Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Engagement and the advertiser

Billboards, magazines, social media, radio, television, trains, airports, buses, trams, and the internet ... we see advertising constantly but how many of us actually say yes to an advert?

Traditional advertising is unmistakably effective, it raises awareness, is cost effective and products are sold, but increasingly, advertisers are also turning to innovation to engage with their audience.

Lynx invested in augmented reality technology to help the launch of their latest fragrance with the tagline ‘Angels will fall’ during its ‘Angel Ambush’ campaign. Fronted by Kelly Brook as a fallen angel, commuters walking across a spot at London’s Victoria Station suddenly found themselves at the centre of the advert. Participants watching themselves on the screen soon found themselves in the presence of an angel as it fell to earth. The angel then appeared to interact with the participant moving in response to human actions. A subsequent YouTube clip was viewed more than 750,000 times and has resulted in huge popularity for the new scent.

This kind of advertisement ensures that a customer feels involved in a product and leads to excitement about the product and brand, creating a brand relationship.

Online, innovation can be harder but the key here is relevancy. Place an ad where you know your target audience will be. Contextual advertising ensures that your ad is relevant to the user. This technique recommends products to users based on the page or product they are currently viewing. Amazon utilises this technique and recommends products based on previous purchase behaviours - A ‘you bought this so you may like this’ approach.

Facebook has gone further and allows users to tailor the adverts they see at the side of their pages. Click on the cross at the top-right hand corner of the advert and you are immediately asked why you have chosen to delete this ad – was it offensive? Repetitive? Uninteresting ? This all leads to a better understanding of the types of ads you are interested in.

Clearly technology will be at the heart of innovation in this industry but for those without a massive budget, researching your target audience is key in engaging them successfully.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Happy Twitterversary

Social media has revolutionised the way that people communicate with one other, so a meeting between a company in Beiijing and one in London no longer has to involve the use of planes. A laptop, computer or mobile phone is all that is needed to meet ‘face to face’. With Uniquethinking celebrating its two year Twitter anniversary, we have decided to take a look at just how far social media has come.

Businesses, organisations, charities and institutions have become prolific users of social media sites such as Flickr, Facebook and Twitter over the years. A strong example is the British royal family. 2010 saw a Facebook page for ‘The British Monarchy’ created and, during the royal wedding, it was used to great effect. With an estimated 2 billion people tuning in to watch Kate and Will wed, the page was quick to post twitpics, upload links to the royal Youtube channel with wedding footage and even posted a link to Flickr where the official royal wedding photographs were being hosted. This was a great way of engaging their fans and, with the whole world watching, probably resulted in an increase in fans for the page.

This level of engagement by businesses and organisations has led to great innovation in how the sites are used. For example, NASA manages around 100 Twitter accounts and astronauts regularly tweet about their daily routines from space. To further engage fans NASA also arranges ‘tweet-ups’ allowing Twitter fans to visit a NASA location and meet with astronauts, leaders and programme managers, which has been an extremely popular move. The National Trust has followed in a similar vein by giving control of a live working farm to 10,000 people via social media in a bid to connect people with food production on farms.

The everyday user has also seen a change in the way that sites can be used. Increasingly news stories are not being broken by journalists but by the average Twitter user. The raid which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden was unwittingly reported via Twitter by computer programmer Sohaib Athar who, as the raid was taking place, tweeted:

“A huge window-shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope it’s not the start of something nasty.”

This was later followed up by:

“Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”

Social media has even evolved to ensure that the older generations are not left out. Grandparents now have their own social networking site in the form of forum-based Gransnet, giving them a place to discuss life as grandparents.

Clearly social media has become a force to be reckoned with and as more people begin to see the potential of this as a business and social tool, innovation will continue.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Oasis gets fruity


Oasis has once again cemented its reputation as a fun and humorous brand with the launch of its brand new spring advertising campaign and steamy strap line.

The series of adverts sees an Oasis bottle getting fruity with a popular lunch time snack in a series of situations with the strap line “Oasis it’ll go with anything”. From an office ‘romance’ with a scotch egg, to a sauna scene where the entrance of Oasis causes spuds to open their jackets, the series of adverts carry on from previous marketing campaigns such as “Fruity drinks and lunchtime dreams” and “Oasis for people who don’t like water” to give the brand personality in a saturated market.

Accompanying the adverts will be taglines such as “Shake that butty” which will feature on all bottle caps and, for the more internet based consumer, Youtube will also have behind the scenes footage and outtakes available.

