DRUM X LINCOLN: welcome to advertising. What the hell is going on?

The purpose of this workshop was to prepare aspiring creatives from Lincoln University’s Creative Advertising course for the turbulent word they’re walking into.

These were the most helpful lessons, as decided by the students themselves.

The students were asked to rate each lesson on a scale of 1 to 5.

But they weren’t allowed to use 2, 3 or 4. Meaning they could only use 1 or 5.

1= very obvious and very unhelpful.

5= very insightful and very helpful.

These were the lessons that prevailed.

Have you ever heard of “the golden rule”?

It’s written into every major religion in the world. In each language, it translates roughly as:

“Treat other people as you would like to be treated”.

Value exchange is what I like to think of as “the second golden rule”.

It’s how the world works at its most fundamental level.

Everyone is the centre of their own universe.

Because they live every second of every day, literally at the centre of their universe.

Their entire experience of the world is with them at the centre of it.

You, reading this. You’re exactly the same.

So am I.

I feel exactly the same way about my life (and how important I am in it) as you do about yours.

Neither of us is selfish, or malicious.

This is simply the result of us always experiencing the world through our own two eyes.

As a result, the “second golden rule” goes like this:

“If you want to get value, give value.”

The reverse is also true.

“If you give value, you get value.”

The world doesn’t always work like this. There are always anomolies.

There are people who take value, while giving or creating none.

These people are usually known as sharks, scam artists or more simply, thieves.

There are also people who expect a lot of value. But offer little.

These people are often referred to as lazy. Or as “thinking the world owes them something”.

(Sometimes these people aren’t lazy. But are prejudiced against by ignorant, priveleged individuals. Which is wrong, and sadly, is another anomoly that needs to end.)

But value exchange is the way the world works.

Many people decry the sums premiership footballers are paid.

But relative to the money that they generate for their club, it does make sense.

They millions of pounds worth of tickets.

Of food.

Of drink.

Of merchandise.

Millions of eyeballs glued to TV channels that make money from advertising.

This is why sadly, soldiers will never be paid footballer’s wages.

No one is willing to go and watch a live war. So the economics don’t work.

As I said, there are anomolies.

But generally, this rule holds up.

Give value. Get value.

When you understand this rule, life becomes so much easier.

But so does your job.

Absolutely everything you create, must create value for the person that experiences it.

In some way, big or small, it has to have a positive impact on their life.

Make it easier, better, simpler or happier.

Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them feel something.

Remind them that they’re human.

Or literally make their life better. Beyond emotions.

Think of any piece communication as a bridge between your customers and the product, service or brand.

Your customer is sat comfortably.

If all you do is build the bridge, the person is aware of the bridge.

They may even be aware of what is at the other end.

But it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll cross.

In order to cross, they need to know that the experience of doing so will give them value. Enough value to justify crossing.

What’s it in for them?

You can tell them.

But it’s always better to prove it to them.

This video from Seth Godin smashes it out of the metaphorical park.

We’ve all heard a joke that starts with the line above.

And we’ve all walked into a bar hoping to strike up a relationship.

Romantic or otherwise.

Whether we’re a man, woman or we’re gender neutral.

Brands are no different.

Every brand wants to have a long, healthy, monogamous relationship with its customers.

Much like people, the two have to be the right fit for each other.

Let’s use this classic joke ‘set-up’ line as an example:

A young man heading out for the night with his friends, hoping to meet a woman.

He’s not a womaniser. But an honest, decent guy looking for a girlfriend.

Given his desires, there are a lot of people in the bar with whom a relationship isn’t what our man is looking for.

Women in commited relationships.

Women who aren’t looking for a boyfriend.

Women who are into women.

Men who are into men.

For a relationship to form, assuming our man meets:

-a woman who is into men

-who is looking for a boyfriend.

Then the following still needs to apply:

-the two have to be each other’s type.

-they need to actually meet.

-they need to get along and not offend each other.

-our man has to prove he’s worth this woman’s time, more so than anyone else in the bar.

-(assuming they don’t home together that night) they have to avoid losing each other long enough to swap numbers.

-they need to go for a first date.

However, there are infinite possibilites between meeting and date one where our woman could meet another man whom she deems to be a better fit.

But, let’s assume that this doesn’t happen.

And that the dates continue to go well.

The two may go on to form a relationship.

None of this will be surprising to read. It’s not supposed to be.

But take the same analogy and apply it to brands trying to strike up monogamous relationships with people.

Suddenly you see that doing some “good ads now and again” (let’s compare these to chat up lines) might not do the trick, long-term.

Not when apps like Tinder, Bumble and Match are offering the competition the chance to prove that they are a more valuable use of our woman’s time.

