There is still a place for creativity in the age of the Internet

Have you ever wondered how powerful the Internet really is? Have you ever wondered if video can really help increase sales? Have you ever wondered how to sell something for more than it’s worth? Would you like to turn US$499 into US$150,000 with a little bit of creativity? Then watch this video.

Is this the best Christmas ad ever?

If you’ve experienced the build up to Christmas in the UK, you’ll know that the launches of the big retailers’ Christmas ads are eagerly awaited. In 2015 we ran a poll of the favourite Christmas ads and even though it was considered sadvertising (take note Petronas with Chinese New Year coming up) by many pundits, the John Lewis ad was a clear winner.

This year John Lewis has for the first time cast a black family as the stars of the ad. Actually that’s not true. The stars of the show are a whole series of animals including the family pet Buster the Boxer.

You can watch the ad here and let me know what you think.

This being Christmas you are encouraged to ignore reality and the fact that the hedgehog would have been in bed since November and foxes are a nuisance (more on that later).

After two days the ad has generated 4 million views on Youtube, 32,000 Likes and 3,000 comments, most of them positive and many of them amusing, ensuring the narrative continues!


The store spent about £1 million on the ad and will spend £6 million on TV spots nationwide. Fans can also download Snapchat filters featuring Buster the dog. Merchandise on sale in the stores includes soft toys, clothing, animal themed children’s books and trampolines. And in the Oxford Street store, there will be a virtual reality version of the commercial.

The dog also has his own Twitter hashtag #BusterTheBoxer and Twitter stickers. But Twitter reactions have been mixed. @Basscrazy66 suggested Santa should be putting the trampoline together.

What about Santa?
What about Santa?

@Gregjames missed the sadvertising approach with this tweet.

I want to be miserable at Christmas
I want to be miserable at Christmas

Meanwhile, @DanielBruce_8 brought a bit of regional humour to the narrative.

This is known as Scottish humour
This is known as Scottish humour

Earlier in November 2016, an A level student in the UK created a fake John Lewis ad that fooled a number of people. Taking sadvertising to a new level, the ad features an unhappy snowperson trapped in a snow globe desperate to get out of the globe so he can enjoy Christmas with a free snowperson. There are rumours the student will soon be interviewed by the head of creative at John Lewis.

Even though it’s only been out a few days, the John Lewis ad has been parodied. Make sure you watch this parody to the end!

According to the creators of this parody, James Herring, Jasper Gibson and Dave Packer, they are “raising awareness of the mild annoyance of urban wildlife experienced by middle class city dwellers”.

John Lewis has announced that 10pc of all toy sales will be given to the country’s Wildlife Trusts charities. What do you think, is this the best ever John Lewis ad? Vote in our poll.

Who are the advertising industry’s biggest wankers?

Please forgive the crude title but if you read on you will understand why I don’t have a choice.

I remember a few years ago Fusionbrand interviewed a young guy who was about 24 years old. He had only been working for 3 years but had already won more than 25 awards. I can’t remember what they were for but none of them were significant. However he genuinely believed winning those awards meant he was good at what he did and could command a bigger salary.

Nowadays, there are so many award shows for the advertising industry that one of them, in an attempt to stay different, has dropped the word advertising from the title. We’re regularly asked to propose ourselves for awards with suggestions on how to ensure we win. We’ve never done so which is why we’ve never won an award but have always been asked by clients to do additional work.

I don’t know if these award shows are an attempt by a dying industry to stay relevant or perhaps it’s a genuine belief that handing out awards to just about anyone who pitches up for work really will help keep advertising relevant.

Proudly display this award in your reception area
Proudly display this award in your reception area

Anyway, there are some people in the advertising business who don’t take themselves too seriously and have noticed the handing out of awards has got out of well, hand. So they’ve created an amusing distraction for the digital era or for those who haven’t won enough awards. The Handy Awards website and app let’s you award yourself an award for anything you want.

All you need to do is download the handy awards app and shake your phone and you’ll win an award. The longer you shake the phone, the better the award. For those with real determination, there’s a Best in Hand award but that takes some real shaking but I know you can do it. And the good news is you can share the award with a friend.

