Category Archives: Advertising

Desire and advertising

A few weeks ago I went along to ‘Your Brain and the Future’, an Ideas at the House event at the Sydney Opera House. Four leading thinkers in neuroscience, philosophy and psychology spoke about how we can shape our future by expanding our imaginations and being creative. This summary is in relation to what Professor Peter Railton discussed on the topic of Desire.

Desire. A glorious word, with beautiful connotations. It rolls off the tongue poetically, exuding sensuousness, craving and longing.

“Desire is about what is absent, but could be present.” – Professor Peter Railton

Us humans, we’re such complex creatures, yet so basic in certain ways. Through evolution we’ve grown and innovated through finding the motivation and means to change things. Professor Railton said that motivation is found in two forms: one is appetite, the second is desire, and that desire is about imagination and affect. We have a wonderful ability to consider possible situations, be aware that we are not in them, imagine what they would be like, and then pursue them.

Professor Railton told us about time he’d spent in Paris some years ago. He said that travelling on the metro all day could have been dark and dreary, but the Parisian metro has “windows” – large advertisements that tower up the walls of the stations. What were these ads about? Desire. Beautiful women, beautiful men, close-ups of creamy coffee, smooth chocolate, shiny watches and the luxurious interiors of alluring vehicles.

Metro advertising

Image credit: The Anti Blog

Advertisements are “photographic representations of what desire is like” and we connect to them when we can imagine ourselves enjoying the product or being close to the perfect and breathtaking subjects in the images.

When our brains receive information that something good is about to come, there’s a spike in dopamine. We make calculations that we’re not even consciously aware of. When given information, our brains are capable of making “finely calibrated predictions of value.” And it feels good.

What’s a lesson to remember about desire? It’s that desire itself has associated learning. If an object or experience doesn’t compare well with the representation, the ability to desire it again in future is endangered. Whether it’s an awful meal at a restaurant, or a watch that breaks after two days, failing to live up to expectations is challenging to overcome.

Talking about desire in an advertising context alone is hollow and negligent, so here’s advice that transcends to all facets of humanly life:

Create things and experiences that are awesome, encourage imagination and evoke desire that’s worth desiring. 

Repeat! 

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Will you buy acai and pomegranate, or will you buy VITALITY?

“Sell the sizzle, not the sausage.”

“Sell the benefits, not the features.”

There was a great post the other day on the Buffer blog titled “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.”

And it’s true. People buy stuff that makes them feel better, seem more clever, look more attractive and come across as more generous.

The post on Buffer shows some excellent examples, with one of the most well-known being Steve Jobs’ “1,000 songs in your pocket” vs “1GB storage on your MP3 player”. Nice.

An example of this that I’ve noticed recently is Swisse’s ‘Superfood Powder’ range that came out about six months ago. The products are called: Vitality, Digestion, Cleanse, Beauty, Relax and Immunity. In contrast to the neighbouring products on the supermarket shelves, a busy consumer who wants to be a better / more beautiful / cleaner / more energetic human will quickly see that (through clever naming and design) this line stands out because it immediately promotes the benefits, not the features.

Screenshot from Swisse website

Screenshot from Swisse website

Aside from raising questions as to how a product that lists cane sugar and fructose as two key ingredients can be also marketed as a “Superfood”, the fact remains that to a consumer, a product labelled ‘Relax’ is inherently more enticing than a product that is named after its key ingredients.

Similarly, ‘the benefit’ is why Evernote isn’t just an app that stores things that you might forget. It’s a way to Remember Everything.

It’s also why Campaign Monitor isn’t just an online tool that allows people to manage subscription databases and distribute e-communications to their client base. It’s a service for businesses to Send beautiful email newsletters.

What’s the last product or service you purchased? Do you remember why it spoke to you?

Listen to your consumers, present them with benefits, and make sure your product is great enough to keep its promise. 

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Top 5: TEDxSydney, make another person’s day, VW Golf advert, Le Creuset, Here is Today

The clear ‘Top 5’ highlight this week was TEDxSydney. It was a day of inspiration and ideas and I’m probably still a little high from it! Here’s this week’s Top 5 things I’ve enjoyed:

1) TEDxSydney
I was stoked to be accepted as part of the live audience for TEDxSydney 2013. The whole day was incredible – the speakers, the setup, the attendees, the food! I loved every part.
TEDxSydney name badge
Some of the best bits included:

