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Posts tagged ‘advertising’


PRESENTATION: Marketing in a multi screen World [Millward -Brown]




POLL: Make Love not War [Axe TV Commercial] – Brilliant, or cynical exploitation?

#Kissforpeace ? | Watch the ad, then decide:

Quote: “AXE + purpose: the concept divided the Contagious office as we heatedly debated whether it even counted as purpose in the no-nonsense way of brands in the Unilever stable, for instance Lifebuoy and its health hygiene programme designed to help children reach their fifth birthday.”

Link to full Contagious article.

Watch the commercial, then take poll below…


LINK: Harvard Business School Article – Super Bowl Ads for Multitaskers

More than half of Super Bowl viewers will use smartphones or laptops while they watch the Seahawks take on the Broncos on TV. Harvard Business School professor Thales S. Teixeira explains how advertisers can step up their game to capture viewer attention.

Link to full article:



Score a touchdown with your marketing strategy

Super Bowl Ads – The marketing lessons

You don’t have the budget for a Super Bowl ad, but you can still learn from the best…

“Steal with pride” a former boss used to tell me. He was referring to using our competitors’ marketing ideas against them. I was never entirely convinced of the ethics of his advice, but we can certainly all learn from scrutinising world-class marketing.

What better classroom than the pressure cooker of Super Bowl advertising? For those not in the know, Super Bowl ads are the most expensive spots on the planet, costing a cool $3.8-million (that is about R35-million) for 30 seconds.

Howard Fox Chartered Marketer: Author or Score a Touchdown.

This article was first published in Your Business magazine.

The event itself is a really big deal in the States. Super Bowl Sunday is the second highest food consumption day on the American calendar, just behind Thanksgiving. The approximately 111 million television viewers apparently consume 13 000 000kg of chips , 90 million chicken wings and 3 600 000kg of guacamole, washed down with 325.5 million gallons of beer. No wonder marketers target them with such vigour.

Give and ye shall receive

This year’s Super Bowl adverts were varied in message and approach: from Psy dancing Gangnam Style with giant, man-sized pistachio nuts to Budweiser’s offer to have viewers help name the baby Clydesdale horse about to join their beer-carriage team by tweeting “#clydesdales.

What they all shared was that they tried to offer some value to viewers in return for the 30 seconds taken away from the game. Many attempted to be funny, a few achieved this. Some, like the cute baby Clydesdales, managed to fit an emotive tale into the allotted half-minute slot. The escape of the old folk from the Glencobrooke Retirement Home for a night on the town,  including a foam party, tattoos and a run-in with the cops — before late night snacks at Taco Bell – was fantastically uplifting.

When marketing you need to respect that your “target market” is made up of real people and that you need to earn the right to intrude into their homes. We are inclined to forget that while we may have paid a lot of money to advertise, the targets of our communication haven’t directly benefitted from our advertising.

The same holds true with other forms of marketing. Take email campaigns for example. Just because you have someone’s email address doesn’t give you the right to spam them. You need to earn the right to have your emails opened. Some email campaigns have opening rates of less than a third of one percent of emails sent. That is a clear indication that recipients aren’t getting any value and they quickly learn to delete.

In your next email campaign, remember this Super Bowl lesson and offer useful (and relevant) information targeting the recipient’s interests, industry or profession. Perhaps include links to relevant video or news items. Remember “special offers” are only special to people who have an interest in them. To everyone else they are spam.

Hashtags rule

Twitter hashtags and other social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, were virtually ubiquitous throughout all Super Bowl adverts this year. So ubiquitous in fact that the Samsung Galaxy ad, which depicts guys brainstorming what to say in a Super Bowl ad, ends with the characters saying: “I like hashtags… Ok we use hashtags” as (obviously) their twitter hashtag comes up on screen.

An advert is really just an invitation to make a connection and possibly do business. Social media offers the opportunity to connect with prospective consumers and to magnify your reach by creating a buzz on the internet.

Super Bowl adverts play this game to the max with teasers on You Tube prior to game day and competitions and incentives to get people talking about the adverts when they are flighted.

In South Africa we are still somewhat behind the curve when it comes to leveraging social media for business. It is a relatively inexpensive channel to build an ongoing relationship with customers and prospective customers. But it is critical that the content adds value and is appropriate for the social medium.

