Pastures Nouveau

So, this is it. We’ve come to the end of the road, as Boyz II Men would say.

As I type this I have just one day left as a DAS Grad. Cue pathetic whimpering. Yes, we’ve survived the 16 months, the 5 agencies, the 3 weeks in the states, and the 1 presentation, and will soon be released into the wilderness to fend for ourselves. We celebrated our coming of age in the same way we celebrated the start of the scheme; at The Larrick in Marylebone, over a lot of food, and an equally excessive amount of alcohol. A sprinkling of tears seasoned our enormous burgers as we regaled each other of stories from times gone by, and the Reputation Manager put in a solid performance by reducing the rest of us to a blubbering wreck with her irritatingly thoughtful gifts.

It’s been emotional. Really.

So! Onto pastures new.  The four of us have managed to avoid the ugly beast that is unemployment, and from January will be weaving different paths through the research, branding, advertising and PR worlds. Not wanting to wander too far from its loving arms, we’re all staying put in the DAS family, and will continue to blog (somewhat sporadically) from our ‘new’ agencies. Watch this space.

The Drug Pusher x

A Visual Extravaganza

The somewhat overused sentiment ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ may be a cliché, but when it comes to the World Press Photo 2011 exhibition currently displayed at Royal Festival Hall along London’s South Bank, it’s certainly justified. Myself and The Engager thought we’d check it out on our ‘day o’ culture’ and we weren’t disappointed.

The exhibition brings together award-winning photographs that capture some of the most powerful, moving and sometimes disturbing images of the year. Moments captured in time that put you at the heart of the action/ issue in question. This year a record 108,059 images were submitted from which more than 350 were selected as winners. 

It’s free but finishes today so if you’ve already got plans and can’t get down there, check out the hyperlink above to see some of the best photos. It really is something.

The Brandette x

WHY DID YOU WEAR YOURS?

November once more has given us the opportunity to unite in our quest to remember and pay respect to those who died in line of duty. The red poppy itself has been used since 1920, inspired by the World War I poem, “In Flander Fields.” It was indeed an American YMCA worker, Moina Michael, who donned the first silk red poppy in November 1918 at a YWCA Overseas War Secretaries’ conference, further distributing 25 more silk poppies to those attending. The action was pure and honest in its sole endeavour to ‘remember’.

Yet, as I nestle down for my weekly X Factor viewing or flick through my trashy celeb mag, the number of extravagant poppies (I’m talking jewels, crystals and sequins) can’t help but catch my eye. These bling poppies have been flogging by the shed load, yet whilst those sold on the Royal British Legion site give the bulk of profits to charity, others, such as Kleshna’s £59.95 crystal-studded creation, only donate 10% of their earnings. Ouch.

I must admit, this current rise of the modern, individualistic poppy has greeted me with slight unease. The traditional paper poppy was not designed in such a (dare I say weak) manner for no reason. The aim was not to deter those who love luxury to seek a more indulgent replacement. Oh no, the fact that the stem is slightly too short and the poppy falls out or even the pin falls out, is all part of the cunning plan. A plan to make you buy another. And another. And yet one more. A great plan if you ask me. A plan to increase donations.  The snazzy counterpart however, sturdy in its grip and indestructible in its sparkling design, is guaranteed to last a life time. And with only 10% of profits being donated to the cause in some cases, pardon me if I am wrong, but the related donations don’t seem to add up.

Whilst perusing my mag, I also began to question the motives behind wearing the poppy. Is the number one agenda of some of these people, whether conscious or not, to donate to the cause or to show other people that they are donating to the cause and are therefore generous, respectful and just overall really great people? Are they more concerned with remembrance or their reputation? One does wonder…

So I ask you all, come next November, to not diverge from the traditional path and be tempted by the shine and sparkle that fashion has to offer, and remind yourself what the poppy stands for –humanity, community, patriotism and why of course, remembrance.

The Engager XX

Everyday Inspiration

What would you do if teabags didn’t exist? What about zips? Parcel tape?

This is the question currently being asked by the Science Museum’s latest exhibition. “Hidden Heroes: The Genius of Everyday Things" takes a look at those things we, essentially, take for granted in life and presents them in such a way to demonstrate the significance they have had aesthetically, conceptually and economically. Also thrown in for good measure are print ads and films that have accompanied each item across the decades. Yum.

