Help! I'm In The Window

Help i can't sleep

Help Remedies is a start up championing what I think of as friendly pharma.
They bring a conversational directness to painkillers and that, reminiscent of Innocent Drinks in the UK, but with a style all of their own.

They are there to help if you have a minor cut or headache, and strip out all the scary stuff from their products, which is nice and their new website is equally simple and charming.

They've just got distribution at Ricky's Stores in New York.

As a small brand just starting out in the world, without a corporate parent to pay for her coming out party or buy her shelf space, they had to think about how to earn the attention they couldn't afford to buy.

This meant creating installations in each of the Ricky's stores. Because they don't have budgets to play with, this meant doing it themselves ['Ironically', some of the Help dudes hurt themselves installing the windows].

The installations are charming and fun, highlighting specific products in creative ways - and very very different in tone and strategy than anything you would expect from a traditional healthcare company.

One of the things I particularly like is the portfolio approach they have taken to maximize the chances of spread.

As I've mentioned before, there is simply no way to predict what will spread, which is why record labels and movie studios work to a hit investment model where 9 out of 10 films will flop, but one will make enough to cover the rest and turn and profit.

As I've also mentioned before, this seems like a very sensible model for brand advertisers to consider.

Make ten things and see which one spreads.

And this is exactly what they've done.

They have 9 radically different installations: a man walking on a treadmill in high heels to promote 'Help I have a blister' at Ricky's in Soho; a political comment about universal healthcare on 8th St; a live sleeping demonstration on 13th to promote 'Help I can't sleep'.

Lovely stuff.

I can only hope their next move is to release an unofficial mashup of The Beatles' 'Help!' and The Black Crowes 'Remedy'.

Augmented Content

Emily sent me this Klickable Jay-Z video for the death of auto tune.

He's on top form and auto tune has suffered -  being [over] exposed via Wired expose.

I dig the idea of augmented content - adding in layers of data into texts, either via the old fashioned methods of allusion and additive compression, or though meta data.

But I have an ongoing battle about the use of the word 'TV'.

[ I realise that Klickable.TV aren't about this, but allow me to digress].

As an industry we tend to still conflate delivery platform with content: tv, radio, print.

As I pointed out in my Fastcompany piece - film is not the same thing as TV.

And the language we use is important because it frames how we think about stuff.

If we say TV, the set of associations in our head makes us think in 30 second fragments of forced exposure selling.

If we say film, well, those parameters are not enforced. In fact, the implication is that film is NOT forced exposure, and so the criteria with which we judge such are different, for we must earn the attention we previously bought.

Customer Service is Marketing

This video I just snatched off the tweetsteam like a Pooh Stick encapsulates a couple of things I've been thinking about of late.

This dude had his guitar damaged in handling on United. Shame.

These things happen though [I've never had the nerve to take a guitar on a flight], and, ultimately, I think he would have been cool with it if a United Representative had accepted blame [they appear to have accepted that it happened, but passed the buck endlessly around the system.]

This is what really, really, really gets me hot under the collar.

Customer service representatives that won't give you a name or way to contact them back directly, that bounce you around the system, leave you on hold, and finally drop the call when you become too irritating - and there's NOTHING YOU CAN DO.

Each individual wants an easy life, working in a call centre or late night customer service desk for minimum wage desk doesn't tend you make you especially invested in the BRAND, so you palm them off, get rid off them, drop the call.

In fact, most call centers bonus you on volume of calls handled - so it's actually going to cost you money to keep talking to this person with a problem you simply haven't been empowered to solve.

One of the the things that social media is driving is the breakdown of the corporate firewall.

Tony from Zappos tweeted recently:

If you don't trust your employees to tweet freely, it's an employee or leadership issue, not an employee Twitter policy issue.

Whilst this is a nice thought, it's a lot easier to be open like this if you are small and act that way from the start.

Big corporations have structures and legal departments and lots of other inertia that makes this harder.

But there is a huge opportunity here.

Until recently, these complaints were locked into an individual's sphere of influence, which was limited until social media gave everyone a voice.

Additionally, social media is, usually, overheard, as I mention in the cultural latency piece.

So there are two directions this can go in.

1. Keep acting like one person doesn't make a difference and see how much time, effort and creativity that one person will deploy to get his frustration out in to the world [as above] and see how receptive the world is to such messaging because we have all experience the same [as in this post and the tweets that sent it my way]

2. Decide Customer Service the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO, because the only route to profit is MAKING CUSTOMERS HAPPY and do it in PUBLIC, reach out to people, don't put the onus on the individual to battle through the firewall, constantly monitor the social web for people who are unsatisfied with the product or service you sell and MAKE THEM HAPPY.

