Posts Tagged ‘cannes’

Looking Back on Our Burning Question at #Canneslions

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


That was my first line to kick off our seminar at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival on Friday, June 25. “Wow!” is also the easiest way for me to describe the amount of work we put into the event, and the combined reactions of those who had a chance to join our seminar. After months of planning and preparation we pulled off our first-ever seminar in Cannes at the annual gathering of the world’s leaders in advertising and marketing. Although I am still in a bit of a daze since coming off the stage nearly two weeks ago, my mind is already racing to develop ideas for the next big way that we can spread the next evolution of marketing. But before rushing on to what’s next, I want to capture and celebrate what we pulled off here.

Before I go on, though, I suggest that you invest the 45 minutes to view our complete seminar footage, which is up and available here. Or if you’re really time-strapped, first check out some highlights in the YouTube video above.


Way back around October 2009, our President, Jay Woffington, and I had lunch with Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble and now global speaker/consultant and professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Business. My book had just launched and Jim was continuing to spread his belief in brand ideals. We talked about our common desire to change the way marketing is performed, and we agreed that there was no better place than the annual Cannes Advertising Festival—a place where advertising and marketing leaders from around the world gather once a year to judge the best work, compare notes on where the industry is going, and bring back lessons that might be applied to the incredible changes surging through business and society today. We decided to team up and the folks at the Cannes Lions organization were excited to have us onboard for a seminar in late June.

In retrospect, deciding to do a seminar in Cannes and getting agreement from its leaders was the easy part. The real challenge lay in deciding what to do on our big stage. Thankfully we had some help. Two of our top creative leaders at Bridge Worldwide, Jason Bender and George Alexander, came up with the idea of asking a Burning Question. They argued that people in our industry are spending too much time searching for answers to questions such as: “What percentage of my budget should I spend on digital?,” “Do I need a new ad agency?,” and “What should my Facebook strategy be?” They reasoned that marketers are spending too much time looking for answers in new media tactics, and are therefore missing the big, fundamental shift that is happening in business and society. Their idea was for Jim and me to ask our Cannes audience a Burning Question, that, when asked, could help organizations hit the reset button and fundamentally adjust their methods to not only improve business results, but also improve life for customers, employees, stakeholders, and society overall.

To prepare for the event, Jim and I set up interviews with key leaders at some of the world’s largest marketers in the world. We were blown away to get 100% of our requests accepted from IBM, AT&T, Kraft, P&G, Levi’s, Luxottica, Pepsi, and Samsung. We flew camera crews around the country to ask these leaders our Burning Question and learn about how they recognized a need for change, the initial efforts they are making to shift, and the business and stakeholder benefits that are resulting from these early efforts. We were surprised to hear similar stories, and eager to share them with our audience in Cannes and beyond.

And to engage with more than the relative handful of folks who can go to Cannes, we sought to bring marketers around the world into the discussion. On we asked people to post what they believed are the questions we should be asking ourselves. And we even ran a contest to bring two people over with us based on their personal efforts to improve the marketing world. Our winners were Stan Phelps, who is pioneering a new way to “give a little something extra” through his Marketing Lagniappe project, and Tyson Adams, a budding “philanthroprenuer” who just started a business called liveGLOCAL, that sells high-quality coffee and provides books for children in Laos for each bag sold. Both guys are incredible leaders who will continue to drive the next evolution of marketing in their own unique ways.

The Results

After a week of final-final preparation and taking in the other seminars and award-winning work in Cannes (see my blog posts here, here, and here), I was very eager to finally take the stage on Friday. Overall I was very pleased with the seminar. As you can see in the full-length video, we did a lot of things to drum up excitement and ensure that no one was disappointed to be sitting in our session on a Friday afternoon. I think we were able to weave together many threads that were running through Cannes all week and give the group something to thinking about, our Burning Question:

“How can we, in marketing and business, hold ourselves to a higher standard to create a positive impact on those we serve, our employees, and even the world?

After the seminar we invited everyone in the audience up to the roof of the Palais to continue the conversation. I loved the chance to meet people from places as diverse as Ecuador, Turkey, India, and Australia—all struggling to figure out where the marketing world is going, and all coming away with some new thinking that they can apply to their brands and businesses. I gave away a few hundred copies of my book and collected a pocketful of business cards from potential clients, partners, and even competitors who wanted to keep talking about how we might work together toward this common goal. (Check out some of the after-seminar photos below…)

I find that it’s always hard to look at the time and money investment of an event like this and figure out if it was worth it. This was the biggest thing our agency has ever put on, and ultimately we are betting that by driving the industry conversation forward we will attract new clients and further build our business. Just like all of you, we are betting that we will succeed by creating Marketing with Meaning.

