Pour Me a Guinness, Please

For the most part, beer commercials are very formulaic in nature. The recipe tends to be quite simple. Start with some very beautiful women, throw in a wild adventure, and let’s not forget a dramatic voice-over, and then add a product close-up with a tagline that is completely meaningless and unoriginal. And there you have it. Air the spot during a football game, hockey game, or another event that speaks to the young male demographic – and what has really been accomplished? Likely not much.

Then there’s Guinness.

Guinness has a track record of very creative, evocative campaign executions that truly stand out, and one of their latest ads is truly no different.

Hat tip to BBDO New York for this gem. So far the commercial has been viewed over two million times on YouTube since being posted five days ago. I’ve also seen it on my Facebook feed several times, shared by friends who don’t work in marketing or advertising and don’t typically share ads.

Why is this the case? Why has this particular ad drawn so much attention?

There are a few reasons, and lessons for marketers.

It Evokes Emotion

The ad itself is very inspirational in nature. It speaks to wanting to help others, in a manner that brings fun and joy into their lives. It also speaks to everyday people – the ad, in many ways, is grounded in a sense of reality that most beer commercials do not contain.

The Narrative is Simple and Relevant to the Brand

There wasn’t much dialogue needed for this commercial. “The Choices We Make Reveal the True Nature of Our Character”.  Making the choice to drink Guinness truly says something about you and what you stand for. It’s a simple as that.

Production Quality

The commercial itself truly is a work of art. It’s visually appealing. It’s like watching a dramatic, one-minute short story. It provides entertainment value.

Really, it’s another form of Brandtainment. Wouldn’t it be great if more brands took a similar approach to advertising? Imagine people wanting to watch commercials. What a concept.

Innovation in Advertising: Ignacio Oreamuno and Giant Hydra

I am excited to introduce a new feature on my blog. Every few weeks, I will be posting short interviews with interesting people who are truly making an impact in the business world – through their thoughts, their ideologies and their actions, paving the path for new and innovative ways of doing things.

This week’s interview is with Ignacio Oreamuno, a true innovator in the advertising industry. Ignacio is President of IHAVEANIDEA, one of the world’s largest online advertising communities, and he is CEO of the Tomorrow Awards, an international advertising awards show with a focus specifically on the future of advertising.

More recently, Ignacio developed and launched Giant Hydra. Giant Hydra is a unique technology that enables ad agencies and clients to access a global pool of creative professionals for work on a particular project. Qualified professionals, selected by the ad agencies and clients, participate in mass collaboration – working virtually and as a team through Giant Hydra, leveraging their collective ingenuity to create ideas for the project at hand.

Thank you, Ignacio, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your insights.

1. How do you envision the creative development process at agencies evolving over the next five to ten years? With respect to a movement towards mass collaboration, at what stage are we at?

The advertising has not changed in over 150 years. It is pretty much the same structure and method of work.

Take a look at all other industries and you can see that they all have changed dramatically over the last 50, 20, 10 and even last two years. Remember when Kodak claimed that digital photography would never have the quality of film? When music companies said digital music wouldn’t work, that the quality of CD’s was better?

The creative process between a copywriter and an art director that Burnbach famously pioneered is no longer apt for the campaigns of today.

As the recession proved, money talks. If an industry can produce a product (in this case creative ideas) in a lot less time, of better or equal quality and for less money, there is nothing that will stop change from destroying the old way of things. All it takes is a handful of agencies to start doing it and boom, it will change things forever.

Look at other industries, like digital film, online music etc. Once technology makes things better, it’s impossible to turn back the page.

Right now agencies are skeptical. They are all waiting for the other one to try mass collaboration and see if it works. Again, instead of seeing the opportunity and jumping on it, a lot of them are so scared of change that they would rather wait. I know a few people who say this model won’t work. They are the same people that have never used it. Ironic.

2. What do you believe is the biggest barrier with regards to improving collaboration and innovation?

The biggest barrier is going to be in getting proof that mass collaboration produces quality. Agencies want to know one thing and one thing only. That you can produce award winning work out of mass collaboration. Giant Hydra is so new that it is hard to show case studies since all of the work is confidential. It will take some time for the work to come out and for the evidence to be ready. I am not worried about that, I’m just focused now on showing the system on a case by case basis to each agency. Everybody always gets blown away by the quality of the people working in the system and the quality of the ideas.