Then, customer service becomes marketing, and every person you make happy will sing your praises across the web.

[UPDATE: United have responded. One of my mentors, Nick Kendall [Global Head of Strategy for BBH], once told me that one of the things he loved most about brands were that they were accountable. You could always track back from the trustmark to the company and demand satisfaction. Now, in a world when an individual's voice can be as loud as a brand's, they are more accountable than ever.]

This deck I just saw from the Global Director of Digital Strategy touches on some of the same thoughts.

This Post is Not For Economist Readers

Since Scamp has retired his blog [farewell my friend the sphere shall miss you] I feel oddly obliged to post this new Economist advertisement that I just got sent.

First of all, a little history {Sorry I can't help it}.

The Economist ran, for 15 odd years I think, one of the greatest outdoor campaigns of all time. Sprung from the mind of David Abbot [the A in AMV/BBDO] it ran at a light to medium weight, for 2 2week bursts, every year.

And everyone remembers them. Because they were brilliant. Really, truly, brilliant. They were based on the insight that Economist readers tend to skew smart. So they were smart.  They targeted existing readers and were simple white out of red lines.

This is one of the most famous:

Never read

My favourite one, which I can't find, read something like

"Most people can't read more than 6 words on a poster when passing by. Fortunately, this poster is for readers of The Economist"

Anyway, it was one of the great poster campaigns - someone even wrote about a book about it [that's right - a whole book about one single medium campaign] - called Well Written and Red [a line from one of the posters].

So this is the new campaign for The Economist - but they have decided to focus on people who DON'T read it at the moment, because generally people have got smarter in the last 20 years.

The tight rope dude is cool -

{I secretly want to run away and join the circus - like John Major. My brother got me trapeze lessons for my birthday - awesomeness}

- here's what they say about him:

This ad uses the image of a wire-jumper (Florent Blondeau) walking through a city on a series of red wires and the strapline “Let your mind wander” as a metaphor for the inherent pleasure in connecting different ideas, and how this is reflected in the wide-range news and analysis available in a copy of The Economist.

As I may have pointed out before, I'm a big fan of connecting different things together.

The ad will eventually be up on the Economist Youtube channel - the link above will self destruct at midnight tonight.

Let me know what you think - it obviously has a lot to live up to - I can't wait to see the posters.

Bring People Together and Give them Something To Do

There is a line from Henry Jenkins' response to my transmedia planning post that I use in nearly all of my presentations.

[Mark uses it too, which makes sense.]

You can see it as a slide in Be Nice or Leave.

It goes like this:

The key is to produce something that both pulls people together and gives them something to do.

I think this is probably the key to unlocking the awesome, and the biggest win for any kind of brand related action.

We are social creatures - I'm sure you all agree - but we need reasons to be social.

I suspect this is why we have sports and religions - we need to have reasons to congregate, and something to do when we all get there.

The true function of such things is almost certainly phatic and cultural and that.

This T-Mobile spot [which goes live today] from Saatchi London could have used the line as the proposition in their brief - and it seems to have turned out beautifully.

Advertising as Distributed Content Sampling


My mate Vik put me on to this site 5Min that is tackling promotion in a similar way to Google's Content Network: by using the web as the distributed platform it is.

As I said then, Google was turning the network model on its head by aggregating lots of eyeballs from across the web into a single distribution platform for video - pumping content into the world, not driving traffic to the content.

Similarly, 5Min syndicate their content to lots of other sites via contextually relevant placements.

As a video how-to site it sits among a number of destination competitors that are pretty well established, and so it's taking the mountain to Mohammad, so to speak, by adding in useful video content into niche vertical sites.

The web is distributed, and all content should equally be distributed, embeddable, spreadble and so on.

This is, in fact, how I've been thinking about advertising in general recently. I think it started with a conversation with a lovely dude from Federated Media.

We were talking about doing awesome things online and I snorted derisively about banners and that, because I am a sophisticated digital type person and know about banner blindness and 0.0000001 click through rates and that everyone hates them and so on.

And Chas from Federated said, well, yes, banners and that are annoying - but I have no problem with content that happens to come in a 336 x 280 pixel LREC.

And I thought, that's interesting isn't it.

A lot of what I've been talking about recently has been about re-thinking how we use media.

