Sunday, November 29, 2009

Augmented Reality and Art & Copy

A while ago, I posted about the documentary, “Art & Copy” which hails Bill Bernbach’s industry changing pairing together of an art director and copywriter as a creative team.

During an interview on American Public Radio’s Marketplace with the director, Doug Pray, he talks about how advertising used to get done. He said, “In the old days of advertising, it was driven more by the account. And just information. It was all about you got a car, it does 12 new things this year, we just have to tell people about the 12 new things. And have a pretty picture. So you do the pretty picture. We'll tell them about the 12 new things.”

I was paging through the Dec/Jan 2010 issue of Dwell Magazine and I came across an ad for the third generation Toyota Prius. In this particular ad the reader is invited to 1) Install the Prius Experience iPhone App from the App Store and 2) Interact by taking a picture of said ad using the “interact” mode, then touch to see features and videos.

On Youtube there is a video of the Prius Experience App, “Draw”. The description says “The Prius Experience App has four modes to help educate and entertain iPhone™ users interested in learning more about the EPA-rated 50 MPG 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid. Admittedly the “draw” feature and corresponding Times Square promotion was kind of cool. But in general, while the Toyota ad is theoretically progressive and cutting edge, it’s really just a cheap trick and the content presented is still presented just like the days of old. The only difference is the medium has changed.

It dawned on me that perhaps we’ve gone full circle except instead of telling people the 12 new things about the car in the magazine ad, we have to lure them into going through the process of installing an iPhone application to tell them the 12 things.

So I wonder, are art & copy teams to be a thing of the “old days of advertising driven more by the account?” And teams will now consist of iPhone programmers and film producers and directors in addition to copywriters. What will it take for agencies to think about instead of “Advertising ideas → Ideas that you can advertise”, an idea wonderfully and simply illustrated in a presentation by Nick Emmel? The latter having to do more with producing engaging and relevant content. For reference, Toyota’s Youtube channel has had a little over 107,000 views. Contrast that with Ken Block’s Gymkhana 2 which is now up to 9.2 million plus views and I think you’ll see what it means to produce relevant content that people want to engage in.

Can Hummer have a Hyundai Moment?

I recently read a great blog post by Andrew McCafee on the “Illusion of Brand Control” from the Harvard Business Review blogs. Mr. McCafee studies how technology affects businesses.

In his article he cites examples of two brands. One which seeks to try and corral perceptions of its brand the other who seeks to let its brand run free.

The brand that seeks to corral the perceptions of its brand does so fairly unsuccessfully while the brand that lets it brand run free seems to find organic success. These may not be apple to apple case studies but nevertheless, the former it would seem could learn something about perception, identity and aligning business, product development and marketing strategy.

The example of the brand allowed to run wild is MIT, in which there are 11 student blogs featured on the admissions office web page. They are central to the schools communications efforts. The premise was simple. The school is confident enough that in having some of the greatest scholars of the world grace its campus, why wouldn’t they be capable of presenting a cogent dialogue on a variety of topics to the world thus demonstrating why you would want to attend MIT.

On the other side of the spectrum is Hummer.

Mr. McCafee starts his piece…
“You've probably heard by now that ‘your brand is no longer yours.’ The assertion's based on simple math. In the era of blogs, discussion boards, Facebook, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 tools, virtually everyone can get online and talk about your company and its offerings. As a result, the amount of information your marketing and PR departments can generate is only a small percentage of the total volume of content on the Internet about your firm.

What's more, if some of the external voices become as popular, or perish the thought, more popular than your official voice, then they're going to show up high in organic (as opposed to paid) search results. For example, I just typed "Hummer" into Google. The second result is the Wikipedia entry about the vehicle, and the fourth one is a site full of user-submitted photos that are not likely to please the brand's owner.”
Let’s talk about the fourth one. On that site there are 5092 submissions of people flipping the bird to passing Hummer H2s. That’s a lot of angst.

When one thinks about Hummer’s past advertising, it often portrays young, good-looking, hip and adventurous 30-something individuals utilizing their Hummers to create their own adventures seeking out the most remote spots on earth.

Granted a great degree of Hummer's spots are automotive eye candy in shot in places like the far reaches of New Zealand. However when there are people in the ads, the folks and imagery used in Hummer’s spots are really not at all representative of the actual Hummer consumer. And these days, I don’t think there are many people in America who want to be seen in a Hummer. The people portrayed in the spots of old courtesy of Modernista! are no doubt beautifully art directed and shot. But the people in the commercials look a lot like, well the people in agencies like Modernista! And what I know about people like these is that most of them wouldn’t buy a Hummer. They’re probably more likely to buy a Mini. And the hardcore outdoor folks that you might find riding their bikes to their boutique agency are design/brand snobs and extraordinarily eco-friendly. I might personally resemble this last remark.

This is where the opportunity lies for Hummer for North America. If they align the business strategy, product development and marketing effectively they could actually carve out a nice little niche for themselves.

While current brand perception is negative, I would predict that if you dug down to the brands core you’d find perception about the brand is probably still pretty well respected for being a vehicle that can pretty much get anywhere.

With that, if Hummer plays its cards right they just might have a chance in hell at surviving. Consider developing smaller than H2-type vehicles with less bling, powered by clean diesel (the magic word is torque) and provide functional utilitarian packages aimed at various affinity groups.

This is where I wonder if Hummer can have its own Hyundai moment. Any marketer with a subscription to AdAge knows that Hyundai is the marketing darling of the industry these days and rightfully so. However it wasn’t marketing that created Hyundai’s turnaround. It was the company.

As Mark Allen Roberts said in response to the AdAge's "Marketer of the Year"article on Hyundai, “What they did brilliantly was on the front end.”

I don’t suspect Hummer will be as universally captivating as Hyundai because it will always be a niche brand but I do feel that there’s a tremendous opportunity for Hummer.