Monday, August 31, 2009

Even if the budget is poor the idea should always be rich.

The last few days have been busy, which, in this economy is a good thing. I wanted to talk a little bit about the importance of understanding what a great strategy and a well executed campaign can mean to a brand.

The other day I received a phone call from a potential new client that was steered in my direction from a friend of mine. (the more the merrier) This client was a small to medium size business who told me that they were interested in doing a national campaign. My first thought was wow, they must have a good budget and had someone do their strategy already because how would they know that was what they needed?

So this client proceeded to explain to me their business, it sounded great and they had all the indications of being a really profitable company. Then I started asking a few questions like "What is your goal? What do you want the campaign to achieve? and so on.
There were a few silent moments from the other end. I was asking these questions because they needed to be asked. Too often clients jump into things not fully understanding what it is they actually need versus what they think they need.

The part that puzzled me the most was the consistent question "How much does it cost?" "Well without knowing what we strategically want to accomplish it's kind of hard to give a number to associate to" I told them. They seemed puzzled so I went into an explanation that went something like this:

Creating an advertising and marketing campaign is kind of like buying a car. You wouldn't go to someone and say " I want to buy a car, how much does it cost?" Well you could, but then someone would take advantage of you and sell you a car that you probably didn't want or need. (It's amazing the similarities between advertising and cars)

Fist we need to know what you need the vehicle for, is it to haul your family around? Do you need something that is good on gas? Do you need a sports car? Or maybe you just need something cheap to go from point A to B. All these things factor into the decision.

Similarly you need to know what the campaign is going to achieve, what you need it to do? This is the starting point. You wouldn't have much success with a mini van if you what you really needed was a sports car. Knowing what the campaign is to achieve clearly sets out a path in which to deliver on.

So after you determined what the purpose is you have to figure out strategically what the best approach is to fulfill that purpose. Lets say you needed something that is economically feasible, it's good on gas, gets you from point A to B without much worry. Easy to operate, easy to maintain and doesn't cost a lot of money. (sound familiar) Well there are a lot of options that can achieve that. A small car, a hybrid, a fully electric and so on. The choices are usually made based on budget.

It's the same thing with the campaign, there are many ways to achieve the goals - paid search, SEO, hybrid campaigns of both traditional and online and so on. It all depends on what we can fit given your budget.

So lets say you have $12000 to spend. Chances are you will be hard pressed to find a new small car to buy for that money, but you could buy a quality used one or lease one for a year within that budget.

Same goes for the campaign, there are lots of options we can plan so that the budget is utilized to the fullest and gives you the most return for your money.

And so the conversation went on with my analogy of cars and advertising. The client was a bit shocked because they realized they hadn't really thought it through. It was clear that the client needed to think it over. I offered my services to help them get a quality strategy together so that they were at least headed in the right direction.

In this day and age you can do a lot with less. But you have to be strategic about it and understand the limitations before heading into it. You can't get a Ferrari on a Yugo budget, but you can still turn some heads.

Happy Monday and I hope you watched Madmen last night.


Friday, August 28, 2009

It's good to be Cream

So the last few days have been busy. My business partner and founder of Cream Advertising Leif Neilsen came out to Vancouver and the two of us set up some meetings with potential new clients. It was great to see Leif and his wife Dana, they run the Toronto office and handle the eastern Canada business.

We started off our four day business extravaganza playing in the PGA of BC Pro/Am at the beautiful Crown Isle Golf course. It was an absolutely amazing day, we had a chance to play a round of golf with two great Pro Golfers. It was great to see guys that can actually play golf really well. The course was in great shape and the views were stunning. My game that day... not so stunning. I like to say that I saw every beautiful inch of that course, the trees, the sand, the water, the rough and on the odd occasion, the fairways and greens. We wrapped up the day with a great dinner and prizes, which we won a beautiful box of high-end cigars and some wine.

All-in-all it was a great couple days.

From there we headed to Gibsons just on the other side of Horseshoe Bay to meet up with a good friend of ours to talk some business. It was a short ferry ride across and great day spent checking out the original location for the long running Canadian show "The Beach Combers".

