Blog : advertising

McDonald’s misses the mark

McDonald’s misses the mark

It came as no surprise when McDonald’s announced this week that they were pulling their ‘Dad’ TV advert. In the wake of significant backlash from the general public and bereavement charities, it seemed the only sensible option.

Just how McDonald’s, usually such a solid performer in the world of TV advertising, had so badly missed the mark may be less down to the advert’s content, but more about  failing to establish a credible link between it and the brand.

For those not aware of the latest installment in the burger chain’s advertising campaign – one that’s previously included a clever dig at the ‘hipster’ coffee scene – the basic premise focuses around a young lad struggling to find a common link to his deceased father. Unlike his dad he’s rubbish at football, has different coloured eyes and is terrible with the ladies. Things are looking desperate until he takes a bite into the Golden Arches’ very own Filet-o-Fish, which just happened to be the old man’s favourite, and voila! – it’s tartar sauce all round.

There is no doubting the sincerity of what’s being played out here. Take the looming ‘M’ logo out of proceedings and it’s a genuinely touching and well-crafted 90 seconds of film. Where this advert appears to have struck a particular nerve however, is the lack of any genuine association to the advert’s content and McDonald’s as a brand.

The use of bereavement and loss is nothing new to the TV advertising world, regularly used by charities as a hard-hitting tool that strikes right to the core of their key message and ultimately shapes their aim and purpose. McDonald’s however, appears to have hijacked this tactic for the simple aim of promoting their brand and products, with no real connection to the theme.

Sainsbury’s sailed close to the wind with their Christmas advert in 2014, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The desperate scene of trench warfare made slightly more bearable by a bar of Sainsbury’s chocolate sent from home.

There was criticism, observers pointing out that the atrocities of war should not be used to promote what was ultimately the run-up to the festive period and the busiest time in the retail calendar – those turkeys and Brussels sprouts weren’t going to sell themselves, etc.

However, Sainsbury’s had been cute and received an endorsement from the Royal British Legion, with proceeds of a special edition chocolate bar going to the charity – I should know this, I bought three. This provided a link, albeit tenuous, so the viewer could understand the narrative behind the advert and why Sainsbury’s was using it in this way.

Would all this controversy for McDonald’s have been avoided if they had arranged to donate profits to a bereavement charity? Probably not. However, viewers would have been able to make a tangible link between the core message of the advert and its purpose. As Sainsbury’s showed, by developing a credible link to support your advert’s key message, you can come out relatively unscathed.

For McDonald’s, it’s back to the drawing board. Anyone got Ronald’s number…?

A sad day for the New Day

A sad day for the New Day

After only two months in circulation, the New Day is to close due to poor sales. But why did such a seemingly popular addition to our daily news fail so quickly?

I was convinced it was going to revolutionise the newspaper industry. The bite-sized, easy to digest news is just what we need in our busy lives, while its bold graphics made it stand out, and its attention grabbing front pages captured readers instantly. It had a fresh take on features, focusing more on people than products, and it made striking use of photography, giving it visual appeal.

The New Day felt like it came from the same family as Metro, Shortlist and Stylist: easy to read, informative and entertaining. But what the latter three publications all have in common is their distribution method. You can pick them up on public transport or from stands in high footfall locations, and the major appeal is the cost: all three are free.

Could the New Day have survived if it had been a free sheet? I would say undoubtedly yes. The premium advertising rates charged by titles like Metro or Stylist surely go to show that revenue can be generated by creating a title that people look forward to reading.

Of course there have to be limitations on the number of publications that are distributed on our transport networks, but why not give people a choice of what they want to read? Maybe that’s the real way forward for print media? People have a choice of which newspaper to buy, so why not give them options on which one to pick up for free?

I’m sad to see the end of the New Day, and I’m not alone. Its Facebook page is full of supportive comments. Who knows, perhaps Trinity Mirror will take heed of some of the positive vibes and find a way of giving it another day…

The 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s PR juggling act

The 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s PR juggling act

“The winner to organise the 2022 FIFA World Cup is, Qatar!” These are the words declared on 2 December 2010 by Sepp Blatter that remain fresh in the memory of so many in the footballing world. They are also the words which have arguably changed a nation and how football is run forever. I will always remember the atmosphere in Aspire Park in Doha. Men, women and children, faces illuminated looking up at a giant screen. The declaration ceremony was taking place a world away in a much colder Zurich. The area erupted when ‘QATAR’ was pulled from the envelope. People shouted, screamed and some even cried with happiness. It was then that I realised that this was to be much more than just a football tournament. It was going to be a catalyst for change on a political, cultural and human level. It was going to be about sport breaking down stereotypical barriers, and a unique opportunity for Qatar to leave a lasting legacy to change perceptions about the country on a global scale.

