Using technology to make people care about your brand


Our Director of Experience Architecture, Rob Meldrum, features in The Drum with his perspective on Technology, Data and why 'always on' isn't necessarily a good idea…

Here's what he says:

Is your brand ‘always on’? Well, it shouldn’t be. Truth is, even the most interesting brands in the world are not actually that interesting to real people, most of the time. And although as an industry I feel we’ve started to realise that brand love doesn’t come easy, there’s still a reality check needed for the way brands talk to consumers.

If we start with the assumption that your audience isn’t really your audience, and they’re not particularly interested in what you have to say, how do you get them to listen? Let alone buy something?

I think there’s a valuable but often neglected way of making our audience care: just be there when they have a reason to be. Identify the brief moments when your brand (or more specifically the service or product it offers) actually could be useful, maybe even essential.

On the sliding scale of ‘brand/user engagement’, your audience could quickly go from ‘I literally couldn’t care less’ to ‘I’m considering this now’ or perhaps even ‘this is all I can think about’. Take energy suppliers for example – most of the year no one is really interested or engaged with their energy supplier, but if a huge bill drops through the letterbox, or they’re suddenly sitting there in the dark, rest assured it’ll be the only thing on their mind.

So how do we identify these moments, and in turn make sure our brand is there to offer help before they’ve even thought they needed us?

Luckily, the answer is simple. (Unfortunately, the actual implementation of that answer less so). We use a healthy mix of technology, data and our brains. There’s an array of tech/services/people out there using data to better understand consumers. Take Google Now for example, kindly predicting what time I’m traveling home just so it can give me traffic and weather warnings.

We’re also connecting our fridges, washing machines and security systems together in order to make life at home more intelligent and, erm, connected. Then there’s programmatic media buying that, by using multiple behavioural data sets, can help make our ads more pointed and relevant (annoyingly including those banners that follow you around, reminding you of that shirt you’ve just bought).

While data is a powerful tool, there’s a fine line between it being helpful and just downright creepy. So how do we make sure to stay on the right side of that line? The best way, in my opinion, is to be so useful and so clever that it transcends creepy altogether. In theory, broadcasting your exact location at 3am on a Sunday morning to Prius drivers across London is creepy – but the fact they can come and pick you up, take you home, all without worrying if you’ve got enough cash, is magic.

The ideal scenario for us, representing those low interest brands and trying to interrupt someone’s day, is to be there at the moment that it might actually matter. We can use technology platforms, with all of the data available to us (individual user details, user profiling and behavioural data), to provide a relevant message/offer/service that can deliver on a need right there and then. What if, for example, an energy company could be there just as the huge bill lands – providing an alternative solution, a better way?

In theory, we have the data and the technology available to us to do this, so what’s the hold up? Why aren’t we helping brands be more relevant and useful all of the time? Well for one, it’s difficult to weave this into the creative process. We can’t just bolt on personalised executions once the TV script is nailed. It needs to be baked into the idea, right from the start. But at what point does the ‘programmatic media’ chat come up in the creative brainstorm? To be honest, I’m not sure. (I’ve tried – blank stares.)

For me, the best way to start identifying these moments that matter, and subsequently crafting creative solutions around them, is to first understand our audience. By using data and technology at our disposal, we can gain access to their mindsets, experiences, interests, wants, needs and desires, and everything in-between. And If we can do this, we can start to make our ideas feel more clever, targeted and personalised.

Approaching creativity in this way in order to get to new and interesting insights and ideas might seem scary, but it’s definitely worth embracing. Lean on new services and techniques to break the creative process, twist it around, and you might just get to somewhere you’d never considered.

Finally, let’s not forget to be humble enough to admit that people aren’t interested in our brands most of the time, but also to be ready when they just might be. So maybe it’s time to shift the focus from the ‘always on’ approach and instead work on being really, really useful at just the right time. Perhaps then, your audience might just find your brand quite interesting. Or at the very least not creepy.

Rob Meldrum is director of experience architecture at Wieden+Kennedy and member of the IPA's Brand Tech Group which provides an industry view on the impact technology is having on brands, consumers and agencies

Death metal and the opportunity for distinctive branding


Any middle aged brand manager who, as a teenager, inscribed a Motörhead logo on his homework notebook, knows the value of a great logo to a metal band. Those logos not only allow fans to display their allegiance, they sell merch to people who would never dream of actually listening to anything by Lemmy and his disreputable accomplices. It's amazing what an umlaut can do.

