The Virtual Strike

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,Random Thoughts | Monday, 08 February 2010

There’s something happening in Belgian ad world this week. The site of some major agencies are on a strike.

On a strike?

Yes, it’s a protest, organized by an organization called ACC, a self-regulating organ that tries to outline the way pitches should be organized here in Belgium. A noble goal, really. As you might know or not, a pitch is a process where an agency is in competition with other agencies, trying to win the account. As you can imagine, a pretty intense process that indeed can suck-up quite some resources, creativity, money even .. so yes, I do believe in some kind of regulation. Rules the ACC promote are for example: only 4 agencies, don’t steal creation, .. pretty straight-forward ideas to be honest, but as you can imagine, clients don’t always feel the same.

And this is what the strike is about. To bring a clear and simple message: don’t abuse.

That’s why you’ll find the websites of these agencies replaced with an open letter, that you can find after the break (screenshots, the text isn’t copy-paste friendly .. let’s not get started about share-ability)

A post about passion

Steven | Random Thoughts | Sunday, 07 February 2010

I pity this guy!

Evert-Jan De Kort

I pity this guy because he’s so passionate about chocolate he can’t turn it into his profession. He can’t because joining the established chocolate manufacturers here in Belgium is just below his standards. It’s not that it’s all bad .. but this guy only settles with the best. Top notch. No compromises.

I pity this guy, because when he tells me if he didn’t had a wife and kid he probably would’ve moved to Canada or some other place where he could do something real with his talent and passion, I know he’s not lying. He’s telling this in a non regretful way, he’s just stating the facts. He frames his passion.

I pity this guys, because when it comes to chocolate, people are ignorant. They think they know what he talks about, except they don’t. So he has to convince them, one soul at the time.

I envy this guy, because I know he will turn it into his profession, one way or another, one day or another. I know he’ll find a way to cash in on his passion (cf Gary Vaynerchuk), because that’s what he does.

I envy this guy, because he’s walking the talk. He’s doing it, whatever conditions; wrong place, wrong time. He’s not one of these morons, like me, always blabbering about good ideas, never executing them. He’s doing it, one step at the time.

This guy is Evert-Jan de Kort. His parents must have known he’d be capable of doing 2 things at the time when they gave him 2 first names. And I wish him all the luck in the world!

Oh yes, I’m writing this post in the first place, because I attended a Whisky-Chocolate tasting last week. Evert-Jan teamed up with Whisky Import Belux (another guy following his passion, although whisky is a bit easier than chocolate), and we were able to taste some excellent products and combinations. Good times! Evert-jan’s project is called Choqoa, and if you want to know about chocolate, anything, just ask him

Anti Aids

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns | Friday, 22 January 2010

Really love this spot – Fucking good :)

By TBWA Paris.
Via Buzzing Bees

Don’t drink and drive, get a car

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,Random Thoughts | Sunday, 20 December 2009

There’s a new BOB campaign in Belgium. These campaigns are designed to build awareness around drinking and driving, that it’s a bad idea. The campaign typically comes to live with the holidays around the corner, as in right now.

A BOB is a person who doesn’t drink, and safely drives his probably less sober passengers. The idea is to endorse this person, reward him even, symbolic.

However, I do believe this years campaign is pushing it.

bob campaign 2009: win a car

This year, one of these BOB’s (when checked upon by the police) will win a car.

Don’t get me wrong, I a) am in favor of any anti-drinking and driving awareness campaign; b) I like the concept of BOB a lot. I do believe the introduction of this concept has in fact saved quite some lives.

But give a car away? I think this brings the wrong message, and might even be counter productive. How is that?

First, I’m very much in favor of the symbolic approach. I do believe in positive endorsement, in general, but when it comes to alcohol controls, the thing that probably works best (at least on the short term) is fear for penalty. What the BOB campaign has established very well is, in the first place create awareness around alcohol campaigns (hey kids, we’re checking, you don’t want to get caught) and at the same time (and this is important) offer a way out. The introduction of the BOB is a solution to a problem. It’s not telling: you can’t party. It’s telling: you can party, but find a solution for drunk driving (don’t let us catch you). Choosing a BOB is a solution: you don’t drink this week, I’ll be sober next time.