The work is not over, however, as we’ve come back down to earth and back to our desks and day jobs. We are working on plans to further share our seminar and the hours of amazing interviews footage with industry leaders. Jim and I even have a few requests to repeat the performance at industry events and corporate training facilities.

And, of course, I’ve already started thinking about what we could do in Cannes next year. I think the topic will only be hotter in 2011, and we want to continue to build on the momentum we have started. I would love your ideas and feedback in the comments below!

Cannes Takeaways Days 3/4 #canneslions

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

As we get closer to our Burning Question seminar on Friday I’ve had less time than usual to relay my thoughts and discussions here in this space. I’m forced to combine topics from Wednesday and Thursday (today) here in Cannes, and in fact I only wanted to touch on one takeaway today—but it’s a good one.

Content Creators Are Waiting for Brands

Lots of people have written or spoken about how brands are becoming media properties and how they can spawn the stars of tomorrow, but this idea never truly crystallized for me until viewing relevant, related seminars over the past two days.

On Wednesday, master director Spike Jonze spoke about his work on everything from short films to television commercials to major motion pictures such as the recent Where the Wild Things Are. He spoke about how he loves to work with brands when they come to him with an idea that excites him. It can be a music video for Bjork or a commercial for the Gap in which he got to destroy a store. Jonze talked about how he often works with agencies to re-imagine the ideas that they bring him—usually tearing up all of the “junk” that got added to the brief or after dozens of client meetings.

His biggest advice for the hundreds of creatives in the room: “The most powerful weapon you have is ‘No.’” Jonze said he took his fair share of bad projects, but he eventually learned that only work that excited him would result in a positive result. It’s a lesson that I believe more brands (personal and corporate) must learn.

Thursday’s highlight for me was the annual Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase. For 90 minutes we saw a series of short films from some of the most talented rising film directors in the world. Examples ranged from the comedic (Drunk History) to delightful (Tone of Every Day) to animated (I Lived on the Moon).

The usual purpose of this 20-year-old event is to expose agencies to talent who might be great at filming their commercials someday. But after seeing dozens of examples of great branded content—rather than a raft of 30-second ads—I came to see the new model falling into place before my eyes. Whether it’s big name directors such as Spike Jonze or up-and-comers such as those in the Saatchi showcase, clients and agencies of all types were looking not for commercial directors, but rather for partners who could help bring ideas to life.

These directors have the stories, the passion, and the ability to capture people’s imagination—but they often lack the resources or opportunities to put their ideas in front of a large audience. Brands have the money and desire to connect with consumers, but most are not in the business of creating entertainment. So putting them together could make magic.

But it’s no longer about hiring a young director to film your commercial. It’s about crafting content and giving up control to the artist. It’s Gatorade filming a replay of a high school football game. It’s Red Bull sponsoring a rising fashion designer. If you get this right, the result just might be Marketing with Meaning.

On Deck for Tomorrow…

I don’t want to give away all of the special things we have planned for our Burning Question seminar Friday at 5:15 p.m. Cannes time (or 11:15 a.m. for those back in the ET). But I will share one secret for readers of this blog. We’re going to be opening up our seminar tomorrow with a live lead-in by a group of “parkours” who we flew over from California. Parkouring or “free running” is a new type of sport in which athletes turn everyday signposts, buildings, and other street-side objects into a jungle gym. We’ve been filming them jumping and leaping all week in Cannes, and they will come from the streets into our seminar tomorrow. Our goal is to shake people up with some entertainment to close out a huge day of seminars and it should be a fun way to start. If you’re reading this in Cannes, you don’t want to miss it. And if you don’t happen to be in the South of France tomorrow we will be sure to capture everything on video at

Cannes Takeaways Day 2 #canneslions

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Is it digital? Traditional? Or are we way past the point of the online versus offline debate? That’s the question that was resonating in my head and among colleagues on Tuesday, Day 2 of the Cannes Advertising Festival.

Unfortunately most of the seminars I attended left me with little to write about. They seemed to cover the same material or be a bit too direct of a sales pitch than what should happen at Cannes. So I spent a good chunk of time walking the floor of work in the Outdoor and Direct category. And I came back with the following observations.

