Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The antisocial brand

Today, every marketing conference, agency boardroom, brand planner and marketing director are propagating the importance of creating 'participation', 'two way dialogues' or 'engagement'. Brand morals preaching that your brand must become social, you must be conversational, you must make friends, dominate marketing conversation. It’s become scripture; Social brand good and profitable, antisocial brand bad and broke. While there is a truck load of academic and practical merit behind this theory, id like to take on the unpopular side of disagreeing with it, purely out of the joy of disagreeing with self proclaimed social media gurus.

As always in our industry, for the purpose of simplicity, It helps to use human beings as examples or metaphors to simplify an argument. Now imagine one day showing up to the office and every single person in the office tries really really hard to be friendly. Imagine it for a second....your office filled with people sauntering around cracking jokes, striking up meaningless conversations in the lift, sending cute forwards to one another, wishing each other a ‘good day’, signing off every email with a smiley face or giving you fist bumps in meetings. You’d off yourself by lunch. The thought of some of the characters across your office being sent into social overdrive send shivers down your spine. The reality is, many people are just not built to be social and there’s no shame in that, ill be the first to admit I’m one of them. Some people are naturals at striking up conversations, others aren’t. There are fewer more awkward things than forcing sociability on a character not suited for it. Instead, we as regular shy people, recognize our limitations, keep to our friends and establish fewer yet, I could argue, deeper connections. Some people are simply not suited to be social.

On the other end of the spectrum are the uber social people, who also coincidentally happen to be the most annoying people you know. They are the huggers, the squealers, the oh my Goooooooooooooders, the people in dire need of attention begging to be liked both in real and virtual life. Extend them onto facebook and you’ve got impulsive updates, innumerable comments, terabytes of pics, showers of compliments and lots of annoying quotes that don't belong to them. Overly social people simply piss us off. The point I’m making with both examples of these two very different people is being social, doesn’t mean being liked, in many instances it could result in quite the opposite effect.

So, back to brands. I’m sure by now you’ve already caught onto my point. Like people, brands have a character, and I don’t mean in form of the ingenious branding documents clients pay hefty sums for. I’m referring to real characters. The genetic makeup of a company’s character is a composite of the people running the company, the culture, the products, the environment and many other variables. Like people, some of these company characters are not conducive toward social acceleration. If you take 95% of the regions advertising and personify it, you’d wind up with a considerably aggravating personality, preachy, boring, uninteresting and obtuse, not someone you’d want to participate, engage or have a conversation with, unless obliged. Most of us, work on or for some of these brands, and by no means should we take it insult to this reality, I’ll be the first to declare that some of the brands I’ve worked for and on are prime examples.

It is these very brands that I’d argue get further by being antisocial than they would by being social. If you do not have the company character that enables you to genuinely generate participation and a personality that people would want to spend time with, pretending to, is only going to place you in a worse place than where you started. If you’re an annoying brand in a burden category, your mission shouldn’t be try and get people to hang out with you and inspire an 'emotional connection' instead, your objective should be; how do I make interactions with consumers as brief as I possibly can. The few interactions I have had with my bank mades me hate them. Recently however, I’ve notice myself growing fonder of them with every fewer interaction I have with them. I don’t want to be friends with my bank, I don’t even want to hear from them unless I have a question, request or suggestion. So be honest with yourself, ask yourself; is the company I work for annoying?If the answer is yes, then I assure you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ignoring every social media douche that makes you feel insecure about not having a facebook group. Keep your definition of participation limited to questions like ‘how can I create an interaction that’d make future interactions briefer and smoother’. People respect a brand more that knows what it does well, and gets it done for you without trying to be your friend over a brand that’s trying too hard and wants you to upload a picture of yourself with a biscuit or bribes you to ‘like’ them. Contrary to popular belief, antisocial brands can still remain as profitable and as successful as any other example of a participatory brand. There is nothing wrong with some brands simply being antisocial, accept it, embrace it, people will respect you more.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Telcos: Getting the best out of your agencies...

I've spent the last 5 years of my life working on telco's. Its been a particular point of interest for me for some time now, i've put down some thoughts and points of views that i've accumulated along the way on how to make get the best out of your agency.
Might or might not prove useful.

Doing the ugly stuff better than they do the pretty stuff.

The measure of a good agency isn’t their capacity to develop big beautiful brand ads rather their capacity to do the other 98% of the work that people get exposed to. Any agency can put together a brand campaign, not any agency can make the more prominent body of work look half decent. Understand that it is not exclusively the role of a brand campaign to build brand values. Every little piece of work is an opportunity to build the brand from office signage to the retail experience across to the bare tariff announcements as Jaime Pabon (planning director at leo) says, see du as a good reference. Stress on the importance of focusing on the little things as much as they do on the larger more traditionally exciting project.

Get your agency to present their big idea through tactical briefs

One of the many reasons why non brand work clearly looks like non brand work is that the organizing idea that should sit across all work has been thought through the lense of a brand campaign. Brand campaigns are the most irresponsible type of advertising agencies create. Most aren’t tasked with carrying any concrete message, neither do they carry the pressure of tightly set objectives and stringent success measures. When your agency are crafting an idea that’s going to sit with you for the next two or three years, get them to think about how it’ll work in the contexts of service umbrella work, promotions, retail etc. If they can prove it works, then you’ve got an idea. If not, what started off as a fancy campaign that’s meant to drive your brand into the future, winds up serving as a headline with little to no purpose beyond sitting awkwardly underneath your logo.

Sticking to the brand guidelines no matter how much the ad agency hates the branding agency.

