The Future of Advertising... In One Afternoon: The Content Gardener
"I Thought My Brain Was Going To Explode" - A Layman takes on The Future Of Advertising.
We hear a lot from people in the ad industry, but what would an outsider make of our trials and tribulations? We sent cultural critic Don Grant along to the APA's annual event The Future of Advertising... In One Afternoon to find out.
It was a bit like Madmen go speed-dating. Just as there are drug czars, shipping magnates and oil tycoons, so the advertising industry has gurus and ten of them turned up one afternoon at BAFTA to talk at us about the future of advertising. That was the topic, at any rate, but we got surprisingly few glimpses into the future, because, well, nobody really knew, guru or not.
We had some entertaining showreels, a very funny piss-take of the much-hyped John Lewis Christmas commercial, some terrific YouTubes and some insights into the worth of market research, or not. The afternoon was topped-and-tailed by Steve Davies, chief executive of the Advertising Producers Association, one of the organisers, and opened with a New York Times One in 8 million-style profile of filmmaker Max Barron by John Hackney with insightful B+W photographs by Lewis More O’Ferrall [the latest installment in our ProFile series - BSB].
The first speaker was the founder of The Rumpus Room, Tom Roope, whose mission was to make digital more emotional, by involving the audience, who in turn become the entertainment, as in the Talk-Talk X-Factor idents and Bon Jovi’s use of livestreaming the audience at his concerts. He cited the political adviser and social and ethical prophet - not guru - Jeremy Rifkin’s The Empathetic Evolution, whereby we are not soft-wired for aggression, violence, self-interest and utilitarianism, but for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship. One snippet of trivia was that the inventor of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, never got past level 4.
Next up was Claire Tavernier, Managing Director of ChannelFlip, who operate 170 premium entertainment channels, through YouTube and Twitter, with such stars as Ricky Gervais and David Mitchell, and such clients as Kellogg’s and the Red Cross, targeting the massive teenage market through lifestyle, fashion and beauty.
Duncan Smith, a scientist from Mindlab, scared us nearly fartless by putting people in fMRI machines to study their brain activity when shown certain brands, focusing on attention span, emotional response and memory. He also uses electroencephalography, eye-tracking, the encoding of facial emotions and behavioural tests to uncover sub-conscious brand associations. From this data, he was able to determine that when we think we are making a rational and conscious decision, we are, in fact, not - 90% of our choices are emotional, implicit and non-conscious. If this is the future of advertising, I want to get off.
Rob Lawrence titles himself as Abnormal Situations Manager at Native, or was it here, there and everywhere? and he used such words as trendcasting, nuanced and informed bewilderment in his high-octane talk entitled ‘Dumb is the new smart’, with reference to optimised devises, such as wearables. He quoted Marissa Mayer, CEO at Yahoo, ‘We’re simplifying our business, moving from complexity to clarity.’
Andrew Bent creative lead at The ZOO, rattled through Volvo Trucks YouTubes, focusing on the one with Jean-Claude Van Damme doing his famous epic split between two reversing trucks, which has had a staggering 69,711,530 views to date. His talk was entitled ‘Hero, Hygiene, Hub’, which was a re-hashed version of ‘How to Win at YouTube’ at iCrossing UK’s Braintrust 2013 event, which boasted 67 views and no comments. He mentioned Dove Beauty Sketches, and propounded making both TV ads and YouTubes, but insisted that they had to be reliable, regular and relevant, that they ask for engagement and that they should be social and use collaboration.
Duan Evans from AKQA also talked about collaboration, as well as empowering your audience by creating ‘meaningful connections,’ through storytelling, like Nike. He came up with more statistics, like Tinder, a dating app, is used by 1.3m singles a day, which is small beer to the 5 billion YouTubes watchers every day (can that be right?) and the 14m Snapchats an hour!
More data, falling like snow, from Brendan Dawes, a digital designer and artist, who is obsessed with systems and patterns. He explained how he mapped the social media conversations and topics over a three day period during the launch of 4G in the UK in six cities, working with a data analysis team at UCL, which left me impressed, but completely baffled, and when he started talking about printing 3-D data waffles, I thought my brain was going to explode.
