I love this ad, for the recently relaunched Observer.

Brilliantly written & executed it demonstrates what Sunday papers are about. More specifically, it positions the Observer as the one that cuts the crap & tells it like it is.

Rather than showing a Sunday morning idyll featuring lots of lovely pots of coffee & crisp white bed linen, they’ve gone for a nice juxtaposition to make their point; demonstrating the contrast between the constant stream of news (and wanky buzz words) that we’re bombarded with and slowing down to take the time to reflect upon the week’s news.

In case you’re wondering, it’s by Wieden & Kennedy London

First & foremost I have to apologise to Damien for the tardiness of my post. Sorry Mulley! ūüėČ

At the end of January Damien gave a brilliant course in online PR to a group of people, from a range of professional backgrounds, but all with an interest in the subject at hand. The course ran from 10.30am to around 4pm and was full of really useful and above all, practial information about all things online PR.

The agenda for the day ran as follows:

  1. Basics of Online Comms
  2. Developing a Communications Bible
  3. Developing a Communications Philosophy
  4. Working with: Blogs, Forums, Twitter etc.
  5. Finding Tools ‚Äď Who is talking about you online?
  6. Crisis Communications

The course covered everything from the basics to more specific examples of how social media could/should be used. As there were people within the audience from a variety of points of view, everyone seemed to get something very different from the day.

From the basics, such as why consumers place a lot of trust in online messages, to the latest statistics for social media in Ireland, to how you should (and perhaps more pertinently, should not) approach bloggers, through to the importance of ensuring that you have a communications “philosophy” for your company and in a very timely way, how Online PR can be used in times of crisis management (timely because it meant that we all got to hear a very inciteful and first hand case study from Darragh Doyle about the preceeding week’s hack).

What really interested me above all else was the development and implementation of a “Communications Philosophy“, which Damien was a huge advocate (evangelist?) of.

So many brands are starting to sit up and take notice of this “new fangled internet thing” and are jumping on to the social media bandwagon, and in many cases they are doing it really well. A lot of companies and brands are still, justifiably, nervous. And some are plugging away at it, but still missing the central point – engagement. Ongoing engagement. Conversations.

Sure, it can be a bit of a minefield; after all, you’re putting somebody right in the firing line, dealing first hand with consumer feedback and bearing the responsibilty of managing this in a way that is acceptable to them, but fits in with your company’s/brand’s personality.¬†It’s clearly important to not only monitor what’s being said about your brand online, but also to respond when suitable. And to know when that time is and when it most definitely isn’t (advice on which was also covered).

But who do you give that role to? Should it be the sole responsibility of the marketing department? Do you outsource it to your PR agency? If you’re a small business you’re more than likely going to have to do it yourself, and do you have the time to be always “on”? Do you give it to your PA? (Don’t laugh, you’d be surprised how common this is, and it’s not necessarily wrong either). Or do you give it to the new graduate because he’s a bit tech savvy?¬†And where does it end?

Damien made a brilliant point, which although, not necessarily new news, is something that definitely gets forgotten more often than it should.


Conversations about your company or brand aren’t limited to the channels that you’re aware of and the conversations you already know about. What happens if a Facebook friend of your receptionist is slagging off your product and the afrorementioned receptionist steps in to defend you – he/she could make things a hundred times worse without the proper training.

Hence the need for a “Communications Philosophy” – ideally something clear, short, concise and ideally limited to one side of A4. With input from everyone across the company as well, to ensure integrity throughout and easier buy-in & understanding when implemented. A lot of large multi-national brands already have them, but I agree 100% with Damien; everyone should develop one. Yes, it’s going to be time consuming to set up perhaps, but the potential negatives are going to take a lot longer to mop up if you don’t. Just ask Vodafone.

So, in summary, I have to say that I was really impressed with the day overall. It’s the first time I’ve actually heard Damien wax lyrical about his “specialist subject”, (which now I read that, surprises me to realise it’s true) and needless to say, he really knows his onions. But more than that, what made the day so much more than “Online PR 101 & how you can create links to drive traffic” was Damien’s inimitable informal style and willingness to engage & participate with the delegates on the day along with a genuine request for feedback. Proving that he lives & breathes all the stuff he preaches, both online and in the real world *cue shock and sharp intakes of breath*.