I don’t think there are any more barriers apart from that. Giant Hydra works. Period. Mass collaboration works. Period. I’ve seen it, I’m seeing it right now.

3. A number of creative professionals and associations have expressed reservations about crowdsourcing, essentially claiming that crowdsourced creative undervalues their skills and expertise. What are your thoughts on this?

The HydraHeads in Giant Hydra are all paid. Some of them work on multiple projects at the same time earning multiple fees. And they work from wherever they are in the world, whether that is NY or Japan or a beach. They are all award winning creatives, strategists, planners, and social media mavericks. I would challenge anyone to have a beer with one of the HydraHeads and ask them how they feel about it. In all honesty, they seem pretty excited and happy, and these are 10+ years experience people.

Most people understand crowdsourcing as a contest where the best idea wins. This is not the case with mass collaboration crowdsourcing where it’s essentially a group of people (more than 2 working together online for a fixed salary). The word “crowdsourcing” is now tainted I think, and there’s not much anyone can do about that.

Follow Ignacio Oreamu on Twitter at @ihaveanidea.

Follow Giant Hydra on Twitter at @GiantHydra.

Advertising and Perceived Value

This TED Talk is a must-watch for anyone in marketing and advertising. Rory Sutherland presents a very insightful, and somewhat humorous, take on advertising and the perceived value we associate with brands. Sixteen minutes well spent.

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A Golden Idea!

Kudos to Rethink Communications and Science World for a refreshingly creative and innovative outdoor execution.

Today, they unveiled a gold-covered billboard by the entrance to Granville Island on West 4th Avenue. The billboard uses two ounces of gold, pounded to cover 200 square feet, and is part of the advertising strategy for Science World’s summer exhibit, Treasure!

The billboard, which cost about $11,000 to build, is being watched by a security guard and will only be up for a couple of days before being put on display at Science World. It has generated strong PR through media coverage and mentions on social media.

Imagine if …

Men were not portrayed as being naive in TV commercials, as they are in so many (sorry, Fountain Tire).

Cheap advertising gimmicks and jingles, and cheesy copy altogether, became relics of an advertising era gone by.

Volume was not raised for commercials, because they’re all compelling and relevant enough to gain our attention anyways.

People stopped fussing about “logo size” in print ads, realizing that logos don’t always need to be increased by 10%.

Celebrities were chosen to endorse brands on the basis of who they are and what they stand for, and not just their star power alone.

More companies introduced campaigns that, as part of driving business, also focussed on giving back to the greater good. Way to go, Pepsi Refresh Project.

Companies like Zappos, Starbucks and Lululemon, building brands and communities that engage, using methods once deemed “non-traditional”, were the norm rather than the exception.

Create Your Own TV Ad and Media Buy

This is très, très cool! Today, I found out about Google TV Ads, an online marketplace that enables anyone to buy and measure national cable advertising. For an overview of how the service works, have a look at the video below from Slate. It’s hard to believe that with a little ingenuity and creativity, one can now create and submit an ad, and develop a media buy right from the comfort of home.

Strategic Planning – Key Components

Early in my marketing career, I was fortunate to participate in corporate strategic planning sessions. From these sessions, I truly learned the value of creating a proper strategic marketing plan, outlining a company’s vision, mission and objectives, as well as strategies and tactics to achieve the objectives. This planning discipline has stuck with me throughout my career, I have employed it at every company I have worked at – achieving success in the process.

Here is an overview of the key components of a strategic plan.

Vision Statement

An overarching inspirational, and statement that outlines an organization’s desired state, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be.  It is a clear statement that is focused on the future.

Mission Statement

Often confused with a vision statement, a mission statement is more oriented towards the fundamental purpose of an organization. It provides direction with regards to process, and the desired level of performance.


Objectives outline the desired goals and outcomes to be achieved. Ideally, they should be clearly defined and measurable.


Strategies are the plans, or methods, that will be employed to achieve the objectives.

Tactics and Timing

The specific actions underlying a strategy, and the timeframe against which they should be executed.

Often, companies develop strategic plans on an annual basis.  However, given the increased velocity of change and innovation in today’s world, I recommend revisiting and revising strategic plans on a quarterly basis, if not more often than that. Doing so will enable companies to be quick and nimble with regards to competition, and enable them to more easily evaluate and pounce on opportunities as they arise.

Here is a strategic planning template, in PowerPoint format, that I really like.

Click here to download. (ppt, 184kb)

Happy planning!

