Time to banish the brainstorm! Are you with me?

As featured in Advertising Week Europe

“What about a viral video?”

“Or a flashmob?”

“How about a viral video OF a flashmob?”

“Or a viral video of a flashmob of monkeys on motorcycles”

Sound familiar? If so – you’ve been brainstormed, my friend.

To the uninitiated, a brainstorm usually consists of a handful of creatives, members of client services, planners and a kitchen sink. Sometimes we sit on the floor. Sometimes we write on the walls. And famously: ‘there’s no such thing as a bad idea in a brainstorm.’

Except there is. About 95% of them to be precise.

I’m not a fan of brainstorms. I never have been. It started when I was a junior copywriter. I couldn’t understand why all the more senior creatives around me could reel off loads of ideas at the drop of a hat and I could only manage one or two.

But, as I got more experienced and attended hundreds of the blighters – it finally started to click. I realised I should be going for quantity and not quality. I could prattle off any old rubbish – from ideas I’d tried to sell in to other clients to just shouting out different advertising mediums like a copywriting Brick Tamland.

After all, it’s what everyone else was subconsciously doing.

The more brainstorms you do, the easier it gets to head to your bank of ol’ favourites in search of a way to break the awkward silence. The silence that’s a by-product of actually taking time to think. A silence that’s amplified by the sheer number of people in the room.

It’s the same silence that comes along when we’re concepting for actual briefs. When it’s just me and my trusty art director. But, because we don’t have to play up to an expectant looking audience – the silence doesn’t seem to matter as much. In fact, we don’t even notice it.

To me one well thought-through idea is worth a heck of a lot more than 20 vague suggestions of cat-based viral videos or Trafalgar Square flash mobs. And that’s why I think open briefs are a better answer to generating quick-fire creative ideas than brainstorms.

The last 12 months have been crazy-busy for us. But we’ve just started getting back into doing open briefs every couple of weeks. There have been some pretty awesome results – and more importantly – loads of really chuffed clients.

So, why not send the brainstorm the way of the dodo and replace it with one-hour open briefs to the whole creative department?

For the same amount of chargeable time – you’ll get a handful of thought-out, viable ideas per team. And you’ll be giving more freedom and flexibility to the creatives. You won’t be making them sit in a stuffy meeting room and shout across each other. It’s up to them how they do the work.

No forced quirkiness. No beanbags. And, absolutely no whale song CDs.

Not convinced? Check out @OneMinuteBriefs on Twitter. Every day they set a broad brief and see what their followers come up with. Some of the briefs are just for fun. Some are live. But every single one produces some pretty cool work.

So, will you jump on my anti-brainstorm bandwagon? Or are you going to chase me out of town with pitchforks and burning flipcharts? Lemme know in the comments below!

About the Author

James Binns has been a direct and digital copywriter at Havas EHS for the last four years. He still can’t spelll.


Why Justin Bieber’s influence will never end, and brands know it

As featured in Advertising Week Europe

The exploits of popstars past and present in January 2014 has shown us a real contrast in the duration and style of their legacies between now and a few years ago, something that brands like Diet Coke are keen to capitalise upon.

2014 in the UK started with the public being treated to seemingly countless reality TV shows in which former celebrities you kind of recognised clamoured for our ever dwindling attention by lolloping down a mountain or falling into a swimming pool like a dying manatee.

These are the stars of yesteryear, the ones who you had a poster of on your wall when you were 15 but now look at with a mixture of feelings akin to “I used to record their songs off the radio” and “Jesus Christ look at the state of them!”

But times have changed, and channels like social media has ensured that where once a celebrity could fall off the end of the pop industry’s conveyor belt and more or less disappear, this and future generations’ idols will always be of use to brands.

Take Justin Bieber for example, who rather than being part of Ellen Degeneres’ mega-selfie at the Oscars is hidden away somewhere having seemingly fallen off the rails with the world gladly lapping up every self-destructive move he makes.

His manager, Scooter Braun, recently spoke out saying it was time for Bieber to choose whether to improve as an artist in the same way that Justin Timberlake has (grow a beard & make tequila), or to quit the music business altogether.

However it might not be as simple as that, because not only is media interest massive, but rather than simply taking down the posters you have of him on your bedroom wall, you’ll have to consciously delete him from your life by un-following and un-liking him.

This means that rather than disappearing, Bieber will most likely fade from public consciousness, with his number of followers slowly dwindling in a depressing, death by a thousand cuts sort of way, until, in 20 years’ time, when he tweets about his partner using up the last of the milk, you too will remember you’re still following him and take the active step to erase him from your life.

Diet Coke is a brand who has spotted that sort of apathetic legacy that celebrities have on fans. Last year they signed Taylor Swift as their brand ambassador, not just to raise sales, but with the explicit aim of getting all of Taylor Swift’s Facebook fans to Like Diet Coke’s brand page as well.

It may seem like a cynical way of upping the number of Lies they have but Diet Coke don’t care. Because if, like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift goes off the rails and strangles a swan and Diet Coke stop sponsoring her, they’ll still have what they really want in the extra few million fans who are too lazy to actively delete Diet Coke from their wall, allowing the brand to continue feeding her ageing fans untold amounts of Diet Coke content for decades to come, even if they stopped listening to her music years before.