Your brand guidelines should be scripture irrespective of how many art directors tell you they need creative freedom. What the naïve art director fails to see is that the quantity of work that gets put out paired with the tight timelines makes it literally impossible for any operator to consistently deliver the quantity of messages it does without flaws and inconsistencies. Guidelines, once absorbed and understood, help streamline message development and offer a reliable platform to deliver news quickly without eroding the consistency or integrity of a brand. Take it from an adman; not every piece of work that comes out of the agency needs to have an idea glued to it. Sometimes, the promotion is the idea.

Balancing the innate desire for agency’s to take risk: The experimentation budget

Risk seems to be something that comes in either absolute abundance or absolute absence, nothing in between. What your agency needs to understand is that all of these fantastic virals examples they keep showing you always existed as a subset of a much broader campaign that most likely isn’t in the Cannes reel. Risk should be heavily encouraged within a calculated area. Allocate roughly 3% of every campaign budget for experimental purposes; the social stuff, mobile stuff, the character they want to create, appreciating that this isn’t about results its more about learning. Nine out of ten times the results will be negligible, but a single hit and you’ve got disproportionate results that make up for your total investment, not to mention the invaluable learning’s you’ll pick up.

The obsession with people forwarding and uploading stuff

Media agency’s, advertising agency’s as well as clients get overly enthusiastic about the idea of owned and earned media in the form of fan pages and sites where people upload stuff etc. The assumption is that the work is so mind bogglingly participatory and the product so earth shattering that everyone would want to upload, like, take pictures and throw hoards of attention your way. If the logic alarm goes off in your head when your agency suggest you emails all CEO’s with a special code that grants them access to your amazing microsite which they visit and forward too all their CEO friends, don’t be afraid to voice your concern. Usually a good gauge of something working is simply asking yourself “could I imagine someone doing this?” If you’re still unsure and the agency resilience is clouding things, suggest they show you similar work they’ve produced for other clients. This isn’t about killing creativity, this is about pragmatism.

Get your media agency to understand that not everything should be ‘the talk of the town’

Media have a tendency to want to make news out of everything, and maybe in categories where new news is rare, that’d make sense. However our industry could potentially launch up to 30 new products or promos a year, so optimizing becomes increasingly more important for the sake of clarity and efficiencies. Building prioritization models that incorporate key metrics like: the business importance, the halo effect on the brand, the products breadth of appeal, will help you prioritize and mediate a discussion about what products and services should or shouldn’t be ‘the talk of the town’. Even Skybar doesn’t stop the music and start the fireworks when you pop open a beer bottle.

Set objectives, measure the results, learn, apply, measure.

Setting tangible communication objectives is an essential part of the communication process that often gets left out. Stick your ad agency, pr agency, media agency and research person in the room and set objectives for all your larger campaigns. Ensure they are realistic but more importantly ensure they are measurable. ‘Boosting brand affinity and sales’ is not tangibly measurable. If you’re struggling to start some place, study your previous successfully campaigns and build objectives based on the past. Furthermore, I stress on the importance having that post campaign meeting that never takes place. Once you’ve run the campaigns, make sure you have those meetings post campaign with all your agency partners to evaluate what you did well and what can be improved, incorporate those learning’s into the next campaign. Post campaign meetings are probably as important as the pre campaign briefings.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why Dimitri should get off his couch…

Owning a good brand positioning in people’s heads today is like owning prime real estate smack in the middle of overpopulated Tokyo. If you’re living in prime area, you’ve either invested early through a first mover advantage, or you’ve spend hefty sums and bought your way through. The rest are stuck living in the middle of nowhere or squeezing into a back alley studio at a ridiculous cost just to be near anything.

The old greats own prime space in our minds facing the most interested of our nodes. Adidas spent a bulk of cash on media, sponsorships and endorsements and now overlook the glorious Arc of Triumph and Transcendence with ‘Impossible is nothing’ and just walks away from the older neighbor who bought early, Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’. Most big beer brands like Bud light and Heineken have lofts with prime views overlooking the Gardens of Male bonding. Axe and Old Spice look over the River ‘Poony’ - a place where all men long to bathe. Honda managed to find a flat facing The Bay of Dreams and of course, not too far away, Obama’s latest mansion smack in the middle of Hope Town has probably made what was once a cheesy urban settlement the next hot place for brands to live. We’ve already seen the big boys like Pepsi try to move in next door.

People’s minds have become so over populated that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to own an interesting, relevant position or spot without forking out enough dough to keep your media buyers happily Lebanese for a long time. So it’s best we drop this illusion that one day we’ll come up with 3 lines so original that all the clever turtle neck wearing planners around the world and across time would smack themselves in the face for not having thought of it and all the people would gawk with enthusiasm gushing from their eyes money raining from their hands at the very site of your brand sitting atop this uninhabited plot of land.

Today, if we look at the brands that are surfacing, or have surfaced, they have abandoned real estate. Instead, they have gone to the streets with something more meaningful to people than just an association – they have taken to the streets with a Purpose. A meaningful human purpose exists at the center of these brands. Not a promise. Not a benefit. Not a position. A purpose. Dove campaign for real beauty, Google arrange the worlds information, Starbucks exists to provide a ‘third place’ to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee, Cadbury deliver joy, and so on. Most of today’s brands with strong momentum have abandoned this idea of real estate and have instead taken to the streets with a Purpose and acted upon that purpose. It’s time for big brands to step out of their big beautiful homes, tell us what they care about… and act on it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Why Dimitri should go back to Greece and make Souvlakia

There has been no shortage of criticism on Dubai’s marketing zeitgeist. Beyond that dispensed by the pompous westerner whose sole motive was to bask in the reflected glory of the home he couldn’t make it in, a lot of the criticism was well warranted. We got lazy, Dubai was doing such a good job of marketing itself that it didn’t matter what we did, everyone won anyway. There was no such thing as zero-sum game. Anyone who ever remembers downloading a cheat code that made their shooter invincible knows exactly what I’m talking about. You simply didn’t have to be creative or talented to win. More so, I think many of us have networked enough to confirm the notion that you might even get along quite nicely by being daft.

