Tuesday, 19 November 2013

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Here's a post I wrote for out company blog recently about the new Christmas ad from John Lewis in the UK. Well, all of their Christmas ads really..
In case it had escaped your attention, Christmas is fast approaching. And over in the UK, that means it’s time for the annual round of big(ish) budget Christmas ads from some of the UK’s biggest brands, largely the retailers. Over the past 5 or so years, Christmas time has become the UK equivalent of The Superbowl for advertising.
The undisputed ‘main event’ over the past few years has been the annual effort from department store John Lewis, the 2013 edition of which aired for the first time late last week. Eschewing the all-to-popular ‘how many celebs can we squeeze in’ approach, since 2011 their ads have featured heart-warming, tear-jerking even, stories loosely based around the joy of giving. They’re all very different creatively, linked only by a common feature of a specially commissioned cover of a well-known song, but still somehow unmistakably John Lewis.
What I particularly love about each of these is that they are pure emotional brand ads – there’s not really any overt ‘message’ and barely any products featured. Certainly no range shots or price points. Any message that is there is about Christmas (being with loved ones, giving not receiving etc.) rather than anything about John Lewis itself. Very clever really, as it encourages and celebrates purchasing without all the negative over-commercialisation connotations.
I often find myself reminding clients in debriefs that consumers don’t pay half as much attention to our advertising as we’d like them to. Oh to be in John Lewis’ position where the everyman on the street not only watches and pays attention to your ads but actually looks forward to it every year. The first airing of this year’s ad in the middle of an episode of X Factor attracted more twitter buzz than the show itself. Of course most importantly, John Lewis has seen strong sales growth, at a time when the rest of the UK high street is struggling.
You can watch ‘Hare & Bear’ here, and also the previous ads from 2012 , 2011 and 2010. My personal favourite is the 2011 original (being a father of a young boy probably helps), but would love to know what everyone else thinks.

Friday, 10 June 2011


We're flying up to Port Douglas for a long weekend away from the cold in Sydney. Bit of diving, bit of rainforest exploring, bit of croc dodging, bit of beach time, lots of relaxing. Nice (as they say in jazz club).

This is the first flight I've been on since I succumbed to the lure of the iPad, and it's like they were made for it. So far I have read some articles I saved on instapaper, got knocked out of the Spanish Cup on FIFA and played as the Beastie Boys on NBA Jam, looked through a few photos I took recently, watched a couple of video podcasts and quite a few saved TED Talks (particularly good flight fodder). And now I'm writing this blog entry (while listening to my music of course). I was going to watch a film as well, but this slimline box of tricks has done such a good job of keeping me occupied that I've run out of time.

Ok, I'm not connected to the Internet, so I had to do a bit of 'homework' last night to download/save a few things to watch/read.

But in reality I'm always saving and bookmarking things as I come across them, and it's the constant distraction of twitter/facebook/email/mindless web surfing that stops me from ever getting around to reading or watching them. And flight mode does a pretty good job of removing those distractions.

And yes I could be doing all that on a laptop, but my iPad is smaller than the book I bought on board (which of course I haven't opened) and slips nicely into the seat pocket and sits nicely on a tray table.

It's not that I didn't already think my iPad was great (my already high pre-purchase expectations have been well and truly exceeded). But today it really came into its own.

If you do a reasonable amount of flying, I'd seriously recommend you get one. Unless, like my wife, you fall asleep the minute you sit down in any form of transport.

P.s. Jetstar (who we're flying with today) are just introducing rentable pre-programmed iPads for in flight entertainment on planes where they don't have seat back screens. Here comes the early majority.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

No branding, no brainer?

One of the big discussions in the Australian marketing world at the moment is the cigarette plain-packaging legislation which comes into effect next year, forcing the tobacco companies to replace their uniquely identifiable packs with a uniform olivey-greeny-brown pack with a simple text brand name.

There's been plenty of comment and debate about whether this is a step too far (cigarettes are already hidden from view in shops in Australia). Of course the pro-tobacco lobbyists have been out in force with various arguments against it, most farcically the one that says that it shouldn't be adopted because it won't work... which naturally begs the questions "why argue against it then?"

