— THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE

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Two of my favourite brands, together at last. Alas the collaboration falls short of my lofty initial expectations, but those disappointments were quickly dispersed when I watched the ad/video. Another Skateboarding film, another excellent example of Nike’s craft at work. (On a sort of side note, it’s REALLY worth checking out the lastest Nike+ ad. Their take on real world 1980’s video games is highly imaginative, heightened only by the use of The Seed’s 1965 Garage Punk classic ‘Pushin’ Too Hard‘ as the soundtrack).

This film features skateboard pro Omar Salazar riding the streets of San Francisco (accompanied by music from Phillip Glass), wearing the Nike x Levi’s special edition 511’s. It’s beautifully done. Maybe not up to the WOW moment that was last weeks post, but nonetheless, the music choices are spot on, the shots are interested enough to keep you watching, and from a larger brand perspective, it’s great to see these two Amercian classics team up. What would be cool now? Levi’s and Nike+ geting together to integrate the tech and fashion elements, framed around the fuel/effort maxim. Exciting times at Nike.

(Via Stella Wongo & Adverblog)

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One my favourite ad agencies ever has to be Kessels Kramer. There approach to creativity has always been a bedrock for what I felt advertising agencies should aim for (but more often that not, fall short). Their books therefore, have become something of a touchstone for me and many others. (Recommended: 2Kilos and my the ‘DO’ series). So it’s always a pleasure to see them coming up with another tome to provoke and inspire in equal measure. The typically irreverent ‘Advertising For People Who Don’t Like Advertising’ (of which we know there are many). The book provides a platform for those who to them, advertising is much less than the sum of it’s parts. The quality of the interviewees (the inclusion of Alex Bogusky on this subject is a bit of coup) is excellent, and should provide the usual excellent level of brain fodder for those in and around Advertising, and no doubt embed some relevant questions about what it’s all about in 2012…

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We all know Nike for it’s punchy, full-bore advertising. From Write the Future to ‘No Excuses’ and the (literally) hundreds of others, everyone has a favourite, where it gets the hairs on the back of your neck up. So it was rather surprising to find this running ad buck the trend so completely. On the one hand, this is a very well executed ‘ad’ (at 2.30, it feels more than a little flabby), on the other this feels so unlike Nike. Sure it has great production values, but the song, the love story, it all feels very out of place in a Nike ad.

But you’ll keep watching. Some of the copy lines are great, and the Forrest Gump-ness of the whole ‘run across America’ thing is nicely captured, and overall, it just sort of makes you smile. Will it fit into the great pantheon on Nike ads? No. Does it fit with a brand that consistently delivers surprising ideas and takes chances? Yes. Judge for yourself.

(P.S – You can watch this IN 3D!)

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Having worked on a number of luxury projects a few years back, I can attest how much fun they are to work on, especially when the brand itself throws some dough at it.

Cartier’s new ‘ad’ (it feels much more like a film in truth), has certainly had money thrown at it as well as the kitchen sink, and all that cash on straight up on screen, it’s suitably bonkers as a result. Ostensibly an ad about Cartier’s history, and a celebration of the Brands 165th Birthday, it’s 3 minutes of Dodgy metaphors and strange leaps of narrative and some sublime, beautiful visuals. The spot is directed by Bruno Aveillan, who has previous with Louis Vuitton, Shangri La Hotels among others. (They are worth watching for their own lapses of sanity, trust me).

In an age where luxury brands are grasping the nettle of how to innovate in the digital arena, creating un parallelled access for their customers and fans, this feels like a massive throwback. But, conversely, it’s is so well put together, so ambitious, you can’t helped but be impressed. A real guilty pleasure. So, for once, let’s indulge ourselves.

(Via Brand Channel)

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A couple of videos here from the masters of their fields. Essential viewing and just goes to show that success is truly aligned to authenticity.

Dieter Rams.

John Hegarty.

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Well, Cannes Lions 2011 has passed. Another chapter in Advertising’s sordid history with booze and awards has been written. This is the first Cannes I’ve followed intensely, helped along my road to jealousy by Instagram especially among other usual suspects. However, the quality of work on show was excellent, and there were some really inspiring pieces that were awarded beyond the obvious ones that we all know and *love* (and therefore don’t have to mention here).

But the real interesting action seemed to be happening in the margins. Both in development of applications surrounding the festival, and also in critiques of the Lions relevancy. Friends, Creative Social put in a good effort with their work of Instacanneslions, as well as the ‘Gutter Barometer’, but also providing one of the most thoughtful posts on the whole Cannes scene and some great behind the scenes thoughts from the judging panels.

There was also a healthy round of talks, symposiums and what-nots to feed the hungry mind, (though not neccesarily the thirsty Rosé palette or fresh seafood deprived tastebuds). With that in mind, @jessedee has compiled the 100 most beautiful slides from Cannes. Not only are some of these well put together (which makes a change), they are also informative, and worth a perusal at your leisure.

Enjoy.

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Last Wednesday was bookended by two talks and events from a couple of my favourite creative disciplines; Advertising and Branding. Both face profound challenges in addressing the shifting marketing and business landscape they roam. There are many other places and posts that deal with those challenges in greater detail, so I’ll leave that for other more relevant voices to cover. But the happy coincidence of these two on the same day allowed me personally to assess where each discipline is at. The results where both inspiring and frustrating.