However, no more than a few hours later, the world’s media scolded the decision and brought Qatar’s biggest ever party to an almighty halt. Allegations of corruption and bribery soon followed and even now in 2016 casualties of the decision continue to be thrust into the media spotlight with the bid now under FBI investigation. Qatar is having what we like to call in the industry, a ‘PR nightmare’.

Despite the opportunity before them, I have to agree with comments made by Nicholas McGheehan, Gulf Analyst at Human Rights Watch recently that Qatar seemed to be “catastrophically” unprepared for the scrutiny that followed this big decision. Its efforts at public relations have been poor, especially in comparison to the United Arab Emirates who have been more effective in handling the country’s image around the world.

I’m a strong advocate of giving the underdog a chance at proving themselves. But I also have to acknowledge the negative image which has been portrayed so far amidst the allegations of corruption, bribery, human rights abuses, lack of footballing history and the uncontrollable climate issue. I have been lucky enough to live in Qatar and I agree that they have a lot of work to do to combat this negative reputation and I certainly don’t condone the said allegations. But what Qatar is being denied is a chance to tell both sides of the story. Qatar has gone from a relatively anonymous backwater to strong economic and political power, becoming a key player in global affairs. Its vision and ambition has to be admired, but one has to question if Qatar being thrust into the global media spotlight was too much too soon?

Amongst the damning headlines, Qatar has also been catching the eyes of the world by means of its vast wealth. It is the richest country in the world per capita and has been involved with the purchase, investment and sponsorship of some of the world’s biggest brands including Harrods, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain and The Shard. Despite rapid development and eye catching purchases, Qatar is still a developing country with a number of teething problems and in my opinion not being able to control its image has been a major issue. This has created a problem in that FIFA sponsors including Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Budweiser are facing increasing pressure from groups to pull out of sponsoring the 2022 World Cup due to the allegations. So far, a few have voiced concern, but none have pulled out. A move which could be explained by the monetary and advertising value that the World Cup can bring.

Overall, Qatar’s PR juggling act is a tough one. On one side they are trying to promote the 2022 FIFA World Cup as a great event and a unique opportunity to showcase Qatar as a country, but on the other it is trying to counter negative press around current teething problems as a developing country. It will always be remembered for being the first World Cup in the Middle East, the first World Cup to be held in the winter and also being known as one of the most controversial decisions in the history of sport. Qatar needs to work on its global image and make sure that any activity is appropriate and doesn’t open it up to further criticism. Global sporting events magnify a country’s flaws and I look forward to observing with interest how Qatar’s leaders overcome them in the years prior to 2022. The clock is ticking and solutions and demonstrable change needs to be seen. Organisers have a chance to promote Qatar for the right reasons and to deliver a memorable tournament to live up to the campaign hashtag, #ExpectAmazing.

A few of our favourite Twitter moments

A few of our favourite Twitter moments

Today our favourite microblogging platform turns 10. It’s become part of our everyday and to celebrate the milestone birthday, here are a few of Stripe’s favourite Twitter moments.

When the power went out during the Super Bowl 2013, Oreo was super quick to respond and became the out-and-out winner of the annual advertising frenzy – impressive considering the mega budgets of the TV commercials during a Super Bowl.

 

When the news broke that Jeremy Clarkson had punched a producer because he was hungry and had subsequently been suspended by the BBC, Snickers sent him this care package. Well played Snickers, well played.

 

The 2014 Oscars. Ellen DeGeneres was hosting. Selfies were on the rise. Cue the most retweeted tweet by an absolute mile: The Oscar Selfie.

 

JK Rowling has no time for internet trolls and knows how to nail the perfect shutdown. For that we salute you.

Her tweets also feature the odd rap lyric.

 

28 April this year will mark the fifth anniversary of Ed Balls tweeting his own name. He has since become an internet phenomenon. 

 

A witty exchange between Tesco and a customer portraying the British sense of humour at its best.