You can even share your impressive award with a friend.
You can even share your impressive award with a friend.

As the site says, “The Handys are the world’s first advertising award show where you can give yourself an award in the comfort of your studio apartment or at your desk within your agency’s open office. All without entering any work or having to sit through someone else’s boring case study video.”

It would appear that, judging by the awards it is only open to male creative wankers but sticking with the crude nature of this post, perhaps there is a female award, err coming?

How to make better advertising and advertising better

There’s a small creative agency in London called Sell! Sell! The agency is run by Vic Polkinghorne and Andy Palmer and they’ve co-written a potentially interesting new book called ‘How to make better advertising and advertising better‘. This new book shouldn’t be confused with the equally new book ‘Stop Advertising, Start Branding‘ which was written by me.

But I think there will be some similarities between both books because neither of us are happy with the state of advertising today. Here’s a quote from the Sell! Sell! website. “And the poor old punter is left faced with advertising that is at best forgettable, and at worst insulting to the intelligence. Surely there’s a better way?”

Now what we think that better way is may be different. So I’ve ordered a copy and will let you know whether it is and what I think of the book. In the meantime, I have read some interesting reviews online and you can read one of them at the creative review website that is already generating some fascinating comments.


Make it better or bin it
Make it better or bin it

The book has also garnered some interesting testimonials including “This book is full of common sense. Which is rare, so it’s actually full of uncommon sense.” Dave Trott.

And this one from Bob Hoffman “The ad industry is in an unprecedented state of confusion. While the assertions and pomposity grow majestically, the advertising itself diminishes rapidly. Sadly there is no button we can push that will erase all the arrogance and self-delusion. Fortunately we have this book. It might be just the reset button we all need.”

I’m looking forward to getting my copy.




You can always shock viewers into buying your Brand

Watch this commercial before reading the post.

Last night I watched an episode of Mad Men where Harry Crane, the new head of the new television department at Sterling Cooper (It’s season 2) almost got fired because he allowed a Maytag commercial to appear in a TV programme related to communism.

He nearly lost his job because the brand didn’t want to be associated with a contentious or negative issue. This has been a standard approach of brands over the years which is why you won’t see a commercial for an airline aired on a programme about aviation disasters or a commercial for an automotive company in a programme that features a car crash.

Well that used to be the case. Recently Volkswagen in Hong Kong and O&M created an this campaign solely for cinema audiences. It’s interactive and gets the viewers attention.

I like the ad but I’d like to know more about it. What is it for, is it to sell cars? Or is it a public service exercise? If the former, does it send the right message and will consumers remember the brand for the right reason? If the latter, does it make a difference? Such ads don’t stop people smoking, taking drugs or drink driving so why will this one work?

Like I say it’s a great bit of creativity. VW had a record year in 2013, selling 2.51 million cars in China and Hong Kong. This will certainly help VW stay top of consumer’s minds. But I think Harry Crane is turning in his grave. That’s not a plot spoiler. Well I don’t think so as I’m only on season 2!

How to get the competition to advertise your brand

DHL understands better than most that a traditional advertising campaign is expensive and ineffective. But it still wanted to market itself, especially in the face of more efficient and effective competition.

So the firm decided to trick its competitors into advertising DHL across a city in the US.

DHL sent packages via competitors such as TNT and UPS to addresses that were awkward to deliver to. To ensure they weren’t caught the boxes were covered with a special ink that turned black when the boxes were chilled to sub-zero temperatures.

The ink was temperature-activated and as it warmed up, the ink faded revealing a large message that said “DHL is faster.”

The poor deliverymen had to struggle through crowds to deliver the large boxes. Whilst it’s unlikely many people actually noticed anything but it is bound to get a lot of viral exposure.

I’m looking forward to the response from UPS and the others!

Old fashioned marketing won’t help Wonda achieve 20% market share in Malaysia

Wonda Coffee, owned by Asahi Group of Japan used The New Straits Times (NST) a Malaysian daily to launch its hallmark canned coffee with what the NST called “its first 5D advertisement campaign.”

