The Warc Blog

Confessions of a neurosceptic

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

Over the last few months I've done a couple of sessions telling people about the wonders of neuroscience – one at the ESOMAR Congress in Athens in September and last week I went to Paris to address an international confectionery company's insight managers.

Flatteringly, I seem to have been dubbed an 'expert' on these matters; in fact, my session at ESOMAR was called 'Ask the Expert'. While this is an accolade I'm happy to accept, there are some small points I feel I need to make whenever I open my mouth on the subject of neuroscience: I don't run a neuromarketing company, and I don't have an fMRI scanner, EEG equipment, or even an eye-tracker. So, why then do I feel qualified to speak on the subject?

29 November 2010, 13:51
Is Japan becoming boring?

Posted by: David Tiltman, Head of Content, Warc

Blog author It’s a stupid question, isn’t it? Anyone who’s been to a big Japanese city like Tokyo or Osaka knows what a vibrant exciting place the country is, despite two decades of economic decline.

But (speaking as somebody who lived in Asia for a while) what used to be so fascinating about Japan was its ‘otherness’ – the sheer variety of, to Western eyes, weird and wonderful gadgets, obsessions and consumer trends. This was, after all, the nation that pioneered the use of QR codes and used mobile phones to pay bills in shops. And let’s not forget the gameshows.

So it came as a surprise to read Dentsu’s annual list of ‘hit products’, produced via a study of online word-of-mouth. It’s an interesting glimpse of what’s been going on this year in what remains a difficult-to-read nation.

Number one was smartphones. Odd, you might think, for a country that has had super-wired phones for years. But 2010 was the year of the iPhone in Japan – Apple’s all-conquering smartphone has made huge waves in the country and has topped the phone sales charts for much of the year. Much like everywhere else then. Another big hit, incidentally, was Samsung’s Galaxy S – Korea-made and, like the iPhone, a global success story.

That’s not all. Japan has always been its own market when it comes to web products. Mixi, for example, has long been the lead social network. But what do we find as the number two hot product on Dentsu’s list? Twitter.

In fact the top 20 shows that Japan, far from being a market out on its own, now has remarkably similar tastes to the US and Europe. Tablet devices, eco-friendly products such as hybrid vehicles, flat-screen TVs, 3D TVs and the FIFA World Cup all feature prominently in the top 20.

Thankfully, there’s still hope for those looking for a little Japanese exceptionalism. Lying at number three in the list is ‘munchable chilli oil’.

Here’s the full list (last year’s ranking in brackets):

1: Smartphones (34)
2: Twitter (104)
3: Munchable chili oil (-)
4: Digital broadcasting-equipped widescreen flat-panel TVs (7)
5: Ryoma Sakamoto (1836-1867; popular historical figure and visionary who played a key role in bringing about the Meiji Restoration. “The Legend of Ryoma” TV drama series has also become a hit.) (101)
6: International flight services at Haneda Airport (-)
7: Tokyo Sky Tree (new broadcasting tower scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2012) (-)
8: Eco-point energy-saving home appliances (5)
9: 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ (-)
10: LED light bulbs (15)
11: B-grade local gourmet food (term used for inexpensive local food eaten in a casual setting; A-grade refers to expensive gourmet food eaten in a formal setting.) (-)
12: Akira Ikegami (journalist and commentator) (-)
13: Domestic fast fashion brands (Low-priced domestic fashions) (3)
14: GeGeGe’s Wife (TV drama based on the 2008 autobiography by Nunoe Mura, the wife of manga artist Shigeru Mizuki (known for his manga character GeGeGe no Kitaro, a ghost boy who saves the world from evil spirit monsters)) (-)
15: 3D movies, TV, cameras and other 3D products (60)
16: Hybrid vehicles (1)
17: Imported fast fashion brands (64)
18: AKB48 (48-member all-girl theater/idol group with its own theater in Akihabara, Tokyo) (-)
19: Tablet information devices (-)
20: Yoichi Watanabe (war photographer and popular talk-show guest) (-)

For more information, and some predictions on next year's top 10, see the Dentsu press release.
26 November 2010, 17:15
2011 IPA Effectiveness Awards launched

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

Earlier this month, the ad world enjoyed one of its biggest nights of the year as the 2010 IPA Effectiveness Awards were announced in London.

