Hope or fear: which feeling is more likely to persuade Scottish voters on independence ?

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Neil C writes:

I was asked to contribute to a piece in today's Herald about the advertising campaigns running to support the two opposing sides in the imminent Scottish independence referendum.

Here's what I wrote:

Two independence referendum ads have been running this week, one from the pro-independence Yes campaign and one from anti-independence Better Together. Both groups of campaigners will have hoped to generate discussion and debate around their ads and BT has certainly done that, though surely not in the way they intended. Public reaction to the BT ad has been overwhelmingly negative, with people describing it as patronising and offensive towards women.

 Some say that it perpetuates a stereotypical view of women as failing to understand politics. Online, the #PatronisingBTLady hashtag and meme gained a lot of traction, with some amusing responses, many of which can be seen at the Patronising BT Lady Facebook page.

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 The Yes campaign ad has generated far less buzz, with only 1/10th as many views on YouTube. But what comment there is about the Yes film is generally favourable.

Why have the two ads generated such different responses? Both try to appeal to the emotions. But each takes a very different approach.

The Yes campaign’s “Yes Means” film is a sunny, optimistic montage featuring Scots of all ages preparing for a new day. “Look out world, here I come,” says a long-haired student, as highland lochs sparkle, children play happily in the sunshine, and active old folks joyfully dance in a presumably comfortable and fulfilling retirement. The ad ends with a classic, perhaps clichéd, symbol of hope – a baby’s hand reaching for that of its parent.

The No campaign’s ad, “The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind” also references the next generation, but in a very different way. This film features only one character: a housewife, sitting in her kitchen, who talks directly to the viewer as if to a friend who’s dropped in for coffee. The housewife feels she lacks the facts required to make an informed decision about independence. “All this uncertainty bothers me so much,” she says. The more I think about it, independence seems like one big gamble”. She seems anxious but “There’s one thing I do know: I will not be gambling with my children’s future….So that’ll be a no from me.”

One positive ad that offers optimism, one negative one that evokes fear. One says – vote yes in the hope of something better. The other says – vote no for fear of something worse. Which approach is more likely to be successful? There’s no clear evidence as to whether positive or negative messages are more effective in political campaigning. Obama swept to power on the back of a message of “hope” but arguably Britain’s most famous political ad is “Labour Isn’t Working”, the iconic poster of the Conservatives’ successful 1979 general election campaign. So you could argue that either approach can be successful, it just depends on how well you do it.

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How well have the Yes and No campaigns done it here? The No film appears to be a potentially disastrous mistake. The undecided woman is transparently a Frankenstein’s monster cobbled together from spare parts of strategy and research group comments. At no point do we believe in her as a living person with real concerns that we can share. She’s a voter segmentation profile brought unconvincingly to life – “Fearful Fiona”. It’s easy to see why the ad has been criticised and in places ridiculed for its patronising approach.

The “Sunshine On Leith” approach of the Yes ad, on the other hand, presents a range of likeable characters who are proud and positive about the future. We don’t believe in them as real people, they’re obviously actors, but they’re not so obviously fake as to undermine the message. This is a feel-good, confident piece of work with a welcoming, upbeat tone.

For any ad, the ultimate test is whether it moves us and makes us feel and think differently. Which of these has the power to do that? Ironically, Fearful Fiona, the ad that all too obviously tries hard to show that it understands voters, gets it so badly wrong that it has the reverse of the intended effect: it shows that BT don’t understand women voters at all. We can’t empathise with this implausible character and we feel irritated and patronised.

The Yes ad presents a vision of Scotland that is arguably a bit too much Coca-Cola, not enough Irn Bru, to touch the heart as powerfully as it might have done, but its more sympathetic characters and rousing mood do inspire feelings of pride, of optimism and of hope. In the battle of the ads at least, the Ayes have it.

on the telly, talking about cats on the telly

The father of the internet, Tim Berners Lee, was recently asked to name one thing he had never imagined his world-changing invention would be used for. His answer? Kittens. Image

The language of cute animals is truly a universal one. And if advertising is anything to go by, YouTube's favourite kind of star has definitely hit the mainstream. 

Over the years, we've had our fair share of success in the animals-in-advertising arena. From our cats with thumbs campaign for Cravendale to our moonwalking pony and singing kitty for Three, it's easy to see we have a bit of a soft spot for animals. 

Last night, a documentary titled Star Paws: The Rise of Superstar Pets aired on Channel 4, examining the internet-age phenomenon that is animal fame – from Grumpy Cat and Andrex puppies to our furry friend Bronte, the Starship-singing kitty from our Three 'Sing it Kitty' campaign. 

