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STEALTHFairMARKETING play or foul move? asks Andy Sellers MIPA MCAM, S&® the brandvertising agency

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The recent UK release of the Hollywood movie ‘The Joneses’ has raised awareness of a form of marketing which some marketeers regard as fair play, and many consumers would consider morally reprehensible, if only they were made aware of its existence. In the film, the Joneses are a seemingly perfect family who move into an affluent gated community and appear to be living The American Dream, showing off all the latest and best branded gear, gadgets and gizmos which their friends, neighbours and colleagues are mightily impressed by. Trouble is, they’re not a family at all, but a bunch of actors working undercover for a stealth marketing agency - creating buzz, as it’s called in Word of Mouth marketing circles. Such ‘brand ambassadors’ promote branded products to an unsuspecting, high Social Networking Potential audience who are unaware that the ‘ambassadors’ are being paid to kick off a viral word-of-mouth campaign by the brand-owner.

As consumers have become ever more desensitised to the nature and volume of conventional advertising and marketing techniques, brand owners have resorted to more surreptitious means of getting their message across. Some have done so successfully as their covert operations have gone unexposed, but some have suffered the backlash of the duped consumer … The Sony Ericsson ‘fake tourist’ campaign - 60 actors were employed across ten USA cities to pose beside tourist landmarks and ask passing strangers to please take a photograph of them with the latest Sony camera phone. What appeared to be a genuine favour request was in fact a subtle marketing exercise - the helpful passers-by actually product-sampled the new camera as the actors expressed how impressive it was and actually promised to email further product details, which exposed the sham and disgruntled many good samaritans.


As you might expect by their very nature, stealth marketing activities per se keep a pretty low profile, but many major consumer brands have employed the technique in the last decade or so, online and offline.

The Walmart ‘flog’ - a fake internet blog (a ‘flog’) supposedly written by a couple touring the USA in a camper van, parking for free in Walmart’s car parks across the country, and blogging about the warm welcome and generosity they received from Walmart store staff on their travels. In fact, the blogs were written by Walmart themselves, and their deceit was exposed. The ‘fake ads’ campaign - a consultancy firm was caught out employing people to ride the subways

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reading newspapers which featured fake backpage ads for their company. Far less costly than booking a press campaign, the technique gave fellow commuters the impression that the firm was successful and well-established - until it backfired when the truth was uncovered Some consider undercover marketing immoral as it deprives the consumer of having the choice whether to freely engage with the brand or not. Some go further and suggest that it is illegal.

Is it OK for celebrities to receive financial reward for driving a certain car, wearing a particular fashion label or iconic wristwatch without disclosing their relationship with the brands concerned? Or for rappers being paid to include references to certain drinks brands in their music lyrics and YouTube videos?


In the UK the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 forbids ‘falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer” Offenders risk a £5,000 fine and up to 2 years in jail if they continually offend and ignore the dictates of the Advertising Standards Authority.


But is stealth marketing merely an exaggerated form of product placement - which, with the exception of cigarettes and alcohol, is to be permitted on UK TV in Autumn 2010?

Ironically, for ‘purposes of realism’ many popular brands feature in the film ‘The Joneses’ - who knows if they paid a tidy sum to appear …? If you’d care to comment on this article, you can email Andy Sellers at


When I tell people that I’m a cartoonist the response from the over 30’s is a blank stare followed by ‘do TAKE ANOTHER you do anything for the newspapers?’ If I’m talking LOOK AT CARTOONS to an under 12 they need to know if I’ve ever met SAYS FRAN ORFORD, Homer Simpson (this might be my fault as I MAY have suggested to my five year old son that Homer CARTOONIST and I were on nodding terms) Well, I have worked for newspapers, I’ve drawn strips in the Telegraph and Observer and worked for many others, but this kind of cartooning is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Cartoons are really REALLY useful to businesses of all kinds. Cartoons are used for entertainment, education and product promotion, they can be seen everywhere from the ‘gag’ cartoons in the ‘redtops’ to the cerebral, insightful cartoons in the political sections of most of our broadsheets. Cartoons are used in advertising everything from children’s drinks to complex financial products. Why would you use a cartoon? To start let me ask a simple question. Which part of this page did you look at first? I’ll bet it was the cartoon. As humans we’re visual creatures, we are attracted by images. A cartoon can introduce a reader to what you have to say. The cartoon grabs the viewer’s attention long

enough for them to think “well that was interesting, maybe the rest of this stuff is worth looking at!’ A good cartoonist will be able to capture your message in a strong image, it’s a bit like being a copywriter only we use a different medium. Cartoons can be fresh and original, they can have an ‘identity’, a ‘character’ that it’s difficult to capture in any other way. They are good value, it’s a lot less expensive to ask a cartoonist to lie in his recliner with a wet flannel over his forehead and come up with six different visualisations for you then to send a photographer haring around the country in his Volvo 4x4. Cartoons can be drawn to appeal to ANY potential viewer be it city lawyer, cab driver, accountant or carer.

