Friday, April 30, 2010

Ontrack Communications Creative Excellence Fridays - Premium beer branding

Welcome to our weekly rally for creative excellence. An ongoing problem with any product life cycle, is how to appeal to demographics as they enter the buyer cycle, while not losing the long time loyal. Because brand perception is so crucial with beer this exercise is even more crucial. Colt45 became so relevant to 70's icons that they found it difficult to evolve the brand.

This commercial makes me smile every time when I hear the line "The Power of Colt 45. It works every time." It's about as subtle as a bag of hammers.

Let's look at two beers who have done an excellent job refreshing their brand. First, Stella Artois. This brand has been creating classy, elevated brand advertising for years and somehow manages to stay fresh. Stella doesn't seem to be concerned. Their "polished" approach appears to appeal to the established, premium beer older demo as well as the younger beer drinker looking to step away from their college dorm beer.

The production values are excellent in this piece. Produced by "Mother" in Britain they pull out all the stops. If Belgium had a James Bond, he would look like this.

Heinekin has also done an excellent job hanging on to the affluent upper demo, while attracting new beer drinkers. You've probably seen the commercial with the women getting so excited over the walk in closet, followed by the men screaming about the walk in beer closet.
Here is the "prequel" to that commercial.

Corny, sure. But it works.

Coming up on Monday, more on Social media Brand Building. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anonymous paid bloggers being frowned upon

Bloggers who are going on to corporate sites and posting favourable notes, for a fee, are being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States. Look for this to have repercussions in Canada in the near future as well.

The FTC says it is looking at bloggers who write about certain products or services in exchange for money or favors from the companies behind them, potentially misleading the Internet-reading public about an apparent conflict of interest. The Commission hopes to introduce new guidelines this summer to better define how bloggers can write about these products.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Branding - Taking your rightful place

As products and services introduce themselves to the market, we hear the term "brand dominance" come into play. To dominate a brand you need to do one of two things:
1.Be the first to market with your product and tell the world about it.


2.Tell the world about it, better than your competition.

Sounds very simple right? But does doing a better job telling the world about it mean outspending the competition and blasting them out of the water with expensive, lavish television commercials?
Perhaps at one point, but not any longer. These days you have a lot more weapons at your disposal. Social media, and the proper use of said weapon gives you the opportunity to "out think" the competition instead of "out spend".

By recognizing your brand's competitive advantages, coming up with a clever message and perhaps a social media contest backed up by a clever viral campaign, you can give the impression your brand is a market leader. Even if it's not a market leader spender.

Remember the cool kid in the school yard? He didn't necessarily have the nicest clothes, but he did have the cachet and the swagger. People are drawn to that intangible that is so hard to break down and repeat.

With a firm understanding of your brand and what makes it different and more importantly great, you can help leap your product over the outspending competition so you become the one to catch. Then you can recall the famous quote from Satchel Paige, "Don't look back. Somethin' may be gainin' on you."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Media companies competing with agencies for creative assignments?

Media companies have for years offered ad-agency-like services in hopes of stealing a few more of their clients' dollars. But lately some have taken it a step further by creating ads for clients that appear on other media properties. Increasingly, marketers want deep integration with content, and they're finding that the content producers themselves are often the best creative partner, making their threat to agencies more tangible in recent months.

Recently Apple announced an ad channel in which they would be the exclusive production producers until such time that others would produce creative to "their standards".

Consider that Conde Nast last week opened its doors to provide a broader set of creative services for clients, while Hearst Corp. is reported to be near a deal to acquire digital agency iCrossing. (Hearst last week said it doesn't comment on possible transactions.)

Conde's maneuver is particularly aggressive. The company's creative-services unit, CND Studios, will now accept assignments from clients regardless of whether the ads are earmarked for Conde's websites, and, as such, marks a significant shift for the publisher, which in the past has only done creative work for advertisers buying space in one of its publications. Conde produced content for Kenneth Cole's retail site as well as ads that appeared on YouTube and Facebook.

