Friday, April 15, 2011

Funny > Smart

Someone recently said to me: You're a strategist that does stand up comedy? That's weird.

Here's why it's not weird to me:
As I looked over creative entries at the last several advertising award shows, I couldn't ignore the fact that a huge percentage of the best work utilized humor.

I also couldn't stop thinking - What do strategists know about comedy? Do they know WHY we need humor? Do they know what makes one thing funny and another not? By not knowing these things, are they less helpful to the creative process?

David Ogilvy - the ad man most famous for once dismissing comedy, later wrote "I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive."

His statement seems to parallel Stanislavs insight: "That which is most personal is most universal.", but in advertising we preface our personal feelings with an apology: "It's just a focus group of one, but i think..."

Ogilvy made his anti-comedy quote BEFORE Lenny Bruce changed comedy. Because of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin comedy has become "an intense investigation into what it means to be a human being."

Personal truth + universal relevance = modern day comedy. As a strategist, how could you not want to learn EVERYTHING about how or why it works?

Because most strategists have their heads buried in books on social psychology and neuroscience, they tend make things complicated, rather than simple. Simple takes more work from a strategist, complicated leaves more work for a creative. They turn a tricky problem about how to sell a product into an impossibly tight uninspiring box about how the brain works.

That reminds me of my grandfather complaining to my mouthy uncle: "If I ask you what time it is, don't tell me how to build a watch! Just tell me the God damn time!"

I have committed to doing stand up 4 nights/week. 4 nights a week I am standing in front of a focus group of 50 to 200 people and watching how the audience responds to every single comics take on his/her personal life and what JUST happened in the news THAT DAY. How often do most strategists leave the office? How often do they speak to your target audience?

Even if you're not using humor - comedy is THE most disruptive form of story-telling...and the rules absolutely still apply.

If you still don't believe that comedy is filled with deep true insights that often come from an unexpected angle, see below:

Louis CK - Everything is amazing & Nobodys happy:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anything you can do...

I've seen multiple case studies for digital campaigns. Most emphasize the handoff from TV, print or radio to digital. Some explain that digital catalyzes a different part of the "path to purchase", but this case study shows something else. It proves that digital has the potential to do, what no other medium can. I wont minimize it by describing it as part of the "long tail" theory. To me it's something much more human. It amplifies the most effective form of advertising - story telling (the most viral form of word-of-mouth).

Successes like these don't come from integrated agencies or integrated marketers, they come from innovative thinkers who understand people. The type of person who can look at marketing research that says 92% of people will not buy this product...and say yeah, but 8% will!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hot and Cold

Dan Ariely conducted a really interesting study at UC Berkeley a few years back where he attempted to understand how decisions were changed from a "cold state" (rational) to a "hot state" (emotional). One of the most powerful examples of Hot and Cold states is pregnancy.

Women prior to giving birth (cold state) often deny the use of an epidural, but once labor begins (hot state) they ignore their earlier decision and want pain killers - badly.

Dan Ariely argues that these states exist in all sorts of situations: young males for example when asked if they would ever have unprotected sex almost always answer "never!", but statistics have proven (Unwanted pregnancies and STD's) that when these young males are in an aroused state that their cold (rational) state decisions are quickly ignored.

Dan Ariely argues that hot and cold states are based on "the seasonality of the consumers mind" not based on perceptions towards a particular product or category alone.

A product CAN live in both hot and cold states e.g. a frozen fish brand can advertise its exceptional taste in December - a time of year when most consumers eat whatever they want, even expecting to gain weight. In January that same product can speak about its health benefits - when consumers are all thinking about getting back in shape.

Yes consumers are now in charge, but I don't believe most agencies take the time to truly understand WHAT is in charge of consumers.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Digital Celebrity

I just read a note by my favorite British comedian Russell Brand. He wrote about Jade Goody (UK Big Brother reality star) who recently passed away from cancer. Russell made a really interesting point: "Fame has long been bequeathed by virtue of wealth and birth and this is the first generation where it has been democratically distributed by the most lowbrow of phenomenon - reality television" - this made me think about brands and how we continue to define celebrity from the dictionaries of the older generations.

If you are a gaming brand, you should be aware of Yahtzee - a video game reviewer who reaches 1 million + views on his youtube videogame reviews. Almost EVERY time!

Carls Jr. used Paris Hilton to connect with young males off line, but I wonder if they ever considered using Tia Tequila online? She had over 4 million friends on myspace and over 16 million page views BEFORE VH1 gave her a reality show, or "Molls" whose hilarious blog receives over 50,000 page views a week?

WWTDD.COM (What would Tyler Durden Do) is a celebrity blog written from the perspective of my favorite Fight Club Alpha Male. Massively trafficked site that is constantly mentioned on TMZ and KROQ's nationally syndicated radio program.

It's not just reality TV that has democratized celebrity, its the digital world too.

These "democratic celebrities" seem to be missed by most and I think it's a big mistake. The attached video is Weezers Pork and Beans where Weezer incorporates Youtubes best into their music video. With nearly 18 million page views I wonder if they aren't helping rewrite dictionaries.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Movie trailer revolution coming soon

The attached video was part of The Exorcist film premier in the early 1970's. What I think is so progressive was the shift from showing a standard 30 second film trailer IN viewers homes to bringing the viewer into the experience FROM their home. I wonder if their idea wasn't inspired by Roone Arledge of ABC sports? Hmmm.