Cartoons can be used over and over again in different formats, you can put them in magazines and papers but you can also have them in diaries, and deskplanners, on fridgemagnets and coffee cups. You can keep your message in line of sight without being hectoring or boring. With a cartoon you can take advantage of the ‘halo’ effect to give your business the feel of being open, friendly, fun or just DIFFERENT.


Welcome to the 18th issue of Brand News - we hope you find it a riveting read. If you’re new to Brand News, we’d better introduce ourselves, we’re S&® the brandvertising agency. We’re an IPA-recognised creative agency, now in our 25th year so we’d hope we know our stuff. We build brands through distinctive, creative advertising and marketing communications. No matter how large or small your organisation, there’s a brand at the heart of it. We bring it out. Give it voice. A voice that’s more distinctive, more engaging than that of its rivals. And by doing that, we help the brand owner grow their business.

You can use cartoons in promotions of all types, but they’re also great in newsletters and internal mailings. Be honest with yourself, do staff ALWAYS read the latest directive from head office on ‘customer care’? Maybe they would if it was the same message but regularly presented in a fresh and original way! Of course some people and businesses are still resistant to the joys of the cartoonist art. It may be that the business just doesn’t lend itself to cartoon use, undertakers spring to mind! More often I suspect it’s because they have simply never thought of using cartoons. Some will think that cartoons ‘trivialise’ their message but of course certain types of cartoons are anything but ‘trivial’, just look at the work of Scarfe or Brookes. Cartoons don’t even need to be funny, many are at their most powerful when being observational or comment orientated. Other recalcitrant potential users don’t have any confidence in contacting or commissioning a cartoonist. To them I would say, do a little research and give one of us a ring We cartoonists seldom get out and are always game for a chat.

We also find time to put Brand News together, and make it available to anyone who shares our belief in the power of the brand. But it’s true we do hope that on reading Brand News some of our readers might appreciate S&®’s understanding of brand communications, and might consider putting a brief our way? Should you do just that in our 25th year we’ll donate £25 to Rainbows Childrens Hospice on your behalf.


Fran Orford, Cartoonist.

Bribery is honourable, providing it’s in a good cause. Call or email:

Andy Sellers tel: 07836 256465 email:


Behavioural Economics:

red hot or red herring? >>


Behavioural Economics teaches us that everything is relative. We find it difficult to make choices unless we have a number of things to choose between. We make decisions based on relatives rather than absolutes. Is this brand better quality than that brand? Is this supermarket better value than that one? Should I take the car or the train? Which is better for convenience, price, comfort, or enjoyment?

journey to purchase in new and interesting ways. This thinking can come from anywhere because it’s based on understanding how people tick, and that’s by no means the sole preserve of the creative department in the modern agency, and should of course include the client marketing team In fact, one of the most liberating things about the application of Behavioural Economics in Adland, is that it leaves the ‘big idea’ intact, puts it to one side, and makes us focus on lots of little things we could do better at the margins to make the big idea work even harder. It also enables agencies and their marketing clients to add value to other key teams in the company who don’t need a marcoms budget to benefit from Behavioural Economics-based consultancy.

Creative Thinking Is not the sole preserve of

Relative to the most recent two years in Adland, characterised by re-pitches and procurementdriven cost reduction, the advent of Behavioural Economics, under the leadership of IPA President Rory Sutherland, heralds a new dawn of optimism and enlightenment, and returns the industry to its heartland. At its core are the skills of strategy development, channel planning and content creation based on deep understanding of consumers and citizens. In that sense ‘Behavioural Economics’ can be seen as a major build on the Account Planning discipline with which UK agencies established their world-leading reputation for creativity and effectiveness.


Behavioural Economics is an academic school of thought based on the study of human behaviour, and introduced over 50 years ago to test and counterbalance the rational theories of classical economics. In the process it has catalogued how people’s behaviour changes according to different stimuli, environments and influences. In many ways, it tells us things we already know. But it re-frames them in a new language and a new science, which refreshes our understanding and clarifies perception. It also gives us more confidence in our own innate ability as marketers to turn consumer insight into commercial and social advantage.

