The case for a good case study

By Nick Cummins, Creative Partner, The Royals Sydney and Melbourne

This post originally appeared on industry website Campaign Brief.

Going into the judging at Spikes Asia this year, I was concerned that national styles would play a big part in the judges’ decisions. I was lucky enough to be on Kentaro Kimora’s Digital and mobile panel along with judges from China, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines. So we all had the potential to be drawn to very different styles of humour, insights and solutions. But that wasn’t the case.

Although the work we judged – which started as a list of over 500 entries – was very diverse in tonality and levels of craft, the judges were very consistent in their views. Another thing that was very consistent over the four days of judging apart from the humidity, was how everyone entering these kinds of festivals ends up building the same style of case study.

There is a formula for a reason, I hear you cry. And yes, there are probably a few things that are important to keep doing but the problem is everything ends up looking like this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRDhx8Lo37E

The great thing about judging awards like this is you get to hang out with incredible people from our industry, from all different parts of the region and the world. We really are an amazingly smart, insightful, creative and funny bunch of individuals.

So why when it comes to representing our work do we lose our gift of great storytelling and end up producing cookie-cutter over-hyped communications? I don’t think a case study should necessarily outshine the entered piece, but surely there are other ways to represent our work. I asked my fellow esteemed judges what they felt about this and here are a few thoughts.

Get to the point. Every judge I met was really bright even after several Tiger beers the night before. You don’t have to tell them lots of people are using their phones these days or that people are distracted by lots of messages every day. Get straight to the point – what did you do and how did you do it? Personally I don’t think you even need to over-explain the brief or problem you are trying to solve. It will be obvious what your brief was if your solution is award worthy.

Don’t exaggerate. Dipping in to a big tub of hyperbole to get your entry to be taken seriously doesn’t work. We forget that a solution doesn’t have to have changed the world to win an award.

Keep it real. We watched a lot of videos of stunts, experiments, pop-ups, and activations. It was nice to see so many friends from agencies in the background looking intrigued and elated. The problem with this is not just their mediocre acting skills – it also makes great ideas feel like scams. People don’t have to point or clap or cry to prove an idea worked well or is great. So if you are going to record reactions, use the real audience reacting in real ways. And avoid creating a perfectly photoshopped example of your execution. Judges love picking that stuff to pieces and again, it makes the work feel dodgy.

Don’t over-animate. The amount of spinning, crashing, zooming stats, Tweets and quotes was incredibly distracting. And finally music is obviously important. Most case studies did this well. Finding the right track and voice to deliver the appropriate emotion can make a huge difference.

This year, teams entering the Spikes innovation category got to present their work to the judging panel. This I think is a great way to judge work. If you are ever lucky enough to make that shortlist, get ready to be grilled.

Nick.

Can changing consumer behaviour help make Australia a republic?

Recently I was asked to join Steve Price on radio for his weekly media and marketing segment with Paul Gardner (you can listen to the recording if you have a spare 20 minutes.)

The topic of discussion was the re-emergence of the Australian republic debate and whether Australians are more open to it now than they were back in 1999 when the referendum was held.

As part of the preparation for the discussion, I thought about shifts in both the media landscape and consumer attitudes over that relatively short time frame. I don’t know why I was so surprised by the extent of change, perhaps it is because 1999 feels like just a few weeks ago (or is that just me?) regardless I thought the findings and opinions worth sharing.

My view was that based on the changes in both consumer attitudes and the media landscape, the Republican argument would stand a much better chance of a referendum victory now than it did back in 1999 (when, spoiler alert, they lost!!!). Based on an increased global perspective, consumers now understand the concept and importance of national independence more – an important tenant of the Republican argument.

The extent and pace with which this expanded global perspective has permeated the Australian population recently has been extraordinary, largely due to a combination of:

* Direct experiences – overseas travel has increased 130% since 1999 vs a population increase of just 30%.
* Global media exposure – eg. 2 million unique Australian views of the Guardian last month.

What this means for the Republican movement is that a greater percentage of the population has a better appreciation of the benefits of independence particularly with reference to decision making around national and global issues (e.g. military conflict involvement).