According to the NST the campaign for the ready to drink coffee was “widely touted as the most amazing print-enabled campaign.”

It ran for four days and readers of the newspaper were promised they would be able to “engage their senses of touch, sight, sound, smell and taste with the launch of Wonda.”

There were multiple teaser ads before the launch, at least four full page ads in one edition of the paper, wraparounds of another, a four page ‘pop-up’ ad and sponsorships of whole supplements of the paper that required the use of 3D glasses. The 3D glasses were supposed to come with the paper but ours didn’t.

There were advertorials on the benefits of coffee, teaser ads and even a little music box that played a Wonda coffee Jingle that probably went out across radio. I couldn’t get it to work although it does now play occasionally, normally when nobody is near it.

Typical Wonda print ad
Typical Wonda print ad

There were also multiple messages, taglines and headings used in the campaign that I found confusing.

I don’t know the cost of this campaign but it won’t have been cheap. It is not uncommon for a brand to launch with a mass advertising campaign like this. It’s the wrong way but if you give your product launch to an advertising agency, what else can you expect?

One of the key points of a launch is to ensure that if any buzz is created and consumers buy into the idea of the product, their ability to engage physically with the brand must be seamless. In other words it needs to be available or better still be everywhere the consumer goes.

Although I’m a coffee drinker, I’m not a fan of instant coffee but I decided to buy the product. On the third day of the campaign, I went down to my local convenience store to buy Wonda. They sell most drinks here except it would seem, Wonda.

The following day the NST carried another full page ad for Wonda coffee with a coupon offering a can for 10 cents if you buy from 7eleven. So I tore out the coupon and went over to the local 7eleven. I had a look in the fridges and there was no sign of Wonda coffee. Competitor brands from Nescafe and others were represented and selling for RM1.90 (local brand) – RM2.20 (Nescafe).

I showed the coupon to the assistant and asked for my 10c drink. He wasn’t aware of the offer. However after some cajoling and a couple of rereads while the queue grew he went to the storeroom and got me a can. I asked what the retail price is and he said RM1.90. On the tin it says premium coffee yet is priced below Nescafe.

Since the big splash in the NST I’ve seen Wonda coffee posters at toll booths and there is at least one TVC (see below) so they are obviously spending a lot of money on traditional media.

But of course the initial buzz around the product launch will die down within a week or two once the advertising has stopped. In this era of social media, there is a great opportunity to maintain any traction by taking the marketing to the community.

I had a quick look on Youtube to see if there is a consumer driven competition there. All I could find was this TV commercial.

The TVC has been up for a month and has only received 400 views. Interestingly not one like or dislike. Seriously underwhelming but at least we know they haven’t paid for likes!

Determined now to find out how Wonda is engaging consumers on Social Media I figured there would be a big splash on Facebook, right? Nope. I couldn’t find anything. Twitter? Nothing.

I wonder why Wonda isn't using FB to launch itself
I wonder why Wonda isn’t using FB to launch itself

So here we are in 2014, launching a new product in Malaysia and there doesn’t seem to be any use of social media!

Even though Facebook is the most visited site in Malaysia – There are 10.5 million Facebook users in Malaysia (out of a population of about 27 million) and 3.5 million of those are 18 – 24, probably the perfect target market for this product. Social media is responsible for 33% of all web traffic in Malaysia.

Globally 93% of marketers rate social tools as important and 90% of them support this by using social media channels for business. In this social media dominated era, why aren’t the team responsible for launching Wonda using Social media?

Now of course I don’t know what else is involved in the launch of Wonda and it could be that some sort of Social media presence is part 2 of the launch.

Although not the right way to launch a product, I hope this is the case because ultimately, it will be consumers on social media who determine the success or failure of Wonda Coffee and not a traditional campaign pushed out across traditional media, no matter how creative it is and how ‘amazing’ it is.

