Why advertising has embraced an alternative reality.


When Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix in the Mobile category at Cannes, it confirmed what a lot of agency people already knew: virtual reality is the new big thing in advertising.

In case you’ve been hiding in a cave – or too busy watching your old-fashioned 2D TV – Google Cardboard is a stereoscopic 3D viewing device made out of…well, cardboard. You order it online, it arrives flat-packed, and after assembly you find yourself holding a cheap VR viewer that works with your smartphone and a number of apps.

Google Cardboard is a product, not a campaign, which made it an odd choice of Cannes winner. But the Mobile jury described it as “an enabler”, which had made several campaigns possible. Among these, “Volvo Reality”, a collaboration between the US agency R/GA and visual effects house Framestore, which put Google Cardboard users behind the wheel of the new XC90 car.

One of the problems agencies faced at Cannes was finding an appropriate category for VR work. That same week, the Epica Awards – an advertising competition judged by the industry press – announced the first ever VR category in any awards show.

Google Cardboard is merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s a cut-price version of a far more sophisticated VR headset, the Oculus Rift, acquired by Facebook last year. To say there’s been a lot of buzz about the device is an understatement – and it won’t be commercially available until 2016. We don’t even know how much they’ll cost, but estimates range from $200 to $300 (€180-€280).

The opportunities for the auto and tourism industries in the VR space seem obvious. Tour operator Thomas Cook has placed VR headsets in a number of agencies so users can explore its hotels. This ‘try before you buy’ strategy is likely to become widespread, as an operation by Neilsen Active Holidays in the UK suggests.

If VR can help consumers experience a vacation, maybe it can take them to their perfect home. In France, home improvements company Point P – with the aid of Havas 360 – used the Oculus Rift to help consumers to see into the future.

Because virtual reality offers immersive experience, it can take users to places that they would never normally have the chance to visit. Leo Burnett Sydney played on this idea with its “Shark Diving in the Desert” operation, to promote Samsung’s Gear VR player. In short, it brought the ocean to the Outback.

In a similar but even more moving project, Google Creative Labs deployed Google Cardboard at schools to bring the world into the classroom. When you can take a virtual trip to Verona, the home of Romeo & Juliet, lessons take on a whole new dimension.

That’s the educational side – but there’s a consumer aspect too. Virtual reality could make the online shopping experience far more entertaining. Imagine touring a virtual store and selecting items, putting them into a basket for later purchase.

Some brands, inevitably, have used VR as a source of humour.

Laugh if you wish, but according to a recent article in Advertising Age, Gartner Group predicts 25 million virtual or more limited augmented-reality combined headsets will be in consumer hands globally by 2018.

As the science fiction writer William Gibson famously noted: the future is already here, it’s just not widely distributed yet.

Mark Tungate is editorial director of The Epica Awards and author of several books about advertising and branding.

6 Marketing Management Tools Developed to Provide Optimal Performance

Yes, technology is impacting all aspects of business, and especially marketing. But it is interesting that there are very few search, pitch or marketing management consultants who invest in technology to innovate their processes to increase their utility or robustness.

Many are using relationship survey tools that have been around since last century or are calculating agency remuneration and compensation using a calculator and a spreadsheet.

In the very first office TrinityP3 (or P3 as it was then) inhabited back in 2000 we were sharing with a technology development start-up called Smart Solution Group. Russell Hibbert, who had left ShowAds to set up his own tech solutions company, founded the company and we shared their offices in Southbank Boulevard in Southbank, Melbourne.

It was a working environment full of ideas and projects and it was highly infectious. There were daily discussions on workflow processes and platform development and integration which led to us developing our very first online solution as an experiment, and to promote the idea of ‘whole brain thinking’ which is the concept behind the P3 part of our logo.

Later we developed a system for automatically benchmarking Television Production Estimates, the failure of which was a valuable lesson in platform integration and integrated user experience.

But those early days have led to many successful developments of marketing management tools that we and our clients use and benefit from today. Here are six of them:

1. Resource Rate Calculator

This is a phone app we developed with Lomah Studios. It was based on the calculators we had built for our website. But it was also because of our understanding that the world was very much mobile. Instead of having to go to a website, users could simply pick up their phone and access the calculator without even requiring internet access.

Originally developed to the iOS platform, the success of the app led us to develop a version for Android and Windows Mobile.


To find out more check out the details here, where you can download your own version of the Resource Rate Calculator app free.