Just to bring it back to brands and advertising and that, like all good stuff in life this exhibition speaks to a truth and encourages people to look differently at the world, aiming to ‘reveal the supposedly mundane to be nothing short of remarkable’.

I think that when something can encourage you to not only think differently but also inspire you to realise that this is even a possibility, it’s on to a winner. That’s why, in an attempt to broaden our minds in a mind-bending non-hedonistic sort of way, The Engager and I will be visiting this very establishment Wednesday week. Hashtag CAN’T WAIT. We’ll let you know how we get on.

P.S. If you value either your eyes or your innocence (or both), please don’t type ‘teabags’ into Google Images. I’m scarred.

The Brandette x

New York, New York… Vegas and LA

     

After a ridiculously long time away from the blogosphere (back in July), I started writing a post on the little American road trip that myself and the other three (equally neglectful) writers of this blog embarked on. Unfortunately, I never finished that post and forgot all about it as soon as the last gleam of tan left me.

And now it’s November. Mid- November to be exact and, as the cold is setting in and any pigmentation of the skin is as redundant as Rebecca Brookes, I thought I’d dig out that old post, dust it off good and proper and provide you with our best bits like a Neutrogena balm to your poor chapped winter hands. Roll on summer.

New York

First things first. The whole point we were even over that side of the pond was to work on a project as part of our grad scheme. Ok, that’s enough of that. The day’s work over, we also found time to sample some of the city’s finest establishments. Here’s just a few…

  1. The Spotted Pig, West Village. This delightful little gastro pub is home to possibly the BEST BURGER EVER. It was huge, bigger than huge, came with more chips that the population of the UK (probably) and it DEFINITELY beat me, but I consider myself a richer girl because of it. A must try.
  2. The Frying Pan, Pier 66. Basically an old ship that now doubles up as a dive bar, this place is seriously fun. Great to visit for casual drinks in the week or as a warm-up to a big one at the weekend, it gets busy as vibrant New Yorkers flock in their droves for the cheap bevs, deliciously fast food and fantastic atmosphere.
  3. Balthazar, Spring Street. This place really is something. After dragging ourselves down there with hangovers the size of a house, we weren’t disappointed. Paris-bistro inspired, not only is the interior utterly beautiful (and, I thought, mildly reminiscent of the Orient Express – not that I’ve ever been on it but the girl has imagination) but it also serves the most delicious food. We went for brunch and the menu was awash with eggs, eggs and more eggs. For my part, I had a steak. But it was the first steak I’d ever had which was being frowned upon by present company, so that was allowed. We also bore witness to a disgustingly good-looking French couple sharing some sort of champagne and lobster love platter – SIGH.
  4. Apotheke, Doyers Street. Tucked within an unassuming Chinese Ice Cream shop-front located down a hidden street, there is nothing mainstream about this apothecary-inspired cocktail den. All small, dark and mysterious, with a speciality range of exotically-blended cocktails, the whole place has a delicious air of being let into the best secret ever.

Las Vegas

This place is ridiculous. That is all.

  1. Caesars Palace. Great hotel, great pool, great adult pool (didn’t actually go in there but you can imagine), great staff. So great in fact, that they believe you when you say you’re on a hen do with a girl who has literally just that second put a ring on that finger. A pearl ring that looks nothing like an engagement ring. We’d tried it with flights, we’d tried it with car hire, but it was here we struck gold. Let’s face it, all you really need in Vegas is a bed to rest your weary little face after you tire of all available forms of ridiculousness but from this escapade we managed to wangle a room with a JACUZZI BATH! That we could all fit in! Granted, the novelty didn’t last long but it was a small triumph for us against the corporate machine nevertheless. Do try this at home.
  2. XS, Wynn Encore. Oh. My. God. After a couple of heavy nights in the city of sin, we were, for want of a better phrase, done in. We’d partied with free champagne, inhibited any recovery at Hard Rock pool party ‘Rehab’ and touched the bicep of one time R’n’B superstar Nelly - and god we were knackered. But it was 4th July and it would have been rude not to get out of our novelty dressing gowns and slip into something altogether less comfortable. So that we did. And we ended up at Club XS. And it was one of the best nights of my life. To summarise: Afrojack and Steve Aoki were dj-ing, a Dubai prince was crowd-surfing on a blow up boat, Flo-rida was, er, riding on his bodyguard’s shoulders, sweating profusely while his eyeballs played ping-pong with each other and Don Perignon was being sprayed at the crowd in a rather ‘new-money’, non-ironic fashion, but it WAS OK ‘COS IT WAS VEGAS! Unforgettable.

