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This is one of the best things I’ve seen a brand do in a while.
The Internet has made it too easy to come up with ideas; the challenge now is making them happen in a world of reducing budgets and media clusterfucks. You need to know how something is going to be made, what it’s gonna cost, how it will be distributed, and you need to 100 percent believe that you can make that happen. Clients don’t buy ideas; they buy people.
The New Agency Creative Team
Clients are assholes who take every good idea you’ve ever had and piss all over them, forcing you to go back to the drawing board and think of even MORE shit. But then, as you’re sitting and stewing and telling everyone what an asshole the client is, you usually come up with another idea, and it’s often better than what came before. Now, the client will also ending up rejecting THAT idea and reformatting an old Christmas ad instead, but at least you’ll have learned that you have a deeper well of creativity than you originally thought, and that your first idea isn’t always your best.
What the Fuck Makes You Too Good For Advertising?
(a counterpoint to “Do Not Go Into Advertising”)
The reason they are surprised and relieved, of course, is that most young men and young women—and tweens and olds and anyone, really, with access to a smartphone—act exactly like Sullen Male Youth. All the time. We Instagram meals before we eat them, tweet jokes about news stories we haven’t yet read. If anything, the unfortunate default mode for many of us is hiding behind phones, inside apps. Any other use case sends us into paroxysms of joy and relief.
Seriously, enough with this Apple ad.
If we in adland only ever see ad-shaped problems, we’ll only create ad-shaped solutions. But if we see people, all manner of new and exciting stuff starts to happen. As ever in marketing, progress lies in asking better questions and more imaginatively examining the lives, habits, needs, wants, desires, frustrations and dissatisfactions in people’s lives.
Heart: Four-ish Months In Review
Earlier this summer, I penned a post exclaiming that I was “quitting advertising”, and it caused a brief, and rather silly stir. We got some funny press, I got the pleasure of being misquoted, and the whole thing lasted for about one full rotation of the internet’s attention-cycle (roughly three days). By now, I’m sure that post, and I, have generally been forgotten.
But while that little bit of excitement has run it’s course, what we have set out to do with Heart, has not.
Our first four-ish months were a learning experience in so many ways. We stumbled face-first into some unique and profitable work, only to then fall backwards out of other equally unique, and potentially profitable jobs.
We made new friends and clients, we made some of our own furniture, and along the way, we made as many mistakes as we did interesting things.
Overall, it’s been an invaluable education, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
And as we head into the new year, we’ve gained a strength and excitement that will propel us forward. We have clarity of vision and a sense of purpose.
As one our our smart friends and mentors said, we’re “modern, lean, agile, unencumbered, honest, hungry, and idealistic”.
I couldn’t have chosen better words myself, so I just stole his.
Our refined focus in 2014 will be on our ability to create beautifully designed brand experiences - spanning digital, analog, and everything in-between.
We think there is massively rich opportunity to transform businesses by rethinking the way advertising dollars have traditionally been allocated. Viewing the standard marketing line-items as opportunities for long-term investment in the future, versus short-term expenses tied to the present.
We see the power and the possibility in brands that consider and choreograph every possible encounter into a single, beautifully designed narrative - regardless of format or channel.
We see the strength of experiences that come from aesthetic and communication systems, that ensure each moment between brand and person, is connected, thoughtful, and deliberate.
We see the continually disruptive nature of digital, and we have a deep love for the timelessness of the physical.
And we see the promise of a magical future that lies in our ability to literally connect the two.
As Claude Debussy said,
Music is the space between the notes.
Most of all, we’re excited to work with forward-looking, brave, challenger brands and people, that seek to define the future instead of trying to predict it.
Purposefully Shitty Banner Ads
Thomas and I were just talking about banner ads, after I read this Digiday post on swapping billboards for banners (a tactic I totally agree with by the way).
And it got me thinking about three instances in which really (intentionally) terrible banner ads, did something that well-designed ones almost always fail to do. They got people’s attention.
Instance #1 - This one is from a little while back, and involves a sloppy MS paint version of a banner, pitted against a properly designed version. Guess which one outperformed?
Instance #2 - Louis CK, who now aside from being my favorite comedian, is also my favorite media disruptor, is running this ad to promote some of his newest content.
Instance #3 - Back when I was helping get Pangea Media up and off the ground, we were literally doing everything ourselves, in house. Coding, writing, designing, media buying, everything. And as is often the case in a small company, I found myself outside of my comfort-zone, and designing a banner ad one day (which is not my forte). My masterpiece is below, and to this day it is the single best piece of content I have ever created in terms of performance. It drove nearly 65,000 SIGN-UPS in a single day. Not impressions, not clicks, but full registrations on a silly IQ test.
If stuff like this works, why then, do we bother pouring time into meticulously designing banner ads? Fussing with copy, and calls-to-action, and wasting piles of money on things that people have become trained to ignore?
