Archive for the 'Communications' Category

21
Jul
10

The future of public advertising in Cameron’s ‘Big Society’

The Central Office of Information’s budget has long been a topic of debate; so much so that we featured the government’s “centre of marketing excellence” in a special general election blog. Weeks later, the shape of the coalition government’s plans for the COI are becoming apparent. What will the future hold for public advertising in the UK?

The government’s austerity budget has already found its high profile advertising victim: The ‘Change4Life’ campaign, led by M&C Saatchi, will have its £75 million advertising budget come. The move comes amongst general plans to slash public marketing budgets by 50%.
The coalition government has called upon food and drink companies, and the wider commercial sector, to provide a voice for the campaign in their own advertising and marketing. This is a new vision to tackle the public health issue, and the move promises interesting results – not least the shouldering of the public health burden by commercial brands.

The Change4Life campaign has been backed by various commercial partners in the past – but now charities and local authorities have been invited to fill the funding gap created by the national deficit. The government’s promotion of healthy lifestyles is thus to be led by businesses.

A natural and valid question is whether brands that sell ‘unhealthy’ products leading a public health campaign is really the optimal solution. Will they support real efforts to encourage lifestyle-changing habits that encourage more exercise and healthier diets? The answer lies in a new form of corporate social responsibility – which is certainly preferable to increased state regulation. Advertisements coming from brands are more likely to be heard by consumers, as those coming from government are often seen as too prescriptive and not-engaging enough.

There is a benefit for brands: If the government is relying on companies to fund public health advertising, it is unlikely that it will introduce regulations against the advertising of food high in fat, salt and sugar on television. Nevertheless, we like the idea of a collaborative effort between the public and private sector. Lifestyle and healthy eating advice is more relevant when coming from a brand that we have already bought-in to.

A further cost-cutting move by the government proves their media-savvy. Like many other brands, Change4Life will mainly be promoted through social media rather than traditional advertising campaigns. Prime Minister David Cameron has already met with Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, to discuss ways that the social networking site can be used to engage citizens on policy issues. The recently implemented ‘Spending Challenge’ page invites the British public to express their own ideas on cutting the government’s budget deficit.

As the government is open to cost-saving suggestions delivered through social media, you’ll forgive us for voicing our own advice for saving money and improving public service.

Rather than relying on large agencies, through none-creative barriers to tendering, we believe that public advertising can become both more engaging and cost-effective if the COI expressed confidence in leaner, talented agencies handling public sector public projects. Prioritising creative content over well-known names should be encouraged. It would certainly stop larger agencies from becoming over-dependent on government contracts; something the new coalition government can only be interested in promoting.

Saving money by asking private companies to take responsibility for their commercial activitities is a good start for the UK’s main media buyer. Is it ready to trust responsible agencies to provide value for money?


Camille le Goff is a Junior Brand Staffer with Vivid London

09
Jun
10

The right person for the job

The Right Person For the Job Left

Over the years you will have been told that it’s always better to put someone ‘on the frontline’ in front of the media – and this advice is still true. It’s clearly a better choice than a faceless spokesman, and a country mile better than using someone from your news or public relations agency, but let’s be quite clear: ‘frontline’ can mean the boss – but it doesn’t necessarily always need to be.

The Right Person For the Job Right

The right tone, and the person with the right tone, is so much more important than it being the most senior person you can throw at the media.

Recently we’ve seen some awful CEO performances – BP’s chief executive just doesn’t know how to speak ‘American’ – and shouldn’t be allowed to: he doesn’t get that what Britons perceive as a stiff-upper-lip, ‘get on with the job resolve’, can be seen in America as being uncaring. Tony Haywood would need to be blubbing to really touch the cord of deep sorrow that is expected of him presently. That’s something that he probably can’t do.

From a Brit to an American, Mark Zuckerberg is an appalling frontman for Facebook. He’s a geek, born and bred. His geeky humour and track-record of speaking straight from his dorm room instead of his boardroom is not what’s needed from one of the world’s most connected brands; especially when it’s fighting an uphill PR battle against the power privacy lobby.