  • The opening talk, by Ron McCallum, on ‘The Blind Reading Revolution.’ A must-watch.
  • Danny Kennedy on solar power.
  • A video about how crowdfarming was used to feed the attendees.
  • Lawyer Jennifer Robinson on ‘Courage is Contagious.’ She made everyone in the room want to become a human rights activist.
  • Tasty Video Bit by Saatchi & Saatchi: “The First Taste” – a slow-motion video of kids trying new foods.
  • The performance by beatbox extraordinaire Tom Thum was AMAZING! Here’s a video of him jamming backstage with John Butler and Jeff Lang.
  • Joost Bakker’s talk on sustainable and zero waste buildings was rad. He’s doing some awesome things. Check out his website.
  • This Tasty Video Bit by The Projects and Paper House Productions was adorable. Hank and the Pink Balloon.
  • Meeting a woman called Alison Covington at afternoon tea. Alison is bringing Good360 to Australia. It’s all about matching corporate “waste” with charitable need and I’ll be heading along to this event on the 5th of June to learn more.
  • Spending the day with some of the awesome crew that organises TEDxAuckland. Aucklanders, keep an eye out – the 2013 event is happening in a few months and I might just see you there!

2) Make another person’s day in unexpected ways
This post on LinkedIn by Jeff Haden made me smile. He highlights 6 great ways to make another person’s day. In summary:

  • Use your free time to do something nice for someone else, not because you’re expected to, but because you can
  • Compliment someone for something they did a long time ago
  • Point out when you’ve been referred, and who referred you
  • Compliment people for something they don’t expect
  • Notice when someone does something out of their norm
  • Let someone know that you see something in them that they don’t see yet – even if you can’t quite yet see it, either. Give them hope and show them you believe in them

Very happy dog
Oh, and there’s this really cute picture of a dog. ‘Nuff said. (Source)

3) VW: The new Golf advert

There are so many crap ads, so it’s nice when you come across one that can hold your attention. Anyone with a sibling can relate to the kid at 0:13, and I like the divorce proceedings at 0:27. The only thing that’s a bit silly here is how close to a cricket game the guy in the last scene has parked his beloved Golf, but I’ll let that slide. All in all, this is a solid advert.

4) Le Creuset store
Now in Sydney: Un petit bout de France! The beautiful cookware of Le Creuset is now in its own stand-alone store at 106 King St, near Pitt St Mall. I believe I’ll be spending a fair bit of time (and money) in there….

Le Creuset

5) Perspective: Here is Today 
This clever site is a nice reminder of the fact that we’re ultimately here for a fleeting moment. Click through to see how small one day in the grand scheme of things. Damn well, make it count.

Here is today

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What makes Vine so good, and will it last?

Twitter’s recently launched new app, Vine is the latest in ‘brevity sharing’. While Twitter’s micro-blogging service is restricted to 140 characters, Vine’s video platform is limited to six seconds of looping video. The video can be recorded in one hit or in several bursts to create stop-motion and animation short stories.

I prefer text. I’ve already made this confession on a previous post, ‘Why written content is not dead (but video is awesome)’. In it I stated that video is indeed awesome – there are fantastic films, ads and other breeds of moving pictures that educate, entertain, enlighten, inform and move us in ways that a page of words cannot, but I love a good page of cleverly compiled words. Sometimes, it’s patience that gets the best of me. Even a short (say, 3 minute) introductory video about a product or idea takes time to watch, whereas I can choose how long I scan a page of text for. There’s also the aspect of convenience and usability with video taking longer to load than a static page of copy.

So why do I really like Vine? Five main reasons:
1) It’s simple to use
2) It creates video, but at 6 seconds, an easily digestible amount of video
3) It’s shareable
4) It demands creativity
5) It has a huge amount of marketing potential

For those who haven’t seen what Vine does yet, here’s my first Vine creation:

Why Vine is so good

  • There is no editing or filter option – it’s raw and demands the talents of a storyteller, not just someone who can make things look pretty.
  • The interface is intuitive and simple to use.
  • The ‘Explore’ function is solid. Users can quickly search for other Vines under ‘Editor’s Picks’, ‘Popular Now’ and a selection of twelve hashtag categories including #cute, #pets, #travel, #remake, #food, #howto and #sports
  • Vine videos are immediately shareable on Vine, Twitter and Facebook as well as being easy to embed into blog posts. They can also be shared solely on Vine, Twitter or Facebook, or all at once.
  • Six seconds is ideal for short attention spans.
  • The potential for marketing and advertising is huge. Industries like travel, food & beverage, bars & restaurants, real estate, dating, beauty, film and theatre are naturally suited. Freelancers such as artists, photographers, musicians, music teachers, make-up artists, hairdressers and chefs will be able to get amazing messages across, too. With the constantly and increasingly rapidly changing landscape of advertising media, here is a tool that brands can use to share short, snappy messages with their consumers, for free. (For now).

But, will it last? What are the challenges?

Yes, Vine will last, but I don’t believe that it’ll be mainstream. It’ll be used effectively by certain industries and by creative minds, but there will be challenges.

