Thursday, August 2, 2018

Which Advertising Books Should be Essential Reading?

I am a big fan of advertising and marketing books. I read all of them. Well, okay not ALL of them, but certainly all the ones that people I respect are talking about, and I have shelves full of them (digital and actual bookshelves).

BBH recently decided to put together a World Cup of Advertising Books Tournament  on Twitter, so they compiled a list, which was then voted on by nearly 5000 people.

As with most of these sorts of tournaments, some of the quarter or semi-finals could have indeed been the final, but the winner was a very worthy The Choice Factory, by Richard Shotton. (Follow him too on Twitter - he is a font of information: @rshotton

Amazon calls this book "the new advertising essential". I would agree.

"Before you can influence decisions, you need to understand what drives them. In The Choice Factory, Richard Shotton sets out to help you learn. By observing a typical day of decision-making, from trivial food choices to significant work-place moves, he investigates how our behaviour is shaped by psychological shortcuts. With a clear focus on the marketing potential of knowing what makes us tick, Shotton has drawn on evidence from academia, real-life ad campaigns and his own original research. The Choice Factory is written in an entertaining and highly-accessible format, with 25 short chapters, each addressing a cognitive bias and outlining simple ways to apply it to your own marketing challenges. Supporting his discussion, Shotton adds insights from new interviews with some of the smartest thinkers in advertising, including Rory Sutherland, Lucy Jameson and Mark Earls. From priming to the pratfall effect, charm pricing to the curse of knowledge, the science of behavioural economics has never been easier to apply to marketing. The Choice Factory is the new advertising essential." via

Having said that, I think that the last 16 in the tournament are all essential building blocks; all the books in the quarter finals should be compulsory reading; and there are still many that aren't on there.

It's a worthwhile list to study and to stock up your digital or actual library. And, of course, they would love to know which books are a must-read that they have missed. Let them know via their twitter account: Let me know too

(click to see the full chart)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Creative advertising works better. Now, how can I get it?

Every now and then an article pops into one timeline or other and it's like switching a light on. And then, in very special circumstances an article pops up and it's like someone switched the light on, and a loud "hallelujah" echoed forth. 

In this case, it was this article by Ryan Wallman in Marketing Week.

So what did Ryan say?

In the afterglow or glow of cynicism following the Cannes advertising festival, he poses this simple question to marketers, : "How much should you concern yourself with the creative work that supports your marketing?"

Of course the answer is as simple as the question. A lot. You should concern yourself a lot. Marketers get the agencies they deserve, and they get the creative outputs they deserve. You and I know this. But incredibly there are some marketers that still doubt the effectiveness of creativity.

Ryan helpfully shows us some research:

1. Admap research, based on an analysis of more than 1,500 case studies, which ranked the top 10 factors that drive advertising profitability, showed that creative execution was the second largest contributor to advertising profitability after market size. Read more here

2. A 2017 Nielsen analysis of advertising effectiveness, based on nearly 500 campaigns across all media platforms proved that creative quality was easily the most important factor for generating sales, contributing more than double the next highest factor (reach). In fact, Nielsens says that "creative remains the undisputed champ in terms of sales drivers". Read the report here.

3. He references Les Binet and Peter Field’s work for the IPA, that demonstrated how creatively awarded campaigns are more efficient at driving market share growth than non-awarded campaigns. He also acknowledges some recent criticism of the "Survivorship Bias" of the survey which of course might be valid. However, the results are borne out by other research institutes such as Ehrenberg-Bass and Nielsen who have reached similar conclusions.
Highly creatively awarded campaigns are more efficient and more effective.

The main point of Ryan's article thus far is this: 
"To state what may seem obvious, marketers can benefit from good creative work – and can benefit even more from great work."

But how to get it? 

You might think that research is the answer. Turns out that sometimes gives you the exactly wrong answer. 

"Peter Field has demonstrated a negative correlation between the use of quantitative pre-testing and the success of IPA award entries. This implies that if you use quantitative methods to pre-test your creative work, you might be doing the opposite of what you intend thereby reducing its likelihood of success."

Here's where Ryan gets to the "hallelujah" part.

Loosen your grip on the creative process.
"Creative work is like a rebellious teenager – the more you try to control it, the less it will do what you want.
With that in mind, the first step is to give your agency some space. Brief them well, then let them do their thing.
Second, remember that it doesn’t really matter whether you ‘like’ the creative work or not. What matters is how your customers respond to it.
And third, don’t analyse the work to death. It will inevitably lead to compromise, and the end result will be anodyne (or worse)."