Given the amount of times that bosses make awful PR gaffes, you’d think that agencies the world over would wise up to the mantra of picking the right person for the right job. Of course, it’s not always the agency that makes this choice – but the top-down ethos that only the most senior person in the organisation can be a viable spokesperson is inappropriate for today’s media landscape.

Think wisely about your message and work with your PR and media agencies to hone a message and a tone that’s appropriate for your audience. Don’t box yourself in to being the lead voice – being the media face of a corporation simply isn’t for everyone, and it’s not even always appropriate for the organisation. A spread of faces who understand their areas of specialism and speak the language of that niche are going to make your communications strategy far easier to manage than a one size fits all approach.

Most importantly – never forget that the time when this strategy will be tested the most is under crisis conditions: so plan right from the beginning to spread the load, control the message and make it appropriate for your audience to avoid the awfulness of saying something, or being heard to say something – whether you meant it or not, that you later regret, and your shareholders regret even more.


Neil Evans is Senior Partner and Creative Director of Vivid London.

Image by Anisha Chandarana, Junior Design Staff at Vivid London.

19
May
10

Three reasons why you should shake up your retainer.

Retainers are for all agencies the gold star – a retained client paying monthly or quarterly is exactly what most agencies strive to get: yes the big projects are all very nice, but a client paying you regularly… well that’s gold dust.

But does it encourage agencies to work harder for their clients?

The answer to that question in most cases is unfortunately no. It’s one of the reasons I started Vivid all those years ago, I got so depressed working at large agencies seeing great accounts lose their spark the minute they became retained. All to often in this industry, retained work becomes expected and standard, clients you’d once have fought for become clients that are just there, they pay and you deliver what’ll keep them happy, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with retained work, it must be treated with respect by the agency and an iron fist by the client, because otherwise it’s bad for you, and it’s bad for the reputation of our industry.

Firstly let’s look at you, it’s your money after all. At first you think you’re getting good value, you’ve got an almost ‘in house’ team – they deal with everything and you very rarely have to get into the bowels of the work, after a time things become routine, a few press releases a month, an issues awareness day or week, your happy face in the media when the easy picking stories come up for you to respond with, what’s wrong with that?

Well quite a bit – the routine falls into motions, easy to go through, well practiced – but essentially the same, day in day out. Good public relations and marketing is reliant on innovation and creativity, it relies on a hunger to find or create the good news, as well as just responding lazily to the bad. The second your retained team fall into that routine the quality of your press and marketing plummets, you need the fire of the pitch or at least an agency that retains the fire of the pitch to stave off the familiarity that breeds mediocrity.

Second, it’s bad for the agency: yes the money is nice – but a retained client is an agency football, yes the big guns are brought out for important matches, but the rest of the time the ‘b’ team will do – one of the reasons I got out of big agencies was because I was fed up with accounts being passed off to junior staff and interns the first time the client wasn’t looking: they’d bill the time as if it was the full team, but often that team was off working on new business – fighting hard on new projects because they’ve won the fight already on yours.

Third, it’s bad for the industry, it promotes laziness a worrying lack of transparency between the ‘account directors’ who meet with the client and those people who actually do the work on your retained account, but most concerning it promotes a culture where a complete lack of creativity is the norm: ‘it will do’ solutions overtake cutting edge thinking, the easy option becomes the only option – and when that happens it dulls the edge of our whole industry.

So what can you do? Well first – look long and hard at your agency, working with them should feel as fresh ten years in as it did when your first worked together; there should be a real sense that they know what they’re doing of course, but the thinking should still be filled with excitement and not tinged with cynicism.

Then, talk to your agency, don’t be afraid to ask exactly what they do for the retainer, if you think they should be doing more then make that clear, and a good way to start is to build in a monthly creative briefing – make them think for their money, good ideas will allow you and them to innovate and reach new goals.

