On the baseline
Humans are predisposed to ‘shifting baseline syndrome’, where new generations accept the current state of things as normal. For those who have seen the changes in their lifetimes, issues like rainforest depletion, the destruction of historic buildings, declining fish stocks or the state of our rivers are matters of great concern. But it’s less confronting for those who have no frame of reference. This can sometimes go the other way, too, like when environmental efforts originally deemed foolhardy, such as trying to save threatened animals from extinction, become completely acceptable to a new generation.
As WNYC’s Radiolab explained it: “’Normal’ is constantly being redefined to mean ‘less.’ And people who don’t believe that the past was so different from the present might have what could be called ‘change blindness’. Because these changes happen slowly, over a human lifetime, they never startle. They just tiptoe silently along, helping us all adjust to a smaller, shrunken world.”
Some believe the incursion of commercial interests into editorial in the form of native advertising is one of those slow, creeping—and often creepy—changes. So is native advertising—or what the Federal Trade Commission in the US have called “masquer-ads”—leading to a slow erosion of editorial integrity? Or is it an acceptable element of modern marketing that consumers understand and/or are unconcerned about?
To some print media fetishists, the past seems to be viewed as a time of purity; of strict separation between church and state. That seems slightly nostalgic, however. As Guardian writer Simon Jenkins said about the recent controversy over The Telegraph going easy on HSBC: “Newspapers are institutionalised hypocrisy. They excoriate yet they cringe. They speak truth to power and then sup at its table. They stick their moral noses in the air while their bottoms rest on festering heaps of deals, perks, bribes and ads, without which they would not exist.”
This tension between editorial and advertising has existed for centuries and brands have long tried to make use of commercial camouflage. Journalists will presumably always seek to shine a light into dark corners, but the closer those two divisions get—and the more desperate publishers become for revenue to fund that journalism—the harder it becomes for editorial to win the battles. So yes, the baselines are shifting, concessions have been made and it does seem as though print and digital media are more willing to invite brands into their editorial environments.
While most publishers claim they are labelling such content clearly, a survey by Contently last year showed that readers are confused about what “sponsored” even means (other studies have shown those accustomed to getting free content and dealing with ads don’t really care where it comes from). Journalists are already close to the bottom of the least-trusted professions list, which is slightly ironic given so many media outlets play on the idea of trustworthiness. But running sponsored content appears to be impacting further on that. The Contently survey also found that “two-thirds of the respondents felt deceived when they realised an article or video was sponsored by a brand” and 59 percent believed a news site that ran sponsored content lost credibility. And in another interesting survey by Edelman, which encompassed 20 countries, online search engines were rated as the primary platforms of choice when seeking out news and information, taking over from traditional media for the first time. The gap between the two was even larger for the young’uns.
As you may have noticed, there are some examples of ‘sponsored content’ in this magazine—and it’s always difficult to balance the needs of the reader, the brand and publisher. Brands do occasionally have interesting stories to tell and expertise to share. In times of struggle, they also have funding to offer that can help create good content. So I don’t think it’s a black and white argument. There is a continuum of good and bad (probably more bad, to be fair). But, like advertising in general, it always pays to be educated so you can understand the tricks being employed and make a judgement on the information’s worth.* Editor/Associate publisher Ben Fahy 021 245 4894 email@example.com Deputy Editor Damien Venuto firstname.lastname@example.org 021 981001 Advertising Sales Manager Vernene Medcalf 09 966-0998 or 021 628-200 email@example.com Advertising Co-ordinator Callum Sweeney firstname.lastname@example.org Designers Julian Pettitt, Matt Moss Illustration/Cover design Kerryn Smith Production manager Jay Sayer email@example.com Publisher Vincent Heeringa firstname.lastname@example.org Contact NZ Marketing is published by Tangible Media 19 Lyon Ave PO Box 78070, Grey Lynn, Auckland 1245 09 966-0998, 09 360-5702 (fax) www.tangiblemedia.co.nz Subscribe to NZ Marketing marketingmag.co.nz/subs 0800 782 347 email@example.com Distribution Netlink Printing Image Centre NZ Marketing is printed using vegetable or soy-based inks. Paper supplied by BJ Ball using wood from sustainable, wellmanaged forests Copyright NZ Marketing is subject to copyright in its entirety. The contents may not be copied without written permission from its owners. All material sent to NZ Marketing will be deemed to be publishable unless marked ‘not for publication’. NZ Marketing invites contributions but takes no responsibility for unsolicited material.