Outdoor has no scale—but no one doubts it.

The outdoor work that made the short list and won Lions was outstanding. It was entertaining, linked to brand benefits, and smart. Although I have debated in the past in this space whether outdoor ads are meaningful, the work here demonstrates that even a traditionally interruptive medium can add value to people’s lives when it makes them laugh, cry, or think. It reminded me that any medium can be meaningful.

But one of the things that hit me was that these award-winning outdoor ads are often one-off executions that might appear in a single city for a limited time. Because they are innovative and often surprise people with a laugh, there’s little use in keeping it up once everyone has gotten the joke. Several of the executions were also expensive and difficult to place. You simply cannot expose them to enough eyeballs to generate “scale” like a print ad or TV commercial. Take this terrific example from Hot Wheels, below:

Another favorite of mine was this campaign for James Ready beer. It offered billboard/photo coupons for local stores so that you could save money in other ways and put the savings toward beer.

Clients are looking for scale, so why would they sign off on this kind of one-off work? It’s a challenge we hear all of the time in digital, but I’ve not heard it applied to outdoor before. Perhaps this comes from the agency test/award budget, or maybe, just maybe, clients are starting to buy into great ideas that make a big impact with a smaller audience. It’s a question I’d like to explore further and would love your comments here.

Direct is digital.

In looking at the range of Direct nominees and winners I was amazed by the amount of work that I would call digital. “Direct” has traditionally meant something that went in the mailbox—but if Cannes is the standard, that definition is done. My friend David Sable at Wunderman has said for years that “direct is digital” and he just might be right.

Take the example above for Nokia’s navigation tool: The World’s Largest Sign. Here, people could search for directions online in London and the sign would rotate in real-life to point to whatever you searched for. To me, this is a digital idea that just happens to connect to the real world. But it was offered in the Direct category.

Another example is this direct/outdoor piece for The Economist in India that asked people to text for clues to decipher the political debate behind the ad.

Where are the digital agencies?

This merger of Direct/Digital brings me to my final takeaway of the day. This morning I opened the daily Cannes Lions magazine to look for the short-listed work in the Cyber (digital) category. It’s the category we won a Gold for last year for our Pringles banner. I was blown away to see that of the 150 or so short-listed entries, only about 6 or 7 of them were created by digital agencies from the Advertising Age list. Very big names such as Razorfish and Digitas were missing in action. This could be the big news of Day 3 when the final Cyber winners are handed out.

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but there are a few hypotheses. Maybe digital agencies don’t know how to do the kind of work that wins Cannes awards—or they don’t know how to “campaign” to get their work into the winner’s circle (a little-known secret to winning sometimes). Another possibility is that a lot of the work digital agencies do—such as e-commerce sites, mobile apps, search optimization, and social media relationship marketing programs—simply don’t fit into a creative awards competition. What tends to win here are one-off “ideas” in the form of smart, funny, interesting engagements.

Or, maybe traditional agencies are now very close to mastering digital agencies’ space. After years of wondering and waiting, maybe they finally now get it. If so, and if Cannes is the place this is judged, it’s not great news for digital agencies like mine. But this also might be a wake-up call for those of us on the digital-agency side to take our game up a notch or two.

Cannes Takeaways Day 1 #canneslions

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Well, here we are in the South of France once again for the annual Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. I was last here two years ago for the yearly meeting of the world’s marketing leaders. (You can see some of my previous posts starting here.) Now, it’s one year after the economic crisis that impacted the advertising industry particularly hard. Attendance here at Cannes went down from a high of around 10,000 people to a mere 6,000. But things are looking up! Supposedly attendance is up to 8,000 or more and there is a positive spirit in the air here. Things are also looking up, of course, because we’re here preparing to answer The Burning Question on Friday this week. Preparation for our big event is going very well and I really wish we were on the stage presenting already. But while waiting for our big moment I’ve had the chance to listen and learn from others’ sessions and conversations over drinks. I will blog daily here to share a few things from each day. Read on for my takeaways from yesterday (Monday), the first major day at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival.

JWT Presents “Ideas People Want to Spend Time With”

Bob Jeffery, CEO, and Fernando Vega Olmos, Creative Chairman, of our sister agency JWT presented some examples of their best work around the world, which represents an entirely new direction for one of the largest and oldest advertising agencies. Jeffery started by making the point that, “Time is the new currency… so we must create ideas that people want to spend time with.” It’s a concept that is perfectly consistent with Marketing with Meaning.