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Our MD, Neil, was interviewed for the series in our log cabin meeting room, complete with a secret squirrel, and the crew even popped in to film us all hard at work on what may or may not be another animal-starring campaign (okay it was). 

If you're in the UK, you can watch the whole thing right now on 4OD

Star Paws Neil

There’s testing, and then there’s Honda testing

In June, we introduced the Civic Type R concept with a roar, to kick off a whole host of campaign activity over the coming months showcasing the 'Other Side of Honda’. Now we’re back with a new pan-European, multi-channel campaign that celebrates the Civic range and Honda’s unparalleled dedication to thorough testing.

The campaign is based on the idea that ‘there’s testing, then there’s Honda testing’, showcasing the dramatic lengths the manufacturer will go to when testing their vehicles, specifically the Civic model. (To be precise, cars at Honda’s European manufacturing plant in Swindon are tested in a specially controlled climate chamber from -30’c to +80’c conditions.)

The campaign launches with a 30” film, which brings to life these extreme environments by encasing the car in ice before slowly melting it away against a changing backdrop. This is further supported by print executions, as well as a rich media ad featuring an interactive version of the film.



Under the direction of Johnny Hardstaff, production team watched the car and snow-covered set melt of over a 5-hour sequence, filming 200 takes of the process on a motion control rig. MPC's team, led by Adam Crocker, developed a technique that enabled the director and creative team to navigate intuitively through hundreds of motion control takes, giving them full creative control over the rate at which the car and floor was melting/ freezing. MPC's 3D team enhanced the scenes to augment the snow-covered environment, turning a skeleton into a snowman and a cactus into conifers.

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Hot on the heels of the recently released Other Side of Honda campaign introducing the Civic Type R Concept, Honda Motor Europe and Wieden+Kennedy London are back with a new pan-European, multi-channel campaign celebrating the Civic range and Honda’s unparalleled dedication to thorough testing.

The campaign is based on the idea that ‘there’s testing, then there’s Honda testing’, showcasing the dramatic lengths the manufacturer will go to when testing their vehicles, specifically the Civic model. At Honda’s European manufacturing plant in Swindon UK, cars are tested to the extreme in a specially controlled climate chamber from -30’c to +80’c conditions.

The campaign launches with a 30” film directed by Johnny Hardstaff, supported by print executions and rich media ad, which will feature an interactive version of the film, allowing the user to change the temperature of the ad and watch the environment change in response.

poetry and pencil puns

Last week, a young man came in for a portfolio crit with the gatekeepers of our placement scheme, power duo Jason and Joris. 
He's called Seong Wonseo and he came all the way from Korea to show them his stuff. Being the gentlemen they are, Jason and Joris made him a cuppa and had a look through his book.
At the end, he wrote  a poem in Korean. Whilst wearing a GoPro. And a backwards cap.
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Then he gave them a pencil which said '2B or not 2B'. And took a selfie with a selfie stick.
He's super enthusiastic and seemed made up with the feedback. We've invited him back next year.
Now that we think of it… he was so smiley that the boys may have been filmed for a Korean undercover comedy series about a dude trying to crack London.
Fingers crossed, we say. 

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We were wooed by Alex Clare

Our beloved agency basement takes many forms. Kitchen, co-working office, client hotdesking space, meeting room foyer, and yesterday afternoon, stage to singer-songwriter Alex Clare, whose incredible voice and guitar playing put its acoustics to the test (turns out they're excellent).

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Opening with the headliner of his new album, Three Hearts, and ending on an impromptu encore, Alex lulled us all into a mellow state of mind – the perfect note on which to end a rainy Thursday.

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Big organisational thanks to W+K Culture Club, who have swapped surprise ice cream vans for evocative melodies (accompanied by dark & stormies) now that's it's apparently not summer any more. We can't wait to see what they bring us next!

a bit of wisdom from one of our newest creatives, Josh King

This young man right here is the very talented Josh King, one of the latest creatives to join our ranks. 


Before finding his way here, Josh studied graphic design at Kingston University, he made all sorts of cool stuff over at Lean Mean Fighting Machine and M&C Saatchi, and he's part of a design collective called King Zog.