2. Ad Cost Checker

Ad Cost Checker is a database application developed by Pivotal Analytics and was driven by a belief that the huge amount of data we had on hand should be made readily available for everyone. The data comprised agency rates and fees across media, creative, account management, design, strategy and production, and for more than 20 markets and growing.


Marketers, advertisers, procurement and agencies were often asking us for the benchmarks, so in this way we could make those benchmarks available for all to use. It provided us with a more structured and more robust system to manage the huge amount of data we have on hand and continue to collect each day.


To find out more check out the details here, or register to use the Ad Cost Checker system here.

3. Scope of Work Calculator / Monitor

Soon after we commenced business, we found ourselves being asked to assess and provide advice on agency fees and remuneration. The best approach to do this is using a robust benchmarking methodology that not just looks at rates, but can actually calculate the cost of delivering the scope of work or schedule of work the agency is producing.

In the past ten years this system has evolved and become increasingly complex as a reflection of the complexity of the advertising and marketing services agencies provide. The system today has hundreds of scope outputs and thousands of benchmarks within it to provide a structured, reproducible and robust calculation of agency fees that have been tested across markets around the world.

To find out more check out the details on the evolution of the Scope Calculator.

4. Evalu8ing Performance & Collaboration System

After many years of recommending the same ‘360 survey systems’ that still exist today, we were frustrated by their inability to be able to measure, manage and maximise the roster of agencies. Instead of focussing on individual agency relationships, they ignored the important role of collaboration and co-creation in the advertising and marketing process.


I was sharing this insight with Marek Lis in New York and explained to him the basis of a system I had been working on to achieve the ability to manage a roster of agencies. He introduced me to Young Minds Australia, a software development company in Australia and Nepal, and together we developed Evalu8ing.

Since then Evalu8ing has been used for roster performance and collaboration management locally, regionally and globally. It has also been used within agency networks and client companies to create performance alignment.

To find out more check out the benefits of the system here or go to Evalu8ing here.

5. The Agency Register

Having managed agency reviews and pitches for more than a decade, it became obvious very early on that we needed a robust and scalable way to keep track of the thousands of agencies across the multitude of disciplines and the breadth of markets.


The Agency Register is a searchable online database, also developed by Young Minds Australia, that allows agencies to register the essential details we require to be able to recommend them to suitable advertisers. It also includes the ability to record and access performance and cultural observations made by the TrinityP3 consultants when visiting or working with those agencies.

To check out the benefits of the system click here or agencies can go to The Agency Register here to register.

6. Calibr8or Media Agency Capability & Strengths

Calibr8or is actually a sister company to TrinityP3 and arose out of the mutual observations of Stephen Wright and I over the difficultly in truly assessing and calibrating the strengths and capabilities of the increasingly evolving media agency landscape.


Working with Pivotal Analytics, Stephen developed the Calibr8or system, an innovative platform that provides an objective and quantifiable evaluation of the capabilities, skills and effectiveness of media agencies, and through that, a fact-based method to match media advertisers with media agencies based on the profile of their specific needs. It also provides media agencies and media owners with a quantified understanding of their strengths and capabilities compared to the market offering.


To find out more, check out the benefits of the system here or go to Calibr8or here.

What is coming up next?

We have a number of projects under development in this space and are constantly exploring new and innovative opportunities. What drives us is two fold: first the desire to find new ways to provide our clients with greater knowledge and insight for achieving optimal marketing performance. The second is more personal and that is when people ask me if I miss being a ‘creative’ I answer, “Who says I am not creative anymore?”

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder and Global CEO of TrinityP3. With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and experiences to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimization.

Why Some Of The Best Ads Just Show What The Product Does

I’ve been in a number of agency/client meetings when the comment surfaces (more often from the client side of the table), “Why don’t we just show what the product can actually do?”

It’s more often than not met with a few looks to the ceiling, silences, and “yes we could do that …but.”

But, why not? Why are agencies so determined to avoid the obvious, when some of the best work ever was a simple product demo?

Apple has been doing demo work for years, just disguising it with flawless execution. From the brilliant “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign

to the new “shot on iPhone 6” work, featuring some stunning photography shot on the new phone. It appears that even in producing a product demo, Apple has set a bar for simplicity and elegant execution.

Going back a few years, the famous Volkswagen “snowplow” spot

and the “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” Alka-Seltzer spots

were simple demos, brilliantly executed, endearingly remembered. Many demo campaigns have been lauded by consumers and award show juries alike. So why all the reluctance?

I asked Joe Alexander, chief creative officer of The Martin Agency, what his thoughts were on the demo. “I don’t think creatives hate product demos if the product has a truly unique benefit to demo,” he said. But he warned, “If it’s not a great new story to demo, who wants to watch that?”

