Archives for posts with tag: Advertising

Many people believe the advertising industry is filled with liars.

Reality is, the vast majority of advertising folks don’t lie. The consumers lie to us. 

Sure, we show the product in perfect angles, in perfect settings surrounded by perfect people. That’s just salesmanship. Just like you clean your car before you try to sell it or stage your house. We are not liars. Brands and agencies don’t dare to break existing laws and regulations. They’d be out of business very quickly. 
Customers, on the other hand, constantly lie to us. 

Just attend any focus group and watch people lie every waking moment:

“I buy a car based on specs.” No, you don’t. You bought that specific car to enhance your image.  

Nobody was every influenced by advertising, everybody makes pure rational decisions. Just like the Wall Street bankers in 2007/8. Studies show people can’t communicate with each other for 10 minutes without lying once. 

When it comes to business, people lie more often. But, we can’t question the statements of consumers. They are always right. 

So, next time you go through the findings of surveys, focus groups and interviews, make sure to consider the lies they told you. 

Louis Vuitton “Word” – Directed by Stuart McIntyre in collaboration with Ogilvy Paris from Steam Films on Vimeo.

Louis Vuitton pays tribute to The Greatest – Muhammad Ali with the digital experience The Greatest Words. Spoken Word Artist Yasiin Bey and calligrapher Niels Shoe Meulman revisit the words of Muhammad Ali.


No, don’t expect big announcements that the big campaign is dead. Big campaigns will remain important for the foreseeable future but their effectiveness will decrease over time. Money won’t allow brands anymore to buy attention effectively, they need to adapt to the small, frequent, fine-grained patterns that characterize mobile and successful social implementations. For successful brands, these lightweight interactions will become natural as part of their social business, breaking down organizational and transactional boundaries, transforming into a more social and informal enterprise.

It will force brands to delegate more power to the edges, providing people the tools and insights they need, and implementing a sensible use of automation. When platforms are always on and customers expect a 24/7 response rate, brands need to find a balance between human interaction and automated responses.

Campaigns (bursts of activity with a beginning and an end) will remain an integral part of the marketing mix. The real challenge for the marketing community is to find a balance between lightweight interactions (small, frequent, ongoing, informal) and bold, planned bursts of activity. Creating a brand interaction that feels slow, fast, spiky and always-on at the same time.

Here’s a great example – From Digiday:

“TNT gave a dream brief to Breakfast, a tech-hacker marketing boutique of sorts, to help promote its new psychological crime show “Perception“: make something cool in a storefront space in New York City’s Herald Square.

Breakfast hatched what it’s calling a “real-time electromagnetic dot display,” an updated version of old signs in train stations with letters and numbers that flip over as they change. The twist: The display changes based on motions of those in front of it. When walking by, the sign displays mirror images of the people in front of it, reacting immediately to their movements. You wave, your dot-matrix doppelganger waves back. The movements knock away words, revealing clues to anagrams that the star of “Perception” uses to solve crimes. The idea is to physically involve participants in experiencing the plot of the show.”

A well-executed creative idea that’s perfectly aligned with changing consumer demands.

Goertz, a former client, reinvented the shoe buying experience. According to digitalbuzz: “How does a German online shoe store grab some attention in the real world? Well, a virtual shoe fitting installation makes sense right? Yep, here it is, the Virtual Shoe Fitting Store from Goertz, an Augmented Reality, Microsoft Kinect powered installation that is plugged into a giant screen, then rolled out as virtual shoe stores at central stations and shopping centres across Germany.

Using 3x Microsoft Kinects, a beefy computer and giant screen, this virtual shoe fitting station is basically an Augmented Reality Shoe Store, tracking 3D versions of their entire range of online shoes to your feet, allowing you to choose your favourite brands, flip through colours, sizes and then post to Facebook for feedback before buying on your mobile via a dynamic QR code that is displayed on screen.”

A good example how retailers can leave their static stores and create immersive product experiences.

