Archives for category: Thoughts

The season of travel is revving up, and the hotel booking websites are fighting it out for our dollars. Our challengers are: Booking.com, Trivago, and Hotels.com. As I’ve caught most of these ads on my TV lately I decided to compare them to see which one I like best.

 

BOOKING.COM

When I land on Booking.com I’m greeted (or yelled at) by a schmörgesborg of things to click on. No organization, well some actually. But let’s think about this, if I’m not savvy with surfing the World Wide Web would I really know what to click on? There is a box in the left corner of the screen that allows me to enter my details, which is good, well… it’s the status quo for any site like this. But the rest of the home page is boring and seemingly unorganized. There is also nothing about the website that excites me to book with them, or even travel in general. In fact there is not even one high quality scenic picture to salivate my travelling appetite. Although when you get into the thick of their website it does have a lot of information.

Now onto the ads, Booking.com is going for a younger market or at least young at heart. The first ad clearly uses “Booking” as a substitute for everyone’s (or most people’s) favourite F-word. The first time I hear it, I laugh, the next time a little… and then on the 6th time it’s over done. Way over done. The rest of the ad is great too. I love the insight that you picked right. That dilemma we all face “will this hotel live up to my expectations” is what every traveller faces, and it’s why we love hotel chains so much: we know what to expect. The copy is great, but I feel that the epic-ness that comes from the announcer gets tiresome. It’s too much. I’m trying to book a hotel, I’m not about to make a big speech to my rag-tag team as we’re about to try and save the world from aliens. Deep down the ad conveys a great insight that would make me want to book with them, but it’s lost with all the theatrics.

 

TRIVAGO

Trivago‘s website is simple. Like Google simple. It’s just a search bar. Nothing complex. I like that. But I also would like some travel-porn. Some shots of beautiful scenery, or a sandy beach. Get me excited Trivago. Sadly that’s their downfall. They’re boring. Which is kinda good. I would trust them more. But they seem too boring, so even though I may trust them more, I may not remember them because my mind will be distracted when their ad comes on. Their one key selling-point is never creatively addressed in their advertising. They promote how you can pick from several different sites. So whoever offers you the best price wins. So why not exploit that? It pains me to see a great insight that is communicated in an uninspired way. I feel like it’s a training video, and those are never exciting.

 

HOTELS.COM

Mascots annoy me. Why does every company feel they need a mascot? However, Captain Obvious is not bad. I can see a lot of ads coming out of this, but Hotels.com has to be careful to not make me hate him. Use him sparingly and not in ways that will make me not want to visit your site. Speaking of their website, I like it (Pay attention Trivago and especially you Booking.com). I’m greeted by the Captain, and some travel-porn. Wow! 3 websites and only 1 actually puts up a picture of where I want to go. I realize stock photo sites aren’t cheap, but come on. The site is simple and has only the necessary details. This one has found a nice balance.

Their ads are great. They’re not boring, and they don’t repeat the same punchline over and over until it’s not funny anymore. Their jokes are great, and fit within the narrative. They’re set up with out me seeing them coming. Everything that was on the brief is addressed in a clever way. And in the end I walk away liking what I experienced.

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The key is to always pull people into the ad, “Get them hooked” as they say. By pulling them in and engaged you have their attention to make your pitch. This ad from Samsung does exactly that. At first it is intriguing, then you wanna see what happens and then the USP is subtly and cleverly introduced. After that it is all entertainment, like a reward for the viewer for sticking it out, and to encourage them to share it with their friends because they know they’ll get the same rise out of it as they did.

This gem of advertising can barely be called an ad. There is no product being sold. No agenda. No persuasion of any kind. The message is simple, direct and honest. Todd Helton, a first-baseman of the Colorado Rockies, bought this print ad in the Denver Post on the last day of the regular season. The Colorado Rockies had not much to celebrate. They missed the playoffs again, and one of their fan-favourite players was retiring: Todd Helton.

Helton has been a mainstay in Colorado. His entire career has been played in the mile high state. He took out this ad to demonstrate his appreciation to his fans. What I like about this is that there is no agenda. Such a simple idea that we should see more of in our world. Sure most of these statements are made publicly in front of journalists and cameras (and Helton is no exception) but the permanence and thought of the gesture of a full-page print ad shows class and respect that Helton most definitely has for his fans.

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…copywriting of course.

I stumbled across this gem while on YouTube. It’s selling the oddest product, but with some great writing it makes a splash. The second video is the now infamous Dollar Shave Club.

Although these aren’t the 1/2 hour infomercials that grace cable’s airwaves in the middle of the day. They are very similar containing product demos and a strong pitch to drive you to click on through to the check out.

As always its about the relationship, fostering it, caring for it – like a child – if you constantly make your presence known they’ll resent you for it and want you out of their lives. So use a light touch so that each time they see you it is a enjoyable one.