At the end of the day that’s the real reason I would recommend the course – if you genuinely want to understand how PR works online and really integrate it with your offline communications, as you should, then there’s nobody better placed to tell you.

Just got sent an email with a link to this absolutely brilliant animation that has been put together for the Creative Circle.

A veritable “Where’s Wally” of iconic ads, with cameos from the Hovis delivery boy, the Guinness fish on a bike, the Cadbury’s eyebrow kids, the Hamlet man, the Sony Bravia rabbits and bouncing balls and many many more. How many do you recognise?

I have also just seen it over on Adland Suit‘s blog, which is well worth having a gander at if you get five minutes.

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of one “weapon” in the marketer’s arsenal it would undoubtedly be the continued use of flash mobs.

Initially flash mobs started a few years ago as a form of performance art, whereby large groups of people got together to perform a “unusual and pointless act for a brief time“. Needless to say these were more often than not very amusing and it’s obvious to see why brands would want to get involved in something similar. After all, nothing provides water-cooler chat more effectively than something a little out of the ordinary.

In an age when we’re all very cynical about brands and the messages that are being thrust upon us, to see a brand do something that has an air of altruism, can only be a good thing. Right?

Er, wrong. Well, wrong in the case of flash mobs anyway. Yes, we all know that some brands have done it well and with great success *cough T-Mobile cough*. But for every one that has, there must be 100 that are done excruciatingly badly. And the really good ones are an increasingly rare occurrence.

I thought I’d seen the worst of them when I saw this recent attempt by Dr Pepper. Earlier this month they gathered together a woefully under-rehearsed troupe of performers to sing a song amongst the traders at the NYSE. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end for all of the wrong reasons. It smacks of something the agency were forced to do because their client’s wife “came up with a really “jazzy” song and wouldn’t that be fun?”

Then, yesterday, came this effort from Dublin radio station 98FM. Cashing in on the current popularity of Glee, or at least trying to. A bunch of stage-school pupils performing a poorly choreographed routine (yawn), in the same location that all PR stunts are done (double yawn) and without anything resembling fun; just an air of smugness & showing off from the dancers (cue full on snooze). All over my Facebook & Twitter stream yesterday were people talking about how amazing it is. It is amazing though, amazing anyone pretends it was any good.

A quick aside: did anyone else notice the total fail that was the date on the opening captions too? Sigh.

Are we all really still supposed to stand around and look on with expressions of wonder and amusement when we see every single one of these? Not only are these examples of badly done flash mobs, but also, of the worst kind of laziness too, from client and agency alike.

So you want to do something that causes a real buzz and gets people talking about your brand? You want to bring a smile to people’s faces in the middle of a crappy day? You want to get people involved and genuinely do something with them at the heart of it? You want to do something that gets you some press coverage and goes “viral”* so that your brand/product’s name is the one on everyone’s lips?


Go for it.

But put some thought into it. And preparation. And imagination. Maybe even some budget. But more than any of that, at the very least, have a genuine idea at the heart of it: one that is borne out of genuine insight. Anything else is guaranteed to just look half-arsed and will quite rightly, make you a laughing stock.

And whatever it is that you do end up doing, please, I beg of you, please don’t let it be another tedious flash mob.

*And don’t even get me started on the misuse of the term, “viral”. Ugh!

“What do people who were once paid to be creative for a living do when they‚Äôre laid off? They get creative with their own lives. Lemonade is an inspirational film about 16 advertising professionals who lost their jobs and found their calling, encouraging people to listen to that little voice inside their head that asks, ‚ÄúWhat if?‚ÄĚ

All resources for Lemonade were donated. From cameras to lights to flights, this is a project by and for those who have been affected by unemployment.”

That’s the synopsis of the Lemonade film which is currently being shown in the US. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film ever since Mark tweeted about it a few months ago and have ordered a copy of the DVD, which is currently winging its way over the Atlantic.

