The Blog and Pony Show

Archive for September, 2017

Schifino Lee - 11:54 am September 18, 2017

Advertising as a Catalyst for Change

Cannes Blog_image_part3

In the third and final installment of my inspired takeaways from this summer’s Cannes Lions experience, I want to highlight the presentations around the true good that the advertising industry does. Unfortunately, much of our industry has a bad reputation because people associate us with late night infomercials of guys screaming at you about amazing cleaning products you need right now—for only $19.99! When in actuality, the advertising industry is able to put out beautiful things that really lift society up. We boost NGO’s, do pro-bono work, promote government initiatives, and much more. Done right, advertising can be good for everyone.

In support of that point, the Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke about how creativity and advertising can make a significant difference in the world. He said, “Brands are the islands of stability in the current chaotic political and social climate. Advertising brings issues to the forefront of society. We can do well in the world with creativity and imagination. Creatives can use imagination in a way that politicians can’t.” He went on to point out that we can use creativity to make a difference in the world by addressing ignorance, and giving voice to those who don’t have one, in an engaging way.

In the presentation What the World Really Needs is More Advertising,hosted by BBDO and featuring their President & CEO, Andrew Robertson, and CCO, David Lubars, they acknowledged the undeniable fact that there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now. Then they highlighted some work the advertising industry has done to make a connection between brands and what really matters to consumers, which has made a difference in their lives. Following the tragedy of the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, the families of the children who were lost that day created a non-profit organization called the Sandy Hook Promise. They raise awareness of gun violence, provide programs demonstrating practices to use, and teach others the signs to prevent other shootings. BBDO did pro-bono work for the Sandy Hook Promise and made this powerful, unforgettable  video. It won several lions at Cannes, as it should have.

If you haven’t met Graham, who won the first Grand Prix award this year,  I’ll formally introduce you. He was designed to promote road safety. Graham was created for the government-owned Transport Accident Commission (TAC). BBDO included Graham in the TAC Towards Zero campaign. Graham was made specifically to answer the question: what would we look like if we were to evolve to survive our dangerous roadways? Created by leading trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield, crash investigator David Logan, and world-renowned artist Patricia Piccinini, he very dramatically made people aware of the vulnerabilities humans have in our daily lives.

Another surprising example is Barbie. As a kid, I must have had at least 50 Barbies over the years. So I was shocked to hear that Barbie’s sales have dropped by 12% in recent years. Then this commercial aired on television and it didn’t take long before sales were back up by 8%. Over 25 million people have received the message that we should empower young girls to be anything they dream to be.

On a much grander, global level, there’s the Common Ground initiative. United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, explained in her presentation Can the Creative Industry Act as a Force for Good? that Common Ground is a pact the world’s six largest advertising holding companies made to work towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The holding companies involved are Publicis Groupe, Omnicom Group, IPG, WPP, Dentsu and Dentsu Aegis Network, and Havas.

This was a big deal when it was announced at last year’s Cannes Festival because the agencies that these companies own are the very ones that often go head to head at award shows like Cannes. The CEO’s of these companies made this joint statement…

“The Common Ground initiative recognizes that the global issues the UN has identified transcend commercial rivalry. By working in partnership to support the Sustainable Development Goals, we want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences in order to serve a wider common interest. We hope others in and beyond our own business decide to do the same.”

 Each holding company chose a different goal to focus on. Publicis chose goal #2: Zero Hunger; Dentsu chose goal #3: Good Health & Well-Being; Omnicom chose goal #4: Quality Education; WPP chose goal #5: Gender Equality; IPG chose goal #6: Clean Water & Sanitation; and Havas chose goal #13: Climate Action. Some of my favorite campaigns are “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” and “Buy a Lady a Drink.” You can see all of the campaigns made for Common Ground here.

Sure, our advertising messages can inspire actions like “act now for free shipping and handling and get this is amazing price of $19.99!” But, we can do so much more. We can use creativity to engage people, get them to care about helping others, and ultimately, be a powerful catalyst for societal change.

Schifino Lee - 9:37 am September 6, 2017

How to be Authentically “Authentic” with Your Brand Authenticity

Cannes Blog_image_part2

In part two of my series on key takeaways from the 64th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, let’s talk about the power of authenticity for both personal and corporate brands. When you think of “authenticity”, what does that mean to you? Do you think of how it relates to your work, or maybe the future of your career?

To me, being authentic means staying true to yourself and your values. You aren’t catering to someone else’s desires. Creative people, whether through writing, performing, designing, whatever, are all essentially expressing themselves. It doesn’t matter what form of media you use. It’s true to you. So it wasn’t surprising that authenticity was a hot topic for several speakers at the Cannes Creative Festival.

Ashley Frangipane, better known as singer/songwriter Halsey, spoke about authenticity on a personal level and as it relates to company brands in her presentation Authentic, Creative, and Unafraid. On the personal brand level, she said to always remember that your social media accounts are your brand. Anyone who views your profiles should be able to know who you are, what you do, and what you believe in. On the company brand level, Halsey advised to still write and share personal experiences to make it authentic, so everyone can relate to it. It will better resonate with people that way. “You can create a product that will adapt to culture, or you can create a culture that will adapt to a product,” Halsey observed. Whatever level you’re working on, be authentic to your brand and that’s what people will trust in.

