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Advertising. Brands. Apple. New Media

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Schweppes viral – what can we learn from it?

A short film (12min) created by Publicis Mojo, Auckland for Schweppes is topping the viral video charts – a year after it was made. “Signs” was originally created to promote an online Schweppes short film festival.

The story is that of an unhappy & lonely worker in an office in the big city, looking for love. He realizes that the signs were all along there in his neighbouring office. The film was uploaded on video sharing sites in the past but picked momentum after it was posted on YouTube this January. It has picked up more than 1 million views on YouTube and had moved up to No.5 on The Viral Video Chart. Signs is the 5th film in the Short Film Festival and it features the brand only once – albeit fleetingly. There is also a subtle reference to a character putting her finger to her lips – linked to the ‘Shhhhhh…’ of Schweppes.

In India, virals are still being limited to Bollywood spoofs, rendered in glorious 2-D animation. The beauty of the Signs film is that it is unmistakably Schweppes and the brand is clearly linked in all the positive chatter across the globe. The genesis of the idea – a short film festival – is part of the campaign to reposition the brand ‘as a grown up beverage for sophisticated consumers’. The popularity also shows that limiting such content to a micro-site wouldn’t have got them this kind of audience – portability of the content paid off. And the itch to not make it overly commercial also helped the engagement.

The Indian ad blog scenario: how vibrant?

Correct me if I am wrong, but I get the feeling that blogs related to Indian advertising & marketing are not as vibrant as those abroad. Even with ad portals or online versions of trade magazines I feel that the US and UK titles offer better width and depth of coverage. And when it comes to ‘discussions’ I find both the Indian magazine websites and blogs woefully falling behind. Take a look at the Gulf edition of Campaign or venerable titles like Ad Age or Adweek, and you will find industry folk participating in droves with comments. The online versions of industry magazines across the world – be it BrandRepublic or CampaignBrief Asia or even the Canadian magazines have several blog contributors writing about issues that matter – not just reporting news. Ad blogs like Scamp or Adscam have their own fan following.

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Like any other publishing medium here too content is king. A significant portion of stuff that you find in Indian trade magazines and online portals is company ‘press release stuff’ and not really opinions or views. Contrast that with BrandRepublic or Ad Age: you will find journalists news, views and blogs galore on various topics. With personal ad blogs like Scamp, opinions and views on goings on in the advertising & marketing world is a given. Scamp & Adscam for example have tonnes of comments on virtually every post. And the comments are as vitriolic and free flowing as the posts themselves. Even the media section of mainline dailies in the UK garner a debate. On a recent campaign of Stella Artois, such were the comments:

Has the credit crunch taken the talent out of advertising?”
That has to be the lamest spoof every made. It’s also the laziest. And it’s about as ‘funny’ as rectal cancer.”

Deathly silence greets you on most Indian ad portals & blogs. Even through this blog, I doubt if I reach out to ad folks in particular. Of course this blog is a bhelpuri of sorts with topics beyond advertising news and campaigns – so it may not appeal to all. Some of the reasons why the Indian ad blog scenario is comparatively tepid:

-lack of personal ad blogs from the bigwigs and senior folks in the industry – the CEO’s, planning heads, creative folk: there are a handful (Suman Srivastava, Manish Sinha, Lynn de Souza, Rahul Jauhari, Sunil Shibad – there could be others that I am not aware of) but not all focused on issues pertaining to Marketing & Advertising. It’d be great if the veterans took time to blog – a la The Big B
– lack of blogs from the big agencies. Again, there are only a handful – W+K Delhi, iContract, Orchard and so on
– predominance of news reports in online versions of trade magazines and less focus on blogs and opinions
– ad industry folk satisfied simply with ‘viewing work’ on Ads of the World and such
ad industry folk being really busy at work to either blog or leave comment
– general good natured approach to most work and avoiding controversy by publicly bitching work from an agency which you may join tomorrow

Any other? What’s your take on the Indian ad blog scenario? Would love your comments.

