advertising, cinema, marketing

Marketing Movies, or not: how three Austrlian Movies failed to market themselves

Griff_The_InvisibleRyan Kwanten in Griff The Invisible: invisible by name, invisible by nature

Robin has pointed me in the direction (thanks Robin) of a really interesting article in SMH describing how three Aussie movies failed to connect with local audiences, resulting in a dire performance for home-grown movies at the box office.  what really surprised me though was that if I hadn't have read the article, I'd have no idea that any of these movies even existed.

I wrote a post back in August celebrating recent marketing initiatives for Scott Pilgrim and The Expendables.  initiatives that weren't necessarily expansive nor expensive.  just smart ways to market and communicate the existence of a movie to a relevant audience.  movies and spoilt for (rich) content that they can use and deploy to engage and nudge an audience into attending.

marketing seems to have been a non (let alone second) thought to the movies that failed to cause a stir last week.  Griff the Invisible (above), The Reef and A Heartbeat Away all seem to have relied solely on being in cinemas to encourage viewing – which is simply no longer enough (if it ever was).

there's simply too much distraction now.  too many other options.  too much to distract you from the planned cinema trip on the off chance that there's something on that you'll be up for seeing.

making movies means marketing movies.

at it's worst this means investing in a commodity media buy to get the trailer in front of as many people as possible (this will usually take the form of a TV campaign although for super light TV viewers for me a jot of outdoor will help too).  but at it's best this can mean creating marketing that becomes an extension of your movie.  AI and The Beast anyone?  or Dark Knight and Why So Serious?

perhaps if marketing was seen as a storytelling and engaging extension of the movie product, it would be higher up the agendas of people who make movies.  perhaps if marketing wasn't a bought (and relatively expensive) commodity buy it would be invested with the same creativity with which the movie was made.  perhaps if these movies had been intelligently marketed they wouldn't have all vanished without a trace.  perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

insighting, marketing, planning, researching, understanding

Yeah Yeah but what’s the Insight?: a lesson in reverse-engineering from Contagious Magazine


a couple of weeks ago I found myself in the fortunate position of being one of the delegates on Contagious Magazine's Crash Course, a one-day workshop in the company of @JessGreenwood and @gual_contagious in how to understand the changing landscape of communications, but more specifically on how to apply Contagious' observations of this landscape to my own strategy and thinking.

there was huge value in the day, but one particular exercise has stayed with me.  one particular exercise that forced me to stop just admiring and enjoying other people's strategies and execution, and really think about them.  as an exercise its elegance itself, and one that I've certainly forgotten to do of late.

the exercise consists of a simple question; on seeing or observing a case study or piece of creative communications, ask yourself a single question…

what was the insight?

what was the crystallised observation of humanity that led to the solution?  what was the observation that sparked the execution, or experience, or application or movie or competition or retail space or book or course or race or tech or social media monitoring desk?

it's beautifully simple, and forces you to not just passively admire the work your looking at, but intellectually interrogate the work to understand how and why it was developed…

try it with these … for each example of work, ask yourself what the insight was?  the answers – as suggested by Contagious, are beneath…


OK … now for the insights that led to the above:


you may think that some of the insights are obvious, but everything so gloriously is in retrospect.  and in many ways the best insights are obvious; and whilst that doesn't make them any easier to spot, it makes it all the more enlightening – and for that matter fun – when to try to guess…

conferencing, debating, manifesto writing

Making a stand: Why I’m asking the Australian Media industry to write a manifesto for change

so this is a little bit exciting.  the above is me chatting to Tim Burrowes of Mumbrella about a project for the Mumbrella360 conference in June.  it came about as a result of conversations over the course of last year with lovely and amazing Rob and Uma about how everyone knows that what we do is getting tougher and more compromised but we just seem to be able to act collectively on what to do about it.

so hopefully we can change that…  you can read the full write up of what the ambitions are via the article on Mumbrella, but I wanted to capture why it’s so important to me here … because I genuinely love this industry.  I genuinely love what great connections planning thinking can do for brands and businesses.  I love the creativity, and the embracing of technology, and the social observation, and the meeting of art of science.  and I love the people, who give a damn beyond reason about what they do and how they do it.

but in ten years of doing this I worry that I’ve watched a world change faster then we have.  I fear that I’ve seen the commoditisation not only of what we plan, but of how we plan it.  I’ve watched as brands cling to a belief in the ‘tried and tested’ way of doing things as it crumbles around them.  and I’ve listened to a thousand people ask questions about the future without offering a solution for the present.

that’s why I’m asking us to create this manifesto.  a manifesto for change. one that we all agree on. one that we can signal to everyone who works in our industry.  one that we can signal to clients.  one that frames the conversations between agencies and media owners.  a manifesto that galvanises our industry, defends our margins and energises our people.

