The King is Back. Which brand delivers the best LeBron homecoming ad? #LeBron

The King is back. LeBron James plays his first home game tonight for the Cleveland Cavaliers after 4 years (and two Championship Rings) with the Miami Heat. It’s been the biggest topic in basketball media for the past 3 months.

Of course, brands are leveraging the biggest story in basketball and the big boys have all thrown their hat in the ring,  creating epic emotive spots showcasing his return. It is amazing to see the power one athlete can have over the people of a city. Here’s a look at my three favourite LeBron spots:

Nike ‘Together’

Really love this spot. Feels like the Nike I grew up with talking to me & the inspiraitonal Jordan ads of old. It’s about unity, it’s about belief.  For the fans of the game, makes you feel connected to both LeBron and the people of the great city of Cleveland. I love the line ‘we owe them’. Nike plays where they belong, in the stadium. Big. Bold and a little cult-ish, which is what I like about it as Nike’s basketball ads of late have been about individuality and extroversion. A great ‘Just Do It’ ad that taps into the brands roots really well. Score: 8.5/10

Beats ‘Re-established’

This spot has grown on me. Positioning the brand for emerging athletes, centred on the gym & streets  it talks to performance whilst also going hard on integrating the new Wireless headphones into this narrative (good on them). It balances this with a softer ‘people’s narrative.  Music is killer and you feel the storyline.  Score: 7.5/10

Sprite ‘First Home Game’

The low budget one, but probably has the most original idea. This one’s for the teens out there and cleverly uses kids in the narrative to showcase the fans love of LeBron and his importance to the city. I like the fact that’s it’s about going back to the real roots, street basketball which is very much Sprite territory. Feels gritty and positions him as a man of the people. Sprite plays a strong role as his ‘thirst comes from the people’. A little cliche at times in terms of the storytelling but the idea of ‘my first home game’ being on the streets with the kids is strong.  Score: 7/10

How to engage the A-D-D Generation with #LifestyleHacking

A recent piece I wrote for Marketing Mag column with the lovely Kat Edwards from KontentedImage

A screenshot from one of our iris Worldwide presentations courtesy of our guru CSO, Sammy Noble.


Today’s digitally savvy Millenials have been termed the A-D-D generation, constantly flipping and flopping between jobs, digital devices, having attention spans the size of ants and being brand flirts. It’s not surprising given they’re dealing with 60 million Instagram pics being posted daily, 200 hours of YouTube video content uploaded every minute and 30 billion pieces of content shared monthly on Facebook.

Marketers need to understand those born after 1995 have been forced to develop a finely tuned editing and curating skills to process the endless streams of content bombarding their screens. How they absorb information in the networked world has fundamentally changed.

Today’s Millenials live on a diet of quick fix information nuggets where their memories are becoming hyperlinks to information triggered by hashtags, Instagram pics and Snapchat one-liners. When it comes to content they take a quick glance, sort it, and tag it for future reference. Forget multi-taskers. They are super-taskers.

So how can marketers engage the A-D-D generation?

In todays networked, post modern world, the biggest influence on youth patterns of thought and behaviour are their everyday experiences and social milieu. Their participation in the world around them is the key guide for marketers.

So the role of brands today is to ‘hack’ into and become more of an intrinsic and visible participant in the flow of their lifestyles. I call it ‘lifestyle hacking.’ Here are 5 principles for successful lifestyle hacks:

1. Design distinctive and instinctive interactions

Where milliseconds matter, moving beyond bland consistency, marketers need to focus on visceral, interactive and detailed experiences at every encounter creating distinctive and instinctive interactions.

2. Practical magic

Think about turning life’s pain points into little moments of pleasure and delightful discovery. More than digital utility it’s building in lots of sticky details. The Uber app is a great recent example of this.

3. Tribal identity

Baking in meaningful signs of tribal belonging and affiliation with groups of others to help frame their social identity is key. Our MINI UK #notnormal platform moved beyond the metal to celebrate the inventive relationships MINI owners had with their cars.

