Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Lives of Others

Not many fictional films evoke real life as well as "What Maisie Knew." Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, it is the story of a child caught between fighting parents, based on the novel of the same title by Henry James. Not nearly as incisive and nuanced as the novel (but what films are?), it still imparts to the viewer the problematic feelings of a child affected by unhappy parents.

We observe Maisie, beautifully portrayed by Onata Aprile, as she understands and does not understand what happens around her. The close camera work, often indoors, focuses our attention on her. The day-lit shots and the natural acting of Alexander Skarsgård convince us that we are watching a documentary. It reminds us of the excellent Yi Yi by Edward Yang, also shot from a child's point of view, with the camera as his eyes.

As planners, we could learn the importance of sympathy and empathy from "What Maisie Knew." As Northern Planner writes, "The more we're in the lives of others, the more we can know them." As we watch Maisie and the conflicting emotions her face conveys, we understand her life. The way to understand others is to enter into their lives, as the camera does. Just some ideas for planning...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mike Tyson, Storyteller

What are important elements for good storytelling?

Emotion, suspense and humor are a few.

Mike Tyson utilized these elements at his recent show "Undisputed Truth," where he told stories from his life.

Sad stories included his mother's death, his sister who died young and his 3 year-old daughter's death due to an accident. He talked about his violence, crimes and addiction, but says he has reformed.

Suspense caused the audience to listen attentively to details of Tyson's youth and a violent fight in a store against a boxer. We learned that he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and how his mentor Cus D'Amato helped him become a champion. He mentions the book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", which he jokingly says depicts a story quite different from his own.

Tyson utilized humor when he explained that "hard times" were the reason for his tour. This joke engaged the audience since they are sympathetic to Tyson as fans, know he lost millions and experienced difficulties themselves.

The fighter's stories fit the American love of a "rags to riches" tale. In American culture, we believe we could begin poor and end rich. We could redeem ourselves and receive a second chance. These values work with Tyson's show and our culture of possibility. Despite his losses, he could win again.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Three Ways to Tell Your Brand's Story

After a viewing of the 2013 British Arrow Awards winners, one notices the powerful storytelling of three commercials. Drama, realism and emotion were utilized.

The Guardian chose to employ news to transform a classic story, "The Three Little Pigs" (BBH agency) through drama. Perhaps an everyday occurrence, like a fire, could become exciting through its storytelling. Journalism could be fascinating.

The real life drama of a homeless woman is portrayed in "A Woman's Nightmare." (Publicis Conseil, Paris) The close camera and graininess of the film involve and affect the viewer, as does the interactive quality at the end, when the viewer could choose the film's ending.

Emotion connects viewers to brands. The strong film to promote the Channel 4 Paralympics (4creative agency) stirs us through music and documents the players' struggles. We understand that their difficulties resemble those of athletes without disabilities and applaud them.

These are three means of storytelling which are appropriate to the brands. Through artistry, the brand's values shine. A good story increases consumer interest and ultimately engagement. A few thoughts on branding...

And just for fun: Public Enemy's "Harder than You Think" UK Paralympics version, which boosts their brand's story.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Abraham Lincoln, Account Planner

Ideas come from the most unlikely places.

We decided to see one of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture, "Lincoln."

The film depicts the President strategizing to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which reminded us of planning in advertising. How could one best solve problems? What qualities are needed?

In the film, President Lincoln evidences many of these qualities.

Empathy: Lincoln understands the plight of African Americans when sympathetically speaking to his wife's maid.

Listening: The President listens with an openness and fairness to constituents who ask for his advice. Knowledge gleaned directly from the source is valuable.

Analysis: After gathering information, he uses it to solve problems from a different angle. He applies a mathematical principle he learned in the past to solve a human problem.

Storytelling: After solving a problem, he explains its solution through an engaging story.

Ideas from history for planners.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stop, Look and Listen

Comportment - To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1969)

Over time, societal behavior changes. As planners, we are attuned to that.

One noticed recently in public spaces: A man stretches his feet into the aisle of the bus. A teenage girl bends her knees and places her feet on the bus seat. An elderly woman rests her feet on a theater railing. A young woman lies down on a gym's bench while texting.

A relaxed attitude prevails. One of laissez-faire, one echoed in casual clothing. A lack of separation of public and private space, since the two spaces are linked by technology. It is the ever-present, ever-on device which connects behavior from the home to the public space. The possibility of digital communication everywhere translates to similar behavior everywhere.

How could marketers reach people when they feel at ease in all places? What could impact them? We could enter their space in an unexpected way physically. We could invite them to interact and play. We could use digital media so that they have a unique experience. We have to make people stop and look. Otherwise, they will not receive our messages.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Marketers Could Learn from the Homeless

The homeless man darted into the oncoming traffic, observed by this writer. Aware of the cars, he decided to cross the street.

One could think of brands as analogous to the homeless man. At times their managers make decisions which appear reckless, not in keeping with the brand's image. Consumers notice. If the decisions for the brand do not fit its image, consumers may quickly criticize them on social networks. "The rules of branding are shifting," says Timothy Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "As soon as you have an issue, people can pick it up and broadcast it everywhere." Think of logo changes, like Tropicana's and Starbucks', which caused consumer negativity. More than ever, consumers believe they own brands.

The oncoming traffic could also be thought of as the information stream which bombards consumers. Brands need attention, so dart into the traffic. They must act almost recklessly to capture consumer attention, as long as the action does not hurt the brand. Thoughts on watching the homeless.