On the local Toronto scene, it has not been uncommon for companies like SunTV or Omni TV to create commercials to be used on their channels. But now creative is being repurposed several times over, onto websites, Youtube channels and more. Creative divergence is definitely the future.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Facebook privacy concerns

Adage- April 23, 2010

Facebook is spreading its wings to the broader web with new tools that will allow users to see personalized versions of websites they visit elsewhere.

The move could change the way people experience the online world, though it could come with deeper privacy implications. By accessing Facebook’s tools, websites will be able to customize the experience based on the list of friends, favourite bands and other things users have shared on their Facebook profiles.

“The web is at a really important turning point now,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a conference for web and software developers in San Francisco Wednesday. “Most things aren’t social and they don’t use your real identity. This is really starting to change.”

The world’s largest online social network has long insisted, with varying success, that its users go by their real identities when they sign up for the service, offering a contrast to the culture of pseudonyms common elsewhere online.

And Facebook has sometimes transported those identities beyond its own service. Facebook Connect, announced last year, lets people use their Facebook logins to sign in to other websites, without needing a separate account.

The latest changes take this a step further. It means Facebook users will be able to see a web tailored to them based on their interests and social connections, as long as they are already logged in to Facebook.

So when visiting a news site for the first time, they could see which of their Facebook friends liked recent articles. A music site such as Pandora, meanwhile, could start playing music from the user’s favourite bands.

Users will also be able to share items on their Facebook profiles without leaving the other websites, simply by clicking “like” buttons next to the news article or other items they are reading.

Zuckerberg told developers at the conference that the experience will mean a more personalized, social, smarter web.

“There is an old saying that says when you go to heaven, all of your friends are there and everything is just the way you want it to be,” Zuckerberg said during his keynote, wearing sneakers and a dark sweat shirt. “So together let’s make a world that’s that good.”

If it works and users embrace it, Facebook could gain valuable insights that could help it sell more advertising, potentially rivalling online ad leader Google Inc., which typically tailors ads based on keywords in search terms and web content.

“If I were Google I would be really scared because Facebook might end up with a lot more intelligence than them,” said Alain Chuard, founder of social marketing firm Wildfire. “Google is just an algorithm, but Facebook could rule the web.”

But Facebook’s plans could backfire if it doesn’t make it clear what it’s trying to do. Facebook needs to make it easy for individual users to choose not to have their outside activities posted on Facebook’s website, said Greg Sterling, an Internet analyst who also writes for

“How many people are really going to want all this information about them shared?” Sterling said. “That’s the big unanswered question here.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Creative Excellence Fridays - Legally Speaking

Today on Creative Excellence Fridays we look at the legal community. And I guarantee if our first piece of creative doesn't make you raise a few eyebrows you've watched way too much late night tv.

Rules of advertising this group vary from country to country; and like any other brand, the ways different lawyers choose to put their message across varies greatly.
Outside of ethics board considerations, the overall brand of the law office is at stake. Acquiring legal services is not one of the more pleasurable purchases we make and the firm has to appeal to the emotion of the moment.

Here is what the law community has to contend with. Lowell "the Hammer" Stanley.

How can you not want to hire a lawyer with a credible phone number like 459-CASH.

We recently worked with a group from California called Injury Solutions. They gave us a storyboard and asked us to cast and shoot a commercial for their Canadian launch. They wanted a commercial that communicated a competitive spirit and professionalism, as well as a positive, uplifting brand message. Our task was to shoot a Canadian and American version as well. (Canadian with the flowing robe, US without)

Canadian Version

Special mention goes to stunt actor Bart Badziok (seen in centre) who did this crash tumble no less than 29 times. And after each time we said to him "Holy #@! are you SURE you're alright?"

Coming up on Monday we'll discuss the new privacy ramifications of Google's expanded network. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How crucial is your brand?

According to The American Marketing Association (AMA), a brandis a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

That's why it's important to not just get your potential market to choose you; but to feel your company is the hands down best choice to solve the problem.