Since brands can have direct relationships in digital places, it seemed to make sense to focus on making awesome things people want to spend time with because they are interesting and useful and that and then using paid for media to invite people to let people know about it.

In fact, I was thinking we shouldn't create advertising, we should create content, and export that content into the world via bought media so people could sample it without having to come straight to us, and if they liked it maybe they would come and play with us and we could earn their attention, instead of buying it repeatedly, from there on in.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Down the Rabbit Hole

Rabbit hole 

[From here]

Last night I went down the rabbit hole.

Rabbit holes are what the entry points into ARGs are called [although the urban dictionary has some other, more colourful definitions] - a reference to Alice following the white rabbit into wonderland.

But I wasn't playing an ARG, at least not in the traditional sense - I was buying a t-shirt.

The Urban Rabbit Hole project took some of the tropes of ARGs and built them into a product - in fact they built a lot of marketing into the product itself:

Gaming behaviours and manufactured exclusivity: in order to buy the t-shirt you had to find an invitation code and enter it on the website.

Personalisation: The idea for the t-shirt is that you paint five red dots on a map of Manhattan, all of which represent some important place for you. 

Geotility: OK it's not really geotility exactly but an obsession with location, and specifically our own locations as shown by a dot on a map, is an inevitable consequence of GPS enabled handsets.

Create experiences and curate social spaces
: To buy the t-shirt you had to attend an event. It was theatrical - people in costumes hand you tubes of absinthe, you meet a bunch of people and then get drunk together with red paint. During the course of the event someone hands you a key and a note with clues on how to find the afterparty. 

[Somehow paint got on my face. And other people's faces. This was FUN.]

Create a story around your product: the whole thing becomes a story, itself an aggregation of other people's personal stories, which are being compiled into an anthology.

Stories tell themselves, people like to narrate, so they get passed on.

Like this.

Most of what I love about the t-shirt I bought is not, in fact, the t-shirt.

The product is primarily a souvenir: an invitation to others to tell a story.

The product is decompiled into a process.

Regressive Expressions (or Please Don't Use Twitter like a Billboard)


[From the always awesome XKCD]

One of the first things that happens when a new medium emerges is a form of communication transpostion - taking a model from a different platform and applying it to the new one.

When television first came online [excuse the garbled metaphor] programs consisted of people talking directly to camera - or radio on the television.

[This is different to Nokia's visual radio. Or maybe it's not. It's hard to know what visual radio is supposed to be.]

This is because new media allow new ways of communicating and we don't understand what they are to begin with.

I was talking about this with Noah at the Boards Summit.

The interesting thing about Twitter isn't necessarily what the inventors thought it would be.

It's not a microblogging platform - it's a microbroadcast platform.

The status updates give you a way to have conversations among a few hundred people in real time - something that simply wasn't possible before.

We are finding ways to actively communicate with larger social groups - technology is pushing up Dunbar's number, suggesting it may have been a practical, not cognitive limit.

Or that it can't account for the different kinds of relationships facilitated by social media and that.

Or something.

And that's really interesting.

[Brands are obsessed about having relationships with consumers. Ignoring that fact that very people want {or think they want} relationships with brands, they are never very clear about what kind of relationship they want.

Lover? Brother? Mother? Friend? Partner? Confidant? Adviser? Servant? Guest? Acquaintance? Nemesis? Mentor? Pal? Crony? Partner? Sidekick?]

The fact that you can microbroadcast phatic affection enables the formation of larger number of weak social ties. Or something.

It's difficult to know the right way to use emerging things. They are too visible, too new.

They are perhaps allowing the formation of new kinds of relationships: thinner relationships with people who we like and who like the stuff we like, who we want to keep up with but don't necessarily want to see very often or actively interact except maybe once in a while when we know they could help us out and vice versa because they are awesome at something we can't do and vice versa.

Which actually sounds like the kind of relationship I'd consider having with a brand.

But we probably shouldn't treat them as new billboard inventory.

Touch Yourself More

120 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day in the UK. One of the biggest problems is that people don't check themselves regularly - early diagnosis greatly increases your chances of being cured.

So Cancer Research have launched a new campaign to encourage women to touch themselves more, using a male stand in.

I think they missed a trick here.

If you want to increase manual mammograms you need only to tap into existing behaviour - hinted at in the video - by encouraging men to perform the checks.

Sarah Silverman explains:

When you take a shower with a guy, it's a proven fact that by the time you get out, your tits will be sparkling clean.

But adding in a little humour to sweeten a serious message is usually a good idea if you want people to pay attention and not cognitively disengage out of fear.