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campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 13 August 2010 12:00AM
Steve Henry, Meerkat and Mad Men in 2010
CREATIVE ALWAYS HAS TO BE A RISK
Creativity is hugely f*cking important. And Britain sweats creativity like a fat man on a crowded dance floor. But something about this approach smacks of compromise.
And that's always the worst enemy of creativity. Creativity is about taking risks, about doing stuff that hasn't been done before. So, here's a test for how you feel about creativity.
Lean Mean's idea was a great one. They got numbers of Dr Pepper Facebook fans up from 1,500 to 190,000 in a few weeks. All the people who criticised the app, making facile (and anonymous) comments on the Campaign website - you try to do that.
They made a mistake - but one that could have been rectified by a simple apology. After all, when people talk about being "shocked" or "offended", what do they really mean? There's no real physical evidence of "shock". You might even argue that it's part and parcel of being alive.
Personally speaking, I found myself shocked when I read in Campaign that Johnny Hornby had let Peter Mandelson read bedtime stories to his kids. I remember hearing about a political journalist who'd given Mandelson dinner one night. After the meal, his guest enquired if the journalist's children were in bed yet. "Oh dear," the journalist said. "Not still hungry, Peter?"
It's also interesting that stuff which used to shock a previous generation doesn't usually turn a hair these days ...
How can we really help people have the confidence to take risks, even if (very occasionally, and usually with no real, lasting harm) mistakes can happen?
I don't know what the answer is, and I'm not saying that you have to shock to be creative - but I'm saying that creativity is about pushing the boundaries, and that it will quite often feel uncomfortable. If you don't accept that, you're never gonna get creativity at all.
YOU CAN'T DO MAD MEN ON 2010 CASH
Clients aren't the only ones talking about "new models" of remuneration. Agencies are doing it too. Of course, clients are hoping that these new models will save them money, while agencies are hoping that they can find new ways of making money. Because if clients want to pay us less, we have to find revenue from somewhere other than clients. The funny thing is, some agency managers are talking this game - new era, declining margins, need for whole new business model - while still living as if their companies were making the kind of margins they used to do back in the 90s: company drivers lined up outside private members' clubs, business-class flights, the regular table somewhere swanky for top-level management discussions about how many staff we need to make redundant etc. No wonder margins are going down if you're still running a Mad Men approach on a 21st century income basis.
Maybe, as the recession continues to bite, we should be thinking as an industry about other ways to save costs rather than getting rid of people. (No orchids on reception?) And maybe we should remember that the best growth strategy is still creating amazing work that delivers real bottom-line value for our clients, so that we can then negotiate better terms with them, and attract new clients who want to enjoy similar success.
MEERKAT PROVES HE'S STILL GOT IT
My main worry about the Comparethemeerkat ads was how they would manage to keep the idea going without it becoming annoying. The Gocompare ad lasted one viewing, but as of yet, the meerkat is still working.
A big part of that for me is the clear care that goes into them, the way that the online takes the TV ad and rounds it into a fully formed world. Take the latest ad: it's not hilarious, but it keeps the story going nicely. The real star of the show is online, where the ad series is available as a pastiche movie poster, where there are fake reviews and cinema-aping visuals.
However, my favourite bit is the reference to Aleksandr's papa having to take a second job comparing muskrats. I searched for Comparethemuskrat.com, and guess what ... it's up as a really cheesy porn-esque site, with a warning about "uncensored muskrats", cheesy porn-style music and an "all muskrats appearing are of legal age" disclaimer.
Just brilliant. If only all ads had this much care put into them.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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