Easy PC

Last night I watched some actual television, with the commercial breaks and everything.

So I saw the new Microsoft ads from CP&B about 14 times over the course of a couple of hours.

[Ad frequency in the USA is truly staggering.]

I had the weirdest experience: I could feel my feelings towards Microsoft changing, subtly, each time the commercial shamelessly, blatantly, tugged at my heart strings. I felt, perceptibly, that I liked PCs a little more.

I thought about my Sony Windows laptop, lying neglected, forlorn, in the other room and felt perhaps I should boot it up.

My brain began to reverse engineer my previous memories, eroding the evil empire positioning, re-positioning it as one of a number of perceptions, distancing it from being my belief.

This was an odd feeling.

Each time the ad washed over me I felt a little more part of a PC world, one that I have only recently in fact moved away from.

I started to feel connected to that girl with glasses and that guy who sells fish and the dude with the beard and Bill and Pharrell.

[Not Deepak Chopra though - his fusion of Indian mysticism and garbled expressions from quantum mechanics peddled as healing and self help gets my goat.]

And each time I became more aware of the sensation itself at a different level, at a stage removed as I wondered how this was working and considered the strategy sitting behind it.

[Speaking of misappropriating Indian mysticism] This reminded me of an Indian meditation concept called Vipassana. It's a meditation that allows you be aware of what you experiencing, an awareness of the experience one stage removed, via introspection and that.

I had that, but with ads.

As Eric points out, the campaign is inclusive - most people are part of the PC world already. They just need a little something to let them feel proud about it.

I even liked the Seinfeld ones.

Part of what CP&B are so good at is changing, or re-framing, the conversation around the brand.

D&AD 2046

World Survives

A long time ago I had to do some creative writing for the IPA Diploma thing.

I had pretty much forgotten about it, but a comment Nick left on the a previous post reminded me of it.

So I thought I'd post it.

It's about the future of the industry and that. I'm pretty bullish on things being awesome. In fact, one of the things I made up has already happened.

[This is way, way beyond the impact horizon. But it is fun.]


The best creative work in the world is being celebrated as the results from the first round of judging of the D&AD Global Awards are released on the Grid.

This year 895 entries from the 6,405,000 received from 75 nations will be included in The D&AD Annual Show 2046, being held predominantly in a bespoke virtual space, with Grid-linked dinner ceremonies at 12 key hubs.

Since the turn of the century the awards have gone from strength to strength as the categories for inclusion have been forced wider and wider by prevailing cultural currents.

The content explosion of 2010s, when the launch of the Apple iCreator series of workstations entirely democratised the means of content production, enabling anyone with an idea to easily produce professional quality expressions of it, triggered a creative arms race between consumers and advertisers.

Awash in an ocean of free non-commercial content, consumers continued to screen out interruptive advertising, threatening the media supply business model in the process.

Brand communicators began to explore new areas of content enhancement; ploughing trillions into technology and neuroscience R&D, they began to offer consumers value-added experiences they couldn’t get from the Mymedia producers.

This year’s nominees, vying for the rarely bestowed Iridium Pencil, demonstrate the array of creativity now employed to sell products. The most nominated work is the global phenomenon Love, the immersive brand experience crafted by dotinfinity for Coca-Cola.

This psycho-sexual role playing game uses non-invasive electrical stimulation to generate primary emotional and pleasure responses in the users, known as Lovers, who maintain that the sensations in the game are as potent as anything experienced in real relationships.

The first feature film designed and produced in entirety as advertising has also been nominated. The film, Nike’s Just Do It, features the ever youthful Metaman alongside avatar actors created by W&K for the movie.

This year’s surprise design hit is the Sony Connected Identity LCD skin print. Every wearer is Grid-linked and the liquid crystal tattoo responds to any changes in the network. Design collective Umbilical created the must have fashion item.

This year also sees the first entry from the agency Artificial Life. The 60 second brand film is a heart warming slice of life for Persil. Their entry hearkens back to an earlier, simpler age in both form and content, which is surprising since the agency is made up entirely of 9th generation artificial intelligences.

