FCK YOU GREEDY CONSUMER!

We want grapes without seeds, but we are also at the front of the pack in the March Against Monsanto. We want the highest interest rate and interest-only mortgages, but are also the first to bash the banks and to blame everything on them for an entire decade. We jet around the world with budget airlines, but detest the CO2 emissions. We want to buy six full bags of clothes for 20 euros at Primark, but find the 20-cent hourly wage in Bangladesh scandalous. We don’t mind ordering a cement bucket of KFC chicken wings, but we’re naturally also vehemently opposed to the battery chicken industry. 

So basically, we want to have our cake and eat it too. But at the same time we laugh in the faces of companies when they’re presented the Wind-Egg Trophy or are publicly exposed and drawn and quartered by critical journalists. We want Alibaba’s highest quality for the lowest price, but we want it in an environmentally – and employee-friendly bag. We want lots for a little without feeling guilty, otherwise we’ll switch to the competition lickety-split. 

Marketeers have spoiled their customers to the bone through their customer centricity. They’ve turned them into a bunch of obnoxious, cynical and arrogant ego maniacs through their neuro research, AB testing, user experiences and customer journey officers. Robert Wolcott of the Kellogg School of Management calls it The King Customer Paradox: the more empowered, the more we lose control.

But enough already of that foot-stomping toddler behaviour. It’s time to teach these irritating pubescents a lesson in responsibility. Our Very Hungry Caterpillars are from now on going to have to give up one of the slices in the Cheap-Quality-Responsibility triangular pie. Cheap responsible is fine, but it tastes disgusting. Cheap quality is also a possibility, but it’s people and animal unfriendly. Or quality responsible but then for a euro more. Fait vos jeux. So you either shut your KFC beak or you buy decent products. It might mean you get one less wing or bag, but you will get a good feeling. Rien ne va plus.

 

 

 

 

BUTTER YOUR BREAD ON BOTH SIDES*

‘We fished for tuna and sailed every now and then to the main island of Isabela to pick up fresh vegetables.’ After a hectic career in advertising, the Dutch advertising icon Cees van Staal, who recently passed away, chose to lead a simple life as a yachtsman. The Netherlands’ most successful football coach, Louis Van Gaal, also showed his simple side in a recent TV interview: he spoke candidly about his wife Truus and Peyton Place. It’s also public knowledge that Dutch media giant John de Mol likes to play a round of cards at the campground when he’s not busy snatching stars from rival broadcasting company RTL. 

Simplicity is all the rage. We spend a fortune trading our pampered life for three weeks of back to the basics in a tent or a bonsai hut. With a croissant with camping butter in one hand and a plastic mug in the other, we ecstatically whirl black clumps of Nescafé. We happily insert a 50 eurocent coin and enjoy a three-minute lukewarm shower in the campground shower facility. It’s just long enough to become nauseated by the eau de toilette wafting out of the adjacent restroom facility. And you’re also standing right in the flow of the floating hairballs because the main drain is obviously in your shower cell. But that doesn’t matter because later today we’ll jump with the whole family gleefully into our inflatable jacuzzi we got at Alibaba.

What’s the point of this self-castigation? Well, people say boredom is good for you and the best medicine for a busy era. Hanging around doing nothing gives your overworked brain some much-needed rest. Holiday life is uncomplicated and as manageable as a dollhouse. At the end of the day we’ve all got a streak of autism. 

You don’t have to look far for worn-out clichés during the dog days of summer, but someone who really knows what he’s talking about is John Eastwood of York University in Toronto. Eastwood heads the Boredom Labwhere the phenomenon of ‘boredom’ is scientifically studied. And what do you know: boredom occurs when your activity does not fulfil a natural need for stimuli. And people despise boredom because it inevitably leads to introspection and that is confrontational. So at the slightest risk of boredom, we immediately start playing a game of Candy Crush or scroll across our endless timeline on Facebook. 

