Monthly Archives: June 2009

Media can be creative. Creative can be media.

(This post was written by Escape Pod media guru Matt Johnson)

We at The Escape Pod recently attended the Chicago CMO Summit. The idea behind the event was to gather CMOs and other marketing executives from leading companies across the Midwest, and allow them to share best practices and discuss the pertinent issues they face. The day featured a smattering of keynote speakers and panel discussions all centered on what we all can be doing betters as marketers.
As is always the case with this type of event, some topics were more interesting than others, broad swipes at safe topics. In other words, nothing particularly earth shattering or cringe worthy….that is until the day’s final keynote address.
The final presentation was entitled “How and Where to Spend Your Marketing Dollars”, by Don Schultz – Professor Emeritus-in-Service of Integrated Marketing Communications, Medill School of Journalism Northwestern University.
Professor Schultz made some very good points about how many of the models/tools we use when developing media plans are antiquated and were developed in a time when the media market place was much less cluttered/complicated, and not based in the modern world where multiple media platforms are often consumed simultaneously. This is all very spot on – times have changed and, obviously, our approach needs to account for this.
The Professor then unveiled new research he had helped develop, that addresses this brave new world of media consumption, and when applied should lead us all to smarter, more effective communications plans. Using the Auto Industry as an example, he then showed us that his model would drastically change the media mix used by automakers – way less television and way more internet – leading to greater influence and (implied) sales.
Now I am a media guy, so I find this quest to build the ultimate planning tool fascinating. And in 17+ years in the business, I have seen a lot of them – from basic reach/frequency ROI models to consumers placed in MRI machines to see how their brain reacts to various media platforms. But what bothers me about all of this testing is that the most important factor is always missing – THE CREATIVE.
As Professor Shultz when on about how more banner impression and fewer television impressions would generate more car sales, I found myself asking “but what if the idea doesn’t lend itself to banner ads, or what if the agency has an amazing outdoor concept?”. So at during the Q&A portion, I raised my hand and asked the Professor “where does the creative factor in when determining the mix”. His response? “Let me guess, you’re from a creative agency? It doesn’t factor in, this is about media.”
As I said, I am a media guy. So I get the importance of understanding the target and making sure we place our messaging in relevant places at an efficient price. But to pretend that the creative plays no role in determining how we approach the consumer is just plain naïve.
The worst thing to happen to our industry was the decision to split media off from the creative agency in the name of profit but under the guise of gaining clout in the market place (a myth I will address another day), because this is the result: Media teams that are developing communications plans in a vacuum, and Creative teams that are either forced to abandon what might be fertile creative ground, or working on ideas that won’t see the light of day, regardless of how break-through it might be, because it’s “not in the plan”. Our tools and research should be directional, not absolute. And as long as holding companies continue to tell clients that media and creative are mutually exclusive, our industry will suffer.
One last thought on media mix, creative and the auto industry. Does anyone think that it was a media modeling tool that led Mini Cooper to launch their brand in the U.S. with outdoor?

Vinny – thanks for the use of your soapbox. I hope I have done it justice.


On the somewhat circuitous career route that led me to advertising i had some very strange jobs indeed. one very weird one was working in a bar in an extremely Asian part of London. I was new to London and needed a job fast and they needed a bartender fast. At the interview I noticed that this pub looked a lot newer than most london pubs. it was a lot newer.

it turned out that the pub — The Hambrough Tavern — had been the focal point for a race riot in 1981, just nine years earlier. And it had been burned to the ground. It was in Southall, an overwhelmingly Indian and Pakistani neighborhood in west london.

Yet the idiot guvnor of the pub somehow decided that bringing in neo-nazi skinhead bands to play in the pub was a good idea. It wasn’t a good idea. And the arriving skinhead fans soon clashed with the locals, who then set fire to the pub as the bands played.

I found out all this much later. I thought i had found myself a cushy number in a new-smelling pub. I was wrong.

After a while i noticed that the clientele of the pub was somewhat limited. It consisted solely of Punjabis (Sikhs, the guys with the turbans) who didn’t seem to have jobs yet had plenty of cash. This was their home pub. They were gangsters. The gang was called the Holy Smokes. Their rival gang was called something in Punjabi that sounded like TOOTENANS to my ears.

These boys could drink too. We got on well. They were good fun and hilarious to listen to.

Punjabis are the turban wearing dudes with the beards. They come from the Punjab province of india. They are NOT muslims as a lot of people assume. Sikhism is a separate religion. These guys didn’t wear the turbans or have beards. They were second-generation and all had thick london accents. They were fond of telling me that they were “Indo-Europeans”.

One gang associate was an ambulance driver who wore a ton of gold jewelry. He was a really good pool player and general jack the lad. His name was Afi.

There never was any violence in the pub. Mostly because all the locals were afraid of the Holy Smokes. So they had the pub to themselves. Although one night one of the gangsters, Ranjit, a very tall and well-built gangster unfortunately, was tripping on acid and started throwing pool balls at some imaginary monster. He did a lot of damage that night.