Now our man has to ensure that he is consistenly kind, authentic, honest and fun across every touchpoint.

And it’s no different with brands.

It’s a relationship.

And relationships take work.

If the brand gets lazy and stops putting effort into the relationship, whilst another brand is putting plenty of effort in.

The odds of that relationship remaining monogamous signifcantly decrease.

Sometimes instead of asking:

What should the client do?

More powerful questions to ask are:

What aren’t they doing that their competitors are?

What have they stopped doing?

What have they stopped doing well?

This is a saying in ice hockey.

The reason being, is that if you skate to where the puck is, by the time you get there, it will have moved.

You have to skate to where it’s going to be.

But to know where it’s going to be, you need to know enough about all of the factors affecting its movement.

It’s the same with culture.

If you don’t keep up with it.

If you don’t have your finger on the pulse.

If you’re not in touch with the way real people are living their lives…

Then by the time you create what you deem to be culturally relevant, culture will have moved on.

At best, your work will be just another voice in a sea of voices.

This is what’s known as a bell-curve of innovation.

It shows the adoption rate of new technologies among populations.

But it’s also a useful tool for cultural trends.

Generally, as a creative person, you want to be aware of all the exiting things happening (emerging tech, cultures) within the ‘innovator’ and certainly within the ‘early adopter’ quadrants.

Timed right and carefully chosen, it affords you the possibility of impacting culture with your creative work by bringing this tech or movement to the early majority.

Impacting culture is no mean feat for a brand and can result in very healthy returns.

As you can see from the colour coding, when things hit the early majority they’re seen as “hot”, cooling off as they become taken for granted.

At this stage, only the laggards see this technology as “new”.

(Smartphones for example, are something many of us now take for granted. Yet at one point in time, they were the hottest thing you could own.)

Below are some examples:

Innovators: buying 3D printers

Early adopters: buying Amazon Alexa

Early majority: buying smart TV’s

Late majority: buying tablets

Laggards: buying smartphones

I’m not claiming my product choices are spot on. But it gives you a picture.

The best bit about creating in a space that turns early-adoption into early-majority is that it gives your client much more bang for their buck.

‘Influencers’ and ‘thought-leaders’ have been around long before Youtube and Instagram.

And they have always influenced the decisions of those around them.

Look around in any pub or at any party.

For every group of 3 or 4 people that you see. There will generally be 1 person doing the majority of the talking and 2–3 people doing the majority of the listening.

This is simple social dynamics. The influence and the influenced.

The thing about influencers is that they’re generally interested in lots of interesting, emerging things.

As a result, they’re constantly talking about them.

Because they’re constantly talking about them, they’re constantly looking for things to talk about.

So if you your ideas are genuinely innovative, it will likely find its way into the headspace of an influencer. As a result, you end up advertising to five people for the price of one.

Be an innovator so you can lead the early majority with your work.

Be an innovator so you can impact culture.

This is an invaluable question. Here’s a provocative statement:

What isn’t important, is whether or not this statement is true.

What is important, is to use this statement as an opportunity, to be truly innovative in your thinking.

Just spend 15-minutes trying to think of as many open ended questions as possible to turn this potential problem into an interesting opportunity.

Use the resulting questions to be more original and innovative in response to your briefs.

To avoid going on auto-pilot.

To avoid recommending an ‘ad’ as the solution to every problem.

(That’s like a doctor prescribing antibiotics before they’ve even spoken to their patient.)

Even when:

-it may not be the correct fit for the person the client most critically needs to communicate with

-it may not be the correct fit for the market context the client lives within

-it may not actually solve the marketing problem or objective

To avoid being a tree that falls in an empty woods.

(The Lincoln students emerged with three, very strong questions:

-How can advertising be faster, more engaging and more value creating.

-How could a piece of communication be part of, or help me share my identity.

-How can you make people seek out advertising? (What do people seek out? Why? Where? When? How can we be more like that?)

If people don’t know that your product exists, it’s impossible for them to care about it.

Awareness doesn’t mean consideration. If all you do is inform people that your product or service exists, they know, but they don’t care.

Many people know global warming is destroying the planet. Yet they don’t care. It doesn’t affect them personally.

The ladder of zero fucks given, despite the crass name, reminds us not just how critical it is to make people care.

But at how many stages of the creative process we have an opportuntity to.

Business Idea: Tesla.

Tesla revolutionised a category that was dull, grey, boring and rational and made it sleek, sexy and aspirational.

They made electric cars fast and attractive to look at.

This, is effectively the creative idea.

Communications that do more than announce the arrival of these fast, sexy, new electric cars would have over-complicated the job they had to perform

Business positioning: Nike.