Bridget Angear of AMV BBDO gave a confident, concise, but conventional talk, starting with maxim ‘The future is here! It’s just not evenly distributed.’ She talked about Loving and Hating brands and used the example of Starbucks and MacDonald’s reversals - I hate them both, so where does that leave me? - the resurgence of local over global, slow over fast, thrifty over indulgent, connecting over switching off. Her Big Idea was that we need Big Ideas that are participatory, responsive, more generous, more honest, more entertaining, and customised, so no revelations there, then. She finished up by saying that we should all work in a perpetual state of ‘try’.
Nigel Walley, managing director of Decipher was on a roll, reeling off facts about TV and the web colliding, peppered with profanities, and talking about phonocentrism, COM-based multimedia framework pipeline and infrastructure platforms, Sky set-top boxes, shortforms, premium and non premium VOD, diverting web through TV and HTML5. It was all too much and, at that point, my head did explode.
Last man up was David Schneider, Twitter guru - there’s that word again - comedian, writer, director, producer, coach, voiceover and all-round clever-clogs, who asked the audience whether there was anyone who was not on Twitter. I was only one of two people to put their hands up, and I received a sympathetic, but ultimately, mournful look from Mr Twitter himself.
Interview: John Hackney
Photography: Lewis More O'Ferrall
Illustrations: Zoe More O'Ferrall
Editor: Julian Tranquille at Cut + Run
Academy’s newest signing is a Dane with a groaning mantelpiece.
Nordic director alert. And this one’s quite a catch for Academy. It’s now over ten years since Danish director Jeppe Rønde made waves with his debut feature, the documentary Jerusalem My Love and since then he’s branched out quite a bit.
His second feature – The Swenkas – won him more awards, including a European Oscar nomination and his commercials have picked him up metal at Cannes Lions, Eurobest and Epica.
In 2010 he was voted the top director in Denmark. Let’s see what he can do now he’s represented in the UK.
Watch some of his work here:
This month's best advertising has a certain poise and dignity to it.
While it’s mostly there to sell stuff, advertising isn’t an entirely cynical endeavour. At its best, it finds and explores truths about human nature, making you ponder the conundra of existence for a moment before you reach for your credit card for some impulse consumerism.
With that in mind, we hope our top five ads of the month will enrich your day somewhat. We think they’re pretty profound.
Production Company: Stink
Director: Tomek Baginski
Production Company Producers: Sally Rigg, Edel Erickson
Director of Photography: Wojtek Zielinski
Ad Agency: RKCR/Y&R
Creative Director: Mark Roalfe
Art Director: Marta Krzeminski
Creatives: Liembi De Carvalho, Barnaby Blackburn, Gustavo Kopit
Editors: Marta Michno, Czarek Szuminski
Music Company: Songs of TRO
Sound Company: Factory
Post Production Company: Juice
BBC – Nature
At the root of this ad is an elegant idea: that athletes at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games are not only competing against one another, but against the very forces of nature. It's voiced by Charles Dance, AKA Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, which is awesome. There's no way they didn't toy with the line: "Winter is coming" while writing this. Tomek Baginski’s execution captures the menace of nature powerfully, using a highly stylised mixture of CGI and live action to create a striking piece of film.
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Production Company Producer: Suza Horvat
Director of Photography: Alwin Kuchler
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Art Director: Nadja Lossgott
Copywriter: Nicholas Hulley
Agency Producer: Sara Flood
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editors: Rick Russell, Russ Clapham
Music Company: Finger Music
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Post Production Company: The Mill
Guinness – Sapeurs
It has been a tradition of Guinness advertising, stretching back over its long history, to focus on an inspirational character rather than anything to do with the dark Irish drink itself. This follows in that proud tradition, capturing the vibrant culture of the sharp-dressing Congolese Sapeurs and striking just the right tone for the brand. It’s a well-crafted, visual feast of a pseudo-documentary, doing justice to the excellent research that unearthed these chaps for the campaign.