Creativity says: “According to McCann Vice Chairman/Global Deputy Chief Creative Officer Andreas Dahlqvist, a key goal was to extend the life of the catalog in consumers’ homes. Its average lifespan is about two weeks, but with the digital offerings, content can be added and updated on a regular basis, making the catalog relevant year-round.

The print pages tease the additional materials with a smartphone icon that encourages shoppers to scan to see more. The app uses image recognition software from Metaio, and not QR codes, which makes it convenient to add further content to other pages in the future. With those, viewers may be alerted to new content via billboard callouts, for example, said McCann Associate Creative Director Koen Malfait.”

I’m dubious about that execution. In the age of ADD, it doesn’t seem likely people will engage with the catalog as envisioned. Personally, I would have left the catalog mostly alone. It’s a coffee table book, something you engage with as a still product. Aren’t we asking too much from people to pull out their phone constantly to engage with us?

Data will give us the answer. No matter, the advertising innovation train continues to speed up. Hold on tight, it will only get faster.

There are many things to say against focusing on big ideas: It’s better to develop many small ideas and scale the successful ones up, it’s more important to create as many connection points as possible and not just one humongous connection hub. Still, sometimes agencies develop concepts that are bigger than big ideas.

As part of an effort to help Vestas sell more wind turbines, Droga5 developed WindMade, a product label that will help us make informed purchasing choices baed on whether the goods were made with clean, sustainable energy. It’s bigger than a big idea or any huge campaign: It’s an NGO developed by an advertising agency.

Projects like this convince me more and more that the right kind of creative thinking can underwrite amazing technology and help people to change their behavior in admirable and sustainable ways. That’s why this is the amazing and inspiring time in advertising. And that’s why we should continue to care about advertising.


The list of countries by Nobel laureates is very revealing:

– The United States has 332 winners.

– United Kingdom 118, followed by Germany (103), France (58), Sweden (29) and Switzerland (25).

– China has 4 winners. India 9.

– Switzerland has 33 winners per 10 million citizens, China 0.052.

Even more revealing is to look at the German specifics:

– Before 1933, Germany won the Nobel Prize 38 times. 38 wins in 32 years.

– Between 1933 and 1950, Germany won it 9 times. 9 wins in 17 years.

What happened?

When countries become less concerned with output and more concerned with other factors (race, religion, political affiliation, class), they become less productive.

Hitler didn’t care about the work of Einstein, Teller, Haber and Frisch. He was only concerned about their religion and his insane racism.

(Now, let’s all be very grateful he didn’t care about their work. These were the people that made the atomic bomb possible. Can you imagine? Let’s not.)

All of us are guilty of this behavior.

We tend to put more emphasis on arbitrary factors than judging the work. Take an agency pitch:

Brands often choose a new agency because of the overall vibe. It can be the location. The architecture of the office. The chemistry. The niceties.

Employers choose new hires based on a cultural fit, not on their accomplishments. They rather create a  comfortable work environment than creating extraordinary work.

I used to have a dentist that was extremely friendly, I wouldn’t mind bar hopping with him. We chatted for 10 minutes before he went to work. Years later I found out that his work was terrible. I was blinded by his receptionist, his demeanor, the overall vibe. My current dentist barely talks. If I’m lucky, he has 5 words for me all day. But he does the work. Maybe the best work in the business.

I don’t care if my mechanic calls me on my birthday. I want him to do the work.

I don’t care if my mortgage broker loves the same movies. I want her to do the work.

Clients want agencies to solve problems.

The advertising doesn’t work. The product doesn’t sell.

So, the CMO gets orders from the CEO to fix marketing/advertising. The CMO has to find an agency to spend millions of dollars with. If I was a CMO, the last thing I’d be worried about is the culture, the fit, the perks. I wouldn’t care who I liked. I’d be looking at the work. At the expertise. The experience. What they have done. Not the charisma, their smiles, the hot latte.

Years ago, Washington Mutual ran the Whoo-Hoo campaign: The idea being that Washington Mutual was so good, all associates and customers should just shout out “Whoo-Hoo” all day. Employees greeted you with a handshake, they wanted to be your best friend and each hour, on the hour, employees got up to scream “Whoo-Hoo” in the middle of any transaction. Washington Mutual wanted to be liked. And they disappeared a few years ago.

