This is the Slideshare of the talk I gave at Miami Ad School Europe on Thursday evening. The idea was to talk about great work and some thinking around it. The problem with a title like that is the presentation itself can’t live up to the content. However, the folks at Miami Ad School were really nice and didn’t complain.
So, a huge thank you to Niklas and his team for all their kindness and hospitality. And, for all to comment or steal, here’s the presentation…
You can also download the full Keynote here:
Or grab the Powerpoint version (can’t guarantee formatting on that one) here:
(inc. videos and presenter notes), but you’re responsible for all copyright on videos if you choose to download.
I had to talk to our account management department this morning on Insights.
Agreed to do it a long time ago and then suddenly realised that the time was upon me a few days ago.
What a mistake. I thought it would be interesting to do because I don’t know if I agree with Insights overall. I think they exist and can be useful, but I think that they are misused way too often. We talk about insights too easily. And, the reality is, that insights are really hard to find – and, they’re not the ONLY way to write a good brief. Anyway, here’s what I cobbled together – I’d be really interested in any opinions on this – particularly since I’d like to make it better one day. I’ll also try to find a way to post the file so you can adapt it as well…
I started weakly by admitting that I’d cobbled it all together at the last moment – don’t think that went brilliantly – next time I’ll try something more confident!
From here on in, I’ll paste in the notes I wrote to myself – and try to augment where they’re particularly weak…
Start with a good rant about misused words and the abundance of buzzwords in marketing – usually to the obfuscation of any real meaning. (Try to remember to use the word “obfuscation” in particular.)
Talk generally about insights – the multitude of different types that exist – the fact that this list may not even be exhaustive and definitely contains some areas that don’t make for particularly good insights.
At least, not that I’ve seen to date. But, you never know…
Reference some real examples that are coming later – like the Crispin Porter Burger King stuff that rides the wave of anti-metrosexual eating.
And, the Got Milk work from Goodby Silverstein that found an insight in the relationship between Milk and other foods.
Maybe mention the need for some friction – that Milk exists out of the negative – that finding some of these insights requires that you push against the usual patterns of behaviour. This could come later, though!
Maybe admit that at the outset I was going to rubbish insights as passe – the thing of yesteryear. But, upon reflection and a bit of digging, it became clear that the real problem isn’t that they’re no long useful – it’s that so many ads don’t actually contain real insights and we’ve spent so much time talking about them that they’ve become part of marketing language.
They’re oft talked about, but rarely found.
Much as we’d like to pretend that it all came from planners, it probably didn’t – in reality, a lot of the time it’s the creatives who inject the insight. That’s part of the process of creating work. And, more often than not, the account team were responsible for making a leap of thinking that exposed a real insight.
However you find them, though, they are definitely worth having. When you look around, you’ll find that a lot of really great work has a great insight at the heart of it.
Bit of a last-minute thought – looked at the past 6 years of Cannes winners – did they have insights or not?
And the answer’s pretty clear – very few are insight-based.
Doesn’t mean that insights are useless – just be careful not to think they’re the only route to a great ad.
The interesting bits being accurate – although that sounds pretty obvious.
But, Intuitive – and I think that is important, because it’s not about rational thinking and slavish research.
You need to find something that strikes a chord with people – it’s a gut-felt response we’re looking for, and not a head nod.
Equally, and the only reason I pulled this in as well – there needs to be a degree of ‘perceptive’ in there.
Something that is perceptive, can’t be too obvious – it can’t just be an observation – which is a key distinction.
Yet more words!
Probably the most interesting thing about this is that it’s one of so many definitions that exist – and, to be honest, I just chose this one because Herve told it to me and it was really rational.
It feels like the minute you talk about it this mechanically that you lose some of the sauce you’re looking for.
Naturally, talking to people we know here produced far more interesting results.
Particularly the last one, from Jo, which is kind of an insight in itself.
Talk about Chiat and HHCL and disruption – finding conventions and breaking them
Talk about general insights being less disruptive, but equally potent. The need to actually find something with a point (or a point of view). Wang on for while about creativity and insights – the fact that some ads have great insights and yet are rubbish (like AA which we’ll look at later) and maybe P&G falls into this camp – although you have to admire “Love Dirt” because that was actually great.
We know that we’re avoiding a trap here – which is that our “insight” is just an observation and maybe not even a particularly astute one.
