It is customary round about now, when the kids start singing and the band begins to play, for Welcome to Optimism to reflect on the preceding 12 months. 2013 has been an extraordinary year for Wieden+Kennedy London and I’d like to thank our amazing people and brilliant clients for all we've been able to achieve together.
As those who know me will be aware, I’m a hard-bitten Scotsman with a heart of solid granite. I’m not given to sentimental displays of emotion. But as I sip my steaming tankard of festive Cravendale egg-nog (fortified with Southern Comfort) and nibble on a choice chunk of Tesco Finest stilton by the roaring fire in the Wieden Executive Lodge Spa Therapy Zone, I think back on all we have achieved in the last 12 months, and I feel something warm and sticky welling up inside me. Is it a glutinous mixture of stilton and egg-nog or could it be… a burgeoning feeling of festive gratitude and pride towards our people, clients and indeed all mankind?
For pastoral purposes, let's assume it’s the latter and let’s just remind ourselves of the year that was 2013. The goals we set ourselves for this year were all about ‘more’.
So, how did we do?
We certainly delivered on this: 88 new joiners in the last 12 months is an extraordinary influx of extra resource and talent across the board. We dramatically increaded our creative firepower, strategic smarts, tech capability and diversity. This also means that 40% of the agency is new. That’s brilliant in terms of capacity and energy, but it’s challenging in terms of making everyone feel part of the family and helping them adapt to the Wieden way. Particularly because even as new joiners start to settle in, we are continuing to grow and continuing to add new people to the team. So helping and supporting our people will be a key focus for next year.
We’ve done some bloody great work this year. And it was nice to see the recognition that this work received.
Shots magazine made us their agency of the year 2013. They said: “Wieden+Kennedy has demonstrated once again how to create iconic work, irrespective of the category in which it plays. They don't just create great content, they seem to create new benchmarks - with freakish consistency."
W+K came top in the survey of "Ten Great Ad Agencies Of 2013" on Forbes, with over two thirds of those polled voting for us as their top agency.
“In a recent online survey among 1850 CMOs and other senior executives,Wieden+Kennedy emerged as the favorite ad agency.
W+K is looked upon as being head and shoulders above the rest of Madison Avenue. The agency, which creates advertising for Old Spice, Coke, ESPN, and Nike, was voted as the best all-around agency by a remarkable 66% of the respondents, almost the combined total of the next two runners-up.”
Here are a few of the accolades and awards accrued by our work this year:
Honda - Hands
“Flawless,” said Campaign, “Captivating… wonderful,” said Adweek. Best Ad of the Year said Shots.
#6 in YouTube’s top ten of the year
Three - Dance Pony Dance
“Funniest advert of the year,” said the Daily Mail.
Two golds at Cannes.
#3 in YouTube’s top ten of the year
Tesco - Love Every Mouthful
“What great advertising is all about… done with impeccable taste,” said Adscam.
Lurpak - Good proper food
“Visually astonishing, another sensory masterpiece,” said AdWeek.
Gold at Campaign Big Awards
Named ‘best press campaign of the year’ by Campaign in their 2013 Annual.
Lurpak – Weave Your Magic
“A masterpiece of craft and storytelling,” said AdWeek.
Silver at Cannes.
Stride – Gumulon
“This is totes AMAZEBALLS. Chew control is so much fun. Whoever made this is a genius!!” said a reviewer in the iTunes store (probably one of the W+K team under a pseudonym).
We certainly worked hard. And we produced a ton of stuff.
We didn't do many competitive pitches this year - we were too busy - but we grew dramatically with additional assignments from existing clients – a good indication that we’re doing an excellent job for them. Mondelez appointed us lead agency on the global Halls account without a pitch, Arla Foods awarded us their global account across a portfolio of dairy brands, and our Nike, Honda, Brown-Forman and Tesco business all grew this year. Plus - we started working with our neighbours at D&AD. And we have a couple of new business things on the go that should hopefully result in new relationships in the new year.
The plan was to make sure we work efficiently and effectively, to maximise the ‘inspiring’ and minimise the ‘tiring’. We made a lot of improvements behind the scenes: progress made but more to do next year.
It wasn’t all hard work. There was a lot of hard work, yes, but we also had some fun, and people tell me that they enjoy fun, so this is a good thing. We had a legendary founders’ day party, a brilliant Christmas bash, the drinks trolley, ice skating, go-karting, bake-offs, booze-ups, etc, etc. Mostly booze-ups, actually.
It's been a long year, we've worked hard, we’ve achieved a lot and, apparently, it’s nearly Christmas. Hopefully the UK economy won't collapse if we shut up shop for a few days over the festive period.