To be honest the demo has been given a bad rap mostly by being allocated eight seconds in a TV spot where we cut to a CGI sequence of soap bubbles whisking baked-on lasagna off a dish, to a weird frothy substance miraculously brightening a row of graying dentures or vigorous engine pistons demonstrating the talents of a particular engine oil.

Joe continued, “People share what they find interesting. Commercials, stunts, cat videos, hockey highlights—and product demos.”

Ted Royer, chief creative officer of Droga5, loves a great product demo. “A fantastic demo is the best way to differentiate a great product. Volvo’s ‘Epic Split’ was so crazy…and then on top of that, they’re driving the trucks backward. And does everyone remember Samsonite luggage?  They took it to an extreme. A gorilla smashing anything is great to me.”

So why shouldn’t a client be proud of their product? There’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some clients convince themselves that their product is interesting. “A demo can be great for a sales conference, but doesn’t mean anything to a bored and distracted consumer,” Royer added.

It all brought back Jerry Della Femina’s famous line, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” As true today as it ever was. Maybe more so.

And as a warning to agencies, nothing kills an agency relationship faster than a product demo gone wrong, as was the case with Volvo and the “Monster Truck” debacle. This ambitious demo featured a monster truck driving over and crushing a line of cars, apart from one. The Volvo. Problem being that the film company had reinforced the Volvo roof.

Cue angry client. Cue agency review.

My thinking is, do a demo by all means, but make it insane, dramatic, memorable and most of all, one you’d want to share it with others. If your demo doesn’t fit that bill, my advice would be to keep it to for the next sales meeting.

But last words go to Royer. He would “be happy to do demos for Jockey Underwear.”

Interesting. Let’s all keep an eye out for that one.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

Just Like You, Only Better

I love pitching to prospective clients, but I tend to take the win – or – lose – outcome personally. That’s because, in our industry, competing with other agencies for a piece of business feels very much like a popularity contest – a professional version of “speed dating” in fact. Like it or not, a person’s ability to sell is linked to their aspirational level and whether the client thinks they’re awesome (or not). Brand owners use a similar principle when investing hefty sums of money hiring celebrities to be “the face” of their brand.

Marketers bank on potential consumers finding an enhanced, positive reflection of themselves in that famous personality and, more importantly, wanting to copy the choice of product/service/behaviour the star agrees to endorse. Take me as an example. I’d love to be as funny a writer as Ricky Gervais, (a girl can dream no?) but thankfully I’m not delusional which is why I’ve settled for being a measly fan and one of his 7.4m Twitter followers happily consuming anything he’s involved in. This new Optus spot featuring Gervais, announcing the partnership with Netflix, made me laugh out loud.

According to Hamish Pringle, author of Celebrity Sells:

“Celebrities influence how we look, how we dress, where we live and, ultimately, our body shape.”

And that’s why, for the right price, a growing number of A to D list stars like P. Diddy and the Kardashian sisters will rent space in their twitter streams for large sums of money. Building a brand by association is not a new trend. In fact it’s the oldest marketing trick in the book, dating back to a time when kings and queens were considered fashion trend setters and people sought to emulate them by copying their style and purchase habits.

Rowntree chocolate box featuring King George V and Queen Mary:











What is new is the way celebrities are promoting brands. Classic endorsement ad featuring Sean Connery:














The days of the contrived sales pitch approach are long gone, but the format was parodied with great success by Dos Equis. Parody ads featuring The Most Interesting Man in the World:


Consumers may have outgrown the one-way broadcast, but their appetite for celebrity endorsements has not waned. Modern audiences respond well to pitches by their favorite stars, they just expect to be treated as savvier beings; in the know about how marketing works. Heineken Light spots starring Neil Patrick Harris are successful precisely because they feel more like comedy sketches than ads.

Good comedy is always a winner, but a more serious approach can also resonate, especially if it feels authentic and brings out the human side of a celebrity. Nike’s 2006 “Failure” campaign featuring Micheal Jordan is still considered one of the most memorable ads.

Almost a decade later, Jordan’s endorsement is as valuable today as it’s ever been. Gatorade’s Be Like Mike capitalizes on the basketball legend’s abilities to inspire a generation of athletes to “move, groove and dream”.

As long as people have a desire to become funnier, slicker, stronger, smarter, braver and more attractive versions of themselves, the celebrity endorsement approach will never get old, just better.

New Rules For Agency Success

Feeling a bit overwhelmed?