 

Talking of the Great British sense of humour, we had to include James Blunt. He wins at Twitter.

 

When hashtags go bad. To launch Susan Boyle’s 2012 album, the team went for this… #susanalbumparty.  How did they not notice this?! Or did they realise and just let it slide, knowing the hilarity that would unfold?

#susanalbumparty tweet

 

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the long-suffering John Lewis who regularly gets mistaken for retailer John Lewis. Easily done I know, but his witty responses never fail to raise a smile.

 

Here’s to the next 10 years – we can’t wait to see what’s next…  #LoveTwitter

Planet 50-50: The greatest emerging economy the world has ever seen

Planet 50-50: The greatest emerging economy the world has ever seen

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. I hesitate over the word ‘celebrate,’ as while progress has been made, the statistics show women are falling woefully short. According to the World Economic Forum we are 117 years from global gender parity, meaning it will be 2133 before true equality.

While this gobsmacking statistic is depressing and hard to take, I do feel a slight sense of optimism. That optimism is based upon the sheer force of economics. The fact is women are not just good for business, they’re great. As you will see from the following graphic, women are arguably the largest emerging economy the world has ever seen. And, let’s face it what business would want to miss out on what could be the greatest competitive advantage ever?

So, today on International Women’s Day please take a moment to acknowledge the enormous potential of women in, and for, business.

#PledgeForParity

International Womens Day - the biggest emerging economy

Zoolander 2: How to be really, really, really ridiculously good at marketing

Zoolander 2: How to be really, really, really ridiculously good at marketing

I’ve always been a huge fan of the movie Zoolander. As a cynical teenager, I loved how it politely poked fun at the worlds of marketing, fashion and celebrity – industries I now work closely with and within.

Released in 2001, Zoolander was ahead of its time, parodying the vacuous ‘Blue Steeliness’ of the fashion industry; the embellished language of advertising (‘wetness is the essence of beauty’) and the superficiality of celebrity culture…but doing so with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek.

Fifteen years on, the world Derek Zoolander inhabits is more relevant than ever, thanks to the exponential growth of the internet and social media. Naturally, I’m excited about the sequel, but I’ve become even more engaged with the movie thanks to its ingenious marketing campaign.

Zoolander 2 takes a unique approach on movie marketing; rather than be confined to the traditional platforms of relentless press junkets and photo shopped billboards, the strategy goes far beyond this, utilising its fashion plot and iconic male model protagonists, to engage with and become a part of the world it has been politely parodying for the past decade and a half.

Zoolander 1Zoolander 2Zoolander-3

The Zoolander 2 campaign launched, like any big fashion brand, at Paris Fashion Week. Zoolander and Hansel were the grand finale at Valentino’s AW15 catwalk show, dressed in their signature eccentric garments and perfect pouts, they walked the runway and gave insiders an exclusive look at what everyone would be talking about next season.

Since then, Zoolander 2 has continued to be marketed like a highly anticipated fashion collection, spearheaded by two of the world’s most famous male models. Indeed Derek and Hansel are to Zoolander 2, what Kate Moss was to Calvin Klein and Cara Delevingne was to Burberry.

The strategy runs throughout the film’s marketing materials from radio ads to its promotional posters. The clever posters take on the guise of a fragrance advertisement and the movie’s premiere doubled as a fashion show.

Just like any catwalk starlet with a collection to promote, Derek Zoolander has been popping up on the front covers of fashion magazines for the past few months – from Vogue to Esquire. Casting aside my suspension of disbelief – this is the equivalent of King Kong on the cover of National Geographic or Gordon Gekko on the Financial Times…but it works, and the fashion world is embracing Zoolander and its eponymous character, as one of its own.

I’m a fan, so I’ll be seeing the sequel regardless, but it’s also reassuring to know that the fashion world has given its seal of approval and confirmed that Zoolander 2 is ‘so hot right now’.

Brands going for gold in sport

Brands going for gold in sport

Whether you gushed at the sight of sausage dogs gleefully running around in hot dog buns towards humans dressed as giant bottles of Heinz Ketchup, or winced at the unborn baby shooting out of its mother to snatch at a bag of Doritos, it was hard not to sit up and take notice of what brands were doing for Super Bowl 50.