Production Company: Smuggler
Director: Tom Hooper
Production Company Producer: Ben Crocker
Director of Photography: Daniel Landin
Ad Agency: Spark44
Creative Directors: Matt Page, Piggy Lines
Agency Producer: Michael De Vries
Editing Company: The Quarry
Editor: Paul Watts
Sound Company: GCRS
Post Production Company: The Mill
Jaguar – Rendezvous
First airing during the orgy of marketing that is the Super Bowl, this commercial was a unique island of British nuance amidst a sea of rampant American brashness. Starring three of the finest English gentlemen to storm the screens of Hollywood in recent decades, the big-screen production values here must have set Jaguar back a bit. But who better to put that budget to good use than Tom Hooper? It’s enough to make even us cynical Brits mildly patriotic.
Brand: Land Rover
Production Company: HLA
Director: Simon Ratigan
Production Company Producer: Tim Daukes
Director of Photography: Bob Pendar-Hughes
Ad Agency: RKCR/Y&R
Creative Directors: Julian Chalkley, Nick Simons
Creatives: Tim Brookes, Phil Forster, Barnaby Blackburn, Gustavo Kopit
Agency Producer: James Miller
Editing Company: The Play Room
Editor: Adam Spivey
Sound Company: 750mph
Post Production Companies: The Mill, Big Buoy
Land Rover – Hibernot
This commercial goes against almost every convention of a car ad. For a start, the car doesn’t feature, which is a pretty ballsy move. Secondly, there’s no voiceover, dialogue or story. There’s not even any copy for 50 seconds of the minute-long film – just a single backhanded compliment of a line. If the Jaguar ad is how Americans see the British, this is what Britons really aspire to – understatement, subtlety and sarcasm. Although it is slightly undermined by the hashtag at the end, it's a brave effort that should be applauded.
Title: Call to Arms
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Rupert Sanders
Production Company Producer: Laurie Boccaccio
Director of Photography: Greg Fraser
Ad Agency: BBH
Creative Director: David Kolbusz
Creative: George Hackforth-Jones
Agency Producer: Ryan Chong
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Neil Smith
Sound Companies: String & Tins, GCRS
Post Production Company: The Mill
Lynx – Call to Arms
Ads don’t often justify the use of slogans from 1960s anti-war counterculture and, if they do, they’re usually not commercials for deodorant. Axe/Lynx’s new CND-esque direction is reminiscent of an unimaginative beauty queen wishing for "world peace", but when it leads to a film as sumptuous and entertaining as this, we’re willing to forgive that. They've come a long way since their old "makes fit birds want to shag you" idea and we should be grateful for that.
Veteran producer and sage cum digital native Jim Watkins solves your advertising conundra.
Illustration © Zoe More O'Ferrall
Too often in this business you only hear complaints. As a corrective, I wanted to share with your readers a memorable and heartening experience I had with the electrical department on a recent shoot.
At lunch on the second day, due a series of events that I won’t go into here, the wardrobe lady caught fire. Fortunately a Spark was on hand. Without so much as tracking down his Gaffer to request instructions, he rushed to the rescue - slowly folding his newspaper, standing and stretching a crick in his neck before walking at a leisurely pace towards a nearby fire extinguisher as the blazing costumier wheeled and howled like a flaming dervish.
I saw this act of heroism with my own eyes on the (frankly gruesome) CCTV footage.
It was only on arriving at the extinguisher some minutes later that the electrician tragically realised he didn’t have his gloves, rendering it impossible for him to ‘work’.
Undeterred by this seemingly impassible obstacle, our hero sent a text message to another member of the department, and after some time spent waiting for a reply and then searching underneath the discarded Greggs bags on the dashboard of the lighting truck, the gloves were located.
Sadly, this was too late to save the costume designer, but in a show of profoundly moving solidarity for their fallen colleague, the electrical department remained behind to sweep up her charred remains at a reduced overtime rate of time and a half.
A triumph of the human spirit I’m sure you’ll agree.
Yours in teary-eyed reverie,
Zachary J. Frond
An interesting account. You don’t say what your question is, should I assume it’s “what is the correct overtime rate for trying to put out a combustible woman?” This is a grey area, which to you means uncertainty but to a spark spells creativity. I certainly don’t think you can just pay them time and a half and leave with your knackers intact though.