You should be. We’ve all been reading about, talking about, listening, to all the great challenges the marketing industry faces. The new marketing landscape, the evolving relationship between clients and marketing, the so called doom and gloom and end of advertising as we know it. To paraphrase the ex-49ers Head Coach Harbaugh it’s all just “gobble, gobble, gobble, turkey, funk-jive turkey gobblers.” That’s what many agencies are doing, just talking.

There is another option.

Punch harder, Persistance always pays off.

Fight back! Find a better way!

We could look at all the sweeping changes in another light and get excited by the opportunities for new growth. Any changing environment can sustain new forms of life, if you are willing to be the leader. The old rules that allowed marketing firms to survive are fading away. Early adopters will have an opportunity to create the new rules. Any agency that refuses to change will soon be left behind.

Tactics To Agencies Build The Future:

  1. Focus on leadership. People follow leaders. And leaders create the future by having a clear vision. In today’s evolving market the future belongs to those who focus more on building assets, not profits. There is no secret formulaic, there is no magic key. Only lots and lots of inspiration and perspiration.
  2. Have a real growth plan. Ramp up new business fast. In the old days marketing firms could sit back and survive on referrals, random RFPs, and the odd pitch. Today agencies have to accelerate everything, including new business.
  3. Focus on operations. Reduce costs, improve efficiency, and celebrate strategic and creative thinking. Building the future requires the agencies to become much more responsive, giving clients what they need faster. Work hard to achieve the right mix of personnel, talent, and skills.
  4. Embrace technology. Building the future is all about trying new things, and failing more often than not. You still need to control the cost of your technology investment, work hard to measure, monitor, and enhance your investment. Create a mindset of the agile agency.
  5. Understand change management. Expecting change to just happen on its own dooms your agency to living in the past. Implementing change helps recognize the benefits of leading the charge. The problem is everyone agrees that everyone else needs to change. Any change creates fear, uncertainty and exaggerates insecurities. The solution is better understanding of how change can be properly orchestrated.
  6. Reclaim innovation. Marketing firms used to be the business innovation leaders, creating new products and services, new brands, new technology, and new ways to conduct research. Not anymore. They’ve lost the innovation edge and are now just viewed as tactical marketing providers. Start a new program to help lead clients in understanding how to transform their business.
  7. Train your staff. A training program is the one thing every agency states they need, yet always fail to deliver. Invest now in training. Change management, leadership, technology, and new business are all skills that can be learned, enhanced, and transferred. Reward collaboration and cross training. Build the skills you need to succeed in the future.

Are you ready to lead?

If so, don’t allow complacency to creep into your process. Work hard and find some quick wins to celebrate. One quick warning, never forget to anchor any change in your culture – else all your old habits will only return. Good luck!


Photo by Maximilian Imran Faleel and used under creative commons.

Wondering How Media Advertising Got So Screwed Up? Read on.

When Pivotal Research Group recently downgraded many of the advertising Holding Company shares from hold to sell, the market was shocked. Especially as this was driven by the huge revelation that media agencies within these holding companies were receiving undisclosed payments from media owners.

But why such a shock? We had been advising our clients this was happening for more than three years. Perhaps the events with MediaCom Sydney had brought the whole thing well and truly into the open. But the fact is, this has been an issue festering away behind the scenes for many years.

Since then the ANA has launched a review into the media buying process in the USA and now there is more than $22 billion in media up for pitch too. So how did it end up like this?

man lying with two girls

Media buying involves three in the bed – advertiser, media agency and media owner – but what is really happening to the advertiser’s budget under the covers?




The fact is that when it comes to media buying there are three people in the bed:

  1. The advertiser
  2. The media agency and
  3. The media owner

And while they were all getting what they wanted, it worked. But then someone had to get greedy.

It seems that most marketers are not aware of the fact that they are sharing their media bed not just with the media agency but also the media owners. And the fact is that in this bed it is a case of the Golden Rule prevailing.

You see the advertiser may have the gold, but according to the WFA, on average global advertisers were paying their media agencies an effective 3% commission for traditional media planning and buying and just 6% effective average commission for digital planning and buying.

Meanwhile on the other side of the bed the media owners were in much better shape to be able to influence where that media investment would land. You see traditional media owners would routinely budget up to 30% of revenue to be used as discounts, added value or sales incentives in the form of rebates.

Digital media owners, who were not encumbered by the huge cost of creating the media content in the first place, routinely budget up to 80% of revenue for the same reason. Of course much of this goes to the intermediaries between the advertiser and the publisher, including the media agency.

