Paul Bainsfair, Chairman of the IPA, popped in today for a cup of tea and to say congratulations on 15 years as a member of the UK trade body. Feels quite grown up. And now we have a nice plaque for the mantelpiece.
Our planner, Georgia Challis, has just returned from a trip to Canada for the annual 'Ads Worth Spreading' event at the TED 2014 conference, where she was representing our Honda 'Hands' spot. She fills us in on what she saw, did and ate out there:
As we mentioned last week on this very blog, our Honda ‘Hands’ spot was named one of TED’s ‘Ads worth spreading’. The prize was a trip out to the TED mothership - or at least to the Whistler sister of the BIG TED Vancouver extravaganza.
[Georgia living the Canadian dream]
It was a pretty incredible, pretty full on couple of days. A LOT of stuff to take in.
The Vancouver conference itself is live streamed over hundreds of megascreens in several different conference halls, all lit like blue and red hued laser domes and scattered with the modern conference’s seating of choice – bean bags, recliners, the occasional sofa… and a couple of beds from which you could watch talks beamed on to the ceiling (for when the bean bags got a bit tiresome).
So, from my LED lit bean bag, a few of my highlights from the week’s sessions:
Ed Yong: a mind bending introduction to the manipulative world of parasites. Proper sci fi sounding stuff, except it it’s not only NOT fiction (just sci then), it’s pretty common stuff out there in the big, nasty natural world. It turns out nature’s a bit of a fucker. From the wasp that turns its caterpillar host into a “head-banging zombie bodyguard defending the offspring of the creature that killed it” to the virus toxoplama gondii, a virus which can live in most mammals but can only reproduce in cats. Hosts to the virus, rats and mice, become inexplicably drawn towards cats –the virus compels them to get eaten in order to reproduce . About one third of humans carry it with no observable side effects but I reckon it explains a LOT of the internet.
David Epstein: Over the last century we’ve gotten faster, jumped higher and thrown further. In 1954, Sir Roger Bannister became the first man in the world to run the mile under four minutes, and last year 1,314 runners did that. But it turns out we haven’t miraculously evolved over an improbably short timeframe. Most of it is down to better technology (thank you Nike), a better understanding of specialised body types and a bit of mind over matter. Oh, and the bum. The bum hasn’t actually changed but it IS what makes humans so well placed for athletics, the not-so-hidden power that lets us run upright.
Randall Munroe: The former NASA roboticist turned cartoonist took us through the ‘simple’ calculation he made to estimate the physical size Google’s data would represent if it was all held on punch cards (the whole of New England, to a depth of 6 kilometers), plus Google’s encoded punch card response.
Amputee and bionic limb designer Hugh Herr gave us a glimpse of the future of bionics, from prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the nerve endings of the limb they attach to, to exoskeletons that remove the pressure on the joints of able-bodied runners. The ultimate ‘can do’ philosopher, he argued that “there is no such thing as a disabled person, no such thing as a broken person, just broken technology and an inadequate environment”. His talk ended with a dance performance from a dancer who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon terror attack. “It took 3.5 seconds to destroy her leg, it took us 200 days to build it back”. Even the four cynics in the audience were moved.
Rob Knight: Turns out microbes are a pretty big deal. We share 99.9% of our DNA with the next guy, but microbes? Apparently only about 10% of our microbes are similar to anyone else. You can link a computer mouse to a user just by their microbe profile. Microbes on our skin are the things that determine how appetising we are to mosquitos, microbes in the gut determine whether painkillers are toxic to our liver, microbes transplanted from the guts of obese mice into the guts of svelte mice make svelte mice decidedly less svelte.
And then there was Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden - beamed in from the Russian hinterlands and encased in a robot screen. Definitely a bit of an “I was there” moment for the crowd, not a redundant smartphone in the house.
And some stuff that you can’t watch from home:
1. Never before have I encountered quite so many functional foods. Water that smells of berries, chocolate flavoured quinoa and spirulina bars, freeze dried seaweed (NOT as “strangely addictive” as the pack suggests), almonds flavoured with cranberry. Pretty much nothing in its original form.
