On breaking through – without monkeys

From recent high profile North American campaigns we can ascertain that consumers like chimps, a lot, and that basketball and nudity are also good attention-grabbers. There was even a naked basketball spot (sans chimp), 'Coverage' for Yard Fitness (see it at Boards' screening room, www.boardsmag.com/screeningroom).

From recent high profile North American campaigns we can ascertain that consumers like chimps, a lot, and that basketball and nudity are also good attention-grabbers. There was even a naked basketball spot (sans chimp), ‘Coverage’ for Yard Fitness (see it at Boards’ screening room, www.boardsmag.com/screeningroom).

Beyond a preponderance for all things simian and skin-related, it seems the odds are quite good for reaching the consumer via the coattails of pre-existing entertainment tie-ins. Consequently, agencies are upping their connections in these areas. From the pursuit of talent agency ownership stakes to increased action on the needle-drop scoring front, it’s a fairly concerted effort.

There is still a lot of advertising overtly relying on celebrity, such as Cover Girl’s Queen Latifah and Faith Hill, or any of those minor celebrities which often need naming, a la Gap, but increasingly the desire is to fly below the radar screens masquerading as content.

In light of these trends, a fairly significant part of Omnicom’s OMD USA restructuring (beyond the obviously desirable plan to add all media planning to its buying op), is the hatching of OMD Concepts, a cross-platform marketing/content development entity, dealing directly with the major media congloms via ‘relationship managers.’

Kay for them. But as mega-alliances with US$8 billion in buying power belly up to the bar, orchestrating multimedia miracle-of-synergy ad-stravaganzas gets a little harder. And yes, that is American dealios, but then again, we lie squarely in the footprint of their target partners: AOL Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, News Corp. et tout le gang. Depending on one’s satellite status, some a little more directly than others.

Branded content, the topic of an upcoming Strategy conference and special report, is increasingly seen as a sure bet breakthrough strategy. The consumer is exposed to about 1,800 ads a day in North America, so no wonder more elaborate lengths are required to create a lasting impression.

What else is working?

* According to our Olympic sponsorship-rating panel this issue, Roots managed to not only break through, but dominate the winter games (see page 29) from a marketing mileage perspective. The endless podium exposure in a non-ad setting is a good example for one of those ‘priceless’ spots for MasterCard.

* According to Left Field Marketing columnist Jeff Spriet (see page 27), in fashion advertising only Diesel and Kenneth Cole are breaking through, as Absolut did in the bottle category, by bucking the product/lifestyle trend.

* According to the Crystal Awards jury deliberating best of show among agency-produced radio spots in Canada, Beer.com’s ‘Cloning’ spot out of Downtown Partners and produced by Pirate Radio & Television, broke through the yelling on the client side with the prospect of headless beer-fetching drones, while KISS 92′s ’416/905′ hip hop parody broke through on the in-house front.

* According to promo guru Jim Stokoe in his keynote prior to the Radio Marketing Bureau’s March 1 Crystals show in Toronto, emotion and focus break through (with sex, fear, hunger and humor topping the list). Stokoe is from The Loft, based in London, Eng., which helps clients understand what works in advertising by employing insights gleaned from psychology. The very passionate and wired Stokoe, who sprinkled his podium performance with song and dance bits, says the psychological triggers for men are power and status, while women want relationships and co-operation. For advertising purposes this translates to ‘be directional’ for reaching men, who, incidentally, make their decision to switch a channel in 35 milliseconds. Thus explaining the appeal and brilliance of beer-fetching drones.

Nuggets from the Psycho Candy keynote include: a successful spot depends on 63% to 65% of the sound being correct – a quarter second difference in a music mix makes a 70% difference in effectiveness; and that stations with bad ads in high rotation are killing themselves.

So specific, yet so random. So many elements to consider, and typically so little time to get it perfect. And, increasingly, it has to be all that – and more – to break through.

For a brand manager, the grail has become Roots-caliber product profile, beer-caliber creativity, inspired use of media and a strategy that enables breakthrough communication in a way that’s authentic for the brand. Even if it involves another new wipe.

Perhaps the only tougher brief is reviving an agency brand. Imagine the challenge of aligning all the creative ducks (and getting client buy-in) to produce enough breakthrough work to merit the coveted ‘hot shop’ sobriquet. Yikes.

Kudos to those cited in the cover story for fostering creativity, and for all the others out there embarked on the same journey.


Mary Maddever