Josh was recently invited to speak at the Institute of Contemporary Arts here in London. Here are a few of the top tips he shared with the aspiring creatives in the audience:

A few weeks back I was invited to talk at an event that focused on the transitional period between uni and getting a proper job. For any grads that missed it, here's my 20 minutes of 'wisdom' summed up in three points:

1. When interning, make the company look good in your spare time. Do a project that you're not briefed to do. Something interesting, ideally an idea that you can tell your mates about down the pub. The company can then show off their personality to their clients and even win new business. 
2. If your portfolio is the same 6 months after leaving uni, are you really passionate about what you do? Create everyday. All it takes is one good project to get a foot in the door.
3. Make it easy for everyone to see your work. If the caption is longer than a sentence, then it probably doesn't communicate effectively. Make a simple site, learn to code, and if you can't – pay someone 50 quid to do it.
A few mates and I made a poster for the 2012 Olympics. Ages ago we heard it got published in 'Design Elements: A Graphic Design Manual'. Today, to our delight, it arrived in the post: 
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And here's something else Josh did recently with his friends – a limited edition  of a book featuring the first Google image search result for every word in the English dictionary. We've got one here and it's fascinating. If you can get your hands on one, check it out and take your own offline trip across the alphabetised internet. 

say yes to summer with Lactofree

Last year, we launched a joyful print and outdoor campaign for Lactofree to encourage people who suffer from lactose intolerance to say – nay, shout – YES to breakfast in all its dairy goodness. 
Our unapologetically bright posters gave commuters a cheerful dose of morning inspiration, championing the Lactofree products that empower people who struggle with dairy to enjoy the same breakfast favourites as everybody else. 
We've brought it back again this year, making the new executions even brighter and adding a deliciously summery twist by celebrating the sunniest of foods. There's nothing quite like a melty, cheesy burger fresh from the barbecue or a cool, frothy smoothie straight from the fridge, and thanks to Lactofree, everyone is free to say yes to summer and embrace the treats they love. 

Survey confirms Procurement focuses on cost cutting, not value creation

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Further to previous posts here on the topic of procurement here and here, which highlghted problems with focusing on cutting costs in relation to marketing services, rather than increasing the value of the services provided, I was interested to read the Procurecon Benchmarking survey. This survey was conducted among 2,000 procurement professionals across Europe by the team behind the Procurecon conference, as blogged about here.

The results are pretty clear. "'Total cost savings' came out top as the most popular metric for measuring the value of procurement (85%)… The second most popular answer was 'cost avoidance', with 77% of respondents using this metric."

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(The respondents to this survey may not have been limited to marketing procurement specialists, which might skew the results. But even at the Marketing Procurecon, a show of hands poll indicated an overwhelming focus on cost-cutting as the key measure of procurement effectiveness.)

The report's final conclusion: "Savings continue to be the default way of measuring how well procurement is doing its job."

So that's unequivocal: the job of Procurement is to buy the same, or more for less. Success is measured by reducing agency fees and associated costs.

But, as previously noted on this site, Marketing is an investment not a cost. (Nothing is easier than cutting marketing costs – if you don't believe it’s adding value, just stop spending.) Nobody makes an investment decision based solely on price. (Who buys a share in Microsoft because it’s cheaper than a share in Coca-Cola?) Marketing Procurement should not be about minimising costs, it should be about maximising the value of the investment. As someone once said – nothing is more expensive than cheap legal advice. The same goes for marketing services.

This report makes grim reading for agencies and reminds us that we need more than ever to be focused on accountability for what we do, so that we can prove the value we are providing. We must do this in close partnership with client marketers, who share our interest in accountability. Without this, the debate will only ever be about cost.

the year so far at Wieden+Kennedy London

It's definitely summer in London; you can tell by the baking heat that cooks up an effluvious reek of human ordure and rotting trash around Shoreditch High Street station. Like Proust's madeleine in faecal form, this olfactory cocktail reminds me that we're more than half way through 2014 and that it's a suitable time for a wee review of the year so far.

How was 2013?

First of all, just to remind ourselves of a few hghlights from last year.

We won Shots ad of the year (for Honda Hands) and were Shots Agency of the Year. They said “Wieden+Kennedy has demonstrated once again how to create iconic work, irrespective of the category in which it plays. They don't just create great content, they seem to create new benchmarks – with freakish consistency." Nice.

We were YouTube’s most-watched UK agency of 2013, with campaigns created in 2013 attracting over 43 million views throughout the year, 13 million of which were attributed to our Nike spot 'Endless Possibilities'.

We welcomed 88 new joiners – that’s about 40% of the agency who were new in 2013.

We won some new business, including Halls (globally) and Arla Foods (international).

