Something I wrote for work - Ideas First Thinking - Snicker and Colenso BBDO NZ digital marketing campaign

I wanted to share a campaign that I thought was pretty clever. I might be a bit biased because I’m half Kiwi. However, I’ve found that the Kiwis are pretty good at making something out of nothing. Probably because their budgets are so small!

Mandatory ramble

I recently read a New York Times article on the two schools of thinking that informed Western philosophy from the very beginning: The Academy – groups of philosphers working in unison to rationally categorise all things they saw and learned of, deriving systems of classification and putting order on the chaos. Then there were The Skeptics - fringe thinkers whose legacy is not a distinct body of thought but anecdotes of them poking intellectual holes in the carefully arranged systems of The Academy with torches by daylight, plucked chickens and once even public masturbation.

The point made in the article is that one could not exist without the other. I’d say this approach to a brief is closer to that of the cynics.

Snickers Campaign

It could be said that there are two ways to land a successful digital campaign. One approach relies on a strong understanding of format, medium and conventions to deliver an expected but strong communications piece.

The second approach is that of subversion – looking at the current method that things are done and then swimming against the stream to stand out.

While the former will deliver guaranteed results, the latter has the potential to break through in ways that defies conventions.

The snickers proposition is that you don’t think clearly when you are hungry and that a Snickers is the quickest fix.

So the brand created three ludicrous apps that only someone who wasn’t thinking clearly could be interested in.

Once downloaded the apps turned out to be Snickers vouchers.

The trick is not in rewarding those few users silly enough to download these apps with earnest expectations, it’s about the interest that is created once people cotton on and begin downloading the apps for free snickers.

Idea first or channel first?

It might seem simple but I’d argue it’s way easier to sell a client a really useless app than a campaign that makes fun of useless apps.

In his book Space Race, Jim Taylor talks about Communications Planning (which I’d say is analogous to what we’re calling Communications Marketing) and how there’s two prevelant approaches to it in agencies: Looking at the channels and their uses first and then populating them vs. coming up with an idea first and then having that inform channel usage.

I don’t believe that one is naturally better than the other – I would say the latter is more likely to create this sort of snickers campaign, where as I think the former is more likely to be useful in a big preplanned longterm campaign that has multiple moving parts.

Communications independents like Nota Bene and Naked have made a name with idea first where as media buying agencies are known for channel first. Our Story First model can actually accommodate both styles. 

I’d encourage you to think about what school of thinking your clients prescribe to and to observe your colleagues and investigate under which model they are operating. Because if it’s in the open then collaboration will be a lot smoother.


Evian Effie Award Notes

I had a read of the first of three effie papers that was shared here, the evian one. It’s a bit scatter shot but here are my notes.

Notes on the effies papers

·      Outdoor and cinema are described as “high value touch points”

·      I wonder what the mean by “badge value”
“badge value”-imagery that consumers associate with the brand and want to be connected with.

·      Goal for mainstream countries was to increase purchase frequency amoung potential Evian consumers. Spot on Byron Sharp approach.

·      They describe 16 million as a “ridiculous” media budget. We would be jizzing in our pants over a media budget of that size.

·      I think by patrimonial brand they are trying to say “brand with brand value” sounds like a mistranslation of some sort

·      Note the importance that is put on understanding price promotions

·      KOL means Key Opinion Leader. I’ve heard the health PR team use that terminology

·      Their take on how social has developed as reflected by the different evian campaigns kind of feels right: In 2009, it was about virality, in 2011, it was about co-creation. Today it is about brand content and sheer entertainment.

·      Brand insight: Start acting like a big lovable soft drink brand. I like it, there’s obviously been thinking around “if water is bad then why is soft drink okay?”

·      “Prioritise eventful activation and maximize the quality of brand experience”

·      “Push but don’t impose” – Lines up with my current thoughts that our digital inventory sucks

·      I’m not convinced of the claim that 90% of the views were from shares. I’d have to see more stats.

·      All they say in terms of business impacts is that it has had a “significant” impact on the business. I’m not sure whether that’s hand waving, or whether the business is just tight lipped about its econometrics and let the effies judges know on a “need to know” basis.

·      Quite impressed with the structure of the paper. It does not rely on one big idea that goes through the whole thing, instead the channels and approaches are fractured but well considered. This reflects how we’re saying we need to start thinking about how things live on digital.

Having fun with it

I think it's time for some irl trolling. Here's a little digital prank from oooooh 20 years ago that would still make a killer PR story today!


Have fun

In the USA, back in 1994, Fool US hyped a fictional penny share called Zeigletics on one of the Internet’s first “chat rooms”. “Zeigletics” manufactured “linked sewerage disposal systems for the central African nation of Chad.” Literally, it shovelled excrement.