Another night, a very drunk member of the rival gang walked into the pub and started disrespecting the patrons. One of whom pulled out an alarmingly long knife and stabbed him in arse. Stabbing someone in the bum was a sign of additional disrespect apparently.

Now if you’ve never seen someone get stabbed in the arse let me describe it to you: a fountain of blood squirting out of your bottom.

The Holy Smokes gang leader gestured to me not to call the cops or ambulance until the stabber made a getaway. So i didn’t. The rival gang member staggered out the door of the pub, squirting blood out of his bottom as he went.

But here was the funny part. When the ambulance arrived, and it took a while, guess who was driving it? That’s right – Afi! And Afi was in no hurry to get the emergency room either. He smoked a leisurely fag with me and had a drink as they loaded the wounded hero onto the ambulance. Afi joked about how slow the ride to the hospital would be. I laughed. The whole thing was crazy.

this youtube video Gives you some idea of what i was dealing with. Hilarious.

With apologies to and Dave Trott

(i am “re-blogging”Dave Trott’s excellent new post over at the CAMPAIGN site. it’s great. but members only i think. Subscribe to CAMPAIGN, it’s great! that should keep their lawyers off my back)

Upstream media thinking
by Dave Trott, Jun 29 2009, 12:36 PM

A few years back there was a train crash at Paddington. This meant all the trains had to terminate a few stops before Paddington, at Ealing.

The trouble was Ealing is only a little station, and they couldn’t handle all the extra traffic.

One day we were down there waiting for a train to a client. The little station was absolutely packed. Like everyone else we were watching the information on the huge TV screens on the platform.

The passengers were giving the staff a hard time because all the TV screens were showing inaccurate information. I overheard one of the staff walk over to the station manager and say, “Everyone’s getting really upset because the trains aren’t coming in or departing at the time shown on the screens. What’ll we do?”

The station manager said, “I’ll fix it.” He got a broom and, using the handle, reached up and turned all the screens off one-by-one. Then he said, “There, problem gone.”

I thought, what an interesting approach. Don’t spend ages trying to get the screens to show the correct times. Just turn ‘em off. A great example of upstream media thinking.

Another example was BBH’s work for Boddingtons beer. Boddingtons is a Manchester beer and they wanted to make it fashionable in London. So the obvious media was Time Out, the London listings mag.

But the really clever thinking was they didn’t place the ads inside Time Out. They placed them on the outside of the back cover. Just the place no one else wanted. Because no one reading a magazine reads the back cover.

But BBH reasoned that most people read Time Out on the tube. And if you put the ad inside you only got one person. But if you put the ad outside you got everyone else in the carriage. Like a little poster.

This thinking then dictated the creative. Being little posters the ads couldn’t be fussy with lots of copy. They had to be simple, powerful graphic executions. Another great campaign that started in the media department.

I always found that’s where a lot of the real creativity came from. When the SDP was first formed, GGT had them as a client. But the real star of our campaign wasn’t the creative work, it was the media department.

Obviously you want opinion formers to see political advertising. And in an election most of those opinion formers are either in Parliament or in the news media. So how do you get to them?

You couldn’t buy poster sites anywhere near the Houses of Parliament, or Fleet Street, where the newspapers were. So Mike Gold thought, if Mohammed won’t come to the mountain bring the mountain to Mohammed.

He hired a lorry and pasted our posters on the side. Then he had the lorry drive between Parliament Square and Fleet Street. Coincidentally the lorry would get a ‘puncture’ in both places, and have to change the wheel. This meant it would be jacked-up and stationary for about thirty minutes at each end of its trip.

Which meant we had poster sites in Parliament Square and Fleet Street, for half an hour, several times a day. Great idea.

It wasn’t me that said it, but it’s true. If you’ve got a creative media department, the medium is the message.

anybody got any idea what’s going on in this hammock?

a coke ad i saw at the train station. i immediately thought “two double amputees sharing a nice Coke moment in a hammock”. i am not kidding. how could that be comfortable?


We quite like this

a brilliant banner ad for Pringles potato slivers. You can see it here.

[UPDATE: via @kentcarmicheal. this was created by BRIDGE WORLDWIDE from Cincinnati (home of @cheronis and a great city). well done guys. you are now eligible for an Escape Pod Bottleofscotchy award!]

The Escape Pod shortlisted at Cannes

Just found out that the two “internet films” below have been shortlisted at the Cannes Lions ad festival in the Internet film category (scroll down to section B01). Not too shabby. Better than a poke in the eye etc. Kudos to fearless client OfficeMax.

[UPDATE: while The Escape Pod did not score any metal this year we were honestly pleased to be on the shortlist. And, perhaps frighteningly, tied Leo Burnett Chicago for the most entries of any Chicago agency on the shortlist with two each.]

The power of celebrity

The deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, both white hot celebrities in this culture in their day, serve as a POIGNANT reminder of the insanity that is celebrity. Being famous is clearly a lot harder than it looks.

RIP Michael
RIP Farrah.