The need for risk, an important prerequisite for creativity, was also absent in Dubai. Only a sadistic fool would roll a dice while lying on his six figure salary, guaranteed bonus and Jumeirah Jane and all while meeting his quotas without breaking a sweat. No need for the risk associated with differentiation. Instead, you can produce a big narcissistic TV spot that looks about as different as two Lebanese women hanging off a bottle champagne and you’d do just fine. Dubai’s halo was so powerful that your brand could spend millions of dirhams vomiting all over its highways and you’d still sell out apartments overnight. Come to think of it, Dubai’s marketing landscape resembled that of the US in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the biggers, the brighters, the betters that formed the brash baseline that Big Billy B’ used to flip the script on the remix when he asked us to ‘Think Small’. Yesterday, our beautiful Dubai was kicking so much ass that we looked like heroes sitting on its shoulders pretending our little pencils made a difference in the battle.

Today, the sun shines on a very different place. A Dubai that smells different, sounds different and looks different. We all see it, read it, hear it, smell it, talk about it and worry about it. ‘It’s bad’, I was told by a left brained econometrician who was one bonus shy of a sun-seeker, but after the dust clears, the echoes of schadenfreude reside and the smug greasy talentless Marketing Director who came up with the line ‘really real real-estate’ disappears, a new face for Dubai shall emerge; a better one. A place where talent and hard work are rewarded and just showing up to work won’t cut it anymore. No longer will brands get by without distinguishing themselves, which will heighten the threshold and need for risk and consequently creativity. Marketers that go the extra mile for people will thrive over those that get lazy. Agency creatives will now have to spend more time thinking about the behavior of real people and less time thinking about the behavior of Philip Thomas. Trust will play a monumental role and brands that act not just advertise will triumph. Both media and advertising agencies will now be asked to do something they haven’t done properly in a while, their jobs.

You remember those conversations we used to have when we’d complain about Dubai not being a real city. We’d say it resembled Pleasantville in that it was too perfect? Well voila...Welcome to the era of accountability.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Some thoughts on The Creative Farmhouse

I just got out of a long drawn out session with 30 planners on what inspires creatives. It’s one of those meetings where everyone carries themselves into the room huffing and puffing even more so when the young enthusiastic planner wants to go first and pops his 15 slide presentation on 'why they didn't kick me out of the briefing this time round'.

Contrary to the strategic cynics, turns out the session wasn’t too bad and got everyone pretty involved, led to some heated debate, some swearing and a 20 minute run over the schedualed time, 2 hours. The initial premise I was arguing was boycotting anything called a systematic approach to briefings. A while back I was wasting my time reading a crappy sequel to beyond disruption entitled 'how disruption brought about order'… and despite it’s mediocrity in relation to its predecessors, it did make me feel good about working in adverting for a change by reflecting on one interesting point; we have more difference in an ad agency than most other industries…That led me to wonder whether or not a 'standard operating procedure', whereby you stick a coin in a creative and out pops an idea, is a good idea. Essentially, to assume there is one single way to brief all is to assume that there is one single type of creative. Although after viewing most of their work you wouldn't be crazy to presume it is the case, the more optimistic of us would like to believe that there is difference in creative departments. A difference celebrated by observing any work produced by Mr. Ogilvy and Mr.Bernbach or Bill and David as they're known to their friends.

Most creatives I work with tend to lean toward, the simple is better, 2 word propositions written on anything that isn’t a template, I suggest napkins. Then again I’ve had my life threatened by a creative who I recall had to borrow words of the legendary ‘White men can’t jump’ when he ever so politely asked me to ‘get that shit out of here’. To assume all creative’s think the same,work the same and are inspired the same is to assume that a collection of what many refer to as a diverse group of individuals are homogenous…it would make sense to keep such planners far away from segmentation studies in the future. So i suppose best to find out how your creative like to work, do they like to be brought in early during the client brief, or at the very end? Find out how much they want to know, do they like elaborate 6 hours briefs? Or 2 words on a handkerchief?

Considering my first point was about difference in the department, it would be clumsy for me to refer to them as creatives instead of at least breaking them down into writers and art directors. Both are dramatically different, their thought process is different. I’ve noticed that art directors think executional a whole lot more than writers who in more cases than not are more conceptual. The best place to hide ‘no idea’ is on a Mac behind a skilled art director. Frankly, I worry about the future of the quintessential perfectionist art directors who spent 5 years in prestigious graphic design institution more than I would worry about the future of a copy writer considering crafting is going to take, if not already has taken, a back stage to concept(another long running sentence).
When interacting with the creative team, I think understanding their group dynamics of who leads art director or writer is essential to 'enabling better work.

A final point I wanted to mention was the importance of understanding creative work from a creative’s stand point. Planners look at things from a very pragmatic stand point, it works, it solves the business problem, it’ll help inspire behavioral change. To many creatives their own work is a piece of art, which isn’t an epiphany. Some planner whoring them out to a client doesn't really gain their trust.

