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Did you see? Did you hear?

Rugby ScrumBuzz. Word of mouth. Fame. Water cooler chat. Virality. Memes. Tittering (and twittering). Not to mention gossip. So many different words to convey the idea that lots of people are talking about someone or something. And what better way to be talked about than to link yourself or your brand to a popular event or time – sporting, holidays, awards and the like.

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Facebook’s Rooms App Could be a Horror Story in the Making

Anonymity online has become an increasingly complex business. As our data becomes ever more commoditized and available, worried users are looking for ways to retract their personal details from the internet and finding places where they can be safe without being seen. Whisper, the anonymous secret sharing app has been valued at around  $200 million, while others like Secret and YikYak are proving equally popular. People are looking for ways to reach out and communicate without having their entire lives aired on a social profile.

Now Facebook has entered the game with its Rooms app, which allows users to post comments, pictures and videos anonymously. While names are hidden, you do have to provide an email, and the app does share your data with Facebook (but not your Facebook account). It ‘s like a mini-Reddit, designed for chatting with others who have similar interests, but keeping your real identity secret.

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It’s understandable that people are concerned about anonymity on the internet, but there is another factor to consider when in allowing people to be nameless. Hate speech has become an online plague, which is only exacerbated in anonymous forums such as Reddit. While Reddit has many users who live harmoniously on its many communities, sharing interests and demons, it also has an uncontrollable, chronic hate speech problem, which its moderators have found impossible to contain.

Rooms will have the same standards as Facebook, meaning that any hate speech will be removed by moderators or Facebook itself. This is certainly a step forward from Reddit who have been largely deaf to pleas for tighter restrictions. But, it takes a lot of effort and resource to deal with a large amount of online abuse. Facebook’s moderators may be able to cope when users are in a public space and less inclined to reveal their real selves, but experience tells us that hiding people’s names and faces leads them to act in a very different manner. The toll taken on the moderators themselves should also be taken into consideration, as they are often exposed to highly offensive and graphic abuse.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook manage to moderate Rooms, or whether this is another internet horror story in the making. At the moment it’s only available for iOS, but will presumably be rolled out across all platforms eventually. Will everyone have access all areas regardless of their views, or will Facebook be able to find the sweet spot between online anonymity and safe debate. The internet community will be waiting with fingers poised.

By Sidonie Chaffer-Melly at Engine’s Moment Studio

RETAIL THERAPY

I was going to lament the lack of fresh thinking in UK retail when two things happened recently that gave me hope. One of them was only an advert but it was a bloody good advert. It made me realise that a certain British retailer is an unsung hero of the high street: Argos.

CHI’s new Argos campaign is an exciting move away from the alien family. Vibrant, fresh and oozing confidence, the ad manages to show off the products that Argos sells in a single-take of colour, breakdancing and BMX tricks, all soundtracked by ‘How You Like Me Now?’ by The Heavy. Nice work.

I have to say that it was something of a surprise when the Argos logo appeared in slo-mo but I was as delighted by this ad as I was by Marks & Spencer’s ‘Adventures in…’ campaign by RKCR/Y&R.

Argos has been doing multi-channel retail for a very, very long time. Back in 1973, warehouse-based retail was something completely new in the UK but twenty-five years later, it meant Argos was perfectly poised to make the most of the multi-channel revolution. Its click-and-collect model is now being mimicked by Amazon, no less.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11155301/Amazon-has-found-a-surprising-new-retail-role-model-Argos.html

Argos has also been making money hand-over fist for parent company Home Retail Group for a very long time. Argos is the John Lewis of the not-so-middle-class. It sells everything – conveniently, efficiently and profitably. Again – nice work. And if you need an engagement ring for under a hundred quid…

It occurs to me that some of our best retailers are at this less glamorous end of the market. Both Aldi and Lidl are giving the bigger supermarket brands a run for their money – and running some nice, cheeky campaigns along the way too…

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The other thing that happened was that an American tourist got locked in Waterstone’s Trafalgar Square overnight. Waterstone’s response was brilliant – turning something potentially embarrassing into a brilliant piece of tactical marketing.

