we're the biggest or the longest or the fastest' ads.

the opportunity is there for the taking.  customers are no doubt feeling bad enough about their financial futures without a barrage of 'buy me' – or worse 'like me' – coming at them…

but if you are one of those customers don't feel too bad; remember, you're lovely.

designing, innovating, praising

Speaking a thousand words: the legacy of Emory Douglas’ guerilla images

an image from the Emory Douglas exhibition at Manchester's Urbis Gallery

Mediation was in Manchester this weekend and found time to catch the Emory Douglas exhibition at the splendid Urbis centre in the city.  it charts the origins of the Black Panther movement and more specifically the work of Emory Douglas – the first and only Minister of Culture for the party – who illustrated the philosophical and ideological views of the party and its supporters.

the bold combinations of graphic design, drawing and slogans still resonate strongly today, but Douglas went beyond the creation and publication of his illustrations, he used media to great effect too.  the exhibition leaflet observes that Douglas "turned the city into a gallery, papering the streets with posters".  it was arguably this very public display of his revolutionary imagery that gave them such power.

Douglas' media legacy has some diverse beneficiaries.  the National Gallery's Grand Tour is turning the walls of buildings inside out – publicly displaying and in doing so democratising access to stunning works of art.  artist Banksy too owes much to Douglas' trailblazing – it is the public nature of the graffiti artist's work that generates most conversation and debate around his anti-state messages.

if a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Douglas spoke volumes.  when browsing the commercial posters on display on the average UK highstreet, how many brands can say the same?