4. Social currency beyond WOM

Making your brand a unit of social currency, not just your branded content is the new centre ground for marketing. How do you always stay abreast of the zeitgeist and be part of the emerging shift to the collaboration economy? Online thrift shop is kicking goals here.

5. Immersive connectivity

Millenials crave connectivity and they love 4D immersion. Why else would Facebook buy virtual reality company Oculus Rift? Look for new ways to create brand experiences leveraging accessible virtual reality.

SXSW 2014 Wrap: Shadow marketing, 4D VR, Secret Social, Hacking for Humanity and Intrapreneurs


SXSW Interactive is over for another year and thousands of marketers, clients, and tech geeks from around the world have had our brains filled with the latest and greatest in technology and human behavior. SXSW has become less about the latest start up tech (i.e: Twitter launching) and more about how marketers can influence behavior today and tomorrow through innovation.

So, here are 5 things I found most interesting at SXSW this year:

1.      Shadow Marketing: Data, security and privacy goes mainstream

As expected there was a big focus on data and privacy as we live in an era of technological transparency and big data in every marketing presentation. Interestingly, keynotes by Julian Assange and whistleblower Ed Snowden were the big attractions of the festival, not the CEO’s of tech companies.  Rather than the tech side of things, the conversations were around the shadows behind the technology and how we can use the immense data stream, tracking info to actually benefit mankind. Let’s call it ‘Shadow marketing’. People are acutely aware of the data being stored about their lives, so marketers need to be transparent about what info they have on people, making them feel secure about it whilst also adding genuine value to their lives, not flogging endless cross sells.

2.      4D Virtual Reality: The future of brand experiences

The big tech hit of SXSW this year was 4D Virtual reality software from Oculus Rift. Whilst, VR is not new, we may be finally coming to the point where marketers can genuinely use it to deliver hyper real brand experiences and interactive stories. HBO created a ‘Game of Thrones’ 4D Exhibit using Oculus Rift to showcase the new series, letting cast member Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) experience the mind blowing reality of it.  Watch it here:

 3.      Ssshhh: Secret social the antidote to the selfie obsessed

Finally, we may be seeing a counter trend against to the selfie-obsessed trend as people become more protective of their digital footprint. Perhaps we’ll be seeing a backlash to the selfie saturated social platforms and a growth in ‘secret social’ apps like Whisper and Secret. Their goal is to bring anonymity back to social. They’re both offering the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere, about anything without the fear of being judged. The big debate was around trolling and the impact that had on the overall welfare on the digiverse. Whisper CEO, Michael Heyward suggested ‘Whisper is the safest place on the web, we have a strict policy here anonymity is used to protect yourself, not hurt others’. Time will tell on this one.


4.      Hacking for Humanity: emerging markets embracing hacking culture

Last year hacking was a key part of SXSW conversation and this year it popped up again but in a different guise. This year the conversation was around ‘Hacking for Humanity’ – tacking something and rewiring/rebuilding it to push us forward as a species. Interestingly, the best examples of this were not out of the USA or Europe but out of developing markets in Asia. Oxfam’s Pink Phone project in Cambodia was a shining example, whereby rural women were given old mobile phones providing them with access to farming information to help their livelihoods. We’re also seen phone hacking for good, as textbooks are delivered on phones in African nations.

 5.      Intrapreneurs the key to engaging Millennial workers

My favourite keynote was Pete Cashmore from Mashable talking about how to motivate Millennials in his ‘Y bother’ forum. By 2025, 80% of western workforces will be Gen Y, this is relevant for us all. We all know and have heard the discourse around Millennial expectations of management positions within 2 years of leaving uni, well here’s why. Millennials have grown up in a world where the tech has changed at warp speed, this is the real time generation. Social media platforms have democratised virtually every industry, giving everyone an equal voice. The key to maximising Millennial performance in the workforce is to empower them as INTRAPRENEURS – where they can be entrepreneurial within the business, making change in real time within flatter organisations structures.  Millenials have become wired to expect real time feedback. Annual Reviews are dead. Work and play is seen as one, Intrapreneurs want to go hard at both. Which is a great metaphor for the vibe at SXSW – a healthy dose of sucking up knowledge during the day and partying hard at night.