Selling Happiness

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: magnolia worpress)

This presentation I found over on Asi's always excellent private selections, pulls together some things I've been talking / thinking about for ages, more eloquently and usefully than I ever could. It's great.

Go steal it.

The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that we are in the happiness business - that it's our job to help people be happy, which seems like a good thing.

I suspect that things that make people happy exist at equilibrium points - more of something [x] makes you happier, up to a certain point [y], after which the same thing will make you less happy.

This has been demonstrated in arousal terms, leading to the development of the Wundt curve, which shows hedonic value garnered from increased arousal drops after a certain point.

Same is true of choice, and complexity, curiousity, automony, and, I imagine, lots of other things.

Which, I guess, bring us to the the platitude that too much of a good thing, ain't.

Feel Better or Prophylactic Advertising

Feel Better
[From here]

I've seen these Tylenol posters around New York for a while and they're great. I really like them - anyone know who did them? Well done.

Ads for painkillers have been stuck in a product power paradigm for as long as I can remember. They dramatise the pain, with hammers and that, and then show either blessed relief, with suitable bird tweets, or high impact demolition, hitting pain where it hurts.

Tylenol's new campaign elevates the brand's role to a higher order proposition - making you feel better. In fact, the tips contained in the ads and on the website are, more often than not, attempts at pain prophylaxis - ways to stop you getting the headache in the first place.

This no doubt seemed counter intuitive when the client first saw it - why would I prevent the pain for free, rather than treat it with my delicious analgesics?

Because it positions Tylenol as an expert on pain and as a brand that wants to help you feel better, not sell you painkillers.

Of course, for each set of tips on the site there are the relevant products to help alongside, but the point is the focus is on helping you feel better, holistically.

[They have an incredible, baffling, number of ways to package up acetaminophen [which is what they call paracetamol over here].]

The site is really simple. No bells, no whistle, just tips that are useful for chronic pain sufferers [they have no tips for hangovers].

Consumers have been adding their own tips to the ads - such as this advisory not to mix the product with wine. 

The only question I have is: why is the Tylenol website favicon the Netscape logo?

Tyl Fav

User Involved Content and the Taste of Brands

A campaign for Shreddies in Canada introduces the new diamond variant to consumers in real focus groups held in Toronto.

It's pretty funny - especially if you've ever done any qualitative research - and is another example of what J Vulkan dubbed User Involved Content while we were going through the Clio entries.

There has been a groundswell of real people captured on camera in ads - reality advertising if you like - abandoning high production values for the gritty authenticity of gonzo film making.

The Whopper Freakout works on a similar principle - hidden cameras capturing genuine people being deprived of their Whopper - as does the new Pizza Hut ad, where restaurant patrons are served Pizza Hut pasta.They claim to like it even more once they are told it was deliverd by Pizza Hut.

And, in the film above, one of the subjects expresses a taste preference for the diamond shape Shreddies.

Silly - it's the same!

Except: what if it's not?

I've been reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It illustrates the fact, that we intuitively know but that classical economics refuses to accept, that we aren't rational beings. We make decisions that are seemingly irrational, in the same way over and over again, because of how our brains are hardwired: anchors and priming, emotions and social context all interact to change how we choose.

One of the things he highlights is the power of expectation to alter experience.  He describes a replication of the famous Coke/Pepsi taste tests, done with the subjects in an MRI to record how their brain is processing the experience of tasting the drinks.

We all know how it works - in blind taste tests, Pepsi usually wins, but when the brands are revealed, people prefer The Real Thing [TM].

And, according the experiment, it's because that the experience of consuming branded sugar water is different - the Coke brand activates different associations in the memory and emotional parts of the brain, which contribute to the consumption experience.

Which means that, when you drink a Coke, a part of what you are tasting is the brand.

Behance and the Action Book


A couple of days back I met up with the lovely people behind Behance.

