Rob Campbell (pictured), regional head of strategy at Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai, and Charles Wigley, chairman of BBH Asia, took turns poking holes in the myths and unquestioned assumptions that often drive marketing and creative decisions.
The death of TV
"By rights, none of us should be making TV ads anymore, because the general belief is that digital will absolutely take its place," Wigley said. But if you look at actual data, TV spending is going "through the roof" in most regions. Moreover, the effectiveness of TV seems to be getting bigger and bigger each year, he continued.
To explain why, Campbell made reference to an earlier presentation by Byron Sharp, a professor from the University of South Australia, who went through empirical data showing why predictions about brand growth are often so far off base and why so few brands actually succeed in increasing market share.
"The reason why TV is not dead and is very, very unlikely to die in the future, is that it delivers a concentrated mass of light and medium users," Wigley said. And as Byron showed, those people are the most critical to your growth, a fundamental part of effectiveness."
Campbell pointed out that arguing over which medium is best is ridiculous. What we’re saying is not that TV beats the internet, or that the internet beats TV," he said. "But that we should stop talking about it in the sense of choosing one or the other. Would someone say, 'You can choose your right hand or your left hand?'"
Campbell reminded the audience that the Old Spice campaign, which is usually cited as the ultimate example of a successful viral effort, started with a TVC that aired during Super Bowl week.
All you need is love
Stating with tongue in cheek that the pair relished another opportunity to make fun of "our friends at Saatchi" and Kevin Roberts in particular, Wigley turned attention to the notion that people love brands. He noted that in his years in the industry, the language used to describe activities has changed from inherently warlike (campaigns, blitzes, targets) to inherently "lovey-dovey".
"But are we being realistic about that?" he asked rhetorically. "And is our lack of realism about that actually potentially leading us in the wrong direction?”
Some people actually do love brands, Campbell allowed, but, "the reality is, very few people love very few brands. And when I read research that says people are in love with this particular mouthwash, they either have to get a life, or I am not on planet Earth.”
More importantly, those who love a brand are an insignificant factor in increasing sales. "When you look at actual data, the 100 per cent loyal buyers are on average 10 per cent of a category’s buyers." The truth is we are not very loyal as consumers--“because we’re not mad as hatters," Wigley added.
Given that fact, brands must reach out to the vast majority of buyers, the pair asserted, continuing into a discussion of how that requires a continual process of communication to earn loyalty. "The wooing must never, ever stop," Campbell said, adding that there is a difference between bursts of communication that don't look or feel alike and ongoing communication that works toward a common, long-term goal.
Facebook 'Likes' actually mean something
"There aren’t a lot of people sitting around at home going, ‘Ah, I’d really like to click a ‘Like’ button,” Campbell said. Looked at another way, they are very willing to give their "Likes" to frivolous things, he said, citing the example of a Facebook page for the clay head of Lionel Richie, which first appeared in the singer's 1984 video for the song "Hello" and today has more than 10,000 fans.
"People mistake quantified data for effectiveness," Wigley chimed in, after which Campbell added, "We fall into this trap that if it's social, it works. And it's not true."
While hastening to add that digital is without doubt absolutely critical to success, the pair went on to poke fun at the concept of "toothpaste fans" and the notion of building campaigns around people who would fit that description.
Pre-testing makes everything better
Perhaps not surprisingly, Wigley and Campbell saved some of their strongest jibes for the process or pre-testing creative.
Wigley criticised the method as abdicating responsibility, while Campbell argued that because such research takes place in unreal conditions where the participants may very well be bored to tears, anything entertaining will win, resulting in lots of campaigns featuring puppies.
Wigley took this point further, asserting that when similar companies that make the same products and are trying to reach the same audiences use the same methods to test their advertising, it is not surprising that we end up with ads that are interchangeable apart from the logos.
"Pre-testing is not about connecting with anybody," Campbell said, "but literally about making sure they’re not scaring anyone away. "
London and New York know everything
The next myth into the shredder was that ad executives in New York and London have much to teach professionals in Asia.
"If they did know everything, they might actually know that in this part of the world, we don’t speak English," Campbell said. ” They would also know that people in Asia are not 'me' but dressed up” in an Asian look.
They also wouldn't keep going on and on about global human truths, Campbell said. "It goes without saying that mothers love their children. The question is how mums in Wuhan express that in very different ways from someone in England."
Campbell cited three fundamental values in Asia: the need for progression, the importance of group acceptance, and filial responsibility. He went on to discuss how those values translate to the way people adopt brands, read communications, and respond to creativity.
Wigley closed by discussing the differences in worldview that come about because of the very different intellectual heritages of Asian versus western countries, and noted that these issues are only starting to get the attention they deserve from the marketing community.
Read all of our Asian Marketing Effectiveness Festival coverage.