Radar 10am One Thing: Kevin Spacey’s MacTaggart Lecture

September 3, 2013

The following is this week’s 10am One Thing that I wrote for the DDB blog.

This week, renowned actor Kevin Spacey gave a keynote presentation at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. The highlights of the talk were three key truths for the media and advertising industries.

First, that data can guide creativity. When buying House of Cards, Netflix ran the data to show that its subscribers would watch political dramas, would watch a cerebral actor like Kevin Spacey and a challenging director like David Fincher. The data didn’t drive the creative, but it did help validate it.

Second, that consumers will flock to great content. Netflix releasing House of Cards, and subsequent series, in one go, 13 episodes at once, has changed the “appointment viewing” experience – no mean feat considering the potential spoilers available on Facebook and Twitter. Viewers binged hard on these addictive shows, dedicating days at a time to  ”crush” entire seasons. Perhaps our consumer has more of an attention span that we have given them credit for.

Finally, Spacey talked about how devices and content have been truly separated. Content and stories will be viewed on whatever device they want to…but that stories are key. Advertisers and advertising agencies must create great stories that demand the consumer’s attention, wherever that attention is directed.

Image credit: The Guardian.

The One Thing is a result of the daily 10am meetings held in the DDB Canada offices, where our digital teams meet to discuss new online trends, tools and technologies. 

For an archive of the 10am links, visit our Pinterest board.

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Secret Anti-Abuse Ad That Only Kids Can See

May 8, 2013

Saw this on Gizmodo, via Facebook, and thought it was an incredibly smart solution to a tough problem – how can you empower an abused child to call for help if their abuser is standing next to them. Hopefully it can have a real impact beyond being a creative idea and case study (as more than a few Gizmodo commenters have said).

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The secret behind the ad’s wizardry is a lenticular top layer, which shows different images at varying angles. So when an adult—or anyone taller than four feet, five inches—looks at it they only see the image of a sad child and the message: “sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” But when a child looks at the ad, they see bruises on the boy’s face and a different message: “if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you” alongside the foundation’s phone number. The ad is designed to empower kids, particularly if their abuser happens to be standing right next to them.


What is the Creative Process Behind a Music Video?

May 1, 2013

One of my first office jobs was as an admin assistant in a booking agent’s office. The office of four cast the production side of ads, music videos, West End shows, TV shows and movies. I think that was the order that talent moved up the career ladder.

I on the other hand issued faxes full of typos and almost killed the MD when I bought her aspirin instead of paracetamol. I was there for about 3 months of my GAP year and helped cast the crew for a few (6?) music videos.

I mention this because I really had no idea what I was doing but every now and then I watch a music video on YouTube and wish I knew what sort of creative process the musicians, their agent, their manager, the director and the label went through to get to the final product.

It was much easier in the early to mid-noughties when the Eric Prydz “Call on Me” video came out and the trend was to focus music videos around attractive dancing ladies. But every now and then you get something like this by David Guetta, one of the world’s biggest names in house music:

Its a great song and wonderful use of one of my favourite club tracks (Alice Deejay’s “Better off alone”) but at what point did they think “let’s get some twerking* girls in here among the Mexican cowboys” or “what if we had some beauty pageant contestants licking ice creams? Oh, and we had better give one of them a uni-brow”

Apparently the video is a bit of an homage to a slew of high-art influences, which vaguely explains the crazy-toed boots, but I would love to know what goes through people’s heads the rest of the time. There’s no real story here, at least not in the Modjo “Lady” sense of a story. It’s like someone dropped acid and transcribed their thoughts to someone else who was on magic mushrooms.

Which is fine as well, I’d just like to know how they get there.

Update – here is a making of video with some more context and texture around who the dancers in the video are. Very interesting.

*Laura had to explain to me what the style of dance was called or there would be a far less politically correct term in there…

This is just a comment on the creative narrative and doesn’t take into account how offensive the Mexican community has found this video.


Vines and thoughts on Vine

February 7, 2013

Per the BBC, ad agencies are getting a little obsessed with Vine – demonstrating professional amateurism in the creative and creating process. Here are some of the experiments I’ve created or been featured in:

Office decor has been a popular subject

Vine has been a good decompressor during meetings

Naturally, food has come under the microscope

I said goodbye to the Canadian penny

…and played with my kid’s toys

As with all new technologies, I can’t help but wonder if this is a fad that will rise up and then fade away. Given Vine is developed by the folks that brought you Twitter, I’m curious to see how this will play into its future product development and advertising plans. For now though, I’m enjoying playing with Vine and, more than that, enjoy looking at the world through a new lens – would that make an interesting six seconds? – which makes me feel more creative, rather than be a creative.


CPG Creative Brief Catharsis

November 12, 2012

This and other common pieces of client feedback have been captured and immortalised by some smart creative Irish folks over here.

