AdVenture Student Competition

•January 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have been fortunate enough to be entered into the AdVenture competition this year with a team of 3 others from my University. The top 16 students on our course, based on achieved grades were put forward for the competition and the brief we have been given is to advertise the city our University is in. Bournemouth.

We are able to choose our target audience and focus, and I believe we will either be looking to attract business to the city or improve locals opinions, attitudes and behaviour within the area. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity as we are competing against unversities from all over the world. 80 have so far been entered. The 3 finalists are invited to Berlin this May to pitch their ideas to some of the biggest names in the industry, and the winner will present at the Cannes Lions. This would be any potential advertisers dream come true and my team and I are determined to reach the end!

For more information about the competition, check out the EACA website and follow our agency at Bubblewrap-London.com

End of an Era

•December 31, 2009 • 5 Comments

So it’s the last day of 2009, and the start of a new phase in my life.

The Naughties have been fantastic, by far my favourite decade! Leaving school and starting college, easily the best 2 years of my life. I made the best friends I could ever ask for and have so many great memories

I’ve travelled through Australia, Thailand and South Africa – learnt so much about myself and visited some stunning places: Top 8?

1- The Red Centre, specifically Devil’s Marbles – unbelievably beautiful. I enjoy visiting places off the beaten track, I’m an explorer by nature and like to experience new things. I particularly enjoyed learning about the aboriginal culture.

2- Sydney – This is the first and possibly the only time in my life I have visited a place and felt like I belonged there. Somehow the city just suited me and I contemplated never leaving! Hopefully the next decade will see me get a job out there…

3- Byron Bay – Such a chilled out and friendly place. Very social. Learnt some of my best drinking games in that place 🙂

Fraser Island – This place was beautiful. It was such a thrill drive along a deserted beach in a 4×4! reconvening with all the other travellers at night was great too, have some very funny memories from that trip.

5 – Ko Phi Phi – Without doubt my favourite place in Thailand. I could have happily spent a month here, but we only ended up staying two weeks. Lauren and I  spoilt ourselves with massages and spa treatments here, and the best bar of the trip was on the beach at the far side of the island, there were nightly fire shows and live music and it spilled out onto the beach. Again met some great friends on this island, and we spent a lot of time sitting singing around a guitar together 🙂

6 – Kruger Park – We actually saw the big 5! In one day!! You can’t get more lucky than that. We saw our leapord as we were pulling into the park, it was stretched out on the road, our tour leaders were shocked!

7 – Swaziland – This place was very traditional and there was so much culture to experience here. We stayed in beehive huts and took walks around the countryside, which was bursting with wildlife – deer, and warthog, and ostrich! Not your everyday walk in the park! We also had the chance to visit a swazi village and watch a swazi show, it was fab.

8 – Cape Town – I loved Cape Town, could maybe have something to do with the incredible 5* hotel we stayed in to recover from the weeks of camping and cold showers Ellie and I had to endure! The food was incredible, the beds were very much appreciated and the beach at the door was gorgeous. We were staying on Millionaires mile! We visited Table mountain and did lots of shopping, can you blame us!

I overcame my fear of falling in Cairns when I jumped out of a plane at 14,000 ft – One of the scariest but most exhilarating experiences of my life! I faced (but didn’t quite overcome!) my fear of water in Noosa when I learnt to surf, and again in Cairns when I went scuba diving. That certainly built my character and made me a stronger person. I explored caves, climbed mountains, sat underneath waterfalls – and abseiled down them! Camped under the clearest night sky I have ever seen, partied with people from all over the world… and the list goes on, wow, this reminiscence is giving me itchy feet!

Coming back down to earth, I moved out of home and started Uni. First year held it’s ups and downs, but I had a great time. I was in the musical and learnt to snowboard on the Uni Ski trip (messiest and most insanely funny holiday of my life) and met some of my best uni friends through that. I didn’t fully appreciate the lack of work I had to do and the amount of fun you have as a fresher! Second year was incredible, lived with some amazing girls and loved almost every second of it, started doing open mic nights with Samuel 🙂 and went on the ski-trip again just for shits and giggles. Did summer work placements at TBWA\London and Designate and now third year sees me swamped underneath my dissertation – I have to admit this academic year isn’t so fun!!

So now it’s coming to an end. I feel so lucky to have such a rich array of memories to take forward with me into the next years of my life, but equally excited about what the next decade will bring! I have aptly reached the end of in era, in 6 months  I graduate and I have the world at my feet!! I have no idea where life will take me, but I know I don’t want to lead a normal life. There is so much more to learn, so much to experience, so much more of the world to see, a career I want to build, people to to meet…. In a way it feels like life is just beginning because now is when I get to make those life changing decisions for me and I can escape the institutions that have kept me in one place for so long!! I am so excited!

Bring on 2010!