Picking up on the currency the story had gained on social media, they ran a competition in conjunction with Airbnb and Graze for ten people to choose some free books and sleep over in their flagship store on Piccadilly.

So – a refreshing new ad for a stalwart of UK retail and an inspired piece of responsive, social media-savvy PR and marketing. Perhaps there are verve and creativity on the British high street yet?

Nice one.

Nice isn’t a word you encounter much in advertising these days.  (Apart from when someone asks you the best airport for Cannes).  It feels rather old fashioned.  A bit vanilla.  Damning with faint praise, perhaps.

But as Peter Mead says in his new book, it’s the quality that has defined AMV’s culture for over 30 years.  And given they’ve been number 1 in our mercurial industry for almost 20 of these, perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss it so readily.

Of course, there have also been some other hugely successful agencies that have drawn their energy from the darker side of human nature.  Tim Bell’s autobiography – also published last week, by way of neat coincidence- describes the old Saatchis culture as “brutality from start to finish.  It began with aggression, had aggression in the middle and had aggression at the end”.  Likewise we’ve all heard those stories  about Frank Lowe’s reign of terror (and inspiration) at CDP and tales of tellies being thrown from windows in Golden Square.

So which model is right ?  Is creative and commercial success more likely to come from happiness or having a ruck?  Well, it’s certainly true that the best work requires an element of conflict, to force its difficult passage from good to great.  But over the long term, I believe people perform best when they enjoy their working environment.  In particular, I think creativity flows better when people are having fun.  And in recent times, the ability to work well with others rather than batter them into submission has become far more important.

So I’m definitely in the fun camp, rather than the prison camp.  But maybe that’s not surprising: on my very first day in advertising, almost exactly 21 years ago, I was taken out  to Langans with the other new trainees, by one of the agency’s founders.  There, the bigwig treated us to a slap up meal, the likes of which we impoverished grads had never experienced before.  And yet his main piece of advice (in between copious football chat, to make us feel at ease) was to not get too big for our boots and to be nice to everybody – from the factory receptionist to the client CEO.  It was a lesson I’ve always remembered (even if I’m sure I haven’t always lived up to it).   And the name of that nice man?  Peter Mead.

What Can We Learn From Thorne Travel

If you haven’t already seen the Thorne Travel advert, watch it now. The Aryshire travel agent’s promotional video is so bad it’s brilliant. The ad inadvertently went viral last week and highlights include magic fairy dust, an instant bride makeover (and I mean instant), a small pilot, a big uniform, and a teenage flashmob.

Despite the dubious corporate-video-circa-1984 quality, Father Ted creator Graham Lineham has dubbed it a ‘unicorn chaser’ after a year of bad news. So with close to a million views and rising why is everyone loving this smorgasbord of cheesiness and what can agencies learn from Thorne Travel’s efforts?

1.    Don’t be afraid to have fun

Thorne Travel’s ad wouldn’t be nearly as successful if everyone in it wasn’t clearly having a great time. The video was originally meant to be a parody of the Virgin Atlantic adverts, albeit in a less glamorous Scottish high street setting. The overall charm of the video comes from the Thornettes harnessing their sense of humour like a conquering army in bodycon dresses to deliver a tongue-in-cheek homage to a premier service brand.

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2.    Keep it real

Thorne blew their entire marketing budget on the video, hiring a production company from Glasgow. Okay, so budgets are relative but they know their target audience well. They’ve even hired them for walk on parts. Through keeping it real they’ve tapped into the heartfelt fuzziness of a local company that their customers know and love. It could have been a risk – instead it’s a bold move that’s paid off.

3.    Don’t be afraid of being the underdog

Thorne’s ad ticks every cliche in the book. It looks cheap, the visual effects are terrible, and it has the worst finale of all time. But the lack of sophistication is the secret weapon. People love its simplicity and ordinariness. Could the public be a bit weary of ‘clever’ ads that look great but make them feel stupid and clumsy if they don’t get the pay off?