I'm going add some of my own magic dust onto his hallelujah. Here are my simple steps to achieving great creativity.

Understand, and believe in, great:

Take the day off, in fact take one day off every month, and truly understand  what makes great work great, and how it is an undisputed competitive advantage. If you really believe in its efficacy, maybe you'll try harder to make sure you and your teams deliver great, not mediocre-but-meets-the-deadline.
There are hundreds of resources: get your popcorn out and start with this one:  The IPA - effectiveness learnings

Write inspiring, tight briefs:

Briefs are a strategic document - not a process document. And tight doesn't mean prescriptive, it means absolute clarity in terms of the job to be done.
Briefs are way harder to write than anyone thinks and like most chefs can tell you: bad ingredients in, bad meal out. There are a few key tips to writing good briefs - but most important is to understand that it's not something to be banged out in ten minutes, or cut and pasted from last year's brief. Get the right training, get the right people to write them, give enough time for them to be inspiring. Remember also the three drivers of great briefs: Brevity, Clarity, Fertility

Learn how to evaluate and give constructive feedback:

Again, this is harder than it looks. Get your own opinions out the room. Use a tool if it helps to distance yourself. I invented one which I'll give you here for free. I call it R2OI2. (Trips off the tongue doesn't it?) Simple: R = Relevance and Resonance. O = Originality. I = Insight and Idea. and there's ROI = will it deliver against investment and objective?
Biggest wins - a powerful insight and a big idea. If you spend time looking through any Cannes winners' case studies (which you should, after you've done the IPA site backwards), you'll start seeing that insights and ideas are essential. When you evaluate work - if there's a gigantic idea there but you don't like the execution - keep the idea and work on the executions. Mostly, the execution is thrown out with the bathwater. 

And lastly:

Up-skill your team.

Many people land up in marketing or advertising with considerable skills, just not these ones. I'm not being facetious and I'm not saying it because our Creative Fitness and Business Marketing Academy courses could change your life. I mean they could. But, this stuff is difficult and it's risky and it's expensive, yet many people don't know how to do it, and even fewer of then don't know how to do it brilliantly.

It's worth investing the time and money into building these skills. If you don't want to call me to do it, spend some time reading the work of Beloved Brands - there more tools and tips in Graham Robertson's blog and Linked in feed than you can use in a lifetime. He is immeasurably generous with his knowledge.

In the end

We all know creativity works harder and is a competitive advantage and delivers more bang for same buck. In fact the less creative dreck that surrounds us every minute of every day (something above 3000 messages every 24 hours), that we ignore, is often more expensive, takes more time and breaks agency-client relationships.

If you remember only one thing from all of this it's this: Mediocrity is Expensive.

Someone clever said it, and the story of the quote is in itself a lesson. Read about it here.

Make the rest of your year about aiming high. Because your business deserves it.


Contact Gillian on or +27832659099 to help you figure out how to find this holy grail. It's not easy, but it's not hard once you know how.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Trend spotting in the Adbiz, 2018: It's not on top, it's inside.

Every year I am asked to write something for BizCommunity on a trend I foresee, you know, in my crystal ball.

Image courtesy of Jannoon028 at

Most years it's a variation on a theme. More data, more insight, customised communication, the power of mobile...This year - it's something completely new.
Here's my 10 cents worth.

If I close my eyes and picture the world of marketing in 2018, two words come to mind.

They are Watershed Moment: “a critical turning point; a moment in time where everything changes; a point in time when nothing after will ever be the same.”[1]
But doesn’t everyone say that every year?

Yes, there are changes, and things have changed, so what would make 2018 a watershed moment, a critical turning point? Is it not simply a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same?

No. Because the truth is that almost everything has changed in the world of marketing communication.

The only thing that hasn't (enough) is how agencies and marketers work together.

And that’s where I believe the watershed is happening.

We all know that marketers are chasing increasingly tough numbers, and they are searching for innovation, efficiencies and integration to help deliver their goals. 
Unlocking the full benefits of technology is challenging (and full of opportunities) for marketing teams. Same for data. But a major blockage to increasing efficiencies and integration is how they work with agencies and how agencies work.

Marketers have always needed agencies to create the link between the business and the people who need to put their hands in their pockets. They needed agencies to unlock insights to create ideas to change behaviour. They needed agencies to decide where to place the messaging, to buy the space, and to implement the sometimes hundreds of elements across numerous channels. 