Los Angeles

The City of Angels, apparently.

  1. Chateau Marmont. Go here; you will meet people who say they have Ryan Gosling’s phone number. Try harder than me to get it and then give it to me. Thanks.
  2. Runyon Canyon. According to The Reputation Manager, this is one of the things to do in LA. It’s where actors and actresses go ‘hiking’. So, walking then. It was an arduous climb, I won’t lie. We took full advantage of the view of the Hollywood sign, stopping often under the pretence of taking yet another photo. We had terrible footwear and not even one obligatory dog to speak of, but the view was spectacular. And that was just the guy from 90210 we saw running circuits up there. Madness.
  3. Venice Beach. Seriously, I love this place. Home to Muscle Beach (outdoor gymnasium for body builders who all smell of sashimi - odd) and one of the most lively and beautiful beaches in LA, the boardwalk is lined with eclectic stalls and laid back eateries, leading many people to describe it as the Camden of LA. It’s not always had the best reputation but according to local sources the area is now massively improved, its nightlife is up and coming and it’s certainly worth a visit or three. 

The Brandette x

Oh to be a Social Queen

Last week, The Sunday Times launched a new genre of ‘list’. A list that, arguably, is the most suitable and relevant list to the state of today’s modern society. This list is called ‘The Social List’. Say goodbye to the Rich List (although admittedly I still avidly perused it last week), and hello to this new form of grading, ranking contenders by their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare activity. The concept is quite clever, a new potential social media  that techies will graciously indulge in.  

Readers of The Times who subscribe to the site have their activity measured using an algorithm and as a result, are ranked according to their posts across social sites and platforms. Those who rank the highest, the kings and queens of the digital world, are encouraged to post their Social List ranking to their social media sites, inadvertently driving traffic to The Sunday Times website. Cunning huh? I think so.

To me the site highlights the growing relevance and importance of online influencers. Following in the paths of indicators such as Klout and PeerIndex, The Social List allows those people who are most engaged with the online world and therefore the brands that operate within it, to be recognised and targeted. Sophisticated targeting by brands to appropriate influencers will allow appropriate conversations to be triggered with them, increasing consumer engagement and in the long-term, increasing brand advocacy and resultantly ROI. All hail social media.

Yet the site will also trigger competition. A desire to boost reputation. Even having only read a couple of articles on The Social List, I am already eager to increase my social media activity, despite being hugely aware that I will by no means be even NEAR making the list. Sob. The time has come to go ‘share’-ing mad, after all sharing is caring. One thing is for sure – the caring abilities of many online-savvy individuals are about to be stretched.  

At present the site displays this message:

Due to unprecedented levels of demand we are currently experiencing some technical problems with The Sunday Times Social List site. As a result we have temporarily taken the site down to allow us to fix the problem as quickly as possible and to prevent any further issues arising.
Apologies for the inconvenience caused; the site will be up and running again shortly.”

Oh dear.

However, the premature craze already indicates the instant success of The Social List. Well done The Sunday Times, you’ve picked a good one here. Indirect advertising at its finest.

 

                               

The Engager Xx

The Case of the Stolen Red Sole: Louboutin and YSL go shoe to shoe

You’d have to have been stuck down a fashion well to have missed the latest barney between two of the biggest in beauty shoes, YSL and Christian Louboutin. YSL have only gone and put a red sole on a pair of theirs and the furor surrounding the debacle has reached new heights as Louboutin moves to sue. If you ignore the fact that two of the world’s largest fashion brands are fighting over a bit of red material stuck to the bottom of a shoe, it makes for an interesting battle, not least from a branding perspective.

