Peter’nLes v Purpose; Ant-and-Dec copycat; and a WPP rumour
With creativity losing its mojo and claims that brands with purpose outperform those without, Dominic Mills has a proposal for Peter Field and Les Binet. Plus: Santander's latest ad deserves a kicking, and a rumour about WPP
Let’s let Peter’nLes loose on purpose
Perhaps the most alarming issue to come out of last month’s Cannes festival was the Peter Field analysis of creativity and effectiveness.
The report, in case you’ve been in a parallel universe, demonstrated a decline in the effectiveness of creatively awarded campaigns. If you believe it, the conclusion for the industry is scary.
In effect, it undermines the very basis on which the industry is predicated, not to mention the whole Cannes schtick, which is why Mediatel described it here as an existential threat.
For those of a less-pessimistic worldview, there may be comfort in this McKinsey study which claims that long-term (i.e. consistent acquisition of prizes over time) awards winners at Cannes out-perform their peers. Quantified by McKinsey, this amounts to above-average revenue growth by 67% of those advertisers in the top quartile, and above-average return to shareholders by 70% of the cohort.
It is at this point that I part company with McKinsey on the grounds that shareholder return is driven by many factors, some of which are entirely out of the control of shareholders themselves. Others, such as tweaking various internal levers like capital employed, mean shareholder returns are open to short-term manipulation.
Anyway, I have a proposal for Field and his sidekick Les Binet (let’s just call them Peter’nLes since their fame is such that they no longer need last names). It’s very of the moment, as Unilever boss Alan Jope made clear when he claimed that its ‘purpose’ brands were growing significantly faster than those without.
So let’s get Peter’nLes to apply their rigour to the whole business of purpose brands.
Personally I need to be convinced, not least because, as Jope admitted, Unilever’s purpose brands are given a disproportionate share of marketing resource. But as more and more brands jump on the subject — and indeed, some have for years been maximising their purpose-led credentials — the time is ripe.
There have been other attempts to prove the efficacy of purpose — take a bow former P&G marketer Jim Stengel — but since most of his evidence was based on stock-market performance this should be treated with extreme care. Indeed, you can’t do better than read this demolition job by the brilliant Richard Shotton.
For all sorts of methodological reasons I don’t pretend that such a study is easy. But perhaps the biggest is agreeing what actually constitutes purpose. Dove, for example, sits at one end of a spectrum with its aim of improving women’s self-esteem and thus their potential. Knorr, another Unilever purpose brand, says its mission is to ‘improve people’s lives through flavour’ and, by 2020, to source all its raw materials in a sustainable manner. Does the first really count as purpose, and is the second any more than a hygiene factor?
Here, Tracey Follows’s distinction — from two thirds of the way down the article — between capital P Purpose and lower-case p purpose — is a good place to start. The former is more cause-related (i.e. Dove, Gillette, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick) and the latter more brand-related, which I think is where Knorr sits.
To me this means that, within the overall measure of purpose, it would be fascinating to see how the two ends of the spectrum compare.
Over to you, Peter’nLes. If creativity is losing its mojo as a driver of effectiveness, can purpose take its place?
Halifax trumps Ant and Dec
If you can follow the ad without getting distracted or falling into a rage, the central message is that by making simple savings such as buying fewer daily Pret flat whites, customers can pay off their mortgages faster.
Other than to point out a few things, there’s no value in giving the ad a further kicking.
One, it follows a long tradition of misfiring Santander celebrity ads. Remember the wooden performances of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jenson Button and Rory McIlroy? Here is an institution that mainlines celebrities like a drug. Perhaps Ant-and-Dec’s magnum opus proves to be the overdose that means the bank swears to wean itself off them.
Two, it’s a reminder that ads centred on the conceit of ‘staff’ brainstorming to solve a business problem, somewhat post-modern in concept — as in this daft ad for Admiral — are tired and to be avoided at all costs.
Three, the helpful savings tips idea, as I discovered using one of its cash machines last week, is a direct rip-off from the Halifax, even down to the coffee idea.
Sometimes I think adland is over-precious about ‘recycling/borrowing’ other creative ideas (as we know, you can’t copyright an idea). But when you do from a direct competitor, at the same time, it’s a step too far.
A rumour that provokes mixed feelings
We all know the basic rules about in-house brainstorming sessions.
• Respect the brain fart. No idea is too stupid to consider.
• Job titles are left outside the door. Everyone in the room is equal.
• Quantity of ideas is more important than quality.
• Avoid group think.
Got that? Right. Keep it in mind now while I tell you about a WPP rumour doing the rounds.
It’s this: in a bid to put some oomph around the WPP brand itself - a stated aim of the new regime (perhaps driven by the ongoing confusion as once well-known individual brands are turned into alphabet soup) — the powers that be are considering affixing a slogan to the initials W, P and P.
It’s… drum roll… We Power People.
Er right. Remember that this comes hard on the heels of outgoing CFO Paul Richardson confessing to WPP’s AGM two weeks ago that the group’s previous parsimonious approach to paying staff might have contributed to its current difficulties.
Hmmm…so WPP = We Pay Poorly.
Anyway, W(e) P(ower) P(eople) has the all smell of an Ant-and-Dec style brainstorm, one where the rules were perhaps interpreted too closely.
I checked the story out with a senior WPPer, who’d also heard it but was convinced it was only a joke and was therefore unlikely to see the light of day. Yeah..they hope.
I confess to mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s cringeworthy and offers hostages to fortune as and when there is more merging or culling of individual WPP operations. By all means put such a policy into practice, but kill the clunky slogan.
On the other hand, as a columnist, it’s a gift.