First of all, I’m writing this as I’m waiting on a patio for a friend. As an Idea Drunk after work at the tail end of summer, there’s a drink on the table. But the whole experience of being on a bustling patio enjoying a chilled brew has shone a light on something I have overlooked. There is an abundance of inspiration on here on the patio.
When you get caught up in the bustle of your job, it’s too often that you sit in front of a computer and try to force creativity. Over the past couple of weeks, I admit to being guilty of this as well. You see, Canadian summers are compact. Before you know it, it’s going to be winter and I am going to be wading through three feet of snow. So, as Canadians, we try to pack our summer days, nights and weekends with activities. The time to remain idle is in the winter, not when it’s beautiful outside. Unfortunately, this doesn’t leave our brains (or bodies) time to relax.
Creativity can’t be forced. It needs to be able to breath. The best ideas don’t come at two o’clock in the morning the day before a big pitch. They come at 9am on a Sunday when you’re walking on your way to brunch. Or during a long lunch on a Friday afternoon. Or when you’re on a patio waiting for a friend. The most creative ideas require stimulus. An environment that is relaxed, rich and inspiring. you won’t find that stuck in an office or a cubicle. You are far more likely to find it on a busy patio featuring unique personalities, drinks and good cheer. Where you can sit back an soak in the social constructs, watch people interact and overhear the hot topics of conversation. It’s a way of keeping a pulse on what’s happening to help generate fresh and relevant ideas.
I don’t pay as much attention to celebrity gossip as I should. Seeing as this stuff is more addictive than crack to the majority of the developed world, I should be more plugged in. On the weekend, I was reading this article on Ad Age. It gave the staggering figure that People and Hello! Magazine split a cost of $14 million for photos of the twin spawn of Brangelina.
But it got me thinking. What’s the value to People Magazine? Let’s assume that they split the $14 million cost evenly with Hello! Magazine. So their incremental cost for the photos is $7 million.
Brangelina with a couple of their nest eggs. Value? About $12 million.
Their revenue? An estimated 2.6 million newsstand copies of People were sold at a price of $4.49. Gross revenue from newsstand sales is $11.6 million. Additionally, they received 6 million unique visitors on People.com in the first 24 hours of publishing those photos. At a media cost of $200,000 per million unique web visitors, that’s an additional$1.2 million in online ad revenue. If we estimate normal in-magazine advertising revenues to be (conservatively) $8 million, total revenues are $20.8 million! For one issue!
Verdict? As astounding as it seems, it was the correct business decision to shell out millions of dollars for baby photos. Needless to say, making babies is a profitable business.
PS. In future blockbuster celebrity births, perhaps People and other celebrity magazines can find a way to let their advertisers know so that they can customize their ads to the news.
The worst feeling in the world is not knowing what you want. Being unsure of what course of action to take. You reach a fork in the road and you don’t know whether to go left or right. You weigh your options. You’re not sure what to do. You waste precious time in a decision limbo.
The classic (albeit, scaled down) example is when you’re out to dinner. What do I want to eat? You examine the pages of the menu and an endless stream of questions scroll through your head:
- How hungry am I? - What do I feel like eating? - What’s good here? - Will the person that I’m dining with think I’m fat if it eat ____?
This is what really grinds my gears. So you ponder your options for a bit. You ask for more time as the drinks arrive. You’ve narrowed it down to a couple of choices. Then you’re stuck. You make a last minute split decision that you immediately regret as soon as your server walks away.
I have a solution that I regularly employ to help people out in these situations. I have my friends narrow their choices down to two or three options. Then I make the choice for them. One of two things will happen – (1) my friend will be satisfied with the choice and order it, or (2) it makes them realize that they really wanted the other option, so they chose that one.
Sometimes you have to make a decision to realize that it wasn’t what you wanted. If it wasn’t the right one, you can always go back and change it.
“Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference”
I have previously posted on the “Er…Bell” teaser campaign and reveal. There has been debate whether or not the creative is good. The truth is that it doesn’t matter if I think the campaign is good, because I am not the target market. I don’t have a landline. I am already locked into a cell phone contract for the next couple of years. I already subscribe to Bell Internet and am far too lazy to change. I also live downtown in a major city and work in advertising. In short, I am not a typical Canadian consumer. Thus, it doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what Canada thinks. And only time will tell. Can an advertising campaign change people’s perceptions of a company that’s been around for more than 100 years? Or is it like when Wal-Mart changed their logo … a pointless exercise to make their board feel better about themselves?
