Friday, July 18, 2008

The People Have Spoken.

So I ran into an associate from my previous life (when I was working as a spreadsheet jockey senior product marketing manager in telecom) at a sporting event the other night. In the course of catching up he asked me a very unexpected question, “when are you going to put up a new post on your blog?” and I was quite surprised since it was apparent to me he most definitely wanted to see something updated at Posts By Sionne on a more regular basis. Kind of a minor ego boost but also at the same time a reality check...that there are actual, real-live people out there reading what you are blogging. Sometimes even checking back to see if there is anything new!

This conversation at the soccer stadium triggered a different perspective on my relationship with the (admittedly very few) readers of Posts By Sionne. And it’s something that simply reviewing Web traffic logs doesn’t properly illustrate - even though there may not be many of them, visitors to your blog are real people and they are checking in for one reason, ie. to read what you have to say. So thanks for the equivalent of a friendly kick in the butt, Scot and getting me back at the keyboard again…this one is for you, and of course the five or six other regular visitors to this space.

What some of you may not understand is that I absolutely enjoy the whole blogging thing and it is not in any way a lack of interest contributing to my infrequent/sporadic publishing schedule.

How to explain? OK, try this...maybe I spend too much time with someone who works in the law enforcement field, or maybe it is just the proliferation of TV crime program spinoffs like Law & Order: Jaywalkers and CSI: Boise, Idaho (yes I am exaggerating, but only a tiny little bit - I mean, how many of those shows are running on TV anyway?) but for me successfully blogging lately has been like committing a crime and therefore comes down to the elements of Means, Motive, and Opportunity. As in…

1) Means: Hmm, I have a computer with Internet access and the ability to command a mouse and keyboard. And as a generally opinionated person I typically have something to say, no matter the subject…OK, truth is I probably enjoy hearing myself talk more than the average person but c’est la vie. This trait combined with my long-time affinity for writing contributes to a capacity for producing something blog-worthy without too much difficulty. Never really any significant obstacles for me in the Means category.

2) Motivation: This one is a bit tougher. With a full-time job, a working spouse and two pre-school-aged children in my household, life for me recent has been a series of *weekday survival sprints* punctuated by weekends filled with an equal mix of non-stop family activities, housekeeping, chores and yardwork. Those in similar situations will recognize themselves when I state that blogging falls pretty far down the list of top priorities, somewhere well below convincing myself not to go out to the store for a pack of cigarettes (I don’t smoke, by the way) and just keep on driving ;o)

Thanks to Scot’s comments though, the Motivation part level has at least temporarily been ratcheted up a few notches. So this brings us to the final element - Opportunity.

3) Opportunity: Simply put - there never seems to be enough time. And when there is enough time either I am too tired by a long day to get excited by the prospect of blogging or there are about a dozen other things that seem higher up on the Important Stuff list, which means I end up doing a few of those instead.

Ah, but tonight it is so different. In this case tonight my wife is on a rare overnight work assignment and the rugrats (aka Sweet Little Angels to everyone except their parents) have actually both been sound asleep as of 9PM, for the first time in 3 weeks, I believe. Which leaves me now all alone in front of the computer with nothing but a cold beer and my friends Means and Motive asking me if I am going to invite Opportunity to the party ;o)

Somewhat long-winded introduction aside, here is a series of spots for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, aka MDAS. Not sure why but recently I have been enjoying European-based advertising campaigns more than those produced here in North America. This one was created by a creative agency (Openhere - based in Belgium) for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, targeting the EMEA market.

On the Full Disclosure front, I am currently employed with BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises) in the Sympatico/MSN portal group. With Sympatico/MSN being a partnership between Bell and Microsoft Canada and my role a hybrid of product marketing and sales, I live in this space and also have the opportunity to work on a daily basis with some very bright and talented counterparts over at MSFT. That said, I am trying to ignore any potential personal biases when analyzing these ad spots. If anything I am possibly inclined to be more critical, since I understand this particular MDAS business better than outsiders would. Why not watch for yourself though and develop your own assessment? Then see my comments below…

The Break-Up / Bring The Love Back



Inspiration, Anyone? - Trailer




Inspiration, Anyone?



Brilliant, just killer, really…don’t you agree? Here is what I found worked best on these:

It's simply very effective at communicating the superficial approach far too many advertisers take when communicating to their customers and prospects, regardless of the medium. Terrific approach, introducing the relationship between a (self-absorbed) man and his frustrated love interest to demonstrate the interaction between advertisers and consumers.

It’s well-executed - irreverent, light and humourous and styled as a parody without incorporating any darker satirical or sarcastic tones.

While not anywhere near as clever as the classic Mac versus PC series, it squarely hits the funny-because-it-is-true button several times. The agency scenes in Inspiration, Anyone? are especially entertaining for those of us who have personally experienced similar scenarios when dealing with a pure creative shop. As in the equation: muffins! + giant Starbucks cup + the bigger logo reco’ = WAY too funny.

It looks (and sounds) good…very solid production overall. In the "Inspiration, Anyone?" trailer, it seems like they even spent the budget dollars to hire a soundalike for that famous Hollywood voiceover artist Don LaFontaine, originator of the now-clich├ęd "in a world where..." phrase.

Most importantly, after having all the preceding elements in place, you now have something that is viral-friendly and easily shared via emailed links to video clips, or uploaded as embedded content on a Web site…or blog as I have done here.

Interestingly, there are virtually no Microsoft references in these spots, with exception of MDAS thrown up for the closing shot. I think many viewers would be surprised to learn Microsoft actually even has a group devoted to Digital Advertising Solutions, although this is less likely to happen within to the target audience. While this “white-label” approach would be a huge oversight if applied on a traditional TV ad (remember that very entertaining EDS Herding Cats Super Bowl ad from a few years back…the one where virtually no one remembered the company it advertised?) in this online/viral medium it becomes less of a liability.

Now agreed there are some deficiencies, one being that it does not work very well in terms of detailing what MDAS really does and explaining specifically how advertisers can benefit. I am not actually familiar with the original briefing and campaign objectives but as a straight Awareness execution it definitely offers enough to be shared virally and in this format it can easily be re-distributed…which ultimately spreads the MDAS message and results in an effective campaign on the brand awareness level.

Great minds think alike, it seems. In my related research I learned that this spot has received multiple awards to date in Belgium as well as a prestigious Bronze Lion award very recently at the 2008 Cannes International Advertising Festival.

So definitely one of my more expansive efforts here. Suppose that it is to be expected with nearly two months of pent-up blogging energies now finally being released. Thanks as always for reading and come back soon for more, OK?


Happy surfing!