The pair proceeded to share examples of some killer work that is completely consistent with our concept of Marketing with Meaning. Examples included things that you’ve probably seen me tweet about over the past few weeks, including the Heineken classical music concert prank and hilarious videos for Kotex that poke fun of decades of tampon ads. But I was most impressed by two cause-related ideas that the company launched over the past year. First, a campaign for UNICEF in which vending machines were placed with the opportunity for people to donate their change to provide fresh water in Haiti. The campaign created a new way to donate and most users had never donated before. A second campaign for the Red Cross in Mexico created children’s rides (like the ones that used to be outside of supermarkets) in which all donations went to the Red Cross and kids got the chance to “play” hero. The campaign resulted in a +20% increase in donations during the horrible economy last year.

Schematic and Bridge Worldwide Show the Possibilities of a New Meaning Medium

One of our WPP sister digital agencies, Schematic, was back at Cannes with its revolutionary “touchwall” technology. Think of it as a giant iPad on steroids that reads an RFID tag in your conference badge and helps you get more out the event. You can find people, arrange for places to meet, get descriptions of the day’s sessions, and check out nearby restaurants.

This year our agency, Bridge Worldwide, was invited to join the Schematic demo to show how this new “medium” could be used for a variety of brands. We developed two ideas based on brands that we work on. We showed how Charmin could create an entertaining interactive game with mysterious people behind bathroom-stall doors, and we showed a concept for the Bounty brand in which people around the world could collaborate to make a work of art using the device. We’re a long way from having touchwalls installed worldwide, but the unit was a great chance to explore how new technology can become meaningful from the beginning.

Another Question…

One of my favorite things about coming to an event such as this is that you start hearing some common threads of thought as people have time to experience, reflect, and discuss. While we’ve been asking The Burning Question, a new question came to me when I did an interview with the Cannes Eye team here: “Should the word ‘advertising’ be dropped from the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival?” I had not really thought of that before, but the question came up a few hours later over drinks with my friend Rick Boyko, Director of the VCU Brandcenter (which I wrote about previously here). Rick talked about how we should evolve our craft away from “advertising” and all of its negative connotations and move toward something that is more relevant for our present evolution of marketing—around creating experiences and telling stories.

I’m not sure what the answer is yet, but a move away from “advertising” in Cannes and in our industry might be the “reset button” that we all need to elevate our game.

Pepsi-Cola Brands Add Meaningful Mojo

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

In this blog and my book I’ve written often about my goal to drive a fundamental shift in the way that the marketing function is performed—rather than just some small experiments as part of a traditional, interruptive campaign, true change will only occur when major companies change their organizational alignment toward Marketing with Meaning. Well, dear readers, when I look at the pattern of work that is coming from the Pepsi-Cola brands I begin to gain confidence that the shift is indeed happening.

There certainly have been other companies that are farther down the road of turning Marketing with Meaning into their way of doing business. In my book I talk about Pepsi’s Frito-Lay subsidiary, which has shifted remarkably along these lines with brands such as SunChips and Doritos. There’s also some major change going on at Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble. Until recently Pepsi has been known more for continuing the pattern of big, traditional advertising campaigns. Its “Got G” campaign for Gatorade last year did not reverse a sales decline, and a rebranding effort on Tropicana bombed.

But if you were writing a history of Meaningful Marketing today you would have to call out Sunday, February 7, 2010. It was Super Bowl Sunday, if you remember, and it will be noted in the Museum of Advertising as the day that Pepsi decided not to advertise for the first time in 23 years. Instead, the brand quietly launched The Pepsi Refresh Project weeks earlier, an effort to provide funding to individuals and groups with important causes. Some say that Pepsi won by not wasting dollars on the big game, but I believe we all won because the company showed us how even a huge brand built on traditional, interruptive advertising could shift to Marketing with Meaning with a big idea.

But Pepsi Refresh has been the first of other major steps down this path of a new way of marketing. Another great example is the latest innovations on Gatorade. After years of simply reminding us that Gatorade exists with the assistance of a phalanx of highly paid celebrity endorsers, the brand has gone back to its roots in innovation. It recently launched a line called G Series with different SKUs for Before, During, and After a workout. Here the brand is giving its buyers something that is specifically formulated for each step, and instead of pricey pitchmen, the marketing is direct, informative, and—because the product is unique—interesting. This is the innovative brand that I’ve missed for years, and I look forward to trying this new regimen in my next long run. It is a reminder that Marketing with Meaning starts with a meaningfully different and beneficial product.

