From Nike to Carlsberg, via John Lewis and Waitrose, advertising and branding seem to be taking a socially conscious turn. Despite many brands taking a stand on social issues, few come across as genuinely authentic.
As a seasoned copywriter well knows, writer’s block is a nightmare. You’re on a deadline, you have three articles due by the end of the week, and you’re desperately trying to find another way of saying ‘engage your audience’, for risk of sounding like a broken record for the fifth time.
At Make Happy, we get all kinds of questions from business owners who are just dipping their toes into the confusing and often contradictory world of digital marketing. For the last couple of years, the online advertising industry has been in a bit of a tizzy as reports of fraudulent metrics, from click wars to spambot followers, have flooded our newsfeed.
According to a 2014 PwC report into breakthrough innovation and growth, 43% of 1,757 executives interviewed saw innovation as a ‘competitive necessity’ for their organisation.
Who drives this innovation? Aside from the tech wiz kids, it’s the individuals and teams with the ability to think creatively. The benefits of creative thinking for businesses are well-known: enhanced productivity, innovation and growth. Demand for creative thinkers in every sector reflects their importance. But what are the processes behind creative thinking and idea generation?
A great little book I stumbled upon in the office, James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas, claims the production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Ford cars. Written over 70 years ago in the Mad Men-era of Manhattan advertising, the book still resonates today and provides some valuable insights (despite its questionably sexist undertones).
Young states the two general principles of idea production are:
i. It’s nothing more nor less than a combination of elements
ii. This depends on the ability to see relationships.
We all, therefore, have the potential to think creatively and generate ideas.
Young then puts forward his 5-step method for idea production:
1. Gather raw materials and note them down
2. “Masticate” these materials by viewing them from different angles, trying to bring them together in synthesis
3. “Digest” the subject by distancing oneself
4. Experience the “Eureka!” moment where the idea will appear
5. Develop that idea into something practical and useful.
So, what can we take from this?
The first step, gathering the raw materials, marks the start of an idea and the most important aspect of creative thinking – getting the ball rolling. Even for just 10 minutes every day, setting aside time to getting thoughts on to paper helps visualise ideas and provide coherence to thought processes. A fantastic idea would have started as a vague one that’s been fine-tuned over time. Getting into the habit of noting down observations, inspirations and ideas in a journal provides an encyclopaedia of passing thoughts, one of which could be your most successful.
The second step to Young’s method, mastication, can be done by an individual. An easier way to chew the fat, viewing an idea from different angles, is collaboration. If you’re lucky enough to have just one other person to bounce ideas around with, you’ve got double the chance of creating an innovative solution to any given problem! Affording a non-judgemental space to brainstorm ideas can be an enjoyable, productive and relationship strengthening experience.
With 78% of the most innovative companies managing innovation efforts in a formal way, creative thinkers are in high demand. This in mind, it’s easy to see the worth of getting back to basics and understanding the process behind where ideas come from.
The next step to generating ideas, of course, is implementation – so go ahead and test them out!
Ad blocking was front of mind at the recent Advertising Week Europe conference in London. “The audience is pointing a gun at us and saying ‘the way you operate business is not acceptable to us,'” said Tim Gentry, global revenue director at the Guardian.
Ad blocking is not a symptom of a petulant public, but a signal that they feel advertising has little to offer them.
“Ad blocking has come up because so much of advertising just gets in the way,” said Andy Chandler, vice-president EMEA of US mobile monetisation company Tapjoy. “You have to show somebody that you value their time and offer something in return now.” Where a value exchange is clear, advertising is accepted. For instance, the Guardian noted that two-thirds of its most loyal readers whitelist the news organisation in their ad blockers in exchange for free access to its content.
Chandler recommended that publishers take cues from advertising in the gaming space, where ad engagement is often tied to immediate rewards, such as in-game currency. He said his company has seen these strategies result in 90% completion rates for video ads.
Another strategy is to shift targeting focus away from user-tracking cookies and towards contextual data, such as location or time of day. British lifestyle site The Pool staggers its content across appropriate times of day, one item at a time. Sam Baker, co-founder, chief executive and editor of the website, commented: “Instead of throwing 100 pieces of content a day at a wall and seeing what sticks, we release 10 pieces a day, when they resonate.”
This ability to enhance the value of their content through contextual targeting helps The Pool engender loyalty in its readers, something all brands should be aiming for.
Close to two-thirds of US adults are now gamers (Nielsen, 2015) – a finding shared by Peter Jonas at this year’s film music and technology festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas (March 11-20). The head of North American games and mobile app sales at Facebook told us the reason the number is so high is because it includes casual mobile gamers, who would not consider themselves to be in the same category as hardcore console players.
The number-one game genre on Facebook is slot machine games played by “mobile whales” (big spenders in-app) – of whom 73% are married with children. “Would these people identify themselves as gamers before they identify as parents, friends, executives?” asked Jonas. “The answer is no. [As a brand], are you breaking out of the stereotypes?”
Kym Nelson, senior vice-president of sales at live-streaming platform Twitch, agreed that games continue to offer huge opportunities for marketers: “[There are] 146 million women in the US who play casual games,” for example. And while mobile gaming is on the rise, it’s not cannibalising traditional console gaming: two out of three console gamers also play on mobile.
As an example of what’s possible when advertising and gaming meet, Nelson talked through the Chappie Challenge, a Twitch campaign promoting Sony’s sci-fi movie Chappie. Over a six-week period, Twitch players were able to challenge the eponymous robot to the game Evolve, with the chance to win $15,000 in prizes. The result was more than one million streams of Chappie content, 24 million impressions, and “incredible chat interaction and engagement” on Twitch.
