Crowdsourcing Creative



    I read on Twitter (@bbhlabs) and Campaign Magazine where Unilever is crowdsourcing a creative brief for its Peperami brand, seeking a TV campaign idea that will go global later this year. The winning creative entry gets $10,000. On the one hand, it seems like a brilliant, game-changing wake up call to agencies (They let go Lowe Worldwide just prior to announcing the “contest.”), yet really this shot over the bow will put a pox on the business the likes of which we’ve never seen.


    The biggest problem with crowdsourcing creative is it puts clients in the production business and when marketers have to balance art with cost, the spots suffer. Directors will be chosen by clients, shooting boards managed and approved by clients. Music, editing, and the soul of the spot will be in the hands of business people. Pre-pro meetings will be a joke.


    Unilever got some good press this week for earnings, leadership and so-called product innovation. This is not an example of leadership or innovation. Peace!

    Kaplan University’s Revolt


    I watched a good ad on TV the other night that really caught my attention. About Kaplan University, this :30 was extremely well-written and nicely produced. See the spot here. It was powerful, gripping and true…a trifecta. At the end though, past the promise of "a different kind of university,” I felt a little cheated to find out it was an online university. Cheese factor.

    Today, I read a bold print ad by Kaplan on the same idea, but it is a little more focused. It discussed the notion that traditional graduate education is not available to everyone and how it is sucking talent out of our economy. The headline reads “Every year in the United States billions of dollars’ worth of talent goes to waste. What does that mean for you?”

    I love revolutions and that’s what this branding idea and this advertising is all about. The product, price and educational experience had better deliver, though.  Revolutions can go both ways. 

    The agency is  Ogilvy, so says the blog Make the Logo Bigger.  Great work! David would be proud.

    We Need a Digital Rights Management Czar.


    I wrote an article for Newsday a year ago cautioning Lord and Taylor about their take-over of The Fortunoff Company. Today, for posterity, because Fortunoff recently filed for bankruptcy,  I visited Newsday to buy a PDF of the article.  (News should always be free in my book, but that’s a story for another day.) With a few extra minutes to play around thanks to my newly repaired Achilles tendon, I ventured into the Terms of Service section of  OMG.  It contained 33 paragraphs, 262 lines of text and 2690 words — just about guaranteeing nobody will read it but corporate lawyers and people cloning TOS language for their start-ups.


    Here’s the paragraph that floored me:


    “You also grant TI (Tribune Interactive) the right to use any material, information, ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques contained in any communication you send to us for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to developing, manufacturing and marketing products using such information. All rights in this paragraph are granted without the need for additional compensation of any sort to you.”


    Having been involved in a social media start-up and partially responsible for the Terms of Service and lawyer budget, I can tell you first hand this stuff gets very boggy. It’s a legal sink hole.  Had Newsday or Fortunoff taken something from my article and turned it into creative or operationalized it at their stores, do you think my check box TOS agreement would hold up in court?  Not likely. You can drive a truck through most Terms of Service mumbo.


    Larry Lessig, an amazing mind and founding board member of Creative Commons, has the right idea about this stuff.  Were I Barack Obama, I’d take some of that AIG and GM money and appoint Mr. Lessig Digital Rights Management Czar — then I’d give him some serious legislative firepower and charge him with getting digital rights management right.  A good law in place, protecting all parties, will save the country billions in legal fees. (Don’t tell the lawyers.) Peace!


    Binge Marketing.


    Binge watching TV series is a relatively new phenomenon. One Christmas I watched a season of Homeland in a weekend. Bam! Lately I’ve been binging on mystery writers. Finding an author, say Henning Mankell, and reading all his Kurt Wallander books in a year is a form of binging.

    But what happens to the art as a result of binging?  Does it loose some of its power? Or allure? Where the real time water cooler discussion? Serial story telling goes way back. Weekly radio programs, stories by Charles Dickens in old England monthlies, the list goes on.

    Today’s on-demand digital culture removes a little bit of anticipation, I’m afraid. It removes some emersion. It can also upset the feng shui.

    Marketers and brand managers in particular must be mindful of this behavior. As we storytell our brands to life – meting out our best, most convincing and fresh narratives, – we have to recognize they won’t always be experienced as the serial stories we hope.  I can be partially controlled, but not fully.

    Stay Tuned.


    College Branding



    College and university advertising is generally pretty bad. The budgets are small so they don’t use good agencies and when they do use good agencies the academicians often get in the way which tends to watered down the work. Quick – think of a good college ad campaign.


    UCLA ran a print campaign this week that I actually took the time to read. The tagline was “UCLA, unabashed.” Ads were in the form of first person storytelling by various alumni, appearing two per day on consecutive right hand pages.  The campaign objectives were hard to figure at first but by the end of the week I got it: UCLA is a great place for “achievers” to start their lives and UCLA needs private funding.


    Good college advertising makes the consumer think. If it can’t, then why would we assume the college can make the student think?  Selling doesn’t work in this type of advertising; making the synapses fire does. 