Another great example of the shift at Pepsi-Cola is the next chapter in DEWmocracy. I first wrote about this user-driven campaign around new Mountain Dew flavors in my book. It was originally launched in 2007, and I included this case study in my chapter about how you can turn a one-time meaningful idea into an ongoing source of engagement and sales. Even way back then, Frank Cooper, Vice President of Marketing for Mountain Dew, alluded to chance for this to be much more than a one-time win. Back then he said:

“If we get a significant reaction, we think there’s an opportunity to expand this game into a broader online property. We’re seeking feedback from the consumer about what parts of the game they enjoy; is the story resonating? And if it is, we do have plans to expand it.”

Over two years later, the latest “game” of DEWmocracy has launched its third iteration with a very impressive and engaging execution. It’s not the immersive game that was more appropriate for the Web in 2008; instead, the brand has evolved to use even more consumer creativity and direct involvement. Trucks sampled several new flavors with more than 200,000 people across the U.S. And 50 “Dew Labs” fanatics were chosen to narrow down to the final three flavor/color/name candidates. The brand then offered designers and art schools the chance to create the next can. And now Mountain Dew is tapping small agencies, digital content creators, and other small producers to create TV ads for each flavor. Even media companies such as CollegeHumor are campaigning for their ideas to win.

It’s no wonder that Frank Cooper was recently promoted to the role of Chief Consumer Engagement Officer and last week was listed as #6 on the Advertising Age Entertainment A-ListAdvertising Age praised the fact that Mountain Dew retained 80% of the citrus soda market from 2006 to 2008, despite seeing traditional media spending cut in half.

Three big beverage brands, all moving toward Marketing with Meaning, and all doing it in ways that are differentiated based on their brand equity and target consumer. I call it a trend. And I’m excited to announce that we will include executives from Pepsi in our “Burning Question” seminar at the Cannes Advertising Festival this June. We’ll get the chance to learn more about how this company is shifting its marketing approach toward purpose and meaning, and gain insights on how even a giant, traditional advertiser can learn new tricks.

We have a lot more news coming about our Cannes event in the weeks ahead!

Burning Question Contest: You Could Win a Trip to Cannes

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

A few weeks ago I announced that Jim Stengel and I will be taking our message to the annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June. We believe that there is no better place to start a revolution in marketing than this annual gathering of some of the biggest and best marketers and advertising agencies in the world. Our goal is to uncover a “Burning Question” that, when asked, helps elevate our work to unheard of higher levels. And for a few weeks now we’ve been gathering suggestions from people about what this Burning Question should be. After all, this is an issue that touches more than the relative handful of folks who get to fly to the South of France. Today, we are taking this open source involvement to the next level as we announce a contest that will send two individuals to join us at our seminar on Friday, June 25.

We want to bring two people who are just as passionate about changing marketing as we are—but who might not have the resources to get there on their own. We are looking for people who have had success in making change at their organizations, and have taken steps to share their lessons with the broader marketing world. We invite people who work at big or small companies, people who have shared lessons on blogs or classrooms, and people who have worked in marketing for one year or a lifetime.

Our team has put together a short application process for people to make their case. Jim and I will select winners based on the quality of their submissions. The only major limit on entries is that we are only able to take folks from the United States and Canada. I was bummed that we had to limit to this group, but contests are a legal nightmare, and we would have had to adapt rules to each nation’s laws (a cost much larger than sending people).

The prize is pretty damn cool—a chance to fly out to Cannes, participate in the event, meet passionate marketers from around the world, and help spark a revolution. Of course we will ask winners to be active participants in driving the buzz before the event and sharing the experience on the ground from Cannes—mainly through blogging and Twitter.

So if you are a meaningful marketer who wants to change the world in Cannes this summer, fill out an application and start driving support from your friends and followers. I look forward to seeing your responses—and to seeing two entrants in Cannes with us in June!

(Official rules here)

Let’s Ask Ourselves a Burning Question at Cannes

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

burning question

A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.”  —Edward Hodnett

Some of the most important changes in history began when groups of people asked difficult questions of their elders, their rulers, and their textbooks. Questions have sparked democratic revolutions from Boston to Berlin, they have driven scientific paradigm shifts from Darwin to Einstein, and they have triggered social change from San Francisco to Soweto. These “burning questions” compel us to step back from the way we have always lived our lives, help us discover that change is needed, and point us to an answer that suddenly becomes completely obvious—and betters the world. It is time for us marketers and advertisers to ask ourselves a Burning Question that will unleash needed change in the work that we do for our customers, stakeholders, employees, and society as a whole.

