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November 20, 2008

Hands-on with the Engaging Ideas Card Pack

by Nicko Margolies in Brand Experience, Branding, Creative Thinking, Design, Market Research, Media & Publishing, Media Planning & Strategy, Outdoor Marketing, Packaging Design, Product Design, TV Advertising

A while back, we wrote a short post about the Engaging Ideas Card Pack and mentioned, “We haven’t gotten our hands on the full set, but it looks like a neat package for a broad range of ideas.”  Well, now (thanks to Rob Fox) we’ve gotten our grubs on the entire pack and sifted through the stack of colorful cards.

The first impression is that they look like a deck of large novelty sized playing cards printed on thick stock cardboard.  The front side of each card is an image meant to invoke the message or activity presented on the back.  For the most part, the full card formatted images are stellar, ranging from iconic art and expressive photography down to some painfully low resolution and pixelated images.  However, given the goals of the cards to engage employees through practical exercises, this is a rather minor point.

The 52-card deck (not including two jokers) is meant to stimulate positive discussion through identification of business goals and ideals.  The cards are divided into three general categories: Discover, Design and Deliver.  In this hierarchy of inspiration the cards build on each other by slowly introducing more complex activities, interspersed with straightforward tips.

The themes that appeared the most were honing the effectiveness of leadership, identifying core values and honing the business environment to suit the challenges ahead.  Here are two sample cards that we think embody the entire project:

21.  Distributed Leadership

We tend to think that leadership is something that happens at the top.  True, but what is perhaps more true is that acts of leadership happen across and throughout business, day in, day out.  Identify these acts of leadership, encourage them and communicate them widely.  Doing so helps to demonstrate that all people can offer leadership and will also help acts of leadership to flourish.  This exercise also begs an answer to a fundamentally important question necessary to achieve higher levels of engagement: what does your business recognize as leadership?

48.  Heartstorming
A success factor for any engagement effort is to discover, design and deliver better ways to connect emotionally with people to inspire their commitment and action.  To help accomplish this make “heartstorming” rather than just brainstorming, a core aspect of your business’ problem solving and change practices.  Demonstrating difference, “heartstorming” will help to uncover and build stronger emotional connections by focusing groups on questions like:

  • I love it when…
  • I get a kick out of it when…
  • My heart beats faster when…
  • I’m energized when…
  • It frustrates me when…
  • I feel undermined when…
  • I’m intimidated when…
  • I feel powerless when…

The Engaging Ideas pack is clearly based on solid business research and extensive experience in the corporate environment.  Stagnation of ideas is the clear hurdle targeted by the collection and we applaud the stepping-stones proved for those slow to innovate.  Overall, the package is a collection of ideas that won’t be revolutionary to those knowledgeable, but gives a beautifully formatted package of ideas to those hoping to give the friendly push to coworkers or employees.  Engaging ideas is a careful and successful balance between professional business pursuits and playful corporate connections.

Thanks again to Rob for taking the time and money to ship a sample pack across the pond.

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November 18, 2008

Real Life Lessons from the Obama Campaign

by Scott Lachut in Branding, Creative Thinking, Market Research, Online Marketing, TV Advertising

Fast on the heels of what many are heralding as the most successful presidential campaign ever staged, folks everywhere are hoping to be the first to uncover the valuable lessons that made this historic election possible. Those in the marketing industry choose to look at the Obama campaign from the perspective of “effective sales pitch to the entire nation,” able to cross all demographics with a single message. However, maybe this is view is too narrow and fails to see the broader implications as we move forward.

To that end, Gawker offers five realistic takeaways that paint a bigger picture of our country:

1. Facebook doesn’t mean shit - Social networking is still emerging as a tool. Online activity still doesn’t guarantee real life action.

2. TV is still king - The internet continues to grow, particularly as a communication tool, but TV is ubiquitous and still the best method for reaching the widest audience.