ISSN 0111 9044
Mike Hosking, ZB; Twitter and Facebook. Seven Sharp, TV One’s Breakfast, One News, Last Week Tonight, and the Late Show With Jimmy Fallon. A mix of telly, device and desktop. Chillax to Bach, weep to Shostakovich, and scheme/dream to Dvorak. Thanks iTunes. Searching for ever-elusive credibility, I sometimes select backing tracks from Kanye West’s Yeezus to animate Seven Sharp pieces. It kills. Twitter, Instagram, Facie… blah blah blah. I’m kind of an annotator on Facebook, rather than contributor. Instagram is for constrained fun. I used to really, really love Twitter; I also used to love smoking. You see my point…
Google. The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, by various authors. It’s for my next novel, The Straight Banana, but it also offers some help with understanding television critics in print. For stimulation, The Paradoxes of Catholicism by Robert Hugh Benson. In relaxation or book research, I do pages, which can be inscribed. But via my device: The Gospel According to St Mark, Genesis. First Things, The New Yorker, N+1; which I get through Twitter. New Idea, at the moment.
Guess and win … a set of steak knives.
In media, all pleasure is tinged with guilt.
A In my experience it’s usually the other way round. I suppose it’s usually a case of the grass always looks greener on the other side but in my experience, clients really do seem to have a better time of it more often than not. The pay’s as good or better, the hours less arduous and there is at least some sense that as a client you have some say in what actually happens. As George Bush so articulately put it ‘I’m the decider’.
That said, there is nothing half as much fun as an agency that’s on its game. Karl Lagerfeld is quoted in the latest issue of Vogue as saying in response to the question ‘how does he cope with budgets?’ – ‘ I don’t work with poor people.’
Scratch an ad man and you’ll find that level of wonderful irresponsibility lurking there for all to see. What Lagerfeld’s answer reveals is an attitude to business that puts creativity to the forefront. Lagerfeld goes on to say that the money he spends pays back twentyfold.
So ask yourself if you’re happy to believe in the power of ideas without the empirical proof of their value. And if you’re comfortable dealing not in certainties but in possibilities. And if being surrounded by a group of eclectic misfits where you’re likely to be the one out of place. Then throw in the issues of clients whose judgment is final (but not as good as yours), salaries that ain’t what they used to be and workloads that put client side to shame and if you’re still excited by the thought of jumping the fence, go for it. You’ll be a welcome addition. A The quote belongs to William Claude Dukenfield, a.k.a. W.C. Fields. He was wrong, of course. Some of the great ads feature either or both. They are the quickest way to our hearts. Besides, if it were true, how could it explain the enduring appeal of a circus? Talking of which, a better quote belongs to P.T Barnum, he of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, who said ‘Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.’
That quote goes a long way to explain why so much of American advertising is so hard to stomach. Of course, America can also boast some of the best advertising ever but the dross is definitely the dominant feature of American advertising.
And it’s a style that’s made its way here with in your face retail spots, screaming voice-overs and zero production values or formulaic FMCG spots.
While we’re living increasingly in a content creation world in which the trick is to be invited in by consumers, there is still the means to appear invited or not. Television of course is a perfect example. What we have to realise is that the old maxim of ‘remember your manners as an uninvited guest’ is now more true than ever.
So, I’d suggest that work which charms its way into consumers’ hearts is the best work and children and animals are the epitome of charm or at least cuteness. Just think of the endless space devoted to cat photographs on social media. A Often because someone else’s success is your failure. Either they are doing work for a client you wish you had or they’re doing better work for their client than you are for yours.
Here’s where it gets interesting though. I’m directly involved in the Partridge Jewellers campaign. It’s one I really love and for a client who is a sixt generation Kiwi business who we love working with. So, I’m hardly objective and perhaps I’m just proof of the prior statement.
Our approach has been to bring glamour and romance to jewellery without ever straying too far from the product itself.
The Michael Hill campaign is a bit too ‘planned’ to my liking. It smacks of ‘higher order truths etc.’ which so often leads to work that’s not tethered to the product it’s selling, coupled with a somewhat grungy execution.
