insights, ironies and idiosyncrasies in communication and design

from the wide, wide world and the world wide web

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Work that does more than just put a smile on your face.

As a follow-up to my last post I'd like to pose a couple of questions: How do we wake up second and third-world TV-dependent nations from their couch stupor? And how do we direct digital natives to our content?

Well, this Young Guns student work for Colgate gives us a large part of the answer.

Rather than wildly expecting citizens to participate in seemingly meaningless authoring of web content or duplicating the content of a social networking site and attaching a logo, the key to resonant brand communications is to offer people authentic and innovative functionality.

As Crispin, Porter + Bogusky CD Alex Burnard pointed out so clearly at this year's Adfest, we have to invent.

People will only ever need one Facebook at a time – no matter what brand you dress it up in. And why rely on the involvement of thousands of participants to drive your site (by posting, chatting and blogging) when you wouldn't even expect most of them to read a headline and a short paragraph in the offline world? We have to do more than educate or entertain. Our communications need to be more than just funny or emotional. There has to be some genuine benefit (in the original sense of the word) if we want our audience to truly engage.

This can be a digital tool or application like the Colgate idea above or something much wilder but it must be authentic, innovative, relevant and memorable – like all great advertising really.

Digital is clearly the future, not just because it allows for an infinitely broad impact for a minimum media-purchase – a bigger bang for the buck – but the kudos of doing/having digital isn't in itself enough. Successful ideas online have to be as big as (if not bigger than) anything we'd do in the offline world.

Thanks to Judee my friend and mentor for the link. 

Friday, 18 July 2008

The new corporate drug?

As this poppy banner stat from their website suggests, Profero are well aware of the addictive nature of the digital world, championing its existence to clients in their drive to market to the world.

I am a member of their church of Digitology. I am one of the converted. I worship daily. (And admire their work – particularly for Channel 4.) But as much as I'm an ambassador for the digital revolution, I'll always be at heart a New Realist (and not just because I live in a 100-year old shophouse in Bangkok's Chinatown and eat rice noodles in dusty local stalls for breakfast) but because I believe there's currency in sometimes viewing consumers as something other than participants – which is the current trend among shops (and blogs) all over. 

As much as people desire to actively engage, contributing to the self-authored contents of Web 2.0, they will always just want to skim or surf through whatever it is that is put in front of them, kicking back and vegging out, selectively consuming, ignoring a lot of what they see on the way – especially when it takes them forever to do so as it does still in many markets of the world. People just often want a (sometimes seemingly profound) dramatic pay off but without the investment of time or exerting effort or energy. And just because we are all into it, doesn't mean they are all all into it. 

As David Mamet astutely points out: "We take pleasure in music because it states a theme, the theme elaborates itself and then resolves, and we are then pleased as if it were a philosophical revelation – even though the resolution is devoid of verbal content. Like politics, like most popular entertainment."

And that obviously includes the web, but Youtube rather than Twitter, Hi5 rather than some hip aggregate site, as large chunks of our target audience – especially in narrowband paid-for Wifi second and third worlds – are still happily mainlining TV or just beginning to withdraw from half a century of its addictive presence.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A new mall?

The constant bane of the Bangkok art world has always been that there's no sizable modern art gallery in the city, and now they've got one the collective moan must surely switch to the tasteless appearance of a venue many thought they'd never see – that is until the true function of the place becomes apparent.

Massive in terms of size and location (five stories plus on the corner of Phayathai Road and Rama 1) the Bangkok Art and Contemporary Culture Centre, as it is named, has borrowed its form and features from the ugly Siam Discovery Center across the way so as to fit in with the showiness of the surrounding malls. Both boast, literally, shiny hi-tech metallic columns and a nasty faux alabaster trim. 

What's more frightening though than the building's tasteless outer appearance is the proposed plans for the place. According to one art world insider, retail spaces will be let out on each floor, which means tat like this will be rife – in spite of Governor Apirak's claim that "The centre will aim to offer a cultural alternative for urban individuals, especially the youth, who often spend their leisure time at shopping malls in this area."

Monday, 14 July 2008

The quandry of being an advertising creative.

To have or to be? That's the question this pavement stencil steps away from Paris' Gard du Nord asks all who walk by. And as a self-proclaimed activist for authenticity and at the same time a clog in the nasty wheel of the machine of advertising, I at once lap up the spiel I spin and reject it outright, caught I am between wanting and just being, the whole bloody time.

It's probably the same for everyone, but being in advertising, the irony is more profound. 

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Never bank on smiles.

So rare have my positive customer service experiences been in Asia, I've been close to telling a client or two that if they're serious about building a resonant brand that perhaps they should funnel some of their marketing budget into staff training – especially as their communications output often consists of pointless super-saccharine spots and bleached out lifeless print. 

A far richer brand experience would be had with the original ambassadors of the brand (and the first or even only point of contact for many) delivering a truly premium and memorable service, bringing consumer interface with the brand inline with the (often outrageous) claims made in their advertising. Lack of service has, of course, as much to do with cultural conventions as anything else – but in the search for a unique identity service might not be a place to start.

The bottom line is that brands cannot be advanced by communications alone – especially when the behaviour of their key ambassadors is as wretched as the Kasikorn Bank teller in the Youtube clip above. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

The Cannes Lions 2008 Film Grand Prix winner might have very successfully employed a gorilla, but this monkey offering from BBDO Indonesia is enough to make anyone go apeshit.

Thanks to adsoftheworld for at least providing some light relief.