Big Ideas from a Small World

Moving to C-level pastures.

If your reading this there is a way bigger party in town.

I’ve joined the ranks of the business owners and opened up my own shop – Switch Advertising.

You can follow us on Tumblr TwitterOn Our Blog

Or head right to our website and send us comments on the main page though facebook.

To the 10,000+ people who have read this blog thank you.

A Word From Jack Bensimon

Posted in Change Something, From Canada, Global Outlook, Make Friends by Ryan Thomas on February 3, 2010

At the Advertising Week Gala hosted by the ICA, I stole a moment of Jack Bensimon’s time.

I wanted to ask a brilliant and independent mind on advertising how he did it; how anyone can be small and independent and build an award-winning advertising agency.

Personally, I think I wanted to hear that strong investors or a rich background with industry connections made Bensimon-Byrne what it is today. That’s the kind of answer that would have excused every small agency struggling to keep above water in our holding-company-owned world.

The answer I got was surprising to say the least, and on a day when TOY in NYC has died an early death I think it’s an answer worth sharing.

Jack’s answer was humble:

We were five people working out of a small agency. I think the one thing we got lucky and did right was the day we were called by a potential client in the rental car business. He had heard of us and wanted us to submit for the RFP.

I made him commit right then and there that if we produced the best creative, we would receive the account. I did not want to create a full pitch and then lose because our agency was too small to handle the account. If we were big enough to submit a proposal, we were big enough to handle the work.

The Bensimon-Byrne team did in fact submit the best creative.

The client was hard pressed to admit it, but they were too small. But, they had promised to take a risk and the creative was there. 13 years later that same agency has created some of the most effective creative advertising in Canada.

Risk and Commitment – the two words we never hear often enough from clients and agencies alike.

To see a little bit of what Bensimon offers its clients look no further than RecycleMe.org:

More on BioShock2 – virtual to real world marketing

Posted in Change Something, From Canada, Get High Fives, Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on August 9, 2009

Back when I posted about the BioShock2 website, people all over the internet guessed at where the marketing team behind the project was taking this event.

Now there is more on the BioShock2 ambient and digital advertising.

Long story short it’s brilliant:

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Great minds – Think

Posted in Change Something, Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on July 29, 2009

Hot on the heels of BMW’s Expression of Joy:

Toyota iQ has used a car to create a font.

I have to give credit to Toyota here, using a similar technique for a down market car takes some of the thunder out of a premium brand is a strong strategy in a ubiquitous category  like automotive.

Then creating something I can take home and use, is something I wish more advertisers would seriously consider. I own this font now. I’ll use it but it will be forever tied to the brand that created it.

iQ just became part of the dialog – by creating content to fuel the consumption of content.

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G.I. Joe virals all over the place!

Posted in Global Outlook, To close to call by Ryan Thomas on July 23, 2009

I don’t know if you ever saw the Warren Ellis Cartoon Network shorts, but if you haven’t let’s say you’re missing out.

Now with the movie moving forward, weird “virals” have started to appear. I’m not gonna lie to you, viral spots have started to feel dated. You can see the moment of the shift, designed to surprise and get you to link something.

But hey, any excuse to post about the Warren Ellis version is good in my books.

NEW VIRAL:

Now with these new videos promoting the wonders of power suits, I sorta wonder why the marketing teams behind this did not reach out to nerdcore rappers and produce something like this done with new movie footage:

Olympus + Blendtec’s Tom Dickson = Finally some great advertising from the camera market.

Posted in Global Outlook, Make Friends, Method to the Madness by Ryan Thomas on June 30, 2009

If you live in Canada you have most likely been subjected to 100’s of over saturated, digital Avril spots. These spots reek of such insincerity and lack of foresight that I won’t subject you to them here (clickers be warned). I don’t think I ever scratched my head harder then when Canada’s super brat pitched me a $1,200 SLR.

I don’t expect much from the digital photography market in the way of great advertising, which is why you NEED TO SEE THIS!

Tom Dickson, Blendtec pitch man, has made the jump to full blown cross promotion king. If you are looking to reach a smart digital savvy market this is how you do it. Tom’s signature style has not been changed in the slightest, he does his thing and Olympus gets a fun pay off.

Tom’s success with the 20 something college crowd was always sort of a mystery to me. His blenders are the McLaren F1 of the kitchen appliance world and way out of the price range for your average mudslide mixing internet hipster. I’m glad to see another company smart enough to see the value of borrowing some of his sweet sweet star power.

Good work Olympus.

“Hey, look at that! The smoke grenades fit perfectly in the cup holders.”

Posted in Global Outlook, Method to the Madness by Ryan Thomas on June 8, 2009

You know every time I watch Top Gear I’m amazed at the quality of it’s product integration. In a perfect world when every advertiser fixates on content instead of interruption advertising will look something like this:

Fast foward the video to about 8:04 to catch the magic that is a Ford Fiesta in a Normandy style beach invasion.

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Long Content Delivers Again

Posted in Global Outlook, Go Read A Book by Ryan Thomas on June 1, 2009

Each and every time someone tells me about how visual and short modern attention spans are I want to laugh. What first appears as short attention spans are often just over educated human brains on a constant search for value for their time.

Often we don’t deliver enough value to hold an attention span.