3. The candidates matter - Likable equals electable, no matter who you are.

4. Elections ride the swinging pendulum - In light of the past eight years, America was ready for a change.

5. Campaign tactics are always evaluated in retrospect because the media has no idea what it’s talking about, mostly - Until the public’s reaction can be gaged, it’s all pure speculation.

[via Gawker]

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Dandelion and the Storytelling Ad Model

by Allison Mooney in Ad Biz, Branding, Creative Thinking, Discipline, TV Advertising

Storytelling is a powerful thing. Ever since our parents read us bedtime stories, we’ve depended on narratives to help us interpret the world around us–and to escape it.

Stories engage us and, as our attention fragments, that is precisely what advertisers are trying to do. Enter the commercial-as- miniseries. The concept has really taken root in Asia–just search youtube for “SK Telecom” or “LG Telecom” and you’ll get tons of hits from South Korea. The following three commercials illustrate this phenomenon, telling the story of a family separated between the North and the South:

Now we’re going to see more of these story-driven ads in the U.S. thanks to a new studio called Dandelion, which officially launched yesterday. Formed by Epoch Films and Kirt Gunn Associates, the company is “dedicated to creating programming and entertainment sponsored by brands.” It’s almost a return to the “brought-to-you-by” model of early television where content was king, and advertisers just paid the bills. Almost. They do work for brands after all, so what they create is essentially branded serial content, but at a higher quality. Actual professional writers, directors and producers are at the helm, rather than marketing interns with a Flip video camera.

Brands today need to be transparent, accessible, human. This is what consumers relate to. These commercials aim to tap into these same ideals by bringing brands to life and appealing to our emotions. If they succeed, will we soon be TiVoing commercials and skipping the shows?

Dandelion

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November 10, 2008

The Risk of Combative Ad Campaigns

by Scott Lachut in Ad Biz, Brand Experience, Media Planning & Strategy, TV Advertising

Eschewing the prevailing theory in advertising that one should never mention your competitor’s product, many companies are taking a page out of the political campaign season and going with attack ads or in the parlance of the industry, “comparative advertising” that do just that.  The trend towards negative marketing is being attributed to the downturn in the economy, forcing businesses to compete for a smaller pool of consumer dollars.

Although a dangerous proposition with plenty of potential to backfire, agencies tasked with creating these campaigns have found injecting humor to be the best method of ensuring success.  Additionally, the charges being leveled against the competition need to be well-researched and not simply anecdotal. Advertisers shouldn’t underestimate the savvy of their customer base by pushing unsubstantiated claims, simply to move a few more units.  The risk outweighs the reward in these instances, given the the web’s potential to reach a wide audience if any fallacies are uncovered by the public, thus alienating the very people they were attempting to court.  At the same time, a poorly conceived strategy opens the door for the competition, allowing them proper justification to employ undercutting tactics of their own.  The real question seems to be how much tit for tat can we collectively stomach before everyone walks away a loser?

“It’s very tactical, it’s very short-term, but today marketers are thinking short-term,” said David Melançon, the chief executive of the Ito Partnership, a brand identity consulting company in New York.

Other examples of negative product pitches include a long-running campaign from Apple that mercilessly mocks the PC operating systems sold by Microsoft; a campaign from the Fox Business Channel cable network, which deridesJim Cramer of CNBC; ads for Burger King that take on other fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s; and a campaign for a new variety of Campbell’s soup, Select Harvest, that berates Progresso for selling soups with ingredients like monosodium glutamate.

