The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

Why some ideas are so hard to resist
Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest
David Penn

I recently read The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley, and was struck by the following passage:

"Evolution is far more common and far more influential than most people recognise. It is not confined to genetic systems, but explains the way that virtually all of human culture changes…The ways in which these streams of human culture flow is … undirected, emergent and driven by natural selection among competing ideas" (my italics)

Over the past few years, my company has been trying to identify factors which fuel the spread of ideas, and why some succeed, while others fail. Here are some of the insights and hypotheses we want to share:


Subjects: Marketing, Advertising, Brands

01 October 2015 14:29

Social listening, geo-targeting, virtual reality and crowdsourced data: Highlights from MMA Smarties 2015
Posted by: Lena Roland, Knowledge Officer, Warc
Lena Roland

The MMA Smarties went live on this week. The Mobile Marketing Association Smarties Global Awards are presented to campaigns that use innovation and creativity to successfully push the boundaries of mobile marketing.

Mobile marketing is still relatively new, and so effectiveness is hard to achieve. But the following case studies showcase some interesting techniques and emerging innovations. Here's a very brief run down of the campaigns that I thought were noteworthy, and why.


Subjects: Awards, Marketing, Advertising

01 October 2015 11:01

Switch 'nice to have' for 'unthinkable not to have'
Posted by: Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, OgilvyOne London
Rory Sutherland

I once met someone from an IT company who had been present at several advertising pitches. By and large he was impressed. In countless ways - the pitch theatre, the audio-visual displays, the presentation skills - he had found what the agencies did extraordinarily impressive; much more exotic and polished than anything he had seen before.

"But," he went on, "every agency made the same terrible mistake."

"Go on then..."

"You all sold what you had to offer as an improvement - a bonus; a nice thing to do which would be good for business."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Well, in the IT business, only in the direst cases would we ever attempt to sell positives. It's a really difficult sell. Every business has plenty of ideas for 'nice things to do' already, and you're just competing with them in offering what they see as a cute optional extra; a 'nice to have' - a flagpole, a fountain in reception. In IT we don't sell positives - we sell the absence of negatives. We don't say 'if you do this it will be nice'. We simply say 'if you don't do this it will be bad - or even catastrophic'. Once you can see the horror in their eyes, the sale is already made."


Subjects: Marketing, Advertising, Brands

29 September 2015 16:23

Windows of opportunity: How Konrad Lorenz's Nobel winning work can be applied to advertising
Posted by: Richard Shotton, Head of Insight, ZenithOptimedia
Richard Shotton

Advertising has benefited significantly from the application of Daniel Kahneman's research into behavioural economics. However, Kahneman is not the only Nobel Laureate that advertising should look to for inspiration. Konrad Lorenz's work, for which he was awarded the Noble Prize in 1973, deserves more attention than it currently receives as it has direct relevance to marketing.

In Lorenz's most famous experiment he split a batch of Greylag geese eggs into two. One set, the control, was raised by their mother while the experimental set was exposed to no-one else but Lorenz. The goslings in the experimental set became deeply attached to Lorenz; to all intents and purpose he became their mother figure. They followed him wherever he went and mimicked his behaviour. When, after a few days, they were introduced to their mother they showed no sign of recognition.

From this experiment, and others like it, Lorenz developed the theory of imprinting. He hypothesised that there was a short window of open-ness, roughly 32 hours for geese, in which basic characteristics and behaviours could be shaped. Outside of that window habits became solidified and no amount of hectoring could change them.

In many ways consumers are like those geese. There are short windows of opportunity in which brands have a good chance of influencing behaviour.


Subjects: Advertising, Consumers, Marketing

17 September 2015 11:52

Digital advertising. Where did it all go wrong?
Posted by: Eaon Pritchard, Strategic planning consultant, Australia
Eaon Pritchard

By 1971 Manchester United’s Irish star George Best's hectic off-field celebrity life style had began to take its toll on his effectiveness on the pitch.

Arguably the most talented footballer of his (or just about any) generation George had lost interest in the game, developing a reputation for general unreliability and missing both training sessions and matches.

This erratic behaviour was connected to Best's developing problem with alcoholism. He eventually parted company with United (and football) during the 1973/4 season, at the end of which Manchester United were relegated.

George Best was only 27 when he quit - an age when most players are usually regarded as being at or near their peak – and the ‘wasted genius that threw it all away’ narrative was never far from the tabloid headlines.

Without the distraction of football, George was free to pursue his other interests – namely drinking, gambling and glamorous women.