The 'restraint of trade' angle has also been raised, and not always from those who are in any way pro-tobacco. Rowan Dean's piece in the Sydney Morning Herald is a good example. One of the central facets of his argument is that the government has "no right whatsoever to actively seek the destruction of brands that are legally traded in the marketplace". I do have some sympathy with this "either it's legal or it's not" argument, but there's something else that concerns me more with this legislation.

What I'm puzzled about is the emphasis the government has placed on the research that shows that plain packs are less desirable than the branded packs. I'm not questioning if this is true (it may be, it may not be), what I'm questioning is whether this actually matters. If none of the packs are branded then people won't have a choice. Or rather their only choice will be whether to buy cigarettes at all. And I'm not sure that this is what was tested.

Regardless of how carefully you control the context in the test, the context in the respondent's head is always going to be influenced (if not generated entirely) by what happens in real life. Asking people whether they'd rather purchase and carry around something plain and (notionally) unappealing or something bright and colourful is a bit of a no brainer (unless you're a hipster perhaps). But that's not the choice people will be making.

It's like asking people whether they'd prefer a free Paul Smith suit or a free French Connection suit, and concluding that because people prefer the Paul Smith suit, if you took this option away they wouldn't want the free French Connection suit. Silly example perhaps, but no more silly than the conclusions the government is drawing from the pack-test research.

I should make it clear that I'm not necessarily against plain-pack legislation, or anything else that limits the abilities of the cigarette companies to market their toxic goods. In the long term these limitations may push the cigarette companies to just give up (and yes I appreciate the irony of that statement) as they can't do anything to ensure they maximise their share of an inevitably shrinking market. Or with 'brand' being a smaller part of the consumer decision process, it may result in a more price led market, which would erode tobacco company profits (at the macro level), and lead to a race to the bottom.

It's more that I feel the arguments the government are making for their introduction are flawed. And more specifically that it sounds like they are based on poor research.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Walking the walk

So having made bold claims about a new dawn (or rather, the same dawn, just me getting up a little nearer to it), I've so far failed miserably. Likewise with this blog.

I will blame the lack of early-morning rising on the weather. But that's hardly going to cut it as an excuse for not writing anything new on this blog. Quite the opposite.

So I feel like it's time to live up to those bold claims. Having talked the talked, it's time to walk the walk.

Whilst we're on an 'integrity' theme, I saw a great quote the other day on the under side of a bottle top (well, a photo on the web of the underside of a bottle top)...

"Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching"

It's what people (and brands) do when they're not being watched that really tells you about their character. It's the anonymous donors,  and the brands that give to charity And don't shout about it who should really be congratulated. Though, of course, we can't, because we don't know who they are.

Does that mean I should keep blogging even if none of you are reading? With a bit of luck I won't need to make that call....in the words of the Geordie guy from Big Brother, you decide.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

I've started...

So I suppose having started this blog, I should write something on it (that is after all the idea of these blog things).

Since announcing the start of my new 'get up and do stuff in the morning' life, I have completely failed to replicate it on the two subsequent days - once due to alcohol intake the night before, and today because I need to be up at the crack tomorrow to fly to Adelaide for our Kangaroo Island trip. Pretty poor excuses both.

On both occasions I told myself the weather didn't look great and there wasn't much swell, only to discover through the majesty of the aquabumps daily email that neither was true.

So here's hoping for some good weather next week when I get back from Easter break. Otherwise the new beginning will have ended almost before it has started.

And likewise, I will actually try and post a bit more (or rather, post more worth reading) from next week. Maybe I'll even post some pics from Kangaroo Island over the weekend. Ooooh the suspense!

Have a good Easter. Happy face scoffing

p.s. I've updated the about me and about this blog pages for that one person who tried to read those earlier and found them blank

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Me this morning. Well not me, but it was this morning,
and this is what I was doing, and where I was doing it.
Photo courtesy of Aquabumps  http://www.aquabumps.com/


This morning I got out of bed at 6.15am to voluntarily go and do something before going to work.

6.15am. Voluntarily.

This has never happened before. Ever.

I am not a morning person. Never have been. Ask my parents. Ask my wife. Ask her parents. Ask anyone I have ever worked with or lived with. Mornings and Nick do not go well together. Until today.

So I’ve decided that today is a day of new beginnings. So I’m starting this blog.