Last week Beth (our director of digital strategy and innovation), Paulo (our group account director on Honda and Brown Forman) and Marta (our PR manager) spent a day in Kings Cross peering into the future at Most Contagious 2013. Each year, Contagious Magazine run simultaneous events in London and New York as the year draws to a close, exploring the events, movements, innovations and people that shaped the past twelve months and how these ideas will weave their way into our lives in the coming months.
Alongside insightful sessions on from the brains at Contagious, the day featured an impressive line-up of speakers.
Fernando Machado, vice-president of global brand development for Dove, gave the audience an inspiring insight into what drives an (undoubtedly very successful) marketing strategy when a brand is already the market leader. According to Machado, only 4% of women consider themselves to be beautiful, and Dove are on a mission to change the way women feel about themselves, not just which products they buy. He said, ‘Causing a positive social impact is part of our business model'. Hear hear.
Ivan Poupryev, Principal Research Scientist at Disney Research, blew the audience’s minds by demonstrating how virtually anything can be made interactive. He spoke about using visual haptics such as touch and sound to tell engaging stories – think musical plants and touch sensitive water. We're pretty excited to see this technology take off.
Toby Shapshak of Stuff Magazine argued that Africa is where the biggest innovation is happening today (and hilariously compared Amazon's delivery drones to 'clay pigeon shooting for the digital age'). Kenneth Cukier, data editor of The Economist parsed the immense topic of Big Data, and Rob Newlan of Facebook Creative Shop spoke about beards and the need to prioritise people over pixels in the age of users' finely tuned 'bullshit radars'. Eoghan Crawford, Senior Brand Manager of Cadbury Dairy Milk, talked about how it pays to be non-linear and – something we can certainly identify with here in our independent W+K global network – the importance of knowledge sharing amongst networks.
One of the highlights of the day was a lunchtime session from entrepreneur Richard Noble, the man behind the ambitious Bloodhound SSC project – a bid to build the world’s first 1000mph car. Noble talked about the challenges facing such an ambitious project, from sourcing a jet engine to manually clearing loose stones from 12km of desert track, crowdsourcing innovation and the problem with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries in Britain today. We were a little stunned to learn that only 10% of women are professional engineers, and 50% of state schools have no girls taking A level physics. It makes advertising look positively advanced in comparison when it comes to equality. The good news is that the Bloodhound team are heavily involved in education, hoping to inspire the same interest in sciences as the golden age of manned space programme did. Read more about their efforts here: www.bloodhoundssc.com/education
A key theme of the day was ‘purpose’. Between Lifebuoy soaps’ adoption of an Indian village to Toyota’s relief efforts during Hurrcane Sandy, it's clear that the PR and advertising industries need to work harder to reach beyond attention-grabbing stunts and make a positive impact in the real world. Privacy was another recurring theme, and the willingness of consumers to trade their privacy for a more personalised experience from brands. This brings back the big question of what price consumers put on access to their data – would they give up their geolocation in exchange for a discount at nearby retail outlets? And if so, how big a discount will they exchange it for?
A few more surprising things we learned during the day:
70% of all snapchat users are female
'digital natives' switch between devices 27 times per hour
Africa is not 'mobile-first', it’s mobile only
things you read in Stuff Magazine and/or The Economist are definitely, positively, 100% almost always true
A few interesting tech companies and startups also exhibited at Kings Place during the event. Here’s Paulo, putting everything he's learned whilst running the Honda account into practice whilst racing The Stig (with the help of everyone's favourite new toy, the Oculus Rift):
We were rather happy to see a familiar set of hooves in the Most Contagious report's advertising category too:
If like us, you like to while away a Sunday morning leafing through the newspaper supplements, you may have spotted our latest Lurpak work nestled amongst the pages last weekend.
Our new print campaign announces the arrival of Slow Churned butter, the latest addition to the Lurpak product line, and celebrates the concept of truly savouring and embracing indulgent, 'this is the life' culinary moments.
Made from the finest quality cream, Lurpak® Slow Churned butter is churned in small batches over several hours to create a fuller rich and creamy flavour. It’s a natural culinary addition to those special down-time moments.
The print campaign, shot by photographer Joss McKinley, captures the simple pleasure of slowing down and taking the time to indulge in tranquil moments. The soft-spoken tone of voice and pared back photographic style are a departure from the brand’s previous bold advertising imagery, letting the simple beauty of a peaceful moment shine through in an arrangement of ingredients that make up a perfect pause – crusty bread, coffee and Lurpak® Slow Churned butter.
The launch is supported by a national print, social, digital and PR campaign, including an exclusive range of recipes that showcase the unique taste of Lurpak® Slow Churned by renowned French author, chef and baking supremo Richard Bertinet.