If you work in advertising, marketing or PR (or know someone who does) then you’ll know that, even during the best of times, redundancy is fairly common to the industry, as accounts move from one agency to the next. Things being what they are at the moment, it has obviously been more prevalent than usual over the last 12 months or so.

Here’s a few things that have been said about the film:

“It reminded me that there’s a lot of heart in this business and that all the talent that drives our agencies is not to be taken lightly, or for granted, regardless of the economy. That talent will always find a place that welcomes and values their creativity.”

“Each story is unique. Each story is heart warming. Each story illustrates the fact there is life after the pink slip.”

Most of the screenings are “user generated” as there was zero budget for the film. It isn’t on general release and subsequently there are currently no plans to show it in Ireland (as far as I’m aware).

I think it would be great to arrange a screening or two over here and ,with that in mind, I have emailed the film makers to enquire about arranging a screening in Dublin. If there’s enough interest from people to watch it I’m more than happy to “find a white wall to project it on” somewhere in the city within the next few weeks.

If you are interested in coming to the screening please pre-register your interest in the comments section below. I’ll add your names to the list and keep you posted regarding dates, times & locations etc. Or if you know of any decent “white walls”, or even better, if you know of anyone that would perhaps be interested in sponsoring the screening, please feel free to let me know.

UPDATE: I’ve heard back from the film makers and they’re really keen to come to Ireland for a screening, or screenings. We’re currently looking at doing something in early March, and they will even give a talk after the film, about how & why it was made etc. As I mentioned before, I’m going to have to look into getting sponsors on board to make it happen, but I’ll keep you posted as soon as I have spoken to the guys in the US in more detail about what’s required etc. I think it’ll be a great night though and really interesting to hear the guys talk also. Oh and one more thing, tickets to see the film will be free & gratis!

(I’ve not forgotten the rest of the country by the way. If there’s enough interest I will also look into arranging screenings in other cities wherever possible too)

ANOTHER UPDATE: I’m waiting to hear back from the Lemonade guys, who have, frankly, gone AWOL on me. Probably very busy touring as they’ve, deservedly, had great feedback on the film. However, I do have a copy on DVD and am tempted to run a screening in Dublin anyway (as soon as I can get their OK). I’ve fired off yet another email to them, so will keep you posted ASAP.

Augmented Reality is one of the digital developments I’m most keen on keeping an eye on this year. The possibilities, as they say, seem almost endless.¬†From initially fairly basic uses of it, brands are starting to really get on board with it and I’m really interested to see the inventive ways that it could be used throughout the course of 2010.

Late last year we saw Esquire launch their AR cover in conjunction with the launch of the new Sherlock Holmes film, which we can all agree was pretty fab. Now new band Alberta Rock have used it on the cover of their¬†d√©but¬†album. Magazines & CD sales are both suffering as we’re getting our news, articles & music digitally, so it definitely makes sense to incentivise the purchase of hard copies, and if it’s done well then it’s only going to boost sales/readership both on and offline, surely.

Now some super clever folk (Teradadesign & Qosmo) over in Tokyo have gone and brought Augmented Reality into, er… reality by covering the N Building in QR code data, allowing store information to be captured in real time from street level.

There’s even an iPhone app to boot. Not available via the iTunes store, but on request from the developers, which is a bit of a faff. The app means that you can see what’s happening inside the building as well as real-time comments via Twitter.

I’d LOVE to see something like this in Dublin. We had Playhouse last Autumn, allowing people to design their own animation which could be displayed on Liberty Hall, along with interaction with Twitter, but this project really takes things to a whole new level.

I wonder which brand will take on the Augmented Reality challenge this year and wow us with something really innovative and spectaular. Fingers crossed we’re not waiting too long. I, for one, can’t wait!

(Hat tip to Brandflakes For Breakfast for bringing this to my attention)

I’ve noticed this new ad on TV the last week, for the Halifax (UK).

Now, I’ve had issues with their advertising for a while. They’ve been merrily splashing out HUGE amounts of money on overly produced ads of sub-standard creativity in my opinion. I have no issue with banks requiring ads & campaigns with high production values, and understand more than most the costs that come with them. But their singing bank staff campaigns became nothing short of ridiculous.