I hope that I’m not alone.  I hope that there are enough people who give enough of a damn about what we do to work with me over the next eleven weeks to galvanise us into action…  because the commoditisation, marginalisation, and lack of automation and cooperation won’t change unless we want them to.  our present, let alone our future, is in our own hands…

futuregazing, imagining, planning, predicting, researching

Planning for the Future, Today: Courtesy of Michell Zappa and his Technological Mapness


created by Michell Zappa, and sent to me by the awesome Mimi-ness of things, this speculative but intriguing visualisation of how technological developments could pan out presents an interesting question and exercise for brands and connections planning.  how would you connect to people, given technological developments over the next year?  what about in four years time?

perhaps a lot more social media, a bit less print?  perhaps you'll have more sophisticated CRM management and real-time insight capture via social networks.  so largely the same, but different.

the future may be more different than you currently imagine.  Zappa's map suggests that within the next four years the following will be mainstream.  not industry buzzed, geek adopted, first mover technologies.  mainstream…

Social Graph, Tabs & Pads, and Multitouch.  so far so Zuckerberg and Jobs.  but what if you go a little further..?  3D printing, Linked data, Gesture and Speech Recognition, and Electronic Paper.  within four years.  this kind of technology – if adopted by the mainstream – would transform the retail environment.  it would radically alter the opportunities we have to engage and interact with the conversations brands offer us.

it suggests a useful exercise.  create a brand platform (I originally typed 'plan a brand campaign' but let's not go there right now) in 2015.  imagine these technologies being on every high-street and in every home.  how would it change what you create?  what would be possible?  what would you imagine for a world that could 3D print your product in their home?  or interact with your communications by talking or gesturing to them?

then translate your ideas to right now…  what could – at a stretch – be done in the next three months?  what you do next is easy.  you go do it.

broadcasting, television, viewing

The Broken Contract: Why FOX8’s Snag a Simpson paints a worrying picture for TV as we know it

FOX8_Snag_a_SimpsonFOX8's Snag a Simpson initiative … creating viewer engagement or bribe to increase viewer minutage?

so I returned home last night to find one of Pelican's number playing the above game on FOX8.  the channel invites you to try and 'Snag a Simpson' … this involves you pressing select to play, and when you see a Simpsons character on the screen you snag them by pressing Red on your FOXTEL remote.

I know for a fact that you can do this because I watched said person do it.

only you need to 'Snag' 10 Simpsons in 15 minutes for your reward.  the guide explains that it's free and you can play as many times as you want.  I bet you can.

the generous interpretation is that FOX8 is genuinely looking to create viewer engagement and reward consistent viewing.  the less generous interpretation is that the channel is blatantly attempting to bribe you from switching channels during the ads breaks (or shows for that matter) and at the same time increase their minutage amongst the measurement panel.

I fear that it may be the latter.

but I also fear that its another worrying sign that the implicit contract between channels and viewers (and advertisers) is broken.  the contract states that you get the programmes for free (or for less if you're on subscription) and all you have to do is watch the ads…

only people don't buy that any more.  in fact the contract seems a great deal less attractive than it once did…  why?  (1) a lot of people pay for their TV now, so they're not getting their content for free (2) the amount of choice available makes switching all too attractive (3) we're increasingly trained to consume micro-content – small packages of TV or otherwise that can be consumed in a couple or minutes (or seconds if you're browsing your Tweetdeck) – this makes catching even only a scene on an another channel preferable to sticking to an ad break (and even if you miss the rest of the show you caught the first half so what the hell) and (4) the ads in most ad breaks are pretty crap … I've taken time to watch a few ad breaks of late and I really really have been stunned by the general drivel that advertisers and agencies seem to think passes for an ad…

we made the contract together and I guess that we'll break it together; everyone involved will have been complicit in it's cancellation:

the viewers got impatient and became happy to flick around ubiquitous content.

the advertisers only cared that a small but big enough fraction of people who saw an ad responded, ignoring the fact that the vast vast majority of people who saw it were either ambivalent (neutral brand equity effect) or disliked it (negative brand equity effect) or hated it (super-negative brand equity effect and potentially damaging WOM.

channels continued to print money and fight for petty share wins, ignoring the fact that overall viewing was in decline and that viewers were distracted, multitasking and ambivalent to the efforts of the advertisers from whom they were taking money.

and what of agencies?  perhaps agencies will become the most culpable of all.  we failed to ask the networks the questions we should be asking, going along with their playground share battles, whilst all the time taking micro-payments in the form of a commission from every ad that we placed.  agencies sat like market stall traders at the base of a dam that was about to burst; not investing in an ark but instead telling their customers that everything was fine … that the dam would hold … that the flood would never come.

we may come to see a great deal more endeavours to encourage viewers to 'Snag a Simpson", or a Robinson, or heaven forbid a Grimshaw.  it's cheating.  we can do better.  whether or not we choose to accept our fate of SImpson-Snagging is up to us.

advertising, differentiating, opinionating, thinking

Running away to the Circus: Dispatches from The Festival of Commercial Creativity – Charles Wigley and BBH’s Anti-Wind Tunnel Movement


"getting medieval on our ass" was what Charles Wigley, chairman of BBH, promised the circus audience last week, as he got "back to the core of what we do with big brands and set processes".  he asked a simple question … how can we spend our time better?