Don’t try to be liked. Be competent.


I share a lot of articles and links on Twitter about the advertising industry. We use that term as if it’s like the Republican party, a union or a single entity. Some centralized authority that provides rules and we all need to comply.

I read things like: “When will advertising adjust to the changing demands of consumers?”

“Is advertising dead?”

“Advertising is in deep trouble”

“The resurgence of advertising.”

It makes no sense.

I’ve been working in advertising for more than 15 years, been to Cannes, award shows all over the world, worked with many agencies. Still, I never encountered a club called “Advertising”.

I never had to pay dues and follow any rules.

The ‘advertising industry’ doesn’t meet in some dark meeting rooms, deciding what’s best for everyone.

Nobody in the ‘advertising industry’ ever signed up for that. Nobody agreed on that charter. Actually, I don’t even know the ‘advertising industry’ even exists.

When I joined the advertising world, my goal was to create the best work possible. Trying to do better work than any other agency/brand.

Why would I care about the ‘advertising industry’?

My goal was to kill competitors. Making sure people look at my work.

While I have many friend at other agencies/brands, they are still my competitors. Would you aks Billy Corgan to be a spokeperson for music? Why would he care about music? He cares about his music. He cares about being the best at his craft.

The truth is, as advertisers we’re even worse off. We don’t just compete with other bands/DJ’s. We compete with the world.

We compete with everything that can take away attention from people.



We should never assume there’s an advertising industry.

There’s no print industry. No email industry. No TV industry. There’s a huge difference between what we do and the rest of the world does.

Nobody pays us to see what we do. Other industries have that privilege. We have to find ways for people to pay attention.

People pay to see the Smashing Pumpkins. Nobody pays to see our product. There’s a music industry because people pay to listen to music, attend concerts. There’s no advertising industry because nobody is in the market to buy our product.

Our job is to get seen, liked, and remembered, even though no one wants what we do.

And, we get seen, liked, and remembered because we’re great at what we do. We do fun stuff, something to pay attention to.

We do our best work because we’re not part of an illusory advertising industry.

The best advertising is a loner, trying to make it by itself.

That’s the advertising that works.

fastfoods-ads-vs-reality-bigmacWe’ve all seen these images before. Advertising is about making things look desirable. However, there comes a point where reality and desire diverge, and the ad industry is really bad in recognizing that point.

That’s when we enter the world of “Butt Pad” advertising.

Apparently, there are people out there who want a shapely behind. The enhancement industry is extremely happy to offer people devices that lift, pad and shape the derriere. Here’s the problem: Once you leave the club/bar/part, the pad has to be removed. Suddenly, reality sets in and you’re stuck with what nature has blessed you with.

The majority of ads are guilty of this behavior.

They get you excited. They get you going. They make you want to take the next step by stimulating your imagination. At one point, they have to reveal the product: It’s perfectly acceptable. It’s fine.

But it’s nowhere near the hype represented in the full glory of the heavily padded presentation.

Shouldn’t we be happy with what we actually have?

Advertising is not in the business to lie to sell a product.

Good advertising communicates the truth of a product in the best possible light. It’s like going on a date: As an introvert, I wouldn’t try to be an extrovert. However, as a mediocre dresser, I would put my best food forward. Padded ads express shame in the core offering. They might give you short-term advantages, look good in the limelight, but in the end brand are eroding long-term customer faith in brand, favoring a cheap sale.

My question is, when will we start being happy with what we actually have? Advertising shouldn’t need to lie to sell a product. The best ads represent the truth of a product in the best possible light. But padded ads only express shame in the core offering. They may look good in a skirt and top, but you are eroding long term customer faith in you, in favor of a cheap sale.

What to do?

If you’re not comfortable in your skin, you have bigger problems than the shape of your derriere. If you’re not proud of your product, you have bigger problems than just your advertising strategy.

Explore and determine what you love about yourself and build a wardrobe of communication points around that. Be proud of who you are. Hold your head high. Be proud. Most importantly, deliver on your strengths rather than hiding your perceived weakness behind a fake reality show you can never live up to.


