By Tim Ashton, Founder and Creative Partner, Antidote
The modern creative agency’s mantra.
A quick look at agency websites across adland, including my own, indicates we’re all in thrall to its importance.
Ideas that people want in the world. Ideas that engage with culture. Ideas that people choose to engage with.
David Golding argued last year that our industry was divided between Culture and Collateral. And he may well be right. But isn’t the point that we may need to help change culture, not just make it?
It is perhaps a great irony that if we’re doing our jobs properly, the building of strong brands is predicated on increased consumption – yet if we as an industry are to strive for good, we equally need to be wary of adding more and more stuff to a world straining under the weight of over-consumption. One such cultural scourge on our nation is plastic.
Islands of plastic in the Pacific – what we going to do about it?
With islands of plastic in the Pacific that are bigger than many small countries, and our national treasure Sir David Attenborough, mortified, highlighting the increasing levels of human-caused damage in our oceans, Theresa May’s recent pledge to ban all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042 is welcome. But what are we, as an industry, going to do about it?
So we really must act, whether it’s on our client’s agenda or not. Frozen food retailer Iceland has already taken the opportunity to say that it will remove plastic from its own-label products by 2023. But our real task as agencies is to find the brilliantly simple ways of rallying the public behind the problem.
We must act: How to smuggle goodness
There are subtler routes than using bans and hectoring messages for brands, and their agencies, to change culture and people’s behaviour. I call this “smuggling goodness” into the work that you do. When we created ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ with Anya Hindmarch we expected it to be a trojan horse for behaviour change. All 32,000 bags sold out in hours. Fleetingly we “made culture” but the aim was to change it. It was a start, but not the middle, and certainly not the end.
Pukka Tea recently introduced its range of sustainable re-usable cups as Christmas presents, and Pret A Manger plans to double the discount it offers customers who bring re-usable cups to its shops. This week, SodaStream announced that it aims to tackle the UK’s issue of 35 million daily discarded plastic bottles by providing the consumer benefit of slashing the cost of its fizzy water makers by 80 per cent. These are all brands making a start.
On the theme of water bottles, Team Sky, gets through 5,000 plastic water bottles during the Tour de France. We turned the bottles into a piece of DM, harnessing fan power to address the problem. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the course, you pick up a bottle and win a prize by registering it on the Team Sky website. More than half of the bottles were collected. Again, just a start.
We have to use our creativity for good
If agencies are serious about the effect that we have on our culture then we need to be the ones addressing the issues that the nation is responsible for. And we must use our creativity and consumer insight skills to provide brands with the tools to help achieve the goals the Government have rightly set for them.
And how about we judge the effectiveness of our work not just on revenue, profit, and market share but also on the good (or bad) impact increased demand creates?
We’re starting from a position of strength. Nobody I know is against reducing plastic consumption. We just need to make it easy and clear for people, and use advertising as a force for good. Something in which we could, and should, all pride ourselves on.
The real solution for those looking for opportunities in being more socially responsible? Let’s focus on affecting culture, not just adding to it.
March 4, 2016
In SAP’s “Global Ambition Study” in 2014, from a sample of over 800 CEO’s – 90% considered their company ambitious. No surprises there. However, interestingly, the survey found that only 46% of them considered their company very ambitious.
The survey also discovered a direct correlation between ambition and growth with 48% of very ambitious companies experiencing more than 30% growth over the past two years.
We’ve sat down with influential, ambitious people to talk about the various things they’ve learnt about ambition as entrepreneurs, business owners, athletes and writers – with themes covering goal-setting, taking risks, extending beyond the comfort zone and general inspiring know-how.
Management Today are kindly distributing the films each week.
October 6, 2015
The feeds of many a timeline were flooded with hashtag: #plasticbags as news got out that we’ll all have to pay 5p a plastic bag when doing our shopping.
We fully support the initiative here at Antidote. Trying to get people to use less plastic bags is something dear to our heart.
Our ‘I am Not a Plastic bag’ tote bag we designed a few years ago for “We Are What We Do” (now renamed “Shift”) highlighted the damaging effects of plastic bag usage and challenged buyers to change their shopping habits.
However, rather than tell women to stop using plastic bags, we created a fashionable alternative. We think something like this again could go hand-in-hand with the latest government move. A dual nudge approach.
Our approach was born out of a philosophy of “smuggling goodness” and getting people to do things as an incidental effect, rather than an order to do something. Working with Anya Hindmarsh, we created a desirable piece of arm-candy that doubled as advertising but could also be leveraged in PR, celebrity seeding and social buzz. We made declining plastic bags cool.
When the bags went on sale they generated kilometre long queues of buyers in the UK, USA, Japan and sold out in under 4 hours. They generated a black market on eBay and generated acres of free PR and headline TV news.
The impact was dramatic. Using plastic bags became unfashionable and shops, shoppers and even whole towns around the nation opted for tote bags. Plastic bag use in the UK dropped by 3.9bn to 6.1bn in 2010. Sainsbury’s, one of the campaigns partners, cut the number of bags they gave away by 58% in the 2 years following the campaign, giving out 312m fewer bags.