Social Influence Marketing

•December 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

With the online world becoming a primary destination for entertainment, information and communication, it is no wonder brands want to be involved. Social influence marketing is the way I believe marketers should evolve their communication to this arena.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, consumers trust other consumers and appreciate the honest and open opinions they can receive online. Attracting the attention of those opinion formers at the forefront of conversation and creating a buzz that can carry through their network is, I believe, one of the best ways to reach people in todays market – so long as it is done ethically of course.

As opposed to traditional media, who favoured the blanket approach of reaching as many members of their target population as possible, I believe it is now much more important to communicate directly with opinion leaders and social influencers, introduce them to the benefits of your product or service and it’s online presence, and let them spread the word. Consider it the “Science of the network” It is better to reach the right 10,000 people than the wrong 1,000,000 people as people are becoming increasingly sceptical of corporate communication as human interaction becomes more widely available.

why not grant unique access to new branded platforms or disseminate little known information to those with heavy influence and let them generate excitement for it’s full release. Films could show early bird previews of trailers or fashion designers could announce auctions or sales on items. Hearing information through the grapevine sparks interest, encourages people to find out more and fires desire. Capturing people online means they have a mass information source at their finger tips and brands should make use of that.

I think the google wave launch was a brilliant example of creating effective buzz. Giving out invitations to a select few had the whole blogosphere and twitterverse talking. Everyone wanted to be involved and try the technology out for themselves but they had to wait… And so they solicited opinion formers and those in the know in the hope of receiving an invitation from them or someone else who might recognise their interest and deem them worthy. Great for Google, through all these conversations and searches they were learning more and more about wave, and at a small cost to the brand. Even those who weren’t chasing an invite were aware of their presence. The quest became a game, and in the digital world people like to play. Good job Google, what better way to reach your target audience. I can’t think of another medium that would have created the same effect.

Disclosure in Online Forums

•December 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I remember a conversation with my tutor and one of my fellow students early last term, and the issue under discussion was whether or not it was ethically correct for brands to covertly post product reviews on Internet forums, or join in peer to peer conversation under the alias of a normal person. One took the ethical standpoint, whilst the other was of the firm and unmoving belief that brands were fully justified in the covert approach, much to my surprise. He believed that people were aware of marketer infiltration and were careful to bear this in mind when reading reviews, evaluating it against learned criteria that comes from experience with the medium. Is the review a glowing account of the product – alarm bells should probably ring if it is! – but should they?.. do others share the view, does this sentiment echo across other forums? Even if someone would read a review and feel it is trustworthy as a result of applied learning and common sense, is it? The fact is we can never know if the messages we are being fed online are legitimate or not. Around 90% of forum visitors are lurkers and only 1% are heavy contributers, so  how do we know that those vocal few are trustworthy sources? If we are entering forums to gain the opinion of real people who can relay real life experiences with a product, we should know when we are getting this and when we are being fed a marketing message. It may even be the case that the marketer review is a true account of the product performance, in which case why not be upfront and disclose who you are, your consumers may be impressed that a brand is taking the time to be involved in the conversation and provide further information where it is needed? You may even receive feedback as to where you can improve your offering if people know you are listening? And if you have inserted a sugarcoated review that the product fails to live up to, consumers will be dis-satisfied with you as a brand and you will still have lost out in the long run, especially if that customer returns to post a negative review in response. Therefore i see little benefit in being deceptive in communication.

In addition, the older generation who are perhaps not as computer literate, or are less aware of marketer involvement in forums ,would appear to be at risk from marketer manipulation, and this to me is worrying. When looking for Christmas presents I remember advising my mum not to take consumer reviews posted on online stores too literally as they may in fact be subliminal persuasion from a brand source, and it may not reflect the true performance of the product she was considering. She was shocked at the thought that the review may come from a commercial source, and honestly was not aware that it was common practice. Is this ethical or appropriate? I think not. Further to this my dad asked me for the film Drag me to Hell (unashamedly appropriate title) for Christmas based on the “glowing reviews” he had read about it online – now anyone who has seen that film will know glowing reviews couldn’t be further from what it deserved, but still he was insistent that it was what he wanted. Unsurprisingly, he was disappointed. Surely it is not fair to manipulate people into spending money on things that are not what they seem, and it angers me to think that it goes on, and that people are vulnerable to its effects.

There has been a lot of debate recently surrounding this issue, and as of the 1st of December, any product reviews or brand promotion that is the result of some vested interest, be it material connections or emplyment, must be disclosed under new FTC guidelines. I don’t believe brands should be absent from consumer forums, quite the opposite, but I do believe that they should have respect enough for their customers to disclose their presence. I believe it is possible for brands or their advocates to gain the trust of people in these spaces if they are overt, and in doing this they will not only be improving their image and building a relationship with their target audience, but they will also be laying the foundations for brand loyalty as consumers come to appreciate their information, advice and accessibility.

There is a right way and a wrong way for brands to enter into web 2.0, the right way is slower and more challenging, but it is definitely more advantageous in the long run.