But the build-up to the 2011 Awards has already begun, with the IPA officially announcing its call for entries this week. Warc subscribers looking to get a head start on building a winning case study can browse all of 2010's winning and non-winning papers here, or jump straight to the grand prix case study, from MCBD and Hovis, here.

26 November 2010, 10:31
Why don't girls blog?

Posted by: Judie Lannon, Editor, Market Leader

Blog author

Technorati tells us that the female blogging population in Europe is about half the size of the male blogging population. Why? They don't give specific breakdowns by country or indeed subject matter, but my observations in the UK - particularly in the marketing communications world - is that women aren't much in evidence (Mumsnet and all the personal/makeup/sex/relationship blogs don't count).

What are the obvious reasons? Women don't talk as much as men? Women don't write as much as men? Women don't think as much as men? Women aren't employed in the 'thinking' jobs as much as men? None of these work.

23 November 2010, 13:03
A slow start for iAds

Posted by: Dan Calladine, Head of Media Features, Carat Global

Blog author

Last week it was announced that iAds - ads within iPhone and iPad apps - were finally coming to Europe, over 6 months after the initial announcement of iAds in the US.

iAds were initially announced in a blaze of publicity by Steve Jobs in April, and were immediately predicted by many to be likely to revolutionise mobile advertising by offering previously unseen engagement and creativity.

However, 6 months on, only about 15 iAds have been run, as far as I can tell, for companies including the Nissan Leaf, Libery Mutual, Sonos, Dove, McDonalds, BMW & Geiko. (You can see links to many of these on my blog). This is fewer than was expected, and it also points to the potential and perceived problems with the format.

First, the ads can only run on apps within Apple's operating system. Yes, the Apple OS also caters for iPod Touches and iPads, but Apple still only had a 17% share of the mobile operating system market in the third quarter of 2010, according to Gartner. While Apple users are attractive to advertisers, it's restrictive to use a format that can be seen by fewer than one in five.

The second factor is the cost. Apple has reportedly set very high entry costs for advertisers - some reports say seven figures - and payment based on exposure rather than results. This would be a huge amount in most media, let alone a comparatively untried one.

Third, Apple has been very protective of the format in terms of creative. It's understandable for them to be very careful to ensure high-quality creatives for such a new format, but agencies don't have as many restrictions from a single supplier in other media.

Finally, there is currently no showcase to show off the ads. It's currently really hard to see how iAds look, apart from the few that have been put onto YouTube or covered in marketing blogs. It would be really useful for agencies to have an 'iAd' app that we could download to see real examples of live ads, or even an official YouTube channel.

It's also important to consider that there are lots of other ways to put ads onto iPhones and other mobile devices. AdMob (owned by Google) has some very engaging formats, and other companies have other offerings, like ads as interstitials within mobile games.

The iAd announcement generated a huge amount of buzz for Apple and mobile advertising, but as the Wall Street Journal has reported other providers are saying that Apple has given them a boost.

22 November 2010, 17:21
Riding on the wrong side?

Posted by: Anupama Wagh-Koppar, Head - Customer Segmentation, TataTele Services

Blog author

My first reaction to the Stallio Mahindra bike commercial was 'Wow' a brand is being really courageous, on a one way street riding on the wrong side? Very bold indeed!

Then as I saw the commercial the second time, some questions popped up in my mind. The first one being – who is this communication for? Is it talking to the usual bike TG? Because if it is, then does a biker to be look for safe driving as a motivation? No, I think. I have never worked on the two wheeler category so don't know the documented motivations, but as a young girl a 'boy' with a bike meant adventure, freedom and a style statement. And nothing was cooler than the Bullet, even an Average Joe riding a bullet was cool.

