Archive for February, 2008

Can the word “New” Make Consumers Look Like Idiots?


I’ve been a big fan of Shreddies all my life. Simple. Tasty. “Good-good whole wheat Shreddies”. They communicated these characteristics to Canadians for 68 years. Then along comes a campaign that makes me look at Shreddies in a whole new light. That’s the intent at least.

This campaign created by Ogilvy Toronto is interesting for a couple of reasons.

1. After seeing the ad on TV, I knew I was slightly cajoled into believing Shreddies was new. After watching this footage, I fail to understand why a marketer would show how cosnumers behave in focus groups. I appreciate the humor, but it leaves a slight taste of disgust in my mouth. I actually feel bad for these people, especially since Ogilvy’s blog is aimed squarely at the ad community.

2. If a product has nothing new about it, does it make sense to create something new just for the sake of creating something new? Why would Shreddies spend millions on a message the dupes consumers? Why not spend that money educating consumers about the benefits of wheat? The history of Shreddies? A donation to wheat farmers in Alberta or Saskatchewan? Wouldn’t that be money better spent?


Coca Cola’s House Rules for Blogging

Yesterday I tweeted about Coca Cola’s new corporate blog Coca Cola Conversations. I was deeply impressed by the notion of a company like Coke having a blog open to the public. Then I discovered the House Rules, which went like this:

We want you to leave comments and ask us questions on this blog. However, we will review all comments before they go live, and will not post any that are inappropriate or offensive. We will only post comments that relate to the subjects covered by this blog, and may need to edit some of the comments from time to time. Please understand that comments posted to this site do not represent the opinions of the Company.

After reading my tweet, Luis Vieira over at Think Lola sent me an email, which went like this:

I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with moderating comments – sure in an ideal world you wouldn’t and I strongly believe that online
communities once they reach a certain size and critical mass can quite
 effectively police themselves.
When a blog is starting out, especially one as visible as this one, it will attract its fair share of cranks right out of the gate before the more
thoughtful and sober amongst us (the majority) start to make their presence

Leaving the comments unmoderated would likely open them up to unforeseen liabilities and almost act as a challenge to unscrupulous individuals. Just because it’s a big bad brand ie: Coke, Nike, McDonalds it seems
everyone taunts them to get all new-agey web 2.0.

People forget that these
are business that contribute significantly to the economies they touch, they
 employee large swaths of the population, sponsor cultural events, and donate huge amounts of money to what most people would consider good causes. Of
course there’s always the flip side of this – after all slagging the Big Bad Brands has been in vogue since oh…. at least 1998

My take on Coke’s House Rules is very simple: it’s like communism.

When I visited Budapest during the iron curtain days, friends and family told me what “it” was like. “It” meant pretty much everything that centred around the censorship that comes with communism. “You can’t say this… can’t say that. You could to jail if someone heard you.”

What you read in the newspapers or saw on the state run TV (there were 2 channels to choose from) wasn’t necessarily the truth: it’s what they wanted you to hear.

This is still happening in many countries unfortunately.

I lived in Budapest for 3 years after the curtain came down. “It” was still engrained in most of the people I met; the fear of someone over hearing what you really wanted to say. I remember going to underground (literally) pubs where the young aristocrats, many of them in advertising, would gather to speak their minds. At times it was like being in the Factory with Andy Warhol et al, but it was always a place where censorship did not exist. People spoke freely and listened freely. It was totally open. No rules.

Perhaps I’m being too literal here, but for a blog to have House Rules goes against the whole reason of listening and conversing.

It shows that a company/brand is not confident in what they are doing, which leads me to ask “Why did they even bother creating a blog?” To play the part? “Look at me… I’m all web 2.0. Ain’t I great?”

They’re doing it on their terms to benefit themselves. No one else.

Helping People First

The other day I started thinking about where ad people rank on the Morale Ladder.

I’ve heard from numerous sources that we’re comfortably snug between crack dealers, prostitutes and litigators. I don’t know which one appeals to me more. For the last 15 years I’ve been writing copy for ads, architecting ads, selling ads, you get the idea.

I spent 3 years in Europe learning how to write ads. I spent 2 years at the first true digital agency in Toronto (Modem Media… wurd up!) learning how to architect ads and write for ads in the online space. Good times.

As I get older I can’t help but think it’s time I started doing something bigger. Something better.

A few years ago I considered quitting advertising all together to become a fire fighter. Seriously. My wife had to talk me out of it. I wanted to help people more than save a life. OK, the calendar thing is cool but I just wanted to help people.

When I architect sites for my clients, I want to help the consumer more than I want to help my client. Naturally, happy consumers help clients in so many ways. Sometimes I want to tell consumers “Stay Away from This”

Then along comes the “un-agency” trend.

Idris Mootree, Online Spin, Jon Campbell… they’re all talking about it. David Armano summed it all up for me:

“If some agencies don’t fix their culture problems—they may find themselves with talent who look the part but don’t actually play it.”

Now is the time for innovation and helping people first.

Today I announced my resignation from Capital C. The immediate goal is to rekindle my consultancy practice with a focus on experience planning and social media. The blogosphere has guided me in my decision, and I know they will be there for inspiration and consultation.

BTW – Drop me a line if you know anyone looking for a planner. I’m officially for hire.

February 2008
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