So, for me, the important word is “revelation” – the need for something that changes our opinion… and that can be done in many different ways, but is definitely a key part of the best communications.
Talk about how maybe it doesn’t need a definition anyway – after all, nobody has an agreed definition, so maybe it’s because it’s a bit more complex than that.
In which case, maybe we’re better off using a set of questions to see whether we’ve got a good ‘un…
…In reality, my notes for this page were a copy of 2 pages earlier, so I had to make up new ones…
For me, one of the best tests of anything that you think is a breakthrough, an idea or an insight is to write it on a piece of paper – on its own and make sure that it’s large type in the middle of lots of white space.
Then judge it – can it stand the test of brevity… No support… All that. Do you still feel proud?
I don’t think I can really tell you how to find them, since it involves some inspiration and some degree of looking at a problem in a way that nobody has before – otherwise, it won’t be fresh enough to be an insight.
So, instead, I thought I’d touch on a couple of things I think then use examples – nice cop out!
First off, I want to be vitriolic about research.
It’s not that I don’t think we should do it, it’s just that I think it’s become a crutch for everyone.
And, as such, it no longer produces the magic we’re looking for.
Unless you do something weird with it.
Take business people out to dinner. Or go on field trips with consumers.
Basically, do something different with them if you want to find a different answer.
AND MAKE SURE you know what you’re asking – always go in with a new hypothesis to test. Otherwise, you’ll probably find what everyone else discovered 5 years ago.
Discovery isn’t exactly the revolutionary term I was looking for, but it will have to do – since I couldn’t think of anything else last night at 8pm.
But, if you’re thinking about exploring and discovering, then you’re at least thinking bigger than research.
And, the research will need to live up to more in itself.
So, go discover. And make it a big old trip so it’s got a good chance of digging up something new…
Finally, and I know this is a bit of a side point – don’t kid yourself that you’ve got a great insight when you don’t.
There’s nothing worse than pretending.
Because it probably means that you won’t find another part of your brief or strategy to upweight instead.
After all, the insight isn’t everything!
Right, time for some examples. And some ads to keep you awake!
Hopefully these will give you some ideas beyond the obvious for finding an insight as well as be ads that you haven’t seen.
In the hope of keeping it interesting, I’ve purposefully gone with a majority of US ads. Also, mention the Rob T. dig about being “West Coast” proud!
The main point is to show different ways that people FOUND these insights, though – so don’t just watch the ads.
Crispin Porter & Bogusky
Employed a social scientist to make a bigger cultural observation about what people are eating and why, revealing a dissatisfaction amongst men…
Cue Burger King “Manthem” spot. It’s on adcritic and you can also see it here on YouTube.
I talked a bit about planning at Crispin Porter (according to what I’d heard from Colin Drummond) and how they’ve been using social scientists to find cultural insights. Things that help them make ads that really shape our culture and feed off it, rather than some minor consumer observation. My general admiration may have shown through!
Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Observed that Milk was best with food… then they used a deprivation study to find the insight…
Cue the original “Got Milk?” ad – Aaron Burr. Classic stuff! Again, on adcritic, or here on YouTube:
Despite working at Goodby Silverstein, I still know more about this example from Jon Steel’s book (Truth, Lies and Advertising) – which I rediscovered while writing this. Useful because they did something different with research to find the insight – not just traditional focus groups.
Also, it’s one of those rare examples where the negative works. You know how we generally dismiss negative ideas for being, well, negative. But, here it is – a negative that works. Without doubt one of the most successful campaigns of the last decade, and it’s a negative.
Saw that AA members talked about how friendly the AA repairmen were (hence the previous ads). But, when they talked to the phone operators, they found a far more provocative insight… that people are in a real panic when they call – they are in an “emergency” and not looking for a friendly face so much as a saviour.
Cue “4th emergency service” ad – Not on adcritic, nor on YouTube – I’ll try to get a link later on.
But, I was shocked to see the ad wasn’t as great as the insight – I remembered it as being one of the great ones, but it isn’t – it’s a bit straight and not HHCL-like at all. Oh well.
