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Now That’s What I Call…Planning Books

I get the occasional email from grads keen to get into planning. Rather than telling them what I think (well, I can’t resist doing a bit of that), I usually point them in the direction of the books and blogs that have had the most impact on my understanding of people, brands and advertising.

If you’re new to Planning I’d start with ‘How Brands Grow’, ‘Truth, Lies & Advertising’ and ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’. If you’re not, read on and hopefully you’ll find something newish nestled alongside the Greatest Hits.

Marketing Fundamentals

How Brands Grow – Byron Sharp

This book has had more impact on my understanding of marketing and the way I approach my job than anything else. Before you start talking about planning or advertising, you first need to understand the fundamentals of marketing and consumer behaviour and what it is that really makes brands grow. This book draws on decades of empirical data to bust many common myths about loyalty, targeting, ‘engagement’ and persuasion. Dr Byron Sharp’s cynical tone also manages to make potentially dry subjects feel quasi-revolutionary. Essential.

Planning Fundamentals

A Master Class in Brand Planning – The Timeless Works of Stephen King

No, not the Stephen King that ruined clowns for a generation of children. This Stephen King was one of the founding fathers of Planning, introducing the discipline to JWT in the 1960s. An essential look back at where planning came from, outlining the fundamental principles and advice that is still as relevant today as it was. Intros from today’s heavy hitters keep things feeling contemporary.

Truth, Lies & Advertising: The Art of Account Planning – Jon Steel

If Stephen King laid the foundation, Jon Steel is the one who showed many aspiring Planners how these principals should be applied in a real world setting. Steel manages to make topics as seemingly dry as research, creative briefing and copy testing entertaining, using famous campaign examples such as ‘Got Milk?’. Don’t be put off by the rather dated cover. Essential.

Creative Effectiveness & How Advertising Works

Exploding The Message Myth – Paul Feldwick

An article rather than a book, the good news is this one is free to access on the Thinkbox website. This is the best analysis I’ve read of how advertising actually works, and how our understanding of advertising has evolved over the last century or so. Feldwick questions a lot of conventional wisdom on the subject, reinforcing the importance of context and emotion above rational persuasion. Famous examples like the PG Tips Chimps and Rowan Aktinson’s Barclaycard classic ads bring things to life.

Marketing In The Era of Accountability – Les Binet & Peter Field

Along with Paul Feldwick, Binet & Field have been very influential on my understanding of advertising effectiveness and are a must-read for anyone working in the industry. The pair analysed nearly 1,000 effectiveness case studies from the IPA databank to prove a clear link between creativity and effectiveness and the power of emotionally-driven ‘fame’ campaigns above rational, message-driven advertising. This video on the Thinkbox website offers a good taster if you don’t want to shell out a hundred-odd quid for the book.

The Long And Short Of It – Les Binet & Peter Field

A recent update to the IPA databank analysis found in ‘Marketing In The Era of Accountability’, this time with more of a focus on the difference between short and long term effects of advertising. A wake-up call to those obsessing over big data and ‘real-time’ marketing, this analysis shows the importance of taking a longer term view and the enduring role of ‘fame’ media like TV. I wrote more about this here. Again, if you can’t get your boss to pay for the book, check out the free Thinkbox video instead.

Approaches to Planning

Eating The Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders – Adam Morgan

An analysis of what made challengers like Avis, Absolut and Swatch successful. Not just for people working on challenger brands – rather an inspiration to think and behave differently from the competition.

Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies To Build Breakthrough Brands – Douglas Holt & Douglas Cameron

The central point is that brand success has more to do with perception and cultural context than functional product innovation (what they call ‘better mousetraps’) or redefining the category (so-called ‘blue ocean strategy’). While some of the examples might feel a little post-rationalised, on the whole it’s a thought provoking book that chimes with a lot of the creative effectiveness stuff above. I wrote more about ‘Cultural Strategy’ here.

Good/Bad Strategy: The Difference & Why It Matters – Richard Rumelt

The focus here isn’t marketing or advertising, rather how to approach strategic thinking generally. Former NASA-engineer turned business strategy guru Richard Rumelt highlights some of the typical mistakes people make when trying to develop strategy and offers some good pointers and examples on how to put things right. His cutting tone and refreshing disregard for the usual business bullshit keeps things interesting.

 Psychology & Behavioural Economics

Thinking, Fast & Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Along with ‘How Brands Grow’, this provides the scientific foundation for effective advertising. Kahneman was the first psychologist to win the Nobel Prize for Economics and this book draws on a lifetime of research in behavioural economics. It explains how, while we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, in fact much of our decision making is emotionally driven and prone to relying on heuristics and bias. It might not be beach reading, but interesting from both a personal and professional point of view. Essential.

Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature – Mark Earls 

While I don’t necessarily agree with all the ideas in the book (namely the suggestion that all brands need to become ‘passion brands’), the central premise at the heart of ‘Herd’ is sound. Mark Earls argues that ‘social proof’, or the people around us are the primary influence on how we behave. That might not sound like news, but the book raises some major question marks over marketers’ obsession with one-to-one marketing and data-driven personalisation.

China

What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer – Tom Doctoroff

I read this when I first moved from Sydney to Hong Kong. Tom Doctoroff has been running JWT in China for over a decade and while I’m sure some people will argue that China is too big and diverse to make these sort of generalisations, I found this a helpful introduction to doing business in the region. The observations and anecdotes are probably more interesting than the marketing recommendations though, which can seem a little prosaic.