The “reach” of banner ads is more like “misses”. All that data and targeting. All that precision and insight. It’s like having a laser-guided, smart bomb system that drops an evaporating mist. The target remains untouched and oblivious.
Why Highway Billboards Beat Web Banners for Brands
George Lois On Creative Courage
That is what great products, great services and great advertising do brilliantly – they ensure that brands are always at the front of mind, not because of the recency of a brand experience but because of the longevity of a great brand experience.
Why ‘Always On’ Is Such A Turn Off
I’m Quitting Advertising
In case you missed it, That Damn Oreo Tweet™ recently won a Cannes Lion. Which puts me in an awkward spot personally I suppose.
Now it’s not so much the work itself that makes me angry. I think Oreo does really nice stuff creatively. It’s simple, it’s clever, it’s timely, it’s on-brand, and it almost always fits the medium in which it appears.
I have no axe to grind with Oreo.
My anger and disappointment is actually with the ad industry, that’s holding this up as something revolutionary. Something that deserves the grandest of advertising awards.
But the joke’s on us.
Because in bestowing this award on this piece of work, we’re actually exposing a really sad truth. That the advertising industry has become so top-heavy with cost and process and approvals and meetings and waste, that the idea of just making a simple image, and deploying it to a simple platform at an opportune moment, is considered at this point to be ground-breaking.
We’re so screwed, that we’re giving out awards based less on the work itself, and based mainly on the fact that someone (by all appearances) was able to dodge the bullshit and actually do something.
And it’s not going to get better.
The existing system is breaking. And though I am certainly not the first to say it, and definitely won’t be the last, I’m going to try like hell to do something about it.
I promised that if the Oreo tweet won a Cannes Lion, I’d quit advertising. And now I’m going to do that. Kind of.
I’m leaving my day job, and heading off to create my own agency (with my friend and now partner Thomas), and it’s going to be called Heart.
For now, we’ll just be two misfit planner/strategist/creative guys with a simple philosophy - In that we want to bring brand thinking to startups, and startup thinking to brands, by stripping away all of the superfluous things in the traditional agency model, that don’t matter to us and don’t work hard for you.
We want to work faster, smarter, and lighter. We want to work at pace with other passionate people. We want to make smart things that make our partners richer and famous-er. We want to work in the name of work that works.
In simple terms, we’ll be offering our deep expertise in brand planning, creative development and growth strategy, without the cumbersome ad agency model and way of working.
So here goes nothing. Maybe we’ll fail. Maybe the machine is the machine and the current current will be too strong for us to swim against. Might happen.
But we’re still going to fucking try and do this. Because we believe it and believe in it. Because we have heart.
Foursquare Check-In Ads
Last night, after I checked in at Clarke’s, I got a look at the post-check in ad unit on Foursquare. It was the first time I’d seen one live, and this one was for Captain Morgan. Below are screen grabs of the four parts of the experience (1. The initial ad, 2. The “learn more”, 3. The “save for later”, and 4. The resulting email after a save)
I personally think these are great placements. System knows I just walked into a bar, and putting drink suggestions in front of me, right at the perfect moment, is simple and smart.
I still think the DSP targeting data is the killer application for Foursquare though.
Media Placements (and Timing) Matter
As part of my 45,000 miles of flying this spring, I took six separate cross-country trips on Virgin America. And on each flight, while we were taxiing for takeoff, I was shown this ad for TripIt.
I’m personally a big fan of TripIt, and think it’s a fantastic tool for managing my frequently kooky and complex travel plans. But I feel like a lot of my oft-traveling friends and co-workers haven’t yet discovered it. So it was great to see TripIt spending some media dollars to get the word out.
But here’s the problem. While the placement of that video ad (on the seatback screen of a Virgin America flight) may seem clever on the surface, it’s actually really poorly timed.
Yes, you’re hitting a traveling audience (I’m on a plane!) with an ad for a clever travel-organizing app, but you’re running a piece of media, asking me to download an app, at the exact moment the flight-crew is telling me to power down my app-having devices.
The chances of me remembering that ad, let alone remembering to download that app, 6 hours later when I land? Slim and none.
And yes, I know there is wi-fi on a lot of the Virgin America flights. But if you’ve ever tried to download an app to you’re phone over airplane wi-fi, you’d know that this isn’t exactly a smooth experience.
You don’t have to work for the biggest agency in the world or be the best art director on the planet to be successful and happy. You’re not going to be Bill Bernbach anyway, so forget about it. If you’re doing work that is respectable, and you’re not suffering 90% of the time, you’re way ahead of most of the poor bastards in this business. Enjoy it.
The Seven Secrets Of Lazy-Ass Bums
Don’t ever leave the agency with work that you believe to be less than Great. Whatever pain is necessary to avoid being a hapless messenger, take it. Agency pain is always less severe than client pain, as long as your motive is better work rather than an easier life, and it doesn’t scar so badly. Heated disagreement with colleagues is far preferable to disappointing a client.
(CEOs) Conducive Environment Officers