Next up, an epic from Fallon…
Nobody understood or particularly cared about IT outsourcing until it was brought to life in a different way. An insight they found within commentary from the CEO…
Cue “Cat Herding.” Again, find it on adcritic, or here on YouTube:
An ad that opened the door for a company that nobody understood nor saw reason to meet with. It even got mentioned by Bill Clinton, so it got a presidential seal of approval!
Goodby Silverstein & Partners
One from my days there. Delving into people’s playlists, we found that the mash up of music was far greater than you’d ever expect – Bach next to U2, Interpol, Eminem, Willie Nelson and so on…
Cue “Mash up” – On adcritic or right here from the almighty YouTube…
This insight enabled us to do something with a brief that seemed impossible: to co-exist with the iPod ads without looking totally lame!
Everyone shows cabrios/convertibles in the sunshine.
Until Arnold did this night spot – which brought to life the hidden joy of a night drive.
All because the creative director, Lance Jensen, had a different view of convertibles from his own college years. His comment: “Everyone thinks beach and sun, but at night it’s like you’re in a space ship.”
Cue “Milky Way” – see it on adcritic or right here from YouTube:
Personally, I love this – it nails that secret joy of having a convertible – driving when it’s warm and night (not something you’ll get to do often in the UK, admittedly) is sheer magic. And it’s totally different – even the idea that the kids were more responsible, more taken with the mood than a party.
Another agency to take a slightly different perspective. Chiat Day.
Who took the whole team out to the studios of Game Show Network for a day initiation.
And spotted something that research probably never would.
The fun isn’t in taking part – it’s in knowing the answer when the idiot in the chair is clueless!
I spent ages looking for “Marsupial” but I couldn’t find it. Then I found “Botulism” on visit4info – click here, but I can’t see it on YouTube… I’ll look and try to find it later, too. It’s that great ad with people shouting “Botulism!” at the screen with increased intensity – until the dim-witted contestant is seen saying “salmonella?” – endline: You know you know.
I thought I’d finish with a couple of examples that mixed it up – one that shows a great ad that isn’t based on an insight – but with the APG paper that talks about the insight in detail… then one that we could debate as a group as to whether it had an insight or not…
I found this in an old APG paper from 1993 – you can only assume that people were more lax on ‘insights’ in those days!
I thought we’d look at it because it’s a prime example of a product fact wrapped up as a insight for no good reason.
After all, it’s a great brand, a great product fact and a great ad.
Can’t argue with that, can you?
Then you see this.
But, where’s that amazing insight?
After all, this isn’t exactly new news…
Yet again – not an insight in sight.
Good product fact, though.
Bold claims, beautifully written, but totally devoid of actual insight.
Look at the ad, though – another great one.
Didn’t need to be an insight – they should have just been honest and said that they found a really compelling product nugget.
And, this paper refers directly to the “Face” ad that British Airways launched in December 1989 – and it ran for 4 years. It was that good. It still looks good today (although that Australian beer one kind of trounces it with the humorous take on the same idea!).
I originally got it from Kynelle.co.uk, but you can see it right now from YouTube:
I still maintain that’s a great ad. It’s just not an insight!
This came up when we were talking about insights in our internal planning meeting last week.
We quickly decided that it was a great example of an ad with an observation, but not an insight.
But then, maybe not – when I actually watched the ad, I kinda thought there might be an insight after all – it is about how us Brits go crazy for the sun and “every second counts.”
Dunno – but it’s definitely closer than BA was! Which fortunately did produce some debate in the room.
Again, kynelle.co.uk produced the result for our presentation, but you good people can see it from YouTube…
Maybe “The British Summer… Blink and you’ll miss it” is the real insight?
And, then I began to wind it up. Enough is enough.
So, I finished by trying to reiterate that we shouldn’t get obsessed with insights – that’s probably why they get claimed so often when there isn’t one. You don’t have to have an insight, nor do you have to have anything else in the brief. Except a thought – something that opens a door for the creative teams. Something that sparks a new thought. Something that is interesting, exciting, new, or just so brutally simple that it’s the easiest thing in the world to write around.
And, personally, I don’t think it’s even about finding one thing – the more the merrier. But, that’s another debate…
So I finished with this slide, because it looked colourful. You know, like Russell’s presentations, although it’s still just typed!
Lots of people asking me to post it up here.
So, here it is – the ad links don’t work – you need to get those from AdCritic, Kynelle or YouTube – lots of them available in the original post…