My personal favourite brand involvement wasn’t an advert. It was a stunt (shockingly!). Airbnb OWNED it with theirs. They offered Super Bowl fans the chance to stay in the home of Carolina Panthers star Roman Harper – complete with pool table, sky lounge and yoga room – to watch the game while he battled for the big prize against the Denver Broncos. At a heavy cost of $5,000, Airbnb gifted the money to charity too, which was a really nice touch (down) from them.

The Super Bowl is a worldwide phenomenon and one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Reuters claimed this year’s game attracted over 111 million TV viewers in America alone. With these colossal off-the-scale viewing figures, it’s no wonder some of the world’s biggest brands are paying $5 million for a 30 second window to push their latest products to win the ‘brand battle.’

This is obviously a budget which can go a long way towards creating a fantastic campaign, but to global consumer brands such as Snickers, Budweiser and Pepsi, it’s a drop in the ocean.  Considering over 111 million people watched Super Bowl 50, the cost of $45 to reach one thousand people doesn’t seem that much for them. What would be the impact of NOT advertising or pulling off a stunt?

If we look at brands involving themselves at major sporting events closer to home, it’s worth noting the increase in sales Tunnocks Tea Cakes and IRN-BRU experienced on the back of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. The giant tinfoil covered cakes and cans of Scotland’s favourite soft drink took to the stage as Glasgow welcomed nations from across the world to the city for Scotland’s biggest sporting event of the century, with over 9 million people in the UK tuning in to watch the show.

Whether we agree or disagree with the money spent by brands that are pushing product awareness during big sporting events, it’s hard to argue against the return on investment.

It remains to be seen what the best form of association is for brands looking to put themselves out there before, during or after big sporting event, whether it be advertising, sponsorship, joining the discussion on social media or turning round a cool and funny stunt to spread the word. What’s clear is that if a brand’s objectives fit well with a particular sport and they have the budget to be involved then it makes perfect sense to take advantage and increase their exposure. But, it does have to be done right and in line with their brand values.

With the Euro 2016 Championship in France just around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing how far brands will go to get noticed. Watch this space.

Love, Emojis and Heroes – What’s Rockin’ 2016

Love, Emojis and Heroes – What’s Rockin’ 2016

2016 is the year of the consumer. Through all platforms, across all trends, the customer is claiming back their mind and their body and is in full control of their media space. So adapt or die.

Digital comes of age. It’s still the media juggernaut, but this year we’re digging deeper into the analytical matrix.

The consumption of digital content is through apps and is fully mobile. Our desire for portability and our rejection of always digesting information in real time is set to continue, so we must continually maximize content to match and strive to work out where, how and when.

What’s new this year is the way we’re evaluating our digital data and its impact on strategy, which aims to make social more viable and valuable. Businesses want ROI and so ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ aren’t enough. Although they demonstrate awareness, in 2016 we’re looking for love.

Creative virility is super for vanity, but advocacy now reigns supreme. Excellent consumer experience converts consumers to brand activists and thus maximises social connectivity. The focus is on follow through, so perpetuating the circle of client happiness and truth. Even our beloved emojis, (now used more than not) are to be scrutinized for the data they can yield. (Insert happy face with wrinkles, drinking a nice Riesling).

Content will see a further move away from static to video. Interactivity will keep your customers clicking in the appropriate direction. Understanding the right degree of personalization and making content relevant is crucial too. Know your platforms, be ready to pounce on the new. But the big technological trend that will impact content is virtual reality, already popping up on Facebook and YouTube with the emergence of 360 Video.

It’s an Olympic year, so sport and our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle are on the podium. Keep up with the gurus and influencers in this spectrum; the frontrunners will be worth their weight in gold. And let’s not forget there’s an American election in November so corporate and financial businesses should be on high alert with their spin on this.

Creativity, our stalwart, is always about the story leading the customer through the media jungle, entertaining and delighting them on the way and delivering them a happy ending. A campaign with a conscience is a seasonal vogue, but if there’s one thing that’s always in style, it’s an honest to goodness, strategically grounded, fantastic idea.

Our affection of all things seventies has been turbo boosted into the stratosphere with the sad death of David Bowie. As music is fashion and fashion is music and Bowie’s creative brilliance is the embodiment of both, never has he been so culturally pertinent. See his genius penetrate through both artistic mediums and long may it continue.

And that’s it, health and prosperity (with a bit of strategy, innovation, creativity and integration) for 2016 from Stripe HQ.