Here are signs of a successful brand application:

Clear message delivery
Credibility confirmation
Asks for an emotional involvement from your customers
Propells customer to buy
Promotes user loyalty
Know your customers needs and wants and insure your brand confirms your product
is the best choice to solve their problems at every turn.
Ensure every connection to the public is completely brand cohesive, from the telephone answering message to the napkins handed out at client events.

Make your brand feel like a lifestyle choice and have it become ingrained in the customer's subconcious almost like a family member.

Please feel free to offer comments on the above.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Airliners taking huge bite out of world economy

Flights are finally starting to move today, but the damage has been substantial. Not just to the airlines themselves but the economies effected by major decision makers caught in limbo.

This is the release from Reuters

Giovanni Bisignani, head of the IATA airline industry body, estimated airline revenue losses were now reaching $250 million a day, up from an earlier estimate of $200 million on Friday.

Bisignani called for urgent action to safely re-open airspace and called for a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations aviation body.

"I would say that in a couple of weeks this will be a very embarrassing story for Europe," Bisignani told a news briefing in Paris.

"It took five days to organize a conference call with transport ministers with an emergency situation all over Europe and now expanding all over the world."

Most of Europe's airspace has been closed since Thursday after a huge ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano spread out, stranding millions of business passengers and holidaymakers and paralyzing freight and businesses worldwide.

"This volcano has crippled the aviation sector, firstly in Europe and is now having worldwide implications. The scale of the economic impact (on aviation) is now greater than 9/11 when U.S. airspace was closed for three days," Bisignani said.

And the ad world took a huge hit as well with execs being stranded the world over. AdAge coverage.

LONDON ( -- Despite beautiful blue skies across the U.K. and most of Europe, an ash cloud from an active Icelandic volcano continues to wreak havoc among grounded ad execs trying desperately to get to crucial client meetings, ad industry awards or just back home.

Ad execs, trying to get to meetings, conferences and awards shows, have been greeted at airports all over Europe with scenes like this. At McDonald's Corp.'s twice-annual global convention, taking place in Orlando, Fla., this week, only about 20% of the Europeans scheduled to attend have made it to Florida. Patrick Larsimont, London-based regional business director for DDB Europe, is one of those left behind. He's been trapped in Stockholm since last Thursday.

"This has blown a hole in [McDonald's] marketing plans and global initiatives," he said. "All three roster agencies were all due to [debut] work at the convention."

Despite valiant efforts, McDonald's northern European team has learned that it's just not possible to drive from Scandinavia to Orlando. Some execs from that team drove to Munich, failed to get a flight there, hopped in the car and headed to Vienna, couldn't get a flight, then drove back to their starting point in Norway, and are still awaiting news on when flights may be resumed.

Mr. Larsimont has an apartment in Stockholm so he's pretty comfortable, but on a personal level, he's desperate to get home to London. "It's made me realize how fantastic Skype is. My 2-year-old hears the Skype noise and runs to the computer, shouting for me. I've become a virtual daddy -- I'm a ringtone!"

D&AD hit hard
The judging of Britain's most prestigious creative awards show, D&AD, has been severely affected by the lack of transport. Being an island, the U.K. is hit particularly hard by the crisis. The only access to the rest of the world -- cross-channel travel via ferries and the Eurostar train line -- is heavily overbooked.

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Of the 210 judges scheduled to gather for the D&AD process this week in London, almost 30% have been affected by the volcano. That includes not just creatives based in other countries, but a number of London-based judges who went away for an Easter vacation break and now can't get home. However, judging has gone ahead as scheduled, and 42 of the 63 missing judges have been hastily replaced, either by rigging up remote judging using video-conferencing, or calling up reserve judges, including random creatives who never intended to be in London this week but are stranded. Some juries have been reduced in number, although never below a minimum of five judges.

A D&AD spokeswoman said, "Our primary objective is not to compromise our standards. We've not had to cancel any juries and we've been careful who we've asked -- we think the juries will still stand up, and at the end of the week we will publish a full, revised list of juries."