Behance are designing products and services that "empower the creative world to make ideas happen" because of the observation that most ideas vanish, stillborn, into the ether.

This creative waste is a shame for everyone, so Behance want to help ideas get actualised.

One of the tools they use is what they call the action method - an insistence that every creative session leads to action items - and to help bring them to life they created action books - notebooks that are designed to craft notes into actions - as shown above.

You can buy the well made note books and other action items via a website - but the point of them is not to make money, but to market Behance, it's creative networks and consultancy services by spreading the philosophy behind it in a useful way.

Marketing that people pay for. 

Marketing People Pay For


My mate Rob works for Nooka - a design brand started by Matthew Waldman, looking to invent products that challenge the paradigm they operate in. The first product is a a line of cool watches that re-invent how to display the time.

As all brands that have a unique view of the world should, they have a blog where they update the faithful on Nooka news and celebrity sightings.

They've just announced a collaboration with Toyota - Nooka designs, inspired by participants of the Toyota 5th Door program, to celebrate the new Toyota Matrix. The watches are limited editions and being sold for $300 a [time] piece.

I've been thinking about marketing people will pay for for a while now. It started with BK Games - I think perhaps the most interesting thing about these globally lauded Burger King XboX games is the fact that people paid $3.99 for a piece of advertising.

3.2 Million people, according to the case study.

It's difficult to fault marketing that actually makes money, in and of itself.

Staples turned their Easy Button into a product and sold millions of them, donating a proportion of proceeds to charity, but this was more of a happy accident, one assumes.

Whereas, things like the IDEO Method Deck are more strategic. The cards detail 51 methods that IDEO use to help inspire great design. So - they are a product. But they are also a powerful piece of marketing - positioning IDEO as the people to call when you need some design help.

IDEO have just launced their Field Guides for the Curious - travel guides that shun the obvious for the unknown, which positions them as experts on urban design as well.

Creating marketing products, as opposed to services, is a way to engage people and establish values around your core business with things of value, that people are willing to part with some cash for. The line between marketing and product is blurring, and this no doubt confuses matters even further

[Look, up in the sky! It's marketing! No it's a product!]

but when people are willing to pay for your marketing, even if it's only a nominal amount, it follows that the marketing has value and is desirable.

And that seems like a good thing.

[A line of TIGS branded merchandise will be available shortly.]

Diff'rent Strokes for Different Folks


[From here]

Facebook just launched instant messaging, which quickly reminded me how addictive IM can be, and got me thinking about different modes of communication.

[There was also another thought about the inevitable rise of web based applications, and something to do with Facebook being an operating system, but I'll leave that for now.]

Instinctively, I believed that I used different kinds of communication for different, well, different kinds of communication. Modality and messaging dictated what you use.

Somethings are better asynchronous [SMS, email], some better synchronous [face to face, phone call, IM], some are better audio, some better textual, some better as pictures [Flickr, postcards] some are better online [links] some off, some private, some public [Facebook Wall] some one to one, some one to many, some broadcast [like this].

But I'm not entirely sure that's the only way it works. I've noticed that some people only use certain channels. I text my dad, email my mum. Younger friends [say below 25] never really seem to email, they just use Facebook.

[In fact I've seen various pieces of research that say that 'the kids' like SMS best, then email. So they love asynchronous communication. Probably helps them multitask and distribute their attention and that.]

And, when I stopped using MSN Messenger a while back, there were a few friends who I just stopped being in touch with, until I logged back on, because that's how we used to communicate.

Thing is, all these channels, loosely, enable the same thing - communication, admittedly in different ways.

But some people are much more comfortable with some than others, even though all will reach me.

Which, perhaps, is something that applies to our brands that are acting like people.

Brands can reach an audience in innumerable ways. But perhaps some of them are more comfortable for the audience in question than others.

And maybe some brands just wouldn't use Facebook to get in touch, because it's not who they are and never will be.

Just like my dad doesn't.