It is an ambitious objective, but one that is clearly ready for the first bold action. The historic model of marketing and advertising stands on the brink of failure in many corners. Mass media is increasingly an oxymoron, as our customers shift their precious eyeballs to 500 cable channels and 50 billion YouTube videos. Product and service purchases are screened through the lens of social media, not pricey ad campaigns. And citizens of the world are calling on their governments to protect them from advertisements on their mobile screens and school buses. Simply put, our traditional marketing model is unsustainable.

On Friday, June 25 at the annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France, Jim Stengel and I will bring together the world’s largest brands and advertising agencies to reveal a Burning Question that will allow us to transform our work and our world. We plan to use this biggest, most-followed gathering of global marketers to spark a revolution—and we hope you will join us.

This revolution will be socialized. As we prepare to spark the revolution in June, we need your help to guide the discussion and plan to offer several ways for everyone to be involved. For starters, we are asking people to visit and share what they believe is the Burning Question that will unlock change in our marketing paradigm. We will share the ideas openly, and Jim and I will draw on your input for our session. In a few weeks we will launch a contest in which we will identify a handful of fellow change agents to join us in Cannes (on our dime). And we will announce more ways to get involved before, during, and after this event. I can promise you that it is something that the Cannes Lions Festival has never seen before—and it will be meaningful and memorable whether you are in France with us or not.

This summer we’re going to set fire to the old assumptions about what marketing is and what it can be. Will you join us?

Unique Coke Cannes Delivery

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

This week I’m spending some time catching up on sharing some of the best, most meaningful marketing to be awarded in the annual Cannes Advertising Competition. Our President, Jay, and Chief Creative Officer, Peter, both came back raving about an incredibly powerful vending machine for Coca-Cola that was put up in the bottom floor of the Cannes conference. It ended up winning a Gold Lion in the Design category. Check out the video above for a glimpse of the experience.

The biggest lesson for me here is a reminder that everything your brand does with the consumer is a kind of marketing, whether it’s customer service, packaging, delivery trucks, or vending machines. And every consumer touchpoint in this broad view of marketing can be made much more meaningful. In this case, Coke has taken the boring, predictable, exchange-focused vending machine and turned it into something remarkable, entertaining, and fun. I also love how this delivers on what the Coke brand and drinking experience is really about: a few minutes of fun and enjoyment. Instead of just advertising to people on TV with equity spots that are meant to help trigger a feeling of enjoyment hours or days later when the drink is consumed, this makes entertainment and happy feelings happen at the moment of truth of refreshment.

I think there are some other really interesting things about these vending experiences. First, they are completely measurable (obviously, because they sell product). Second, they could allow Coke to charge more and achieve wider margins (say, charging $2 or more for the machine experience and fancy bottle). Third, they draw attention in public places, which attracts more users, buyers, and observers.

I am most interested to see what happens from here with the vending machines, and whether they will truly roll out broadly. Sure, it’s easy to create a concept such as this, install it in a few malls, and win an award at Cannes. The challenge is selling this in broadly and getting distributors around the world to embrace the concept. This is where the marketing department often bumps heads with the old-school crowd, finance guys and general bureaucratic commitment to not making waves.

“Marketing” sits in a skyscraper in Atlanta, Georgia, making ads, while “Sales” is out on the streets making sure machines and store shelves are full. Placing ads and maintaining fancy machines is not their job, nor in their budget. Coke distributors are used to paying $X for a basic vending machine that needs almost no service. But what happens when “headquarters” forces them to pay $5X for this special machine? Who’s going to fix them when they break? Anyone who has worked in a large company can play out this tragic scene from hours in boardrooms and conference calls. A quote that I developed in my days as a big marketer was, “Doing anything new is hard.”

My congrats to Coke on a killer idea, and our hopes are with you as you try to take this meaningful idea outside the ad-award world.

Bleeding Billboard Slows Traffic Deaths

Monday, July 13th, 2009

It’s a few weeks after the annual Cannes Advertising Festival. I was able to post early on our agency’s Gold Lions win for Pringles, but I’m a bit slow in sharing other examples of great, meaningful advertising from the show. This week I’ll share a few examples of my favorite work.