Susan Credle, Chicago-based chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, is among the judges who couldn't make it to London and are using video-conferencing to join the discussions. Damon Collins, Rainey Kelly/Y&R's executive creative director, has cleared his schedule for the week in order to help out with judging. And a senior art director from Australia who is trapped in London has been drafted on to the outdoor jury.

Other judges have gone to great lengths to get to London, and on time. Two Swedes, who are on the website jury, rented a car and drove from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Calais in France to catch a ferry. They landed on U.K. shores at 5 a.m. and reported for duty at 9 am. Despite these valiant efforts, the D&AD opening dinner, booked for 50 people on Sunday night, turned out to be an intimate evening for seven.

Russ Lidstone, CEO of Euro RSCG London, has a number of shoots scheduled to take place next week, including a series of commercials for Reckitt Benckiser, that may be canceled, although happily "acts of God" are covered by insurance. Another Euro RSCG shoot is planned for Los Angeles early next week.

"In the U.S. there is a lot less sympathy," he said. "Here in Europe, everybody has been affected -- either directly or indirectly -- so there's a lot more understanding."

Another client is already running into supply problems, he said. "We've got a new campaign coming up, but the stock is not able to get to the stores in time because they can't be shipped. It's critical."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Facebook? A waste of time?

Not likely.

It pays to have fans on Facebook if you want your ads to work there too. So-called earned media generated when people mention or advocate brands makes the paid media considerably more effective, according to the first public study to come out of the collaboration of Nielsen Co. and Facebook. The companies plan to discuss results of the study in a session at Ad:Tech in San Francisco today.

Ontrack's social media division is determining more and more clients are puttng value on "responsible social media". This coming after the Neilson Facebook debacle of a few weeks ago when angry consumers had unpleasant confrontations with company spokepersons right there on their Facebook page.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Twitter finally figures out how to monetize

Twitter has finally revealed how they expect to monetize and start generating revenue.
After all this time, and momentfum, they are now going to give advertisers the opporunity to pay for tweets to be promoted.
The @Anywhere platform details have been released and COO Dick Costolo tells all here.

In Viral news, you've no doubt already seen the Evian roller blading babies. Evian has decided to do it a bit backwards, and after a year of allowing the babies to viral around the net, they are releasing the creative on conventional television. This will no doubt fuel another round of viral.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Creative Excellence Fridays - Reebok shows Nike how its' done

Last week's Creative Excellence Fridays diatribe against Nike brought heated opinions for and against. The die hard marketers echoed, "Nike's goal was to create buzz and viral, and they accomplished that task." My argument is, as a pure branding exercise, the emotion I took away was not a positive one. And I wasn't alone in my distaste for it. It wasn't the Tiger ad that was a top viral this past week, but the Tiger ad satires. Again, perhaps Nike wins in the free name exposure; but below, Reebok shows them how it can really be done well.

Playoffs are underway in the NHL. Even if you're not a sports fan, you can appreciate this viral story from Sydney Crosby. I think even non Canadians are enamoured with his sincerity and genuine warmth as an unpretentious, extremely talented young millionaire.

Here, Sydney goes back to his childhood home in Nova Scotia, to the same basement he grew up in, and takes shots. While his parents explain, the "ping" means he hit the post. The thud means he hit the back of the dryer.

As a young boy he spent hours in a similar basement, shooting pucks and desecrating garage doors and basement walls, I get this. Reebok gets this. At our shop we have a term known as successfully flipping the passion switch. Reebok wins. Hands down.

Next week, an inspiring piece for fans and non sports fans alike. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Apple getting into the ad business

Apple's not just getting into the business of selling ads. They're going to make them as well, at least in the beginning for the earliest adopters of the new iAd format.
EngadgetApple CEO Steve Jobs showed off what he described as an unauthorized mock-up of a Nike ad at the unveiling of the new ad format. Executives around the mobile market say Apple will actually produce ads for marketers to assure they meet hoped-for quality standards for the new ad units.

"First couple of months they Apple will be the one actually coding and programming the ads," said one executive who discussed plans with Quattro Wireless, the mobile ad network Apple acquired in January.