So now we’re in a new era. Money’s tighter than it’s been in a long while. Bankers have been proven to be the money-grabbing, soul-less humans we had long thought them to be and we’ve had to repeatedly bail them out.

With the dawn of this new era comes the new Halifax ad – wherein we see their staff high-fiving themselves and sending high-fives out to all their customers, whilst calling each other from inside wastepaper baskets & pretending to be in space! Basically being idiots.

Now, I’m not saying I want banking ads to be the sombre, characterless bunch of beige they were historically, however, if your bank has been RESCUED by the government in the middle of a massive economic black hole, I do expect there to be an air of responsibility to your communciations, yes.

And don’t get me started on the size of the actors used. Clearly those bonuses buy a lot of cream cakes ūüėČ

Today the guys who own the Polaroid brand, announced a “multi-year strategic partnership” with Lady Gaga which sees her take on the Creative Director role for a range of Polaroid Imaging products, bringing “one of the world‚Äôs most iconic brands with today‚Äôs fastest rising musical artist and cultural trend setter”.

Needless to say, Ms. Gaga was adequately gushing about the cash in her bank new venture. “The Haus of Gaga has been developing prototypes in the vein of fashion/technology/photography innovation–blending the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film with the digital era–and we are excited to collaborate on these ventures with the Polaroid brand. Lifestyle, music, art, fashion: I am so excited to extend myself behind the scenes as a designer, and to as my father puts it–finally, have a real job.”

It’s a fine partnership on the surface. She’s certainly creative and can grab a headline or two and there is no doubt a need for Polaroid to reinvent themselves in some way. The original product, although carrying with it a cachet of retro chic, has ceased production and subsequent product launches have died a death – anyone remember the Polaroid iZone (and accompanying stickers of tweens left all over the place)?

In recent years, as a brand, they’ve been very much on the back foot; seemingly always half a step behind the zeitgeist. Launching a sticker phone when the rest of the world is getting online & embracing digital for example. So, as partnerships go, yes, I can see the merit in this, to some degree.

However to launch a “multi-year strategic partnership” seems a little naive to me. Yes, she’s currently enjoying global fame at the moment, brought about by her apparent creativity, but in the 12 months since she’s crash landed onto the scene, she’s already showing signs of reigning it in – at least in terms of her own personal appearance. Less wig-wearing & dramatic make-up and more piano playing to show her underlying musical skill (hence we were ever to think that she’s a stylist’s puppet & not an artiste in her own right no).

Gaga 1.0 (image via starpulse.com)

Gaga 2.0 (image via telegraph.co.uk)

So where will we be in 2 or 3 years time from now? Will she revolutionize digital photo frames? (Or ideally kill them off) Or will she merely tart-up already existing technologies? Creative as she is, she’s not exactly done anything really¬†new so far.

So is this on the money right now? Absolutely. Will it be on the money in a couple of years? I’m sceptical. I can’t help but feel that as a brand, Polaroid, have somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.

Full press release is available here and video footage of the Vegas launch is here


Seriously. Well, kind of.


For a long time we’ve known that consumers are tuning out. Ever lived by a train line, or on a really busy road? At first the noise of the trains or the traffic is all you can hear, but soon enough you learn to screen out the noise & no longer notice it. The same can be said for marketing, in all its forms.

Then there’s the cynicism & lack of trust that, as consumers, we have for brands. And why should we trust them anyway? After all, brands & advertisers have treated us all like idiots since Don Draper was in short pants. Just as we’ve learned to screen out the noise, we’ve learned through experience not to take on board all advertising messages as truths.

In addition to this is the shift in how we’re all consuming media, and subsequently those marketing messages I keep harping on about. Hands up who’s got the TV on in the background, laptop on their knee & their mobile no more than an arm’s length away at present. *loses count of the hands*

And yes, I know that none of this is new news to you. However, it does mean that in many ways advertising* is dead; in it’s previous incarnations at least.

What we’re left with is new, constantly evolving, challenging & exciting. The experts of old are on the back foot. Smaller operations are “getting it” more quickly and more successfully. Amateurs are outdoing the professionals.¬†And it’s brilliant.

Advertising is dead. Long live advertising.