Just a quick note to those who are traveling on ferries across from Horseshoe Bay, if you leave your vehicle in the cue and decide to head into the town for a bite to eat while you wait for your ferry to arrive... bring your ticket with you or else they won't let you back in and your vehicle will sit there all by itself blocking the entrance to the ferry. (enough said)

The rest of the visit was spent meeting new people and business owners in Vancouver and it was truly an amazing time. We met so many great people. We enjoyed having Leif and Dana here although it went by really fast. They will indeed be back soon.

Now it's back to daily work. The great part is, when you love what you do and you run your own company it's not work at all. That's why it's great to be Cream.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Creativity makes everything better.

I keep touting the song about creativity. It's not because I am a creative and it's my job but because I truly believe that when you do things, anything in a creative way it can make a huge difference in the outcome. It can move people, inspire people it can make others want to do more. Here is a little tidbit that really drives home this message. You can take something that has been treated in a very generic way and do it the way it's always been done or be creative and inspire others and move people.
Why not take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Take the usual and make it unusual.

Go one people, be creative!!!

Actually, stupid is the enemy of great.

Well it's Friday here on the coast, a bit overcast but still warm. I can feel fall coming, which is a good thing because I love fall. It signals change and change as we all know is a good thing.

I was speaking with some friends the other day that also work in the ad industry and we were discussing the importance of award shows. It just so happens that I am working on the advertising for a local award show here in the city.

And so the age-old discussion around what matters most “the effectiveness” of the ad or “the recognition” was started. Now before I get into the meat and potatoes of it all know this, I think there is no right or wrong answer here. Much like advertising, it is subjective and depending on what your over all goal is, each side has its benefits. There is however one important matter to factor into the equation – What is advertising supposed to do? = Sell. That is the bottom line. How you get there is the grey area.

Being a creative working in the industry for a while I truly believe that advertising has to be…well…creative. You have to make the person want to buy whatever you are selling. You have to be funny, witty, shocking, heartfelt whatever you choose but just don’t be boring. Make it relevant to the target. Don’t just put up a price point or massive fucking logo in hopes that will sell.
But yet there are tones of that kind of advertising out there. So the importance of a creative idea is monumental in any form of advertising. It is the catalyst that makes people want to stop for 5 seconds, 10 seconds or a minute out of their chaotic lives to pay attention to what you have to say. In fact, if I as a consumer am going to take time out of my day to be distracted by your advertising you better make damn sure it’s worth my while. I want to laugh, I want to get pissed off, I want to have something added to my day that makes me start a conversation. No one talks about the massive price point they saw on a transit ad or billboard, no one mentions that annoying fucking floating banner ad that pops up on the page all the time other than to say it’s an annoying fucking banner ad. GET THEM INTERESTED BY BEING CREATIVE AND INTERESTING.

So that being said I think you get my point that in order to be effective you have to be creative. Now this is where the other side comes in. Do creative ads sell more than your typical eye numbing crap you see everywhere? Check this out.

It’s easy to dismiss ads you see in award shows as being out in left field and creative for the sake of being creative. People often ask “sure it’s creative but did it do anything for the client?” I think more and more the gap between creative work and moving the bottom line is being bridged. Lets take a look at this years' Cannes Lions winners. Being arguably the best award show in the world for advertising, Cannes recognizes the best in the world for being creative and for being effective. This year’s Cyber Lion winner the Tourism Queensland campaign was amazing. Was it creative? Yes. Was it effective? Very much so. Take a look at the ROI.

So what is the net take away? Award shows are important and so is the effectiveness of the advertising. After all that is what advertising is all about, selling. Great work should be recognized. It gives the client a sense of reassurance for trusting their agency. It gives the agency a sense of recognition for using their creative talent to the fullest. At the end of the day we all want the same thing, for our clients to be successful because that means we continue to get paid. But if at the end of the day all you want is to win awards for self-promotion, then heed this, an agency full of awards is worth nothing if the client has empty pockets.

Well it’s Friday, go have a drink! Or if you are living the Madmen life, have another one it’s still early.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Those who know do, those who understand teach.