What I am impressed with is the business strategy being done behind the scenes. It shows that (for now), Bell isn’t simply paying lip service to becoming “Better“. They are taking the steps to make it happen. Here are my three favourites:
1. HMV Partnership. Bell has done a deal with HMV to be the sole cell phone provider in HMV stores. It gives them greater exposure and more distribution around a younger audience. Good idea. But will Canadian be comfortable buying a cell phone where they buy DVDs and video games? Will people buy a Samsung Instinct when it’s displayed right next to the iPods (pretending to be an iPhone)?
2. Starbucks Partnership. Free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. Pretty simple idea. I’m a fan. Mostly because they gave me something really useful for free. How can they grow this partnership? Can they incorporate Starbucks into some sort of rewards program? Give away free coffees on the first of every month when you show your Bell cell phone? The best about this one is that they are partnership with something that is already entrenched in the lives of Canadians.
3. Re-doing the Bell Stores. Bell has remodelled a handful of their flagship stores to be WAY less confusing. They look good. They’re simpler. They don’t have me accidentally standing in the internet line-up when I’m trying to buy satellite TV. The challenge is rolling this out to the rest of their stores. It’s going to be an expensive overhaul, and some of the franchisees may not be willing to shell out.
There is no question that Bell has locked down some important strategic commitments. Now if only the creative was good enough to make people take notice…
What are most people doing 24 hours before a big pitch? Making last minute changes to their ideas. Reworking the content. Panicking. What should they be doing? Practicing. Practicing their presentation. Why? Because when it comes to selling ideas, the presentation matters more than the ideas themselves.
Unique ideas are intangible. You can only imagine how they will work out in the real world. If you are selling a truly creative idea, than your audience won’t even know what to compare it to. How do they evaluate it as good or bad? How do they know it will work? They don’t. It’s the job of the presenters to make their audience believe that it will work … with minimal hard evidence that it will.
That’s why the presentation is so important.
The presentation needs to invoke enough emotional attachment to the idea that the people want to invest in it. It needs to demonstrate confidence from the presenters that it can be done. You need to convince them that this IS do-able. And that comes from confidence. To create a presentation that portrays confidence as well as invoking an emotional response, you need to practice.
Practice makes perfect. True story.
Memorize your lines. Rehearse your body movements. Practice your slide transitions or use of props. Do it 20 times. All of this will give you the confidence to perform at your highest level. That way, when you are in the presentation, you don’t have to worry about what to say or what comes next. You already know that. You can worry about controlling the room. Drawing people into the performance. Reacting to the audiences response.
That’s what people need to experience to buy your ideas.
I am terrible at giving gifts. Especially for the people who are the most important to me (family, close friends, significant others etc.) I can never settle on the perfect gift, so I always panic and end up getting them alcohol. Being on the receiving end of some gifting love over the past couple of days, I came across two key insights as to what makes a good gift.
1. Make It Personal
Everyone loves to feel special. They like to be recognized for being unique. So try to get a gift that speaks to your unique relationship with the person. One that reminds them of a good experience that you both shared, or a hobby that you said that you wanted to pick up together. If all else fails, personalize it in the card. Get a blank card and write something that reminds them of why you think that they’re awesome.
If you’re a company, personalizing it can be as easy as saying happy birthday to them when they come in for their daily cup of coffee. Or sending you a cute stuffed animal at Christmas time. Or putting your name into a merge letter e-card.
2. Good Wrapping
The wrapping is all about the presentation and suspense. You don’t know what the gift it. Your mind starts to wander and explore the possibilities. Then you get to go to town on the wrapping paper and see what it is. It’s exciting! Samsung does an awesome job of creating a cool unpacking experience. Wrapping shows that you cared enough about person to take care of the presentation details. For a quick five minute job, you create an aura of excitement about the gifting experience. So don’t cop out with a gift bag, go to the dollar store and put in the 5 minutes it takes.
The most important thing it doesn’t always matter what the gift is. Or how much it costs. Or whatever. If you make someone feel special and seal it with love, your audience will love you back.
Whenever I go to a party where I don’t know anybody, I try to find the old guy in the room. Why? Because he has the best stories. He’s been around the block. He’s experienced exactly what you’re going through, but in a different age. And there is a great opportunity to learn from the old guy’s stories.
