Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bob Garfield - The Chaos Scenario redux

The Chaos Scenario from Greg Stielstra on Vimeo.

I have just finished reading Bob Garfield's book The Chaos Scenario. Garfield has long been the ad critic for Advertising Age magazine. The thesis of the book is that the digital era has decimated traditional media by radically changing its economics (unlimited supply) and corresponding changes in consumer media consumption.

For such a dystopian view the book is remarkably jolly. Garfield's style is witty and informed. It is hard to argue against his points, even if it means radical shifts in the industry I work in. Personally I welcome the changes and have been preparing for the shift since the late 90's - even, at one point leaving the advertising company I founded, which concentrated on churning out preformatted TV ads, to join Lion Nathan's online marketing business as creative director for its brands in Australasia.

The future may well be uncertain, though I have a feeling much of what marketing communications people will do in the future is similar to the things we do now - in principle. Consumer insights will still drive proactive messaging, cut through will still be critical to success (possibly more important in a fragmented, chattering environment), consumer information about brands will still have value so long as people keep buying things…In practice the skills we will need may be subtly different with an emphasis on listening (Garfield has coined the term 'listenomics'.

Watch the video, it is an excellent overview based on the book - which you should read if you work in advertising specifically or marketing generally.

The first 3 chapters are free to read here

Bob Garfield in Ad Age
The Chaos Scenario Blog

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon…illuminated.

I used to lie in bed in the dark listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon through my headphones, marveling at the stereo effects (those were the days…revealing my age).

I rather like this clip of a recreation of the album art in real life. It is a little cheap and cheerful but kind of cool. I have the strangest of impulses to buy a digital copy of the album, which I haven't heard for years. Interesting how related content on the web can trigger that response - which should be instructional for music companies whose first impulse might be to attempt to silence a clip on YouTube for copyright infringement.

BTW - you can still buy the vinyl edition

Via Simon Law's blog - Another Planning Blog

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Element of Surprise in Advertising

Many years ago I read a book called A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can be More Creative by Roger von Oech. It's a great book. But the parallel here is that some ideas are so simple they are striking.

This Nissan light truck ad makes a simple point - carry a lot in a small space. They could have tried to hard sell with data about the size and load carrying capacity, but that isn't really how advertising works for cars and trucks. It's hard to avoid the fact that a sales person will most likely be involved in the purchase process,…most people don't buy trucks online…so the task of the ad is to engage the reader's attention and provoke interest. After that other elements of the communication chain can do its job.

It pays to remember that boring people into submission has never been a successful communications strategy. In a cluttered communication environment there has to be an element of surprise. The unexpected commands more attention than the banal or familiar.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apps & Hats, slightly mad, but very clever.

apps and hats - the quirky iphone application review show
There is an advertising truism that goes something like:"If you have a straight picture…use a twisted headline. If you have a straight headline…use a twisted image."
I came across Apps & Hats, the quirky iPhone application review show through Twitter (I think)have have been fascinated ever since. There is something weirdly engaging about two women discussing technology while dressed in period costume.But here is the kicker, they deliver the information about applications in a straight way - never referencing the costumes. The presentation style is simple and conversational. They produce an episode every couple of weeks.

Video is more and more important on the web (hopefully New Zealand's broadband speeds will keep pace - I can but dream). If you are thinking of producing content for the web I suggest that the Apps & Hats model is worth studying:

1. Keep it simple.
There is no need to over-egg production - the web isn't HDTV. Your return on investment will never look good if you try to make Lawrence of Arabia on a YouTube platform.

2. Keep the duration manageable.
Brightcove, the US video syndicator says about 2.6 minutes is the amount of time most people are prepared to spend with a clip online

3. Have an idea.
It's not brain surgery to wear a costume - but it is clever to subtly differentiate your product from the thousands of other shows online (not to mention tens of millions of other entertainments vying for your attention).

4. Be regular.
The bi-weekly schedule of Apps & Hats suits my consumption habits.I've found in the past that too much can simply be too much. If you have few resources it is better to spend time polishing the content than pumping out a slurry of stuff. Don't leave too long a gap between messages though, you will lose your audience.

My company has been developing online channels for some of our clients. The most recent is The Drawing Board. Broadcast TV is used to trailer the segments which track the progress of a home renovation. Tell me what you think…