Where most planners seem to fail, including myself, is understanding a creative’s cosmos. Planners need to understand award ceremonies, Cannes, categories, they need to appreciate creative work as art not just business… A creative’s worst nightmare is someone who turns around and says ‘Hey yeah positive hate was great, but show me how many cars it sold’. So learning about art direction, the names of legendary creative directors, who won what in what year, what didn’t make it, what new categories exist, what music a spot used, what categories are easier than others to win in, what creatives are insecure about, what they studied etc…is extremely important for a good relationship with the creative department. One creative defined the role quite nicely of planning in a word… ‘Enabler’. So the question then becomes, what or where? The answer is as obvious as it is denied, Cannes.

Ask a creative what they’d rather have you do, 'enable' them to shake a clients hand over a celebration drink for exceeding forecasts or enabling them to shake a jurors hand after being handed a little statuettes of a lion.

ps. inspire is the least inspirational word one can use.

Picture of my favourite cattle at Leo, Nabil Rashid & Dima 'on the road?' Kronfol.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thoughts on facebook

“I don’t want a big house; all I want is a bigger house than my neighbor”

We are in a constant battle to distinguish ourselves from others. We throw our dollars at things that allow us to differentiate ourselves and make us appear special or superior. Trendsetters race ahead of those sporting John Varvatos’ ‘08 collection by wearing his ‘09 collection. Teens want the new iPOD touch because everyone’s got the iPOD classic. One of the key ingredients of cool is uniqueness, so the ‘Sneak Freaks’ want their Nike limited edition Carolina-blue Jordan’s because beyond aesthetics, the word ‘limited’ means that you can’t have them.The word ‘limited’ grants a protective shield against the cool killing kryptonite; commonness.

Sophistication is the enemy of democracy; our whisky drinkers sip Black Label to edge past those drinking Red Label and fewer sip on Blue Label to get away from Black Label drinkers. It only gets more complicated when you throw cigars into the equation. The most desirable of automotive manufacturers have flourished through making cars that allow people to go faster than the next car at the traffic lights. Real estate sells flats for twice the price purely because it’s located in an area where everyone wants to live but most can’t.

Competition goes way beyond the boundaries of what people can or can’t afford, brands have recently exploited our desire to stand apart by flooding the market with greener products that appeal to our sense of morality. Hybrid cars, socially responsible soap bars, handcrafted mugs made by the indigenous people of somewhere poor yet pure, are all being marketed to us by appealing to our desire for moral superiority.

Consumerism has always been driven by rivalry. To steal off Joseph Heath and Andre Potter ‘consumerism, in other words, would appear to be a product of people trying to outdo one another’ .

The Social Economy: ‘That’s so yesterday!’ Tamara Habib

We operate in a vast and complex social economy, our experiences, relationships, and possessions are all cashed in for social tokens. The more in demand and exclusive an experience, possession or relationship, the higher the cash-in value it reaps. So telling a group of people who’ve never been anywhere beyond the borders of their own country about a trip to New York, trades in a higher value than the same story told to a group of socialites who ‘do’ New York for a weekend. Another example could be when we reflect on the fact that six months ago tossing your iPhone on a table held enough social worth to turn a business lunch into a conversation about you and your lovely new gadget. Today its popularization has lessened its value. The people who thrive in this social economy are those who have enough stuff or traits at a given time that other people want but can’t have. It is important to understand that financial power is not necessarily correlated with social power. Each and every group might have varying economic systems; what is desired in a circle of counter culture punk rock rebels is quite contrary to that desired in a group of Lebanese housewives. Yet despite the variations in group currency, each system operates under the same laws, the more in demand and exclusive something is, the higher its cash-in value.

Enter Facebook, the 24-hour competitive trading grounds of the social economy.

Facebook has sent our social economy into overdrive, by providing us with a 24-hour legitimized space that allows us to browse, speculate and trade social value. What was once an experience ‘cashed-in’ around a water-cooler the day back from a trip, is now traded more formally with a much larger group of social traders. Everyone can now see everyone else’s stocks; how many friends people have, political views, who hangs out with who, what clothes people are wearing, the music they listen to, the places they’ve been, what and who they’re doing, and how many comments their pictures gather. This trading ground has severely intensified and sped up the battle to distinguish ourselves from one another, making us work harder, think harder and spend more money in the struggle for superior standing in our respective social economies.

‘Why would I go to New York? Everyone is going there.” -The girl who’s never been to New York

Facebook has led to dramatic depreciation of social experience forcing us to work and spend more for less. News feeds, status updates, picture uploads, all keep us in the loop about where the busiest of us where, are and will be. The problem lies in the erosion of uniqueness. By seeing everyone doing every thing and everybody, going everywhere and being a fan of everyone, exclusivity, one of the key drivers of consumerism and social value, is at best short-lived, harder to attain and results in the depreciating worth of experiences. So a 5 thousand dollar trip to London that used to get you an engrossed audience orbiting around your cubicle now barely musters up enough interest from the pot noodle eating intern desperately seeking a job. This leads us to work harder, try harder and in many cases spend harder in our effort outdo one another.

‘Here, have a dollar in fact no brother man, have two’- Arrested development, Mr Wendel

Like most media, Facebook paints a distorted, romanticized representation of the state of things, leaving many of us to overestimate how much socially richer everyone else is and how much catching up we have to do. Most profiles are representations of idealized versions of ourselves or who we’d like to be. It’s slightly odd that all of a sudden the worlds choice in cinema, quotes and literature have become markedly more sophisticated, citing foreign movies, pensive quotes and musicians none has heard of as their preferences in an effort to distance ourselves from the mainstream mongrels. Our profile pictures are carefully selected to ensure the right image is projected, be it beauty, quirk, rebellion etc. Our albums go through rigorous screening processes and our experiences are well documented and publicized. Bizarrely, everyone seems to be a whole lot more interesting on Facebook; well cultured, better travelled, more popular, better looking, more desirable and all in all, socially prosperous. So the massive influx of post Eid holiday pictures makes those of us that didn’t go anywhere feel inadequate and pressured into making sure we do next time.

