We spend most of our time selling other people’s products to other people’s audiences with other people’s money. So it feels particularly good when we apply our creativity, tools, skills, resources and connections to do something more meaningful than hawking a few more cans of beer or moving some cars off the lot.
Such was the case earlier this week when I got my first glimpse of 12daysofrelief, a Mullen project designed to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims struggling to rebuild their lives. On a simple website you can see and hear their stories conveyed in an emotional version of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas where each verse ends with “what I really need is _________.” I’ll be stunned if you’re not inclined to make a donation.
On the first day of Christmas here’s what I really need, a house where my house used to be.
The project was initiated by a few employees, pitched to management (who quickly approved it), then quickly put into motion. Hungry Man and director Dave Laden donated services. Mullen contributed time and money. And a host of other suppliers jumped on board the project.
As projects like this should go, it was lightning fast. A team traveled to Rockaway, Queens, NY and Seaside Heights, New Jersey, identified victims on location, and captured them on film as they shared their stories and needs, everything from clean socks, to customers, housing and missing loved ones. Six days later the site is live and nearly $20,000 has been raised.
There are so many reasons we should pursue projects like this. Some are obvious. We can make a difference in people’s lives. Help solve unsolvable problems. Call attention to social ills and worthy causes.
But there are other reasons equally compelling. Projects like this make us a better industry in which to work. They attract employees with a conscious. They create a shared purpose within a company. And they remind our clients that there are benefits to “Conscious Capitalism.”
Recently we’ve seen plenty of good examples from companies within our industry, from the industry itself, and from advertisers. Made by Many’s 50/50 project raised money for African famine relief. Leo Burnett’s Recipeace supported the UN’s global self–sustaining annual day of peace and as a result took home D&AD’s White Pencil.
And just this morning Panera added to its not-for-profit cafes with the announcement of a Boston restaurant that asks patrons to pay only what they can afford, hoping to raise awareness for “food insecurity.”
Have any good examples? Please share. Thanks for reading and may you find a worthy cause to support this holiday season.
This is a call for entries so to speak. I write this post to ask if you want to share a brief or an assignment for a senior/grad student class that I teach at Boston University. Should you be selected, we/I would gladly sign a non-disclosure (if needed) and would share work with you when we’re done. It could be for an existing client or project or something you wanted to do in past but never got to pursue.
The class is called Strategic Creative Development and it’s a course that puts as much emphasis on strategic creativity as on the work; better yet it tries to blur the lines between the two as much as possible. Students are future strategists, creative, UX professionals and pretty T-shaped. Or at least they are by the end of the semester.
Ideally I would like relevant, real-world assignments that challenge students to create a full-blown brand experience that includes positioning, digital utility, social media, UX and some form of advertising across the spectrum of brand/consumer interaction. I typically give students three weeks, working in teams of five, to develop something comprehensive.
For example, this year I am thinking.
Create an entire campaign to re-launch the VW microbus: craft a positioning; develop a connection strategy, preferably sans traditional advertising; re-invent the dealership experience; conceive a basic website; invent a mobile app/utility; and come up with buzz-generating social launch event.
Re-invent the entire check in experience at a major hotel TBD: consider everything from the confirmation email; to an original app that lets users customize their experience; the physical space they encounter upon arrival; the greeting issued by welcoming staff; materials handed out at check-in; the elevator interior and experience; even the contents of the room.
Develop an all online bank: name it; conceive basic products; write a strategy for acquiring customers; create incentives to leverage the user base in attracting new customers; explore ways to use mobile; determine the role of paid advertising; consider how to earn attention via social media; and create alternative or hacked-media executions to generate awareness.
Obviously in a class like this we will spend less time on specific skills, i.e. writing, design, wire-frames, video editing, etc. and more on campaign development. Don’t worry, Sanam Petrie, there are other classes that emphasize the basics. The purpose here is to get students to understand that advertising today covers a lot more than print, TV, online interactions and social media posting and instead is about how you connect and engage on a user’s terms, build behaviors and user experiences that inspire loyalty, and do things worthy of being advertised.
Let me know if you, your agency or your brand has an inspiring assignment.
I don’t usually respond to articles in the trades, nor do I get into ranting, but I must say that Mr. Al Ries’s latest Ad Age column offers some pretty weak arguments in favor of hard sell vs soft sell.
For starters he confuses taglines with marketing. Taglines are simply expressions of a brand’s behaviors and beliefs. Ideally they sum up everything a company does and makes with a line that describes the product (The Ultimate Driving Machine), promises an outcome (Red Bull gives you wings), shares a compelling belief system (Real Beauty) or offers encouragement (Just do it.). But if the brands mentioned above prove anything, it’s that a brand’s behavior – products, service, accessibility, and inclusiveness – not its tagline that really matters.
Secondly, in an attempt to support his argument, he completely distorts one of the most brilliantly crafted marketing efforts of the last 20 years. Apple’s Think Different campaign. Ries argues the campaign was an utter failure, claiming its emotional appeal offered little motivation to buy products compared to A thousand songs in your pocket, the line that launched iPod five years later.
What Ries neglects to mention, of course, is that Steve Jobs launched Think Different right after returning to a company whose diminished stock price, demoralized work force, sorry product offerings and empty pipeline didn’t leave very many options.
But Apple did have a loyal community of believers who wanted the company to succeed. And Think Different gave them hope. The campaign was never designed to sell products. It was created to inspire the base, the market and the company’s employees. Which, of course, it did. When iPod emerged, it came from a company that once again stood for something worth believing in. One could probably argue that Think Different inspired the likes of iPod in the first place.
We live in an age when consumers are more media savvy than ever. They know when they’re being sold to. And they choose to consumer a company’s advertising just as they decide whether or not to buy its products.
The argument we should be having isn’t whether a tagline is emotional or feature driven. It’s whether or not a brand has a vision, the determination and resources to make products that deliver on that vision, and an advertising campaign that inspires people to take notice, play a role and care.
Sorry Al, but someone had to call you out.