[via New York Times]

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November 7, 2008

Impressive Monochromatic Nike Ad

by Nicko Margolies in Ad Biz, Branding, Creative Thinking, Fashion, Online Marketing, Sports & Fitness, TV Advertising

A visually stunning new advert from Nike has come to our attention.  The ad was created by Darbotz, an Indonesian artist best known for his monochromatic and intricate style.  Though it may not come across in the video, it’s a promotion for a new version of the classic Air Force Ones.  The video is supposed to reflect the evolution of the brand and give a taste of the reinterpretation and remixing in the Sportswear division.  It was animated by Randy Rais with music by Arianjie.  Here’s the video:

[via Limité Magazine]

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October 21, 2008

The Dilemmas of TV Product Integration

by Nicko Margolies in Ad Biz, Brand Experience, Branding, Creative Thinking, Entertainment, Media Planning & Strategy, TV Advertising

As technology like TiVo or internet streaming enables individuals to avoid advertising, the industry has sought ways to sneak into the shows themselves.  The moral dilemma of corporate control was often dodged during the age of record viewers, but as television budgets tighten and viewers seek alternatives to the tube, network execs push product integration into the plots themselves.  While this long hated practice is often fought by the writers and actors, it is arguably an inevitable development in our favorite characters’ lives.  Tina Fey mocked product placement on 30 Rock, but it was in response to actually needing the advertising money for production.  NY Magazine writes about the complexity of the issue and the surprising twists behind the scenes to successfully integrate products into plots:

It is indeed possible to create subversive comedy that also sells Yarises. On most TV series, brands are woven indiscernibly into each plot twist—while on others they are referenced openly, with tremendous finesse, because there’s no longer any distinction between what’s funny and what moves the needle. Characters are designed as shills or consumers from day one. Shows themselves are brands, actors are brands, and so are songs and sodas, and these entities link and detach with the elegance of acrobats. No one will see a distinction between a scriptwriter and a copywriter—least of all an audience member—because that frog has boiled beyond recognition.

[via New York Magazine]

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October 20, 2008

Bean Counter Ad From Apple

by Guy Brighton in Electronics, TV Advertising

There have been so many “Hello I’m A Mac” ads they’re not normally newsworthy but we noticed a new set via Digg this morning and thought that the Bean Counter was a rather good attack on Microsoft’s approach to the market:

Apple

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October 9, 2008

ITV Seeking to Embed Advertisements

by Jeff Weiner in Ad Biz, Branding, Online Marketing, TV Advertising

Times Online reports that British Television network, ITV is investing in a new technology that will allow the network to embed advertisements into programming. According to Times Online:

The new technology, which is known as “automatically placed overlay advertising”, uses complex computer algorithms to find clear space, such as blue sky or blank walls, in video footage in which to display logos or messages.

The technology is currently being tested in news footage on the broadcaster’s ITV Local website. The rollout of the technology is currently dependent on the response from the viewing audience.

The cat and mouse game taking place between media networks and viewers continues…

via Times Online

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September 22, 2008

The new Ford Fiesta campaign

by Anjali Ramachandran in Automotive, Brand Experience, Branding, Creative Thinking, Influencer Targeting, Online Marketing, Product Design, TV Advertising

Ford has a very interesting campaign in place to promote their new Fiesta model. Based on the central theme of ‘This is Now’, they have set up a collaborative art project which has four stages. The first involves a series of work commissioned by animation artist Noah Harris. Some of the art work from this stage broke in an ad released last week, which was directed by Harris himself.

The second included work submitted by art students across Europe - select ones will feature in the press and outdoor campaign. The third brings in the public, who can submit pictures capturing their own sense of ‘Now’ on the This is Now Flickr group. And finally, launching in October will be a Fiesta site that will display all the work from the previous stages, and let visitors create their own mash-ups. The This is Now blog ties together the entire campaign and will cover it as it progresses. Art, design, photography and fashion enthusiasts from around Europe will be encouraged to submit their work to the site, and some will also be given the opportunity to guest-curate the blog. Of course, there is a Facebook page as well. The campaign has a variety of elements that seem to tie in very well to the actual product - the Ford Fiesta, in this case. It has used the theme of contemporary art to reach out to art fans and build an image of the Fiesta as a piece of art, and not just a car. It is getting extremely difficult to attract the attention of consumers in this day and age of technology overdose, and the Fiesta campaign seems like an unusual and unique attempt to stay ahead of the pack. 

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