In the 1960's NCAA Football games were really problematic for a fledgling ABC sports. Most fans only cared about their own schools team, so if a popular team lost...the next game would inevitably have poor ratings. Enter Roone Arledge who stated "Television has done a great job bringing the game to the viewer - now we are going to bring the viewer to the game!" 

Camera's shifted from pan shots of the field, to pre-shot film of the campus, stadium, town and fans. Roone once said "We must orient the viewer, by allowing him to know how many people are watching the game with him, If the game is in Corvallis, Oregon...we need the viewer to know how mad the town is about football." 

This methodology was used later to increase female viewership of Olympics programming by telling the athletes story. Childhood, struggles, parents, siblings, etc...And again to increase viewership in boxing - almost every big fight today includes back stories - all for the purpose of multiplying the number of "entry points of attraction" to the event. It just seems to work.

The Exorcist EXPERIENCE became pop culture by doing this. It even showed up as a major story on the evening news. At the film premier fake ambulances were parked on the curb outside of the theatre further stoking the belief that if you missed this film, you would have missed out on an experience that everyone was talking about. Personally, it would have reminded me of not getting picked on the soccer team - standing alone, watching a crowd have fun.

I applaud the JACKASS film trailer that premiered a few years back, the movie trailer did not show 1 clip of the film, but instead turned a night vision camera on an audience that was laughing its ass off. Just like Roone preached, they brought the film to the viewer. 

Certain emotions can create "emotional contagions" (laughter, sadness and anger) - the phenomenon that happens when we laugh simply because others are laughing...oddly, followed by asking "what's so funny?" 

Film trailers have been beyond lazy and now with the window between theater and DVD release narrowing, they will need a revolution, lest we see the end of theaters in our near future. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Vu Ja De

If there is only 1 lesson that Youtube and the likes have taught me, its that agencies are over thinking and under doing.

"Vu Ja De" is a great little phrase that I came across, which describes the ability to see what WILL be important. What WILL be relevant and engaging enough to grab the attention of a population.

There is a fantastic case study from Denmark written by Martin Lindstrom, in his book Buyology.

Years ago Luciano Pavoratti decided to visit Denmark. The entire country was excited as this was his first visit. Radio and TV shows scheduled interviews, talk shows announced live telecasts and press wrote article after article about the anticipation of his arrival.
Sadly, the Italian tenor got a sore throat and cancelled.

Pavoratti was top of mind for nearly everyone in Denmark when a nimble agency decided to approach Gaiola, a Danish sore throat lozenge with an over night campaign:

"Things would have been different if Pavoratti knew about us." ran in local papers the very next day and Gaiola immediately became part of Danish pop culture forever. Vu Ja De.

Fast is the new big. If you're thinking when others are've lost.

A strategist today needs to also be an investigative reporter with a bit of Vu Ja De. You must be able to not only understand what will influence a consumer, but also how consumers influence each other.

The attached is an example of being an investigative reporter, as well as a strategist. Before we asked ourselves how the Australian government can stop young males from speeding...we asked ourselves how young women would convince them?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Friends, tricks, strangers and lies

The other day I watched a Youtube video of a cute girl who apparently met a man in a cafe, had some great conversation and grabbed the coat that he left behind. Why did she make a Youtube video? An attempt to find him and return the jacket. Ahh romance!

Here's the part that's causing some controversy - its a fake video created by a media agency in Sydney for a fashion retailer called Witchery. 

As the effects of the global recession begin to hit Australia, I think more and more agencies will be asked to explore these digital stunts and inevitably more and more agencies will make the same mistake this agency has - believing that a stranger (unknown brand) can behave like a friend (preferred brand)

The problem I have with this video is that a STRANGER has made me the butt of her joke. 
Close your eyes and imagine a stranger making fun of you at a party, okay now open them and say the first thing that comes to mind...mine was "ASS (pause for emphasis) HOLE." 

Droga5's successful Airforce1 viral for Marc Ecko did it differently. They "tricked us" the way a magician would,  the treat was well worth the trick. The trick was so entertaining that the impact was only slightly diluted when we discovered the truth. And if you are a real Marc Ecko loyalist you were rewarded with an insiders clue, "live free" was tagged on the presidents plane - giving you the social currency of knowing Marc Ecko was involved before the general population. 

The differences between relationships with strangers and friends are well documented in social psychology studies. Dan Ariely describes 2 distinctly different worlds in his book "Predictably Irrational": The world of monetary market norms (money=service e.g. a prostitute) and 
non-monetary social norms (friendship/love = service e.g. a date who decides to sleep with you because she likes you). 

The Witchery video leads us to believe that this woman is from the world of non-monetary social norms (girl you date), but once we discover the author is actually from the world of monetary market norms (prostitute) many feel ANGRY. 

Droga5 seems to have first understood the relationship between Marc Ecko and the consumer. They made sure that the behaviour of the brand was consistent with the image in consumers minds. Mixing those 2 up leads to massive problems, just ask the white kid who walks into a room full of black hip hop aficionados and says "what's up my ni...."... That's an exact quote, he never finished the sentence. 

A friend can play an entertaining trick. What Witcherys agency did not seem to understand, is that a stranger playing a similar nothing more than a liar.