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Introducing Zuck – Facebook’s new Chief Creative Officer January 18, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, facebook, social media, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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Yet again, a Facebook newsfeed update garners more column inches in our feeds than atrocities happening across the world. But that’s the echo chamber we live in. So here’s my thoughts.

After being lauded for doing ker-azy things as CEO like spending a year in another country or visiting every state in the US just because… because he can, the revelations of Russian interference and blatant click-baiting in both the US and UK political scene, it looks like Zuck got back to work. And has re-framed the conversation to make Facebook seem all cosy again. By making it much more about those real ‘moments of interaction’. So you’ll see more posts from people you want to interact with – your friends and family – and less from people you don’t. I, for one, will be happy to see less of the dreadful memes and those Lad Bible videos. I can but hope.

Basically he’s just weeding out the crap. Again. And again, everyone reacts in horror. How will I get my brand message in front of people now?

Well, stop creating shit content for a start.

In effect Zuck has just laid a red line (I listen to Radio 4 and that seems like a new fangled phrase these days) about shit posts. Unless your friends did it. Shit posts from brands are dead. Find stock photo, add motivational line, add copy, slap it on the page. Dead. Organic posts. Pretty much dead too.

And we should all celebrate that surely?

What is incumbent on brands is to bring back creativity. And align it to a media strategy. Creativity of thought and execution. Thought into those meaningful moments of interaction. Hasn’t marketing always been about that? What is my audience thinking/feeling/doing now and what would I like them to be thinking/feeling/doing? The joy if a platform like Facebook is that it is an advertising platform (because that is what we really should start to think about it as if you are not already) and you can micro target to the niche you want and exactly when you want minimising the wastage of other larger advertising platforms. What’s become the downfall of recent times has been shit content.

The move to video as a preferred format by users also drives the level of creativity up. You’re not going to enjoy a stock film are you? It starts to make the case for better investment in a channel where you’ve built a community. It starts to make a case for treating ‘social content’ like an advertising campaign. Call it moments of meaningful interaction if you like but it’s more advertising mindset than ever.

What can brands and agencies do?

  1. Make better creative content that has relevance and impact.
  2. Experiment with closed groups to truly deepen relationship with your core fans and bring added value.
  3. Experiment with video and live video content.
  4. Experiment with ‘tag a friend’ content but in a non-shit way. Obvs.
  5. Seriously invest in your paid strategy and advertising messages.
  6. Stop thinking of social content as calendar filling fodder.

Won’t you miss those random brand associations with random national day of blah? No, me neither.

 

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

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Postcards from the beach – 2017 edition December 12, 2017

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, digital advertising, influencers, silicon beach, social media, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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At the end of September, I spent two days by the beach listening, learning and starting to live again. Curated by the self-styled most selfish event organiser in the world, Matt Desmier, Silicon Beach is a complete mystery. You have some idea of some of the speakers but no idea when they talk, what they will talk about or indeed what may happen.

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I went last year and was completely smitten with the format compared to the typical bloviation from other conferences so had high hopes. Hopes that were fulfilled. And then some. And while I wrote some digital postcards last year to some people who really stood out for me, I wrote some actual postcards this time.

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You may have got one in the post. There are still one or two who haven’t even got one yet because it really has been impossible to find the addresses of some people; easier to find an address in Montenegro than Marylebone. But let’s get back to the beach…

Matt makes a thing of there being no theme, just people he wants to listen to and learn form. And that seems to be good advice for life in general, let alone a conference.

But there was a theme for me.

To get on and do things.

Because time is short. Because we’ve been hoodwinked that timesheets are the most important thing in advertising. That the colour by numbers dumbing down of creativity by Facebook et al is the temple we should all be praying at because they dominate over 2/3 of the internet.

That actually, we should be more rebellious in our behaviour and intent. Because life is short. As Billy Connolly once observed,  you should be anarchic and put stink bombs under the rim of the toilet or cling film over the porcelain on train journeys because…

“Do these things. You’ll improve your life no end.”