The aim was to “out” the penny share hype-sters that were abusing the chat rooms. Their electronic pyramid scheme — pumping tiny, thinly traded shares to get other investors to load up so they could dump shares at the first sign of an uptick — was not just harmful to investors, but it also degraded the real conversations people were having.

So the Fool fought them the only way we know how: by trying to kill them with humour.

A few posts was all it took to get investors excitedly looking to buy shares on the Halifax Stock Exchange (which doesn’t exist).  Many of the hype-sters were duped, and they were furious at our little joke.

The weekend project — the Fool’s first April Fool’s Day prank — landed Fool US a spot in the Wall Street Journal and introduced Foolishness to Wall Street. But the real triumph wasn’t the press attention or the prank — it was the amazing thing that we witnessed during the weekend of the Zeigletics gag: People started playing along with the joke.

Incase you were wondering who The Motley Fool are:

Seriously Social 2015 by Peter Field

I'm just reading the sample version and nodding, nodding, nodding. This is a great piece!

Here's the summary:


The rise of ‘paid social’ and the decline of organic reach, particularly on Facebook, are having an impact on strategy. It is becoming harder for low- budget campaigns to break through, and those that do are using more offline activation. As a result, success in social now requires both ‘sharing power’ and money. The rise of investment in ‘paid social’ may be leading to a focus on short- term metrics, rather than long- term brand-building. 


A survey of shortlisted entrants for the Warc Prize for Social Strategy shows that ‘originality’ is overwhelmingly seen as the most important factor in a campaign becoming a social ‘hit’. It is viewed as far more important than utility and incentives. This supports earlier research linking creativity and social effects. 


The study suggests that, like ‘traditional’ marketing, social strategies are most effective when they take a long-term view and focus on customer acquisition, not retention. Emotional appeals are more likely to deliver long-term success. 


Social-led campaigns appear to work best when accompanied by three to five other channels. In the shortlisted case studies from the Warc Prize for Social Strategy, these are high- visibility offline media. 


Well this is a bit of a work in progress and I want to flesh this all out with a solid body of references in a separate piece. However, in the interest of getting started I'm writing this in more of a "blog" format. I will say though that this is a mix of my personal observations, material from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science and John P. Jones (especially Advertising: strong force or weak force? A dilemma for higher education.)

Often I encounter two points of view on marketing:

It is a massive mover in the cultural landscape: A Strong Force - Two camps take this view, the bigger camp are counterculturalists; feminists who feel that ads ingrain unrealistic expectations of the female body on the masses, the politically left and spiritual types who think it keeps the masses mesmerised with consumerism, etc. Then there are a small group of advertising enthusiasts within the industry who wax lyrically about classic ground breaking campaigns and quote Ogilvy like he's Buddha.

It doesn't do anything - This comes a lot from the very practically minded (engineers, those who make things with their hands etc.) and those who perceive themselves to be inoculated against marketing hype. It also comes from #DirectDigitalMarketers and from those who come from a business school background (that illusive C-level that agency's always want to reach for a "seat at the table").

The thing is, both points of view are mostly based on opinion (and yes I see the irony of saying that in an opinion piece but at least I have a nuanced point of view...) the funny thing is sometimes people will even flip flop between these two views.

Marketing as a Weak Force

What about marketing as a marginal force though? A Weak Force that can give you a competitive edge when you have the rest of your business under control and apply it properly? That's where I see marketing. It's that little nudge that gets some people to grab a coke instead of a pepsi when they're making a quick decision at the counter, or google Mitsubishi instead of Toyota when doing your car research.

And to do that it needs to be applied at a mass scale, with lots of consistency and creative spark. Note that the creativity shouldn't be applied to speculating about things like research, target audiences or influencer programs (research HAS the answers to those things), it should be applied to the crafting of the communication pieces. Surprise, delight and excite your audience so that the brand sticks better and sells 5% more goods. It's really that simple.

Why this knowledge gap is BAD

In a worst case scenario:

-It bleeds money out of businesses. At the end of the day these are also peoples' livelihoods and resources that could be used in all sorts of positive ways. 

-When there is no clear measure of marketing's impact, the indicator that clients start to apply is "effort". Unless their agency team isn't running around being busy 24/7 and looking visibly exhausted and flat, they aren't doing their job. 

-The pay (at least for juniors) has stagnated since the 80's because the value proposition isn't clear

Why won't my video go viral?

Here's an interesting quote from Karen Nelson Field's book Viral Marketing. This resonates with my lived experience.

Fear of rocking the boat, decision by committee and an absurd dedication to the purity of "messaging" are all massive road blocks for most of the content that I've helped create.

Yikes... When you consider that marketing is a weak force already, this sort of interference takes your chance of impacting sales from slim to zero FAST.


Future Areas for Marketing

Areas in which I think big battles for the public's opinions and dollars will happen:

The legality of mind altering substances, particularly psychedelics and medical marijuana.  