And finally, talk goals – don’t let your agency get away with presenting a cuttings folder as ‘proof’ think hard about whether it’s met your goals, where is your return on investment – any agency worth their salt should be able to talk ROI, don’t be fooled by impressions to view or estimated worth, tie them down to how it impacts your business.

And if all this still doesn’t get you a better press and marketing service, why not talk to someone like us – never afraid to talk about your bottom line, and always happy to create and innovate, because we realise that real, measurable growth in your business is critical to the success of our own.

17
May
10

Video killed the….majority?

Considering that in the weeks before the election the Liberal Democrat Party were lagging severely behind both the then ruling Labour Party and the Conservative Party, it is almost shocking to discover that they are now sitting alongside the Conservative Party in a coalition government. This is despite the fact that they actually lost seats during this election campaign. Somehow Nick Clegg seems to have wormed his way into the nation’s hearts, but how? The answer, that antiquated form of entertainment…the television.

In the US, televised debates between political leaders before an election have been commonplace for many years, but the idea was only recently adopted in the UK. The reason for this was quite simple, the British people were bored and uninspired with their politics. During the 2005 general election, the public’s interest in politics was at an all time low, with less than half the population even bothering to vote. The situation had to be remedied.


So, to revitalise the general public’s interest in politics and rectify the situation, it was decided that for the 2010 general election three televised debates would be set up, each focussing on a key theme, domestic affairs, foreign affairs and economic affairs. To ensure fairness, they would include all three party leaders and be broadcast across the UK’s three major networks, ITV, Sky and the BBC.



As the person representing the party with the lowest majority, Nick Clegg had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So, where David Cameron and Gordon Brown were hesitant or unclear with their opinions, Nick Clegg took a different route, showing remarkable accessibility. Following the first debate, Clegg’s public profile increased enormously, and the Liberal Democrat’s position in the opinion polls skyrocketed, to the extent that some newspapers were predicting a Liberal Democrat victory.


However, as the other debates would show, support for Clegg would eventually wane as the other leaders arguments became stronger. Following the third and final debate, just a week before the election, it appeared that all three parties were within a hairs breath of each other. It was clear this was going to be down to the wire.

In the end, this resulted in a hung parliament, which resolved itself as the Conservative Party (who won the largest amount of seats) and the Liberal Democrats entered into coalition. The televised debates however, had been a massive success. They had succeeded in providing a platform for all the major parties to put their views across directly to the public. The close result bears testament to the fact that a much larger percentage of the UK’s population came out to vote in 2010. It appears the public’s political flame has been reignited, lets hope that continues.

13
May
10

What does your collateral say about you?

What our collateral says about us

What we say about ourselves

It’s easy to get caught up in design. We see it time and time again: beautifully designed collateral (that’s your brochures, menus, business cards, letter heads, signage, and the like) with badly written copy.

Customers will notice bad design immediately: I’m sure that everyone reading this has a shop/salon/cinema/whatever in their neighbourhood whose brand and collateral looks like the owner was left alone with MS Paint and Wordart for an afternoon. Design gives your brand credibility with your market. Even the most boring or run-of-the-mill service can be set apart from its competitors through pleasing design.

But what you say about yourself is equally important. Beautiful design won’t make up for wooly or badly written copy. Sit down and think of what your customers need to make the decision to use your service or buy your product. Are they all intelligently placed in your collateral? Are you sure that this is what your marketplace needs to hear – as opposed to what you want to tell them?

To inspire you, we’ve included the words we use to describe ourselves. If you want some help making your copy as beautiful as your design, talk to us today.

06
May
10

It’s time for the creative industry to take responsibility

Our thoughts on COI Reform and today’s General Election

On the eve of the United Kingdom’s most interesting General Election in modern times, many in the advertising and marketing sectors are still concerned about the future of the Central Office of Information (COI), the British government’s marketing agency.

As well as being Britain’s largest advertiser, the COI is the Government’s main procurer of advertising and marketing services. Most British agencies are therefore stakeholders in the organisation.