As part of our ongoing relationship with leadership development programme The International Exchange, W+K Account Director Hanne Haugen has spent a month in Uganda, working with an NGO.
At the end of October I moved to Uganda for a month to work with The Kasiisi Project - using what I know from advertising in a completely different context.
I lived in a small village in the western part of the country, near the Kibale National Forest. Most of the people in this area are subsistence farmers, with many mouths to feed and little income. Education is the best hope of breaking the cycle of poverty, but as many as 70% of children don’t complete primary school. Although primary education to an extent is funded by the Ugandan government, costs associated with sending kids to school can put great pressure on a family's economy. The focus of the Kasiisi Project is to improve the educational opportunities available to children in the community surrounding the forest, helping them to stay in school and paving the way for a more secure future.
The month went by so quickly, but coming back it feels like I’ve been away for a long time. Seasons have changed, the agency biscuit cupboard has been turned into a meeting room, and I did a lot more than I thought I would be able to. My biggest concern before I went was not having enough time to help affect real change, but, as I discovered, you can do a lot in a month.
I’ve been back for nearly two weeks now, and have had time to digest it all and reflect on what I learnt. My assignment was to create a business & communication strategy for the project, to help them on the way to self-sustainability as a long-term ambition. That was in and of itself quite an intense learning experience, but beyond that there are so many other things I take from my time in Uganda, both personally and professionally:
You know a lot more than you think you do. Trust that the years of working in an agency has taught you a thing or two.
Sometimes you know absolutely nothing. Accept and embrace it. It’s good to learn new things.
It is possible to get work done without the internet. There is just a bit more legwork involved.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You'll get a lot more done if you keep your eye on the bigger issues.
Be practical. A small organisation doesn't have a lot of man-power or resources - so need practical tools, not just abstract thinking.
The community is powerful. The support of the community is vital for the success of any project, and in the rural Uganda, it’s also your most important communication channel.
Our skills are useful. And they can be used to do good. Many organisations could benefit from the knowledge, talent and work-ethic of our industry. We should be proud of what we do.
Never get a motorcycle taxi in Kampala on a Friday afternoon. Just trust me on this.
The Kasiisi Project staff and volunteers. Welcome to optimism.
Like everybody else, we had one of those photobooth things at our Christmas party. They print out the pics on the night and also upload them to their website so you can look at them all the next day. Each party is represented by one thumbnail image. Interesting to see that, while all the other agency parties (hello Adam&Eve, Syzygy, etc) seem to feature festive revellers in their party frocks and dickie bows, the W+K party icon is a fucking scary panda straight out of David Lynch's Christmas nightmare.
After the enormous success of their two previous drives, Tesco brought back their Neighbourhood Food Collection once again this December to help get food to those who need it most at Christmas. Once again, Tesco asked customers to donate food items in each of its 2,500-plus stores nationwide and online, and generously added 30% on top of the total amount collected by the public.
In just three days, enough food was collected to provide a 4.3 million meals. To help Tesco thank the nation for its generosity, we made a short animation and a series of print ads which ran nationally, as well as regional executions that ran in local press, continuing the Food Collection iconography in a seasonal colour scheme.
Featuring a famous landmark from cities including Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle, the ads were designed to thank Tesco customers on a local level and speak directly to the communities that came together to help those in need.
Every year YouTube compiles a list of their top ten most viewed ads of the previous 12 months. Wieden+Kennedy topped the list in 2012, with our Honda 'spark' spot and we had a total seven ads in the top 20 of the year.
At number three (appropriately enough) - the moonwalking pony for Three UK.
"Three set the social media sphere buzzing this year with its moonwalking pony... The sight of the shuffling Shetland pony combined with the sounds of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere, spurred a torrent of positive conversation around the brand. Never underestimate the power of a dancing pony," said Marketing Week.
1 Longer content works well on YouTube – 65 per cent of the 70 leaderboard ads analysed are longer than 60 seconds.
2 An emotional response is key, with all of the advertising featuring a strong response on at least one of the following: surprise, inspiration and excitement.
3 YouTube enables a different kind of storytelling, with many of the ads being part of successful long-term campaigns and featuring a strong back story.
4 Involving, enjoyable and buzzworthy content is key to generating views.
5 Branding is not the enemy of creative success, but integrating the brand into key moments of the video is the creative challenge.
6 There is no single recipe: many approaches work, with the top five themes in all the top ads involving a human presence, music, text, a call to action and being international.
Personally I'm not sure that this analysis is very helpful as a guide to creating successful content, or as a way of explaining why some things are more successful than others. You might as well say, 'Make it really good'. Anyway, draw your own conclusions.