Communications, marketing and media don’t operate in a vacuum. They are part of the culture of our times.
It’s why we look back on old advertising with a sense of “days gone by” – after all good advertising and communications convey a story and context that goes far beyond the simple message.
So it is not surprising that in this time of COVID-19 crisis, that we are seeing new types, forms and approaches to communication. These new approaches are not necessarily one thing or the other – they are not WHOLLY advertising, nor wholly marketing or even “public communications” that we would recognise. They are hybrids.
One of the more interesting experiments that is evolving is futurist, Mark Pesce’s NEXT ONE HUNDRED SECONDS.
Each day, around 9am Australian Eastern Time, Mark releases a 100 second video clip looking into the near future and challenging his audience to think, act and share.
Themed to connect with Pesce’s award winning Next Billion Seconds podcast, this short, daily video release feels like a hack of platforms and styles. It’s a self-made Frankenstein’s monster combining the immediacy of Twitter, the reach of social media, the urgency of social media video, thematics of TikTok and the seriousness and authority of science podcasting.
No doubt, we’ll see more of this emerge in the coming months. More media. More platforms. And hopefully, more hope.
The idea of meritocracy – that innate talent and hard work are the drivers of success – is often promoted as the reason that we should turn away from diversity quotas. But political philosopher Michael Sandel provides a refreshing critique.
Living, as we do, in a time of rapid change. Of transformation and uncertainty. It can be difficult to see what our long term future holds.
You can see it in the words we use to describe our lives. These words are flat. Uninspired. Transactional. We have entire governments swept to power on the back of the laziest of phrases and political slogans masquerading as thought-through policy agendas.
But we have not arrived in this desolate landscape randomly. It is the end-result of a thousand micro choices that consolidate our misery.
It is as if we have abdicated our personal responsibility for imagination in favour of a strange wariness of close fears. Today, in Australia, it was announced that we now hold the record for economic growth without a recession. We have experienced 26 years without interruption to our prosperity. Twenty six years without a downturn.
We have a generation of people who have known only growth. There have been few labour strikes. Precious few public protests. This perceived prosperity has dulled our senses to our own personal agency. The storytellers who ignite our hearts and passions no longer tread the public boards of our most important debates – they pop up in our Facebook news feeds, talking at TED or singing on “Insert Your Country Here’s” Got Talent.
But this can change. The story is the trick. And if we do want to reclaim our sense of the future, then there’s much to learn from the careful crafting that goes into the stories of digital media’s emerging heroes. Just watch this clip from America’s Got Talent. Think about the one clear message. See how you are drawn in to this story. Understand how and why you respond to what you see and what you hear. And see how the foreground, backstory and framing create the conditions for you to take the story into your heart.
Then think about what you can do to change your sense of what is possible. You only need try.
So much advertising is bland, characterless, unimaginative. It makes me wonder how agencies are briefed and sometimes why. But it’s easy to live in a bubble and only see what you are directed to see. Some days you need to burst that bubble.
Is this ad, “The Game Changers” from the Department of Finance, the worst waste of taxpayer’s money or the most ingenious?
Clearly performed by members of the Australian Public Service and not by professional actors, the dialogue comes across as clunky and cliched. Creative Edge’s Dee Madigan calls the ad “hilariously bad”. But I wonder.
It has been revealed that the agency Together Creative has been paid $37,400 for marketing services over four years. That’s around $9000 per year. Let’s say half of that budget was used on this video aimed to recruit the next wave of graduates to the Finance Department.
With around 130,000 views on YouTube, the video has cost the department around 3c per view. And no doubt those views will continue to climb.
Sure, it may be difficult to watch as you wash your paleo pear and banana bread down with a perfectly balanced almond milk latte, but I can’t remember the last time anyone was talking about working at the Department of Finance. Or maybe that’s just me.
Public figures attract a lot of bile on social media. But there is a special kind of hatred that seems to be reserved for politicians – especially female politicians. The very public campaigning against Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will certainly be remembered for the dog whistling and sexism that passed for public debate. It marked a low point in political discourse – one from which we have scarcely recovered.
It certainly seems that many in the Australian population still struggle with successful women on the public stage.
So what is a politician to to? Resort to the broadcast media? Or create their own?
South Australian Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young has taken a leaf out of US Talk Show Host, Jimmy Kimmel’s book, and has started sharing some of the more colourful – and downright rude – messages that she receives via her YouTube channel. Introducing “Pleasantries with Sarah Hanson-Young”, the senator explains:
As a federal senator, I receive a lot of correspondence. Today, I am going to share with you some of the more heartwarming messages.