The moral of this story – it’s admittedly taken a while to get to it – is that we have to dare to be bored. Anyone who escapes into their smartphone the second there’s nothing to do is afraid to take a long look at themselves. And perhaps doesn’t realise that they’d be better off looking for a different partner or career. A new campaign, a repositioning of their brand or a complete transformation of their company. Campers have always known it: Idle hands aren’t the devil’s workshop, they’re the alarm clock of progress!

 

* This column came about during a moment of boredom at Bakkum campground. 

WOMEN'S LIBBERS

Advertising women on the warpath for equality.

 

‘Women? You’re better off keeping chickens.’ Our teenage boys are talking about their girlfriends at the dinner table. But as a manager you can’t even think about saying something like that at the office, unless you’re wanting to have a lot of free time on your hands. Kevin Roberts, the well-respected CEO of international advertising group Saatchi&Saatchi, recently said in an interview in reference to gender diversity that ‘the fucking debate is all over.’ And that women don’t mind one bit not making it to the top because they don’t have the ambition for it. The supervisory directors gave him his walking papers the very next day.

Roberts’ comments are now all the buzz in the advertising world. Trade journals went in search of hard facts and interviewed advertising women who have reached the top. There’s nothing wrong with the actual number of women in the advertising industry. But most of them do work in support positions, while not enough work on the creative floor. You’ll run into them in the boardroom, but they’re usually pushing a coffee trolley. A heated debate has now erupted on internet forums between women with short tempers and men with short dicks.

Men are simplistic and think the offering of female talent and ambition is lacking. Women are divided. The women’s libbers are disgusted by the old boys’ network and their tasteless guy jokes. They get each other riled up in a private Facebook group where they can swap sexist comments. The Stockholm complex group sympathises with the oppressor and refers to a macho culture that must bother some men as well. The Realists are self-critical and say they don’t run into a glass ceiling at the office, but at home instead. The path to the top takes a lot of time and energy. So ambitious women have to choose both the right course of study and the right partner who’ll be willing to do half the parenting if kids come along.

It’s remarkable that there are plenty of advertising men who make campaigns in which the woman wears the trousers and the men are the anti-hero in their role as super wuss or ex-millionaire. But when it comes to hiring key employees, they suddenly suffer from the clone complex and choose a non-threatening copy of themselves. Until last week in Rio that is, because there couldn’t be any better advertising for girl power than the Dutch female athletes’ performance at this year’s Olympics. Only the Dutch female horse riders weren’t in the winner’s seat. But, then again, they were riding on stallions. Or – as the women’s libbers prefer it – a castrated gelding. 

  Sisters are doing it for themselves

Sisters are doing it for themselves

YURY'S JURY

Unsportsmanlike advertisers sent home.

‘What are you doing Jan?’ We’re in a meeting room just before a major presentation to an important client. ‘Oh, I’m just jotting down some spontaneous comments.’ Colleague Jan always wants to do everything exceptionally well. And perfectionism is also king when it comes to tie-in advertising. Advertisers want to make a spontaneous and up-to-the-minute impression, but they actually make painstaking preparations beforehand.

While the result is often already certain, the timing isn’t. The tie-in advertising for an approaching Eleven City Ice Skating Race or Queen Maxima’s delivery of a baby will have been ready and on the shelf for months if not years. In other cases the timing is certain, but the result isn’t. That’s the way it is with the final of The Voice, the UEFA European Championship and the Olympics. So advertisers come up with different versions and agree with the media that they’ll place the version that goes the best with the result. Once in a blue moon there is suddenly tie-in news that nobody had anticipated. That’s when the fuses in Jan’s brain blow. And that’s apparently what happened to Grolsch beer and Chocomel chocolatemilk. They ran incredibly vicious tie-ins with Dutch gymnast Yuri van Gelder, who was sent home simultaneously with Brazilian President Rousseff.