Wigley argued that just like how at some point all cars started to look the same – we've done exactly the same thing to our industry …he refers to it as the anti wind-tunnel marketing movement, and there's a rather nifty presentation embedded below (via a post on BBH labs).

he observes that we talk differentiation, but that 90% of the stuff we "burden the earth with" is the same; "we are churning out similarities" – he suggests two reasons:

(1) we all follow largely the same (consumer insight-oriented) process: "professionalism has led to homogenization and systematisation of the creative process … a model of creative development that traps us all" … the result being that most brands approach the same questions with the same people in same way

(2) we consistently fail to ask the question: is it different?  we focus so exclusively on relevance that we fail to think about whether our work is true or different. a point summed up rather neatly with this still from the above slideshow.



of ads that are indistinguishable from each other…

Banking – NAB, Westpac and St George
SUVs – Jeep, BMW and VW
Cereal – Coco Pops, Milo and Sultana bran

(NB I'm trying to track these down on YouTube but can't find many / any of them – I'll keep trying and post when I do)

Wigley's simple and elegant point is that because the briefs are all the same, the results are the same. this extends into digital solutions too … there's a very real danger that advertising will eat itself.

the cliches are now so ingrained that adverts can be created that that play with the established conventions of the category and market…


why this is happening…?

part of the problem is that lack of tangible USPs.  Wigley argues that we now rely on ESP (emotional selling propositions) to market brands, and so the holy grail becomes the key consumer insight.  but we all have the same products in the same category marketing to the same people with the same process to the consumer insights – and the ideas they generate – are all the same.  we are, as Wigley puts it, "dancing on a pinhead when dealing with these briefs".

But does it matter?

well yes it does.  when we create parity communications with similar insights "we're removing the cost efficiency of real brand differentiation".  we accept a situation where the biggest media budget will always win, a flight to a centre-ground where the biggest spenders remain the biggest spenders and innovation and ideas and differentiation and engagement and adding utility and entertainment to the world through are communications become a quaint dalliance that the communications industry had with itself and consumers at the turn of the 21st Century.  media becomes a commodity not an opportunity, a barrage of impacts not a platform for engagement.  could the last people to leave the industry please turn out the lights.


Wigley rightly observes that we all use the same brands in presentations…  Nike, Google, Uniqlo.  what do they have in common?  they are brand leaders not consumer followers.  So … how do we put differentiation back into the ideas we generate and the work we produce?  Wigley offers ten solutions…

  1. use insights from multiple points of view and disciplines ie go beyond the consumer insight.  lead don't follow consumers.  focus on brand – Wiley quoted Siddarth Banerjee, Unilever's Regional Marketing Director of Asia: "what is the single most important part of the marketing mix that is essential to ensure a better chance of success in the marketplace? … ownership of a point of view" … Wigley describes this as the main distinction between a convention brands and a conviction brands, and observes that the fastest growing brands are in posession of energized differentiation – in that they have vision, innovation and dynamism
  2. Is it different? is the first and last question we should ask
  3. remember that not all consumers are created equal.  there are leaders, followers and the rest.  followers are cheaper and easier to find
  4. test in the real world not in the test tube (echoing what Marvin Chow discussed when he shared Chrome's marketing strategies earlier in the session).  get work up and online and evaluate it based on actual not expected performance
  5. bring back regional test market (was good to see a Yorkshire Television logo up on the screen)
  6. look to the future not the past.  "what's the foresight not the insight?" … Innocent saw colourful fun health coming and built their brand for the future that was to embrace it
  7. hurry up.  what are we so often waiting for?  speed up the process.  Wigley refers to Colin Powell's 40%-70% rule: if you have information to the extent that you're less than 40% likely to make the right decision then get more information.  but if you collect information beyond 70% chance of success you're likely to get it wrong – you'll have too much information and the situation will have changed.  in short act whilst you have more than 40% but less than 70% chance of success
  8. value inexperience as much as experience … we've become too expert in sometimes very niche categories
  9. put judgement back into the job spec – he quoted one marketing director who after being presented to by the agency said "I absolutely love this work, let's go straight to research"
  10. restructure the organisation.  Wigley suggested that the difference between single brand companies vs multi-brand companies was that in the latter people don't work specifically on brands, but rather are sharing the same info with all the brands in the company.  sometime you need new structures and groups to create differentiation – for example First Direct or Unilever siloing Axe into an entirely separate unit

Wigley left us with this delightful observation – courtesy of Mitchell and Webb – into how advertisers approach communicating to women and men.  not sure how it related to the topic in hand, but made the Circus crowd chuckle…

for more information on BBH's Anti-Wind Tunnel thinking you can visit BBH LABS – I recommend that you regularly do so … as labs go, these ones rock