Well it's another great day in Vancouver, sunny and warm. The skies are clear and the mountains can be seen from miles around and from my window. Today I'm working on some taglines for a couple clients of mine, which brought me to realize that very few clients truly understand the importance of "Branding".

I think the word branding has been over used to the point where clients hear it a lot but forget what "real" branding is and not what the hundreds of fly-by-night communication companies tell them it is. It's not a commodity and shouldn't be dealt with in frivolous manner. Quite often it's the first thing that less experienced communication companies will tell clients to change because it's an easy cash grab for them and the clients aren't as attached to their branding as they should be.

A tag line is just one element of a companies brand, albeit an important one, but the total sum of the logo, the colours, the strategy and the tagline all work together. Most companies, especially those that are small to mid size think that branding is something they need or something they will get to when they have more time or money. The reality is that branding is the first step in a companies inception. It "is" who you are, what you stand for and what separates you from everyone else.

It should be the foundation on which you build a company, it should be in your business plan, it should be the spark that starts your entrepreneurial spirit.
Sure companies can revamp their brand, give it a new logo, a more modern spin on the tagline but one has to be careful to not deviate from the original brand strategy. Don't forget who you are and what you stand for.

A good example of this is Coke and Pepsi. Coke has the same original logo since it's inception. Pepsi on the other hand has gone through a myriad of logo changes over the years. Both of them have changed taglines from time to time but Coke has remained true to their brand strategy over the years and it's paid off. Pepsi has lost it's way, it seems as if they are trying to keep up and stay cool and relevant. That's suicide in this marketplace. Stop trying to be something you're not and be who you are.

So when clients approach me and are looking for new taglines or logos I immediately ask them a barrage of questions. What does your company stand for? What makes you different? If your company had a personality what would it be? and on and on. It amazes me when clients look back at me with a puzzled look on their face because they have never thought in-depth about their brand before. This should be the first step. But that's what I'm here for, to help them out and get them on the right track. It's what I love to do. Brand strategy is pinnacle.

In my mind the best brand and tagline ever...NIKE - Just do it. It sums up everything they stand for and the brand personality in just three words. Not to mention, the use of the swoosh is a symbol most recognized around the world all on its own, without words. Now that is a powerful brand.

If anyone out there needs help with their brand drop me an email, my company can help you out. You can also check out my personal site for history and background


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take it for what it's worth

Well it seems like the ad world keeps going for a shit every time I read about it. People I talk to and other blogs I read all say the same thing, it’s not getting any better any time soon. No wonder, the bloody government tries to put out this false beacon of hope announcing that the recession is turning a corner for the better and will soon be over. What drugs are you idiots on? This thing is going to last for a while so get used to it.

The state of the ad industry in Canada is gloomy to say the least, thousands are laid off, many of them never to return. Those that once held the higher level positions claiming the six digit incomes are on their ass in the streets or are having to take pay cuts to keep their jobs. I guess it was fun while it lasted but there isn’t any gravy to be sucked up anywhere. Freelance is hit and miss these days. Those that can get it are gripping to it tighter than a fat kid on a twinkie. Many of those who have been cast out and laid off have turned it into a positive life experience and have decided to veer in a different course all together. Check out this latest documentary on the biz

For me, I choose to go all in. I joined forces with a long time industry guru of mine and we opened up our own shop called Cream.

Unlike our hefty dinosaur agencies we used to work for, our agency is nimble, cost-effective and it’s fun! We work with the clients we want to work with, go after the business we love to work on, it’s a great change. It’s also the toughest thing I’ve ever done. You don’t have the security of a steady pay check or the assurance of knowing if you will get through it ok but that is the thrill of it, the challenge that makes it so rewarding.

For those out there that are looking for work and are finding it hard to make ends meet I suggest you go client side. Maybe some of them can rely on your expertise to educate them on the benefits of being strategic and creative.

It’s funny how an economic downturn can force you to get your priorities in order, to reinvent yourself if need be, or to give you that kick in the ass you need to get your shit together and really go after what you want.

If anyone wants to send me their portfolio I can see if I can help out with some freelance from Cream.

Till next time.