Unsurprisingly, I like our campaign better. But I love the boldness of the Super Bowl placement. If that’s not making a statement, what is? I just hope they have deep enough pockets to carry on. And I think it’s terrific that Colenso have pulled it off. As John Plimmer would say, ‘Hats off’ to Michael Hill for having the faith to back their New Zealand agency and to Colenso for thinking big.
Ex-Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide chief operating officer, STW director, Assignment Group cofounder, NZME board member and Lewis Road dairy don Peter Cullinane offers up some hardearned pearls of advertising wisdom on jumping fences, animals and children, and Michael Hill’s Super Bowl ad.
Back in 2004, I was working as a junior designer for Jane Eyles-Bennett who owned Spaceworks. After 18 months she decided to sell, and the entrepreneur in me reared its head. Panicked by the thought of earning a junior designer’s salary with the potential new owner, I put in an offer to buy the company. But, I had nothing to my name. At the time, I was a bank’s nightmare. I had no assets, no cash in the bank and was a single mother. I was lucky enough to find a great banker at ANZ who was prepared to listen to me. Every day for a month he said ‘no, try again’. So, every day I came up with something new and finally he allowed for the deal to go through. And here I am. I knew there was a gap in the market for a woman who was prepared to turn the design industry on its head – do things differently and be unique. When I took over the business, Spaceworks only designed commercial office interiors. As soon as the GFC hit, I knew we had to diversify and quickly. So, we started offering design for retail and hospitality clients, which meant we had broad reach across all commercial industries. This was our saving grace as the bottom fell out of the office market and we also quickly became known as the designers who were cost-effective, creative and happy to work with smaller clients. The GFC was obviously a huge challenge but looking back it was a blessing because it taught me the value of swift differentiation and to never rest on your laurels in a time of crisis. Another invaluable lesson I learnt (and the hard way), was not to have all our eggs in one basket. We had a major client fall over whom provided us with over 80 percent of our monthly turnover prior to their failure. Almost ten years on, I will never allow any of our clients to be more than 20 percent of our business at any given time. Having a physical store designed well creates a multi-sensory environment and the experience is much stronger and more heightened in person. Nothing beats touching and feeling a product and having a true interaction with the product and brand rather than simply looking through the screen of a computer. Nowadays, it’s about the marriage between both online and bricks and mortar. The retail stores that will thrive will ensure the entire experience is in harmony and genuine to their brand identity. The million dollar question! What I love about this industry is how quickly it moves. A few years ago, everyone was saying that bricks and mortar is dead and online is the only way to sell. Now, the physical space is becoming an extension of the online experience which means bricks and mortar (in the right form) has never been so important.
The booming store of the future will align its online strategy to drive people into the store and will ensure it’s a destination, rather than a house of product. The space needs to be welcoming and designed so that the store tells a story. Our business is predominantly based on referrals and in fact over 55 percent of our business has been from repeat customers and this has been the case for the past five or so years. However, we don’t just sit here relying on our good work to generate business. Our online strategy is extremely important, and we initiate a plethora
of strategies to get the word out there. Social media including LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are fundamental and I am also a great believer in sharing my trade secrets on the industry. I am an avid blogger, contributing my thoughts and opinions via the Spaceworks blog, Design Aloud and I also write for an online magazine, InsideRetail. We do work across the ditch and in the South Pacific and work remotely from the Auckland office at this stage. The Australian work we focus on has been primarily office projects whereby our clients are wanting consistency with their Auckland office. Australia is a strong market and growing for us and it won’t be long before we make a permanent home in either Sydney or Melbourne to push the business further. Each and every client has different design, style and installation requirements and this is the case in every city and country we work in. We always adapt to whoever we’re working for, whether they’re across the road in Auckland, Samoa or Australia. Suppliers and contractors have different working styles but we’re developing some successful supplier collaborations in the cities we’re working in. There have been many mistakes in the last ten years but the biggest advice I can give anyone is that I had to get out of my own head, stop the chatter and learn what is instrumental in our success or failure. I surround myself with inspiring people and ask a lot of questions from other entrepreneurs who have succeeded and failed. My dream for Spaceworks is really coming to fruition this year. Pop Up Now – facilitators of pop up stores, experiences and events is growing by the second and we have just launched RoombyRoom.co, an online residential design arm of Spaceworks. There are so many other exciting things happening this year but mum’s the word … you’ll just need to wait and see.