It is because most digital media inventory does not have the cost of running a television station or printing and distributing a newspaper or magazine or the radio station programming used to attract the eyeballs and ears of the customer.

Therefore if you were in the middle of the ménage e trois and one side was someone cashed up but demanding you keep less and less and the one on the other side was someone who was offering to give you more back the more you gave them, what would you do?

Procurement driving down fees

We took a phone call from the procurement team from a major global company. The team is based in China and wanted to discuss ‘benchmarking’ the media agency fees across the region.

This is a major advertiser and even the agency fees came to many millions of dollars. It became apparent very quickly they did not want to actually benchmark when one of the procurement people asked how much we could save them. I responded that we were not sure if we could save anything at this stage. We would need to review the current fee and it is possible that our recommendation is that they are not paying enough.

They were shocked and told us that one of our competitors had guaranteed a minimum 10% reduction in the media agency fee and that they were going to be paid half of these savings as their fee.

It was now my turn to be shocked. I confirmed what they had just told me and then sarcastically offered to reduce the media agency fees across the region by 100% if they were happy to pay me half of the savings? Excitedly they asked if I was serious to which I answered “No!” and hung up.

The fact is that if marketing is not driving down the agency’s fees then procurement is definitely giving it a red-hot go. And as you see this is effectively transforming you from the person who makes the rules into the person who gets left out of the action.

Marketers lacking understanding

My experience is that while many marketers have worked to stay abreast of the changes in media due to technology, some and especially those in the most senior roles are being left behind.

Like the CMO who called to ask if we could provide a benchmark for their digital media. I was unsure as to what he required and in the discussion he said “You know, like a cost per thousand.” This led to a longer conversation about the advice he was getting from his agency.

Or the Head of Marketing who wanted to pitch for a new agency to handle their digital media as he was not currently seeing any of their advertising on-line. I asked where he was mainly looking and he said on their website at work. The conversation went on to explain it was likely that the agency was blocking the IP address for his place of work (that was a whole other issue) and that it is unlikely they would serve ads to the company website anyway.

Plus there is the Senior Marketer who was concerned that their digital media placement was poor because they would often see ads served up against editorial on a competitor’s product. They even suggested I go online to see the ad myself and could not understand why I suggested that I would not necessarily be served the same ad.

I know this may appear a little over the top. Except all of these did happen with senior marketers at large organisations. And it is these same senior marketers and advertisers who are often making decisions on how the media agency is engaged, remunerated and how their performance is measured.

The fact is that to effectively manage the performance of your media agency you need to understand how they operate so you ask for the right outcomes, measure the right performance and remunerate them in the right way for delivery of that performance.

Agencies under pressure to perform

There is a new book being released at this year’s Cannes Creative Festival titled Madison Ave Manslaughter by Michael Farmer. In it Michael shares his belief on the failings of the Holding Company model.

The agency holding companies have to meet and exceed the revenue and profit expectations of their investors. Many of these are large institutional investors. As I said at the start of this article, the market was shocked when Pivotal Research Group downgraded the Holding Company shares based on the news on media agency behaviour.

This is because the financial performance of the agency was once upon a time directly linked to the performance of the advertiser. When the advertiser was doing well they invested more money in advertising and the agencies’ revenue and profit went up with it.

But now there is pressure within agencies to increase their revenue and their profits year on year irrespective of the advertiser’s financial performance. In fact since the global financial crash of 2008 it could be said in spite of it.

At a time when advertisers are looking for ways to reduce their advertising and marketing costs, the management at the major agencies owned by holding companies, are under relentless pressure to deliver growth and get their bonuses and promotions.

There is a conflict of interest here and somewhere between the holding company quarterly and half yearly reports and the day to day agency / client relationships the tension in this conflict plays out.

Where to from here?

While it is clear that many major advertisers believe they can fix the issue by running a pitch to select a new media agency or to negotiate a new set of terms and conditions with their incumbent, it could be that they end up just changing deck chairs on the Titanic. We have hit an iceberg and the ship is going down.

Instead advertisers and agencies should:

  1. Define the role of both parties in the media value chain.
  2. Agree terms and conditions that encourage transparency and compliance.
  3. Reward agencies for delivering value, not just reducing costs.

The fact is that the advertiser should be able to leverage the golden rule and define the rules by which the media agencies and media owners play. But this means understanding the media value chain in a rapidly changing market and being willing to reward agencies for the value they derive and deliver from the media owner. Otherwise it will invariably be more of the same.

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder and Global CEO of TrinityP3. With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and experiences to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimization.

