Tuesday September 18, 2012
Taking a stand in advertising
By M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR
Brave campaigns in spotlight at Spikes Asia
SINGAPORE: Brand managers should not be seduced by new technologies and networks instead of focusing first on the brand story, said Diageo Asia-Pacific chief marketing officer James Thompson.
“We can get seduced by the media and not the story.
“But the most important thing is to find out the most interesting story and then find the most interesting way of telling it,” he advised during a seminar at Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity yesterday.
The three-day Spikes Asia, which ends today, is a regional creative advertising and communications festival.
The Star is the festival's official and exclusive representative in Malaysia.
Besides being confused by technologies and networks, Thompson said, marketers also got confused by which stories to tell about their brands.
“Most brands have got lots of stories.
“And most brand managers try to tell so many stories at once that there's no clarity (in the communication),” he said.
Thompson, whose company is one of the world's leading premium drinks companies, said one of the first questions that Diageo asked now when creative work was presented to it was: “Is it authentic?”
“That is the question we ask before we ask whether people like it.
“Quite often, I am more than prepared to run work that I know some people won't like,” he said.
As an example, he cited a Johnnie Walker brand campaign that Diageo ran in China last year which used 12 documentary-style films on subjects like setting up an orphanage for children with HIV and AIDS.
A lot of the work in China was controversial and people didn't like it, he said.
“Brands that are going to be respected as well as loved, tell stories which are authentic and real as well as entertaining.
“Taking a point of view in the world and being true to yourself is the starting point of stories, even in marketing,” he said.
Acclaimed writer and director Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Happiness”), another panellist during the same session, said the audience he had to please first and foremost was himself.
“In some sense, it even applies to a successful advertising campaign.
“You have to fall in love with the story that you're telling and the point of view that you have conveyed.
“If you don't fully engage on that level, I don't think it will be fully convincing or successful for others,” he said.
Later, a session on “Creating Change - How Brave Are You?” discussed courage in effecting social change.
Jose Miguel Sokoloff, Lowe's global creative council president, recounted a multi-award-winning marketing campaign done by his agency to demobilise one of the world's oldest guerrilla groups - those in the Colombian jungle.
This led to Operation Christmas in December 2010, whereby Colombian soldiers decorated a 25-metre tree in the jungle with 2,000 Christmas lights. Via motion sensor, the lights were turned on when someone walked by.
A banner on the tree said: “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you too can come home. Demobilize.
“At Christmas, everything is possible.”
Later more trees were decorated.
The campaign helped to boost the number of guerrillas demobilising by some 30% year-on-year.
“When we started doing this work, which we did very openly, there was a danger of getting a bomb put at our agency or something; but that never happened and we never contemplated that,” Sokoloff said.
The campaign did, however, become in a way a victim of its own success. Reintegrating the thousands of ex-guerrillas into regular society was difficult; employers were reluctant to hire them as they had no academic qualifications and there was a stigma attached.
Hence Lowe came up with a follow-up strategy by launching a fashion label called Chance by Colombia, which employs ex-guerrillas in positions like designer.
Sokoloff said Lowe was utilising its various skills to make the brand a success. “If this brand is successful - and I think it will be - it will give a lot of work for a lot of these former guerrillas,” he said.
Sokoloff said there were always good causes knocking on agency's doors.
“Sometimes you do it (work for the causes) because it's an opportunity to get a (creative) award and sometimes you do it because you believe in it.
“It'll be really great if you do it both because you believe in it and it's an opportunity to get an award.
“That's a perfect world.”