In the death metal sub-genre, for some reason, almost all bands have intricate, almost illegible logos in a style presumably intended to resemble evil, runic inscriptions. This design conformity signals affiliation with the genre, but fails to distinguish the individual band. Party Cannon (see poster above) knows how to challenge genre conventions in order to stand out. At least, I hope there is a death metal band called Party Cannon playing at Death Fest 2, and not just an actual party cannon that will be installed at the event.

W+K does Cannes: women, maybe-murderers and golden halos

Read on for a Friday update from W+Ker Andy on his latest educational adventures in Cannes:

Today I saw Colleen, one of of our global ECDs, take part in a panel discussion around the subject of 'gender diversity' and what it's like to be a woman in advertising. Hearing them speak it seemed that, luckily, we appear to be an industry that is actually pretty good in this area comparatively, even though we all need to do more to level the playing field. Whilst some of the panel talked about certain issues that they've faced along the way, on the whole things seemed pretty positive. Now, as I am a man, clearly this is not something I have faced and so maybe I am not best qualified to comment, but equally I am thankful for working in an agency where I think gender quality isn't really an issue, and one that is actively trying to make sure it isn't one. What I do know is that when I go to our head of department meetings, I am the only man in the room. That must be a good sign. 

I also went a to talk given by the three women (see what I did there?) behind the 'podcast phenomenon' Serial. It was brilliant. I was left in awe of the creative thinking, skill and vision behind something that is, in their own words, '10 hours of journalism about the American justice system.' They spoke about the difficulty of real-time production and wanting to make it feel real in every way, which is why they left in all the bits around presenter Sarah Koenig's uncertainty about what was happening and how she felt day to day.
When it comes to the art of 'storytelling,' their POV was clear: 'we should not be running away from details and moments in stories that reflect the way life is actually led. Don't mimc it, or create it in the way you think it should be told. Telling stories in a real way is artistry and what makes it emotionally meaningful.' I think this might be one of the best things I've heard all week, and it reminded me of how we often say to prospective clients in new business meetings that at W+K, we don't really do the 'advertising bullshit thing,' but that we always look for human, brand and product truths and then try to articulate them in new, creative and engaging ways. Try
Then to wrap up the week of talks, I saw the 'Cannes debate' with Martin Sorrell and Al Gore. Martin was as smooth as you would expect any £50M+-a-year CEO to be. Al was as smooth as you would expect any ex– Vice President, friend of Steve Jobs and Google and Apple board member to be.
In fact, they were so smooth, so powerful and so rich they actually glowed gold on stage. A true wonder to behold:

The power of dreams: Jodorosky’s Dune and Raf Simons’ Dior

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A couple of recent documentaries are worth a look for anyone interested in getting an insight into the creative process in industries different from advertising and marketing. 

Jodorowsky's Dune tells the story of Chilean artist and director Alejandro Jodorowsky's unmade movie of Dune. He assembled an amazing group of collaborators, including French comics creator Moebius, Swiss artist of the gothic and bizarre HR Giger, Pink Floyd and special effects man Dan O'Bannon. He apparently signed up an amazing cast including David Carradine, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Udo Kier and Salvador Dali. And he developed a complete script and storyboard, scene by scene, for the entire movie. But the project was too ambitious and Jodorowsky apparently too crazed and uncompromising for any Hollywood studio to back him and his film. The fact that David Lynch was picked as the 'safe' option to direct Dune, in preference to Jodorowsky, gives some indication of just how far out there the Jodorowsky Dune would have been. The documentary is an entertaining watch, not just for the glimpses of the unmade epic, but also for the intensity that Jodorowsky brings to telling the story. You can see that this intensity (combined with his reputation for having previously made bonkers but visionary films like El Topo and the Magic Mountain) is what must have persuaded his collaborators to follow his call to, "Sell everything you own and move to Paris to work on something that will change the world." But you can also see why that same creative passion could have scared off the Hollywood money men. (There's a frankly alarming sequence where he likens adapting Frank Herbert's book to 'raping a bride'.) There are some parallels here with our business – the tension between the creative vision and the conservative client. But Jodorowsky makes it clear that he sees himself as an artist, not a commercial entertainer. He doesn't want a box office hit, he wants to blow our minds. In our work, we can't start believing that we are purely artists – our creativity is always in service of commercial objectives.