When David Trott wrote “How to Get Your First Job in Advertising” 20 years ago, the landscape of advertising was different. But the fundamentals were the same. Be hungry. Come up with a good idea. Sell it. Make money. Now David writes a blog for CST Advertising, and it’s got some great insights. I have to share with you a great story from an old guy:
John Webster was my creative director for 10 years. He taught me most of what I know. He told me I had one big flaw.
“Your commercials are as good as they’re ever going to get at script stage. You never leave any room for creative accidents.” To illustrate the point he told me a story.
Stanley Kubrick was making the movie, 2001′. He was shooting the apes. He had a second unit shooting the space station. Rotating in space: the docking sequence. This was a model, but Kubrick wanted to be sure it didn’t look like one. So he wanted to see the previous day’s rushes.
Kubrick said, “Let’s see them with sound.” The producer said they hadn’t had time to do the sound yet.
“What’s the sound going to be?” said Kubrick.
“The usual sort of metallic space communications.” said the producer.
Kubrick said, “Well I don’t want to watch the rushes mute. So just put some sound over the pictures.”
The producer said, “We haven’t got any sound at all.”
“Just dig around and find something. Anything.” said Kubrick.
So the producer looked around the deserted studios, and all he could find was an old vinyl recording of The Blue Danube Waltz’ by Strauss. So he shrugged and put it on. Then they watched the rushes. The producer cringed at how inappropriate the music was. A 19th century soundtrack with 21st century visuals.
Kubrick simply watched.
Then after a while he said. “Do you know what? They’re going to call me a fucking genius when I use this in the movie.”
Like John said: you have to leave room for creative accidents.
Why did I start Idea Drunk a year ago? There were a host of reasons. I wanted to do something that allowed me to escape from the (sometimes) mundane tasks of my job. Something to inspire me as to why I love ideas. Then, I wanted to grow my personal brand. I wanted people to know me. I wanted to pop up when you Googled “Christian Parsons”. I wanted to stand out in the corporate shuffle. I wanted to express my ideas.
BUT … mostly, I started Idea Drunk because I was afraid of turning another year older. I was insecure as to where my life was going. Idea Drunk was my reaction to a quarter-life crisis. You figure after a couple dozen times of growing a year older, you would get used to it. And the most secure of us do. But some of us don’t.
What are you to do when you’re afraid? DO SOMETHING! Anything! Don’t just hide in your room and hope that the scary thing goes away. Do something. And don’t just plan … take the first step. It doesn’t have to be the right step, it just has to move you. You need to build inertia for change.
If you want to be promoted, tell your boss point blank. Don’t stew in a solo misery that “nobody is recognizing your for your work” … it doesn’t work like that. If you want to date the prettiest girl in the room, ask her out. Eventually, you’ll get be in a room where you’re dating the best girl in it. If you want to be a millionaire, quit your job. You’re never going to get there by working for someone else.
So change something. It’s liberating. Break some rules. Make someone happy. Piss someone off … whatever. Don’t ask permission (as Nike would say) just do it. Remember, it’s always better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
Update: I found an eerily similar post on Seth’s blog. His version of the motivational speech can be found here.
If you live in Toronto, you may have noticed a lot of signs in transit and billboards showcasing a mysterious combination of lettering – “er”. I’m pretty sure that this is the launch of the new advertising platform for Bell. Here’s my reasoning:
Bell gave official notice that Frank & Gordon were fired. Clearing out some space for a new advertising campaign? I think so.
Bell has a new agency in Zulu Alpha Kilo, headed by a guy who was the advertising genius behind TELUS for years. They’ve had 20 employees in their offices for a couple of months. They couldn’t have been drinking and doing drugs the whole time.
Bell picked the Olympics to launch the beavers. Past actions are the best way to predict future decisions. They’re probably going to do the reveal on Friday August 8th, 2008 – the opening day of the Beijing Olympics.
Bell is the only brand with a big enough budget in Canada to launch a massive media buy. Plus, they’ve done it before – remember those big blue boxes last Christmas?
An anonymous ex-spokesbeaver told me so.
Honestly, no less than 5 minutes after publishing this post, I got an email that shows the creative for the (now confirmed) new Bell ads. Not what I was expecting. Why? Because they’re boring. I’m sorry Bell, but stock photography and new fonts aren’t that exciting.