First up is this incredibly powerful and simple idea from BBDO in New Zealand that won a Bronze Lion in the Design competition. The video above tells the story much better than I can, but in summary, its goal is to reduce car accidents on the roads of Papakura, New Zealand, which tend to spike when rains come and roads become slippery. This campaign reduced road deaths on this particular piece of roadway to zero.

It is great to see a piece of brilliant, meaningful marketing for a nonprofit issue here. One might argue that all cause-related and nonprofit marketing is meaningful, but I don’t believe that is the case. Issue-related nonprofits are in sales just like regular businesses; their goal is to “sell in” their point of view on a topic. But unless they draw true engagement and value for the targeted audience, they fail.

In this case, local government is trying to “sell” its drivers on the need to slow down during rain. To measure success, instead of tracking sales of a product, it is tracking the number of road accidents and fatalities. And clearly some marketing is more effective than others. Imagine TV commercials or print ads with a policeman or government official lecturing a viewer about the need to drive cautiously during rains. Failure is almost assured for such an approach because it does not come at a relevant time in an engaging way. Here, the bleeding billboards not only come at the right place and time (roadside during rain), but they communicate the message in a way that embodies the tragedy of drivers’ failure to adjust—the photo of a young child. This beats a flashing yellow warning sign any day. Not only is this effective in its roadside ad placement, but the ad has been viewed nearly 500,000 times on YouTube in less than a month.

My hope is that the concept and framework of Marketing with Meaning is also used by nonprofit organizations to better their strategy and results. Coming up in my book, The Next Evolution of Marketing, I share the story of how another nonprofit issue organization, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, dramatically shifted its marketing approach from interruptive ads to meaningful messages and advice. I may also try to do something in the marketing of the book to specifically reach out to nonprofits, perhaps in a nonprofit way. Stay tuned and, as always, your ideas in the comments are welcome and appreciated!

(Special thanks to Chris Zieverink from our Creative team, who not only sent me this link but just created a killer logo for Marketing with Meaning that I’ll be sharing here soon.)

Celebrating Pringles Cannes Hands

Monday, June 29th, 2009

As most marketing readers likely know, last week was the annual Cannes Advertising Festival in France—unarguably the world’s most prominent advertising industry get-together, where the brightest creative minds in our business gather to compare the best work over the past 12 months. Last year I got to attend for the first time (with blog posts here if you’re interested), but this year I was on vacation in Italy with my family instead of Cannes.

I missed one of the biggest moments of the history of my company, Bridge Worldwide, when our team won a Gold Cyber Lions award for the Pringles banner ad above. While “only” a banner, this remarkable little ad unit offers a great case study in meaningful marketing for both B2C and B2B.

The Consumer Story: Once You Click, You Can’t Stop

Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the banner above. A new window will open to our staging server where you can see our banner in context, just like the judges at Cannes did. Spend as much or as little time interacting with it and return here to keep reading…

…Welcome back. If you’re anything like the Cannes award judges or the thousands of other people who have viewed this ad online in the past few days, you enjoyed, too. Our team created a banner ad that makes people laugh for a few minutes, and then share it with their friends online. This happens to be a perfect fit with what the Pringles brand itself is all about: a few minutes of fun, and sharing with friends.

What I love about this ad is that it takes banner space that most people ignore or find annoying, and turns it into a fun, engaging moment of play with the brand. That five minutes of fun is rewarding for the viewer who chooses to engage with it, falling under a category of meaningful marketing that we call “Entertaining Connections.”

Aside from great data on clicks and time spent with the ad, we measure its success in the word of mouth that it is drawing. Since winning the award and posting the ad on our staging server we are seeing a steady, growing number of people discovering the ad and sharing it with their social networks. Twitter in particular is becoming the barometer of the buzz, and I’m seeing about one person per minute Twittering about the ad with 100% positive comments. Here’s a sample of some of my favorite recent comments from

  • @steveklabnik: Best. Ad. Ever.  Pringles are amazing.
  • @MegLG: A banner ad that is actually engaging…Can hands: Pringles. I probably just made someone a million $ for clicking so much.
  • @lisahattery: Bored? Go here…Click on the banner ad. Keep clicking. It’s not spam or porn, I swear. I want Pringles.
  • @floatnsink: This is probably the best & only advertisement that I want to click.
  • @stuartwitts: Award winning banner ad from Pringles. Great work. Can’t remember last time a banner ad made me laugh.
  • @adamcoomes: Best banner ad I’ve ever seen. This is hilarious! Props to Pringles.
  • @hunterupton: please please PLEASE! check out this banner ad. Hilarious Pringles! it’s the best i’ve ever seen!