And we were rated ‘excellent’ by Campaign in their annual agencies 'school report'. They commented that '"the pony" spot for Three, released in February, was a genuine viral smash and easily the 2013 highlight. That said, its spots for Honda and Lurpak would make anyone’s highlight reel for the year too.They also said it was “a good year for an agency that seemed to be enjoying itself”

So a pretty good 2103. Now, on to 2014.

More work

We’ve done some great work so far this year across all our clients. Here are a few highlights:






One more thing on the work so far this year: it was particularly sweet to win gold at Cannes for Lurpak in both effectiveness and creativity. This combination of great work and demonstrably great results is what we’re aiming for on every client. It builds clients' business, bonds relationships, and protects our bottom line. All of which is nice.

More smarter

We’re continuing to roll out internally our revamped WKEd training and development programme to help everyone develop new skills and realise their potential.

We’ve launched the ‘Handy Little thing’ skills-swap scheme, where people teach others on their areas of knowledge and expertise, from 'How to be a powerpoint ninja', to 'An introduction to Catalan culture', to 'Essential tips on punctuation'.


We sent people to all sorts of conferences and seminars, from TED to SXSW to Cannes and had them report back on what they learned.

And we did a bit of restructuring to help us manage growth and work smarter, promoting Helen Foulder to Deputy MD, Andy Kay to Head of Account Handling and Beth Bentley to Head of Planning. All those guys are getting to grips with their new responsibilities and figuring out how we can maximise the inspiring and minimise the tiring.

And IT switched us all over to G-mail, which I know has been really popular, especially with me.

More different

We launched our Forever Curious project to help inspire creativity in local kids. Last week, following an inspiring series of 'my creative spark' card creation sessions and spark card workshops with pupils from Millfelds and Newport primary schools, we held an exhibition of the work we've been creating together over the past couple of months, at The Rag Factory, just off Brick Lane.


In partnership with Enabling Enterprise, we hosted a challenge day for a group of 20 students from Stamford Hill primary school where, over the course of a day, we attempted to give these kids a taste of what it’s like to work in the creative industry.

We expanded into the Wilkes Street wing, giving everyone some much-needed breathing space.


We’ve also tried to freshen up the Hanbury Street space with things like the Biscuit Room and the undersea world of the lift-space.


We continued our commitment to The International Exchange and Ben Shaffery will be the next person we send off to share their skills with organisations, people and communities from the emerging world.

We launched the Spore fund to support our people in getting their personal creative projects off the ground.

We’re currently working on launching the London arm of what has variously been called Platform / 12 / The Kennedys – our own school for emerging, diverse creative talent. The plan this time is to link it up internationally across the US, London, Amsterdam and Shanghai to offer a magnet for young talent across the world.

And we adopted a flamingo.


More talent

We’ve continued to strengthen and broaden our team, with 36 new joiners so far this year across all departments, taking our numbers up to around 220 permanent staff.

More fun

We’ve had bake-offs, an easter egg hunt, stairwell exhibitions, a Eurovision celebration, gallery trips, a visit from a Findlandia mixologist, a giant edible version of Tony’s head, a cult meeting on an island, parties, piss-ups and all sorts of celebrations. Some of which were actually “fun”, I’m told.

And we got hold of some Google Glasses (or do you say 'a Google Glass'?) and as part of an extensive experimentation and learning programme, we got Sandra the landlady from the Golden Heart to wear them. Not sure where they are now.

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What else?

We picked up new business from Finish (globally), Trident (North America), Chambord (international) and UKTV (the clue to geography on this one is in the name). A 100% conversion rate and a strong performance in a very quiet and highly competitive new biz market. We’ve also been successful in growing our business with existing clients.

The new business pipeline is currently busy with opportunities in sectors including technology, drinks, sports, airlines, health, baby products, and entertainment, so things are looking healthy.

What next? There’s plenty more to come in the second half of the year.

– Iain Tait joins in a few weeks to partner with Tony D and to help continue to push our creative work in new and innovative directions that will help give our clients an edge against their competitors.

Tait and tony

We’ve nearly signed the deal on extending our building. The plan is to rent the old stable block diagonally behind us, between Hanbury Street and Commercial Street. We’ll connect it to the current space at number 16 Hanbury, transform it into workspace without buggering up its original character and also renovate and rejuvenate number 16. Quite a lot of time and money later we should have an amazing new home without actually having to move house.

Beyond that there is not, and has never been, a secret Wieden+Kennedy Master Plan. The plan is pretty straightforward: find lots of great people, help them do the best work of their lives with great clients, and repeat as necessary. Sounds simple, but it takes lots of talent, trust and hard work, some great talent and some awesome clients.

So that’s the plan for the rest of the year. And beyond.