A theme that really came alive and punched you in the face with Chris Barez-Brown’s talk right at the end with him sharing that you spend 80% of your life on auto pilot with a need to Wake Up!

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A theme that Paul Armstrong showed in high-speed fashion (I may have to buy his book to try and remember what he speed-talked through) with his tiny square of paper showing you what little time you have left to do something.

A theme that Scarlett Montanaro recognised and that advertising wasn’t fuelling and did her own thing. Being the dependable back-up and timesheets are not the reason we got into advertising. Scarlett encouraged everyone to spend at least 20% of their time at work working on side projects or things you really give a shit about. Because while the industry still requires you to be chained to a desk for hours on end, you may as well be productive and doing stuff you like and can make a difference rather than endlessly staring at social media.

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A theme that came up with Sally, with Victoria and with Vanja about attention, sleepwalking, doing the same thing. We think we know our problems inside out, but history shows that sometimes the excuses we make are preventing progress (or survival). When we say ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ or ‘that’s just how it is / has to be’ there’s a danger in complacency, and that the competition will overcome that challenge first.

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Where advertising has become colouring by numbers to feed the digital machines of Facebook and Google. Where our short-termist, instant gains culture has created an obsession with quantifiable metrics. We need to embrace the chaos (Bo Hellberg) that we seem to process out of everything in search of efficiency. Chaos is the part of every story where the magic happens, and it’s the same with work. We can start with data, but it should never form the whole solution. If we want to affect real change, we must change our centre of gravity from chasing data to embracing chaos.

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And put penis’ on 20 foot presentation screens. Because life is too short. Do these things, they’ll improve your life no end.

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That we over-complicate, we spend time on the wrong things and that we need to wake up, do things that matter and do things that excite us. To think without the restrictions growing up places on us (Richard Gerver).

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To demonstrate our value, we’re overcomplicating things and obscuring potential solutions. Embrace the clocks and clouds in life as Matt Ballantine would say.  Clocks work in a very specific way and require expertise to make them work and carry out a necessary task. Clouds are intangible, transient and ever changing – this is where we should experiment, not knowing the exact value of the activity going in.

Be inspired, be braver (Dave McQueen) and think about what our own legacy may be. Don’t follow the herd (Up Your Elvis as Chris B-B would say, a nod back to Mark Earls from last year there too).

And in a dystopian manner, I loved Marcus’ ‘The Passing’ to bits. I say talk,  it was art. Beautifully conceived and delivered. Truly stand out. But also terrifyingly believable following on from several of the talks about the rise of the influencers.  The man is a genius. Read the Forbes review if you don’t believe me. I hope he does get a book deal.

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It’s hard to really tell you more. I have lots more notes. I have lots more actions and ideas. And in a way, that’s the joy of Silicon Beach. You really should be there to experience it. To try and do a post about it really doesn’t do it that much justice but I have tried.

Do these things. It’ll improve your life no end.

See you on the beach in 2018.

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Digital vs Traditional: what works best for you? December 16, 2016

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, digital, digital advertising, Team Eleven, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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Latest thought piece in Marketing Business Forum on digital and traditional marketing.

Print circulation numbers are down. On-demand and streaming services – sans un-skippable ads – are on the up. So what’s a marketer to do? Ditch the dinosaur channels and throw the entire budget at Larry, Sergey, Zuck and their contemporaries? Targeting, re-targeting and the ‘viral’ promise are all reasons to believe digital and social now reign supreme for the modern marketer, but in this we neglect to acknowledge the in real life (IRL) experiences and halting moments that also drive word of mouth and brand consideration – online or otherwise. So before you do throw everything at the digital plan, please ponder the following…

Magic in the mundane

If you haven’t heard the term ‘mindfulness’ this year then you’ve probably been living underneath the proverbial rock (and who would blame you in these turbulent times). It’s a reaction to our age of hedonism and the breakneck speed at which we’ve been living our lives, and like most trends, this desire to slow down and simplify is being reflected in publishing and advertising. In April this year, Ronseal decided to take a risk with a live TV spot which offered Channel 4’s Gogglebox audience three minutes of the unthinkable – watching actual fence paint dry. It was an inspired and effective product demonstration that earned them a trending spot on social media.