Perhaps the coolest thing at SXSW, was all the geeky gamers talking about the documentary series  ‘Dumping The Alien: Unearthing The Atari Graveyard’ where filmmakers are going to Area 51 in Mexico to try and find the 3million allegedly buried copies of the Atari Game ET ‘Extra Terrestrial’ – widely known as the worst video game ever. Watch the backstory here.

Another SXSW done, as people in Austin say: Stay Weird.


Overheard at SXSW 2014: 30 Interesting & Influential quotes



 Here’s a little piece I put together earlier in the week for B&T, capturing 30 interesting & influential quotes from around the grounds at SXSW covering an array of topics. 

Once again the Twitterverse has gone into a tail spin as we all look to the latest trends and digital innovations coming out of SXSW Interactive festival in Austin Texas.  

There have been hundreds of speeches over the first three days, and I learned from last year’s experience that it’s impossible to visit or track every interesting keynote or speech. So I’ve attempted to capture the most interesting and potentially influential Tweets of the festival so far to give you a sense of what marketers are getting excited about. From 3D trending cookies, automation, the meaning economy, taser drones, wearable tech, girlpower, messy ideas – there’s lots of interesting perspectives flooding the Twitter stream right now.

1.    ‘Chaotic Moons taser drone delivers 80,000 volts of paralyzing power.’ @Mashable

2.     “At the Oreo Trending Vending Lounge we’re connecting trending moments to the Oreo cookie itself in real time and in real life .”  Bonin Bough,  Mondelez

3.    ‘One of the best ways to achieve justice is to expose injustice’. Julian Assange

4.    “Brands need to move their social media from always on to always relevant.’ @richardting R/GA

5.     ‘Creativity is not about keeping clean, it’s about getting in trouble’ @jeffreytambor, Actor

6.     ‘The ability of an entrepreneur to be a good storyteller is critical to their company’s success’ @BenHorowitz, Author ‘The Hard thing about Things’

7.    ’30 years ago it took 30 years to build a brand.  Now it can be almost overnight.’ Ben Lerer, Thrillist

8.    ‘Brands are grappling with privacy. They’re figuring out what’s cool vs. what’s creepy and how to not cross that line.’ @AnnMack JWT

9.    ‘Only 6% of CEOs for startups are women. We are taught early on, that being the boss isn’t very attractive. Join in the fight to disrupt the ‘pink aisle.’ Lyndsey Shepard, GirlPower

10. ‘Participation, Exclusivity and Authenticity are the 3 Characteristics of Successful Design.”  @DBonner, Razorfish

11. “People don’t experience technology. They experience products, spaces, usually one at the time.’  @rodrigoATCG, IDEO

12. ‘The shift in wearable tech: from “connected body” to “engaged humans” – start to understand what motivate users.’ Francois Grouiller, Fred & Farid

13. “Self tracking must feed our intuition, not replace it.” Ben Essen, Iris Worldwide

14. ‘We create 838 miles worth of digital content every 10 minutes.’ Mary Snauffer

15. ‘In the automated world, income will go up for people who work with computers and robots, and down for others.’ Eric Schmidt, Google

16. ‘The more autocratic the country, the more online identities the citizens have.’ David Caygill, Iris Worldwide

17.  “The better the tools one uses, the further you can get.” Stephen Wolfram

18. “Your audience now has their own audience. “Sandra Zuckerburg, Facebook

19. “We were ready to take a risk. It worked.”  Dana Brunelli, House of Cards producer