Maybe it’s time to recycle this campaign and give this whole movement another nudge? If you’re interested drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 10, 2015
A recent study by Circle Research and SAP amongst 800 senior execs at companies with between 25 to 1,000 employees, found that 90% of business leaders consider their company ambitious. No surprises there then. However, interestingly, they found that only 46% of them thought their company was very ambitious.
At the same time they found that there was a direct correlation between ambition and growth. 48% of very ambitious companies experienced more than 30% growth in the past two years, while only 25% of ambitious companies did.
This is why at Antidote we firmly believe that there are a lot of companies that need to inject more ambition into their business – this study shows that more than half of all businesses are lacking ambition. There are lots of reasons why some businesses aren’t as ambitious as they should be. Survival has been a priority for many with the decade-long recession we have just been through. Some businesses have just lost their focus. Others, their fighting spirit.
That’s not good. Businesses have to be more ambitious again. How can you inject more ambition into your business? This is what this study showed:
1. Work with ambitious people Very ambitious companies hire very ambitious people. 83% of business leaders in very ambitious companies consider themselves very ambitious – they strive to get promotions and pay-rises, they seek extra responsibility and they seek recognition amongst their peers and industry. Conversely, only 33% of business leaders in ambitious companies see themselves this way. That is a massive difference.
2. Take a step back and look at your brand, market and context on a regular basis Very ambitious people are all more likely to see themselves as ‘innovative’, ‘entrepreneurial’, ‘big picture thinkers’ and ‘connected’. However, most businesses get stuck in the trenches – they don’t take the time to look at the big picture and look for opportunities. Most businesses get trapped in the same old routine and don’t challenge what they are doing enough.
3. Have a long-term plan and be very focused on executing it The study showed that the more successful companies have much greater clarity over how they plan to grow. They place much greater emphasis on expanding into new markets, developing new products and services and understanding and exceeding the expectations of their customers. They are more driven to transform the lives of their customers.
4. Aim to be the best The most successful businesses are obsessed with winning awards and accolades from their peers. They want to set standards, not follow the herd.
5. Become agile The study showed that the most success companies aim to be more agile and responsive to change.
This study rings true with our experience. Yes, of course everyone says they are ambitious. But some companies and people are way more ambitious than others. For some people – like Sir Dave Brailsford and Simon Mottram,- it is hard wired into their DNA. For challenger brands and start-ups it’s also there – it has to be if you are small but want to be beat bigger boys. But this study shows there are a whole lot of businesses out there who could be a lot more ambitious.
At Thinkbox’s The Truth About Youth event last week we were reminded how differently 15-24 year olds are to post-youth adults.
We all know social media plays a huge part in the lives of most 15-24 year olds. Ofcom say youth spend on average 1.5 hours a day using social media. But social media plays an even more fundamental role in the lives of youth. It influences their happiness in a big way. Dr Adam Galpin from the University of Salford, talked about how dopamine levels have been proven to rise amongst 15-24 year olds a direct result of attaining approval from peers – they literally soar after a ‘retweet’, ‘like’ or ‘share’ on Twitter or Facebook. Being liked or shared equals pleasure. So, no longer is having one’s fill of chocolate sufficient – starting a trending topic is the newly revealed, socially acceptable (and legal) ‘high’.
So, creating ideas and content that gets talked about and shared in social spaces should always be an ambition when engaging youth. However, it would be dangerous to think that we should start off with social media. Good, old-fashioned TV is still one of the best ways to get this content in front of youth (and to get down with the kids). Research carried out by Thinkbox showed that live TV still accounts for 49% of all 15-24 year olds media consumption and Catch-Up TV and Broadcaster VOD are next most popular which combined make up 16%. YouTube is the third most popular ‘channel’ making up 7.5% of their total video viewing time.
Further, TV shows like TOWIE, Geordie Shore, Love Island and Come Dine With Me have significant cultural power for mainstream youth and sharing, tweeting and snap-chatting these is very much a way of staying connected, being accepted by your peer group and winning kudos.
So rather than be a competitor with social media, broadcast TV (and TV advertising) still has the potential to be at the heart of the digital generation, social (and cultural) world.
The trick is to think about what type of content you ought to create. Again, Dr Galpin had some interesting thoughts. Youth, particularly adolescent youth, like to be aroused, so engaging in reckless behaviour is appealing. That’s also why gaming, sex and (watching) violence are pretty big for them. Also, creating content that features themselves and their generation is generally more appealing. Educational content and documentaries (thankfully) is also engaging. Youth are shaping their identity and they enjoy consuming content that helps them explore and define this.
But probably most interesting is the shape and nature of content they prefer.
Your brain is at its peak processing power when you are aged between 15-24. This means you are much happier multi-tasking in ‘The Shallows’ where you can graze with multiple distractions and hyperlinks. Creating content that allows youth to dart off left, right and centre is no bad thing.