The monarchist movement in 1999 cleverly used a platform “Now is not the time”. So rather than take on the Republican movement head on, they played on the apathy of the public and turned the debate into an issue of prioritisation – ie. there are more important things to worry about right now. The unfortunate Republicans lacked a messaging strategy to counter that particular argument and couldn’t create a compelling conversation about how maybe “maybe is the time.”

Today though, the way consumers engage in social and political topics has dramatically changed. The digital landscape has exploded since 1999 and Australians have become power users of a number of these platforms.

Just take a look at some of the “then and now” stats:

* Australian Internet penetration 40% (1999) vs 90% (2015)
* Facebook users 0 (1999) vs 13 million (2015)
* Smart phone penetration 0% (1999) – 80% (2015)

And Australians don’t just use Facebook,  they are voracious consumers:

* 13 million active users each month with an average time spent of 1.7 hours per day.
* 1 out of every three minutes on a mobile is spent on a Facebook property (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger)

So what does this all mean for Australia’s likelihood of getting a ‘yes’ vote if another referendum were to be called?

Unlike in 1999, these platforms would help the Republican movement a provide greater level of understanding of a nuanced position via mass conversations. The latest Australian stats showed on average, of those that have discovered new information on Facebook, 60% would go on to learn more and about 35% of people who have discovered a business or product on Facebook would share that with their friends. The Republican movement needed people to be jolted from their everyday apathy and it needed people to understand why change was important. It also needed to provide tailored messages to different groups of consumers, a complex mission that they were unable to deliver on in 1999.

The Republic issue is not exactly front of mind for most Australians today but its advocates and supporters would have a much better chance of creating meaningful debate in 2015. The ability to reach Australians in a mass-personal way means the movement could address a range of concerns, and highlight a number of different benefits to different constituents.

Independent thinking about independence? It could be just around the corner.

Andrew Siwka
@andrew_siwka

I spent Friday night with my hands behind my head being interrogated and repenting my sins

I went to Underground Cinema.

The only details we knew about the cinema experience was the name, Hope 2.0 and the dress code, foreign.

Communicating only via Facebook, we were told the location of the event the day before – Coburg, and given the instructions to be on time, we won’t wait!

We arrived to join the line of other foreigners, mainly Mexican’s and the French it appeared. The line snaked along a chain link fence – on the other side of the fence, where guards dressed in army fatigues and swat gear whilst directing large muzzled Alsatians along the line. With the odd gypsy lady walking along and singling out people and placing an orange in their hand… I was “lucky” and received one.

Screeching around the corner, engine revving and slamming on the brakes to come to a sliding stop appears a white battered van. The Guards start shouting and swearing at us to get us running into the back of the van, the van is dark, the windows are blacked out with newspaper. There’s a few a laughs and giggles – these soon vanish as the driver tells us to “shut up, you think this is fun, you won’t for long!” With a heavy right foot we hoon off going who knows where, a couple of handbrake turn’s and never seeming to slow down, people are bounced around the back and laughs are replaced with screams.

We come to abrupt halt and a gun comes through the door and more shouting as we get pulled out of the van and pushed into a large covered processing area, guy’s one side, girls the other side we’re told. I’m holding my orange, not sure what would happen if I dropped it. We all get shouted at, “don’t look at me”, “look at the ground”, “hands on your fucking head!”. Two members of the armed guards see the orange I’m holding and roughly pull a black back over my head and drag me off, making me run with no idea where I’m going.

I get thrown into a seat, and there’s more shouting, this time asking for my name, then I hear a female voice and the bag is removed, bright flood lights are blinding me and the two guys in balaclavas are so close I can smell their breath. The woman is telling me that I’ve betrayed the uprising and I need to get back onto the plan and can I be trusted? My face is marked with charcoal and I’m given a slip of paper. The bag back on my head, I am ran out of the interrogation room and thrown into a chain link fence…

I walk around the corner and things are a little more relaxed. There’s food and a bar. The area looks like a makeshift camp, rooms made from blue draped tarpaulin. There’s guards walking around and hassling people, and odd rooms, with equally oddly dressed people in them – I lost the people I came with long ago.

After grabbing a drink, I pull the note from my pocket “You must find the preacher, repent your sins and find Bruno”.

Around the camp, it feels a uneasy, you’re not sure when the next thing is going to happen, there’s small explosions going off and the guards drag people off with black bags on their head.