Most interesting to me is the topical question it presents: do you really have to ‘own’ (i.e. trademark) something in order to truly own it? My argument would be that you don’t and my point to Louboutin would be that, actually, this infringement of shoe style presents him with a pretty potent brand building opportunity.

Firstly, for me, Louboutin already owns the red sole in the hearts and minds of those who have any interest whatsoever in fashion footwear. His shoes are part of the modern day fashion and celebrity discourse. Watch any awards ceremony and you know that at least half of the women will be wearing Louboutins. You see a flash of red as you follow a sashaying woman down the King’s Road and you know she doesn’t go shoe shopping in Clarks. The point is that Louboutin’s ‘trademark’ already is the red sole, whether that be legally stipulated or not.

So now we get down to why the big man himself is so upset. Is he simply outraged that YSL would be so brazen to encroach on his territory or does he harbour the greater concern that his new sole rival will out-red him in the shoe stakes? In a way, it doesn’t really matter. What matters now is how Louboutin proceeds. Sueing YSL will clearly appease big business executives but to really hit them where it hurts, it’s time for Louboutin to get creative: 

Know your place

As specified, Louboutin own the red sole space. They know intrinsically what they’re about - it’s their ‘thing’ if you will. So the brand should use that as their weapon of choice. Reaffirm Christian Louboutin’s position as the shoe with the red sole, speaking to heritage, originality and all that good stuff luxury-bods love to hear.

Rise above it

The lawsuit is in motion and Louboutin are hoping to get even, but now the opportunity presents to de-position YSL simply by rising above it all. Adopt a sense of humour - the idea of YSL encroaching on Louboutin turf is pretty funny and least likely if Louboutin take a step back. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so Louboutin need to accept it, leave the lawyers to it and turn their attentions to other things (below)…

Be refreshing – get even the leftfield way

Louboutin have the clear opportunity to use the issue to their advantage and build brand perception (it’ll be like Aniston vs. Jolie but in shoes – GLEE!). By maintaining a sense of humility and humour, Louboutin can surprise followers with their attitude. In avoiding the oft-trodden path of explicit finger pointing, they could turn the issue into a huge positive and undercut YSL more creatively – why not create a shoe based and named on the issue for example? (You can have that one for free CL).

Now that really would be payback right from the ‘sole’.

The Brandette x

Having steadily immersed myself in the field marketing arena through my third DAS placement, I have found myself settled within the GlaxoSmithKline team at CPM.  The first couple of weeks proved rather daunting, my knowledge of field-marketing drew close to my knowledge of golf (VERY little), and what’s more, I was rather embarrassingly just as clueless regarding the brands that sat under GSK’s hat  - Ribena, Lucozade, Horlicks, Piriton, Aquafresh, Panadol…who knew?!

At present my work is largely involved with the field marketing activities of Ribena and Lucozade (hooray to the constant supply of free products), which triggered me to write a blog post on Lucozade’s new ‘Yes’ campaign. As Lucozade’s market share has began to dip slightly in recent years, this campaign (created by Grey) kickstarts GSK’s attempt to reposition the brand as the number one choice for ‘sporty teenagers’. Previous campaigns have been less targeted and less specific, perhaps leading to the slow deterioration of their consumer engagement.

Tonight however marks the beginning of a change in strategy. Premiering in the middle of this evenings Champion’s League match between Man United and Chelsea, the new Lucozade creative sees Tinnie Tempah, Irish world boxing champion Katie Taylor and Blink 182’s drummer Travis Barker join forces to produce a sultry yet dynamic advert. And despite what may seem like a highly unusual starring trio, it works. The messaging strives to enthuse consumers to channel their energy into creating ‘Yes’ moments – ‘those times when everything clicks and great things happen.’ An additional two ads for Lucozade Sport Lite and Lucozade Energy will follow throughout the summer period. I’ve  had the privilege of viewing them already and in my opinion their easy ability to engage and relate with the young consumer will allow them to prove a definite success.

Watch the taster preview above which is also available via the Lucozade fan page. Enjoy amigos.

The Engager XX

Play Time

Advergaming.

Another neologism sculpted by a creative team locked in the basement of some uber cool ad agency.

