Tag Archives: advertising

Advertising vs Storytelling

People talk a lot about telling brand stories. They also talk a lot about the idea that traditional advertising is dead. I agree with the former, whilst not entirely agreeing with the latter. But today I came across something that illustrates the tension between the two ideas pretty well.

I read with interest that the Union of Concerned Scientists have decided, in the wake ofclimategate, to run a series of ads to make themselves appear a little more ‘cuddly’.

Their ad campaign ‘curious for life’ begins, unsurprisingly given the name, with the premise that scientists were curious from an early age, remain curious, and are therefore ‘curious for life’. To get this point across, they have created little story-style profiles of climate change scientists, appended to print ads featuring the profiled scientist as an inquisitive child or youth, checking out insects, mud, and, of course, the stars. It’s a neat little campaign and gets across, via the medium of a story, just how normal these scientists are: not cosseted academics in ivory towers, but regular Joes just like you and me. Here’s one featuring David Iounye.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The campaign is in response to accusations levelled in the media (and, crucially, blogosphere) that they are not open with the public and not engaged enough with politics.

Here’s the thing though. They’re using storytelling techniques to achieve their objective (getting regular members of the public to identify with them a little more, appearing more human, open and honest), but they’ve picked the wrong medium in which to tell that story. As Randy Rieland over atGrist (via Damian Carrington at The Guardian) points out, the real issue is their engagement, or lack of, with the blogosphere. The blogosphere is ‘the real crucible’ for climate scientists, and the onus is on them to start dealing with it. If you want poeple to think you’re open, act like it: engage with the most open debate in the history of mankind – don’t whack some posters up on a subway or take out full page advertisements in newspapers. It’s a classic case of the right approach but the wrong audience and the wrong medium.

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.


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Know your strengths, retailers!

The Metro rather annoyingly did a piece on this via their editorial collaboration with It’s Nice That before I had chance to post on it. But post on it I will, cocking a giant snook to those who insist that observing first is better than observing more astutely!

Down to business: I’ve been loving this series of tube ads for dixons.co.uk.

Dixons Harrods

Dixons Selfridges

Dixons John Lewis

The brilliant thing about this series of ads isn’t the subtle use of fonts and colours that enables you to identify Harrods, Selfridges and John Lewis. It’s not even the use of Tube media (and tube lines) to target the message effectively. It’s Dixon’s own recognition that as a stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap retailer, they can’t offer the in-store experience that any of the big London department stores can.

They know that people like to physically play with technololgy products before they commit to purchase – whether it’s an iPod, a flat screen telly or a surround sound system. And they know that their stores don’t necessarily give people a great customer experience. Actually, scratch that: they know that when people go to a Dixons store they get pimply straight-out-of-school ‘sales assistants’ who probably know less about the product they’re interested in buying than they do. They also get a plasticy space with stained carpets in a run-down retail unit somewhere. So, far better to play to their biggest strength: price. Go to one of the big  department stores, say Dixons. Have a great time, have a chat with the posh kid who works there, soke up the ambience and feel safely middle class! But then go home and buy your telly off our website, because it’s cheaper.

And after all, there is a recession on. I know what I’ll be doing next time I’m in the market for a flat-screen.

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Found this viral, apparently for Diesel, over at the London Advertising and Design Group blog.

It’s a great video, and kept me watching right through until the end. Can’t for the life of me work out what it has to do with Diesel though. Am I just being thick?

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TV, funding and the BBC

For a number of years now there has been a lot of hand-wringing at the commercial broadcasters’ over how to fund quality TV programming in a shrinking advertising market. I know this because I read the papers, but also because I have a friend who works for Channel 4,  and our conversation often swings around to this very subject after she’s had a few glasses of wine down the pub. Changing viewing habits, on-demand TV, PVRs, internet services, YouTube, the increase in the number of channels available to the consumer – they’re all whittling away at once mighty advertising revenue figures, and leaving broadcasters scratting around in the dirt for cheap (and in my opinion often dirty) TV.

Commercial broadcasters have seen advertising revenues slump over the past through years

Nothing you don’t already know there.

Against this backdrop, I noticed a piece in the Guardian on Wednesday (23rd September 2009) about the BBCs ‘arrogance’. It stated: ‘Meanwhile, the BBC is under siege from commercial competitors who argue that its dominance is distorting the market at a time when they are struggling to survive one of the most serious advertising downturns for generations’ and later: ‘Murdoch…used a landmark speach…to call for a “far far smaller” BBC’. You can read the full article here.

Well, hang on just a minute. Yes it is the worst advertising downturn for generations – but it’s not a temporary blip, it’s a long-term decline caused by changing technologies. It’s not going to get better fast. And I for one thank the lord that the BBC is at least somewhat insulated from its effects. After all, isn’t the licence fee a revenue stream? And doesn’t it work? Don’t we get four channels (and extras such as cbeebies, HD and News) of quality programming, a web resource second to none, and to crown it all the mighty iPlayer for only £140 odd a year? How good is that? Frankly Murdoch, if a ‘smaller BBC’ means losing out on innovations like the iPlayer, or the total awesomeness that is Radio 6 Music, you can stuff it. I’ll happily pay my £12 a month.

It also begs the question as to why other countries don’t adopt a similar model. I’m no expert in global broadcasting trends, but I had a conversation with a Canadian friend of mine who has been living in the UK for a few years now who was amazed at the quality of the BBC and by just how much we got for our money. I wonder whether it would make sense for  other nations to think about safeguarding their national broadcasting heritage by pumping in a bit of state cash. After all, what’s good for the banks…

Image thanks to fatcontroller

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