Pete Barry: The Advertising Concept Book

The Advertising Concept Book is entirely written around one of the industry’s most fundamental principles: the idea comes before the execution.

In an age of increasing time pressures and decreasing budgets, it’s a lesson that is often ignored. So it bares repeating: “think now, design later”.

Aimed at students the book covers all areas of creative development. From generating concepts to writing taglines Pete Barry manages to distill a complex field into a simple set of guiding rules.

Highly recommended.

Buy a copy here.

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Magpie marketing

We believe we work in turbulent times.

A quick skim of the industry press and you’ll learn that ecommerce is upending retail. Social media is uprooting advertising. Private labels are replacing brands. Advertising is dying. And TV is dead.

We believe change is the new normal. That its pace is accelerating. That technological adoption is faster than ever. That unicorn company’s are constantly being born. And that incumbents are being killed at breakneck pace.

So we hyperventilate. We panic. We rush to the new and shiny. We bolt on technological tactics, believing the band aids will save us. From drone delivery to cheap chatbots we are seduced by the superficial.

Continue reading on Medium.

The ageism in advertising

The advertising industry is addicted to youth.

We are obsessed and possessed. We crave it in our agencies and we covet it in our audiences. We believe younger staff are more creative and younger consumers are more valuable.

But this is nothing more than received wisdom. Dogma upon which we have all been indoctrinated. Spurious beliefs and specious myths; unquestioned, unfounded and ultimately unsound.

By undervaluing older staff we undervalue expertise. By overlooking older audiences we overlook opportunity.

This article makes the case that changing our ageist attitudes is not only a moral decision but a commercial one. A decision that would improve the quality of our work. And a decision that would improve the quality of our standing.

Let’s start close to home.

Continue reading on Medium.

The digital dark side

The advent of digital media promised so much.

Savvy shoppers would no longer be surreptitiously swayed by advertising alone. The internet would enable them to research products. Social media would allow them to share their experiences. And ecommence would provide the power to compare prices.

Empowered by these tools of transparency, consumers would expose poor products and endorse better brands. Over time, omnipotent brands would cede power to omniscient consumers. With perfect information, shoppers would make perfect purchases. They would find the best possible products at the best possible prices. And with a smartphone in their pocket, they would do it anywhere, any time.

Or at least this was the promise. Unfortunately, this pledge is increasingly looking like a pipe dream. A far-flung fiction. An unattainable utopia.

This is the story of the digital dark side. Told in five parts.

Continue reading on Medium.

The Millennial myth

It seems that a day doesn’t pass without another article hitting the headlines exposing the shortcomings of the Millennial generation. Most of them are nonsense. Even the ones from reputable sources. For example, Time believes that Millennials can’t afford to buy houses because they spend too much money on avocados. And Business Insider blames Millennials for “killing the napkin industry”. In fact, at the time of writing, a Google search for ‘Millennials’ returns over 19,000,000 related articles. 71,000 of them have been published in the last week alone. No wonder The New York Times claimed that the word ‘Millennial’ is monopolising the cultural conversation.

But Millennials are not alone.

Continue reading on Medium.

Richard Shotton: The Choice Factory

Rory Sutherland says that The Choice Factory is a Haynes manual for behavioural science.

And he’s not wrong.

Richard Shotton’s book is simply structured with 25 short chapters, each explaining a behavioural bias, the academic research behind it and its application to advertising. Shotton, as always, manages to be endlessly interesting and endlessly practical.

Recommended reading for anyone who finds themselves drawn to behaviour science.

Buy your copy here.

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The three ages of human trust

Ian Leslie writing in The New Statesman:

In Who Can You Trust? the writer Rachel Botsman argues that we are at the start of an exciting third age in human trust. The first age was local, when we lived in small groups and everyone knew everyone else. The second, which arrived with the industrial age, was institutional, in which we were able to confidently do business with strangers thanks to a nexus of laws and contracts. The third chapter is distributed, in which trust, instead of flowing vertically via institutions, flows horizontally through a vast, algorithmically organised network. The neighbourly interactions central to pre-industrial society have been recreated, except now a neighbour is anyone with whom we share an app.

The opposites test

Roger L. Martin writing in Harvard Business Review:

“The senior team of a large player in the global wealth management business recently asked me for my opinion on their strategy. They had worked long and hard at coming up with it. Their “Where to Play” choice was to target wealthy individuals who wanted and were willing to pay for comprehensive wealth management services. Their “How to Win” choice was to provide great customer service across the breadth of their wealth management needs. I pushed and probed, but that was it.

Sadly, like the majority of strategies that I read, this firm’s strategy failed my sniff test and for that reason I would bet overwhelmingly that it will fail in the market as well. The test I apply is quite simple. I look at the core strategy choices and ask myself if I could make the opposite choice without looking stupid. For my wealth managers, the opposite of their “where” choice was to target poor individuals who don’t want and aren’t willing to pay for comprehensive wealth management services. The opposite of their “how” is to provide crappy customer service.”

Put simply, if the opposite of your strategic decisions look stupid, you have not really made a strategic decision. You will not be differentiated. And every competitor will have the exact same direction.

Repositioning the competition

Jim Carroll, writing on his blog:

“You may be going merrily about your business, doing a decent job, progressing steadily along the tracks. Your brand may be well regarded by consumers. Everything may be OK.

But then out of left field the competition does something radical that rewrites the rules; that reframes the market; that changes the way you’re viewed. Suddenly you no longer seem quite so relevant. You appear a little off the pace, a little out of sorts. Suddenly you look like yesterday’s brand.

BA was solidly respectable, thoroughly dependable. And then irreverent Virgin arrived on the scene and made it somewhat stuffy and old-fashioned. Levi’s was cool and contemporary. And then dissident Diesel appeared and made it safe and conventional. Orange made Vodafone feel corporate. Apple made Microsoft appear square. Sipsmith made Gordon’s look dreary. Fever-Tree made Schweppes taste sweet. Eat made Pret seem over-sauced. And so on and so forth.”

Positioning a brand can feel like an isolated exercise in an otherwise stable category.

But you are always doing more than positioning just one brand.

You are also repositioning a category.

This holds true if you use an ‘about’ approach or a ‘versus’ approach.

There’s a parallel to draw with politics here. The Overton Window describes the acceptable range of political views within a culture. When a new party finds traction at the fringe, they expand the window, and in the process shift the public’s perceptions of where the middle ground lies.

A new position changes all other positions.

Or as Dave Trott wrote in Campaign:

“When you position yourself, you also reposition the competition.”