Romanian Rumination

[The People's Palace, Bucharest. The second biggest building in the world, after the Pentagon, built with bad karma.]

I've just flown in from the Idea Forum in Romania and, boy, are my arms tired.


Anyway, it was a really interesting experience. Whilst I think there's a real hunger for new ideas out there, there's also a feeling that they are somewhat removed from new stuff that's happening.

I think Iain captures it really well here - it was lovely hanging out with him and Russell. I'm a big fan of hanging out, as I may have mentioned previously.

Everyone was very nice -  particular thanks go out to Bogdana and Christian for taking excellent care of us, and to the lovely planners of Leo Burnett Romania who let us play in their office for a bit and were generally very nice. Thanks also to everyone in my seminar for making the experience very pleasant and not too scary.

Stencil grafitti is huge in the city, and I loved the fact that they stencil up the faces of their greatest writers and their poet laureate. I doubt Banksy would immortalise Andrew Motion but you never know.

Although the screaming kids were still hunting boyband.

Behavioural Engineering

[Image by bullish1974]
Once in a while, advertising transcends the stratum reserved for commercial communication and becomes a cultural phenomenon - quite literally something that can be seen to have an effect on culture.

Many posts ago, my mate Yusuf pointed out that the truly viral part of the 118-118 launch campaign, which could definitely be said to have ascended into the collective consciousness, was shouting "Got your Number!" at people in the street. They did it in the ads, then the boys hit the streets all over the UK and did it in real life. And then everyone was doing it.

The ultimate aim of all commercial communication is to spread ideas that elicit a behavioural response. Specifically, we want to influence mass purchase behaviour. But if a brand can propogate some intermediate behaviours, like getting people to shout "Got your number" or "Wassup!" at each other, then you get a whole host of additional benefits.

Before consumer generated content was a thing, people made hundreds of "Wassup" spoofs, spreading the message further. In a person's head, the behaviour recalls and reinforces the brand, and vice versa, keeping the brand salient. And, of course, behaviour is viral. Humans are hardwired to learn by imitating [see Herd]. The drive to copy is so powerful, when children are shown behaviours they know are pointless to achieve the required goals, they imitate them anyway.

Monkey see, monkey do.

This behavioural engineering seems to be at the heart of BBH's very successful, ongoing campaign for Lynx / Axe. Young males are perhaps the single target audience most prone to adopting learned behaviours - observe the instances of fist bump in any playground, or indeed pub or office for that matter. Many Lynx executions have imitative behaviours at their core. Pulse - the dance. Click. Bom Chicka Wah Wah.

If you want to influence people's behaviour, give them something to copy.

UPDATE: Mark has written a great build on this that looks at why copying is such an important human mechanism.

Oops My Strategy is Showing


NoMessin is a Network Rail youth safety initiative to try and stop kids playing on railway tracks by suggesting other things they can do. There are 11 million incidences of trespass onto railway lines by under 16s every year and, on average, 60 deaths and many more injuries.

So this is definitely a good thing and the roadshow that's out there looking to teach kids skills they might be interested in - skateboarding, DJing etc - and give them reasons not to be on the tracks is also a good thing.

And whilst I agree with Richard that your strategy should be showing, I suspect in this case that it might possibly negate the campaign's appeal to the young people it wants to reach by stating it so directly... 

A Map is Not the World

[Image from 41,000 Faces - Breast Cancer Care]

“If you put the pictures of two different faces side by side, your eye is struck by everything that makes one different from the other. But if you have two hundred and twenty-three faces side by side, you suddenly realize that it’s all just one face in many variations and that no such thing as an individual ever existed”
Agnes in Immortality, Milan Kundera

I've always had a problem with segmentation. I think it's for the same reason that I don't believe in horoscopes - since I'm a gemini [could you tell?] and the predictions for that sign apply to all geminis, I would have to infer that 1/12 of all the people in the world are, basically, the same as me in temperament and that the vagaries of fate will be treating us in the same way.

This is clearly rubbish, I would tell myself, the world is much more complex than that and, anyway, I'm an INDIVIDUAL, as unique as a snowflake.

Tyler Durden disabuses his alter ego of this notion in Fight Club:

You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

But other, less aggressive, facilitators of enlightenment have made much the same point. We think of ourselves as individuals because we look for the differences. We ignore the similarities, which are far, far greater than the differences.

To put it simply, every single person in the world is more alike than we all are to a tree or a goat or anything else that isn't a person. Taken from a macro viewpoint, it's all just one face in many variations.

That said, I still have some problems with segmentation. Too often segments lapse into stereotypes and neglect to emphasise the fact that we are talking about average behaviours, not absolute behaviours.

My mate Gareth sent me this leaked segmentation report from Phones4U and as he pointed out, as well as being hilarious and slightly offensive, it also implicitly suggests that every iPod Babe is into "Fuck Buddy Sex".

My other problem with segmentation like this is that it aggregates individual tendencies into groups. As Critical Mass points out, this simply isn't a realistic way to model behaviour:

"Individual tendencies do not necessarily extrapolate to group behaviour"

Interaction between agents changes the game completely, which is why scientists developed agent based models to examine the emergent properties of large groups of individuals interacting.

So even if all iPod Babes are exactly the same, all the time, which they aren't, throw a few of them together and all bets are off.