‘I went to the Justin Timberlake concert’- The guy that went to the concert but wasn’t there

Perhaps one of the clearest indication of facebooks dramatic impact on the social economy and how hard it’s got us working, is our tendency to trade in real life experience for garnering proof of them. Compare today’s concerts to those 20 years ago; back then, Michael Jackson popped up on stage and 6,000 people fainted due to an emotional rush of adrenalin. Today, Justin Timberlake anthemically poses for 6,000 people watching him through 1.2 inch phone cameras. Facebook has made us so consumed with the social economy that saying we were at the Justin Timberlake concert is more important than actually being there. What’s even more tragic is that the next day as you rush to the Facebook trading grounds to upload the video of the concert you paid 200AED to prove you attended, Tom, Dick, Harry and their cousin Spiky have uploaded their own versions bringing the value of everyone’s video down to zilch. Justin is, however, planning a concert in Amsterdam…

“Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Facebook homepage

Facebook helps us connect with friends, colleagues, family members and in many cases strangers. The benefits of it have proven fruitful to any and all of us, one report stated that ‘if you’re not on a social networking site, you’re not on the internet’. However, above and beyond all its wonders, it is important to understand the sociological, cultural and economical implications of Facebook and other social networks. Facebook brings people together, but in doing so, it is perhaps one of the most dramatic catalysts of social rivalry and in turn consumerism bestowed upon us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The answer to: How the imbecile made it to the top

I was sitting in a meeting a while back, one of those meeting where you have everyone and anyone there, clients, agencies, more agencies and some more clients. I was sitting back trying to take everything in, all the figures, the data, the percentages, the correlations, the numerous sentences that start with a percentage and then I had one of those epiphanies, you know the ones where I finally get what everyone else already got?

The same way women love diamonds, men love statistics! You see there is nothing more dear to a man then feeling powerful. Be it through wealth, terrorizing people, war, competition, land grabs or merely memorizing statistics, men yearn for power. Power is the ultimate manifestation of a mans desire to stand out, to feel important and unique.

Man dreams of one day waking up, hauling ass in a super charged car more powerful than any on the road, rocking up into the shiny office boardroom, throwing his briefcase onto the table where his minions sit awaiting to throw mountains of undivided attention his way, before listening to and acting upon every word said. In the ideal business world, man speaks, people shut up and listen.

Fortunately for us, few men are born into monarchies or messengers of gods to have such power. However, man has learnt that through the power of ‘The Statistic’ he can elevate himself to command the seas to part and the armies to march… Why? Becuase you can’t disagree with a f*cking statistic, well you can but it’s a whole lot harder to shoot a statistic down then an opinion. We’ve all been there, in meetings where some guy more annoying then rubbing salt on the rash around your balls, is in a position of absurd power blurting out a repertoire of stats that leave those who aren’t econometricians, or as cerebral as the likes of Fadi Khater, or Omar Gammal or the legendary countercultural maverick Anton Reyniers, with little to say or do but twiddle their thumbs and nod in synchrony. The issue becomes a problem when statistics get in the hands of the wrong man, because stats can obviously be horribly illusive, misleading and damaging. Needless to say that the worst combination is a stupid man with a dangerously powerful toy, to me and other ignoramuses the statistic is arguably as dangerous as the nuclear bomb.

Thanks the lord we have Fadi Khater, Omar Gammal or the legendary countercultural maverick Anton Reyniers and institutes like the London School of Economics to keep our world safe from statistics.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Porns virgin territory...

I love porn, always have, always will...irrespective of the wave of insecurities it bestows upon the average man as well as the mass and largely overlooked mis-education it has on x-rated aficionados which would encompass every male from the average ‘pube’ dawning 12 year old, all the way to heart attack waiting to happen pill popping old geezer. Porn is without a doubt the most active viewer experience we have today, we don’t watch porn while chatting on the phone, or browsing the internet, our attention is absolutely and flawlessly undivided, undisturbed, hypnotic almost Orwellian…

This makes for an untapped utopia for us marketers, with waterfalls of attention for us to come and abuse. Porn allows our for us marketer to catch our entire male demographic with their pants down.

From the obvious nude porn stars sweating away in a pair of Reeboks, to the titillating Chiquita banana branded condoms and the waiting to happen Duracell tattoo on Rocos Sifredi's back side, product placement and branding in porn is a marketers dream, both from a recall rate as well as job description.

It’s flawless, the porn industry needs funding, marketers need a captive audience and men need a subsidized Chasey Lain…

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Do you feel like an asshole?

We are naturally ethical people, we feel guilty when we lie, steal or cheat. The only thing that'd make us feel worse is if we get caught trying to lie, steal or cheat. Simply put, no one wants to be a dick or look like one …and the few that are fine with label lead prosperous careers selling grey import hummers in Aweer.

Yes I know, you're probably thinking ‘fuck me I should’ve thought of that how insightful’, and you'd be right in doing so, because it is through the ephiphany you wish you had that I have ingeniously crafted this new way to evaluate creative work. Whatsmore, a tool that allows you to test the distance between the claim and the substantiation.
I rarely toot my own tooter but this brilliant formula will change the way advertising works and dispensing it upon our industry is probably my reason for being. So here it is

Pick up the ad you'd like to evaluate,skim over it then read it out loud to yourself in the tone you best see fit. Once you’re done reading the very last word on the ad listen very carefully… If you hear nothing, then you’re ad is good to go. However, if you hear a strangely familiar voice resembling your own yell out ‘dick head!’, then maybe it’s best you go back to the drawing board...The larger the distance between claim and substantiation...the larger a dick we feel. So reading Neons (outdoor media company) 'Buy me I'll change you're life forever' conjured up images of Long Don Silver and Ron jeremy.