Wasn’t too hard finding the preacher – she was walking around waving a bible to the sky and screaming. I talk to her, she demands I get on my knees, she shouts, there’s a lot of shouting tonight, “whats your sin”, “um, I stole an ice cream when I was a kid on the way home from school”, she call’s me a thief, hits my with her bible and makes me to scream to the sky that I repent my sins. She believes that I truely feel sorry and have repented, she gives me a sleeping bag and sends me on my way to find Bruno.

This finding characters and solving missions carries on for another hour – every attendee that night gets missions.

More shouting and we’re given cardboard signs with “freedom” written on them, what appears to the leader of the uprising, gets on a platform and delivers a speech about freedom and a made up government, he marches through the crowd, we follow, whilst banging our signs and shouting freedom – we’re lead into another warehouse – this time there’s a cinema screen and seats.

Guards get on stage and tell us to keep the event a secret until its all over.

I found my friends. We watched Children of Men.

The night was an incredible way to experience cinema. Amongst other things. Sign up to their newsletter and social account ready for when the next one is announced.

http://www.undergroundcinema.com.au/

Paul

Back with another one of those ad blocking bleats

The following post is Edition 1 of Everybody Knows, our new weekly newsletter publication exploring the realms of creativity, popular culture, media, art and technology. – one topic at a time. Consider subscribing now.


So let’s get this straight: online ad blocking is not new. Since the dawn of the web, people have been trying and buying a variety of ways to stop the blinking, flashing and irritation. And as more and more options like Chrome extensions and mobile plugins have become available, in recent years ad blocking has become more widespread amongst a non-tech audience. But over the last couple of months, ad blocking has begun to pop up in more and more industry forums, vendor pitches and marketing meetings. There was the widely distributed study suggesting far wider use of ad blocking than previously thought. Then there was the tale of the celebrated app developer who famously announced it ‘just doesn’t feel good’ to make ad blocking software. And of course, when Apple moves, people take note. By incorporating ad blocking features into its Safari browser in iOS9, the industry conversation has recently moved from a constant mumble into a noisey bar room public debate.

From a behavioural consumption perspective, this feels like it might just be a natural evolution from TV’s ad-skipping and time-shifting. Alternatively, ad blocking could be seen as part of the progression from listening to commercial radio to paying Spotify and others to help us avoid ads completely. But when it comes to online advertising, it’s hard not to consider that we may be going into a cycle of ‘Creative destruction’. This is a term, also know as ‘Schupmter’s Gale’, coined by economist Joseph Schumpter, that describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, destroying the old one and incessantly creating a new one”. In other words, in this case the online ad industry might well be eating itself from within, a process hastened by its own dodgy practices, like bloated code and ad assets, and its appetite for ultimate revenue at the expense of usability and privacy. Are ad blocking people the real problem?

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Then there’s the ethics of ad blocking. Publishers, and all sorts of makers of online content, could have today’s types of revenue streams decimated in a world that embraces turning off ads. It will be the long tail of publishers hit hardest, those that don’t have close relationships with brands or agencies thus are not able to collaborate on bespoke content or arrangements. As consumers, many of us claim that if ad platforms behaved themselves, we wouldn’t object to ads at all. Or if we could simply pay publishers and creators for the content that we end up consuming every month, we’d be fine with that. But what we say and how we act are often two very different things. And many smaller publishers may not have the time to find out.

With fat ad creative and intrusive tracking code, it’s mobile users that get hit hardest. Getting rid of mobile ads can help reduce unwanted data collection and privacy infractions – and massively save on mobile data bills. It’s conceivable that with the move to mobile for the majority of our daily online activities, combined with the increasingly available mobile ad avoidance options, we’ll see a huge spike in ad blocking on our favourite devices. Mobiles put all issues of usability right up in your face – and there’s no bigger impediment to content consumption than bad ads.

Much of the industry is looking to native advertising to retain an embedded marketing presence in front of the ad blockers. But there are concerns that many of these native ad units may also fall foul of blocking software. The report from Adobe and Pagefair recently estimated ad blockers will cost publishers nearly $22 billion in revenue this year, and that nearly 200 million people worldwide already regularly block ads. These numbers seem on the high side compared to other estimates, but they surely suggest that the issue isn’t unsubstantial.

The IAB has now admitted we all messed up. A tidal wave of ad blocking might still only be on the horizon, but in the meantime let’s try and make better ads, use empathetic formats, let’s temper our greed, and for god’s sake, think of the children!