The 30-second rule

Limiting yourself to 30 seconds to express your brand’s USP – unique selling proposition – is a great discipline. You really need to capture the essence of the brand. It brings the important things into focus. This isn’t unique to Super Bowl ads of course, but the cost and annual nature of this marketing opportunity certainly ensures that the message is distilled to the core of the proposition.

My stand-out advert here was for Soda Stream. I remember Soda Stream from my youth, it really came in a poor second when compared to the Real Thing. Soda Stream has realised that they are unlikely to win a cola taste war. Their unique (and it really is unique) proposition is that, unlike the big beverage companies, they don’t distribute millions of bottles around the world. Their advert demonstrated this USP strongly.

It is powerful stuff. So powerful in fact that the broadcaster banned the first edition of the ad, for fear that they would lose the advertising spend of the other beverage companies. Banning an advert, as Nando’s has proven, simply focuses attention on the issue. Soda Stream went on to enjoy five million You Tube hits and free publicity across all traditional media.

There is nothing more powerful than a truly unique, well-communicated proposition. Couldn’t you use a little of this in your businesses? How much time have you spend trying to define a really differentiated USP? This should be the real focus of all your marketing efforts.

Nothing beats an astronaut

You’ve probably seen the Axe ad on local TV, it was also flighted during the Super Bowl. For those who haven’t seen it: the ad uses a simple but dramatic creative concept, with an initial hero-lifesaver rescuing a bikini-clad girl from the waves. She stares dreamily into her hero’s eyes until she sees an approaching astronaut, she then runs off into the astronaut’s arms.

The advert is brilliant because it leverages two insights: deodorant isn’t really about smelling good, it’s about attracting girls, and nothing beats an astronaut, ever. Every guy has dreamed of being an astronaut. Unilever, the manufacturers of Axe are in a position, given the global sales of the product, to help a lucky winner fulfil this dream. From the consumer’s point of view it’s a dream that their money can’t realistically buy.

The lesson? Selling dreams is a fruitful proposition. Is there an opportunity in your business to sell a dream? If successful, you can trump your competitors, no matter how commoditised your product. It’s worth spending the time thinking about it.

Few marketers enjoy the sort of budget required to fund Super Bowl ads, but there is plenty to be learnt from watching them …


Take an ad or else!

“Hello, Howard speaking”

“Er, (indistinct) who’s speaking please?”


“Ah yes, are you the marketing director, fully empowered to take all media buying decisions without having to discuss it with anyone else?”

“I suppose so.”

Hi, I’m Joe[1] from ‘You’ve Never Heard of this Magazine’. I see you’ve been advertising in Financial Mail. I am phoning to understand why you haven’t booked anything in our publication.

“Sorry?” – question, not an apology.

The Media Mag

This article first appeared in
The Media magazine.

“Yes, you appear to have overlooked booking in our publication.”

“Ok,” politely, “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with your publication, is it new?”

“No not at all, we are on edition two. We launched early last year. We’re a monthly.”

“So, you’re a business publication then?”

“No not really. More a sort of sport / lifestyle magazine.”

“But you can see from our campaign for a financial service product, that we are aiming specifically at the business market.”

“But business people like sport too, you know! Anyway, I was speaking to your MD’s office before this call. They really suggested I discuss this fantastic opportunity with you. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to hear you had missed a great opportunity to promote the company’s products.”

“I’m not entirely sure that the context would work, as you can see the ads are about, well, frankly, ‘death’. Seems incongruent with sport.”

“So, “ pause, then shuffling of papers “ isn’t ‘Name-of-large- financial-services-company’ a competitor?

“Indeed they are. That’s interesting, are they advertising in the next addition of ‘You’ve Never Heard of this Magazine’ ?

“Oh sorry, I can’t reveal that sort of information!”

“You bought it up.”

“We’re offering a big discount. 7.5% off rate-card. And for every ad you get three and a half pages of editorial”

“No one pays rate-card, but what’s the content focus of the mag?”

“Oh we mostly do company profiles.”

“I thought it was a sport publication?”

“We’re distributed to all the government ministries and embassies.”

“What’s the readership then?”

“We have a print run of up to 4 000.”

“Ok, and the readership?”

“My PA did some dipstick research, we have very high pass-on rate – 27 readers per print.”

“Seems high – ABC verified?”

“ABC what? I thought you were empowered to take these sorts of decisions, am I speaking to the wrong person? Would I be better going back to the MD’s office? His PA seemed very interested in the magazine, in fact I have arranged for voucher copies to be delivered to the executive dining room.”