Stop the press

The digital evolution of the print industry is representative of the consumer’s move to more accessible, tailored and instant news without the barrage of irrelevant print ads. Despite the declining print figures, some brands still have the foresight to take advantage of reactive placements in bulk circulations, which often hit a captive, educated audience of commuters who will be reading cover to cover. Norwegian struck an extremely timely note in September this year following the news of Brad and Angelina’s break up, with a stark but cuttingly comic ad promoting their LA price promotion. The result: a viral campaign that puts it firmly in the hall of fame with Oreo’s ‘dunk in the dark’.

The great outdoors

Out-of-home and experiential marketing are truly challenging media. Bus wraps are hardly remarkable and being chased by a sampler at Waterloo while you try to catch your train isn’t entirely conducive to positive brand perception. The Economist challenges that notion. The publisher is infamous for its minimalist and innovative OOH creative, but it turned its hand to an unsettling on-the-ground activation in 2015 which was rebooted in the US this year. ‘High-protein’ is the new “on trend” claim for the food industry, and The Economists’ ice cream samplers achieved theirs by adding insects, the new proposed solution for the global food crisis which it covered in a ‘future of food’ feature. The campaign generated significant online press coverage and was branded ‘eye-catching genius’ by Business Insider.

The learning? Search for new value in formats that have become hackneyed and contrived. Opportunities to reach a cynical populace using these traditional methods still remain and can be extremely successful for the creative and confident marketer. Whether you’re aiming for ‘disrupt’ ‘be bold’ or ‘surprise and delight’ don’t miss the simple proposition with cut-through messaging that’s right in front of you.

can american apparel recover from bankruptcy? October 7, 2015

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, thought leadership.
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Article I penned in The Drum on how American Apparel can recover from bankruptcy following lurid accusations in the boardroom, porn as advertising and poor performance at the tills.

Recovering from bankruptcy is the easy part.

There have been plenty of resurrection stories down the years with some big names surviving because of their importance to the national economy – American Airlines, General Motors.

Or those brands that survive and learn from it, coming back stronger and better with a renewed energy, work ethic and a revitalised core that is true to the brand, business and customer – Chrysler, Jeep, Aston Martin (several times now).

Then there are are brands that have come back from a seemingly never-ending downward spiral in results because of smart leadership changes, strategy changes, product changes and a deep-rooted love of the brand in the public – look at Marks & Spencer.

And then there is American Apparel. A brand whose founder has been dogged with allegations and whose advertising went beyond provocative into the lurid, disturbing murky waters of overt sexualisation and pretty much porn as advertising. The decisive change was not the filing for bankruptcy this week, it was the removal of the controversial CEO Dov Charney last year.

Sales are down, shops are closing. American Apparel made some bad choices. A lot of bad choices. Not least of which was Charney turning up to a meeting allegedly wearing nothing but a strategically placed sock. I don’t believe that was in Dale Carnegie’s playbook on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.

Yet the brand allure remains strong. The crazy guy at the top did some incredible things like making sure every garment was produced inside America to truly live up to the brand name. And he did this by making sure the largely Latino workforce was well paid and well looked after. For a brand that essentially made average underwear and t-shirts, it created its own myth, fuelled by provocative porn-a-like advertising that shocked in a world we thought was largely unshockable. Ads that looked more like the edgier editorial of high-end fashion magazines played out in RHS full exposure.

This worked to cut through, but lost its edge when people realised they were paying over the odds for some average undergarments. It was undone, not by cheaper brands, but by brands that people wanted to associate with. Brands like Hollister with its sunshine California sheen with beautiful people became more culturally and socially acceptable. And better quality. And it’s not cheap either.