Utility is the key for marketers when it comes to engaging gamers, according to Nelson: “Brands need to think about what value they’re offering the user playing the game.” She pointed to Covet Fashion, a fashion app that currently boasts more than three million users, as an example of a perfect symbiotic relationship between game and brand, as users “click to buy as they play the game”.
No, not that 5 second rule. I’m talking about the one that governs Youtube advertising. The one that ensures that, as you settle down to enjoy the latest video of an existential cat pondering the meaning of life, you must first endure at least 5 seconds of an advert. Once those 5 seconds have elapsed, you can then choose to skip the ad.
So brands have just 5 seconds of guaranteed airtime in which to make an impact on their viewers. How can advertisers make the most of these vital moments?
I have heard it advised many times that the key is to make sure you have a heavily branded presence in the first 5 seconds, so even if a viewer skips the ad you have still forced your message onto them. However, the whole point of using video is to tell a story, not to cram the frame with logos and strap lines for a few seconds.
Instead, a better approach is to aim to captivate the viewer in those 5 seconds, to draw them into your video and tempt them to watch the whole thing. In doing so you increase your exposure time and their engagement with you. As Youtube Creator Guy Larsen bluntly remarked at Social Media Week:
if I see your brand in the first 5 seconds then you’re telling me your film is rubbish.
So how can you get viewers to take their cursor off the skip button and watch your whole ad? Looking at some of the most successful ads on Youtube, there are three key tactics these brands have deployed which advertisers can learn from:
1. Be targeted
Youtube ads allow everyone, regardless of budget, to get their Don Draper on and create compelling advertising spots. However, it also has an added benefit that Don never had: targeting. You can use Youtube’s advertising programme to target ads to people by characteristics like age, geography, demographics and interests. If you target your ads properly, you will greatly increase the chance that people will watch them through, as they will be relevant to them. (Even better, you won’t have wasted any budget getting in front of the wrong audience).
2. Be emotional
People go to Youtube to laugh, to cry, to marvel, to feel. Your ads should aim to make them do this too. Ads like Volkwagen’s The Force and the Dollar Shave Club spot wonderfully use humour to appeal to their audiences and get them smiling all the way to the end. Contrastingly, charities such as Save the Children have used powerful, heartrending storytelling to draw audiences into their causes. From the moment the camera focuses on the beaming girl’s face in the ‘Most Shocking Second a Day’ spot, the viewer’s attention and heart strings are captured and held fast throughout.
3. Be surprising
Viewers on Youtube love to be surprised. One sure fire way to keep an audience’s attention for the long haul is to introduce an element of surprise. Check out Volvo Truck’s majestic Jean-Claude Van Damme spot and TNT’s ‘A Dramatic Surprise in a Quiet Square’ for bravura examples of this method.
The targeting programme and cost effective budget options make Youtube Advertising a great fit for small businesses, as well as big brands. Tell your viewers a great story that is targeted, emotional and surprising and you will reap the benefits of this powerful advertising channel.
It’s no secret the best marketing is based on storytelling. Throughout the course of human history, we’ve been fascinated by stories—from cave paintings to the Bible to sitcoms on the telly and now to… emojis, the modern child of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
According to The Drum, Emoji is the fastest growing language with 80% of Brits using symbols to communicate. An increasingly popular form of messaging, four in 10 people report having sent messages composed entirely of emojis, and millennials and Gen Z-ers are the fastest adopters.
The universality of pictures can transcend language barriers making messages easily recognisable and understandable. Throw in emojis’ appeal to youth culture, and brands have a language to communicate with the hottest market across the world.
McDonald’s, famous for jumping on trends, executed its emoji-driven “Good Times” campaign in the UK and really got it right. After realising together the emojis tell a story, you can quickly piece together the messages to make sense. This allows for that wonderfully interactive gap-closure at a fast pace.
You have the woeful tale of someone waiting in loads of traffic and sobbing and then going to McDonald’s, which makes everything better. There’s the story of the extreme sorrow caused by a smartphone’s fall into the toilet, but again, fries from McDonald’s remedies the grief. The whole idea of the campaign is to show the power of the Happy Meal to transform any horrible moment into a happy one.
However, there is also the chance an emoji campaign can go horribly wrong. Take Above the Influence, an American organisation encouraging teens to lead a drug-free lifestyle, which just released an emoji ad campaign. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite get it right.
Amanda Roberts, copywriter on the campaign said, “We knew we wanted to be on a peer-to-peer level, so let’s do something in their [teen] language.” The campaign goes wrong though, by using verbal sounds of the emojis to string a sentence together rather than using them as glyphs to represent a concept. The result is a choppy sentence instead of a seamless story.
For example, the emoji series of eyes, 1, and ant fuse into “i want,” and the Italian flag and a gas tank (fuel) translates to “it feels.” The campaign claims it speaks in fluent emoji to the teen audience, but the organisation fails to understand how emojis actually work. The gap closure is too great and the ads are nearly incomprehensible. The tagline of the campaign is “not everyone gets it.” Actually though, it seems those not “getting it” are those at the organisation, which means their audience won’t “get” the ads.
Emojis are a fun, fresh and relevant way to tell a brand story, but only if used correctly. Can you figure out what the post image is trying to say?
Photo by Allison Penn/CC BY 4.0