Child’s Play

Recruitment ads for our industry should come with a cautionary warning: GROWN UPS NEED NOT APPLY.
Advertising is one of those rare, thrills-a-minute professions where having fun is not forbidden, but actually encouraged. If I had to rank the coolest jobs in the world for me, advertising would come in 4th after 1) chocolate taster 2) water-slide tester and 3) holiday reporter. And don’t get me started about those nice outfits again.
Giving birth to ideas (because that’s what it feels like) and then pitching them involves an enormous amount of stamina, self-belief, a utopic world view and imagination – all of which are a doddle to a healthy child, but harder to maintain once you’re paying for your own birthday parties.
So what’s the secret to success in advertising? In a nutshell, it’s about fiercely protecting one’s inner child, but behaving like a grown up. Translation: Peter Pan with a mortgage.
If you’re unsure whether your own child-like spirit is still alive and well, then test it by watching ‘Dream Rangers’ by Ogilvy Taiwan for TC Bank.
Christopher Noxon’s Rejuvenile focuses on how being child-like helps us stay open, creative and why that’s a good thing. The author also compares it to being childish, which is not so good, but I know that highlighting such nuance to the “eternal boys” and girls, inhabiting creative departments, is a fail-proof way to end my career.
Solving problems is what we’re paid to do, but according to the authors of the Freakonomics franchise, children make better problem solvers than adults.That’s because they ask themselves a series of small questions, rather than big ones as we do. Also, unlike grown-ups,
    “kids don’t carry around the preconceptions that can stop people from seeing things as they are”.
The best evidence for this is The Marshmallow Challenge. If you’ve worked in advertising as long as I have, chances are you’ve been subjected to (and humiliated by) some version of this “team-building exercise”. The point of this torture is to reveal how, as adults, we have lost our ability to play, collaborate and basically see the wood from the trees. And the worst part? You are not even allowed to eat the marshmallow.
Tom Wujec‘s TedEx talk reveals more.
Ok so children are better at playing than we are, but no one can accuse the creative team that hatched this ‘Never Stop Exploring’ campaign for Northface, to have lost their sense of fun. Another grand slam for Korean cool.
Arthur Rimbaud believed that:
    “genius is the recovery of childhood at will”
and examples of gifted creatives that have dug deep and fished out their Mini-Mes are, thankfully, everywhere.
Who can still remember what it feels like to be an awkward teen-ager? The copy-writer who came up with Haribo’s ‘The Unexpected Kiss’. That’s who.
I bet the talent who designed JayZ’s Grand Prix – awarded ‘Decoded’ recovered their own love for treasure hunts when dreaming this one up.
It must have taken a child-like zeal to change the world for Monboot and their Chipotle client to crack, and painstakingly craft, the multi-awarded campaign of 2014 ‘The Scarecrow’.
I could go on and on, rambling on like a child, but I think I’ll stop now. I’m craving some marshmallows.
- See more at:

The Ad Agency Is Dead—Or Is It?

The demise of the ad agency appears all set.

A tombstone prepared.

The obituaries written.

The lilies artfully arranged.

Which is a perfect time for the AdForum 2014 Summit.

The “Summit” is where a gathering, gaggle, school or pack (choose your own plural) of the world’s leading pitch intermediaries (or search consultants, if you like) spend five days in NYC meeting with a mix of global advertising networks like Lowe, DDB, JWT and Publicis, (including an appearance by Chairman and CEO Maurice Levy), digital powerhouses like Huge and RG/A, media giants like OMD, international agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, The Martin Agency and CP&B, smaller shops Story, Work & Co, Brooklyn Brothers, and experiential ones like Iris.

Also during the week we’d get presentations from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and some perspective on newer industry developments such as production decoupling.

Basically, the week is a microcosm of what the agency world has to offer clients, brands and products; the state of their business, what clients are thinking, demanding and buying, and what’s new in terms of agency talent, practices and capabilities.

What better way to get a swift temperature check on how agencies are feeling these days, and their predicted demise?

So what did I pick up?

Five things seemed to strike a chord and find a place in my memory banks.

Brands Require Culture and Talkability

Culture and talkability: two words that were a key phrase during the week.

We all know it’s not just enough for a brand to prattle on about what it does and what formats it comes in. Now, each successful brand needs to have a POV about what’s going on in the world and engage fully in it.

So I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of agencies who preached the “culture” initiative.

Brent Smart, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi NY spoke enthusiastically about moving brands “beyond reason into culture.”