Simple, easy, effective. Do you feel like a dickhead reading the ad?

Now some of you more gullable creatures may be wondering whether or not your inner check is in check...So here's a test to run that will help you find out.
Pick up the nearest magazine or newspaper, flick through it until you reach any ad for a property developer…read it out to yourself and again, listen carefully. If you don’t hear the voice, then stop wasting your time in this industry and head on up to Aweer.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I went to the Justin Timberlake concert but wasn’t there.

I’m not big on concerts, they’re stuffy and you’re always stuck next to some asshole who is quite unyielding in bouncing his Pumas over the Havaianas you decide to wear in the heat of what was one of your dimmer moments. So anyhow, every star seems quite persistent about the whole ‘anticipation makes the appetite grow stronger’ thingy and justifiably so. 36 Puma stomps later, Justin Timberlake graces us with his silhouette anthemically poised amidst smoke, strobes and 3000 squealing 14 year olds wearing some type of a crossbreed between a skirt and top, let’s just call them pelvic drapes.

Now the very same scene 15 years ago at a Michael Jackson concert wouldn’t fair too differently, more squealing 14 years olds many of which are on stretchers and sporting slightly wider pelvic drapes. Both concerts kick off in the same manner the music erupts, the ponytail sporting pyrotechnic pushes a couple of buttons, lights blaze and the vague silhouette comes to life in a majestic multisensory uproar. What happens next is where difference occurs. Today instead of 10,000 people erupting in unified frenzied sacrificing their undivided attention to the god on the alter-like stage, you have 10,000 people who opt to pull out their phone cameras and start watching the Justin Timberlake concert they paid their monthly allowance on through a 1.2 inch Nokia screen…

It seems apparent that people today are more adamant about garnering proof of presence as opposed to actually being present at certain events. This collected factoid, and I stress on the word factoid in due of the existential theory that you were there but weren’t really, is then taken and poured into public sphere that makes up their identity…Facebook, Youtube, Emails and Blogs as a testament…Yes I was there, I saw Justin Timberlake.

Through the decades, I would argue that little has changed in terms of our innate human desire to gloat about our experiences in an attempt to construct idealized versions of ourselves. The only difference is that today we are provided with the illusion of a mass collective interest in ourselves making us more self conscious than ever. To put it simply; we all think we’re famous to some degree. We blog to an assumed audience of 1,000,000 when in reality my site tracker clocked in 9 visits yesterday, our profiles on facebook are carefully scripted with quotes, foreign film preferences, lists of books we never really finished and detailed list of artists no one has heard of. Even those counterculture rebels who consciously opt to leave profiles blank are making some form of a statement. Our status’s get consistent updates with attempts at deep and clever mindboggling statements where ‘Nabil is what is isn’t’ to snippets of our interesting opinions on the narratives populating today’s collective consciousness, ‘Rami is pissed’. And of course, we are quite enthusiastic on adding innumerable applications that provide answers to many of life’s antagonizing questions like what type of condom we are. All of these applications specifically engineered and enthused by the innate human desire to talk and talk and talk about our most favorite subject in the world…us.

So to head back to the starting point of this rant, the notion of the Justin Timberlake experience or lack thereof, attendance has now transformed from an experience to a social currency leaving me intrigued as a marketer, worried as a human and slightly sympathetic toward an isolated Justin who now performs to Bobs facebook friend list…

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake …

Human beings like to feel special, we’re all about the ‘specialness’, our car is special, our house is special, our clothes are special, even the tird in our toilet bowl looks special. Someone a lot smarter than me said that love is overestimating the difference between two people…which off course lends itself to the controversial theory that those we love are special!…Yes to steal of Chuck Palahniuks, we all want to be beautiful and unique snowflakes.…Which brings me, to the hardest part of all of this free flowing hostility, admitting to myself that in this industry, the stuff we promote…wait for it, isn’t special either…

Now yes, I did ponder nose diving from the creative department into the lobby resulting in one of those dignity depleting landings whereby the last remaining memory of you involves you lying in a pool of your own blood with one of your legs awkwardly twisted and a receptionist screaming ‘somebody help’, a plea that holds relevance only to the cleaning squad responsible for mopping you up and picking up your left finger which was severed by the second floor railing…
But, having grown up in suburbs of Greece and gone to a school in a place where parents donate buildings to ensure their kids get away with crapping in the teachers pigeon hole, has made me a strong person capable of dealing with immalleable truths…

No one could contest the fact that working in this industry is getting tougher by the day. Once upon a time, our jobs was made easy by difference which ,for successful brands came in the form of a unique selling proposition or competitive advantage. Today replication is everywhere, redundancy is ubiquitous, everything works, clothes get white, coke tastes like coke and what maybe unfortunate for the aspiring gold-digger… condoms no longer rip…all products are simply excellent. This conjures up images of the precarious day I scored a 83 in algebra and was over the moon until I found out the class average was a 96. Excellence has become a table stake without which you’re mostly likely filing for bankruptcy, operating in a monopoly or living in a country where the guy in the picture is from…

Miss you Cherm

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's a viral and why does everyone want one anyway!