For rapper and Creative Director, Rakim Mayers (a.k.a. A$AP Rocky), authenticity is driven by passion. You need to truly believe in something if you want other people to also believe in it. “If you stick to the good authentic ideas, you don’t need a bunch of money to push it, because people will gravitate towards it,” he noted. People hate when they know they’re being advertised to, and they don’t want to hear generic sales messages. They want something that will actually benefit their lives.

Platon, the world-renowned photographer, took the festival crowd through The Craft of Authenticity. He said, “Advertising teaches us to say powerful messages… advertising is a window to the world. [As storytellers] we get to choose what to say.”

As an example of big brands that use authenticity and transparency effectively in their ads, McDonald’s came out on top in several lists. Now, McDonald’s wouldn’t have been my first thought, but their “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign is one of the more transparent campaigns in recent years. The whole idea was to take common myths and address them publicly. McDonald’s has long struggled with ingredient and processing concerns. With new brands championing with healthier options, they had some questions to answer. Literally. The result has been one of their most talked about campaigns ever. With over 5.4 million views, and 42,000 questions asked and answered, McDonald’s has been able to address their customer’s concerns and reinstate their values.

In summary, we get authenticity when we combine what we know with what we love. That’s how we truly make a difference in the world. More to come on that in the third part of this series. Stay tuned.

Schifino Lee - 11:00 am September 1, 2017

Give Creative Brands Purpose and They Just Might Make a Difference.

Cannes Blog_image_part1

A little over a month ago, The 64th Annual Cannes Lions Festival was in full force. The Mediterranean Sea sparkled next to the festival grounds as storytellers, designers, artists, political figures, celebrities, and CEOs rushed to and from the Palais, trying to make it to the next big presentation. I was part of that very fortunate crowd that was feeling inspired by the creative spirit in the air.

The Cannes Festival is truly a one-of-a-kind event that brings people from all corners of the earth to South France to celebrate the best work to come out of the advertising and creative communications industries, and other related fields. It’s also a platform for some of the world’s biggest game changers to talk about issues facing the industry, explore new ideas, share success stories, and learn from failures.

For me, one of the most talked about and fascinating topics covered throughout the festival was brand purpose. What is it? Does it matter? How can we use it to develop better work? Brand purpose is the reason a brand exists. It’s something consumers can align their own values with. Brand purpose is what your brand stands for; what makes it stand out amongst competitors. For example, Coke’s brand purpose is to share happiness. They’ve focused on that in all their worldwide marketing efforts. Conversely, what is Pepsi’s brand purpose? To promote peaceful protest? #adfail (Sorry, too soon?) Brands with a well-defined brand purpose are able to communicate much more than just their functional benefits.

Civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, put it this way: “People are buying brands that take a stance on an important issue.” In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek makes a similar claim:  “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Time and time again we’ve seen the brands with purpose come out on top: TOMS over Vans, Starbucks over Dunkin Donuts, Dove over Olay.

So how does it work? Well, it takes trial and error. But when you do get it right, your work has clear meaning, you create work that matters, and your work is able to emotionally move people. David Lubars, Chief Creative Officer at BBDO, cautioned that “It’s important to make your advertising focus on a single issue or topic. Don’t try to hit too many points at once, or you just might miss the target completely.”

Of all the presentations at the festival that touched on brand purpose, my favorite was the one that really broke it down, Does Brand Purpose Really Drive Creative Work? It was hosted by Diageo and featured their CMO, Syl Saller, and their Global Head of Beer, Mark Sandys. Diageo has over 200 big name brands, including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Baileys, and Guinness. They used the example of Smirnoff’s brand purpose. Smirnoff is a brand that features colorless, odorless, and overall unexciting alcohol in its general functional use. Any alcoholic brand could automatically be written off as bad, just because it’s alcohol. However, Smirnoff decided to change the story. They use the power of good times to move all of us to be more inclusive through stories of real people (like Chris Fonseca, a deaf dance teacher) that promote their brand purpose. In the end, it doesn’t matter if other brands also focus on inclusivity, it’s strong enough if it’s true to the brand.

The Diageo hosts also shared the original failure story of Captain Morgan to get across that it’s not going to be a win every time you assign a purpose to a brand. Captain Morgan lost sales when craft drinks came into play. The original solution they came up with was to make Captain Morgan more real. The result was this confusing ad. They soon realized that they had it all wrong since the strategic credibility wasn’t there. Instead they discovered the best solution was to change the story to make the power of fun champion. Captain Morgan has always been about fun, so they’re getting back to their roots. Now, they make ads like this, to align with their brand purpose and make the brand image stronger.

Mark Sandys said that the next time you “unleash creativity” for a brand with purpose there are seven C’s you need to keep in mind: Clarity and credibility, collaboration, courage, consistency, commitment, and content. What leads to success in the long run is asking the important questions in these seven categories, such as Who is the right partner for the content you’re making? and most importantly, Are you willing to stick with a purpose, so that it truly becomes what the brand stands for?

Now think about your favorite brands. Are they your favorite because they represent something you stand for? Do they work towards a cause you believe in?