However, after you’ve hit 24, your processing ability declines. So post-youth adults are not so interested in this frantic media diet. They want simpler ideas, less distractions, ideas that require less investment and content they can immerse themselves in. Post youth adults fear the ‘Technology Loop’.
Think about both these things next time you are creating marketing content. Which of these two audiences are you creating content for? Which of these two audiences do you yourself fall into? Are you happy in ‘The Shallows’ or do you fear the Technology Loop?
May 1, 2015
Last year saw the 5th reprint of Byron Sharp’s fantastic book ‘How Brands Grow’. It has been doing the rounds amongst enlightened marketers and planners for just over 4 years. It’s popular because unlike a lot of marketing books it is based on scientific analysis of over a decade’s worth of sales, usage and brand data across hundreds of brands and categories.
The book reminds us that underneath all the new modern marketing opportunities that exist there are some fundamentals you need to get right.
Here is our summary of Sharp’s key findings:
1. In order to grow your brand you have to focus on increasing penetration (new customers) not increasing frequency of use. Given this, you are better off reaching light users of your brand – and non-users similar to them – than focusing on people who reflect your heavy users
2. Having a brand that is salient is way more valuable than creating a brand that is differentiated. It is more important to build your brand on a consumer truth that is resonant and do so in a way that is distinctive and memorable, than to search for the USP
3. Tapping into an emotional need is more potent than making a rational argument for why people should buy a brand
4. Find out through research what your brand assets are – the things that make it resonant, distinctive and memorable and then focus on bringing these to life as often as you can. (This could be language, visual assets, a narrative, an idea etc)
5. Being ever present whenever people are in market – “mental or physical availability” – is critical to success. So short bursts of activity or fleeting explosions of presence or ‘buzz’ is not very useful. You need to be visible or present on a more continuous basis. Better to sacrifice continuity of presence over reach to drive sales
6. Loyalty programs, for the most part, are a waste of money. You are much better off investing in customer acquisition – that’s where you’ll get discernable returns on your marketing investment
7. Promotions are not clever. The data shows that they very much appeal to existing customers who would have bought from you anyway. The data shows that promotions erode margin and are not very good at bringing in new customers
Some of these are quite controversial. Others are old news. The great thing is – it’s all based on hard data. If you haven’t read the book, you must.
May 1, 2015
Dare Mighty Things is the spirit at the heart of our agency. That’s because we think stretching your ambition is fundamental to success at three levels in brand building and communication:
1. The objectives you set yourselves
In “Built To Last“, by Collins and Porras, they talk about the importance of purpose and defining your business’ “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) as fundamental drivers of business success.
Ford Motors set out to build a car for the great multitude, where everybody will be able to afford one. John F Kennedy wanted the US to be the first nation to land man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the 60s decade was out.
We too like the idea of the BHAG. All of our work is built around putting big scary objectives into our briefs, such as Team Sky’s desire to inspire 1 million new cyclists; or our work with Team GB to make all the whole team (the athletes and beyond) feel like the greatest British sports team ever; and for Healthspan to create communications that make getting older aspirational.
2. The way you define your brand
Collins and Porras talk about the importance of defining your vision to delivering business success, largely by focusing your efforts and motivating people. Simon Sinek in “Start With Why” talks about the importance of defining your ‘Why’ – your reason for being – when marketing to consumers. James Kerr in “Legacy”, talks about purpose-led, values-driven story telling as fundamental to success in competitive sports and business leadership.
We too believe that defining a transformational role for your brand is core to success. For anyone to welcome a brand into their life, it needs to be conceived to fundamentally change their life for the better. We think your brand and communications needs to springboard from this, so we put role at the heart of all our brand strategies and frameworks.
The world’s greatest brands have all had a transformative role at the heart of their business. Apple liberates people’s creative soul through the power of simple, intuitive technology. Nike “inspire and enable the athlete* in everybody (*if you have a body you are an athlete)”. The London 2012 bid was all about their role “to inspire the children of today to be the Olympians of the future”. Facebook strive “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”. Twitter sees itself as “the pulse of the internet”.
The best brands we’ve worked on (past and present) are also built around a transformative role: Travel Republic see themselves as a revolutionary, making it possible for more people to have the holiday of their dreams, on their terms. John Smiths want to be a safe haven for no nonsense blokes in a world of nonsense. HSBC aim “to harness and enable people’s differences”. Rapha celebrate the glory and suffering of road cycling.
3. The type of marketing you create
Finally, at an executional level, it means that no matter what the budget is or how difficult the challenge, you should strive to create ideas that people want in their lives, ideas that they’d be prepared to pay for and ideas that they’d want to share and be part of.
This is the only way to take full advantage of the digital, socially-networked world we live in.
So that means that you need not to just think of the originality of the idea and its intrinsic value to inspire, entertain or inform, but also the nature of the idea. How easy and fun is it to interact with, play with or share and what is the wider ecosystem of activity it is part of that gives it traction and amplification? Some people call these platform ideas and an evolution of integrated communications.
The bottom line is ambition is at the heart of all of this. The objectives you set yourself, the role you define for your brand and the type of work you create.