Although I can’t imagine it’s terribly complex to conjure up such a ‘word’, it does manage to perfectly describe this new method of reaching and engaging consumers. As the gaming industry swells to new levels (with nearly 70% of households playing games online or on consoles – ESA 2009), advergaming offers businesses too big an opportunity to be missed. As the digital native generation become increasingly bombarded with both subliminal and explicit online/mobile advertising tactics, holding their attention for any significant amount of time proves difficult. Therefore, to capture the interest of the target audience, and to keep them in one place for long enough to steal their cerebral capacity from competitors and immerse them in your brand, the advergame offers unprecedented value.

One wonderfully addictive example is Post It’s ‘Draw It’ game. A take on Pictionary, the consumer enters a branded site where they pit their time-pressured drawing skills against other online members (because lets face it, we all love a bit of anonymous competition). WARNING – DO NOT click on this link if you have important work to do. Yes, I realise that just by saying this I have triggered the ‘don’t push the big red button’ phenomenon, but take heed dear reader, you will waste hours of your life on this game.

A more recent example is the Audi app (built in partnership with Gameloft), in which gamers race around a track in an Audi RS 3 Sportback. Each individual completion time is recorded and the fastest racer wins the car. Apologies to you anon-comp gluttons but I’m admittedly a little slow off the mark, and the competition has now closed. No handbrake turns in a McDonalds car park for you this evening. http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1059177/audi-debuts-br-app-chart/

The Healthcare industry is slowly waking up to the reality that they’re missing a trick by not advergaming. Obviously, tight regulations aren’t conducive to fun gaming experiences, but a few half decent attempts have been made. One notable example comes from ‘HopeLab’, an American non-profit research organisation, who teamed with DDB to create a ‘shooter’ type video game named ‘Re-Mission’. This was intended to increase adherence of young cancer patients to their treatment regime, and was fairly successful in doing so.

However, not all healthcare games have been delivered with the sensitivity and tact often needed, and I’ll leave you with this little nugget. http://www.posornot.com/

May I suggest you stick with the Post Its.

                     

The Drug Pusher X

Scheming Grad

I was always going to be an architect.

When I was younger I would spend hours upon hours designing houses, drawing their floor plans meticulously with my shatterproof Linex ruler (hello nostalgia). Even when my own Mother knocked my confidence by telling me that my idea of a house lined with sand was impractical (how COULD she?), I did a swift Chumbawumba (Tubthumping? If you don’t remember this song then you are far too young to be reading a blog about grad schemes. Go play on the swings) and picked myself back up again.

However, as I aged and my innocent naivety faded, I suddenly realised architecture involved maths. I was over it.

Biology was my thang at school. Moreover, Biology was the thing I was naturally good at and therefore required least homework effort. This innate ability drove me to a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology, then swiftly to enrol in a Graduate Entry Medicine degree. I lasted about as long as a fat kid on a cupcake diet in a Hummingbird Bakery shop. It wasn’t that I was failing; I just woke up every morning feeling a little bit of dread in my stomach when I thought about my future Medical career. The alarm bells chimed loudly, and I made the decision to leave. One Masters in Neuropsychology later, and I suddenly realised why Medicine, and indeed Science in general, wasn’t floating my boat. Turns out that the imagination and artistic flair I squashed when I dropped my art AS to pick up Chemistry instead was rearing its flamboyant head and roaring too loudly for me to ignore.

I needed to combine my degree (for fear of wasting 5 years of my life) with something more creative that I would enjoy getting up for on a daily basis. Healthcare marketing struck me as the most appealing and fitting career choice, and I was lucky enough to land the role as ‘the Healthcare grad’ on this brilliant scheme. Not only that, but I was also gifted with being able to share the 16 month experience (not to mention numerous vino-tinted evenings) with three cracking lasses. Now I get to be creative, in a relaxed, fun-filled, and mentally stimulating environment. Hooray for me.

                                                        

The reason I write this is as follows: You do not need a marketing degree to get into marketing/advertising. You do not need oodles of experience. You do not necessarily know exactly what role you want to end up in. What you DO need, however, is a deep-seated passion for creativity, and the drive to earn yourself a role in this perpetually exciting industry.

DAS have extended the deadline to July for applications for this year’s Healthcare Grad so if you’re interested and have a science-related degree, take a peek at the DAS Accelerate website.

The Drug Pusher X

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