It's not new for mobile ad networks to produce ads for clients, but this is the first time advertisers will be able to gain access to Apple's creative savvy. Even before Apple acquired the mobile-ad network, Quattro was known for making high-end mobile ads. Even AdMob, for example, creates ads for advertisers that spend significant money but don't have existing mobile creative.
Agencies and marketers will provide creative materials and give direction, but Apple developers with Quattro staff will program the ads in HTML5.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Walmart gets into the phone business

The world's biggest retailer wants to make sure consumers know it's staking a claim in the wireless war -- and it plans to tell them this week with a national ad campaign touting Walmart's Straight Talk service as a real money-saver.

In a pair of ads by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, the retailer claims that if cellphone users switch to Straight Talk -- the wireless brand that retails exclusively at Walmart stores -- it "can add up to over $850 in saving a year."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The future of newspapers

Every day we hear about more newspapers going into receivership. Has the businessmodel outlived its' usefulness? Certainly the reporters who research and write for these publications every day aren't any less talented than they were two years ago, five years ago. Should they be compensated less because the papers aren't making money? Of course not. Why should the content providers be penalized because the business model is broken. Starting next year the New York Times will be offering its' content on an online subscription basis. When you become accustomed to certain reporters, features and columns you don't mind paying a small fee for access. The newspaper industry needs more New York Times; papers that refuse to just keep giving it away for free and stand up for the value of their content. Yes, the internet is a wealt of free knowledge. But when it comes to opinion and meaningful content, the columnists and the papers they work for still have a place and deserve compensation.

Google Inc. chief executive Eric Schmidt is confident newspapers will find new ways to make money online by harnessing the vast reach of the Internet.

Though media executives have long accused Google of draining readers and advertising from newspapers online, Schmidt was invited to open the annual conference of the American Society of News Editors. Schmidt told attendees that Google recognizes that newspapers are vital to democracy and provide a critical source of online content.

He predicted the news business will find a new model, based on a combination of advertising and subscription revenue. He said Google hopes to facilitate that, but he offered no specifics.

"We have a business model problem. We don't have a news problem," Schmidt said, adding "We're all in this together."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't confuse social media with social networking

Patrick Keane of Advertising Age has some great thoughts online today about the differences between Social media and social networking.

Social networking is more than setting up an online presence, and social media is more than just blasting out press releases. Until brands understand how to authentically join, rather than crash, the conversation, they will continue to throw their money away.

Getting Social

Friday, April 9, 2010

Creative Excellence Fridays - Has Nike lost its mind?

Frankly, I'm tired of the Tiger. The media has put far too much coverage into Tiger, the man, this week. I'd almost prefer he put a bag over his head and simply play golf. When you stand at the Metropolitan in New York and stare at a Picasso or Pollock, you don't think about their misogynist, self destructive tendencies. You look at the art.
What I have a problem with, is an advertiser with deep pockets exercising incredibly bad timing and judgement.

In the Nike boardroom, I'm sure the conversations of creating a "revive the brand Tiger commercial" were greeted with fist pumping and high fives.

The public, however has greeted the commercial with disdain. Which is so unfortunate given how well he was received yesterday on the course from his first tee off. The public seems to have accepted that Tiger has his personal demons, as do we all in some form or fashion.

But the Nike commercial has not been well received. If you haven't seen it, Tiger's late father posthumously speaks from the grave to Tiger as he stands there and looks contrite. The idea of allowing a corporation to rifle through your personal recordings until they could "find something they could use" to "regenerate the brand" is disgusting.

On the Colbert Report last night, the commercial was ridiculed, replacing Tiger's father's voice with that of Ward Cleaver. The parody was funny. The original spot, embarrassing, self serving and very poorly timed.

Tiger has made a lot of poor decisions personally in his life. Allowing the memory of his father to be manipulated into a brand rebuild is definitely another one.

On a positive note, here's a much talked about brand rebuild that has become a huge success.