Since going viral Thorne has had huge amounts of free PR. Gaining national coverage in the Guardian, Independent, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed for starters. They’ve since been invited onto Good Morning Britain and featured in the press in Australia and New Zealand. There’s even talk of a reality show in the offing. The result? They’ve had over 100,000 Facebook hits and bookings are up 110% proving that cheerfulness, warmth and authenticity can be a formula that wins over a cynical public. All we have to do now is to sit back and wait for the outtakes….

 

By Sidonie Chaffer-Melly at Engine’s Moment Studio

Is real time always the right time?

I heard a story recently about a chap who had fallen out of favour with a few people. We’ll call this chap Steve. Reason being that Steve told another chap’s nan (we’ll call this other chap George) that he had just found out that George, at the age of 30, was still a virgin. In horrified tones, he shared this with all and sundry in ‘real time’. Did I mention George’s nan was there? Needless to say, George, George’s nan and a good number of other people felt that this was not the right time to be talking about this fact (or indeed the right audience for this fact). So, even though Steve had just found this out, talking about it in real time was no good – either at the time or, quite frankly, for Steve’s positive long-term equity with George et al.

What’s the moral here? I’ll give you an early hint – real time isn’t always the right time. And sometimes, real time needs a filter. Read More »

BRAND IS ALL YOU HAVE

So Wonga has finally got its comeuppance – as a result of action by the Financial Conduct Authority. I was interested to read that as part of its humiliating fall, it may change its name and for me, the story of Wonga is proof that brand is more important than ever. As a business, your name and your reputation (ie. your brand) are all you really have.

Wonga has always been a pretty tawdry brand. Never mind the deplorable interest rates and the despicable exploitation of financially vulnerable people, its marketing has always been very questionable. Its name is certainly short and memorable but there was always a kind of geezery swagger about it – with its whiff of Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’ character that so perfectly satirised Thatcherite greed.

Then there was the advertising: deeply patronising depictions of doddery elderly people as wobbly muppets. I’m sure my mother wasn’t the only person over sixty who was offended. It was always such a crude and juvenile joke. From a marketing perspective, it was woefully misguided. Wonga seem unaware that older people are rapidly becoming the largest and most influential section of British society.

Oh, and its highly dubious practices. Interest rates as high as 5,853% a year. Sending threatening letters to its customers from fake legal firms – for which it was also censured by the FCA. Lending money at the aforementioned scandalously high rates to those who evidently couldn’t afford to repay.

And there – in the above paragraph – is the essence of the Wonga brand. No matter how much you might try to construct your brand with a logo, marketing and humour, it always comes down to what you actually do. Your actions will create your reputation – no matter how ugly it might be.

If as a business, you behave cynically; without conscience and responsibility, that’s what you’ll be infamous for. If you act like a very dodgy geezer, that will be your brand. You’ll be known as a crook and a very unlovable rogue.

Ambition, passion and pride – the spirit of Scottish themed advertising

The Scottish independence referendum has been front of mind lately; fiery debates, opinion polls, and lots of discussion about whether those of us South of the border would miss Scotland if the result was a ‘Yes’.

But being an enthusiast of great advertising, it occurred to me that many an ad has relied on Scottish themes and talent.. This got me thinking about those ads of yesteryear that perfectly capture the quirkiness of Scottish sensibilities or featured famous Scottish faces. Read More »

Taking another bite of the Apple

One would think that, because more than half of us struggle to ‘switch off’ (57%, according to the Ipsos Global Trends Survey), we would look for less, rather than more, technology. But, as ever, Apple’s latest launch was eagerly anticipated and, as usual, met with mixed reactions. And the launch was bigger and better than ever, unveiling the iPhone 6 in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch varieties, a 13-inch iPad and, unless you’ve been living under a rock and missed it, the much-anticipated smartwatch.

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Getting Personal: The Ever Growing Debate around Brand and Personalisation

When thinking about brands and personalisation it’s hard not to think of Coca Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, which swept the nation in 2013; and as a result retailers had to deal with their stock rotation being ruined, as consumers went to great lengths to find a bottle with their name on it. This year, the carbonated drinks giant re-ran the campaign, following its previous success. This was a brave move, but one which Coke have pulled off with several of its previous campaigns.

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