Conversational Marketing

•December 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I am at that point in my uni career that every undergrad dreads… the dissertation. So far it has lived up to it’s hype, and I admit to have found it a struggle to find an appropriate direction and feel comfortable with the sheer size of the project. Now I have finally defined my area however, the work is actually starting to really interest me and I find myself relatively enjoying learning about my chosen subject -conversational marketing! Since beginning my course (Advertising and Marketing Communications at Bournemouth University) I have been very interested in digital and the future of the industry. I feel very lucky to be entering at what I perceive as a revolutionary time, where control is shifting from the brand, back to it’s rightful place with the consumer. Engaging consumers is now so much more exciting, with a need to create meaningful and honest content that has the power to spark the imagination and pull people toward it. I wanted to study a new area of engagement for my dissertation and felt sponsored / incentivized conversation would prove to be incredibly interesting and insightful – and it hasn’t disappointed me so far. To try and harness the exhaustive power of WOM is difficult but necessary for brands today and I am definitely of the belief they should be involved in the conversations happening online concerning them and their industries. It is a daunting endeavor for brands but the levels of uncertainty, risk and freedom is exciting to me and something I would love to be involved in developing in the early part of my career. There is a great deal of online debate surrounding this area, focusing largely on ethical implications and consumer protection, and the blogosphere is rife with polarised and passionate declarations of a set positions to which there seems to be little in between. This is fantastic for me as I am learning all the time and my views are constantly challenged, allowing me to keep an objective view of the phenomena. I am uncertain which direction my research will take and what outcome I will arrive at, and this draws me deeper into the subject everyday. I do have to make sure I stop somewhere and start writing though, my reading at this rate could go on forever!

MTV EXIT / UNICEF Campaign. Ad-Review.

•October 20, 2009 • 1 Comment

The extent to which human exploitation and trafficking takes place is beyond conceivable thought. Most people are not aware of just how big the trade has grown or exactly how it is funded. The sad truth is that it is partly supported through the sales of counterfeit or pirate items, something many of us have indulged in in the past. MTV EXIT and UNICEF have teamed up with the killers to help raise awareness of this growing problem and have used the medium of music videos to reach a wider target audience and cut through the clutter. Young people are becoming increasingly elusive and ad-savvy, but are an important target audience for this campaign to reach. They are much more likely to come into contact with, and appraise the message in this format as opposed to other more established forms of advertising. This is, in isolation of the message it is communicating, a particularly interesting concept to consider as finding more appropriate means of advertising is a subject under considerably wide debate today.

With regard to the campaign however, I am very impressed by how hard-hitting, thought provoking and emotionally engaging this ‘ad’ is. The viewer is voyeuristically exposed to the life of a young girl forced into prostitution however you are not aware of what you are witnessing at first, that understanding is built as the film plays out. You are initially shown the girl meeting a man in a hotel. They embrace in a seemingly uncomfortable way, but the nature of this discomfort is not clear. As the video plays out the viewer is repeatedly taken further and further back in time, being introduced to the context behind the meeting and this slowly causes the true horror of the situation to become clear. By repeating the initial scene with every new addition, the viewer is taken on a journey or discovery, and as you begin to slowly piece together the fragments and understand the true nature of the message, you find yourself pre-empting and resisting what will come next. It feels like you are active in the learning process, and this causes the message to resonate more deeply and shock to a greater degree. The repetitive element also alludes to the commonality of the crime and the way the girls are trapped and forced to relive the horror over and over again with no escape.

As if the imagery was not rousing enough the music adds an even greater level of emotion to the video. The tone of the song is relevant to the message and reinforces it well. The end line comes together backwards, a word at a time, to read ‘some things cost more than you realise’. This is another powerful technique as the same slow realisation the viewer came to when piecing together the content of the film, is felt again when they piece together the line. It makes you think. It makes you question that which you maybe hadn’t even considered before as the real consequences of your actions are bought to your attention. Everything about the execution stays with you after the video is over, the emotional pull of the message is strong, even stronger due to the unexpected nature of the medium. I believe this is a fantastic way of communicating such an important message to those who need to hear it.

Initiation

•October 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So, after much procrastination I have finally entered the blogging world. Without doubt this will largely be made up of incoherent ramblings on a variety of unrelated topics. In my opinion, a blog is best seen as a diary, so that is what this will be. I will use it to record my passions, ideas and experiences so I can look back in years to come and remember and appreciate the view of the world I hold today. Many posts will take an abstract form, a space as public as this does not deserve much intimacy, but I am looking forward to gaining a new release for my thoughts and the opportunity to ground develop and further understand myself and my own opinions.

Where I am interested to extend my knowledge of web 2.0 through direct experience, I am still not sure if I am happy to be giving any more of my time to a computer screen. I would much rather be using this time to engage in real life, but as my course dictates a need to understand this new and isolated digital world, i suppose I should give it a go.