Tips for a Successful Direct Mail Campaign

Direct mail is one of the oldest forms of advertising. It is also one of the most difficult to successfully execute, particularly given the changing landscape and the difficulty penetrating consumer radar. Recently, I was asked to provide an overview to management at my current company on key direct mail components that will enhance the probability of success and increase ROI. I thought I would share my thoughts here. Please keep in mind that these comments were written with a business to business campaign in mind, however they can be adapted for consumer campaigns as well.


Successful direct mail campaigns start with a targeted distribution list. Companies need to be sure that they are reaching the right people, the decision makers for customers  – otherwise they are just wasting their time and money. Further, different messaging should be crafted for current customers and potential customers. Potential customers will be less familiar with your company, and require an introduction to your business. They need to be informed about the benefits of doing business with you, before they consider buying your products or services.

Targeting can further be refined by having a closer look at customer buying habits and volume. How recently have they purchased from you? What is their current sales volume? Which customers have the greatest revenue potential? The better you can target high value and loyal customer, the greater your return on direct mail initiatives.

Incentives and a Call to Action

Incentives that provide value will significantly increase direct mail response rates. Direct mail campaigns that do not include an incentive, for the most part, simply do not work.  Perhaps you could consider offering a special price incentive to customers who receive your mailer?  If offered for a limited time only, ideally a short duration with an explicitly stated expiry date, customers will be more likely to act and place an order. A sense of urgency needs to be created.

Further, tied into the incentive, direct mail should have a strong call to action.  For example, “Act Now! To order, call your sales rep today at XXX.XXX.XXXX.”  A sense of excitement in the message tone and copy will also help.

Set Goals, Test, Track and Refine

Measure, measure, measure!

In order to determine the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns, and to make improvements, set goals and track your success in achieving them. A common goal for direct mail campaigns is the customer response rate. How many customers are taking action?  It would also be helpful to receive customer feedback, to learn more about their preferred methods of communication.  Based on this information, you could then refine your direct mail strategy.

Design and Personalization

Studies show that standalone direct mail pieces such as postcards, have a better response rate. You might also find that a unique shape or feature will help make the direct mail piece truly stand out.

Another factor that improves direct mail success rates is personalization. For some of your top customers, consider a handwritten note.  Personalization requires time and effort. That said, imagine the surprise customers will have when they receive a well thought-out handwritten message.

Direct mail copy should focus on customer benefits and product features. It should also be concise, using bullet points highlighting key words instead of paragraphs.


To truly take note of a marketing message, customers need to be hit multiple times.  Frequency is important, and there are  a couple things that can be done to increase it. For example, it would be a good idea to give a follow-up phone call to customers who receive a direct mail piece, ideally within a couple of weeks. Alternatively, you could consider sending out the same piece twice within a short time frame.

What are your thoughts on direct mail? If you are able to take the time to share your thoughts, I would love to read them.

(Edit: Oct 6, 2009)

I would like to thank Luann Collins, Owner/CEO of Jaguar Data Systems Inc. in Naples, Florida, for providing additional insight via Twitter. Luann mentioned that it’s also important to integrate direct mail campaigns with other marketing initiatives and channels. Very true! A direct mail campaign should fit within your overall marketing strategy, and there are ways to link campaigns to other platforms – particularly online.

Watch Your Step


While out for an evening walk last weekend, I came across an ad from Telus on the sidewalk. A good example of guerrilla marketing – the ad was unexpected and unconventional, it caught my attention. Intrigued, I checked out the Telus web page when I got home. The page  details several environmental actions that  Telus is taking across the country, through their phone recycling program.

A Bus Shelter Ad That Works

Bus Shelter Sign I was riding my bike in Coquitlam the other other week, when I came across this bus shelter advertisement. Completely baffled, I was really curious to check out the website mentioned at the bottom – D-9.com.

Of course, the ad was for the new move District 9, which is now in theatres.

From my perspective, the ad is brilliant, in part because it follows several important rules of communication.  First, it was completely unique and unexpected. Definitely not your typical bus shelter ad – I did not know what was being advertised,and I was drawn to find out more. My curiousity was perked.

Second, the ad was very concrete.  There really was not much opportunity for misinterpretation due to abstraction. D-9.com was going to have something to do with humans and aliens.

Finally, the ad was simple. The website address was very easy for me to memorize. I didn’t try the phone number, but I imagine that there was an interesting recording on the other end.