There's a part near the end where AJ says something like, "The movie didn't die. It lives on in people's minds as a dream. And a dream can still change the world." The power of dreams, no?

You can't watch the unmade Dune, but you can see its influence in other movies, from Alien to Bladerunner. And, if you're a fan of visionary cinema but haven't seen any of Jodorowsky's work, then you should try to track down the extraordinary and unforgettable Santa Sangre or The Dance of Reality.

Another recent documentary about a creative working in a particular field is Dior and I, which follows designer Raf Simons as he takes over as creative director of the Dior fashion house.

To the outsider the world of haute couture can seem like the Emperor's New Clothes brought to life: the unspeakable in pursuit of the unwearable. But even if you're not into fashion, this is an interesting story. Simons seems a reluctant guru, shy and somewhat intimidated by the legacy of Dior's founder, but quietly determined to reinvent the brand without losing touch with its essence.

The house of Dior is presented as an intriguing contrast: seeking to be at the cutting edge of fashion, but enabled by an atelier of middle-aged seamstresses, the craftspeople who turn the CD's concepts into real physical garments. Simons doesn't even sketch out his ideas – he uses clippings and moodboards and reference stimulus to suggest what he wants. Much of this reminded me of the way that some advertising creatives work: like magpies, picking up shiny things from the gutter of culture and assembling them in (hopefully) new and relevant ways.

Like an agency working towards a big pitch, the tension at Dior mounts as the day of the big runway show approaches. The pressure is on and time and money are running out. Simons persuades his boss to go wildly over-budget for a dramatic presentation that involves covering a mansion in fresh flowers, and after late nights, tears and tantrums, it all comes good with a triumphant launch of the new collection.

The striking thing, comparing the two films, are the similarities and differences between Jodorowsky and Simons. Neither can execute their vision themselves. Each has a team of highly talented collaborators from whom they need to elicit excellent work, in order to realise that personal vision. But while Jodorowsky assumes the role of the crazed visionary, the manic street preacher, Simons is thoughtful, subdued and even withdrawn. Both approaches seem to work pretty well. 

If you're interested, you can find both these films in the iTunes store. Jodorowsky's movies are available on DVD. 

Image, Sound and Spit in a Bucket

Creatives Anthony and Greg report back from a recent inspiration-sourcing visit to the Christian Marclay exhibition at the White Cube in Bermondsey.

Every once in a while us creative types need to step outside the bubble of advertising cars, running shoes, and milk, to simply take in the arts. It’s a necessary practice of freeing your mind and hopefully padding the vault with new creative references. So in keeping with this tradition, we ventured off to the White Cube gallery to do just that.

The White Cube currently features the work of Christian Marclay, which the pamphlet at the door described as, “Marclay’s long-standing interest in the relationship between image and sound.”

Image and sound? Seems up our alley. Let’s begin.

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As soon as you enter into the White Cube’s main artery, our ears perked up to the sharp pings and clanks of glass. Projections on the walls flickered footage of the artist’s journey down London sidewalks where discarded bottles and glassware from the previous night’s bender was scattered about. The artist playfully taps, pings and kicks, anything and everything that catches his eye, resulting in a symphonic yet physcofrenic medley of sound. We couldn’t help but get lost in this experience. The behaviour was almost child-like, evoking distant memories of running a stick along a fence.


In the adjacent room, colourful mixed-media pieces complement the video installation. Here, Marclay translates the theme onto canvas, channeling 60s Batman, Roy Lichtenstein prints with a bit of Jackson Pollock – combining them in a distinctly sly and tongue-in-cheek way. The pieces seem to describe themselves. The word ‘Splat!’ literally referencing the paint splatter behind it.

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Finally, we enter the last room of the exhibition. It’s a large room with one long running shelf that spans all four walls, holding hundreds of pint glasses. Think of the window sill outside of The Heart on a friday, x100.  In the centre of the room, a performance artist dunks his head in a pail of water. Like bobbing for apples, he searches the bucket, takes a big mouthful of water, and walks toward the wall of glassware. Greg and I watch (alone) as the artist chooses a glass, and painstakingly spits the water into it.