Asahi is targetting 20% of Malaysia’s coffee beverage market with Wonda. If it continues to use old fashioned methods to launch and market Wonda and doesn’t leverage on Social Media, it won’t achieve this goal.

Is this the scariest tyre commercial of all time?

This Japanese commercial for tyre manufacturer Autoway comes with a health warning that recommends those with a heart condition, physical or mental problems or those who visit their doctor on a regular basis should not watch it.

It’s a clever if rather radical attempt to sell tyres. I’ve written about ‘shock and awe’ advertising here. Traditionally, it hasn’t been very effective, in markets like Malaysia, Singapore, the UK and Australia.

As an example, in Malaysia, despite nearly US$50 million spent on shock and awe campaigns to create awareness of the dangers of smoking, the number of smokers has practically doubled every 10 years.

Of course the success of this campaign will depend on what other initiatives are carried out and on which channels.

Whether or not there are parallels between campaigns for smokers and those who buy tyres, I don’t know. Perhaps this will be different, what do you think?

Virgin America safety video raises the bar for airline Brand content

In my previous post I gave 10 reasons why you should use video to build your brand. You can read that post here

But there needs to be a creative element to those videos. Looking at the airline business, far too many carriers believe the bulk of their marketing dollars should be spent on well produced but hugely irritating glossy videos featuring pretty stewardesses, cute kids and seats that look further apart than they are on any plane I’ve ever flown.

A case in point is Thai Airways. In 2010, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the carrier released a well produced video that gnaws at the heartstrings but does little new to differentiate it from competitors.

The video has generated a respectable 150,000 views since its launch in 2010 but only 400 likes which would suggest it has made very little impact.

There are some though that are doing their best to move away from this predictable and instantly forgetable approach. Most recently, Virgin America and Air New Zealand have approached the safety video from a new direction.

Instead of the oft ignored stewardess standing self consciously in the aisle and demonstrating how to use a seat belt, where are the exits, how to put on a life jacket and what to do when the oxygen mask drops, these airlines have gone to great expense with a refreshing approach to the tried and tested.

Earlier this week, on the 29th October 2013, Virgin America launched an airline safety video that it claims is the first safety video set entirely to music. They are probably right and the result is impressive.

Obviously I’m not the only one to think so as the video has already been viewed by more than 700,000 people in just two days. What I like about the Virgin video is that they are keeping the story live by inviting dancers to audition for future versions.

Potential participants must send an Instagram video to a specially set up safety dance battle website. Some of those Instagram videos, that can only be up to 15 seconds long will then no doubt take on a life of their own, thereby continuing the Virgin America narrative. So far, the video has over 13,500 Likes on YouTube.

Earlier this year Air New Zealand teamed up with Eton educated ex SAS officer Bear Grylls to create a unique and captivating safety video. The pretty stewardess and cute kids are still there but I’m sure you’ll agree the rest of the cast is unusual!

To date, the Air New Zealand video has garnered more than 277,000 views on Youtube. Not bad for an inflight safety video!

I did a quick search of Youtube to see what Asian airlines are doing on Youtube. Cathay Pacific has created a lot of content some of which has generated a lot of views. Last year they did a ‘Day in the Life’ feature with flight attendants, pilots and ground crew.

This video of a day in the life of Grace, a flight attendant has a respectable 200,000 views but not too many likes.

Malaysia Airlines YouTube page suggests the carrier is creating a lot of video content but judging by the numbers of views it isn’t compelling enough for consumers to engage with, Like and share. However, when they do get creative, or rather innovative interest in the brand goes through the roof, as shown by this flashmob video that has generated over 1,100,000 views in just under 2 years.

Unfortunately this project appears to be tactical rather than part of a strategic initiative because it doesn’t seem to go anywhere or be integrated with any other activities.

According to Cisco, 90% of all Internet traffic will be video by 2017. These Asian carriers need to start producing content that is interesting and relevant. And that content needs to be part of a planned, strategic story that resonates with target markets in order for those markets to engage with and share across the ecosystem. Otherwise it becomes just another piece of expensive content that is out there, rarely viewed and therefore ineffective.