The customer is always first

Two years ago marketeers were all talking about disruptive ideas and emotive storytelling. Last year was all about customer / brand co-creation. Now, if you’re lucky, it’s a struggle to keep up with all the content your audience is creating for you. And with some UGC outperforming branded content, is it time we just sat back and let them get on with it?

We all look forward to the Christmas ads. Mainly for the internet backlash when one brand inevitably goes overboard on the schmaltz train. 2015 probably hit peak emote when EDEKA literally poked us in the eye with the corpse of a lonely grandfather. Last year, the cuteness prize arguably went not to a brand but to the 17-year-old maker of that spoof John Lewis ad.

Putting aside the thought that if a student can make a believable alternative to a £1m Xmas advert in one month then the days of big budget content could be numbered, I’m left wondering if audiences are starting to crave emotion right when brands are cutting sugar out of their strategy? After all, John Lewis itself decided to go all quirky trampolining dog that year. Because that’s what the internet wants, right?

Clients often think they need to engage Gen Z with bitesize irreverent content in sharable shapes. Being so blatantly ‘disrupted’ as if you’re a vacant click-junky only concerned with trading social currency must get annoying. Perhaps the response of the marketed has been to become the marketeer.

Recently, a film student created an unsolicited weepie for adidas. Which the brand ignored before it went on to clock up 13 million views - almost half as many as the official ad. Whether this old-fashioned emotive ad was targeting the right audience, in line with the overarching strategy or likely to cause a spike in Gazelle sales is another matter.

What matters is that while Gen Y created scam ads for awards. Gen Z’s viral ghosts seem to be set on winning the popular vote. And since nobody ever goes outdoors, this next generation are even faking  billboards from the brutally simple school of advertising.

The point with these UG ads is that there is a point. A non-frivolous semblance of a creative concept and a meaningful message. Right or wrong, they’re not twerking ponies.

These kids are more emotionally and politically engaged than the cynical marketers who’ve decided to chuck out the schmaltz. And maybe they’re trying to tell them something: Stop bombarding us with interactive, idiotic content and expecting us to share it. Yes we’re creators. But for us it goes deeper than an emoticon. 2017 is emotional, dude.

A sign of their troubled times then? If (snow)flakey account execs and hardened Gen X creative directors are over the emotional advert, are we now seeing a sobfest revival from a new champion? Are Gen Z audiences seeking human empathy in this brave new Brexiting, Trumpeting world and finding none, creating their own?

Being small, our clients don’t always come to us with huge budgets. This means that over the years not only have we worked harder at the concept, knowing we can’t just throw money at the execution, we have built a reputation for our superstellar contacts.

The result is we’re constantly tapped into bright young things. From student fashion events to pet influencers to our signature blend of specialists, whether in a production studio or their bedroom, assembled bespoke for each individual job.

The benefit to our clients is a rich, intelligent stream of diverse viewpoints and ideas, delivering targeted, stand-out solutions to real business problems.

So it’s encouraging to see that the young creators of both these pieces were snapped up by agencies. As long as they don’t just use them to update their social.

Love in the time of trollera

How we helped OnePlus to redefine phone porn

OnePlus are not just the latest Chinese challenger to the global smartphone establishment. Launching exclusively on social media as the first fully customisable, unlocked handset along with the open invitation to hack it even better, they quickly engaged a cult following among tech-superior, impatient early adopters who believe an iPhone is a smartphone for stupid people.

From the CEO down, the company engages right back at them. By listening to their audience and releasing new handsets seemingly as and when improvements are made, OnePlus seem refreshingly keen to share their latest innovations with the same community that inspired them.

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

But when an under-the-radar tech brand makes phones that compete with Apple and Samsung, their agency competes with multi-million pound marketing noise.

So how do we cut through at Valentine's? Not with more pink wallpaper. But with something to stir things up and get noticed. A physical interpretation of how we all feel for the one we love above all others - one we'd be lost without.

If only we'd employed facial recognition webcams on this one. The reactions videos revealed this polarising Dusk Till Dawn WTF switch to a macro tongue ballet inspired by car ads caused either a spontaneous grin or wide-eyed abject horror. 

But our frenzied phone-licking anti-Valentine, for better or worse in sickness or LOL, made people talk about OnePlus. And renders Marmite about as controversial as Sugar Puffs.

If this seems as strategic as a fart bomb, think again. This homage was to the fans. The words of love in the script were written by Twitter - their real declarations of desire for the #OnePlus3T, its features soliloquised in almost visceral terms.

But it wasn’t for them. Brands don’t pay to preach to the converted. And as one contemptuous commenter pointed out, geeks don’t respond to marketing.

No, this gross display of public affection for everybody's secret object of desire was aimed at a mainstream audience, immune to beautiful marketing from the big players and jaded by the second-rate handsets churned out like clockwork in time for Christmas.

This savvy young audience has the requisite irreverent sense of humour to appreciate the tongue-in-cheek delivery of an off-the-wall message: who's the one you love most, sleep next to, gawp at in public? Now get a room. 

The silent several thousand thumbs-up versus the vocal few hundred thumbs-down for the #LickOfLove on YouTube suggests the majority got the joke. And the actors did such an amazing job of showing genuine passion for a (box-fresh, hygiene freaks) OnePlus 3T that they gave new meaning to the term phone porn.

Haters gonna hate. But given the viewing figures, we’re taking them as reassuring compliments. For a brand that thrives on controversy, if you’re not being trolled you're probably on the wrong bridge.

How many CEOs banter with their followers?

How many CEOs banter with their followers?

Find your freak

 

How we’re all individuals now

With This Girl Can the clear winner of 2015’s most mood film-sampled campaign, every brand is clamouring to prove they’re down with the uncool kids and celebrate we’re all different by giving normals the stage.

(Just to be clear. These are not real normal people. Dove flogged that idea to death. But hyperreal ones. Like Birkenstocks lined with fur

It's not been about going the distance or doing the impossible for a while now. This is the age of celebrating quirks and raising your own bar.

Motivational line factory Nike kicked off this trend with the W+K Emmy scoring Jogger. Their epic Find your Greatness campaign went from strength to strength until the concept was weakened by the confusing Find your Fast, with us poor averages finding ourselves up against gladiators again. 

Grey nobly attempted to mobilise Lucozade’s hungover masses off the sofa and Find their Flow. Flawless concept, smooth delivery. So far so Grey. Not sure if the line quite carried enough meaning alone to prop it up in print though. 

Right Move’s Find your Happy neatly, or sloppily depending on your level of grammar pedantry, recognises that a house purchase choice is personal and simultaneously manages to bundle in another copy trend by turning an adjective into a verb.

About their lovely new Axe campaign, 72andSunny Creative Director Carlo Cavallone said, that along with individuality and authenticity, their focus was “inclusivity”. The male dancer in stilettos is certainly a refreshing twist on the Lynx Effect hero.

From a copy perspective, what I find interesting is that a series of campaigns all championing the individual can’t seem to differentiate their messaging.

So trans is the new black. And tokenism and cynicism aside, the fact advertisers are finally catching up with the film and fashion industries in targeting previously marginalised groups ought to be welcomed.

With any trend, there’s always a tipping point. As Carrie Bradshaw might say, how much more normal can we be? Or have we peaked and gone full freak?