Why now? As IPA President, Rory Sutherland, is keen to point out, 30 years ago, most of the client briefs in Adland were for fast moving packaged goods where the element of choice was limited to a hand movement of a few inches right or left at the shelf of a supermarket or convenience store. Choice was a function of ingrained habit, reinforced by frequent purchase cycles. These days, he purports, less than a third of the client briefs fall into the FMCG model. They are much more likely to be for a less frequent but more enduring purchase; a mobile contract, an insurance policy, a mortgage; or designed to encourage a fundamental change of habit; from smoker to non-smoker, from unhealthy eating to healthy eating etcetera. The changes in consideration and behaviour required of these briefs is more protracted, arguably more complex psychologically, more multifaceted and certainly more difficult to bring about.


Economics - a new dawn of optimism

and enlightenment

What’s more, Behavioural Economics has the potential to make our client conversations more stimulating. We can apply creative thinking to every detail of the brand-user interaction and the customer

What’s more, whereas 30 years ago, most transactions were intermediated by a distribution channel such as a retail outlet, or a broker, or a

5 financial adviser, now, with the advent of online marketing, most brands are more reliant on the detail and relevance of their brand communications interface than ever before.

broadly stated, demonstrates that losses loom larger in people’s considerations than gains. In fact, they loom about twice as large.

This principle can inform something as simple as a line of copy. Home insulation should be framed not as offering a saving of £200 a year in fuel bills Last October IPA member agencies (a gain), but as a loss of £200 a were introduced to academic and year if you do not have insulation. industry experts in behavioural The loss grabs our attention economics theory. The were Ask yourself more than the saving. It can posed the question ‘Behavioural also inspire a product like the Economics: red hot or red herring?’ what business Save More Tomorrow Pension. and were invited to give their Behavioural Economists Richard verdict. It was a resounding ‘red you’re really in Thaler and Shlomo Benartzi hot’. spotted that people’s resistance to taking out a pension isn’t a In January, the IPA published a lack of understanding about the summary of this output under benefits of having a pension pot for retirement, but the the same title, accessible for purchase on the IPA loss today of having to give up a percentage of our website: take home pay to fund it. The small immediate loss out the much larger, but long-term, gain. Hot-or-Red-Herring-report To solve this, Thaler & Benartzi proposed a pension Then just last month the IPA conducted a three-day that only took contributions out of future pay rises. hothouse experiment of training and learning about Consequently, people only ever see their take home Behavioural Economics with 34 member agencies pay go up, even as their contributions rise. and four client companies. More will follow in the The loss aversion is removed and results show run-up to summer, with a big client event planned for huge increases in people’s savings and pension the autumn. So far the experiment is working. The contributions. application of Behavioural Economics to Adland is proving to be as relevant to media agencies as it is This challenges pension providers to ask what to creative and digital agencies; it unites rather than business they are in: they think they are in the divides disciplines and communities. It stimulates business of providing a gain (savings and pensions) clients to write more open briefs, and for clients and but customers think they are the source of a loss (the agencies to work better together. immediate contribution). So what’s the IPA doing about it?

Janet Hull, IPA Consultant Head of Marketing

The business of applying Behavioural Economics In the publication Behavioural Economics: Red Hot or Red Herring the IPA spells out seven key principles that could help advertising practitioners apply the learnings of Behavioural Economics.


The challenge of application is key to the success - or failure - of Adland’s relationship with this relatively new science. To benefit us most Behavioural Economics has to not only change the kind of advertising solutions we produce, but also change the kind of product we offer our clients. In other words, Behavioural Economics prompts agencies to ask a question of ourselves we so often ask of our clients “What business are you really in?”. This is a question that Behavioural Economics poses time and time again. Take the central principal of Loss Aversion. This,

What we learn from Behavioural Economics is that no human behaviour can or should be overlooked when running a business. These behaviours can seem small. This is why pension companies overlooked the ‘small’ pain of contributing to a pension. However, they can hugely impact on people’s willingness to use a product. Behavioural Economics takes this challenge to every business and asks it to build it around the way human beings do behave and not the way they ‘ought’ to behave. These principles remind us that if we want to be successful we are all ultimately in the same business the people business. Nick Southgate, IPA Behavioural Economics Consultant