Oasis has clearly researched its target market and addressed its key marketing messages, its suitability to all types of food and its fruity content. All that remains to be said is:

“Wham, bam thank you ham”

Going down

With less of a punch is KFC’s recent change in strap line from the 50 year old ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ to the less inspiring ‘So Good’ in an attempt to rebrand and project a more healthy image. However, it may have left a bland taste with some consumers and left some questioning the move away from its southern roots. Will the Colonel get a make-over and emerge as a Pilates instructor from LA?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bribery Act delayed

After a considerable amount of concern from UK businesses, it seems that the Bribery Act 2010, due to be implemented this month, has been delayed until July 1 2011.

With current legislation dating back to the turn of the last century and a 2007 report from the World Bank estimating that bribery costs the global economy $1 trillion, evidently more clarification is needed to stamp out the problem.

Bribery is obviously not an example of business best practice and companies are not contesting this. What has left many with a slight sense of unease is where corporate hospitality fits in with the new legislation. Would taking a prospective client to a restaurant or a football game be considered bribery?

This has been of particular concern within industries engaged in corporate hospitality such as the PR and event sectors. Conference and Incentive Travel Magazine found in an online poll that 70% of respondents believed that the Bribery Act would affect them, with 25% saying it would have a large effect.

In answer to growing unrest over the act, last month saw justice secretary Kenneth Clarke launching guidance stating that the act will not discriminate against ‘genuine hospitality’.

Kenneth Clarke stated that: “As a general proposition, hospitality or commercial expenditure which is proportionate and reasonable given the sort of business you do is very unlikely to engage the act.

“You can continue to provide tickets to sporting events, take clients to dinner, offer gifts to clients as a reflection of your good relations or pay for reasonable travel expenses in order to demonstrate your goods or services to clients if that is reasonable and proportionate for your business.”

Clearly businesses will need to think long and hard about what exactly constitutes as ‘reasonable and proportionate’ and become firm friends with the act guidance documents. However, it seems unlikely that the majority of corporate hospitality offerings will fall foul of the new legislation.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Think before you speak… Tweet/blog/upload


A rush of insensitive remarks and ‘off the cuff’ comments in the land of the famous has really hit home the idea that increasingly nothing is “off the record”.

While people such as ITV’s Midsomer Murders producer, Brian True-May, are still tripping themselves up in an interview setting, others like Burger King’s chief executive Bernardo Hees are making ill advised comments they believe to be unofficial.

The incident, where Hees told a group of college students that British food was awful and that the women were unattractive (an attempt at humour), was reported in the US and it wasn’t long before British people and women everywhere became offended, leaving the brand a little worse for wear.

While social media helped to spread this story, there is also no such thing as ‘off the record’ online. Twitter and other social networking sites are frequently breaking news stories quicker than traditional media and a story can travel around the world in minutes. Celebrities are increasingly more accessible and without an editing filter, some celebrities have been caught out for what they have posted on these types of sites.

Back in January, former Liverpool player Ryan Babel became the first footballer to be reprimanded by the FA when he posted a mock-up picture on Twitter of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United top, after a 1-0 defeat.

Shoe designer Kenneth Cole also put his foot in it during the Cairo riots in February when he attempted to use the trending Cairo hashtag (#cairo) to promote his latest spring collection on Twitter:

‘Millions are in uproar in #cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available’

The message was retweeted, commented on, reported and quickly spread around the world. Many former fans claimed they would never buy a pair of his shoes again. Cole issued an apology.

50 Cent should have thought of Cole’s experience before his attempt at humour during the Japanese tsunami. The ‘jokes’ left people around the world outraged and the rapper issued an apology and took down the offensive posts.

Some celebrities seem to have forgotten that they are representatives of a brand. Their actions are scrutinised all over the world and nothing is ever ‘off the record’.

The above remarks would never have seen the light of day if clear strategies for engaging with social media had been implemented.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Five W's of social media


Who

Who will represent your company in the online sphere? Will you have a corporate blog and a corporate profile or will you opt for a ‘human’ profile with key members of your team tweeting on your behalf?

The key here is consistency whichever approach you take on. All tweets, updates and messages must be in line with your corporate objectives and must reflect your brand at all times.

Remember all your employees will most likely use social media outside of work. Do you have policies about them mentioning your business offline? What are the consequences of someone giving out insider information? Many people have ‘off days’ but will a tweet like “Really hating work today” damage your brand if the person has listed your company as the place they work?