Howard Fox prior to interview on 702 Talk radio.

Howard prior to appearing on 702 Talk Radio

“Tell me a little about your readers.”

“We think its about a fifty-fifty male / female split. Mostly employed.”

“Income splits?”

“Oh perhaps 90% of our readers earn between two thousand and a hundred and fifty thousand rand a month.”

“I don’t see a fit with our current strategy I am afraid.”

“But our next addition will be a feature on your type of product. Your absence will be very obvious.”

“Indeed it will, but we actually have a specific media strategy based on the comstrat developed from our 3 year strategic marketing plan. Your publication would if anything distract from the rest of our efforts.”

“Don’t you have contingency budget.”


“This is a very limited offer, you’ll have to get me a signed booking form by close of play today or the cost increases 50%, and I can’t guarantee you’ll get in.”

“Look we book through a media house, but I’m not interested”

“What is your budget cycle?”

“Calendar year, but what has that got to do with it? Our strategy won’t be dramatically different just because the financial year clicked over.”

“So I’ll call you in January then.”

So this isn’t you calling. But when you call with your never to be repeated, industry changing, virtually free, incredibly strategy congruent media offer, understand that the last three call I took from a media representative was the conversation above. So unless you have a well thought-through, relevant pitch, which will add to the thinking of the media strategist I have entrusted with planning appropriate media, don’t waste your time.

Here is the insight:

I am going to take media decisions based on who consumes your media (and who doesn’t). Understand that if I want a very general, audience, I can almost certainly get it more cost effectively elsewhere. However if you have cornered the entire constituency of left-handed basket weavers, I might have a very specific campaign waiting for just such an opportunity. If you can also reliably tell me that no right-handed weavers read your publication, now we are really talking. (Oh how break-though is my right Vs left weaver ad- positively award winning!)  If you are a small niche publication, play to this strength rather than trying to be yet another generalist publication.

The context – i.e. specifics of your content, style and tone are vitally important. Yes, senior business people read sports publications but perhaps as they kick back (pun intended) they are less receptive to a ‘Keyman’ life insurance ad highlighting the risk of their business partner dying.

Other advertisers: Sometimes I want to be seen with my competitors, sometimes I don’t. But I drive the strategy not my competitors. Certainly dodgy ‘non-time-share’-time-share, illegal online casinos, herbal remedies and the like may preclude my prestigious brand from participating in your publication. I will, I am afraid, judge you by your lowest common denominator. Likewise some advertisers add value by their inclusion, and if you don’t have them I may not want to be the first to jump in. Female interest magazines are required to have big fashion and cosmetic brands if they are to look the part. Prestigious business and male interest publication really do need that ‘aviation time instrument’ or Italian sports car ad on the outside back.

Your offer of free editorial is great but means your content is rubbish supplied by advertisers. I am turned off.

Nobody pays rate card, right. So I’m not comparing your offer to your arbitrarily determined rate card but rather my next best media (or other marketing) opportunity-cost and the likely return. More importantly your substantial discount means nothing if the other decision criteria are negative. I have turned down free ads, because inclusion in the publication would be damaging to the brand.

So, please:

Do do research into the company’s campaigns and products. But be realistic. If there isn’t a logical fit it will damage to your publication as much as my brand.

Do look me up on Linked In before you hint that I am incompetent in overlooking your ‘opportunity’.

Do bring new thinking or an idea to the table that’s worth talking about.

Don’t try and bully me. If the MD buys your ad he can pay for it from his budget. I’ve got his agreement on this.

Do be professional and offer credible circulation data and research. Marketers want to take informed decisions not wild guesses.

First published in The Media magazine.

[1] Names have been changed to reduce embarrassment.


Do we like our ads too much?

I like ads, I really do. They’re art. Sometimes the best even end up on display in museums. Adverts are attractive, often amusing, informative, a snapshot of our contemporary history. They are a source of pride for their creators. They look good in our portfolios, make great conversation around the braai and allow us to show our kids what we do for a living.

The fundamental question is: Do we like our ads too much?

Liberty Health Billboard

First off, I suspect that the answer to too many questions in marketing is “an advert”. It seems that too often creating an ad is the culmination of the marketing process. And there is of course the whole (sexy) ad industry waiting for the call. It’s trite, but let’s remember advertising is just a subset of one of the (apparently now indeterminable number of) marketing P’s Do we spend a similar amount of time and resource on the other fundamentals of marketing? How much time have you spent over at the “pricing agency” this month?