 

Everybody Knows

Now and then at the Royals, we look to engage with our friends and treasured community with publications, perspectives and ideas from the periphery. Everybody Knows is our, singular, compact electronic newsletter to help you explore the realms of creativity, popular culture, media, art and technology. – one topic at a time. We don’t want to bombard you (this time!) with a bunch of links, we only want you to pause for four minutes, read, digest and consider. And we’d love you to do it once a week. We want to feed your insatiable need for the intriguing, the unorthodox and the curious. Our only ambition is too completely remix your understanding of the world around you. One email at a time. Is that so much to ask?

Pop over here and subscribe if you’re keen:
http://www.theroyals.com.au/everybodyknows

Dave
@daveking

On half-life and hustle

So this week we’ve learned a lot about operating in a live media environment with our live version of a demented Q&A. And beyond what tools of destruction are most effective, we’ve also been plying our trade – trying to drum up audience engagement, and successfully drawing audiences from sources as varied as Facebook, Reddit, Gumtree and Flatmatefinder. We’ve cracked 110K user sessions in 4 days.

If nothing else this has definitely highlighted the challenges and in some cases opportunities that various channels present, but mainly I think, that running media effectively live requires the rolling up of sleeves, and an implicit understanding of the formats and constant monitoring and iteration of those activities.

To this point. I dug up a study on link clicks which provides a very interesting view of the lifespan of social media posts. The study looked at 1,000 popular social media links to determine how persistent they were. Knowing exactly how long your posts have to engage with your audience is extremely useful for shaping your social media strategy and creating individual posts.

The study found that the half-life – the amount of time at which a link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak – for each social network’s post was:

– Twitter’s mean half-life of a link is 2.8 hours
– Facebook’s mean half-life is 3.2 hours
– For ‘direct’ sources (like email or IM clients) it’s 3.4 hours
– Youtube links have a mean half-life of 7.4 hours

In addition to knowing this it’s also important to factor in when your audience are using various channels. People dip into Twitter all day but there are clear peaks during morning commutes, lunch time and evenings. Redditt gets super active in the evening and later into the night.

Here are some lessons we’ve noted from working on Deakin Stress Break this week:

– Post in the right ad type or format for the outcome you want
– Target well but be willing to adjust
– Set your budgets to ensure you are competitive
– Post at the optimal time (for the channel)
– Post each piece of content multiple times
– Optimise your post’s message

Finally TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED. You can have an army of media experts working on something, but pretty much no-one cares about your idea as much as you do. Don’t assume anything. Make it happen. Hustle.

Andrew R.
@ag_reeves

 

Forests and trees

 

Have you noticed how sometimes in the modern marketing context it’s hard to see past the end of a day, week or month?  Briefs, strategies and plans start to blur into one another and priorities and objectives stack up becoming a mess of linked but unclear overlapping initiatives and activities – in short, has the big picture become obfuscated from view?

Communication planning means different things to different people. And under that banner sits a whole range of different applications.

Today we’re talking about it in consideration of big picture comms frameworks. These are principles that are applied to whole organisations or portfolios, thinking which can help inform and structure marketing planning.

The problems these principles address are the type we see a lot and generally involve a lack of clarity – and even acknowledgment – of the big picture.

Briefs often exist in a vacuum.  Campaigns and tactics come in from different stakeholders or departments with compartmentalised objectives. Often organisations move from one thing to the next without consideration of the overlaps and mutually beneficial interactions of comms. Failing to see how they all work together as a larger connected system.

By developing a comms framework you are essentially helping to take stock of and decode this big picture view.  But breaking it down can help to organise and make the planning process easier, more consistent, and more efficient.

There are many ways to approach these projects.  But a pretty simple technique which can offer decision makers genuine insight and value to their organisation is to establish and bucket your marketing activities by mode.

What do we mean by mode?

Most organisations will pretty quickly be able to pin-point the three to four things that the majority of their marketing activities are meant to be doing.  These will be common tasks and objectives like ‘driving sales’ or ‘website enquiries’, or ‘differentiating for consideration’ or ‘on-boarding new customers’.  But how well known and understood are these modes of comms within the organisation? And does everyone have a common and coherent understanding of them?

