Monday, June 30, 2008

Lessons from Cannes... and SA too!

Back from Cannes and running hard. So what’s new? I found a little time this weekend to reflect on what I had learnt and also to catch up on some really interesting digital stuff happening in SA

Go to class in Cannes - Well this is easier said than done, considering the temperature was consistently warm the whole week, the skies were blue and the sea calm as a fishpond, only it was azure blue in colour and well you could understand that a lot of people couldn’t resist being on the beach, rather than being learning mode. I was disappointed to see that not enough local marketers and media specialists go to Cannes.. They should, because it is the one event where the entire global community of advertising agencies gather, talk about and show off their work. There’s a lot of useless pontification, but there’s some invaluable new insights and inspiration to gain by sitting in the classroom at Cannes. Marketers entrust their precious brands to their advertising and communications agencies so why do so few think it’s important to find out what’s pushing the world’s communication buttons?
Old Screens Merge with the New - I noted in my previous blog my disappointment at some of the half empty digital sessions and the overflowing television/film sessions. Well in the end it seems, digital got its just reward. In a controversial decision for the first time in the 54 year history of Cannes, the film category awards were split between two campaigns, but with a common link – Digital. The Grand Prix Television/Film was shared by Cadbury’s Gorilla Ad, was also an extremely successful viral campaign online and XBox’s Halo 3 Viral campaign.
The Gorilla ad features a gorilla playing the drums to the soundtrack of Phil Collins 1981 hit “In the air tonight,” It got everyone talking, some liked it, others hated it, some wondered whether in fact it was a real gorilla or a man in a gorilla suit – and there were even those who suggested it was Phil Collins himself. Comments posted on the website purported that the word Cadbury had been mentioned more times since the campaign went viral than in its 150 year history. This ad was voted the most popular in the UK in 2007 and the most successful viral video. It was also the most debated ad of the year. Cadbury’s reported a 5% increase in sales over the period (in a mature/static market, this is seen as good lift).
Cannes organizers also introduced a new award, the Titanium Award to reward innovation in advertising and marketing concepts. This went to a Japanese agency for a digital campaign Uniqlock for clothing brand Uniqlo. Rather bizarre stuff, but worth taking a look.
We are all human after all - Importantly, technological advancements don’t replace human feeling. Digital won’t replace our fundamental human fears, hopes and desires. If anything it heightens them – look at how social media like My Space, FaceBook thrive. What technology is doing is forcing marketers to pay particular attention to their customers needs more than ever before. As Plato said There’s no learning without emotion”. Digital takes no prisoners and if you are not relevant, salient, and consistent and you don’t establish a human connection of trust with your audience, they will click to somewhere else instantaneously and DELETE you from their lives. People like stories that they can relate to, that touch them in a unique and meaningful way. What really counts is that you are enriching the consumer’s communication experience. And that’s what the world’s top marketers are really good at doing. Cadbury’s Gorilla stood the test of ‘social proof” It touched consumers. The same can be said for the inspiring work for Burger King, the groundbreaking HBO TV Voyeur, for which its agency BBDO New York was awarded the Ad Agency of the Year Award for this work at Cannes. Incidentally, it had been hotly tipped to win the film Grand Prix too. And then there are amongst many others the likes of Nike, Budweiser and of course lest we forget Coca Cola’s Happiness Factory – to name a few. They all seek to engage, enrich and entertain and give back to their audiences.

Marketers who focus on really understanding who their audience is, what their needs are, how best to serve these needs and where to communicate to them will thrive in the digital age. And let’s be honest, this sure isn’t anything new!

Back in South Africa, the mobile revolution is becoming ever pervasive given there are more cellphones in the world than all televisions and PCs combined. Vodacom, the
cellular giant with some 56% of the local market launched a mobi-soap with another market leader, Nokia. SolikeLife's available free to all Vodacom subscribers from Vodafone Live. Mobile consumers who do not subscribe to Vodacom can also access the content free of charge. However, they must pay a service charge to their own provider. Heads up on the innovation Vodacom, but boy am I amazed the journalists out there didn’t pick up on the ultimate cost of downloading the soaps – with our cellphone operators, nothing is for nothing. Someone will pay after all and I have no doubt it will be the end user. Which reminds me, I had better tell my son I won’t be picking up the tab for any additional airtime that is sucked up by this stuff? As it is SA consumers are getting ripped blind by cellphone operators when compared to rates charged around the world!
The other real piece of digital innovation I read about today was the launch of a site called This is a really neat idea developed at the innovation hub in Pretoria, an incubator center for technical innovation. This site which links online and mobile applications allows the mourner to post a digital tribute to a loved one. Now your dearly departed can live on forever in cyberspace. With the escalating death rate in SA and the inevitability of it for all of us, this has to be a winner!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

yesterday today and tomorrow

One of the highlights of Cannes for me has to the presentation by Crispin Porter + Bogusky on "all that really matters is the power of the story. " If you are focussed on anything else - you are wasting your time and resources". Today, this agency is considered the hottest agency to work for in the US. Known for their ground breaking work on Burger King (creators of the subservient chicken), the agency's Chief Strategist Chuck Porter took the stage at Cannes and invited Ajaz Ahmed founder and chairman of AKQA and the legendary Joe Pytka to share the platform. And what a great idea combining the talents of the today – Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the leaders of tomorrow - upcoming digital award winning agency AKQA and a creative doyen of yesterday Joe Pytka.