The morning saw Albion’s The Albion Society  run the ‘Hacking Advertising‘ event. One presentation stood out as the most timely and well considered presentations I have seen yet on the state of Advertising. Presented by Gustav Von Sydow, CEO of Burt (and former CPB Europe alum), his presentation, F**k The Future was a hugely compelling argument for Advertising to deal with the ‘now’, to reduce it’s obsession at predicting the future of advertising, but instead, create ‘agile advertising’ that is iterative, and adaptable, focussed on long term business problems, (KPI’s instead of ROI). It was packed full of challenging thinking, that reminded me very much of the things that I have read and seen coming out of Made By Many, and the guys at BDWCU, as well as an article that James Cooper wrote for AdWeek on the need to build, not just talk, and build ideas fast, small and iterative.

While a process of Agile Advertising has it’s problems, (and it still feels like a niche argument). It does illustrate a willingness, indeed, an excitable energy that pervades much of the leading thinkers of the Advertising industry to rethink, remake, and ‘hack’ their industry. Advertising as a discipline, has rethought itself time and again. It might take a while for those evolutions to bear fruit, as Von Sydow pointed out in the Q&A after, but once they do, the work reflects this shift, and becomes better than ever as a result. It strikes me now more than ever that that evolution is not only underway, but we are fast approaching a tipping point where this goal of an evolved Advertising discourse is fully underway, the uncertainty that the last half decade has wrought, is breeding excitement and innovation that makes me excited to work in whatever ‘Advertising is these days.

The provocative, but thoughtful (and exciting) tone of the morning presentation, focussed my thinking on what my other favourite discipline is up to these days. What Brand Consultancies were doing to respond to similar challenges to their industry model. As a veteran of one of a Brand Consultancy with considerable clout and experience, and now working away from one, I was interested to see if the big (and small) agencies were willing to show off new thinking and new approaches on building and ‘designing’ Brands, as well as embracing the possibilities and challenges that a digitally connected populace would demand of their brands and the work they create for clients. That they were ‘kicking the tyres’ (As Moderator Simon Manchipp noted) of the Brand Consultancy model.

Unlike Advertising, the discipline of ‘Branding’ is a relatively recent development. With a history of evolutions, not revolutions. Most of the venerable Brand Consultancies, evolved out of the world of Corporate Identity. Adopting the term ‘Branding’ allowed more diverse projects other than design and implementation to pass through the Consultancies. Strategic thinking, the ‘Big Idea’ distributed through a series of defined implementation channels, became the bread and butter of Consultancies. Branding, was not the most agile of disciplines. A brand could wait 18 months for it’s new brand strategy, and eventually new Identity system, rolled out in a methodical manner, with consistency, order, and discipline shot through it like a rod of iron.

With this discipline in it’s relative infancy, you would expect that the ability and energy to absorb changing models and relish innovation would be abundance. Alas, the Branding 2.0 event illustrated that while Design itself is in rude health, the relationships between what that Identity should do and how much it actually impacts on the Brand day to day was as far away as ever. Indeed, the revolution and impact of the web, on how Consultancies approach projects was reduced to seemingly a passing fad, a website, as opposed to a fundamental communication shift.

The discussion had me questioning what a Brand Consultancy is in 2011. What it’s principal focus should be, and how it delivers it. Identity design and delivery is one facet of what an Consultancy does. If an Identity is considered the natural conclusion of a Brand Consultancies work, then are they just not design agencies that happen to have a strategy department? With over 10,000 Consultancies/Agencies in the UK claiming that they do ‘Brand’ It seems clear that the role of  Branding 2.0 should be about defining and arguing for a wider role for Brand Consultancies, taking in UX, community management to name just two, and using Design thinking and making through every single platform, and touchpoint be they  internal or external tools and platforms.

Fundamentally, I was taught that a great Brand is every single touchpoint of a consumer’s experience, regardless of industry or sector, consumer facing or not. It is not, and never should be just an identity. That Identity should be a symbol of change, not the concluding output of a job. Great Brand Consultancies use Strategy and Design in harmony to solve large scale business issues. In an age where as Marina Willer rightly pointed out; ‘Your Brand Is Only As Good As Google Says It Is’, a Brand Consultancy has to be much more than just an Identity roll out.

If the outputs, or yardsticks we measure Brand Consultancies must change , then another thing that struck me was the of discussion on the models of business that underpin a Consultancy. Why for example, are not more Brand Consultancies investing in the Brands themselves? This has always puzzled me, if you are a Brand Consultancy, charged with creating new ones, or refreshing moribund ones, why would you not build compensation models that tie reward to that Brands’ success? Is that not an ultimate validation of your ability to build them in the first place? Anomaly, an ‘Ad Agency’, has been doing this for years, so where’s the Brand Consultancies innovation here? Marketing chaos is spawning other interesting models like Co:, which from here, looks very much like a model that Brand Consultancies should have embraced some time ago. Or maybe really got their hands dirty with product innovation, pursued by the likes of Red Scout or IDEO.

One of the reasons I have moved away from Branding as a discipline is this lack of innovation (and having mostly it’s digital head in the sand). Brand Consultancies should be at the cutting edge of Brand innovation conversations, and delivering on them. They should be places of experimentation and bravery, not conservatism and timidity.

To be fair, Brand Consultancies may well be doing much of this, and I would love for agencies to show more of this. But, to truly talk about Branding 2.0, then these innovations should be championed, less pushed to the side to repackage old thinking as brave new worlds. The morning’s event showed one creative industries response to change, to innovate and to tear up conventions and practices, to create better work. In contrast, Branding 2.0, looks alot like Branding 1.0, and that just won’t do anymore. I for one am glad that the debate has kicked off. I believe passionately in the work these agencies do. Because in doing so, it revealed far more fundmental issues that just sticking your head in the sand and shaping the conversation around the whether the logo moves or not. Lets hope the next talk is about looking forward, not just shaping the past to look like the future.

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