What some organisations don’t do well is to actually articulate these activities; labelling them as ‘comms modes’ and defining what their roles and rules are

Specifically that means:

  1. Defining the modes, giving them a name and explaining their role in the context of the broader marketing goals.
  2. Aligning specific KPI’s and measurement criteria to those modes and ensuring  consistent and measurement and metrics are in place.
  3. Developing imperatives for media and channels (i.e. setting out the channels and tactics that are to be activated for each comms mode.
  4. Creating a messaging hierarchy where each mode denotes  different messaging priorities. Why brand X vs Why brand X for you vs How to use brand X.

Defining these rules and structure means that anyone can pick up this guide and use the same language, assessment and measurement criteria and tactics to plan, implement and assess their efforts.

There are multiple benefits of this approach including:

1. Big picture views
All common activities can then be plotted into a marketing calendar view, and because they are labelled and tagged can be viewed in this way in marketing management systems like media buying investment data or marketing automation tools.

2. Application for modelling
These labels are also useful for other data analysis like econometric modelling – because they organise spend and activity into buckets that make sense because their roles are defined.

3. Consistent measurement
Because everyone is talking to the same goals and capturing the same metrics it’s a lot easier to assess what’s working and for decisions to be made about where resources are invested.

In summary – it takes some relatively simple organistional thinking to lead to some pretty useful and applicable outcomes.

Let’s chat about this sometime :)

Andrew R.
@ag_reeves

 

Bowie. Player.

To coincide with the launch of the acclaimed David Bowie Is exhibition, a retrospective at ACMI, I attended the symposium The Stardom and Celebrity of David Bowie. The two-day multi-disciplinary symposium brought together artists, academics and cultural commentators to reflect upon the influences of and on David Bowie in rock, pop, film, art, fashion and performance.

I was, and am, intrigued by the Bowie persona and his various extensions (Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke); also particularly in how he mastered the art of play.

Upon introducing the persona to the world stage, Bowie was criticised for playfulness and ‘playing’, is of course, deemed immature, frivolous and sometimes taboo. We’re conditioned to scoff, question and judge those who play in their adult life. However, as children, creativity and play are highly encouraged. They’re key for the development of our imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It’s important for healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. The benefits are endless. So why aren’t we encouraged to play beyond our childhood?

Our toys were projections of ourselves. The personality of each would vary along with their story, gender and sexuality. My dinosaur toy would differ to your dinosaur toy, although being the same dinosaur toy. David Robert Jones played via personas, his most well known persona being David Bowie. Bowie was a projection of Jones, and Ziggy Stardust of Bowie. The story, gender and sexuality of these personas (Bowie, Ziggy and the dinosaur toy) is fluid.

In music, stage personas are employed for various reasons: as a branding exercise, a coping mechanism to deal with a lack of confidence or to ensure detachment from personal life. For David Jones, the change was largely due to the emerging fame of Davy Jones (The Monkees). However, the Bowie persona (along with the Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personas) allowed him to express and explore the extremes of his identity.
As creatives, we are David Jones. The brands we represent are facets of our identity as we project ourselves onto them. How I speak on behalf of White Pages will differ from how someone else does, even though we may still internalise the brand’s core values and traits. This fresh perspective is often the reason for multiple creative teams to work on a single brand. Side note: Did you know David Jones (Bowie) had a background in advertising? After leaving school at 16, David joined Yorkshire based company Nevin D. Hirst Advertising as a Junior Visualiser/Paste Up Artist.

We’re in the business of play, and imagination is our tool. Like any great tradesman, we need to sharpen our tool. Put your pride to the side and play.

To learn from one of the best players, visit the David Bowie Is exhibition at ACMI, running until November 1, 2015 : http://www.acmi.net.au/exhibitions/bowie/

Dan A.

Four thoughts on agency / advertiser relationships: Jetstar and The Royals

Here’s a post by Darren Woolley from P3 on the relationships between clients and agencies. Darren puts a quick fire four questions to Andrew from The Royals and our good friends from Jetstar, Peita and Ingrid about what makes things work:

“The relationships between advertisers and their agencies are becoming more complicated and difficult to define. But when they work well this junction of creativity and commerce can have a significant impact on both parties.”

Check it out:
http://www.trinityp3.com/2014/08/agency-advertiser-relationships-jetstar-the-royals/