I’m not fully up on these kind of details- or the detail of anything to be fair- I leave that to my executive assistant and personal wellness coach. So I asked her, who asked a production assistant, who asked the spark he identified as the most congenial to reasoned argument, Fraser “Mad Dog” McDuff for his view.
Mad Dog asserted that under section 35 of The Way Things Used To Work In The 1960’s document that governs such matters, the spark concerned is entitled to triple time, plus time off the clock and overtime at the Doctors plus a share of the hypothetical future earnings of the lady they near saved. So he is looking for around £5k. Pay up or the lights will go out!
Yours in commercials,
Producers are like butterflies. Susie Innes takes a moment to think of the caterpillars.
As a follow up to The Role of the Agency Producer, I may have given the impression that there was no desire for Agency Producers anymore. But that is not true (and thanks to all who agreed with me – first rule of producing, think before “replying all”).
It is more that the role has been undervalued, and that there is a general need to hold back on involving producers, of trying to manage without as long as possible. And PAs are considered a luxury. This may be because the initials sound like a Personal Assistant, someone to fluff you up and get flowers for your wife, rather than Production Assistant, but a typographical coincidence shouldn’t shape a department, should it?
When the die-hard, grossly experienced, grown-up seasoned old gang of Producers (collective noun, a Charm of Producers) eventually retire, who is going to take their place?
Back in the day, each Producer had their very own PA. How they nurtured these darlings was up to the individual. Some schlepped them everywhere with them, under the guise of making sure they got on-the-ground training, and some kept them chained to their desks to instill discipline and respect.
With spanky new technology and with everyone carrying laptops/iPads/mini iPads and a couple of smart phones, it looks like we don’t need PAs anymore. We are self-contained units.
So let’s look at what a PA has to do and how that has changed.
|Back in the Day||Today|
|Typing. Lots of. With carbon paper||Documents. Lots of. Neat. With Pictures|
Scribbling purchase orders on a pad and distributing
the yellow one to the supplier and the pink one to finance
|Purchase orders using complicated asset management systems|
Pre prod docs. Typing. No pictures. B&W photocopying.
|PowerPoint. Cut and paste. Colour copying. Binding|
Making sure Production Company bring nice big cards
with pretty pics from the Art Department for PPM
|Collating all refs for all meetings|
|Ordering cabs||Ordering cabs|
Typing memos and stuffing into internal envelopes with
crossed out names
|Sending emails. Links|
|Booking train tickets, sessions, voice overs, restaurants||Booking train tickets, sessions, voice overs, take-away sushi|
|Making a lot of phone calls and memorizing key numbers||Having everyone on your phone. Everyone.|
Carrying large bags of U-matics and not taking the tube
for fear of magnetic wipe out
|Filing. Lever files, hanging files, 9-fold files||Filing. On Server, on personal drive, in 9-fold folders|
|Buying books and DVDs for research||Surfing the net|
Keeping up with new directors, new technology,
|Keeping up with new directors, new technology, new methods|
|Taking notes||Distributing treatments|
|Tippex||Backspace. Cut and paste|
|Making coffee and tea||Starbucks runs. But not actually Starbucks|
|Attending edits, learning on the job||Attending edits, learning on the job|
|Going on courses||Going on less frequent courses|
|Become a Junior Producer||Become a Producer|
So it seems that there is still plenty for a PA to do, that most Producers are currently absorbing.
It is a fact (A FACT!) that when a Producer can do two jobs efficiently at any given time, with a couple bubbling under, they can take on five if they have an assistant at their side holding everything together.
Creatives come in twos; there are at least one senior and one junior account person on all jobs – at least! – and Production Company Producers come with Production Managers and Assistants when the job demands it.
Why is there then resistance to letting Producers have sidekicks? They don’t cost much. The culture is that we are lucky to have such a great varied and fun job. Which is true. I famously told a struggling Junior Producer that, only after 25 years in agency TV departments was I finally earning what I thought I was worth. So why not take advantage and scoop up some willing, cheap fledglings?
And mostly, once I get over the boo-hoo of the lonely overworked Agency Producer, who are we training and where are the new Producers going to come from?