Isn’t it odd that these large professional advertisers – where everything is laid down in detail in organograms, protocols, codes of conduct and brand books – overstepped the bounds? What could possess advertisers that invest millions in corporate social responsibility to throw their own corporate image to the wind? Isn’t it remarkable that large A-brands suddenly drop their role as sympathetic supporter? A ‘take a bite out of life’ tie-in with Suarez could have been funny, but don’t take the mickey out of our national heroes.

Were the responsible marketers lazing in their hammock by the pool and were the social media juniors left to do whatever they liked? Or did the marketers want to feel young again and get caught up in their Facebook friends’ lame humour? In any event it’s strange. Because marketers know better than anyone that the images of brands and top athletes are vulnerable. They’re built over years and broken in a day. But social media are self-cleaning. After a super short trial, the jury of public opinion gave them such a merciless spanking that they won’t be able to sit down again until Christmas. Just in time to receive the Lead Lion 2016 award for the worst advertising

   
  
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      Grolsch Radler’s tie-in. 

Grolsch Radler’s tie-in. 

THANK YOU BREXIT

Amsterdam holds the trumps to become creative capital of Europe.

 

Think about it. If magician Hans Klok has lost the plot after the triple disappearing act of Cameron, Johnson and Farage. If Grexit scores 5 million search results on Google and Brexit 155 million. If Standard & Poors strips the UK of its triple A rating and sustains the Netherlands’ rating. If Deloitte’s Bart Verschoor says Brexit is the best thing that ever happened to the Netherlands as a trading nation. If Asia, with a total population six times that of Europe, has a penchant for gambling, but steers way clear of political and economic uncertainty when doing business. If you no longer have to sit in a stinky underground to trudge to the office, but can gleefully cycle to work above ground. If you can trade in your hypocritical stiff upper lips for straight-talking bridge-builders. If we’ve got more universities than we know what to do with here in the Netherlands and our students can still speak fluent Cambridge English after guzzling thirty beers. If Hamburg is too boring for multinationals and Paris is a socialist morass of misery. If London sounds glamorous, but in reality you’ve usually got to live in deprived and dismal suburbs like Slought, where The Office with Ricky Gervais was incidentally filmed. If AkzoNobel moves its head office from London to Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district to save an astronomical amount of tax. If the FedEx European head office is located in Hoofddorp on the outskirts of Amsterdam. If Amsterdam is declared the European Capital of Innovation 2016. If Netherlands-based ING and their Amsterdam agency J. Walter Thompson are the big winners at the international advertising festival in Cannes. If Willem Sijthoff and Cor van Zadelhoff convert the old Diamond Exchange into Capital C, a stunning head office of the creative industry. If that sector in the UK is good for 121 billion dollars and if we can cut out twenty or so slices from the pie without being noticed, just as a starter of course. Then creative Netherlands would have to really muck things up not to make Amsterdam the Creative Capital of Europe in short order. Or like the English say: Strike while the iron is hot. So no more handing out honours for Amsterdam Mayor Van der Laan, no more going to Toppers concerts for Prime Minister Rutte and no more appearing on game shows for Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Ollengren. You heard me right. The summer recess has been cancelled with immediate effect. Because the cards are never going to be stacked more in favour of the Netherlands than they are right now.

   
  
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     Diamond Exchange is being converted into the head office of Amsterdam’s creative industry.

Diamond Exchange is being converted into the head office of Amsterdam’s creative industry.

 

 

AXE EFFECT WEARS OFF [Digital Market Asia]

1454063285503.jpeg

In recent months we’ve seen a number of remarkable hellos and goodbyes of advertising icons. Coca-Cola was no longer as happy as it once was with its campaign. So after 7 years of prosaic advertising, it said goodbye to the ‘Open happiness’ theme. Coca-Cola will now focus on life’s little pleasures. And Axe deodorant stopped being a chick magnet. The Axe man must dare to believe in himself, without any help from the outside, and definitely not from a can of deodorant. The leading character’s large nose doesn’t stop him from being lucky with the ladies, on the contrary. If only I’d known that 40 years ago. The members of the goodbye club have a lot in common. They’re giving up advertising fairytales and turning their focus more to real life. And the new Axe man works for the same company as the equally imperfect but not unattractive Dove woman. Unilever’s happy couple. 