Hope you enjoy some of the above – let me know what you think?

Canine Technology: Be More Dog

I’ve seen a bit of discussion online about the new O2 ad from VCCP – not all of it positive. But before I go on, have a look for yourself:

I like it. Yes, it’s not instantly clear what it’s got to do with phones and yes we’re probably reaching saturation point in terms of animals in ads what with all those meerkatscats with thumbs and dancing ponies – and that’s before you even rewind back to the PG chimps and Andrex Puppy.

But ‘be more dog’ made me feel and it made me think. Even a cynical cat person like myself had a hard time suppressing a smile – and that’s something you can’t say for a lot of the crap that fills up the breaks. And if you want the plannery bollocks, there’s a nice observation in there about how jaded we are about technology, and in Britain, how jaded people are about life in general. We moan about our mobile internet being a little slow but forget that it didn’t even exist (for most of us) ten years ago.

The sign of a good creative idea is that it contains a point of view that transcends a specific execution and offers a platform for new thinking – and this campaign probably needs to build a bit more before it really starts to feel distinctively ‘O2′.

But the TV spot also shows the importance of ‘how you say it’ in the first place – in this case the power of a simple analogy. If Samsung or LG had tried to tackle this topic, we probably would have ended up with some generic, pompous guff about ‘limitless possibilities’ or ‘the power of curiosity’. ‘Be more dog’ manages to talk optimistically about technology in a way that’s down-to-earth and charming.

If you’re still reading, there are also some interesting digital extensions – throw frisbees from your phone to your PC, make a (rather heavily branded) cat/dog video for a friend or watch Dom Jolly getting overexcited about cool new gadgets etc

Top 3 stupid bloke ads of the week

Being surrounded in Hong Kong by rather earnest ads for health supplements and tech products, I’ve started to miss the tongue-in-cheek humour that you see elsewhere. I thought I’d redress the balance by posting three new ads from around the world that are unashamedly aimed at blokes. Yes, they may make men look like one-dimensional idiots, but they’re still more memorable than a million FMCG product demos.

Australia has its fair share of awful ads (i.e. pretty much anything from Harvey Norman), but one area it consistently excels is beer advertising. My favourite of the week is BMF’s spot for Tap King. It combines what seems like quite a cool new gadget with Lionel Ritchie crooning in a fridge. And they’ve even managed to make the instructional video reasonably amusing.

Next up is one for Cerveza Andes in Argentina, which asks why the most devastating hurricanes always seem to be named after women:

The final one for Stowford Press Cider feels a bit derivative, but it’s still better than the terrible Carlsberg ads that aired recently in the UK. And when you consider it’s the brand’s first ever national TV ad, it isn’t a bad effort:

Have a Break…No WiFi Zone

Really like this Kit Kat idea, I think it’s been kicking for a while but I only just clocked it here. A simple but elegant way of bringing ‘Have a break…’ to life, and just shows that sticking by a classic line doesn’t have to mean stale ideas.

Like a lot of great ideas it works because it taps into a tension that we can all relate to – it seems particularly pertinent here in Hong Kong, where people are well and truly under the spell of their smartphones…

Smuggling in the entertainment

Just read a great post from Simon Veksner addressing a major misconception on the role of entertainment in advertising:

“It’s often said that ads need to be entertaining because the entertainment allows us to ‘smuggle in’ a product benefit – the bit that is the commercially effective part of the ad.

I agree with the smuggling theory, but I actually think it works the other way round.”

Simon’s point isn’t just about making life more fun for creatives. It’s also in line with an increasing amount of research showing that emotive advertising is significantly more effective than ads that seek to communicate a rational product benefit (I’ve written more on this here).

The myth that creativity is just a vehicle for communicating a product message still seems to go largely unchallenged by clients, but it has major implications for how we brief and evaluate work. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend Paul Feldwick’s excellent paper ‘Exploding The Message Myth’ – probably the most illuminating piece I’ve read about how advertising really works.

 

Expedia bag tag

An elegant campaign from Ogilvy and Expedia that shows it’s not so much what you say as how you say it. There’s something instantly intriguing about the used baggage tags, which are all based on real IATA airport codes. Bonus points for not spoiling it all with a desperate plea to ‘like us on Facebook’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creatives Jon Morgan and Mike Watson explained to Creative Review where the idea came from:

“It all started when we saw a woman walking through Heathrow with the word FUK hanging from her suitcase,” they say. “Turned out she’d just flown in from Fukuoka in Japan. That got us thinking, ‘maybe there are more’.”

More here at Creative Review

The real Mad Men Christmas party: pretty dull actually

Droga 5’s recent full page ad in The Australian confirmed what we all already knew. Despite telling everyone who’ll listen that ‘the old agency model is broken’, most people in advertising still prefer the idea of a Sterling Cooper-style long lunch to a four-hour workshop on cross-media integration.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Except that according to the BBC’s Adam Curtis, the reality of sixties adland was actually a bit less glamorous than Don Draper and co would lead us to believe.


Spot the difference

On his blog ‘The Medium and The Message’, Adam’s posted a fascinating, if slightly dreary, documentary about the 1969 Christmas party of London ad agency Davidson Pearce Berry and Tuck.

26 year old Media Director Allan Rich is pure gold – he puts an upper limit of ten minutes on festive socialising and shuns alcohol for a cheeky glass of bitter lemon.

Check out the video footage here.

[This post also appears on Amnesia Blog]