What I like about this forthright approach is that, where possible, Twitter identities are shared. It’s great to see some of this kind of “feedback” get the ridicule it deserves.
But even better than that, it’s great to see some of our politicians giving some creative thought to the way that they engage with the public. If only more of them actually engaged with technology they might not pass such ill-informed legislation as the Data Retention laws – and we’d all be better off for it.
At a recent event hosted by Livefyre, Neal Mann, digital strategist for News Corp Australia posed a challenging question – would you share the last piece of content that you created? Answering his own question, Neal revealed the single largest challenge facing Australian brands and marketers using content marketing as part of their strategy:
Most people don’t say yes. They don’t. Because they’ve not actually created [content] to engage an audience, they’ve created it to get it out the door … It’s worth highlighting engagement on Facebook and marketing. There’s a big difference between paying for engagement which is kind of the initial stages of what happened with social. Now, if you look at the US brands in particular that are notoriously in news, they’re creating content that’s cool.
The Pepsi Max test drive pranks, for example, saw widespread engagement, with some of the videos – like the one below – delivering over 40 million views (and counting). And the Pepsi YouTube channel has also grown as a branded media channel with over 729,000 subscribers.
But this kind of content is rarely being produced here in Australia. There is sill a focus on buying engagement rather than producing engaging content – material and media that are worth sharing.
The release of the Content Marketing Institute – ADMA benchmark report for 2015, seems to provide at least some of the answers to why this might be the case. Presenting the findings from over 250 Australian marketers, the report shows:
Content marketing effectiveness is lagging: Only 29% of marketers consider their companies effective at content marketing – though this extends to 44% where there is a documented content marketing strategy in place
Marketers need to commit and plan content marketing: Only 37% of the respondents indicated that they have documented content marketing strategies in place. A further 46% indicated that there is an undocumented strategy
A disconnect between demand generation and marketing: With 60% of marketers indicating that web traffic is a measure of success for content marketing, sales lead quality languishes at 29% with customer renewal rates at 19%.
Interestingly, the report also reveals that 63% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2015. And with this in mind there are some key activities that marketers can work immediately:
Develop and document a content marketing strategy: Unless a strategy is clear in the minds of the marketers, agencies and suppliers – as well as the business management – it’s almost impossible to track effectiveness. For assistance in developing your content marketing strategy, reach out to us here
Measure and innovate to improve effectiveness: Once you have a strategy, you need to stick to it. Simple frameworks and dashboards can help you measure what works, change what doesn’t and consistently improve over time
Commit to creating content worth sharing: Almost every business has employees who are also customers. If you can’t encourage your own employees to share your content with their friends, family and business networks, then you need to reassess your creative approach. It’s time to invest in creative rather than paid media.
As Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says:
There are two critical factors that differentiate effective content marketers over the rest of the pack – having a documented content marketing strategy and following it very closely. Those two things make all the difference.
And with budgets under scrutiny and competition fierce, it may be time to reach out for assistance. After all, isn’t it time that you started making content that you are proud of? You know it is.
There was a time where I wore a rather cynical hat when it came to awards. I’d look at the projects that won and the effort that would go into creating the award pitches and see holes, sub-standard work or missed opportunities. But with more experience on both client and agency sides, I am far more forgiving. And sometimes astounded or amazed at the work that does get done. After all, almost every piece of work that is seen in public has been pored over, compromised, championed and changed. It’s the rough and ready world of creative collaboration – and it’s harder than a dozen series of Mad Men would have you believe.
Which is why it’s important to celebrate the fact that great work is done and that there are scores of young marketers showing the leadership to make it happen.
Penny Richardson, Head of Customer Marketing, Foxtel.
The overall winners will be announced on Thursday, 30 October at ADMA’s Australian Creativity and Effectiveness Awards (AC&E Awards) at The Star, Pyrmont. The winning creative campaign will be rolled out nationally as a call to entry for the 2015 ADMA Young Marketer and Young Creative competitions.
I grew up in a different age. In the age of collections and artefacts. Where the dusty smell and the near transparent pages of old books seemed to corral the imaginations of every person who had ever read them.
On weekends, my friends and I would meet at the local Record Bar. We had befriended the owner, Ken, who would share his love of music and musicians. And stories. He’d worked in radio and had met touring musicians – some bands that we knew, and many we hadn’t. He had a glint in his eye and a spring in his step. And in a conservative, seaside town, he’d wickedly roll out some Birthday Party to open the store or subversively blast Culture Club across the empty courtyard pavers towards the shiny, sliding doors of K-Mart.