So how can American Apparel truly recover?

As much as possible it needs to keep the ongoing lawsuits separate to the ongoing concern that is the business and the brand. It needs to reconnect the American values, ethic, sense of doing things differently and free spirit that ignited the company in the first place, and one that continues to have consumer resonance globally. It needs a retail experience overview as it looks tired, dated and less enticing than brands like Primark.

Lastly, it needs to find the people who can mainline into the fashion industry trends and be part of the ‘must have’ list again. Preferably they will know how to wear their socks correctly.

i blame the gorilla July 30, 2015

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, thought leadership.
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The Independent ran an article highlighting the number of ads that featured music from the 80s. The Drum asked me to write a response to it. I blamed the gorilla.

You can say it’s all about fashion and trends and everything comes around again. And again. But I blame the gorilla.

It’s his fault. Sitting behind the drum kit waiting patiently until erupting with madness and glee and yes, ‘joy’, to thrash them to death alongside Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight’.

It’s his fault. He answered the one line brief,’show me how I feel when I eat Cadbury’s chocolate’ by resorting to an iconic 80s music track and going batshit mental on the drums.

The 80s: big hair, big shoulder pads, big news, big everything. Especially big ‘choons’. And now the people who grew up in the 80s with their knowing ‘Frankie Says’ t-shirts and Phil Oakey side-flange partings implanted deep in their hearts have grown up.

They are now in the bullseye of the mainstream brands. Still watching vast swathes of telly and still swayed by big telly ads and wondering WTF emojis are. Still knowing someone could have picked them out and shook them up when they were working in a cocktail bar and turned them into someone new.

If you’re a 40-something to 50-something, you will have witnessed a fair bit of familiarity in advertising of late. A bit of Europe here, a surprise airing of Fleetwood Mac there. All dropped into drive familiarity and layer the emotional element to the advertising to get you to notice, to consider. To strike at the heart of your wallet via your retro fluorescent ear canal.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that 80s music was the most popular choice among all brand advertising in 2014. Queen adding little riffs of fun to Tesco Christmas spots. Fleetwood Mac helping a Shetland Pony moonwalk for Three. What surprised everyone was Bonnie Tyler topping the charts. But it was epic. So it makes your brand epic. And you’re epic if you buy our brand. Epic.

Some are wonderful and actually make sense. Others just use the track like audio attention grabbing ‘Like a Virgin’ era Madonnas because Queen selling sofas to the tune of ‘Someobody to Love’ is just really selling out isn’t it? They were a band that famously refused Stallone rights to use ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ in Rocky III forcing them to find their own anthem in Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. And they’re now happy for their back catalogue to be used to flog sofas. Bloody gorilla’s fault.

And then we have the re-imagining. The John Lewis ‘make ‘em cry to make ‘em buy’ approach. A soft, tinkly-tinkly re-imagined, slowed down version of a well-known classic that acts as an ear worm and makes its way silently into your heart. Alongside penguins, bears and gorillas.

Music is a hugely important part of advertising and any film based content. Music can make or break an ad. The rhythm, cadence and the power tell their own story but magic can happen when the story, the music and the lyrics work hand in hand. An edit suite is often a painful torture chamber in the creative process and equally a pleasuredome when things go right.

But is the rise of 80s music in ads also because modern music is incomprehensible to anyone over the age of 30? Where new music is dictated by the Radio 1 playlist which deems La Roux and Lily Allen over the hill and therefore primetime picking for middle-aged, middle-class department store advertising tales?

The brands mentioned above largely appeal to that demographic so going for familiarity over a new artist is a much safer bet. And in a corporate environment where the average chief marketing tenure is under two years, safety and immediate impact is the order of the day.

Unless you’re going to go big and buy yourself instant stardust with Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift (how many times have you seen ‘Shake It Off’ in a creative WIP this last year?), then it’s time to break out the shuttlecocks in your shorts, re-live who shot J.R. and dust off your 12” of ABC. Because then success will be so easy for you but don’t forget it’s the gorilla who put you where you are now and he can put you back down too.