Our food choices and sources. As we have more mouths to feed our eating habits may have to change. Not to mention ethics, but that's more of a personal interest.

Safety and understanding of artificial intelligence  and the singularity.

Research into aging and more widely a move away from the cult of youth.

So get pumped marketers and PR practitioners; FMCGs, CSDs and autos are just a place to hone your skills!

Digital is happening but I don't think traditional advertising is dead

There’s been a trend for the last few years to proclaim that “TV is dead” or “Print is dead” and of course the newest version of that: “mobile first!!! It needs to be mobile first!!!!”. Well, this UK report shows that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

(From eMarketer)


No matter the definitional complexities, one trend underlies much of eMarketer’s time spent estimates: UK adults aren’t moving their media consumption habits to digital platforms at the expense of traditional ones; rather, they are adding it to their overall media day. This also holds true for platforms like social media, with time spent via mobile adding to time spent via laptops and desktops. 

So traditional media is not dead, digital has just added itself to the mix and in some cases people are of course multi-screening. This means traditional press coverage is still extremely important. I like the “What does mum do” test. My mum still watches The Block and The News.

In saying that, mobile and computer use are absolutely on the rise, so how do we market across all channels? That’s the challenge.

Timings on Facebook ads

I wonder: When you change your time periods but keep your overall spend consistent, why does the daily estimated reach not stay consistent?

2 Days

4 days

Is it a thing where the rate at which they can predict the cost per person reached decreases the further ahead you project because it goes into an auctioning process?

I find it kind of annoying that you can't just find the answer to something like that with a quick Google search.

Instead it links to articles like this Kissmetrics article which pretty much just repeats the company line. For example I'm still not convinced that ultra specific targeting like that suggested in that article is effective.

My POV on using Spotify’s ad space

This is a pretty “finger in the wind” style look at it because I have pretty limited experience in ad-buying. That said, I think there’s some common sense in the following.

Spotify makes very little off advertising. I saw an article somewhere that specified how much exactly that figure is but can’t find it right now. Failing that here’s some data that lets us triangulate it:

For the larger streaming industry this is how the profit break down looks according to pando:


Of that $1.4 billion, almost half came from customers who pay to use Spotify, Rdio, or Pandora, amounting to $628 million. A slightly smaller chunk, $590 million, came in the form of performance royalties which are collected and distributed by the performance rights organization SoundExchange. (The vast majority of these come from Pandora; services like Spotify and Rdio are “on-demand,” not radio, meaning they negotiate directly with labels). The remaining $220 million came from advertising-supported streaming and was generated in large part by YouTube and Spotify’s non-paying customers.

So on demand streaming is already the smallest profit chunk (let’s ignore Sound exchange distributions because from what I can tell that represents an outflow of cash for Spotify).

On top of that reports

(This is their assumption):

Spotify makes 5 percent as much advertising to its 15 million non-paying frequent users as it does from cash from its five million paying customers. According to Pandora’s recently-released financials, we estimate it makes $5 per year from non-paying users, so that seems like a good number to use for Spotify too.

So you can see that as far as the business model goes it’s all about subscribers for Spotify. What this means is that I imagine management is prioritising subscriptions over ads and probably not trying too hard to give advertisers bang for their buck.

I noticed that some of the more recent ads on Spotify say things along the lines of “If you buy X brand you’ll save enough to subscribe to Spotify”. Which might seem like a clever line to a copywriter in an agency that doesn’t understand Spotify’s business model, but to me it sounds like Spotify’s marketing team is even using the actual ad spots to drive subscriptions.

Advertising appears to be being pushed out of the mix in favour of subscriptions, to the point that it will be used as the stick that drives subscribers, the carrot being ad-free listening.

So that to me makes ads on Spotify a relatively caustic proposition. I’m sure there are some uses for it (penetration?)  but I think it will become increasingly less useful to place ads there. Spotify may start requiring that you include subscription CTAs or overcharge to satisfy increasingly steep KPIs that demand advertising keep up with subscriptions (an impossible task but businesses don’t seem to let logic get in the way of their KPIs).

Radio actually seems like a smarter choice because at least it’s consumed with the expectation that there will be ads and talking heads. That gives advertisers more room to be memorable with clever ads or jingles.

I think podcasts are a very underutilised advertising medium. Reasons they are good: The ads tend to use a code-based model which allows you to measure impact and track ROI. A good host can read advertising in a way that makes it bearable, sometimes even hilarious. A lot of online businesses like Squarespace and Audible seem to be jumping onto podcasts where as I am seeing more and more FMCGs and traditional brands using Spotify. That to me indicates that I’m onto something because the former are usually more onto it.

I wish I could spend more time to investigate my hunches about this stuff but I have a day job and hobbies. Not to mention I’m lazy!

Some statements I liked...