This completely disrupts the notion of Homo Economicus - the rational man [or babe] that makes economic decisions designed to maximise personal utility. Behavioural economics suggests that purchase decisions are influenced by group dynamics and recent experiments have shown this to be true in controlled conditions.

So where does that leave the iPod Babes? Understanding that different people have different drivers and motivators is undoubtedly a sensible thing for a marketer to explore, but there is infinite variation within the average and interaction within the groups.

Segmentation is a map of the populace but, like any map, it's important not mistake it for the world.

Digitourists and Digitravellers

My mate Sarah Morning has written an excellent paper about The Digital Consumer that she's kindly allowed me to [re]publish - you can download it at the bottom of the post.

It's an expansive look at the current digital marketing landscape but, like any good planning document, it comes at it from the view of the users, not the technology.

The dominant metaphor for the Internet is that of space. Whereas once we had the information superhighway, now we have uncharted media landscapes and virtual worlds that we Explore or Navigate.

From here the paper makes a brilliant leap - as in the 'real' world, there are different kinds of explorers of the digital landscape and this provides the foundation for a bimodal segmentation of the digital consumer.

Firstly there are Digitourists:

Digitourists essentially look for embassies in the virtual world. They look for sites or brands that act as guides. Digitourists, like any tourists, know exactly what they want to see and what they want to find - whether it be a product or a piece of information.

And then there are the Digitravellers:

Digitravellers are different to Digitourists - no less or no more technologically able in many cases, they want however to explore things for themselves. They want to navigate their own way around the wilderness of information and stories of the internet, roughing it unguided through the digital landscape. Their interest lies not so much in arriving at a piece of information or a particular site, as the Digitourist’s does, but instead on the journey itself. For the Digitraveller it is all about the people they meet and the unexpected, undiscovered places they stumble across along the way.

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

The paper goes on to demonstrate how marketing to these different types of digital consumers has to be very different. So much digital display advertising is a translocation of broadcast interruption online, which only makes sense when targeting the Passive Massive in their Digitourist form.

However, if you want to communicate with active Digitravellers, who want to control their experience, then you need to engage not interrupt and this poses a much greater creative challenge, which the paper explores in depth with dozens of great examples.

Sarah's contact details are on the document if you want to get in touch.

Travelling with Moving: The Digital Consumer.

Plannersphere Social Network


In my ongoing quest to get people to hang out more and that, I've set up a Ning for the Plannersphere - a social network thing for planners and plannery types. And anyone else who wants to hang out with us.

I have to confess that part of the motivation is the fact that I got to take the url

I'm not sure if this is a good idea or necessary but I thought it might work as a social analogue of the plannersphere wiki and that it might provide people who don't want to blog an easy, relevant online footprint in the Plannersphere.

I guess we'll see. If it takes off I might do fun things like announce BeerSphere on there and stuff. Maybe we can have one at Interesting 07

Russell - can we get a beer sponsor?

Next regular BeerSphere will probably be in the first week of April.

Planning Porn Movie


My mate Nick just sent me in the direction of this excellent animated movie.

It's pure planning porn - a hypertextual journey through concepts, graphs and venn diagrams, covering a segmentation of virgins, the similarity between feelings, mistakes and butts [things we dare not bare in public] and the reason why you drink.

To steal his point - imagine if we could present our ideas like this.

Looks like I'm going to have to learn flash.

Anatomy of an Account Planner


Some of the comments over on Adliterate sparked a sort of 'what is planning' debate, which in turn led some people to actually ask - what is planning?

Richard directed them to the APG, where you can download a short document called "What is Account Planning?".

One thing that jumped out at me was the origin of the term: account planner is a fusion of account person and media planner because Stephen King's new department was supposed to be a hybrid between these disciplines - a derivation that I think is particularly relevant today when the division between creative and media planning is becoming less and less helpful - if you want to understand people you need to understand how they interact with media - so much of what constitutes life now falls under the heading of mediated experience.


In my inter-roamings, I then came across another great document: The Anatomy of Account Planning - The Creativity behind Creativity by Henrik Habberstad, a planner at  Dinamo in Oslo.

It's a rather excellent analysis of the craft, covering its history, practice and some thoughts about the future, with input from some of the best brains in the business.

It has a couple of things to add to the Adliterate debate:

However, as Nick Kendall, Group Planning Director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty says, planning in the narrowest sense is about input of research to the process of creating advertising, but if you stop here, you’re in trouble.

I contacted Henrik and he has kindly agreed to allow me to [re]publish his paper here - it was written as part of an MSC in Advertising and Communication back in 2000.  You can Download it here.

I'll leave the last word on this to Stephen King himself:

“Henrik Habberstad has clearly done an enormous amount of research about account planning and talked to a lot of people. I can’t believe that there’s much remaining about the topic that hasn’t been covered; so this will be the most detailed and comprehensive paper available on planning”

- Stephen King -

Planning Porn


My mate Ant just sent me a link to the Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods. [There's a mirror here too just in case.]

As he put it:

it's pure brand planning diagram porn. Every kind of data / info visualisation method in a flash periodic table.

I've rolled over the dilemma diagram in the pic above - each roll over pops out an example. There are classics like Porter's Five Forces model of competition and Gartner's Hype Cycle as well as things like Heaven and Hell Diagrams and Turkey Box Plots [no idea].

It's beautiful.