16 November 2010, 10:01
Wireless wonderland

Posted by: Anupama Wagh-Koppar, Head - Customer Segmentation, TataTele Services

Blog author

One Sunday afternoon when I was telling my daughter, "no more television", she shot back, but tell him first (him being my son, who was playing a game on my husband's mobile) to stop "screening". I was a bit confused before it suddenly struck me that she was talking about the experience and not the format. It dawned on me that they now looked at it as 'screen time' and not just TV time and in this context the possibilities of what all mobility could mean to this generation. Having now spent a little over 3 months in the telecom sector, I am struck with awe, the scale, the workings and the dynamism of this 'in transition' industry feels surreal.

Of course, let me clearly state that what you read ahead is from an industry novice and a ring side view of the happenings. Needless to say it could have a heavy dose of idealism. But I couldn't stop myself from penning this down. Telecom in India is an industry whose pace of growth is frightening, where 'because of' and 'in spite of' heavy regulatory pressure the action continues. I have observed consumers across FMCG, Healthcare, Home products and durables but am yet to see such dynamism and complexity in behavior, easily the most challenging consumer behavior ever in my opinion.

16 November 2010, 09:56
Lady Gaga to save advertising?

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

Well, not quite. But the appointment by Polaroid of the US pop star as its "creative director" could point the way to how advertising works in the future.

At least, that's the view of Michael Birkin, a former vice-chairman of Omnicom who now heads the Red Peak Group, an experiential and sponsorship marketing agency. In a video keynote played at Time to Reboot, a Results International global seminar held in London last night, he explained why he believes the traditional ad agency is finished.

12 November 2010, 13:30
The brand and the digital conversation

Posted by: Andrew Curry, Director, The Futures Company

Blog author I was invited to Munich earlier this week by the insurance group Allianz to talk to its Brand Council about the brand in the age of the digital conversation. The company's just launched its 'One' campaign, which promotes engagement with consumers through sharing. The emphasis is on real people in authentic situations giving or sharing useful advice or a valuable experience. Digital and social media are a central part of the process.

There are two things that companies seem most concerned about when they jump into social media. The first is that they are merely opening up a new channel for criticism and complaint, and they will be overwhelmed by this. But these conversations happen online whether or not the company decided to be involved, as BP discovered, spectacularly, with the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The second is that consumers are interested only in price when they engage with companies online. It's certainly true that the internet has created a whole new category of intermediaries whose only story is about discounting, and that the insurance industry (selling low involvement, abstract, commoditisable products) is particularly vulnerable to them.

But despite the recession, our Global MONITOR research shows that people are more willing to buy branded goods provided they are persuaded that they are getting value from them. And they need to be convinced of those benefits, in authentic everyday language, without being confronted by corporate-speak. Get it right, and you create a virtuous circle. Get it wrong, and you get punished for it.

Elsewhere in the financial sector, Nat West has attempted to regain trust with its 'Customer Charter', which has probably provoked as much scepticism as admiration. But in the digital age, markets and brands are conversations, and conversation is missing from the Nat West model. Their campaign could have run any time in the last 30 years.

In contrast, some of the early Allianz campaign executions involve their customers talking, in branch, unscripted, about what's important to them. There are risks here, but at least it feels like a company stepping into the 21st century.

11 November 2010, 21:41
Recession, responsibility and generational divides

Posted by: Joseph Clift, Product Manager, Warc

Blog author

Britain's consumers are still suffering from the recession, despite the economy's return to growth in late 2009. And new data from The Futures Company, presented at a briefing in London this morning, shows that people are being smart about adapting to this New Normal.

Savings rates have risen, debts are being paid down and the typical shopper is now more willing to compare prices to get the best deal and use discount vouchers. But the data also imply that a brutal generational wealth divide might force many Britons to lower their financial expectations permanently.

09 November 2010, 14:38

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