What

Again, this is all about consistency. Whatever you decide to share via social media, it needs to be in sync with messages your company already sends out.

Social media users also tire very quickly of people who constantly send them information about their latest product or spam them with links back to the company website. Remember to give something back to the community you wish to join. This could be in the form of links to industry news or sharing experiences that don’t necessarily lead to ROI.

Don’t be afraid of the negative. If someone is saying something ‘bad’ don’t ignore it, address it.

Where

If MySpace has taught us anything, it’s not to fall in love with a particular method of social media. What is popular today may not be tomorrow. Research your audience and find out where they are having their conversations and then engage in that particular network.

When

When is entirely up to you - before lunch, after lunch, it doesn’t really matter though researching your audience will help you in the right direction. If you are updating your content at 9am and you find that your audience consists of young mothers, 9am is probably not the best time to engage with them as they will be on the school run and less interested in what you have to say.

Social media is instant and will happen with or without you. Updating frequently can keep people interested but only if your content is valuable to them.

Why

What do you hope to gain through the use of social media? Social media is not a quick option. It takes time, resources and research to get it right. If you haven’t set goals how will you measure if you have been successful or not?

Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, becoming an industry leader, increasing sales or a mixture of all three, it’s essential that these goals are set before you start your social media campaigns.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Spin Crowd


Reading newspapers and online news sites as part of the job can leave you feeling a bit deflated by the end of the week (depending on the headlines of course). That was why it was with great relief that the Uniquethinking team discovered a lighthearted reality show about an American PR company on TV.

While it might seem to some that there are worthier things to post about at the moment, there are rarely, if ever, documentaries or programmes based around PR and Uniquethinking was intrigued to see how the industry would be portrayed.

Cue some chocolate, a glass of wine and the latest entertainment offering from across the pond, E!’s The Spin Crowd.

The show is a mixture of the Hills, the Devil Wears Prada and Keeping up with the Kardashians (no surprise considering Kim Kardashian produces it) and follows the trials and tribulations of CommandPR West fronted by Jonathan Cheben and Simon Huck.

Within ten minutes, it is clear that the show is reality drama at its best (or worst depending on your view point) with some scenes, hopefully, created for entertainment's sake, such as Jonathan asking an employee to get her lips injected to improve her appearance. It’s undeniable that hard work does take place when the camera isn’t rolling and the team manage to pull off every event without so much as a hair out of place.

Some scenes do seem ridiculous, but delve deeper and the show illustrates some very important PR lessons.

  • Contacts are essential. For Jonathan and his team this consisted of starlets in the form of Kelly Rowland, Mel B and Kelly Osbourne, but this can still apply to the smaller company. Networking is key for developing your business contacts and social media sites such as LinkedIn can further help you.
  • Never say never. With only a day to plan and promote a charity event for Kelly Osbourne, the team, though a little concerned, duly got down to it and produced another successful event. Flexibility is key. If strategies are too rigid and client types too defined an opportunity can pass the small business by.
  • A clear command structure is needed. CommandPR seemed to suffer from a lack of HR skills as employees bickered and resented Jonathan’s sometimes heavy handed approach to leadership. Though this may have been for the benefit of the cameras, it is still an important lesson to learn. Staff need to feel valued, yet know who the boss is, in order to lead to increased productivity and a happier work environment.

The show is over the top, granted, and it does leave you with a sense of concern for the stereotyping of the PR industry. However when taken in the context that it is purely an entertainment show, it becomes easier to digest.

A word of warning to people starting out in PR: don't get into it expecting this. While it is fun, it's an air-brushed version of what the day to day job entails.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

PR and ... Bloggers




The traditional PR role has certainly changed over the last decade, with the PR professional facing new demands on their knowledge and use of social media and the internet. It wasn't so long ago that the PR professional had only the journalist to liaise with but with social media and bloggers having the opportunities to break news stories faster than the journalist, it’s clear that this is no longer the case.

While the relationship between the PR world and the journalist is well established and defined, the blossoming relationship with the professional blogger is less so and has led to some conflicts between the two.

A clear case in mind, is that of Muireann Carey-Campbell of bangsandabun.com who provided the PR world with a lesson in her article entitled ‘The tale of PR and the blogger’. Muireann had been approached by a PR company, working with their client Nokia, to run a half marathon at one of the Nokia events and blog about it. In return Muireann was promised many things, none of which materialised.