They still need a central concept (a big idea) which can be simply communicated based on insights and barriers and whatever will drive consumer behaviour. But more and more of the pieces of the puzzle could be done, and might make more sense to be done, in-house.

To quote industry commentator and guru, James Cannon-Boyce, in his article on curing your adsanity“There is the famous old adage about the CEO who said that they knew half their money was being wasted in marketing — they just didn’t know which half. That was from over a century ago — these days, the answer is that it’s not half that’s being wasted — it’s close to all of it. More and more, I feel that I am in the same meeting — it’s a bit like Groundhog Day if the Bill Murray character was a frazzled over-whelmed marketing executive and not a weatherman.”

Marketers already have their own insights departments (although sometimes generating  more information than insight). They have their own relationships with specialized production houses, or in-house production capabilities. They already have or are building their own social media and community management teams due to its always-on, strategic and tonality requirements.

There’s a growing sense that whoever owns the data has the power. 
As the CMO of said recently, "We have way more data than the agency has. I’d make a very strong case that anything that generates data, you need to own as a business. You cannot have anyone else be the expert."[3]

This seems especially true for brands born on the internet, as they have no “advertising legacy” and have direct relationships with their customers.

Take a look at the credits for the creative team listed by Adweek, in this latest campaign by Spotify

They look different because they are all in house. [4]

Yes, but that’s there, in the USA. How will this affect brands in SA, with historical relationships with agencies? Simply, there has to be change, on both sides.

The structure within corporates isn’t yet optimal either. They, as well as their agencies, will need to restructure to unlock the siloes, open the flows of insight and information, to reduce wastage and duplication (and cost).

The challenge to agencies is that as the outside bits are being eaten away, what happens to their business model? As John Mandel from Mediacom says, "They are still set up for fighting the last war. They haven’t really set themselves up for the future war. Instead they are trying to eek out gains from a model than needs to change, while always trying to upsell clients on services."[5]

I’m not proclaiming the death of agencies yet as there are a few stumbling blocks in the in-house agency vision. Marketers have not yet figured out how to properly integrate all the sources of insight - obviously digital (big, or rich data)  but also from places like the sales/customer channel. The creative piece remains essential and ever more vital. Unless you hire in this talent, it’s going to have to remain outside. Hiring issues, like BEE and to creative culture remain a concern. 

Here’s where a new agency model like Oliver can play its part. They build agencies inside companies. One of their White Papers quotes research that the shows the number of brands bringing digital in-house increasing at a staggering rate, and that by 2020, “54% of brands think they’ll bring previously outsourced functions back in-house to match the need for more agile marketing efforts”.[6]

Will agencies still play a role in the idea development – using insights to create powerful brand stories and platforms? I think they should. There is now an even more pressing need for cut through creative. But agencies have to be reimagined and reinvented if they intend to survive. And the reimagining of the business model is the most important aspect.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why Agencies Must Fight For The Right To Be Creative

Ten years ago, I made the decision to open a new business after watching three bad (TV) ads in a row and having a EUREKA moment:
I needed to rid the world of bad advertising.
But how?

I thought of the great campaigns I'd been involved with in my 20 years experience ("great" meaning very creative and astonishingly successful for the brand and business) and tried to isolate what made them possible.

Brave work? Tick
Brave client? Tick
Strong Relationship? Tick

Okay, good.

But what MADE those things possible?

Brave work needs to be sold. Brave work can only be sold by a team that has taken into account the possible risks the brand and business faces, and has mitigated those risks based on the strong possibility of success. This takes skill and wisdom and strategic ability. Equally, a brave marketer needs to have astute evaluation and feedback skills and the ability to hear their instinct over their fear. A strong relationship is based on trust, based on a true belief that the other person knows what they are doing. Look up the word "trust" and you get words like:
  • to rely on
  • to depend on
  • to believe
  • to expect confidently
  • to rely on the integrity, strength, ability of...
This trust goes both ways. The agency has to trust the marketer as much as the other way round. You trust each other.

It's not a blind, stupid, trust. It's a trust based on cumulative experience and knowledge and track records and understanding business.

So the concept of Adtherapy was born: to help marketers and agencies work better together to get the best possible work, because it works better.

I'm not going to rehash the argument of why this is so, (if you want more, you can read my previous post here.)