Microsoft renews effort against Apple

Microsoft has released a fresh salvo against Macs. This time around they have taken banners on The New York Times website (Apple did the same last year by taking over the front page of NYT). The banner asks you to spin a wheel which shows up a Macbook or Macbook Pro alongside a ‘similar’ PC. The punch is supposed to be in the extras that you can get with either purchase. For example a if you choose a Macbook Pro costing US$ 2799, you can get you a Lenovo Y730, a Zune 8GB and 365 lattes. But with a Macbook Pro you have money left only for paper clip and pocket lint:)

Just the kind of argument that will be lapped up by the Windows-dominated world. It rings true because Windows based PC’s are generally cheaper – especially true in India (it’s been proven that with like-to-like features & applications a PC can cost as much as a Mac). The strategy is clever because saying ‘Macs cost more’ is less dramatic than saying ‘With a PC you will have money left to buy a lot more’. After all who doesn’t like money to be stretched? But what is conveniently left out unsaid is what you get with a Mac and a PC respectively.

There’s also a campaign recruiting volunteers – it picked 10 people who answered a call for volunteers on Craigslist and other Web sites and sent them out with a camera crew and budgets ranging from $700 to $2,000. If they found a computer that fit their criteria, they could keep it. The first commercial in the series features a college grad who goes hunting for a 17-inch notebook with a comfortable keyboard, but with a budget of $1000. The first location she appears to stop is a ‘Mac Store’ (!), but the scene quickly switches to her walking right back out and explaining that the only sub-$1000 notebook provided a 13-inch screen. "I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person," she says. The ad does not go into any details about the hardware specs of the HP notebook, aside from the screen size.

I can understand ‘make your money work hard’ tack during hard times. The big mouthed Steve Ballmer said recently: "Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction. The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be."

Sigh. The same old. Same old. Drilling in that Macs are over priced and the extra that you are shelling is for aesthetics, cool quotient and nothing more. The argument can never be one. Chek out the comments over at YouTube and And Microsoft admitting that Apple is cool? That’s a first. By the way, why is a 90% share player giving credence to competition which is 6% share in the US and negligible on a worldwide scale? Who is behaving like a leader?

Update: According to 9 to 5 Mac, the ad is staged. They also tell you what you get with a $699 17-inch notebook. And Fortune has a nice take on it all. It sure is getting the Apple fans worked up – 237 comments on the Fortune article!

Dubai Lynx Awards to investigate FP7’s award winning work

Much controversy in the blogosphere about the award winning entries from FP7 at the recent Dubai Lynx Awards. So much so that the organisers of the awards have launched an official investigation into a string of winning work. All this is is the fallout of a damning entry in Bloganubis in which almost all the award-winning work including Samsung were questioned. According to the blog, the washing machine advertised for, is available only in the US! More dope about the other winning entries including Samsung camera (see ad below – ad featuring Jesus and nuns in the Gulf! Jesus!) and Higeen mouthwash over at Bloganubis.

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Well, the scam cancer continues. Interesting that this is happening a week before the Goafest- the whole scam debate is going to continue. As some have suggested, why not have a separate category for speculative & scam work at award festivals? No doubt the creativity of the minds behind the Samsung washing machine ads have to be admired, celebrated – they were fantastic ads – but were they ‘legitimate’? If the agency is signed on by clients to solve a marketing problem, shouldn’t the creative address it? In the process if it wins an award it’s great. As I have said before awarding scam work only encourages the young creatives to focus on such work and not the client’s brand problems. What say?

Ad agency Fallon launches social media tool

In an effort to position itself as a tech savvy one, ad agency Fallon has launched an all-in-one social media tool called Skimmer. Running on Adobe AIR, this free desktop tool aggregates streams from various social media sites into a desktop widget. So your activity on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger and YouTube can all sit in one place instead of you flitting from one to the other. Cool. On the Mac platform, there is Eventbox, which has the same objective bringing together Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and Reddit.

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Rob Buchner, chief marketing officer of Fallon says, “there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on the industry, and [pressure] we put on ourselves, to demonstrate to clients we understand social media and life-streaming technologies and can advise them on how they can live in this world. There are a lot of PowerPoint presentations. We felt it was better to lead by example. We’re in this experimental phase as an industry. We wanted to have a stake in it.” As an application, it’s interface is clean and very much an Adobe AIR look (similar to Adobe Media Player), if you know what I mean. Unlike stuff like Friendfeed on the net, you can upload photos and videos with this desktop tool.

Recently, BBH launched Zag, a brand invention agency. With increasing competition from specialist agencies and consultants, it’s good to see traditional agencies attempting to prove their mettle. I was very happy to see Fallon do this since it’s been one of the agencies I looked up to when I was growing up in advertising. Every major award show book used to have a huge compilation of Fallon McElligot entries on the index page. Here’s to more such.

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