Subjects: Digital, Advertising, Marketing

10 September 2015 11:04

Get back to basics
Posted by: Darika Ahrens LDN Stock
Darika Ahrens

Heading into the summer holiday season, people were telling me of their plans to go away, leave their laptop at home, switch off their devices and 'get back to basics'. It occurred to me that digital marketers should use the 'back to basics' ethos back in the office.

Right now is a great time to take stock and review. As we approach the silly season (aka Christmas). And the November- February pressure to adopt the Top 10 Marketing Trends of The Year is off.

I suggest right now you strip out the complexity and get your digital marketing back to basics – that is, the simple things all digital marketers should be doing. And it starts with your website. Many brands are going big on paid and earned media when they haven't even got their owned media tip-top. Those that sell online have no excuse. Yes, web trends go in and out of fashion every year. But trends are new things we've learned and the new things that are working for consumers right now. Digital consumers change rapidly so your website must do so too.


Subjects: Digital, Marketing, Advertising

08 September 2015 14:53

Reality advertising
Posted by: Faris Yakob, Co-founder, Genius Steals
Faris Yakob

When we first began to replicate reality at reasonable resolution, it was such a novelty we confused it with the real thing.

Famously, early moving pictures of trains speeding towards the camera would frighten audiences so much they would leap from their seats. Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast sent the populace into paroxysms of hysteria.

When everything you experience is real, you assume reality. Jean Baudrillard predicted the counter position – when more of existence was mediated than not, as a 'hyperreality', where we can't tell the difference between illusion and everyday experiences.

We now consume media more than doing anything else, including sleep. The illusory power of verisimilitude is still strong – the suspension of disbelief when watching film, the sense that the camera can't lie – but the modern media literate knows to trust nothing he or she sees. Photoshopped, framed, edited and excluded, all media is susceptible to manipulation, in manifold ways. The assumption of truth becomes the suspicion of falsehood.


Subjects: Advertising, Consumers

03 September 2015 14:22

What marketers can learn from the world's most incompetent bank robber
Posted by: Richard Shotton, Head of Insight, ZenithOptimedia
Richard Shotton

McArthur Wheeler’s infamous career as a bank robber was short-lived. He robbed two Pittsburgh banks on single day in 1995 – but didn’t keep the money for long. Rather than using a mask, as tradition dictates, he had the misguided idea of rubbing lemon juice on his face. He mistakenly believed that since it was used in invisible ink it would prevent security cameras from recording him. The police caught Wheeler on the day of the robbery and he was soon sentenced to 24 years in prison.

The story of the failed robbery is of interest to marketers as it inspired two Cornell psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, to come up with an important insight into human behaviour.

Illusory self-belief

The psychologists wondered how such an inept criminal could think that he had the necessary skill to successfully evade capture? More importantly they decided to test whether this lack of self-knowledge was widespread. They recruited students to take a series of maths and grammar tests and then asked them to predict how well they would do compared to their peers.


Subjects: Advertising, Marketing, Consumers

14 August 2015 16:03

Are 'skinny' services the next media trend?
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Sam Farrand, account/planning director at the7stars.

BT is attempting to buy EE for a reported £12.5bn. The deal, should it go through, represents the latest move within the utilities industry to shore up a company's position across multiple products, bundle them up and sell customers a suite of services.

Big money acquisitions only represent the crest of the wave: Sky offers its customers TV, a phone line, broadband and mobile; Vodafone provides Spotify Premium as part of its higher price contract bundles; and even energy companies such as Southern Electric are now offering products as diverse as broadband on top of power supply. In short, bundling is big business.

However, in the media world there are hints of a very different future, one where content is being actively 'unbundled', with veteran market-disruptor Apple leading the charge. CBS CEO Les Moonves views Apple as 'trying to change the universe' – the universe in question being the traditional satellite or cable subscription TV model.


Subjects: Advertising, Consumers, Digital

13 August 2015 15:04

ATTICUS AWARDS! Learn about brand migration, the global luxury market and effective mobile advertising
Posted by: Lena Roland, Knowledge Officer, Warc
Lena Roland

The Atticus Awards went live on today. They are a selection of winning papers which are open exclusively to professionals working in WPP companies. They honour original marketing thinking.

I've surfaced a selection that I think deserve a special mention. Themes explored include best practices on successful brand migration across Western and Eastern markets, the cultural dynamics driving change in the global luxury market and a guide to effective mobile advertising.


Subjects: Awards, Marketing, Advertising

13 August 2015 11:21


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