20. “If you can’t post a picture of it, it didn’t happen” Sam Huston, Jumptank

21. “We forget that our writing systems all started as pictures.” Ben Zimmer,

22. “Fonts exist to add emotional context to written words.” Ben Zimmer,

23. “Progressive companies are the ones who say: This journey is 1% finished” Maria Giudice, Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design

24. “Good ideas are messy.” Maria Giudice, Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design

25. “The next frontier is to make asynchronous communication as seamless as real time conversations.” Stephen Kim, Microsoft / Skype

26. “We have a universal need to be in the places and times that we can’t be in.” Stephen Kim, Microsoft / Skype

27. “Persuasive design aligns your desired outcome with the user’s interest.” Matt Dana, Fullscreen

28. ‘Better to be fired than to create something boring.’ Mike Germano, Carrot

29. ‘Our perception of time is altered by how much new and unusual things we’re experiencing.’  Matt Danzico, BBC

30. ‘Best #iBeacon experiences are those that go back to basics and do Marketing as a Service: Push a Service, not a message.’ Mette Stuhr, Carlsberg

5 Communication principles to turn people into message carriers

People have always been the most powerful media asset. It’s just been turbo charged in the social media age. If your brand isn’t social by nature, you’ve got serious issues.

It goes without saying that recommendations from mates are infinitely more powerful than traditional media channels and messages in changing behaviour. Management consulting firm Bain believes that the most recommended brand in any category grows at 2.5x the category average.

So, how do you turn customers into advocates? Advocates who ‘become the media and message carrier’ thereby reducing the brands dependency on ‘paid’ media and playing more in the ‘earned’ media space.  Brands today need to think as much about potential ‘earned’ media and how they can amplify ideas as they do about traditional ‘paid media’ and ‘owned media’ channels.

Brands need to interact differently with people if they want to people to become message carriers and amplify their ideas for them.Here are some thoughts on principles brands need to think about when trying to harness the power of people media:

CONVICTION – Be crystal clear as to what your brand stands for, is fighting for or is trying to change. The middle is to be avoided at all costs, as people gravitate to brands with a strong point of view or belief which aligns with their own.

CHANGE CULTURE – Culture wants to change, and people want to be part of that change. Find something in culture worth changing and align your brand to that new culture change.

RESOLVE TENSION – Find a cultural tension or gap worth resolving or passion to be exploited. Where there is tension or passion in culture there is conversation waiting to be unleashed.

LET ME PLAY – Create ideas which are inherently shareable – that can drive participation, be played with, be prodded and of course, be passed on.

Be ENTERTAINING, USEFUL and INNOVATIVE – These three things are the evergreen themes of social ideas. Ideally be all three, but at least be one. Eg: Entertaining (Old Spice ‘ Man’), Useful (Fiat Ecodrive), Innovative (Orange Glastotag).


What communication agencies & brands can learn from ‘The Wire’

Last week I  was chatting with one of my fellow planners, Cat Collins about things that have had inspired us creatively. She got talking about how the HBO series ‘The Wire’ was an amazing piece of storytelling and that brands could learn alot from this masterful series. So I asked her to do a guest post. Here tis. Thanks Cat, love your work 🙂

I believe that The Wire is the greatest work of creativity to have emerged in recent years, maybe even in my lifetime. So surely, there must be some lessons we can learn for our own creative endeavours. Here are 5 observations that I think we would benefit from applying to our work with brands and communications. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

1.       Don’t be scared of scale.

The Wire is epic. It tells the story of the disintegration of an entire city from every angle – education, drugs, the law, politics, the media, industry, families. A lot has been written on the demise of the big idea as communications becomes more nimble and agile. The Wire shows that a big idea, told through multiple, interwoven stories is a very powerful thing indeed.