Richard Pinder CEO, UK and International of CP&B spoke about working at the speed of culture and the desire to make CP&B work “the most written about, talked about and outrageously effective work in the world,” highlighting the thought that “99% of all work is not talked about” and wanting to focus their work in that other 1% space.

The Brooklyn Brothers also “want to build brands a share of culture, not of category.”

Marketers Love Makers

As I wrote in a previous post, marketers want to get closer to people who make stuff. Being able to come up with ideas is the one thing agencies have traditionally been paid for. But now the ability to build the prototypes, write the code, create the content, produce the events, get them to market tomorrow, and all within the agencies four walls is becoming paramount.

The maker culture is a big one, and a huge opportunity for agencies to show off the variety of talents that lives inside the company.

Agencies Need To Be Business Transformers

Of course the best ones always have been. Or certainly have helped their clients in that objective, Ogilvy and IBM being the classic example.

But digital and social capability and thinking are transforming the way communications is used in business transformation. Saatchi NY is helping transform Walmart’s tricky reputation as they invest $250 billion in American job creation over the next 10 years. CP&B transformed the reputation of how a Domino’s pizza tastes with their handling of the “cardboard pizza” crisis, and transformed the fortunes of American Express small-business clients with the introduction of the remarkable Small Business Saturday initiative.

R/GA is transforming how we use McCormick’s range of flavors and spices, introducing an idea called “FlavorPrint,” a sort of Nike+ idea for food, and updated us on their Accelerator start-up program.

All remarkably smart, business-transforming ideas, creatively executed.

Don’t Talk About Digital Advertising Anymore

Finally, we’ve moved beyond talking about digital this and digital that.

Any agency that spends time outlining its digital capabilities and how remarkably integrated they are, clearly isn’t.

It’s all price of entry now. Anyone talking about being “born digital” is standing on an empty platform staring at the back end of the train. Digital, social, mobile is embedded in everything a successful agency needs to do. It is not a separate skill that needs to be highlighted.

The Connected Age Is Upon Us

R/GA, with founder, chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg and EVP, Chief Growth Officer Barry Wacksman specifically, led us through their thinking on the next steps for R/GA by introducing the concept of functional integration and the connected age, why it’s worked for brands like Nike, Google and Amazon, and why it’s important for any brand to build a digital ecosystem.

All very important developments for agencies and brands.

But the thing that struck me above all these was that all the doom and gloom about agencies appears rather premature.

That the people we met with are not the lumbering agencies of the past. They are bright, modern, fully aware of the world brands live in and are offering marketers a huge variety of new talents, skills, knowledge, savvy and crafts, all delivered with an energy and passion that combine in ways no other offering can.

It said to me that for all the talk of the demise of the ad agency, it’s certainly not a fait accompli. They’re not going to go down without a fight. There’s simply too much talent, passion, commitment and savvy for clients to ignore.

Where else are they going to get that—a management consultancy?

Agencies are re-inventing, re-working, re-engineering, re-emerging and not taking any talk of demise lying down.

The Summit presented me (and the gaggle) an opportunity to re-assess the ad agency of today, and I came out thinking that there’s a huge amount of talent and energy that is ready to be a great ally for any brand in any fight, from purely survival to stunning success.


All a brand needs to do is to find the right ally.


General Mills Hires A Chief Creative Officer. Is This Crazy, Or The Future?

The appointment of a chief creative officer was announced the other day.

That’s not big news if it’s an ad agency appointment. But this was General Mills announcing the hiring of Michael Fanuele, former chief strategy officer of ad agency Fallon in Minneapolis, as its chief creative officer.

General Mills is a company more associated with getting America up and running in the mornings with Cheerios, Wheaties and Pillsbury dough boys. A no-nonsense food giant, whose brands we enjoy everyday. I can see why Apple, Google or Facebook would go out and hire a chief creative officer. But General Mills?

I worked with Michael Fanuele when he was chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG, (now Havas). He’s one of the smartest, passionate, inspiring and infectious people I’ve ever met in the business, and also a brilliant presenter, (and one I would never recommend following in a presentation) so I called him to get some insight into this.

I started by asking the obvious question: What on earth does a chief creative officer do within a company like General Mills? Overall he sees the role as “sending a message. A commitment from General Mills to smart, innovative business thinking and great creative execution.” Adding that General Mills had made “lots of smart creative and innovative moves in the business space. Now we need to match those moves in marketing.”

Earlier this month, General Mills bought Annie’s, one of the largest makers of organic foods in the country, and that sounds like one of those creative moves Michael was referring to.