Ireland’s creative community got together to release a lot of pent up anger and sadness through the medium of the A3 poster, all in aid of Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

Ad creatives, designers, animators, directors, illustrators and more took time out to dress up their favourite worst feedback from clients, transforming quotes that would normally give you a twitch, into a diverse collection of posters.

The work was exhibited by the kind folks at The Little Green Café, Bar and Gallery. The exhibition ran from November 2nd – 7th, with A3 prints of all entries selling for only €10 apiece, with all proceeds going to Temple Street.

My other favourite:


10 Things I’ve Learned From an Advertising Agency

November 7, 2012

Its been almost three years since I joined Tribal DDB. Three years of working in the industry after being quite adversarial towards advertising. Here’re some truths I’ve learned from the last few years:

1. Emotional communication is more effective than rational communication – its why creatives want to focus on storytelling rather than product attributes

2. The truth is what you say it is with enough conviction (and media weight)

3. Award-winning work is more effective than non-award winning work but I’m not sure if this a chicken or an egg. Surely the most effective work will win the most awards? Something for our head of planning to work out!

4. Creativity can break through and have commercial value if it is allowed to flourish

5. “New” media executions are always more impactful than established ones – people haven’t been trained to tune them out yet. The first ever banner ad had 50-75% CTR, depending on whose presentation deck you believe

6. People dislike advertising in general, but like it in particular (this insight via Cindy Gallop) – even when I was working in PR I would appreciate and share the best, most creative and compelling work I saw.

7. The difference between departments is no where as large as the difference within departments.

8. It is more forgivable to sell a bad idea really well than it is to sell a good idea really badly

9. The more specific the brief, the more generic the insights that fill it. The art of writing a brief that is just right (not too tight and prescriptive but specific and smart enough to have the desired effect) is just that. Come to think of it, there are no such things as perfect briefs. Just smart, hard working teams blurring the lines between account, strategy, creative, production, technology and everything in between. Because…

10. This is absolutely a people business. Relationships get things done within and outside an agency’s walls. Without trust and a common goal, we flounder. I’m lucky to work with great people in an industry that challenges me each and every day.


The Creative Process

November 6, 2012

Truth in Satire, via Toothpaste For Dinner


Fringe Planning

April 21, 2011

The agency cutting room floor is littered with amazing ideas which may have been off-brief, poorly sold or which didn’t make it through testing. Are they dead forever? Zombie ideas just waiting for the right brief to be matched to? Or are they a significant source of revenue for the innovative agency willing to take a risk?

I guess they’re all three, depending on where you work. I really enjoyed, and was challenged by this presentation on “Fringe Planning” from BBH’s Griffin Farley.

I think it’s interesting that agencies are investing in start-ups, becoming more in-tune with the technology community and starting to think outside of the media driven solutions box and into the fixing the problem at a product level. I read this Business Week article after clicking (ironically enough) on a tweet that went something along the lines of “the greatest minds of our generation are trying to work out how to make people click on advertising” – perhaps this is a way out of the “direct response” side of internet marketing.

via The Curious Brain.

More from the New York Times – Madison Avenue Turns Towards The Entrepreneurial:

Some agencies are opening units aimed at selling products to consumers. Others are acting like venture capital firms, offering seed money to start-ups in fields like technology. Still other agencies are taking stakes in client companies and sharing in the revenue of merchandise sales.

The trend has been going on for some time, led by smaller, newer agencies along with some agencies based in London, where unconventional behavior has long been prized. Now it is expanding to larger, more established outfits like Horizon Media, the biggest independent media agency.

One other thing that I think we will see more of is agencies building products to serve specific client needs but who can then turn around and monetise it either to other clients with similar needs, traditionally products like SaaS/CMS, or in a new twist, directly to consumers. In an age where web services are built on top of other web services, using curation as a key device, this will become easier and more tempting for agencies.

UPDATE: Interesting interview with KBS+P’s Darren Hegman – KBS+P was one of the first “agencies as VC”.


Anatomy of a great idea

October 13, 2010

Really like this simple, innovative, entertaining, insightful, unconventional idea which is rooted in something from pop culture gaining significant momentum:

Anatomy of a great idea

The anatomy of a great idea | The Planning Lab.


Embrace Life

July 16, 2010

always wear your seatbelt.

Such a powerful piece – and created by someone to whom the cause was important, for free.

“The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership were already looking to create a road safety campaign with a more positive message and so when I approached Communications Manager Neil Hopkins and his team with ideas for a fresh take on road safety filming, it was evident that were all on the same page in our quest to deliver a powerful message, but in a new way.

“Key to the film’s creation was to focus on a message that didn’t take a conventional route to shock and scare the audience; rather it was my intention to bring the audience in on the conversation of road safety, specifically seat belts, and the best way to do this was to make a film that could engage the viewer purely visually and could be seen and understood by all, whoever they are and wherever they lived.”


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