Since this commercial first launched on YouTube Feb. 4, views have skyrocketed to nearly 2.9 million. Actor Isaiah Mustafa, also appears in a smoking jacket in another perfectly cheesy spot on the Old Spice Web site, declaring that women "should smell like butterflies and salt water taffy" and men like "jet fighters and punching."

Since the commercial first aired, Mustafa's career prospects have also skyrocketed.

The over the top campy delivery has gone a long way to reviving a brand that, for a long time, was regarded as the aftershave you bought your grandfather at Christmas. It's now in the same league with Axe and other contemporary brand category leaders.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Canadian Tire retools

Since J.W. and A.J. Billes founded Canadian Tire in 1922, the retailer has made a lot of changes. From clerks on roller skates (I'm not making this up) to Canadian Tire money, the chain has had an amazing resillience over the years.

With the onslaught of Home Depot and Lowe's, Canadian Tire has recently strategized that it's necessary to go back to their roots; and focus on their heritage, tires.

Details are here.

Canadian Tire retools

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is there a still a place for upscale, luxury branding

Coming out of the worst recession in decades, some argue that upscale marketing is not realistic. But the true experts know there will always be a market, and a place for branding/speaking to the higher economic tiers.

According to "The New Face of Affluence," the following attributes are most influential in making "important purchases" today: value, price, overall quality, good design and functionality.

84% of this group texts from cellphones; 78% use social networking; 66% use the mobile web and 57% use mobile apps.

It might surprise you that this group's median age is 45, not 19.

According to the study, these are the attributes that drive purchase decisions of the "New Affluents." Indeed, the median household income of the more than 1,000 survey respondents is nearly $200,000. They're the same people who have the economy and the environment top-of-mind when making these purchase decisions.

According to the survey respondents, "luxury" brands,and "overall social status," are not a priority. This generation of nouveau riche is shunning "conspicuous consumption" in favor of brands that represent quality, aesthetics and authenticity. These attributes, along with uniqueness, integrity, design and performance, represent today's "prestige" for these high-end consumers. And their emerging values and brand motivations make these consumers a more diverse group than one might assume.

A consumer group with cachet, cash and a conscience.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Colorado's A.C. Golden uses social media in an old fashioned way

Colorado's Native Lager, A.C. Golden is using the model that worked for MillerCoors' Blue Moon: seeding the brand through word-of-mouth and letting consumers feel as if they "discovered" the beer for themselves, which encourages them to introduce friends to it. To do so, it's putting the entirety of its tiny Colorado Native budget into mobile and social-media channels. With social media generating a more personal experience (as opposed to a nationally aired television commercial), people spread the word of their personal "find" with more sincerity.

Every Colorado Native label is affixed with a "SnapTag," which, if photographed on a mobile device and e-mailed to a specified phone number, allows the brand to begin a conversation with its drinkers.

After e-mailing in a picture of the logo, a drinker will first get a reply asking for their birthday. If they say they're older than 21, they'll be queried with Colorado-centric trivia about their hobbies and interests, and the database will remember the answers and use them to craft future communications and offers to each individual drinker.

Full story here Colorado Golden

Monday, April 5, 2010

What are your friends and associates saying about you?

Have you ever wondered what people think of you? As much as you might immediately say who cares, when it comes to professional purposes, you may start to when it effects your role in your job or your company. There's a new site called People can essentially write whatever they want about you, and vice versa. There are some controls but it gives a very candid, and possibly damaging perspective on you; provided you're featured.

Founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark writes about it in his daily column.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hugh Jackman likes his Liptons

Given that tomorrow is a holiday we've decided to publish Creative Excellence Fridays a day early.

We start off with a commercial for Liptons Ice Tea. Hugh trips the light fantastic. It's not a particular original commercial but it illustrates that Hugh is more than just a Wolverine.

And our second and final spot is from the troubled folks at Toyota. As they continue to regain public confidence with testimonial commercials, they haven't abandoned their green heritage. Here a fanciful commercial uses a Hall and Oates classic to dance through urbanity and give you the warm and fuzzy's over their Hybrid Camry.

Have a great Thursday!