The Cannes judges agreed completely. In a video that was shown during the Cyber Lions event Wednesday night, they said they each spent 5 minutes on the banner, laughing out loud at their desks. Our Pringles banner was one of only 19 Gold Lions that were awarded in the entire digital category, and only six of these went to U.S.-based agencies. But what are awards for, anyway…?

It’s Starting to Go Viral

Over the weekend we started to notice comments and traffic to our staging server spike. We worked to post links on Fark, Digg, Reddit, BuzzFeed, and other places. I checked in with our Tech team Saturday afternoon and learned that more than 100,000 people had visited the page in the past day! If this was a number of views on YouTube, we would consider it a viral video success with that number alone. It will be fun to watch the traffic this week and see the other places it gets picked up.

Building the Bridge Worldwide Brand

Advertising awards are a big deal in our industry. Thousands of entries are made every year to awards shows like Cannes, with each agency hoping to get credit for the work they have done. The purpose of awards is mainly for agency marketing, a business-to-business approach. Awards allow agencies to brag about the quality of their creative work in new business pitches. But are they meaningful marketing in a B2B environment?

Many, many advertising industry pundits cry that we are too obsessed with awards. But I actually do believe that they can be meaningful to the companies that are searching for an agency partner. Here’s the rationale: First, the creative work is really the number-one thing that brands need in their advertising agencies. It’s the job they cannot do themselves. Second, it’s very, very difficult to judge the quality of an agency’s creative product through the pitching process. Case studies show work for other clients, but it is difficult to judge it because beauty is in the mind of the brief holder—i.e., clients can’t judge whether work for a different business than their own was successful or not. As a result, clients look for other ways to get comfortable with the creative potential of prospective partners.

Here’s where awards can come in—they give clients an impartial measure of the quality of creative work. Agencies that have won awards have “proof” that the work was good, as measured by very experienced judges, and as measured against many other agencies that are putting their best work up against it. While creative quality is only one piece of what clients need to see in an agency, and awards are only one of several ways to judge this, winning a big award such as a Cannes Lion shows that our agency can do some of the best work in the world.

A Cannes Lions award can also be very meaningful to an agency’s current clients. Our Pringles brand team and the senior management at P&G were ecstatic about this recognition. Within minutes of the announcement we were cheered by email from clients at all levels. A handful of top leaders got to see the show in person and they enjoyed a toast together in Cannes, immediately talking excitedly about what else we could do in this space. For P&G as a whole, it was the company’s first-ever Gold Lion in the digital category. This award is another step in the world’s largest marketer’s shift to winning in the still-developing digital space.

This win renews current clients’ confidence in us as an agency partner, shows them that we can help them compete with the best in the world, and challenges them to buy “bigger” work that we bring to them.

Impact on Our Company Culture

As an agency we only first visited the show in person last year. Our three-person delegation of Jay Woffington (President), Peter Schwartz (Chief Creative Officer), and me talked often during that week about the work we saw and wondered what it would take for us to bring home a Gold Lion. We decided that we wanted one and that our company was up to the challenge. We thought it would be a three- to five-year journey, and as Jay said, “I knew we had the ability, the talented people, and the desire… but an award such as this is not easy.”

By setting this goal and sharing our experiences with the company upon our return last year, it got our teams fired up and determined. I believe our work across the board was better in the past 12 months, and we felt confident enough to submit four pieces for Cannes. We were excited just to be short-listed for one, and the Pringles Gold win blew everyone away.

What I love is that this is truly “the agency’s award.” Our Creative Director on Pringles, Jason Bender, accepted the award on behalf of many who made it a success. As people were congratulating him late into Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, he continually deferred credit to the team behind it. And to paraphrase Bender, we all woke up Thursday morning as employees of a Cannes Gold-winning agency. I couldn’t be more proud of the team and of the agency I work for.


I hope this story illustrates how meaningful marketing can be a multilayered win for your brand or agency. Marketing with meaning breaks through the clutter to deliver quality work and business-building results, it gets your clients and new business prospects excited, and it can help make your company a great place to work.

As for Cannes, the statue wasn’t even back in the U.S. before Peter came to me talking about how we have a chance to win the “agency of the year” Cyber Lion next year—and I think our other creative teams are anxious to get in the spotlight next year. It will be fun to see the impact of this award on our agency in the year to come, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.