Personalization is all around us. Especially online, where companies retarget people with banner ads, bid on competitor terms or even follow prospects who didn’t click on an ad by figuring out a lot about who the possible prospects are. A few years ago, when brands wanted to communicate with C-executives, companies had to run a few hundred thousand banners on a WSJ or Forbes section, read heavily by executives and pay the price of two Ferraris. Then brands tagged the computers of these executives to serve more impressions downstream, for the price of a used Honda Accord.

Suddenly, the audience of Forbes and WSJ was addressable through cheaper means, slashing media costs, aligning offers with the target and making content on high-end sites less valuable.

Personalization lifts response.

Or does it?

Personalization assumes that an offer with high relevance, based on your unique needs, will get your attention, convert you easier to a sale, and keep you as a loyal customer.

It can work. And I’ve seen it work pretty well. Still, personalization is only one aspect of three major pillars of competition: Perceived value and product. Most husbands love their wives but many of them still chase younger girlfriends. Or boyfriends. Apple couldn’t care less about personalization, they make their profit through product design, selling out new computers/phones in a day or so. All of us want a better perceived value (deals) and cool products – personalization can’t help to achieve any of these goals.

Personalization is for generic or necessary sales. It’s not for market revolutions.

Show me the person who yelled out: “I need to get this minivan.” and I’ll buy you three drinks. Nobody screams in delight: “I need to buy this DVD player.”

Market revolutions have high margins because they all have high perceived value and amazing product design. The personalization happens in the head of the customer. They adjust to the cool new product by suddenly being so much more hip.

Here’s a dirty little secret: Advertising makes tons of money off waste.

The average American watches 5 hours of TV each day. Let’s say 30 minutes of that time is advertising. If all of us would suddenly get only personalized ads, the advertising time would be cut down to 10 minutes or the average American would see the same commercials over and over again. Making advertising less valuable and profitable. The advertising industry thrives on waste. True targeting on TV would erase billions of dollars. Just like it did in the digital marketing world. Ask Forbes.

The real problem with personalization.

Human beings are not unique data sets. While I love the personalization of Amazon and Netflix, it also frustrates me to no end because I chose products for others. My kid’s birthday is only once a year and I don’t need to see the newest Lego set as a recommendation each and every day. I wish personalization offers would come bundled with a modality dial: Today I’m shopping as me. Tomorrow I’m shopping as a dad. In 2 weeks I’m shopping as a husband. That’s easy. It’s harder when it comes to my personal preferences: 2 days ago I was a Kings fan. Yesterday I was interested in technology. Tonight I am a German soccer fan. I have no clue who I’m going to be tomorrow, what I will be interested in, what might peak my interest.

We are human beings: Non-linear, all over the place, integrating a multitude of interests.

We’ll keep trying. Still, it remains a sisyphean task. Advertising was always “Spray and Pray”. We used to have 100 bullets to spray. Now we have 103 bullets.

We have to do better.


When I grew up, my favorite brand was Coca-Cola. I also loved McDonald’s and any cereal brand. The unhealthier sweeter, the better. Over time, I learned that Coke was nothing more than sugared water and McDonald’s peddled really crappy food by sourcing through really terrible methods. Well, and cereal was nothing more than sugar in milk. My love for these brands turned into cynicism. They still created great advertising but it’s hard to enjoy any commercial or online game when you have these videos of tortured chicken in your head.

Branding used to involve big budgets, flashy advertising, a lot of good looking people and promises that were never kept.

This branding era is about to end.

We are about to experience a branding renaissance

Branding doesn’t happen in brainstorming sessions, on TV screens or through false, beautiful worlds anymore.

Branding today entails:

– Focusing more on stakeholder value, less on shareholder value

– Social Currency is more important than immediate profitability

– Innovation more important than messages

– Customer experience is almost everything

– Delivering constant customer value is everything.

Advertising noise will continue to be part of branding. Over time, that noise will just lead to tone deafness and the return will be minimal. Companies that are doing it right will succeed over time. The others will fade away.