Just quickly, here's a repeat of some of the cogent points:

The Case for Creativity reported on a research study commissioned by the IPA (Institute of Practitioners of Advertising) and Thinkbox in the UK and conducted by acclaimed researcher Peter Field in 2010, entitled "The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness". Some key findings were:
  • Only about 0,001% of advertising wins a creative award, yet among highly effective campaigns (in this case winners of an IPA Effectiveness award), 18% are awarded. This means that there's on "over-index of 128,500" of how likely creative campaigns are to be effective.
  • In an analysis of "Excess Share of Voice" (ESOV, which correlates a brand's share of advertising with its share of market, Field found that the "Return On Investment (ROI) for a highly creative campaign is on average 11 times higher". ie... "you need to spend 11 times more on media for an uncreative production" to achieve the same result.
  • And, here's the kicker: Creatively awarded campaigns are more certain to achieve a higher rate of effectiveness by a "degree of confidence of 99.9%" as opposed to to non-awarded campaigns'  degree of confidence of 87%.
"What this implies is that less creative campaigns are not only less efficient, but also less predictable than creatively-awarded ones - something of a departure from the perceived notion that a more creative approach is a less certain one"
James Hurman, Author of the Case for Creativity

In short, creative advertising is much less risky than boring advertising.

But "things have changed in the last decade".

Digital is all pervasive. The word Advertising is a no-no. Content is King. No, Distribution is King. No, CONTEXT is King. There is constant debate about what is King, or Queen or the most important thing in communication today. They're all interesting points and all add to the ongoing evolution in this industry. But to me there is a simple point that's missing.

Luckily, today, two articles addressed this point, albeit in different ways.

Creative is King.

"COO Sheryl Sandberg and her team have been relentlessly experimenting with how to make ads more compelling despite the limitations of small screens. "Creativity’s never been so important," Sandberg says. "When TV ads [first appeared], people thought the creative was important. Then when you moved into online, what really mattered was the targeting. What we’re [now] seeing on the Facebook platform is that it’s both."

Or this one:
"Why have modern marketers shunned what will make them stand apart and define the new century by becoming cold, calculated, and analytical to the point where creativity has been ostracized? 
In this creative age (in which) we are crossing the chasm and entering, creativity is the main differentiator."

In the article quoted above, by Geoffrey Colon, he imagines the characteristics of people he would hire for his own agency, that would define the "new century marketer". They will probably not surprise you. They are:
  1. Intellectually curious
  2. Always listening
  3. Empathetic, inclusive and ethical
  4. Learns, unlearns, relearns
And these wonderful attributes will help solve the problem he raises of marketers becoming more analytical but less interesting. As he says, "machines can do analytics better than any of us will be able to do. But empathy? That’s more difficult for machine learning to mimic."

But wait. 

Agencies HAVE these types of people don't they?

So why are they not allowed to do what they're good at; creating empathetic work that differentiates the brand and connects to consumers' deepest motivations?

That's sadly an easy one to answer. Marketers often under perform in this critical area, that of unlocking the creativity of their agency partners for their own business success. Why?

  • They are disconnected from their consumers.
  • They lack insight.
  • They are prescriptive.
  • They issue terrible briefs due to all of the above.
  • They are not brave. In fact, they are terrified by the stresses of shareholder delivery, Quarter-itis, and internal politics.
  • They lack of evaluation and feedback skills.
  • And so they lack confidence.

The effect of all this on agencies?

Complete demoralisation. Many of the best people I know in the industry feel bowed down, crushed, by their lack of "professional freedom". By which I mean, crushed by clients forcing them to do work they don't believe in, based on their considerable skills, experience and expertise.

The upshot? Good talent will leave the industry. And the industry, and its clients, will be the poorer for it. Or the good agencies will end those oppressive client relationships. Those marketers will get the advertising they deserve. And the true giants, true leaders, will continue to nurture creativity, to innovate and break barriers. And soar.

That's why agencies need to fight for the right to be creative. And when I say fight, I don't actually mean fight! I mean persuade, convince, inspire. Great agencies have to produce great creativity to keep their souls from self destructing. It's their lifeblood. But it's a win-win because it turns out that great creativity is also a key driver of brand success. 

Of course, they shouldn't have to fight. But the fight is real and fight they must.


Adtherapy works with Marketers and Agencies to help them work better together so that they create better work. Contact Gillian Rightford on, +(27)(0)832659099 or visit our website if you want to know more.