The COI’s current way of working has been called in to question; both by the Government in recent months, and by the battling governments-in-waiting during this election campaign.
As things stand, the Treasury, led by Chancellor Alastair Darling, has ordered a 25% reduction in the marketing and advertising budgets of all Whitehall departments for the current two years. Both main opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have no objections to this cut.

But there is more to the parties’ plans for the COI. Campaigns that have worked in the past are now failing to reach their audiences or drive them to action. There have been success stories, like the recent binge drinking virals by VCCP which certainly caught the public’s attention.

Generally, though, the political consensus seems to be that COI campaigns aren’t as effective as they once were – mainly because they are becoming increasingly middle of the road, arguably as larger agencies begin to count on COI business regardless of creative content. Campaigns that fail to reach their objectives and don’t provide a great deal of return on investment are a problem for the taxpayer.

The Conservatives have announced plans to move COI contracts to a pay per results model. At Vivid London, we’d be happy to work under those conditions – we are confident in our abilities – but a lot of other agencies see the practice as unfair. They argue that ads can only promote behavioural change, not guarantee it.

Nothing’s certain in the world of marketing. You can never guarantee that a press release you send out, however interesting the story or full of hooks the content, will be picked up by the media. You can never guarantee that any advertising campaign that you run will change the audiences behaviour (purchasing or otherwise). And you can never be sure that your shiny new communications strategy will reach all of its audiences.

But you can mitigate these uncertainties. Our work at Vivid London is informed by thorough research – meaning that we audit all previous marketing efforts, analyse target audiences counterintuitively and focus on measurable deliverables. We’re upfront about our expected results and are happy to be judged (and paid) by them.

All in all, this will mean more efficient use of taxpayer money and more heated battles for part of the COI’s £232m annual budget. It will also lead to more stylish, effective and better advertising in the future. This is better for both agencies and consumers – after all, talking to the audience in a way that they understand is what creative agencies are supposed to do! Becoming reliant on government contracts not only impedes an agency’s creativity, but can also lead to disaster when these contracts are withdrawn. Just ask i-Level.

Whatever the colour(s) of the next government, the creative industry needs to become more efficient and adaptable – and it needs to accept direct responsibility for campaign performance. We always have – and always will.


Adam James Morecroft & Camille le Goff

29
Apr
10

Expecting fireworks?

The United Kingdom is currently in the grip of what is arguably its most important election for 25 years. The main three parties are a divided bunch. The Labour party, the UK’s current leaders, led by Gordon Brown are currently languishing 3rd in the polls. Then theres the Conservatives the official opposition, led by David Cameron. And finally, last but certainly not least are the dark horse’s of this election, the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, and currently leading Labour in the polls, seemingly to the entire countries surprise. 


Now, I could go on about policies, but that is not the aim of this piece. I want to talk about how each party is utilising social media to further the message of their campaigns. Over the past week, I have been following each of the political parties, via their official Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, as well as through the general wider media channels, and it has to be said….nothing has happened.


Im disappointed by this, after all this is the 21st century and what easier way to communicate with the populace at large than by using the power of the 21st centuries greatest tool, the internet. I was expecting vast online debates, political mudslinging and smear campaigns from all sides. But nothing has occurred, at least nothing controversial. Even in the face of Gordon Browns “Bigotgate” not a derogatory word has been uttered from the official party Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.


The televised political debates have overshadowed the web, as all the ‘dirty laundry‘ of the campaigns appears to have been aired live on air, so why bother repeating it online? The public are much more hungry to see a fierce, visceral, verbal and live debate between the party leaders, than just an idle, sniping tweet or comment.

The sad truth of the matter is we were expecting fireworks and have been given a sparkler. The main reason for this is that the election race is currently so close that the main parties are unwilling to compromise the overall scope of their campaigns for the sake of scoring some cheap political points. The risk, and margin for error are just far too high at this late stage.


That said with the final debate due to be broadcast tonight, it will be interesting to see if in the week between the broadcast, and election day, any final shots are hurled online. The internet may yet have a role to play, only time will tell….





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