    I’ve heard college kids say “as soon as I drove through the front gate I knew it was the school for me.”  Is that packaging (nice gate) or branding (predisposition to a sale)?


    Creating a great brief for a college or university is very heavy lifting. I’ve done it before and it’s a real test. But when you nail it, you know. I’d like to see the UCLA brief, because they nailed it. (If you like to see a good college brief, write me and I’ll forward one.)

    A Thought About Organizational Change.


    There are a couple of start-up companies founded by advertising ex-pats focusing on organizational design and strategy.  These companies are convinced the digital economy and digital tools are being overlooked when it comes to evolving organizational efficiency. They are not wrong.

    NOBL and The Ready are two such companies whose missions are to assist legacy orgs transition to newer models, the goals being improved agility, aggressiveness, accountability and profit. (The Dachis Group operated in this space 10 years ago, but became a software company.)

    I need to study some of these methodologies more before fully commenting, but here’s a quick observation. The going in premise is “the organization is the enemy.” The framework, as I understand it, begins with executive and stakeholder interviews, team workshops, feedback studies and lots of charts. No doubt, if you rub some stem cells on it, I mean add some digital productivity tools, you can move any organization forward. It’s no hocus pocus, it’s a real business and the advice is good.

    But, I am a brand planner and for me brand strategy is like penicillin. A cure all. I am of the mind a well-constructed brand strategy can solve organizational problems; perhaps even better than rote org design.

    An organizational design framework, can be generic. A templated approach to solving inefficiency. A brand strategy approach, though, does not view organizational structure as the problem. Rather, it studies the disconnects between customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. Organizations can and must change to remove these impediments but those changes are less about pathways and communications occlusions and more about strategy tied to brand value.

    No one is arguing organizational delivery can be improved. I am just suggesting it’s better to make a cookie more moist and healthy, than making the formulary more efficient. One can do both…starting from the brand POV is all I am advocating.




    Left Turn for Microsoft


    I love reading about campaigns and commenting before I see them. It’s a practice that can result in serious egg-on-face but it’s fun nonetheless. So here’s my take on the new Microsoft Window’s 7 ads  — a campaign that conveys Microsoft listened to user complaints about Vista and fixed them.  Sorry, not a fan. 

    Microsoft made its bed releasing a sluggish, over-engineered, buggy product (Vista) and now is doing a campaign built on a mea culpa.  Okay, they’re manning up… but using the new work to put the responsibility of product development on the consumer?  I don’t think so.  If anything goes wrong, will it be our fault?  (Can you say scar tissue?)

    The process of listening to consumers and giving them what they want should not the subject of advertising – even if the company has a bad rep. It’s rearview mirror stuff.  The “I’m a PC” work by Crispin Porter Bogusky is really great work. Warm, forward looking, communal. It is user-focused advertising yet doesn’t make the user product manager.

    I’m a PC is a campaign that may go down as a Harvard Business Review case. “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea” on the other hand is a left turn that goes off road. Hope they find the highway again. Egg or no egg?  Peace!

    Return On Strategy Ain’t No Disco.


    ROS stands for return on strategy. In my world brand strategy is strategy. As “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging,” there is very little that a brand strategy doesn’t touch.

    So as Sears tries to become profitable out of bankruptcy and needs to sell under performing stores, that’s about the product. The retail stores being Sears product.  If Sears decides to double down on Spanish and Latino customers (as I’ve suggested for years), that’s about experience. And if Sears wants to let customers know it’s time to check it out again, that’s messaging.

    The best brand strategies are business-measurable. Not in awareness levels, and engagement, and likeability, but in sales, loyalty and referrals. Attitudes and preference overlaid with sales.

    That’s what return on brand strategy is. Returns that can go into the bank. Deposits.

    Two decades ago when I told a NY-based healthcare system that proving you had better nurses resulted in higher physician retention, my client marketing lead scratched his head.

    Return On Strategy ain’t no disco.


    The Future of Marketing Analytics.


    I wrote a piece a few years back foretelling the government’s breakup of Google. I predicted a Google trivestiture giving birth to a pure analytics company – to which marketers and ad agencies would pay lots of money. Well, the breakup hasn’t happened yet but Facebook may have just stepped into the analytics breach. Facebook is launching a new advertising platform, using all the data it collects about us, to sell ad space. And not all the ad space will be on Facebook. Many ads will appear on mobile sites, apps and other things digital.

    This is going to be big. I repeat, from a revenue standpoint this is going to be big.

    I’m afraid Facebook will have first mover market position on Google here and because it is a social network not a search company the government will allow it.  Google, I suspect, is going to want to tap into this new analytics revenue stream and siphon off a big chuck — and that may be where trivestiture kicks in. That said, by allowing Facebook first mover status it may prolong the period before trivestiture. Smart move.

    Who else wants a piece of this analytics pie? Amazon. And Apple with its bold new ApplePay program.

    Fasten your seatbelts errybodies, this is going to be fodder for some serious red state/blue state discussion over the next 10 year. Peace.