Is there still room for the ‘big idea’ in modern marketing?
In today’s world of digital engagement, native advertising, social influencers and crowd-sourced creative, we increasingly see advertising activity dispersed into ‘penny pockets of invisibility’ adding up to brand fragmentation rather than brand building.
The new Peter Blake collage is the size of 38 double decker buses.
According to Yankelovich, consumers today are bombarded by 5,000 ad messages every day – try remembering just one you saw yesterday?
Sadly, the traditional skills of an ad agency, strategic thinking and developing big, bold creative ideas, are becoming increasingly marginalised. However, as the world’s markets become more crowded and stand out harder to achieve, they are skills which are becoming more important than ever.
I am the chief executive and founder of London Advertising and although we could be considered a David amongst advertising’s Goliaths - there are just 14 of us in fact - we have pulled off more than our fair share of ‘big’ ideas that have turned out to be hugely successful for our clients.
How did we do that?
I’ve always liked Einstein’s recommendation that everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. So we always seek to tackle the most complex of client briefs by applying what we call Straight-Line Thinking.
Our work for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, which has been voted top of The Drum’s Creative Works global leaderboard for the past two weeks, is a good example.
When approached by Mandarin 18 years ago, we could have come up with a creative solution featuring the usual up market hotel clichés: well-appointed lobbies; sumptuous bedrooms; smiling, liveried doormen.
But that’s what all the competition did and as a result few people could remember the brand being advertised. We dug deeper and asked to see their guest list and discovered it was a litany of the world’s good and the great. So we decided that we should invite them to speak for the brand - long before there was any such thing as Trip Adviser or, for that matter, the internet as we now know it. Now the problem with most endorsement campaigns is people remember the celebrity not the brand so our ‘big’ idea was to link the ‘He’s a Fan’ headline to the Mandarin Oriental’s iconic fan logo.
The other unusual aspect of the campaign was that we would invite them to endorse the hotel as genuine ‘Fans’ of the brand by taking the rather unusual step of not paying them (we offer a $10,000 donation to charity for doing the shoot plus 10 suite nights for each year we use their image).
So, what turned out to be one of the world’s longest running ad campaigns was launched for a client that only had a modest global ad budget of $3m – a sum which would not pay for one of the participants if we had paid conventional endorsement fees.
Year-on-year the campaign continues to grow in strength, reach and resonance. We have now photographed and filmed 40 leaders in their fields from IM Pei, Morgan Freeman to Bryan Ferry and Christian Louboutin who all appear on the brand’s website, EDM, YouTube, social media, newsletters, the house magazine and, of course, in the media.
Big means big
Big ideas should harvest big results and the campaign has helped Mandarin Oriental to grow over 600 percent from its roots as a small Asian hotel group to one of the world’s leading global luxury brands, able to command the highest room rates and the best talent. According to Ipsos Mori the campaigns global ad recall of 59 percent is the highest they have ever recorded for any client, in any market.
This January the Group’s London hotel was due to undergo a significant renovation, requiring the entire facade to be covered by a white plastic hoarding like its neighbour The Lanesborough in 2016. Neither we nor the client wanted the Mandarin Oriental to look quite like that.
We thought that the protective wrapping of the hotel would be a great opportunity for the latest iteration of the ‘Fans’ campaign. However, our challenge was that Westminster Council does not allow advertising on historic buildings in central London so we proposed instead that we would create a piece of ‘civic art’ to decorate what would otherwise be quite an ugly covering.
After a series of presentations over 18 months we secured the Council’s agreement by commissioning ‘the godfather of pop art’ Peter Blake to produce a massive collage featuring 100 of the hotel’s celebrity fans. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s album, created by Peter Blake, the two things tied in together very nicely.
The size of 38 double decker buses, the collage forms a wrap that will protect the hotel during its £165 million renovation. The artwork itself has driven all communications about the hotel being open during the renovation and, in addition, has delivered untold brand awareness.
As well as the value of the poster site itself (which one could never buy) we have also generated 150 appearances so far, in print and broadcast worldwide, the total media value of both is already into many millions. In addition, the 100 fans on the poster, with a combined social following of over 200 million people, have been posting their involvement to their own fans who then share it with their own personal networks. It’s a great way to generate meaningful digital exposure that overcomes any ad blocker.
The collage has rapidly become a tourist attraction and social media meme – if you go past it at any time of day you will see someone photographing it before sharing it with their peers. How many clients have the public photographing their posters?
For our own part we are delighted to have been able to deliver a genuinely ‘big’ profitable idea that works across all parts of the media mix, both at home and across the world. And we are all rather proud that we have achieved the impossible in re-uniting The Beatles, as both Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr appear in the artwork towering above the Knightsbridge traffic.
Michael Moszynski is founder and chief executive of London Advertising
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