Nike doesn’t sell trainers. It sells motivation.

Nike doesn’t need to tell you that the Air Max is X% softer or springier. Or that it will help you run faster or jump higher.

You buy from Nike because you buy into Nike.

You buy into their philosophy and you see the Nike brand as forming some small part of your identity.

A new interpration of Nike’s famous positioning will likely be more than enough to lead to interesting places.

Product idea: Volkswagwen Golf R32.

The Golf R32 was a marketing idea designed to have a halo effect across all Volkswagen cars and increase performance perceptions.

BMW’s M Series, Audi’s RS series or Mercedes’ AMG series make you look at all BMW’s, Audi’s and Mercedes differently.

Volkswagen wanted something that made of all their cars seem like better performers.

The Volkswagen Golf R32 was born.

A Volkswagen Golf with a huge engine, a bodykit and huge alloy wheels.

All the advertising had to do was communicate what this car was to it’s core; fast.

Whilst I’m very jealous of these posters. To me, they do not represent the creative idea.

The creative idea was the car itself.

Product positioning: Audi RS4.

Whilst it received mix reviews within the industry, this film promoting the New Audi RS4 knows exactly who it’s talking to.

There is so much latent love for previous marks of the Audi RS4 among Audi drivers.

In particular their loud, throbby engines. (And the overwhelming performance they deliver.)

This film leans right into that nostalgia by featuring nothing apart from the engine of the new RS4 cooling down.

Not deemed to be the most interesting focus of a film by some in the cretive industry.

But highly likely to resonate with potential RS4 customers.

Cultural point: Fearless Girl.

State Street Global Advisors made a fantastic point with their ‘Fearless Girl’ statue.

The New York stock exchange bull was originally installed as a sign of prosperity, of a ‘Bull Market’.

(A bull market is a market in which share prices are rising, encouraging buying).

But it has become a symbol of male domination, aggression and greed within the financial industry.

With one simple statue, State Street Global Advisors completely subverted this.

To bolster their cultural point, they carefully considered the timing of their act, installing the Fearless Girl statue on International Women’s Day.

Cultural point: Lacoste.

Lacoste swapped its famous crocodile logo for ten endangered species.

Content Partner: Lego Batman.

Lego Batman is famous for his over-the-top voice. A caricature of Christian Bale’s voice in the Dark Knight.

Lego Batman is his voice.

To promote the up and coming Lego Batman movie, Drum partnered Warner Bros with Channel 4 and had Lego Batman announce the upcoming shows.

They key here is relevance of the partner.

Delivery/ deliverer of content or message: Security Moms.

To reduce football violence at matches, Sport Club do Recife changed who delivered their message.

Marshalls were replaced with mums of real fans at the matches.

These fans had a history of violence.

But this all dissipated when they saw their mums in the stands.

Only now do we come to the content or message itself.

Sometimes this is absolutely the right place to be.

The right area to play in or think within.

But by going here by default, you remove almost 90% of your opportunities to be truly innovative and to actually solve the problem or objective of the brief.

Creative Toolbox

Tools Lincoln were given to go away with. Questions that provoke answers.

A beautiful constraint (can you pair a huge ambition with a conflicting constraint?)

E.g. Q: “How can we win the Le Mans 24-hour race without making a faster car”.

A: By making one that needs to re-fuel less often. Meaning when our competitors are re-fuelling, we’re still driving.

Method acting

A day in the life of. How does this person legitimately interact with media?

Where can you meet them, media wise?

An honest conversation: what’s worse than it should be?

What’s not good about the product/ service? How would you make it better?

How can people be your adverts?

E.g. Apple iPod as the only MP3 player that used white headphones

(Scroll down to ‘What’s the Point?’)

Is it an execution, or a solution?

E.g. Prison Pet Partnership. Don’t tell people the problem, solve it. Do, don’t say.

What’s hot right now: what’s definitely a trend, but still at ‘innovator’ stage?

E.g. Gender fluidity — how can the brand/ product/ service positively contribute to that topic?

What’s in the way?

Is there an obstacle in the way of sales? How can you creatively remove it?

What’s the tension?

Is there a product/ market/ audience tension? Can you use it? Flip it?

What’s going to waste?

What’s currently being wasted (by that brand) that a great idea could put to use?

Who’s a smart partner? Who could the brand partner with? Why is that smart?

E.g. A plaster brand partners with a bone marrow donation charity.

Can you sell as well as serve?

How can your idea sell things as well as make people’s lives better/ simpler/ happier?

Can you be take a timeless need and meet it with timely tech?

E.g. Air BNB, Uber.

Like what you read? Give Elliott Starr a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.