As a result of this focus on ads, are we as marketers overlooking less sexy but possibly more effective ways of building our brands? As the Chile mine crisis reached its emotional climax (with claims of higher viewership than the world cup), my marketing friends and colleagues were unanimous “You just can’t buy positive exposure like that”, they lamented, as they headed off to the ad agency. Not the PR Company mind you! Yes, non-paid-for commercial communication can be hugely powerful, yet remains (with apologies to my enormously professional colleagues within the PR and communication specialisations) the unpopular stepchild of our profession. Fundamentally are we being objective with how we allocate our marketing resource and effort?

Secondly, to the specifics of the ad itself: Seems we marketers think that a really good ad can fix any product, positioning or marketing weakness. It’s what I refer to as putting lipstick on the bulldog. It might fool a few, but fundamentally it remains a bulldog. How many times do we see brands or products where the only differentiation is the advertising? The weakness of such a “lipstick strategy” is that lipstick is freely available to our competitor’s at the nearest beauty retailer (read agency), even if the shade is slightly different.

I always liked the definition of an advert in law – namely: “an invitation to do business”. Which leads me to an illustrative (if cruel) analogy in this regard. Think back to school. When the pimply-faced, socially-awkward classmate handed out their mother’s beautifully crafted party invites, enthusiasm remained thin and attendance of the event was inevitably embarrassingly low. When the sexy number we were all secretly in love with, merely mentioned the time and location of a trendy sounding bash, there was an unseemly scrabble to attend.

My point is that it’s not always the elaborateness of the invitation (read advert) that is the answer. Perhaps the differentiated attractiveness of the party (read product) itself is more important. So fundamentally let’s make sure we as marketers invest sufficient time and resource on the party and not just the invite.


What a cr@p campaign!

We all know the one I’m talking about. That rubbish campaign,
which clearly hasn’t been thought through. Look, I gave it a
bit of thought slumped in my couch when I was flicking through
channels I don’t normally watch. I just don’t like it. It really doesn’t “talk to me”. I feel no connection. The production values are good, of course – we can all see that, but frankly I doubt anyone in the target market will like it either, it just too… you know. And it won’t achieve either the comms or marketing objectives either.
You do know which campaign I am referring to, right? No, not that one – the other one, the one before that one.

With Professor Nick Binedell at the opening of the Video Studio at the Gordon Institute of Business Science

Criticism. There is a lot of it about. We have all faced it as marketers. And no doubt we have all participated in the guilty pleasure of criticising others’ work. The fundamental question is: As professional marketers how critical should we be of other professionals work?

My strong contention is that to properly crit the work of other marketers we need as a minimum: access to their strategic intent, definition of target market and preferably more than a little research and insight from that market. But the lack of such background doesn’t seem to prevent a wide range of marketers from commenting about the suitability of another’s campaign. In my opening paragraph – if I personally don’t connect with the ad, it is highly possible it’s not aimed at my psychographic profile. Marketers are frankly a fairly rare species in the greater South African consumer population and clearly they should not be the intended target for most broad based campaigns. If I rarely see ads in a campaign – is that poor media planning or tight targeting of a demographic profile (with consequent media consumption habits) other than my own? And the personal preference thing – based on a sample of one (or two if you include the wife who decides what I like) are we to extrapolate the overall preference of the target market?

Perhaps more importantly, what gives us the right to assume that (in light of our of necessity superficial analysis of the foundations of the campaign given we are outsiders) we know better than a team of client, strategy and agency professionals who have no doubt been working on the campaign for months?

Let’s consider the example of the medical profession. You will not in my experience find a doctor criticising the diagnosis or surgery of another. And you will certainly not receive a second opinion around the braai, criticising a fellow professional’s original diagnosis, which was originally based on an MRI scan, blood tests et al.

While we undoubtedly add to the state of the art of marketing though objectively evaluating contemporary campaigns, let’s not forget that ill-considered criticism costs the profession dear. An element of marketing communication will always remain subjective. It is that exciting creative edge which attracted us to the profession in the first place. Marketing is both “Art” and “Science”. But when we are seen to be stating categorically that another marketing professional’s subjective decisions are definitively wrong, based on an ill-informed or equally subjective opinion of our own, we diminish the statue of our entire profession. That is the fundamental issue.

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