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.