While said PR company did apologise, it did not help to build relationships, as it left many feeling that PR professionals saw bloggers as inferior to more established contacts i.e. in Muireann’s own words “a Guardian journalist”.

In an article by PR week, BitchBuzz.com founder Cate Sevilla made a key point in how interactions between the two could be improved, she called for PR professionals to better understand the blogger.

Having read other blogs on the topic, such as contently-managed.com and havealovelytime.com, that key message of understanding is a recurrent theme.

Key areas:

Bloggers often have a large scope and audience and like any other media type, need to be understood and targeted effectively. For example, you would not send a media release about the appointment of a new managing director at a law firm to a publication devoted to news about restaurants.

As PR Week recently highlighted, there are many different types of bloggers and you should take the time to make sure that you understand which type you are about to approach.

They also want it to be made clear that you have read their blog and understand what they are about; a bog standard BCC media release will not have much appeal to someone who receives many emails a day.

Finally, as the above case highlighted, a relationship between the PR person and a blogger should be treated as a professional relationship, they should be treated as you would a journalist or client. Communication is key and deals should not be backed out of.

Above all make time to build relationships. In these days of social media and increased online content, the professional blogger has a lot of influence.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Coca-Cola left a little redder

Christmas is a great time for Coca-Cola with the famous lorries heralding the holidays on TV, but the season is well and truly behind us and the brand has crash landed into the New Year amidst claims that its labelling in an advert was misleading.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that the company’s branding of its Vitamin Water as ‘nutritious’ was misleading as the drink in fact contains around five teaspoons of added sugar. This has resulted in the adverts being banned following complaints from three consumers.

The drink was labelled ‘nutritious’ as it contains 100% of a person’s daily allowance of vitamin C, as well as other key vitamins. According to the BBC, the company also stated that the drink contained 23g of sugar per 500ml serving, which qualified the drink for the category of ‘low calorie’ under EU regulations.

Coca-Cola was not happy with the watchdog’s verdict, stating that it felt that its branding had been transparent, as the amount of sugar contained within the drink was clearly labelled.

This has highlighted to everyone the increasing power of the consumer. Only three complaints were received, yet the advert was still banned. Clearly advertisers need to think very carefully about the wording of the messages that they are giving out to the public before they launch a campaign.

Monday, 10 January 2011

2010 ads are all wrapped up


Before it had even ended, 2010 was already being critiqued in the lead up to New Year’s Day, with the TV feeding our desire to know who, what and where was best in 2010. ITV joined the trend with its ‘Ad of the Year’ programme, which rounded up the year’s most innovative, funny and endearing adverts as voted for by ITV viewers.

Critics look away now.

While it may be true that some of the comments made by the ‘celebrities’ about how the advert made them feel could be described as over the top, some of the adverts from 2010 have truly been inspiring and certainly memorable and the show itself was a good indicator of the type of advert that resonates most with the average TV viewer.

From watching the show, a selection of adverts stood out from the crowd for various reasons, and while some viewers out there bemoan the fact that the programme couldn’t possibly judge the best advert accurately, on this occasion perhaps they got it completely right.

Number 6: Evian – Roller Babies

Roller skating babies? This advert certainly played on the ‘cute factor’ and had many people ‘ahhing’ as the babies raced around the screen. This ad certainly cemented the youthful connotations of drinking Evian. It was also a huge technological undertaking and with 136 babies taking part, let’s not forget the old showbiz adage ‘never work with children’.

Number 4: John Lewis – Always a woman

This advert played on the company’s tag line ‘Our lifelong commitment to you’ showing the relationship between a lady and John Lewis over her 70 years of life. By showing the way the store interacted with some of the character’s most memorable experiences, it highlighted the company’s relevance to our lives, making us think of future or past moments that John Lewis could or have been part of.

Number 2: Barclaycard – Roller Coaster

This advert had people talking on their daily commute to work. What could be a better and easier way of getting around than by your own personal roller coaster to the theme tune of ‘more than a feeling’? This link in the mind of customers was intended to show how Barclaycard ‘makes payment simple’ and proved how a unique idea and upbeat song could work in consumer’s minds.

Number 1: Thinkbox – Every Home Needs a Harvey

If only this dog really existed! This ad saw rescue dog Sykes advertising himself to potential owners with a montage of him doing chores such as mowing the lawn, driving the kids to school, cooking, cleaning and even playing chess. It really did draw attention to ‘the power of TV advertising’ and illustrated that innovation is the key to a successful ad.

Let’s hope that next year’s adverts are just as entertaining and relevant.