Ken would also introduce us to the music of his youth. There was plenty of 70s rock, some Country and even a little Western. His taste was wide and his interest knew no bounds. He was able to show us the path from his music to ours, connecting the dots, enriching our appreciation with his own. And creating a great conversation between generations.
And even as we fell, through our teenage years, into the darker, more gothic expressions of The Cure or The Smiths, Ken would find light and promise in every song. He celebrated the creativity and art in the music and helped my friends and I to see, hear and feel it too. He was faithful to the creative impulse that brought music to life.
For some time, we were slaves to the music charts … the flyers that would magically appear each Tuesday, setting out the Top 40 singles and Top 10 albums. We’d look for what we knew and what was coming. We’d order the latest and then wait for the single to arrive. Some kids, the cool kids, would pick up the UK music magazines and only buy “imports” or limited edition vinyl. It would arrive months later, way after the rest of the world had moved onto the next, next thing. But from where we sitting, those expensive, rare, imported records came laden with street cred and were well worth the wait.
When visiting with friends, I’d check their collections. What were they listening to? Did they have a limited edition? What about the flame yellow vinyl of U2’s Unforgettable Fire? Now that’d be brilliant. Maybe a limited edition, picture single – featuring the band on the vinyl. Or a special fold-out poster. More often than not, I’d just read about these rather than see them. Or touch them.
And it was this collectability that was as inspirational as the music itself. It somehow brought the music closer to us. We could own it. Take it with us. And even show it to our friends.
With every purchase, we were building not just social proof, but marking out the limits of our identities. We were using the music and lyrics to announce to the world the ME within that could not yet articulate itself. We were borrowing a word, a lyric, a feeling and owning it. And in many ways, these small collections somehow grew to tell the story of our adolescence.
These days, that feeling of ownership of the music feels long forgotten. But sometimes I hear something that reconnects me. And it’s not about the beat or even the lyric. It’s the soul. It’s the story. And it’s the connection with history and tradition. And then I can almost hear Ken explaining what to listen for and how to interpret it. And then I know I’m home. There in the music.
When I sold my last motorbike, I almost cried as its new owner rode into the cold, afternoon sun. Ever since I started riding as a teenager, I had dreamed of owning a Ducati – and here I was, many years on, relinquishing my much-loved Ducati Monster. But once you have owned one Ducati, it’s in your blood.
As a result, I am constantly on the look out for my next (future) bike. Now, this may never eventuate – but most men live under the constant and unyielding delusion that hope springs eternal, and that the old man staring at them in the mirror is some alien imposter. Old Spice got it right – in our mind’s eye, we all look like Isaiah Mustafa. And in my mind, Ducati is the bike that brings that imaginary world to life.
But the marketing of motorcycles is a relatively unadventurous sport. It largely revolves around the big philosophic binaries – sex and death. On the one hand, we know that motorcycling is dangerous, but the experience pushes us closer to the edge of some other form of being. It’s that futurist convergence of man and machine and all the libidinous energy that it can muster. It creates a gravitational pull that draws us in. And motorcycle advertisers play this for all it is worth.
The end result is that what was once James Dean-level thrilling, is now formulaic, with as little as three key narratives played out over and over across any and all brands:
The outlaw: you may be have an honest, humble day job, but the moment you throw your leg over your bike, you’ve left that world behind. It’s you, your bike and the open road. And the only thing between you and the future is the aura of danger that emanates from every pore
The master blaster: they say that speed kills, but that’s only for novices. What a bike needs is a master – a MotoGP pilot – and under your firm hand, it’s all under control
The rear view mirror: motorcycles were part of your youth. But there’s part of your soul that has never changed. And you can recapture that spirit of adventure – in a modern, more comfortable way. [Side note: I’m selling myself in on this narrative alone.]
The visuals for each of these narratives similarly run to a formula. Edgy typography. Short copy. Aggressive, angled photography laced with scantily clad women.
As a result, there is very little that catches my attention. Sure there may be different bikes, different angles – and even different girls. But we’ve seen it all before.
Or have we.
In support of the release of the new Ducati 1199 Panigale, Portland-based Ducati dealer, MotoCorsa decided to mix it up. They started out with the standard girl-on-a-bike. But then they followed it up with another series. This time, the model, Kylie Shea Lewallen, was gone. And in her place was a series of MotoCorsa workshop blokes, striking the same poses with the same great motorbikes.
Brilliant. Fun. And just check out the calves on the guy in heels. Check out the full photoshoot comparison at ashphaltandrubber.com – but be warned, there can be some things that cannot be unseen.