 

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Jane Maas’ memoir Mad Women is an answer to the question: what was it like for women in the 1960s? Clearly the TV show Mad Men demonstrates the male side quite well, but what was it like for the real Peggy Olsons of the 1960s?

What I got from the book was that although there was a feminist movement to help move women forward; the social, cultural and family pressures slowed down the process. Women not only wanted to be accepted as equals to men, but they also wanted to be accepted by fellow women. An example of this is frozen dinners. They were largely purchased and used in secret. You didn’t want other housewife’s to know that you fed your family that rubbish, because it reflects badly on you and your ability to keep a good home. I bring this up because advertising in the 1960s is always critiqued as encouraging those stereotypes, but through reading Jane’s book you begin to understand that companies wanted to advertise new easier to use products but many women won’t jump on board.

Before reading the book I assumed that advertising encouraged the stereotypes in those times. However, the opposite is also true too. Men and women kept up with the stereotypes due to peer pressure or because that is what they firmly believed. There was of course “radical” women in those times. I used quotations because a woman wanting to work isn’t seen as radical today, but back then it was. Some women worked after they had kids (like Jane Maas) and they fed their family frozen dinners (again, like Jane Maas). Over time more and more women did both. They slowly brought in things and ideas into their lives that slowly changed society. Yes, Mad Women is a book about advertising, but it is an interesting viewpoint into the mind of a woman in the 60s struggling with the stereotypes she is faced with and the choices she makes: should I break this stereotype, or live up to it?

Does advertising reflect culture or create and maintain it? In my opinion it is not a black and white question. So I’d say both. It encourages new culture by introducing new products like frozen dinners, but it reflects old culture by how it speaks to their audience. Since housewives in general needed to live up to certain ideals they would feel ashamed by buying frozen dinners. So the advertising would most likely have to curb those thoughts.

By viewing the commercial the feeling is that you are not going to compromise the quality of the dinner you’d serve your family. Yes there are ads that clearly stereotype women. From our perspective it seems every ad does so. Then again the 60s were different times, and composed of different customs. It will be interesting to look back at our time in 30-40 years and see the ads that populated our media. Then we’d think, “Holy crap! I was a racist!” For example the LGBT community is protesting to simply be accepted into society, and to not be seen as ‘different’. Also if you pay attention next time you’re watching commercials on TV, you’d notice that white people out number all other racial minorities 4 to 1. Here is an interesting question to ask yourself: if you were to cast a TV commercial who would you cast? The default answer is “whoever the target market is.” Then again that only furthers the stereotype that your product is use by that race/gender/faith. If you were to cast a different ethnicity in the commercial it may be taken as “out of place.” Obviously there is no one-size fits all answer. There never is for these kind of things.

In conclusion, advertising is responsible for some stereotypes, and in other cases only responding to others. Advertising in essence is a sales tool that tries to appeal to the widest market possible. In doing so it has to take in the median idea of its market. So when you see an ad it is acting as a median snapshot of that advertiser’s perspective of its market at that time, be it the 1960s or 2013.

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YouTube: a place of endless cat videos and tutorials on everything. My most recent binge-watching spree has found itself on YouTube watching DigitalRev TV. This YouTube channel, set in Hong Kong is hosted by a charismatic Chinese 20-something with an elegant British accent who simply goes by Kai. If it were not for his antics, you’d think he was a British photography-scholar. They do camera reviews, compare certain aspects of photography (like prime vs zoom lenses) and hold challenges to professional photographers (or Pro Togs) in their “Pro Photographer Cheap Camera Challenge”. Episodes include Chase Jarvis trying to take skateboarding photos with a Lego camera.

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It wasn’t until the 15th some odd episode I watched that I realized DigitalRev was bigger than just a YouTube channel. Previously I had admired at their office thinking “Wow, they got a nice office for a YouTube channel”. Later I realized that DigitalRev is an online retailer that sells camera equipment (not one of my brightest moments). Their site has an attempt at a social community that is focused on photography. But where this really wins out is that their YouTube channel doesn’t overtly advertise in the way of “Buy! Buy! Buy!” It is more subtle. At the end of each episode it has the classic and innocent “For more information check out…”

What this channel did do for me as an amateur photographer was that it got me interested in photography again. It encouraged me to try new things with my camera. Furthermore, I feel that I have a source of trusted information about photography to go to.