  • It’s still very buggy. This needs to be sorted quickly to better secure an engaged set of users.
  • Lack of quality and creativity are threats to its usage – Vine will need to weed out all the crap and highlight the awesome videos.
  • The censoring of inappropriate content is a challenge. Porn has already posed as a problem to Vine, as it has with sexually explicit images on Instagram and text on Twitter.
  • Are hashtags enough? The ‘Explore’ categories are useful, but are they tailored enough to create a unique, relevant experience for the user? Not in my opinion.

Despite its challenges, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s produced with Vine…..the highlights of a destination, the before and after shots of a make-up artist in action, the freshly baked bread from a bakery, the ambience of a Surry Hills bar at 10pm on a Friday night….I want to see it all.

What are your thoughts on Vine’s potential? 

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Why written content is not dead (but video is awesome)

A few weeks ago I attended a Sydney Business Month presentation titled ‘Video Killed the Written Website’. It was run by Claire Stretch, Producer, and Brendon Stretch, Creative Director of Filmstretch. Claire and Brendon specialise in video production. Their presentation was very good and the insights they shared valuable. They shared great ads such as DollarShaveClub.com’s comical ‘Our Blades are F***ing Great’,

Nike’s compelling ‘Find Your Greatness’,

and the odd but attention-holding American DirectTV ad, ‘Don’t Have a Grandson with a Dog Collar’.

They showed us how the art of film has evolved over time, and just how much can be going on behind the scenes of films. Just check out the final scene of Hugo to get an idea:

By the end of the session we had an understanding of how much work is involved in all phases of video creation and digital post-production.

I’m not here to argue that video isn’t brilliant – when executed well. In an age of digital ADD, video is critical in engaging audiences. From advertisements to film, video educates, entertains, enlightens, informs and moves us in ways that a page of words cannot.

There are people (like me), however, who still enjoy reading a well-written article. Sometimes when I follow the link on a tweet I’m disappointed that I’m being taken to a video instead of a concise and smart piece of writing. I like the puns, the innuendo, the big words, the flow. I value the effort that has gone into creating a piece that makes me laugh, cry, learn, or just keeps me glued to the screen.

Sometimes, Internet services aren’t always fast enough for video. Also, not everyone has mastered the art of video, or has the budget to do it well. Great words coupled with relevant images or infographics can capture attention and inform adequately in many situations.

The crux: In many instances, video isn’t an option and many people still appreciate clever, entertaining and/or compelling written content that has been carefully crafted.

Yes – crappy written content is most certainly dead, but excellent, relevant, timely, useful written content is not.

 

Some pieces of writing that have held my attention lately:

This simple yet warming blog post about rice on The Patterned Plate

This recent post by a straight man about how he was ‘defriended’ over the wedding of his gay brother

Aleksandar Hemon’s gripping and devastating piece about his daughter’s plight with a brain tumour on The New Yorker

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Three excellent marketing campaigns from this week

Every day we see so many ads. Brands and ads are literally everywhere with us from when we wake up until when we fall asleep, and for many of us, brands, products and experiences even accompany us in our sleep.

As a marketer, I assess ads and promos for a number of qualities, such as:

  • Is this beautiful?
  • Is this powerful?
  • Is this effective?
  • Would this drive anyone to buy/investigate further/visit a website?

This past week I came across three very good campaigns that ticked the boxes.

1) The Smith Family’s interactive board in Pitt St Mall for the Winter Appeal 2012
It set out to attract foot traffic, and it did. A very clever way to engage and appeal to our emotional side. Kids are playing together, and then run toward you. The top of the billboard says, “Step towards the screen to join in.” When you do, the kids look up and run away together, leaving you by yourself. The explanation then comes: “It’s hard being left out. This is how over 600,000 disadvantaged Aussie kids feel every day. Donate to make a difference.”

2) Emirates’ guitar players at Pitt St Mall
The sound of seven or so synchronised Spanish guitars during your lunch break is appealing to say the least. These players drew a crowd and in the middle of a chilly day, really made you think how nice it would be in a balmy Spanish summer from next month, flying Emirates’ new services from Sydney to Barcelona or Lisbon, of course.

3) Australian War Memorial Canberra’s Martin Place tents
The sign reads, “Australians in the first World War. 330,000 men went to war. Just 3,000 nurses to offer aid”
It couldn’t have been a better day for it. With the air crisp and the skies drawn, the tents looked solemn and morose. What a way to make you stop and think. This experiential marketing campaign was there to promote the Australian War Memorial’s latest exhibition, called Nurses: from Zululand to Afghanistan

Have you seen any ads or campaigns that caught your eye recently?

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