The win-a-car angle is kind of counter productive in my mind. The symbolic part is gone, it got turned into a contest. A car matters, right? The campaign is telling: be good, win a price. Then what? I don’t win, too bad, drink again? Got beaten in a non drinking contest?

This brings us to the counter productive part. When I see a alcohol control is happening, I’m sure to start driving as if I were intoxicated. I can win a car, so it would be stupid to not get a chance to compete! So if you see a cue of cars that want to be alcohol checked, ask yourself if the campaign worked?

The press and police will most likely think it’s working, because there it’s all about the numbers (which plays on the don’t get caught message as well, by the way). The more cars checked on, the better. Well, think again. It’s about quality, not quantity kids!

I’ll be cooking tonight!

Steven | Random Thoughts | Thursday, 17 December 2009

imageYes, remember that shrimp recipe I posted here some time ago? It turns out it was promising enough to get me in the final, which is held tonight in Antwerp.

I’ll be competing against these nice people

I wish them all the best, at the same time: the gloves are off ;)

Our cookery will be judged by ao chef Felix Alen and Imke Dielen.

More on the shrimp blog (in Dutch). Wish me luck :)

Old Media vs. New Media

Steven | Random Thoughts | Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Interesting presentation by Bart of the Belgian firm Netlash.

A wake up call for these in traditional publishing: you’re not getting there by only creating content. Rethink your business!

I personally very much believe there’s a future for (traditional) publishing, but like Bart is showing on almost any slide, it IS time to evolve.

Good job Bart!

Merry x-mas and a happy 2010

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,multimedia,Random Thoughts | Wednesday, 16 December 2009

We just released our Nascom x-mas card.


Check it out, I think it’s big fun and quite original.

Can you spot me and my colleagues?

If you know of other fun digital x-mas cards, let me know!

(BTW: if you have a reddit account, support the card right here – well appreciated!)

Nespresso is the new King Gilette

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns | Wednesday, 16 December 2009

King Gilette invented a new business approach. Disposable razors. He started making money with a non-durable good, something you need to renew on a regular basis. The containers .. he gave them away for free. Or practical free. An approach Gilette is still following today. Cheap containers, expensive blades. Their product innovation is based on that: new blades (mostly by adding an extra blade), new container. Get the brand new container in a promotion that’s practical free (or at least less expensive than a new package of blades) and be stuck to new and more expensive blades. This happens on a regular basis.

This post isn’t about Gilette. We know the new king in razor town is Raz*War – quality blades at an honest price. I’ll use them, check it out. Not much left to say here.

Let’s talk about Nespresso, they top this business model.

It’s been almost a year since I got my Nespresso machine. I got it as a farewell present when changing jobs. Still much appreciated, ex-colleagues! Together with the machine, I got some accessories and obviously coffee pads. Great gift!

Almost a year later, taking into account I had a decent stash to start with, this is what I spend on Nespresso products:

  • 650 coffee capsules
  • Extra cups
  • Spoons (which I never use myself because I drink my Nespresso black)
  • Some random capsules in a Nespresso store

The price of a normal Nespresso capsule is 0.33 euro, a lungo (larger cup) is 0.37 euro. I drink both, so if you take 0.35 euro as an average I spent > 227 euro on coffee capsules alone. Together with the extra accessories the sum total will be around 280 euro.

I’m telling this because this is substantially more than the actual price of the machine. Especially when you take the semi permanent 50 euro cashback promotion into account.

The great thing is I don’t feel ripped off. This is where Nespresso exceeds Gilette. I’m happy to pay. Every cup of coffee is worth it’s 35 cents.

What’s more, when I place an order of about 80 euros, the only thing I can think is: man, I wish it was already here. New flavors! When they actually deliver, I’m happy as a little child. This is a business model based on use and added value. Every cup adds value!

Seeing this numbers, Nespresso would do a good job giving their machines away.