As we slowly back out of the room (hoping to go unnoticed), we watch him pour the pint of mouth-water back into the bucket and proceed to start the process all over again (and you thought you had a hard day at work). A interesting experience. Maybe there’s an idea in there somewhere. Maybe not.

After collecting a few thoughts and experiencing the uncomfortable nature that is ‘performance art’, overall, it was a good visit. The White Cube is a brilliant gallery displaying art in a beautiful space. If you have a moment, we suggest you take an hour to see it for yourself.

Until next time, we’re Greg and Ant.

Consider listening to the It’s Nice That podcast about “the genius of Wieden+Kennedy”

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It's Nice That has a podcast called 'Studio Audience' that is available on Soundcloud. The latest episode includes a discussion of Wieden+Kennedy. You can listen here. The W+K bit starts from about 11.40. They say lots of nice stuff about us and our founder Dan Wieden. They remark that despite what might sound from the outside like 'toe-curling, Nathan Barley nonsense", we do seem to be serious about building a distinctive, creative culture. Which is indeed the case.

In Your Hands

We’ve had a sweet little idea over here at W+K Towers. Based on an insight about human touch, brought to life through the power of gaming.

We’ve been testing it today in the agency. We’re premiering it tomorrow at Wired’s Next conference. 

Check out these W+Kers getting involved. 

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More to follow when we unleash it on the digital youth…

What happens to British brands if Scotland votes for independence?


Clearly there are more important issues than marketing to consider when thinking about Scottish independence, but being up in Scotland on business in the days before the referendum led me to think about what a yes vote for independence might mean for brands that use aspects of Britishness to define their appeal. Ones that come to mind include Burberry, Lambs Navy Rum, Hovis, Mini and BA which, since the days of ‘the world’s favourite airline’, has had an assocation with national pride in international success. What would a ‘yes’ vote for Scottish independence mean for these avowedly British brands? If Britain no longer includes Scotland, what will ‘Britishness’ signify to the Scots? If a vote for independence is a vote for disassociation from ‘British’ values in favour of distinctively Scottish values, does that deposition British brands and put them at a disadvantage when targetting the Scots? And will it change what Britishness means to the English, Irish and Welsh? Might ‘British’ values effectively become a synonym for English, leading to a lack of relevance in the rest of the UK?


I’d argue that it’s not hard to think of attributes that are distinctively Scottish rather than British: proud, rebellious, dour, wry, frugal, etc. It’s harder to think of attributes that are distinctively British rather than English. And if British brands become merely English, that may narrow their appeal.


And if brands can't trade on Britishness any more, never again will we see genius like this, which would be a shame:

Mind you, it's not hard to imagine Irn Bru running a campaign along similar lines to the one above if Scotland were to vote yes for independence: "I'm Joe Broon and I drink Irn Bru! Come and get me, ye auld Etonians!" Smart Scots brands will no doubt be hoping and planning to tap into the popular mood, whichever way the vote goes.

I know a Handy Little Thing…

A month or so ago, W+Kers and visitors to 16 Hanbury St will have noticed a new addition to our reception, in the humble form of a pin board with some bits of card stuck on it. This is the home of Handy Little Thing – an informal way for W+Kers to share their knowledge with others on a topic they're passionate about. 
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We're keeping it lo-fi with an old school noticeboard system of pens, pins and cards. W+Kers, our friends and our clients who have a skill or interest to share fill out a card for the board, and those who are interested can sign up to learn about it. A talk is then arranged, allowing everyone to share their skills, learn some new ones, have some laughs, and maybe even make new friends in the process. 
Handy Little Thing is off to a roaring start, with topics such as UX, flower arranging, promoting personal projects, and Catalan culture on offer so far. Nice.
The inaugural Handy Little Thing talk kicked off yesterday, with Planning Director Theo, who enlighten us on 'how to be a powerpoint ninja'.
It takes someone with great wit, humour and congeniality to make the MS Office Suite sound even remotely interesting, but as his slides were met with laughter, clapping and sharp intakes of excited breath (we're not even kidding), it became very clear that we were in excellent hands. With his focus on personal presenting style, simplicity, and a generous number of easy technical tricks, we couldn't have asked for a better talk to kick off the project.
Watch this space for regular updates on the handy little things we'll be sharing!HLT Logo Email
P.S. Big thanks to WKED for making this happen.