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Crowdsourcing comes of age

You might have noticed that everyone’s trying to save money. You’re no doubt doing it yourself. And having it done to you. So of course advertisers have been brutally slashing the fees they pay their ad agencies. And no, it’s not getting any better.

But taking a hit on your remuneration levels is one thing. Being written out of the equation altogether is something else. That’s what Unilever has done with its new advertising for Peperami: it’s written the ad agency out of the advertising equation altogether.

I’ve written about crowdsourcing here before, in the way you might write about the sun exploding: a complete disaster, end of life as we know it, but it’s not going to happen any time soon is it, so it’s a rather meaningless thing to worry about. Except that crowdsourcing has just become a rather meaningful thing to worry about. The crowdsourced Peperami ad has just launched, and it’s not as bad as we hoped.

The Peperami brief was posted online last year, inviting anyone to come up with an idea for the brand’s next commercial. Nearly 1,200 entered, but as it turns out the winning idea came from a couple of advertising freelancers, which is something of a relief for ad creatives. So it’s no surprise that it’s OK.

But the real reason it works is because the new ad uses the strategy and brand icon created by Peperami’s old ad agency Lowe. It’s building on years of fine advertising created by (at the time) a fine advertising agency. Not that hard for a professional crowd to come in and make a decent successor then.

But the real killer about crowdsourcing is that apparently it’s about 70% cheaper than going the agency route. That’s frightening. That really could be the beginning of the end of the advertising world as we know it. 70% cheaper is a deafening sum for advertisers, recession or not.

I reckon there’s good news here for production companies though. Crowdsourced ads still need great production, perhaps even more so than ads that come via agencies, and there’s an opportunity here for production companies to build more direct relationships with advertisers. Just be prepared to be squeezed on your costs.

Posted 06 September 2010 by Claire Beale

Another league table to top for creative adland

As an industry so often considered arbitrary and unaccountable, the ad business loves league tables and score cards and Top Tens. Who’s won the most awards, who’s scooped the most new business, what are the nation’s favourite ads? If adland can marshal what it does into a table or a chart, everyone knows where they stand and can expect a bonus on the back of it.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a new ranking of the world’s best commercials production companies, as dictated by the Palme d’or results from last month’s advertising festival in Cannes. The production league table will no doubt already be influencing the selection of directors for forthcoming commercials.

Expect MJZ to get a boost in bookings, as its US office tops the chart, thanks in no small part to director Tom Kuntz’s work for Old Spice. If you haven’t seen this ad, check it out online.

The Wieden & Kennedy Portland commercial, called The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, stole the show at Cannes, taking the film Grand Prix. It’s a brilliant example of how great advertising can rejuvenate a tired brand. Kuntz, of course, has excellent form. He’s directed the wonderfully weird Skittles ads for US TV, and was behind last year’s Eyebrows ad for Cadbury here. As a director of comic commercials, he’s hard to beat right now.

As usual, US production companies dominate the Cannes chart, which is a tally of how many Cannes Lions award-winners each production company had worked on. And as proof of how fickle fortune can be, though, last year’s chart-topper, Thailand’s Phenomena, was nowhere to be seen in this year’s Top Ten.

Instead MJZ USA was followed in the table by Hungry Man, Smuggler and Biscuit Filmworks, all American firms. The UK’s first entry is RSA Films at number five, with Knucklehead at number seven and Blink at number ten.

Does any of this really matter though? Well, in a climate where advertisers are less keen on taking risks than ever before, a recognised track record is a big reassurance for nervous clients. However, topping a league table is now little more than an insurance against an empty order book. The days of charging a premium on the back of such recognition are, for the moment, a fading memory.

Posted 04 August 2010 by Claire Beale

Creativity makes financial sense

The cynics amongst you may believe that TV advertising is an easy game. How hard can 30-seconds be compared to a tautly plotted half hour? And that’s 30-seconds on a production budget that many a drama would drool over.

And yes, it is true that, rock bottom, if you put a brand name in an ad break that reaches the right audience demographic, you’ve met the fundamental requirements of advertising: to tell the right people that your brand exists.

It’s a comforting thought in these troubled economic times, when there’s a lingering, niggling feeling (particularly amongst risk-averse, recession-hit advertisers) that dazzling creativity is a bit of an indulgence. Maybe simply telling the right people that their brand exists – just doing the fundamental stuff -- is actually good enough, and bugger all those lavish location shots, expensive celebrities and days and days of post-production polishing.

Now this sort of thinking isn’t good for the advertising industry, the production industry or for TV audiences. It makes for a boring viewing experience (in the ad breaks, at least) and it makes advertising and production dull industries to work for. But, finally, thankfully, there’s proof that the more creative an ad is, the more product it’s likely to sell.

According to a new study by the IPA and TV marketing body Thinkbox, ads that win awards are at least 11 times more efficient and effective. And since TV ads are much more likely to win lots of creative awards than ads in other media, we can conclude (if we want to, which of course we do if we work in TV) that TV ads have a better chance of hitting the right creative buttons and therefore a better chance of actually selling the stuff they're promoting.

It's all about fame, you see. The sort of advertising that eschews great creativity might achieve the fundamentals of awareness, but it’s the ads that tell a story, that entertain, that make us laugh, that generate buzz and fame. These are the ads that really work. What a relief for anyone who believes in the power of creativity and the power of an engaged TV audience. Now there’s a wodge of statistical evidence to wave in front of cautious advertisers to prove that brilliant creativity is an investment, not a cost – and one that will more than pay for itself.

Posted 14 July 2010 by Claire Beale

Media agencies: Perfect production partners?