Nespresso is everything you can wish for as a brand. Kevin Roberts would call this a love brand. It’s the whole atmosphere, the full experience. As a customer, I can only conclude they have a very effective CRM strategy. They possibly have to, since you can’t buy the capsules in a random store. You need to go to a Nespresso store (rare, but fun) or order by phone / internet / fax / whatever. But the program works, you don’t feel left behind. They give you the message to contact them for anything. When it’s supposed to be time to decalc your machine, you get a set for free. It’s in the details. It feels fun. It feels premium.

The best thing? Literally any client is a brand advocate! You can’t wish for this, but in case of Nespresso it’s true. I guess I’m personal responsible for at least 5 new clients, on 1 year time! And they all love it, and bring in friends themselves.

How can this happen? Most important, the product is good. It’s premium, and worth what you pay. You never feel ripped off. The coffee is good as well. There’s quite some flavors (They’re icons! They have facebook fan pages!) so chances are you easily find yourself a favorite. I personally believe it’s the best confection coffee out there. I can imagine some fresh roasted, carefully selected, home brewed coffee melange can be better .. but seriously, how realistic is this? How likely is it that you personally are able to mix something that’s better than a coffee specialist? I’m a coffee lover, no coffee technician .. And the Nespresso coffee is kept fresh in the closed capsules, pretty important.
So the product is good, and the communication is in line. It creates some expectations, expectations that are empowered by actual use. No bloody lies!

This said, there’s just one thing they can improve, and that’s the online experience. I firmly believe, putting this in line with the general promise of the brand, use the same quality, enforce it really .. could be a very good step in expanding the brand.

Yes I’m a fan .. and proud of it. BTW, a Nespresso machine would make the ultimate x-mas gift in my mind. Not for me though, I have my machine.

In honour to a lemon

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns | Tuesday, 15 December 2009

I was researching some advertising heritage, and for some reason I had to think about the classic VW Beetle ad, stating “Lemon”.


See it in large (“think small” as a bonus)

I was discussing it at the office today, and realized the term “lemon” isn’t commonly used here in Belgium. Maybe Europe? It might as well be a very American thing. I think I learned about it reading Gladwell.

Anyway, a lemon, in the (mostly second hand) car market, is a car that’s simply not good. It might seem ok, but when you end up buying it, you’re basically screwed. There’s a whole economic theory about this .. but that’s not the point here (just nice for you to know).

The ad is a classic one, made by DDB, to support the launch of the VW Beetle in the USA in the 1960′s. Tough market. German car with the Second World War right behind the corner. An American trend to get bigger and bigger cars, that the Beetle clearly didn’t follow, ..

Why on earth would they put LEMON on an ad for a car?

That’s where the copywriting kicks in! Read it, and smile! Basically, what the copy is telling: that particular car didn’t make it to the end selection, because it has a really minor issue (hey!). So if VW classifies this car as a lemon, can you imagine what their quality standards must be?

It’s still great, but back at the time it was trendsetting on Madison Avenue, the center point of the Ad industry then. DDB blew a new wind, bringing a focus to creativity. All big agencies followed easily.

This post is a homage to the profession of ad man back at the days, a real craftsman. The importance of copy. I won’t ignore the importance of copy nowadays, not at all, it’s still key. But things did change. For one thing, distinctive (long) copy is becoming a rare good, because in this over-mediated world, people don’t seem to read this anymore. What’s left is instant hit copy. Make your point, NOW. There is no other choice, the only way to stand out is yell harder, be more visual. A pity, but a reality so it seems.

Or .. do we need to realize, different times need a different approach? That being contemporary (or future ready) is not about using yesterdays techniques .. harder?

Persuasive carwash

Steven | marketing, advertising & campaigns,Random Thoughts | Sunday, 13 December 2009

Look at this carwash receipt

Persuasive Carwash

It says: “Bedankt, tot volgende week” – Dutch for: Thank you, see you next week.

This is a very classical, and good, example of persuasive copywriting. Yep, that short, this is all it takes.

What the carwash is doing with this sentence, is setting a standard. What they are telling you is no less than: if you care for your car, you’ll have it washed on a regular basis. What they’re doing more, is quantify this regularity: really considerate drivers come back every week. They make you aware of this, and tell you something you never really thought of.

Simple, effective and genius.