2. The general vibe is not unlike how I’d imagine the first heady ‘getting to know you’ days of some sort of freshers fair for the unusually gifted.
4. GINORMOUS name tabards. All the better to meet you with. It is genuinely nice to step out of the European ‘too cool for school’ ad world into one where people from the American Mid West to Bangladesh will happily walk up with no introduction and tell you how much they love, love, love your ad, before insisting on a selfie.
5. TED has tech hitches just like the rest of us. The next time you’re about to roll your eyes at a conference call gone haywire, just know that even when it’s the NSA in front of an auditorium filled to the rafters with everyone from the inventor of the internet to the queen of the romcom, that shit happens to everyone.
6. TED speakers have hitches just like the rest of us. Yup. They get edited out in the final videos, but I witnessed superstar DJ’s and brain meltingly clever physicists stalling up there on that stage. A glimmer of hope for the rest of us.
It's 'School Report' time at Campaign, when the advertising industry mag rates the top 100 or so agencies on their performance in the previous year.
They gave us a score of 8 out of 9, for the second year in a row (don't ask me why they score it out of 9) which equates to a rating of 'excellent'. Can't really complain about that.
Here's what they said about us:
A lot of creative agencies like to say they are all about the work. But with Wieden & Kennedy London this year, there is very little else to talk about – except perhaps the shop hiring more people to do the work.
Staff numbers were up 34 per cent to 190 in 2013. That’s two more than Wieden & Kennedy had in 2010 before Nokia – then its largest client – took its custom elsewhere, and the agency was forced to axe more than a third of its employees.
The creative duo Paul Knott and Tim Vance joined from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in August, while the creative directors Dave Day and Larry Seftel joined from Mother in November. Later that same month, Christen Brestrup and Bertie Scrase joined from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, where they had been responsible for some of the best Paddy Power ads. The agency must have felt a certain delight in nicking Brestrup and Scrase, given that the CP&B creative directors were former Wieden & Kennedy stars who jumped ship.
Wieden & Kennedy set the bar high early on in terms of work. Its "the pony" spot for Three, released in February, was a genuine viral smash and easily the 2013 highlight. That said, its spots for Honda and Lurpak would make anyone’s highlight reel for the year too.
The horsemeat scandal that engulfed Tesco gave Wieden & Kennedy the chance to flex a different set of muscles: drafting the supermarket’s apology. The newspaper ads made headlines in their own right, but were later banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for stating that meat standards were an issue for the entire food industry. It seems that the agency has yet to fully stretch itself on the Tesco account.
In addition to wheeling out ancient long-copy skills, Wieden & Kennedy showed off its tech credentials, creating an app for Stride gum that was controlled by chewing motions – it won an award from the Internet Advertising Bureau.
In short, 2013 was a good year for an agency that seemed to be enjoying itself once again.
Well, one or two remarks from teacher there to encourage us to try harder, but mostly a good report. We deserve sweets!
Elsewhere in the same issue, Campaign published their latest 'top 100' league table of agencies by billings. Billings (media spend by an agency's clients) are a pretty meaningless way of measuring an agency's performance as they're wholly unrelated these days to a creative agency's income. Having said that - in this instance BILLINGS ROCK because we have smashed our way up the top 20 table, up seven places from number 20 to number 13, with a reported rise of 25%, which according to Campaign makes us the fastest growing agency in the UK top 20 last year.
This week we’ve been graced with the presence of Blake Harrop, the MD of our Japanese cousins W+K Tokyo. Accompanied by mountains of pizza and a presentation featuring heart-shaped watermelons, Blake spent Tuesday lunchtime enlightening us on life and work at the 40-strong Nakameguro office.
Speaking to the challenges faced by an independent, creatively-led agency in the Japanese advertising industry – a market driven by media reach and celebrity endorsement – Blake illustrated how W+K Tokyo have given their clients distinctive voices amidst highly traditional arenas.