Nicholas Gill is planning director at Doner UK

This article also featured in the Global Doner D\Construct thought leadership series.

is outdoor advertising ‘visual pollution’? July 17, 2015

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, BBC, OOH, outdoor, thought leadership.
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I got to represent the advertising industry (I know, really) in a small BBC World Service radio show called Business Daily that went out to a small audience of 1.3m people globally on 2nd June. After a quick line at the start, I come in at c. 12 mins. Here’s the synopsis:

Do ubiquitous advertising like billboards, posters and banner ads lead to mental overload? American author Matthew Crawford discusses whether the constant distraction of ever-present commercials leads to ‘mental fragmentation’.

Daniel Gallas reports from Sao Paulo in Brazil on the city’s decision to ban ‘visual pollution’, including all outdoor advertising, a decade ago.

And, Ed Butler hears from Nick Gill, planning director at advertising agency Doner, and why he thinks outdoor advertising is part of the lore of a big city.

You can also Listen to the MP3 here.

this is what excellence in integrated digital communications looks like August 2, 2014

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, align technology, award, communique awards 2014, digital, Doner, integration, invisalign, social media.
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We won an award recently and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. It was for the work we’ve been doing for Align Technology to generate awareness and lead generation for Invisalign across Europe.

The award was for the 2013 consumer campaign, “Smile and the Whole World Smiles With You” received the Excellence in Integrated Digital Communication award at the 2014 Communique Awards on July 3.

The Invisalign Smile campaign ran across key markets in Europe, where a mix of appointment-to-view television programming on digital channels was sponsored with integrated digital direct response, social media paid advertising, social media community activation programs, Pay Per Click, and digital innovations such as Zeebox in the UK and use of the new Twitter Card lead generation functionality. This strategic approach was designed to get more target consumers to ask for Invisalign treatment at dental practitioners and leveraged an integrated consumer marketing campaign that engaged and motivated people with problem teeth to start Invisalign treatment.

The award judges summed it up nicely:

“The beauty of this campaign is its demonstration of what could be achieved outside standard pharma practice. It was a paradigm in terms of its integration of carefully chosen, appropriate channels and had digital at its heart. It’s also very in-sync with where the industry is going to have to go in terms of the breadth and connectivity of different communications channels.”

 

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And it also worked, here’s what Raph, the VP International at Align had to say:

“The Invisalign Smile campaign had a significant impact including driving prompted brand awareness for Invisalign and achieving 30% growth for Invisalign lnfo Kit downloads and Find an Invisalign Provider searches. Our social media community grew a phenomenal 140% (2.5X) year on year and the Smile campaign helped to impact our total business objective by increasing Invisalign case submissions.”

 

Really terrific stuff. I’m really proud of this work. It shows what can happen when a client and agency work together in a proper relationship to deliver great things.

 

what it’s like to work in the creative industry July 24, 2013

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, Inspiration.
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A short documentary on what it’s like to work in the creative industry when your craft becomes your profession. Even though I’m not a “creative”, I can relate to these feelings and scenarios.

Originally found on Design Taxi via Evan Michaels.

my favourite londoner – new work May 29, 2012

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, Client, Doner, Fuller's, James May, London Pride.
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Blatant work plug. Here’s our new work for Fuller’s London Pride, again featuring the marvellous James May. The campaign celebrates the provenance of the brewery and the pint, especially important when the world’s eyes will be on London this Summer. The work is featured on the Marketing Society blog and also on Haystack and you can see it pretty much all across London this Summer. Cheers!

we fear change November 16, 2011

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, brand experience, digital, integration, marketing, social brand, social business, social media, technology, Technology Digital.
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Change is the only constant factor in life and in the world of Technology; the businesses which realize this sooner, can only gain from it. Article by me in Technology Digital.

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