2.      Don’t underestimate your viewer.

The Wire makes no attempt to make the show watchable. The dialogue is fast and the Baltimore dialect takes a while to understand. The storylines are complex and you have to be paying attention to know what the hell is going on. I’m pretty sure that the Millward Brown scores for comprehension would be abysmal. But it is the effort that you make to step into the world of the Wire which makes it so compelling and makes the reward for watching that much greater.

3.       Tap into big human truths.

I don’t have much in common with a drug dealer on a West Baltimore corner but the issues the show tackles ensure I relate to every character. Love, loss, moral codes, ambition, family, loss of purpose in life – all big issues which strike a chord with anyone on the planet.

4.      Embrace unconventional heroes.

Omar, the gay, black, stick up boy who whistles while he hunts. Stringer Bell the brutal henchman with a mind for commerce. Snoop, the diminutive girl whose bloodthirsty appetite for violence is extraordinary. All too often in communications we fall back on stereotypes and miss the opportunity to surprise.

5.       Be true to your vision.

When David Simon pitched the Wire to HBO he presented a coherent vision of how all 5 seasons would pan out. He knew the characters stories and had a vision for how theses would be played out on screen. Comparing the pitch to the finished work, it’s extraordinary to see how much of his vision he managed to pull off. Next time you pitch a creative idea and then watch it get pecked to death by 1000 ducks, remember why it is worth fighting to keep the integrity of an idea intact.

Experimentation is the new Engagement

This is the short presentation I gave at AIMIA (Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) ‘Getting Inside Gen Y’ conference last week. My presentation was titled ‘Experimentation is the new Engagement’ and it was all about how brands today need to continually experiment, play with youth if you will. It’s about creating an interesting brand game, far less about your brands story. It’s about social ideas which spark a rapid mobilisation of youth, and some recent examples of brands that are experimenting with culture – from Red Bull’s Project X (Shaun White secret halfpipe) to Coke’s Expedition 206 to VW Swedens ‘Fun Theory’ social experiments. Enjoy.

Gesture Marketing to Youth

In terms of youth marketing, there will always be a role for the big ‘broadcast’ piece of content that is a rallying cry  to excite, entertain or inspire them. However, more than ever I feel the best youth brands are succeeding by creating lots of ‘MICRO INTERACTIONS’ – intimate gestures of unexpected utility which make their life easier, better or more fun. Yes, it’s all about brand utility and ‘doing stuff’ before you say stuff. It’s shifting from thinking about BROADCASTING  a message to NARROWCASTING a conversation with youth. Creating ‘intimate gestures’ which are far more organic, involving and seeking collaboration from the community/tribe.  I really believe youth brands need to start thinking about what unexpected and interesting ‘gestures’ they can make to youth – intimate gestures that either make them feel special, help them belong, help them express, help them believe or just plain out entertain them…it’s all about ‘intimate gestures’ and whispers that are sparked as opposed to shouting down to youth 🙂 Thoughts?

‘Subversive’ vs ‘Do Good’ Youth Marketing

There seems to be two schools of thought for how brands engage with youth in the social media space. On the one hand you’ve got the ‘Subversive’ movement, on the other the ‘Do Good’ marketing movement. Both can be effective for different youth brands. ‘Subversive’ communications are typically used for niche brands (like Zoo York, BAPE etc) and are aimed at specific youth subcultures (skaters), they are all about disrupting the status quo and rebelling against the systems around them. It’s classic ‘outlaw’ archetype behaviour. ZY ‘Spread the word’ was a good example as was Air Force One stunt. On the other hand you’ve got the ‘DO Good/Feel Good ‘ marketing which is far more mainstream and taps into more mainstream behaviour through entertainment. The Fiat Eco drive tool is a great example of this, it’s all about talking to Gen Y and giving them something of utility and making them feel good about their contribution to culture. At the end of the day, I reckon effective youth communications is about creating ‘cultural capital’ – stuff for them to talk about, so if you’re creating talk value within a interesting brand framework…you’re on track