We caught up with him briefly afterwards.
How would you describe the culture of the W+K Tokyo office?
The culture is the thing that is most similar between the Tokyo & London W+K offices. In Tokyo the layout and design of the office is different, the client list is different, but the vibe you get from a group of people trying to create the best creative work of their lives is very similar to London. The smaller size of Tokyo makes it feel very tight-knit, like a family where everyone is the strange uncle or aunt.
What’s the secret to creating work that resonates universally whilst still respecting cultural distinctions?
I think it’s important to set out with that as your explicit intention. This transcends the brief – we’re always starting from a place of love and respect for Japanese culture, and always want to create the most interesting work. At the end of the day though in any culture, I think great work comes down to being honest, interesting and nice. The Nike Baseball spot we created last year was a good example of that.
Can you recommend a good book, blog or documentary for those keen to know more about the creative advertising industry in Japan?
For books, I’d recommend "Beauty and Sadness" by Yasunari Kawabata (won the Nobel prize in 1968) and for something more contemporary, “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami. For blogs, there aren’t many that cover the ad industry, but for creativity & culture Spoon & Tamago is great.
As for documentaries, it’s well-known already, but for a good reason: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Really wonderful journey into the mind of the shokunin (craftsman).
Our ECD Kim Papworth recently came across this pic of some of BMP's creative department from, we reckon, 1986 or thereabouts. It's an impressive line-up of stars-to-be. That's Kim on the far left. Fellow W+K ECD Tony Davidson is fourth from the left in the front row. On Tony's left is Pete Gatley of W+K, Fallon and now Grey. And just behind him is Mark Waites, now of Mother. And, yes, that's the Hofmeister bear in the middle there. Can anyone identify any more of these fresh-faced youngsters?
Update, some results are in: front row, L-R: Kim P (W+K), Joanna Wenley (hard to track down online but may still be a CD at DDB), Peter Gatley (now at Grey), Tony D (W+K), Neil Pavitt, Tony Dyer, Joe Boyd.
Back row: Mark Waites (now partner at Mother), John Pallant (now CD EMEA Saatchi), Colin Jones (now CD at AMV), Jon Steel (in bear suit, now planning guru at WPP), Tim Riley (now creative partner at AMV), Alan Howell, Nick Gill (now ECD of BBH).
On Tuesday, our managing director Neil joined Shaun Bailey, the Prime Minister’s special advisor on youth and crime, Kathryn Jacob, CEO of Pearl and Dean Cinemas, David McQueen, founder of youth leadership company Magnificent Generation and Oystercatchers managing partner Suki Thompson for the Oystercatchers Club Evening to discuss the challenges faced by youth today and how they engage with brands.
A few of the insights arising from the panel's inspiring discussion:
Confidence [or a lack of] is the major issue affecting youth. Winning brands inspire, challenge and commit to helping build lives. McDonald’s is moving into youth job creation; 02 is working with local communities to build work skills
Our children have become sophisticated consumers very early on
Most views of the world are Western – that will change. Youth is tuning into China.
In a fragmented media world think entertainment, not advertising. Be useful. Be authentic
Brands do well when they blur the division between content, advertising, experiences, marketing and service [think YouTube, Amazon]
Brands committed to their own development are winning. Nike and Apple constantly reinvent to survive and thrive
Exposing your brand to social development is good for your bottom line
This time each year, the auto industry descends on Motown to see what's new in the four-wheeled world at the North American International Auto Show.
During the event, The One Club's One Show Automobile Advertising of The Year Awards celebrate the industry's best creative work of the past year, judged by a panel of ad creatives and automotive journalists. We're delighted that our Honda 'Hands' film was amongst last night's winners, taking home the award for 2013's 'Best TV Commercial'. Thanks, Detroit!
Here's the 2-minute film again, described by Adweek as a "simple yet delightful film that used some eye-popping sleight of hand to showcase the automaker's innovations over the last 65 years."
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.
W+K has come first in a 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 conducted by marketing and agency search consulting firm Avidan Strategies,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.