Chuck Porter set the scene:
So you have heard all week how the world is changing because of technology and how you are all so screwed! The fact is media has been fragmenting for years and all that technology is doing is giving the audience more tools to ignore you. Interrupting them is not going to work anymore, but the good news is that technology is enabling your audience to fall in love with you more rapidly and deeper than ever before. Today’s environment favours story tellers and the power of a story is more important than before. This is not new. Plato said “There’s no learning without emotion”. Today in any new technology environment a great story is the killer application.

He spelt out his agency's holy grail for creating great communications and showed examples which exemplified this thinking:

Surprise endings make for great stories! Ikea's Lamp commercial and Burger King’s sweet and sour burger subservient chicken commercial series

Involve people in a great story - Molson beer press advertising campaign. This was a controversial campaign to show, because the agency lost the account shortly after to Draft FCB US

Where ordinary people become heroes - Burger king's Texas double whopper

Shock value makes a good story - advertising Jetta's safety features. The commercial had to be flighted after 20h30 in the evening due to its shock value.

Practical jokes make good stories - Coke Zero's commercials ( and Burger King's Whopper (

AKQA's Ajaz Ahmed affirmed these statements staying digital is all about the idea not technology. It’s about content and saliency. He shared the latest digital communication from Mcdonalds; Mcdonalds Adventure where fans are asked to help solve the mystery of

Finally, the man with the long white hair, the larger than life Joe Pytka reminded us that No focus group has ever told a good story. He recounted the Madonna Pepsi ad which costs ten million dollars and only flighted once in the US. It was withdrawn because of an uproar from churches – confused with Madonna’s video playing at the same time where crosses were burned. However went on to play in Italy (the heart of the Vatican) and other countries unhinded. It was the first time a celebrity touched the bottle. The publicity around the banning of the ad in the US more than made up for the original production costs. Today that campaign would have become viral, because it was a great storyboard and of course it had Madonna in it too! We remembered Nike's Michael Jordan air commercial with Bugs Bunny which was so popular, a movie was launched off the back of it. Space Jam which generated seven billion dollars in revenue. Budweiser's horse + dog commercial which told the tale of the power to achieve anything; the NFL superhero ads where players got to tell their stories and the classic Barber and James. Story telling is a gift. not learned. These blockbusters were all pre Internet, but as Joe Pytka said, today they would in all likelihood make great campaigns and thrive in the digital world because fundamentally it's the art of story telling that wins the hearts and minds of the audience.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The fourth screen, utilitainment and Murdoch on mobile

Today I got some great insights into mobile marketing opportunities by some leading experts. This is the new frontier in media, the Fourth Screen. Its mind boggling to consider over 3 billion people are mobile enabled, double the penetration of most other media devices in home. Research shows that most people keep their mobile phone within 1 meter of themselves over a 24 hour period (sleep time included) which is more pervasive than any other media and amazingly 17% of people actually answer their phones while having sex! Mobile is all about utilitainment – Utility + entertainment. Despite the scale of what is out there for marketers to consider, there were very few of them in the room. In fact, there are few marketers in Cannes period, especially from SA – you can count them on your hands. Most of the people at Cannes are advertising people. Now imagine that this media channel has massive penetration in the market, yet the lecture hall was only 50% full. Earlier on I went to watch the New Directors Show real (TV) and I queued for 30 minutes to get in and then there were people squatting on the floor because there wasn’t enough space. It shows you where the priorities are and it also is a message to marketers that they need to get to grips with the Fourth Screen, because their conventional agencies sure don’t seem to think it’s that important. And you wont get away with just plonking your above the line stuff onto mobile media either! Well the mobile and digital theme was echoed later this afternoon by a media legend Rupert Murdoch. Complete with bodyguards he sat in the lecture theater in his casual French Riviera inspired attire and reminded us of the opportunities out there for everyone in a technology driven world. Despite a possible looming world recession NewsCorp is upbeat about the amazing opportunities technology is activating, His view was supported by NewsCorp’s CEO Peter Chernin who was the push button behind the Titanic movie. He joked about running $ 100 million over budget, because they had to make the best movie possible – let alone the fact no one had ever made a movie for $ 100 million. And it paid off in becoming the highest grossing movie ever. So the older Rupert and younger Peter told us that in buying the ailing Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones Company), they have not just bought a company with huge financial pedigree in journalism and information BUT over 50% of its revenue comes from digital. Murdoch has often referred to himself as a digital immigrant, but there is no question that despite this status, he understands its relevance to his group’s growth. With millions of people moving out of poverty into the economy particularly in countries like India and China, the future is a great place for consumerism and media. He reckons mobile is really where there will be a major play and they are already moving in this space (excuse the pun). Of course they waxed lyrical about MySpace and how much bigger it is than FaceBook and also that Microsoft will throw whatever money they can to get into the digital race now that their attempt to buy Yahoo has failed. Yahoo has the largest uniques in the world they just have to get their monetisation sorted. Who will tip Google off its search perch? Well it will be someone who invents a new digital technology and probably from his/her garage. And what’s his advice on new technology and change. It actually really simple “Be paranoiac about your competitors and don’t stop pushing your brand.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Viva HBO Voyeur