Going further he sees the role in a few ways. Within General Mills he sees a role “working with the brand people, to inspire and influence them.” I think he’ll be a great talent to bring in to inspire the General Mills brands.

Beyond that he sees a role that starts with strong brand strategy leading directly to great work. “Agencies have always allied strategy and creative; that was my job inside the agency. Make sure that strategy allowed great work to flourish. But it’s a new job inside clients.” The important point here to me is that Michael will be focused not only on content creation, but production as well. That’s an important and new role, getting marketers to focus on creating great stand-out ideas, and then making sure that they’re flawlessly produced.

Within the agency partners he sees the role as one that signals the end of relationships “based on a toxic cynicism.”

And undermining the myth, “Clients think agencies don’t understand their business, agencies think clients don’t understand creativity.”

In terms of getting the work better, “I’m here to help our brand people evaluate work. To move out of the kill-it culture. To help people see the difference between judging an idea and nurturing one.”

All good news to me.

So is this appointment madness or the future?

I’m leaning heavily to the latter.

Firstly, a big “Bravo!” to General Mills CMO Mark Addicks who made the hiring. It continues a trend of marketers bring in very creatively minded ad agency people like Jonathan Mildenhall at Airbnb, Dana Anderson at Mondelez, Ann Bologna at Trip Advisor—all senior, very creative people now having huge influences right at the center of brands.

I believe we will see more of this type of hiring, especially in companies like Kraft, Mondelez and General Mills, where their brands have been around for a while and likely in need a bit of a jump start.

Marketers understand that brand management is less and less about “managing” and more and more about creating brands that believe in something, that consumers want to engage with, enjoy and share. I’ve spoken many times about the end of the brand manager and the emergence of the brand creative director, who leads a brand like an editorial director leads a magazine, a conductor leads an orchestra, or a chief creative officer leads an ad agency.

I suppose the last question is the biggest one of all. And one that again questions the future of agencies. Have we reached a point where the most talented people in the ad business have recognized that they now, in truth, have very little influence on brands, that agencies are being moved more and more to the periphery, and that the only way they can get back to the center is by moving to the client side?

And is it the only real way for them to get back a little of the oldest aphrodisiac of all—power?.

This article first appeared in Forbes.




Take responsibility for new business

There are a few indicators to signal how a marketing firm is going to do in new business – pitches won and lost for example. But numbers can’t tell the whole story. If your agency is winning new business, great – you’re probably doing most things right. But if you’re losing… well, check this short list and see if there is something you need to correct. And address any issues now, or you may end up wondering what happened and why you never won any new business.


Lead Right! Agency senior management often finds themselves working “in the agency” rather than “on the agency.” At most agencies, senior management is trapped into the role of being the number one skill player. That’s like a football coach trying to run with the ball. Get off the field and let your agency advance the play. Set expectations and train your staff.

Position Right! Agencies have been out positioned by the consultants and the brand specialists. Agencies are forced to deal with lower level functionaries on the client side in conference rooms while major decisions are made at the CEO level in the boardroom. Reposition your agency with a consulting side and an advertising side. Set your firm up for long-term growth. Run around client-side junior coordinators that don’t have the brains or the talent to give your creative staff solid direction.

Grow Right! New business must be focused on lead generation. New business is the lifeblood of the business and leads are the heartbeat. Your new business effort needs to be split into winning the opportunity and winning the account. Find and identify hundreds of clients who are unhappy and want to change their marketing communication companies.


Angela Natividad Paris, France Strategist and writer
Bob Sanders Pittsburgh, United States Consultant
Dan Pearlman Santa Monica, United States CEO/Managing Partner
Darren Woolley Sydney, Australia Marketing Management Consultant
Emanuele Nenna Milan, Italy Founder, Now Available
Enrico Gervasi Milan, Italy Founder, Istituto Protagora
Florence Garnier PARIS, France Consulting company
Florie Hubac Paris, France Communication & Marketing Manager
Hervé de Clerck , Switzerland Founder
Johanna McDowell Johannesburg, South Africa
Mark Tungate Paris, France Journalist and author
Matt Walsh Wellington, New Zealand Director of Business Development
Maud Largeaud Paris, France Chief Information Manager
michael lee New York, United States creative search consultant.
Monika Vaiciulyte Lund, Sweden Student'
Philippe Paget Paris Area, France Global CEO AdForum
Steve Fajen New York, United States Marketing Consultant
Steven Johnson London, United Kingdom Creative consultant
Tanya Dernaika Beirut, Lebanon Training Leader
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