Yes, after about 4 years the word ‘viral’ has finally trickled it’s way down to the middle east’s marketer collective consciousness…It’s cheap, it’s cool and everybody wants one!
Unfortunately, the viral mania is being met with serious disappointment…Both agency’s and clients are getting bitch slapped back to earth. There ECD'S dreams of putting the 'tird' the client wont run on air on the web and it being 'ravaged by startving content consumers with nothing better to do but to click the forward button, have been shattered.

Yup the smarter lot of us have realized that you can’t just go putting your tv ad on youtube and expect it to take off…Nope, there is a little more tact involved than opening a simple youtube account and uploading a low res version of your TV ad…

Well for starters, here’s a little something we might need to consider before actually mustering up the master plan of mayhem chaos and mass digital outbreak.

You do not shoot a viral!You shoot a web film that you get down on your knees and pray becomes viral…Viral is the ends not the means

You don’t see your grandma looking up at you from her glasses and knitting gear saying ‘I’m knitting you a trend’

So get ur facts straight... I was looking at some of the stuff out there that actually became viral and decided to create a stupid axis that might help me when crafting viral content…
These two ends are all a subsets of ‘entertaining’, qualities of entertainment…

Extremity, something extreme is something original in it’s very nature. A logical premise for most online content…but to delve a little further on the word VW suicide bomber is an example of extreme controversy. Saudi road skating is the epitome of what someone would call extreme behaviour…I guess, what I’m trying to get at is if we can’t put the word extreme in front of whatever adjective describes the piece of content…the most likely it ain’t going to pick up much…Extreme humor-Obey the suit (thanking our BBH planner for introducing me to that), Extreme gore- Those ridiculous images of car crash victims on emirates road that you hate to open but just do. Extreme stupidity- Miss Alabama

Relevance…Seeing a guy jumping off Burj el Arab will most likely spread quicker in the UAE, then a jump off some tower in Shanghai…Melody hits ‘All English’ campaign picked up in the middle east due it’s local relevance in juxtaposition with it’s western twist…How many nodes the piece of content assimilates with and how many of the node are held in the collective consciousness of a homogeneous group…Bush visits Dubai, they close the entire city and someone takes a series of snapshots of the empty S Zayed road and voila…Saudi woman driving etc…

So to go back to the word viral and steal from a quote sent in by the hot Miss Y

'A viral is not a viral until it has become a viral'

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Manya times have I seen print work that I have to focus on for a good minute or so before I get what the sh*t it's on about...Yes to the point where I actually smile sometimes hiding my incomprehension...'Nice...niiiiice, clever bastards!!'

I think we have all exprienced something of the sort when an eager art director strolls up to you and throws the layout or art directors club annual on to your desk with an eager smile leaving you feeling pretty stupid for a couple of days...

Yes these are the ads that have populated much of the print awards spectrum, the spectrum that dominates the collective consiouness of any creative team with a hint of ambition...

I don't doubt that there was a time when people might have wanted to allocate sometime with an ad, trying to figure it out...

Linda Stone went on about continuous partial attention, it is was it sounds like. Think of the type of attention you devoted to a madium 15 years ago and compare that to the same medium might struggle to narrow down your present day media selection due to it's chaotic nature...You've got Lost on, poking away on facebook while you check our emails and reply to someone on msn,not to mention texting away on ur phone etc...
15 years ago if you're playing Shinobi on your Amiga, then you're playing Shinobi on your Amiga...and if your mother yells out 'pick up the phone' from the next room, you're pissed off...

We once sat at a table with 1 maincourse and we loved it, now we have a collection of mezza, sushi, steak and an array of desert to pick from...the way we eat has changed...there is no longer an appetizer, main and desert...nope now we are binging on sushi, cheesecake, fries, steak and kibi bi laban while sipping on Jose, Raki and 'Ocha'

In simpler terms, content supply has flooded content demand...and our attention is being gang-banged.

So amidst the plethora of attention craving content, where does a magazine fit in, where does an ad in that magazine fit in...subtle advertising requires someone to actively sit scan an image in an ad that looks normal and search for that pun.

The only people I can imagine doing that today are the minority of 1) People on the crapper who keep forgetting to change crapper reading material and have read every word in Maxim and 2) People who spend 3 hours a day pissing on each others work on adsoftheworld

Oh and the judges

ps. The picture is of a friend of mine and ex colleague who struggled so much he became a consultant who spends his life on a plane.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas...

Campaign- Mother London

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coffee with BBDO strategist, Tanya Marar

D: Ok, so Tanya I have had first time experience working with you, and you are without a doubt one of the most original thinkers I have met…In this industry we expose ourselves to sh#t loads of advertising (competitive reviews, ads of the day, forwards etc), would you agree with the theory that this primes us into subconscious uniformity and makes the fight against convention that much tougher?

TANYA: You’re way too generous with the compliment…

the way I see it is the ‘fight against convention’ especially in this part of the world isn’t going to be easy any time soon, some people find comfort in the conventional.. As for theory, I would actually argue the opposite. imo, being exposed to communications – especially the good stuff, should be a source of inspiration, specifically seeing the good work that’s been emerging from regional agencies (case in point Melody Tunes, or the snickers spot). It’s like being a musician. Musicians will almost always refer to the kind of music they were exposed to growing up, and having that inspiration doesn’t mean they have a hard time creating music that’s unique to them (plus I’ve never actually met a musician who only listens to their own stuff). Also seeing crappy work in theory should make us consciously reject it. As local agencies go, there are always people trying to be ‘unconventional’, but we still have a lot to learn, and being exposed to things going on around the world, is what’s going to give us ammunition to stand out.