I was just reading through some role descriptions in job listings for mid-weight strategists for fun.

Came across this :

You like the long idea over the big idea and 365 days over 360 degrees because you know what it takes to have a sustainable and ongoing impact.

What some call 'always-on', you simply call digital. 

I like both of those statements. Then they sort of killed it with this one

You get social and know how much Australian’s love it! 

Maybe I'm a grammar Nazi but come on, this about someone's career, check for typos T-T

Engagement rate isn't engagement rate! Finding the right reporting metrics

I’m currently struggling a little bit with different social metrics. There’s no consensus out there on what is best.

Some say Facebook engagement rate should be measured as (likes+comments+shares)/(page fans) (often referred as page engagement rate) others say it should be measured as (likes+comments+shares)/(page reach) aka post engagement rate. EDIT: Actually I don't know what that approach is called but Post engagement rate is something different again. 

Personally I think post engagement rate is better. It doesn’t get skewed by the number of posts (page engagement rates go up the more posts you have because it doesn’t factor post numbers in. You can then divide it over number of posts but it just starts getting weird). Also I don’t think that fan numbers are as important anymore now on Facebook because Facebook is dialing down organic reach so dramatically anyway.

But then you also need to think about whether or not you want to includes clicks in engagements. Tricky!

Then on top of that when you have actually decided on how to measure your engagement rate you then have the issue of communicating it to a client. Because clients usually think there’s only one way of doing it. Then if you've chosen a better but less popular measuring system, you will have a hard time finding industry benchmarks. Total clusterfuck.

Taking a step back

I think the underlying issue is also that we are only just starting to get to the point where we say “Hold on why are we evening measuring any form of engagement in the first place?”. Facebook had a lot of people believing that engagements were a great proxie for share of voice and a great way to get people to buy things. They had it packaged up as “stories” the more “brand stories” your users are telling the more likely their friends are to buy your stuff.

Well that seems a bit shaky now and I do sort of role my eyes at the term “stories” when it pops up on my spreadsheet. Beowulf… The Godfather, those are stories. Clicking like on a brand post… Not a story.

I think engagements are still a nice proxy for excitement. If something excites or arouses people they will probably like and share it. That then implies we've created impactful communications. Which in turn are more likely to stick in peoples’ minds. Add reach to that high quality content and you have a good basis.

An experiment I’d like to do

I’d still like to see how clicks to site and engagement correlate. Or any CTAs and engagement for that matter. Just plot them all out on an X and Y axis and do a regression analysis.


I have some serious doubts about the validity and usefulness of influencers, one on one crm, social media data mining and a few other things that I have to work on at the moment. I guess you just need to make the best of whatever you're given sometimes but still. Isn't there something more? Sometimes there's such a gap between what I'd liek to be doing and what I am doing...

It arrived!

Nice. Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing by Karen Nelson-Field arrived at work today. I've mentioned this before but I really like work from the Ehrenberg-Bass institute because it is hard science. It reminds me of my favourite interpretation of the planners role: A researcher with a seat at the decision making table.

Some things I'm interested in right now (a reading list)

Martin Weigel of course. 

But I also want to read more work by Byron Sharpe (here's his blog) and other members of the Ehrenberg-Bass institute. I love their empirical approach to marketing. I love how they can distinguish between tools, modeling and laws. Most marketers just think "nerdy number stuff" or "big data", but in reality laws will help you where tools and stats will often lead you astray.

I'm also pretty keen to find out more about the IPA's The Expert Guide to Measuring Not Counting – How to Evaluate Social Media for Marketing Communication. It just has a catchy name that speaks to a lot of the things that have me worried about social media. I also tend to trust the IPA the most when it comes to straight talk in marketing (although even they aren't infallible!). Here are some articles that outline the contents. I'll be reading through them in the next few days:

It's time marketers started measuring, not counting, social media impact

Five point plan for effective social media measurement

#IPASocialWorks takes pride of place at Silicon Beach


Books I'm keen on buying:

Bokko - More just for inspiration and fun. I read the first issue ages ago and thought it'd be cool to read a manga about a strategist.

On War by von Clausewitz - This was recommended to me by a soldier friend when I asked him about god books about strategy. I have this current thought process where I think that marketing inteligence and strategy could learn a lot from military intelligence and strategy. The problem is this book looks like a bloody tomb. On the other hand, I look at "boring" as a challenge rather than a hindrance ;) 

Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice by Byron Sharp - This is a really comprehensive university level book which teaches the current state of knowledge in marketing. I've read a few other comms and marketing books and had to stop because they were so fluffy. Hopefully this will be a better read.

The Expert Guide to Measuring Not Counting – How to Evaluate Social Media for Marketing Communications by the IPA - See above

Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing by Karen Nelson-Field - A book which takes the science of How Brands Grow and applies it to new (well at least that's what I hope it does!)