New Microsoft Bob McKnight Ads: Good? Not as good as Meeting a Walrus.

Now I’m far from a fan of Microsoft, but their new ad featuring Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight is actually really good. It deals with the issues surrounding the recession in an innovative way, and the tsunami metaphor works nicely.

I like the resolve too, with the emphasis being on a ‘co-opetitive’ future of collaboration, communication, transparency and mutual production between markets, organisations and consumers. This makes a lot of sense and is something I have commented on previously – the problem is, I’m not sure if either a) Microsoft are the company to argue this point, or b) whether Quiksilver serve as a good example presently of a company ‘surfing through’ the downturn.

However, upon finding the second ad in the series (above) featuring Coca Cola CMO Katie Bayne, it dawned on me that I had seen the style of the ads somewhere before: realising through youtube comments, that it was indeed, extremely similar to the work of Jerry Levitan’s film ‘I Met the Walrus’, a short with the blurb: ‘In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace’ shown below:

Now, I’m not 100% certain, but it would seem that Jerry Levitan did not have anything to do with the Microsoft ads – although many others are saying that he did. Surely, if it is not, this is another criminal example of companies ripping off ‘youtube ideas’ from the amateur professionals on the edge of our creative sphere (not that they are amateur professionals in the sense that they are not good enough to be professionals, but in the sense that they are of professional capability, but simply work outside a directly commercial context). Moreover, if it is Jerry Levitan’s work, it is a far cry from the Academy Award nominated short shown above, and in my mind, still serves as an example of this ‘creativity by peripheral proxy’: an organization struggling to find a propositional or communicative foothold, stumbling through campaigns (Seinfeld? “I’m a PC”? Such horse shit) and trying to latch on to the latest buzz. ‘Just copying something else and slapping your brand all over it’ isn’t creativity, another perfect example of this frustrating but increasingly prevalent device is T-Mobile’s flash mob rip off thing.

The thing is, in saying that they’re ‘ripping off other people’s ideas’ and so on, is in some ways true: but thinking about it critically, they are in some ways being creative, these devices hadn’t been used as ‘ads’ before, and in that sense they are original and innovative. In a lot of ways, they are only able to ‘create’ in this way because of the internet and the ability of all those with access and ideas to become content producers; simultaneously we are only able to know where their ideas have come from because we all have access to the same resource, and would likely not have been able to research or understand where the ideas have come from otherwise.

A rant might normally ensue then, that these true innovators like Jerry Levitan should be the ones who get their work shown all over the world, or that this is the level of quality and innovation we should be expecting from within advertising agencies. But a hub-spoke system of creativity will rarely work like that. Creativity comes from the fringes, from creative people rubbing up against the forefront edges of many other cultural borders and expanding the pile as a whole: reinforced, as ever, by digital. To pull these people and these ideas into the hub or centre or mainstream or whatever, is to dissolve and dilute what they are: the anithesis of big companies and big bucks and so on, and the driving force of creativity and innovation from the outside in. It is rarely possible the other way round, but a greater flow of information and collaboration is coming: as more of us become producers, the more advertisers will have to let us produce. It is the job of the agecny therefore, to ensure this conversation and collaboration is handled and managed effectively using the right mix of digital, social, and ‘real-life’ tools.

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Measuring Digital Brand Activity

It shouldn’t be difficult to understand a decent piece of digital brand activity. But brand engagement online
remains somewhat of an enigma. Measurement runs up against numerous problems, including the context
specificity of online experience, the individuality of brand engagement, audience characteristics, individual
difference, the dynamics of brand communities in online interaction, and mutual contagion between online
and offline media – to list but a few.

In particular, the use of quantitative measures (unique visits, etc) – whilst very powerful – can be premature
when quality of brand engagement, key to brand equity, is imperfectly understood. The proposed research
will explore digital brand effectiveness in order to move toward a clearer, more coherent and more inclusive
conceptualization for measurement.

Heightened competition and increased complexity in the digital environment calls for increased openness,
and the current economic climate means that digital agencies must collaborate to exist: ‘co-opetition’ is
growing and a mutuality of experience between advertisers, agencies, suppliers, competitors and consumers
is coming to the fore. However, in this ‘co-opetitive’ context, it is a question of which brands can harness the
powerful technologies at their disposal in order to remove inefficiencies, share knowledge, drive engagement
(rather than just analyze it) and prove the value of investment in digital through measurable ROI and
engaging environments.