Here’s a fantastic use of copy to hold readers’ attention spans:

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Change-vertising: Why it’s ok to make Dungeons and Dragons Jokes

Posted in From Canada, Get High Fives, Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on May 27, 2009

This morning a good friend of mine and talented writer here in Toronto sent me the following e-mail:

I’ve been reading Goodson’s blogs and articles for days now, and analyzing case studies on the Strawberry Frog site. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the exact notion of Cultural Movements and how you would go about sparking one.
And also how you could project the success of your idea without actually having to execute it in order to sell the idea to a client.

I’m hoping you have some knowledge about this and could provide some insight?

Insight I have. Dental and Medical I do not. So without further ado…

Step 1:

kindling

Think of a closed culture as a log cabin. They are structurally sound, tightly packed and cozy – but above all they keep the outside out. We all belong to closed cultures or have at one time. Your family is a closed culture, your work place, your hobbies and interests make for great closed cultures.

Well before advertisers stumbled onto the idea of starting cultural movements, closed communities have been breeding them. Jazz spawned whole new way of looking at music, addressed racial barriers, and spawned some of the greatest cultural movements of the 20th century. Remember the beatniks were proto-hippies.

Now it’s important to make a distinction here.

Open Cultures are: Represented in mass media

Closed Cultures are: Not represented in mass media

For this example though, we are going to use one of the strangest closed cultures ever to grace North America:

Dungeons & Dragons

In the mid seventies there was nothing quite as geeky or socially ostracizing as Dungeons and Dragons. Groups of young men limited to 5 or 6 would sit in basements and spend entire afternoons fighting imaginary creatures and playing pretend. The game itself worked on a rules system that was totally inaccessible to people outside the community. To purchase books or products you had to find a store, a rare jewel where often the owners knew you by name.

In short if you were a member of this community you felt a sense of belonging and ownership – yet you were also an outcast.

Step 2:

wet

Closed cultures over time build up vocabulary, preferences and commonalities between its members. The stereotypes often associated with the gay community did not start that way. They developed as a cultural short hand. A way of seeing and speaking that told others that you were a member if they also spoke the same short hand.

Skateboarders did the same thing, though were far less persecuted. If you didn’t know what a heel flip was, you did not belong to the community. It was a simple test and you were a tourist.

These communities developed well in advance of the internet and today closed cultures dry much more quickly. Meme’s can now race through a community over night, developing what once took years in a matter of days.

In our Dungeons and Dragons example cultural short hand revolved around the rule system already packaged with the game. A great roll on a 20 sided dice would let a character do amazing things. Members of the culture announcing “I roll twenties” is a kin to rappers promising “I’ll make it rain on these hoes“. Once a closed culture has developed a cultural shorthand, brands have an opportunity to partake in the culture.

Twentiesshirt

Nothing is more tragic than when marketers start fires with wet kindling. Free running never had a chance to really develop before it started appearing in marketers’ pitches. It never got the opportunity to call something it’s own before it was sold back to its members.

Step 3:

trees

So you have a culture that is under represented and perfect for your brand. It has its own shorthand. But how do you know if your culture is big enough to really get a good cultural fire started?

Look for trees around the cabin.

Many people may be associated with a closed culture by virtue of personal relationships. You many never have played D&D yourself but that boy you dated in university did. There were always sharp dice on his floor, his bookshelf embarrassed you at house parties. Or you had a Magic the Gathering phase in high school. You knew some of the terms associated with D&D but never really got involved yourself. In many articles about the death of Gary Gygax one of the founding fathers of Dungeons and Dragons his reach is estimated at 20 million players over 30 years. If the average person has upwards of 100 personal contacts, the question begs to be asked: how did D&D stay out of mainstream media for so long?

The same goes for jazz, street racing, guitar hero and about a million other closed cultures.

Your trees have reach and are well connected, if you start a fire big enough, they burn too and you’ll have a fire lit under the ass of a much larger culture.

Step 4:

spark

Use what you have learned about a culture. Borrow its language and images and bring it to mass.

Why mass media?

In an age where everyone is talking about social media, why would starting a cultural movement be about mass?

The answer is simple: To open a closed community’s doors.

Television represents the collective everyman. Even in a market of 1000’s of specialty channels, if it’s on television or on radio or on the side of a billboard, surely you’re not alone.

The community is bigger than you think.

  • Skateboarding is not a crime.
  • He’s a hip cat.
  • I have a plus one to social rolls.

That’s the best activator of social media you will ever find. Suddenly people are willing to say ‘I did it’ or ‘I used to know someone’. The closed community grows and with it your brand and the connections you have made.

It’s high risk and still requires great creative, but sparking a cultural movement means your brand is no longer simply jumping on trends but helping people to connect and recognizing their passions.

Here are some of the closed communities growing in Toronto today:

  • Fixie Bicycle Riders & Slow Bike Gangs
  • Amateur Burlesque & Sideshow groups
  • Stictch n’ Bitchers & Square Foot Gardeners
  • Web & Indy Comic Readers

Given time any one of these could develop into a brand new touch point to help grow people’s personal interests and your brand.

Happy Rolling D&D Image

Wii gifts British Royals

Posted in Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on May 26, 2009

For the launch of the Nintendo’s Big Family Games, THQ has given a gold plated Wii to the Queen Mum.What else can you say about this – I hope she plays it. It would be a shame to see it gathering dust waiting for next No More Heroes to come out.

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It’s also a way better idea to give a gold plated video game console than a bunch of illegal brass knuckles.

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