After three less than eventful days here in Cannes, I have now have found new inspiration in the runaway success of the HBO Voyeur multi-media initiative, produced by BBDO in North America. This campaign is on a Cannes Lions roll, sweeping awards across a variety of platforms. HBO "Voyeur," has taken home a gold Lion in Design for its outdoor projection to go with its Grand Prix in Promo, Outdoor, gold in Cyber and bronze in Media. What its really showing us all here is that breakthrough advertising is no longer about the 30 second ad. HBO Voyeur is a new advertising form. It’s a completely cross over campaign working on multi-media platforms. It was launched as a five-minute film which was projected on the side of a building in lower Manhattan (a kind of building size peep show) depicting the lives of people in eight apartments. It was as if the side of the building had been peeled away to show each apartment. Because HBO is all about storytelling, the company wanted to create an HBO story people could watch outside their living rooms. Showing the film on the wall was just the beginning. HBO and BBDO went onto expand it to include various platforms. Viewers could go online and get deeper story lines on the apartments' inhabitants. Other plots were available for viewers accessing the promo via HBO On Demand or mobile phones. What started as an unconventional online advertising campaign is now a cultural icon and I reckon the most spoken about campaign at Cannes this year so far.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

yes Cannes do

I'm in Cannes at the 55th International Advertising Festival and for the past two days have been sitting in one session after the next listening to advertising experts pontificate about the digitisation of our world. I say pontificate, because there has been little else. Lots of hot air and regurgitation of statistics and statements that we all know about. Very worrying actually. The Internet has been around for fourteen years and cannot be considered or talked about as a new media. You see what we all want to learn about are the successes of this mass media. Granted it's tricky harnessing the channel to market for brand marketing purposes and we need dialogue to understand the pitfalls. However, what any sensible marketer or media person wants to know about is the results of campaigns that have used Digital channels successfully.
Admitedly, despite my irritation, not all has been lost in the past two days. I sat in a presentation by Mindshare Interactive yesterday who shared a case study on their US client Unilever and Sprint. The media agency created a communications campaign which harnesses social networking in a meaningful manner, proving that it can deliver results. In the Motherhood is a social networking site which has been extended into a real time television programme. Marketing head of Suave (the Unilever brand) admitted, the campaign took over a year to get through the system due to sceptism and concern digital wouldn't deliver. However the concept of getting moms to share humourous but challenging parenting experiences on a social networking site has proven a real hit and worth every single cent of marketing investment. Next year this web launched initiative will become a fully fledged television programme. Now that's interesting!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

banking on YouTube

I had a very rewarding week at FNB. Mostly because something I learnt became a reality - again. When I set up my blog and got twittering, I also learnt to set up a YouTube site for the company I work for - First National Bank (FNB). So I took this basic knowledge and asked Jan at WebWorx, a digital unit in FNB to advance it into a more sophisticated reality. Now we have a YouTube site for our bank. Pretty simple, but better still, we leveraged this site to do some good this week, which was even more rewarding. I work for a company which contributes purposefully to South African society. Apart from spending millions on social investment projects, they also have a will to ensure that South Africa is a great place for people to live in. When the Xenophobic violence broke out in South Africa three weeks ago FNB took the initiative to donate R 2 million to victims of the violence. However it did not end there. The bank created a television advertisement, radio and press ads to communicate the importance (at this difficult time) of values and humanity. It implored South Africans to remember what a great nation we are. We used this advertisement Afrika Phambili as a key driver of traffic to our YouTube website, bought some Google adwords, and now we have close on 7000 channel views in less than a week. We also loaded video footage of our brand director Derek Carstens who visited refugee camps on behalf of FNB. Watching those channel views rise daily has been a really rewarding experience and again validates to the importance of www as an uber powerful communications tool. Our site is just in its infancy, but we have plans. We've set up a relief fund at FNB for our bank account holders who wish to donate to the victims of Xenophobia and are making it simple for FNB customers to donate if they would like to. So it's great not just to be able to experience the speed and ease of digital media, but also to see the benefit it brings when you need to get out a message of hope. And here's to