Ask an adman what he associates with Cannes, and after a checklist that includes Domain d'Ott (quite probably top of the list), the Colombe d'Or, sunshine and yachts, he’ll probably settle on this month’s advertising creative awards as the defining characteristic. The twice-yearly MIP programme fairs are unlikely to register.

But not for long. Adland is stirring in the content stakes, and at MIPTV this year one small corner of the Palais was claimed for the UK ad industry. Now I’ve written here before about how ad agencies reckon they should be flexing their creative muscles in the programming arena. Ever since agency hotshop Mother scored a triumph with its award-winning movie Somers Town, the ad industry has been eyeing content as a new financial lifeline.

True, so far the thinking is not much more sophisticated than "we can make 30-seconds, why not 30 minutes?" but there’s no doubt that ad agencies are exploring the opportunities. But the optimistic adlanders trying their luck at MIP were not from a creative ad agency, but from a media agency: the people who buy the spots and space, not the people who make the ads that go in them.

It was a team from media company MindShare that found itself peddling its own content ideas down on the Croisette. MindShare has invested in a new content division designed to create programming ideas that can either be co-developed with a client’s financial support or solely as a revenue stream for the agency.

The agency hired Simon Willis, a former producer at Channel 4, to drive the operation. And so far they’re not doing too badly. They reckon their understanding of consumers and their existing commercial relationships with broadcasters can give them and their clients the edge when it comes to generating new programme ideas, getting them on air and then selling the format around the world.

They’ve already created and co-produced a cookery series with Cineflix for Unilever and a new entertainment series for a brand that’s about to start production in seven countries in Asia.

And they’re looking for production company partners to get ideas off the ground. For production companies eager to tap into blue chip companies’ marketing budgets, media agencies like Mindshare might prove just the allies they need.

Posted 14 June 2010 by Claire Beale

Have TV ads lost some of their shine?

Last month’s British Television Advertising Awards causes me some problems. Following normal conventions, the BTAA shindig is an annual cause for celebration: a great big glitzy back-slap for the most emotive advertising medium there is. Heck, television is a £5 billion advertising industry and if ever there was a time to talk our business up, to relax our critical muscles and focus on the positive, well this is it.

But. But. Despite the best efforts of the BTAA committee and despite the generally supportive audience on the night, let’s be honest: if the 2010 BTAA is a showcase of the best of British commercials creation and production it was a disappointment.

Of course, there were some fine ads on parade. For the record Saatchi & Saatchi won the top gong, with its Dance ad for T-Mobile named Best Television Commercial of the Year. It’s a great film, enjoyed real amplification on YouTube and proved that agencies can turn around quality work in a matter of hours.

Mind you, there were plenty who privately thought the brilliant, Cannes Grand Prix-winning Carousel for Philips by DDB Amsterdam should have taken top honours. But is it an ad? And it’s not by a British agency, so maybe it didn’t quite qualify.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty was the Agency of the Year after picking up seven gold awards for ads including Barnardo’s Turn Around and the Johnnie Walker film The Man Who Walked Around the World. No quibbles with that, except that last year was not a vintage year by BBH standards, so it says something that it still manages to trounce the rest of adland.

As for Production Company of the Year, well it’s getting a bit predictable this one. Yes, you guessed it, the extremely fine Rattling Stick scored a hat trick, picking up the gong for the third year in a row.

But it was the Chairman’s award for outstanding contribution to the advertising industry that offered the most eloquent comment on how lacklustre the last twelve months really have been for TV advertising.

The award went to Steve Henry and Axel Chaldecott, the genius creatives behind the iconic ads produced by Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury at the tail end of the 20th Century (think Blackcurrant Tango, the AA, First Direct). Contemporary TV advertising was shamed by the comparison.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign

Posted 19 April 2010 by Claire Beale

The ad men have taken over at C4 and ITV

You might have noticed that Channel 4 and ITV both have a new chief executive. You might also have noticed that they both have their deepest roots in the advertising industry. Don’t panic.

Over at C4, David Abraham arrives with a good broadcasting pedigree between him and his days in adland. Still, there’s no doubt that his time at the commercial end of the media equation also gives the shrewd Mr Abraham some refreshing qualifications for the enormous task that lies before him. David, you see, made his ad name at the brilliantly energetic, weirdly dysfunctional but absorbingly different agency St Luke’s back in the late 90s.

This is worth knowing because Abraham was one of the chief architects of the agency, one of the reasons that – for a brief moment – it was amongst the most exciting in London. He made St Luke’s, St Luke’s helped make him and you can take from this that Abraham knows how to break the rules, nurture brilliant creativity and managed to bail out before the whole St Luke’s house of cards crashed.

Meanwhile over at ITV Adam Crozier may not get quite the rapturous reception his predecessor Michael Grade received on his first day, but the ad industry at least feels like they’ve got one of their own in the big chair. Though Crozier is better known in the press for his work with footballers and postmen, as far as the ad industry’s concerned he’s the former media buyer who rose to run Saatchi & Saatchi, despite a rather sticky start to his advertising career.

You see, adlanders still remember Crozier as the man who was caught out fiddling his sales stats the last time he worked for a media owner, in his days selling space on the Telegraph. No matter, Crozier has gone on to become a shining example of admen who make good in the real world.

So is it simply co-incidence that the country’s two biggest commercial broadcasters are now led by men with advertising in their blood? Of course not. Both Crozier and Abraham will play well with the advertising and marketing communities at a time when their channels need enthusiastic commercial partners more desperately than ever. Yes, they both bring wider skills, but their advertising nous is undoubtedly a trump card and buys them the ear of the commercial community…for a time at least.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign

Posted 09 March 2010 by Claire Beale
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