Customer Magazines. >>

Are we having a conversation... or am I just talking at you? ASKS TERRY BOWLES, CHAIRMAN, BowlesAssociates

Done well, customer magazines are a conversation. They become a quiet voice in the ear, or a tip-off from a friend that knows what you are interested in, and that is a really useful marketing tool. As a medium, they project brand messages through a third-party, and that is why many big high street names take an arms-length approach with their magazines to build further credibility, using an agency to staff the editorial team and taking responsibility for bringing in guest editors and contributors. By introducing advertising content they can align their product or service with other complementary brands. Successful examples of brands that have embraced this approach include Virgin Media, whose customer magazine electric! sits as a lively personality-led lifestyle title and the highly commended Waitrose Food Illustrated - which has recently received a total redesign and has been renamed Waitrose Kitchen. These magazines set extremely high editorial standards and push their new products/services by stealth classic soft-sell tactics that work time and time again.

How they keep the conversation going ... As a general rule, magazines are more successful as a medium for talking with existing customers and where brand loyalty is high, they have a terrific return rate for keeping the brand at the forefront of the mind. Think car brands - a luxury purchase that is unlikely to happen more than once every couple of years, and yet most manufacturers produce regular publications that keep the drivers of their cars up to date with the latest technology through stylish content. So what if you are a brand director and you think a regular magazine might add to your collateral? As in all areas of outsourced marketing the choice of your agency is critical; make the appointment on trust and understanding.

Classic soft sell tactics that work time and time again

The customer publishing sector has seen rapid growth in the last 10 years, which flies in the face of what many industry voices predicted - that marketing spend would be increasingly steered toward online and fast-paced social media, and taken away from ‘big ticket’ printed material.

Yes, twitter et al have made a big impact, but to really build affinity, you as a brand, and I as a customer, need to have a conversation... not just you talking at me. The magazine format gives agencies a platform to lead that conversation, and deliver various messages as the reader navigates through.

Magazines can manage a huge number of targeted marketing drivers in each issue, with navigation and tone used to steer readers through to the content that is relevant to them.

And let’s not forget, whatever industry you operate in, there are customers who are interested in what you have to say - if your agency doesn’t buy into that, or if they think the subject matter is dull, then the end product will not reflect the values that your brand embodies. Terry Bowles Chairman, BowlesAssociates.


Beyond the Focus Group … >>


Imagine telling a 13-year-old that she has to find someone to take her to HMV so she can purchase the just-released album by her favourite boy band. She’d likely roll her eyes, type a few things into her laptop and within moments have accessed the songs, including cover art, downloaded via the Internet. Or a collector of video-game memorabilia looking to find old Nintendo game cartridges for his prized collection who’d do a quick search on an online auction site to find exactly what he was looking for in seconds. Thanks to the power of the Internet, the way we live and work has changed drastically. Virtually every segment of our personal and business lives has been transformed. The Internet allows for lightning-fast speeds, near-instant gratification, efficiencies once only dreamed of, reduced costs, and superstreamlined processes and activities.

basis of great qualitative research. Unfortunately, today’s online, text-based applications are inadequate for capturing this dynamic. Qualvu’s ( video-based online platform, however, does capture these crucial nonverbal, emotive and candid insights. Moderator questions are sent via video to the participant, who responds with a webcam, simulating a face-to-face meeting. In fact, the platform can be set up so one participant can see and interact with other participants via video exchange. These things can’t happen with only a keyboard and transcripts of conversations.


Qualitative market research and its traditional focus group approach have not gone untouched in this Age of the Internet. Businesses and researchers have taken focus groups to the web in the form of blogs, communities, social forums and message boards. These outlets have streamlined the process of collecting insights and also made it more affordable.

But are these web-based alternatives to focus groups perfect substitutes for the in-person variety? What happens when you lose the visual aspect of a candid, stream-of-consciousness response, body language and interpersonal connectivity? How much are you missing when you don’t see those eye rolls, shrugs, or even tears? For purely quantitative research, text-based applications can produce speedy and useful data. For qualitative research, however, they aren’t going to stack up in the long run. Thoughts and opinions tapped out on a keyboard will never result in the faceto-face exchange researchers desire and hope to get from in-person focus. The expressions, emotions, personal connections, the stream-of-consciousness thoughts – these are all critical for good, worthwhile qualitative research. These candid, face-to-face, truthful experiences are the core of the connections between brands and their consumers, forming the

So let’s look at why video-based online qualitative takes research to a whole new level. This asynchronous platform is not just an online version of a focus group: It creates unique dynamics for both the researcher and the participant that can result in remarkably deep levels of insight.