It’s hard to say goodbye. But we’re fortunately getting familiar and trusted advertising heroes in return. Michael J Fox is back from the future in a commercial for Toyota. Thanks to Star Wars, Chewbacca is making a comeback in a campaign for Verizon, Walmart and Vans. And last but not least, Dutch fish finger company Iglo is looking for a new captain. So this all goes to show that we’re wrapping up in the fuzzy warm blankets of old and familiar faces. The only thing that puts a damper on this is that Iglo’s job description says the captain doesn’t necessarily have to have a beard. It seems to me this will cause confusion, particularly among younger viewers. How much change can those little minds take after the transformation of Black Pete into Purple Pete last St. Nicholas Day? Please don't give our Captain Iglo a modern makeover. He and the Gillette man do work for different companies, right? 

MARKETEERS: LEARN FROM THE LEMMING [Digital Market Asia]

ABN AMRO hired a biologist a couple of crises ago. A nice enough guy in his early thirties who had one sole responsibility: to ask the question why. They were particularly scared to death of him in the marketing department. Not a single statement, argument or decision could slip by without the biologist asking the dreaded question: Why? The ensuing answer was always something along the lines of ‘that’s just how it works at The bank’ or ‘that’s the way we’ve been doing it for a hundred years’. But our biologist wouldn’t be put off that easily. So he’d immediately fire another question: ‘Why does it work that way at The bank?’ The answer he’d get to this question never satisfied him, so he’d ask another why question and another and so on. The biologist was a thorn in the side of apathetic bankers. His colleagues thought he was an overpaid pushpin, but he was probably worth his weight in gold.

During a marketing training weekend, the same biologist surprised everybody with a story about the lemming – an ugly, mouse-like rodent. He told how scientists had always been mystified by the mass lemming migration. The entire population of these creatures march in a line across huge distances, regardless of the obstacles and barriers. Rivers, steep cliffs - it doesn’t matter – these animals will go through hell and high water. Hundreds of thousands lose their lives. But the biologist told them scientists had only just discovered that lemmings aren’t as crazy as they seem. You see, species usually move in a circular manner. So when the grass is finished in one place, they move to the next patch and consequently expand their territory in circular movements making it bigger and bigger. The point is that if you were to roll out this circle, it would cover a much greater distance than the straight line of the lemmings. A bit of quick statistical math reveals that the lemming population has a spectacularly better chance of survival. After all, there is a considerable risk that a population that moves via the long circular motion will run out of fertile fields and die. So while the lemming population might be thinned, with maybe three-quarters of it drowning, these fatalities literally form a bridge for a small group of strong survivors – even if it’s just a male and a female – who can get back to munching away and reproducing in a brand new green world.

The story left us slightly emotional and it was now our turn to ask the biologist a why question. Why did he tell us this story? He saw it as a metaphor for the marketing world in which everything always moves ‘circularly’. One step left, one step right. If we make tomato soup, we let ourselves go and concoct a Chinese version while we’re at it. And besides regular spaghetti, we’ve now got wholegrain spaghetti too. We get all exotic by adding aloe vera to shampoo. We innovate in mouse steps. So the moral of the biologist’s story is don’t keep muddling along. Don’t stack SKUs, but seek out new deltas. Hire a biologist that will pry open the rusted processes and arguments using a can of WD40. A guy who will massage the marketers’ tensed-up shoulders and let them get back to daring to make a real difference. En route to greenfields with fresh potential. Growing towards the light and moving like a stripe towards the Effie Awards podium. The lemming, it’s ugly but it gets you there!

 

Dick van der Lecq, CEO/ DDB Etcetera.

Studied biology for one year at the University of Utrecht in 1982.