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Now the reasons why I’m playing up DigitalRev is because how effective this form of marketing is. Consider this: it’s YouTube so it’s free for both the viewer and company, it’s filmed in Hong Kong which is nowhere near where I live thus reaching a worldwide audience, it made me want to try new things with photography (such as exposure techniques) and I feel that I’m better for having binge-watched most of their videos. As companies are still trying to figure out how to market to the Internet user; DigitalRev demonstrates one simple philosophy: don’t ram the message down the viewer’s throat. To more clearly illustrate what I mean. The host Kai breaks more camera gear then he praises. The only brand he clearly loves is Leica, which is drastically out of 99% of his viewer’s price range. On more common and financially achievable camera equipment like Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and so on; he is honest about what he feels. He gives pros and cons and tests the gear out in unique ways.

What this company does is a lesson to anyone wanting to have a successful YouTube channel is that there is effort put into it. The host, cameraman and production assistant (who also make appearances) all understand photography. They’re well versed in the plethora of technology used in photography. Secondly, it is entertaining, unlike most of YouTube reviews. And last there is a production value to it. Which yes does matter.

There are of course many other channels that employ these ideas. However, there are more channels that don’t. If you want to sell products and gain a loyal audience on the Internet: don’t ram your call to action down their throat. Because lets face it, there are several other places people can venture to on the world wide web to find out the same information.

English has certainly gotten around in its lifetime. Its got words from all over, and why? Whereas Italian and French and other languages at least sound the same. English switches tongues, eras, dialects and pronunciation. For example everything I’ve written in these few sentences come from Latin, Anglo, Saxon, French and so on. So in case you’re wondering where this all came from, here is a video.

Criticism sucks. As do the hours and constantly redoing things. Which begs the question: how did I end up here?

It all started by me paying attention during commercials. When every one else would be paying attention something else when the ads would come on, I didn’t. My younger self would wait for them when the break would come on. Like how one would wait, fingers crossed, for the DJ to play their latest favorite song on the radio. I would wait for my latest favorite ad.

And that’s exactly why we do the things we do, because we want to become what impresses us the most. So bring on the criticism and long hours, because I want to make something that will impress people the way these ads did:

Oh the beloved #. It is actually called an octothorp, by the way. I’m not sure where hashtag comes from. Although a quick read of wikipedia will tell you.

Mainly associated with Twitter, it is found on several sites. Most notably Tumblr and Facebook. It is useful for sorting information. For example the best uses of this come from sports leagues. I was watching the MLB All-Star game this week and all I had to do was follow #asg and I had all the intel I needed to know.

Apparently there was a guy who dared Twitter people (or I guess they’d be called Tweeters? Or Twitterers?) that if they re-tweeted his tweet 1000 times he would run out onto the field. The only way anyone who wasn’t at the game knew about this was via Twitter #asg. A whole new dialogue came out of this experience. Pictures from fans made their way on the social network.

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Furthermore the better brand uses of the hashtag (because this is a blog about advertising) was during the Home Run Derby the day before. Fans could follow the players involved in the derby, or the other players/journalists who were at the event. MLB provided fans clips of interviews with the players about the events that were taking place.

Both these examples, planned and unplanned, brought the experience closer to the viewer, hundreds of miles away. Twitter has always been seen as a conversation medium, and people generally do. Twitter, or better yet the hashtag, are ways of organizing and finding information on a mass medium that is over saturated with content.

This is important to note because people generally won’t adopt a hashtag just because a brand tells them to. They do it because they want what ever it is that they are writing to be read. If there is an event going on like an All-Star game. Then by MLB promoting #asg is a good idea. It encourages people to use the # and get involved with MLB.

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As tablets take over the world, their capacity to challenge the desktop & laptop for supremacy is widely debated. In many ways tablets are a cheap and easy to use. For those folks who only want to check their emails and post status updates, a tablet is perfect. It even works well if you need a half-decent word processor, and there are no shortage of them.

What I would like to bring up is the changing use of design software. There are several apps that use photoshop-esque techniques. Which in turn make it so one could alter the colours and filters of a photo while sitting on the sofa with their feet up. These techniques would take a skilled designer the better part of an hour to try out several effects. Now changing effects comes at the swipe of a finger. There are also several other apps that incorporate other aspects of graphic design. Adobe has a series of mobile apps that tap into every aspect of design, web or graphic. This change gives everyone the ability to become a graphic designer. With more people using these tools to alter their photos several things are happening.

One is that the use of filters is quickly becoming the norm and annoying. I hate sepia.

Another is that the bar is being raised quickly. What used to be able to get you a job (a snazzy portfolio) is not the norm anymore. Although the industry is adapting, it is taking a while. Soon knowing how to do something is not going to be the case anymore, because everyone will know how to do it. For example, I know how to string a few sentences together, does that make me a copywriter? What the industry will soon be calling for are people who have an understanding. Creatives will not just need to be able to come up with witty headlines and fancy graphics, but strategy and understanding of our dear friends marketing & business.

I’m optimistic that this will raise the level of advertising, and in turn make it more strategic and successful. This will benefit both advertisers and the audience. I’m excited that my career is beginning as this trend is.

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