Reason 1: The Convenience Factor Traditional in-person focus groups can be hard on participants, as they juggle aspects of their normal lives to make room for an extra couple of hours, usually at the end of a long day. Online video-based qualitative research is participantdriven. The respondent’s time is respected and appreciated: They can respond to moderator questions via a webcam during a lunch break, after work from the comfort of their own home, or late at night. Participants respond at leisure, within the project timeline parameters, when they are relaxed, willing and ready to respond with their thoughts, attitudes and opinions in meaningful ways. This convenience factor leads to better, richer, more thoughtful research. The participant is not feeling harried from cross-town travel or the like. They feel respected, they know participating online is a huge timesaver, and they can concentrate on the task at hand: providing those critical, valued “behind-theglass” insights researchers and clients crave. Reason 2: The Significance of Setting During ‘viewed’ in-person focus groups, respondents are often stuck in an unfamiliar, staid environment

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on the sixth floor of Building D. There are buzzing fluorescent lights, the air is set to 65 degrees, coldcut sandwiches are presented with pride, and one entire wall is one-way glass, giving respondents the impression they have been led into a fishbowl for the research. It is in this setting that the participants are expected to share candid, deep thoughts. Through this participant-driven video-based method, the researcher gets candour that can only be gathered in this comfortable, relaxed setting - candour crucial to steer campaigns, product development or brand creation (and everything in between). Mobile “wireless” webcams allow for even deeper beyond-the-glass consumer insights. For example, a researcher could ask a participant to take the webcam with him through his kitchen, pointing out the most-used and most-loved cooking gadgets. In a conference room, the researcher would never be able to have access to this level of depth. Reason 3: The Absence of Peer Pressure Some respondents walk into the office park conference room and are immediately nervous. They are not used to speaking in public and are probably wondering why they ever signed up for a focus group Luckily, they don’t have to say too much during the ice breaker, but then Green Shirt Alpha Male and Brunette Type A Lady are carrying the conversation with no problem. The shyer ones have a few thoughts they’d like to share, but they are too self-conscious, and their voice would be overshadowed anyway. Online video-based qualitative research allows for a situation that is utterly devoid of alpha males and females. With the online video platform, the participant can have a one-on-one, intimate “conversation” with the moderator. The moderator’s questions are pre-recorded and delivered straight to the consumer, virtually face-to-face. Peer pressure is certainly not a factor, and researchers are able to gather insights from every member of the group, wallflowers included. Reason 4: The Height of Content Intensity In-person focus groups often result in quite low content intensity. (Content intensity is defined as the

amount of insightful data generated by each person in the qualitative research session.) Peer pressure, of course, is a factor here. Also, the participants know that there is a whole other group of people watching and listening closely, just behind that big mirror over there. An online video application allows the participant to share with no limits, so the researcher gets candid, hard-hitting, stream-of-consciousness input from the consumer that is not clouded by time constraints or peer pressure. This drives particular “value per respondent” dynamics, ensuring optimal costefficiency for each project. A participant using the online video platform offers nearly four (uninterrupted) minutes of feedback per question. If a moderator asks seven questions per project, that can equal around 25 to 28 minutes of direct content from each participant. Compare this type of insight to a 90 minute focus group of 8 respondents where allowing for at least 15 minutes introductions and moderator explanations and questions, if each participant had equal input they would only be able to talk for less than 10 minutes. Which one would you prefer? Also, because of the nature of online applications, a project can be replicated across a number of locations, and adjustments can easily and quickly be made. For example, questions can be updated or added on the fly to optimize feedback. Finally, projects can be implemented with much more frequency than in-person focus groups due to cost savings and the inherent scalability of web-based platforms. Giving the rapid pace of development of internet usage, and the resulting changes taking place in customer behaviour, online video research will inevitably be a large part of the next generation of consumer and B2B research. Indeed the emerging ‘N Gen’ may well find it difficult to comprehend why it would done any other way. Di Tunney, Director, The Best Organisation. UK Partner of Qualvu inc.

Susbribe to Brand News and access free downloads of all back issues by visiting our website at Designed, produded and published by Sellers & Rogers Ltd. © 2010

Sellers & Rogers Ltd., Century House 15-17 Musters Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 7PP t: 0115 969 6480 e:

Brand News 18  

We publish Brand News so we and guest contributors from across the industry can make known our views - also for us to show off our understan...

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