D: You have an entire artillery of interesting blogs or sites you frequent…you could recommend a couple to people interested in planning that do not start with a ‘Rus’ and end with a ‘vies’?

TANYA: Lol. Almost too many to list… and not all are planners... Most of them also have links to hundreds of other cools ones as well. A few of my favourites at the moment: (also a lot of the interesting discussions comes in the comments sections of these blogs)

D: Well its good to know Diablog is on there :). A little bout the region, your home away from home is London, a city considered referential in our industry, if we are running a 1KM race against them and they have reached the 500meter point, where do you think dubai is in relation?

TANYA: Shit! Of course it is… I thought you wanted international blogs

I might as well add Incognito’s blog to that list as well!!

The Dubai dude is still tying his shoelace
I don’t meant to be harsh, sometimes I meet people from all kinds of agencies here and think that there is so much talent. Still, I’m yet to see (with exception of the handful - and I say that generously - of good stuff) things that can compare on an international level – and I’m not talking about the “I won a lynx award last year” ad, I still can’t put my finger on the problem. Is it clients, agency management, the culture? I don’t know but what I do know is that we have so much at our disposal from cash to talent and not a lot of excuses

D: Lol, ok so last question, you’ve got loads of account people who would love to shift to planning, some because they see it as the fun side of advertising minus the garbage, others because they have a genuine interest in it as a discipline…Any advice you would give that could help em out?

TANYA: It is [the fun side of advertising] but it’s only fun because the work you’re doing doesn’t feel like work – provided you’re passionate about it, and if you’re not, then moving to planning isn’t going to solve much. I made the move (just as you did once upon a time) and I couldn’t be happier. I’m still pretty new at this and got loads to learn, but with account handling you can do your work for the day go home and not give a crap should you chose. With planning – at least for me – you’re mind is constantly thinking about things you’re seeing, hearing, buying, people you’re talking to… if you’re genuinely interested in it then I suggest you start getting involved with the planning department in your agency, learn about the kind of things they do, read up on what’s going on. If you’re not able to change departments within the agency, at least you’ll be ready for when an opportunity comes. If you’re anything like me, you won’t regret it ;)

D: Tanya, already missing you, thanks loads.


Impact have without a doubt stepped up their game...from recent creative bombs launched into the world like Snickers and Barlcays to their recent recruits, specifically two great planners, Omar & Tanya (Tanya will be on here shortly). Anyhow, Dubai isn't their only office shaking sh*t up, this recent spot for Pepsi was dropped from the Jeddah base...

Bravo guys!

(Ok i figured out it wasn't so recent, this was produced 2006, but one thing im sure of is that Tanya moved their this year :)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Importance of Flavour

Somethings lack any taste, pasta with no sauce, steamed rice...rarely do you find people who hate or obssess over them...Some people lack flavour, no opinions, no point of views, no originality...rarely are these people the subject of hatred, conversation or love...I dunno if strong flavour is better than no flavour...But either way, there are things in life that have flavour to them, the stronger the flavour the more love or hatred they attract...

I was listening to this song on the radio with my girlfriend for the first time, it stimulated two completely opposite reactions, she detested it...i loved it. Irrespective of our conflicting sentiments toward exactly the same stimulus, we agreed that it does have flavour...It is disruptive, original and has a lot of something (dunno what the hell that something is).It is 'marmite' for lack of a better stolen either love it or hate but one thing it aint is wallpaper.

I suppose flavour is a difference between commodities and brands, but we can all think of brands that are flavourless, real estate advertising in dubai is an example...probably due to the lack of competition considering everyone is selling out anyway...But if we were to look at a segment with a slightly longer tail (fashion), brands need a distinct flavour to come alive and survive. Obey the suit is a good example (thanks for that Tony)...

I think...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Funny enough, one of the best regional blogs i have come across so far is by a little guy I had the pleasure and still have the pleasure of interacting with on a project...he's still a student, at his age I was too busy trying figure out what hair gel worked best for me to even bother with the intro/extrospection the guy documents on his blog...Def going to be a grad worth recruiters fighting over...

anyhow, got a permalink on the side and check him out here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Etisalat sell the water not the plumbing...

Etisalat have really gotten their stuff together lately, been seeing nicer and nicer work from their end.

Promoting the medium hasn't been worked too well in the past for mobile TV adoption, but etisalat have started to do things the other way around by promoting the content on the medium.
The saying goes 'sell me the water not the plumbing'

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Line-D'angelo

I've gotta tell you, tell u about it
Ive been gone for so long
I just wanna sing my song
I know u been hearin
hearin a lot of things about me

oh I know, I know
I've heard, i have heard it all to clear
this is what I am going to do

I am goin to hold, hold on to my pride
I'm gonna stick, im gonna stick to my guns
I'm gonna put my finger on the trigger
I'm gonna pull it and we gon see what the deal
I'm for real, i just wanna put it, put it on the line
I've gotta put it on the line
and we havent got much time
I've gotta put it on the line
know what im talking bout this evening
I've gotta put it on the line

I've got a bullet in the chamber
and im not afraid of the danger
we've gotta go down to the wire
ill go through the fire with you
kill and die with you
I know everybody watchin me
the pressure is on
from every angle
political 2 personal
will I hang or b left hangin? will I fall off?
or will it be bangin?
I say its up to the man upstairs

I am goin to hold, hold on to my pride
I'm gonna stick, im gonna stick to my guns
I'm gonna put my finger on the trigger
I'm gonna pull it and we gon see what the deal
I'm for real, i just wanna put it, put it on the line
I've gotta put it on the line
and we havent got much time
I've gotta put it on the line
know what im talking bout this evening
I've gotta put it on the line