By Henry Riggall – Havas EHS


Twitter – A tool or just a social natter box?

Ever since Twitter has become a mainstream social tool alongside the giant that is Facebook, there has been constant debate over its’ validity. Is it a fantastic tool connecting other users with information – or simply a way for those to constantly update their life’s doings?

Although undoubtedly providing the technological scene with a simple yet effective messaging service, it is those who look down on it who may be blindsided by the negative stigma.

Granted there are those, often the younger users, who use it as an update in activities and agendas, who may well have created the unattractive impression to the everyday working person.

However it would be naive to hold this against Twitter on such a simple term.

It is clear how successful Twitter has been through the masses of companies not only implementing it, but now holding online competitions, customer service bases & general promotion (with added imagery).

But there are still those who aren’t Twitter users, who aren’t making use of the option of getting instant results. Perhaps businesses could create further awareness besides the standard icon seen throughout the web. Opinion will only change if business results are published on a wider scale.

Would accolades about businesses which use Twitter convince others to use it? ‘Best customer service’? ‘Most replied to customers’? Or even ‘The most talked about company’?

In an age where the general consensus is that it is good to have immediate information, contact and access, Twitter is something that can offer itself to suit the demand.

Being restricted to the 140 characters not only addresses matters in a brief but concise way, it also creates a news feed that can be scanned and digested in those shorter periods of time. Instant news means maximising awareness and therefore an often more productive service. With this in mind, Twitter can then offer something for just about every person on the internet. Whether it be contacting a friend or reaching millions, Twitter is something that covers promotion, marketing, instant messaging and overall social helpline to their users.

Therefore I urge those using the iconic ‘blue bird’ to get others signing up and following relevant Twitter peeps. And to those themselves that are reading but avoiding the social app, then grab it by the horns and make the most of having instant information, specific for you, at your fingertips!

About the Author

Scott Gummerson is a HTML developer who’s passion outside of work lies in sport. If he’s not found working on a project, then he’ll most likely be seen at the local ice rink coaching/playing for an ice hockey team. Scott is keen lover of new tech and what it can bring to enhance our lives in the future.

Scott Gummerson

HTML Developer at HavasEHS


Why the LEGO film makes me think of lions

As featured in Advertising Week Europe

As with Anchorman 2 last year, having seen all the trailers, special adverts and drunkenly ordered a themed Happy Meal, yesterday I completed what has recently felt like some sort of brand immersion by watching the LEGO movie.

As both a huge childhood LEGO fan and a man-child, I’d been looking forward to seeing it for a while now, but certain friends have been all too happy to point out that it’s effectively a 100 minute advert that people have to pay to watch.

And they have a point, if an advert’s aim is to sell a product by putting it on the screen then a film about a toy could well be considered as a giant advert even compared to say Star Wars’ creators who at least waited until the movie was released before milking the cash cow for all it was worth with toys, games, mugs, t-shirts and God knows what else.

Equally this could potentially open the door for other global megabrands to try something similar; like some sort of Coca-Cola Happiness World film that sort of looks like a mix between Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Dumb Ways to Die but has all the depth of any one of the characters Jude Law has played.

The thing is though that consumers (in this case parents) know when they’re being sold at and when they’re being given something in return. The LEGO movie is funny, well written, child friendly and, ultimately, pretty good. Something we all expect from any form of content marketing and something the ad industry aims to deliver to consumers, not just a sales pitch.

But most importantly, it shows the world what you can do with LEGO; whether you only follow the instructions or love to make random shapes and creatures, the film tells you that there is room for you in the LEGO world.

This is the really interesting door that has been well and truly opened, one that brands we have an affinity for can begin to open our minds up to not only what can be done with their products but to the world as a whole.

The movement has begun already, perhaps not yet with 100 minute blockbusters but some brands are beginning to make credible inroads beyond simply filming famous footballers prancing about on airplanes for 15 minutes.

Take miniature camera manufacturers GoPro as an example, they recently produced a wonderful, inspiring and somewhat hair raising film about a South African man with an incredible relationship with a pride of wild lions and hyenas.

Like the LEGO film, this is incredible content marketing, yes both can inspire you to buy their products, but equally they can inspire you to dig out that old camcorder in the back of your wardrobe or go looking around your attic for your big box of LEGO from the 90s.

In the case of LEGO, and the world content as a whole, the message is clear: Play Well.

By Henry Riggall – Havas EHS


Life after Sochi

As featured in Advertising Week Europe

I loved not watching the Winter Olympics this year. Instead I watched the legions of armchair fans who, for three weeks, become obsessive about the winter sports they are, as I write, forgetting everything about. Except the name of that German ski jumper, nobody’s forgotten that.

The model of a sudden pique in enthusiasm and interest for a short time followed by a rapid decline reminded me of something. It is the adoption model for 99% of social games titles. A model that resembles less of the traditional adoption bell curve and more of the shark fin described by Downes and Nunes in their book Big Bang Disruption. Having consulted in the industry for a couple of years the hits model is the accepted status quo despite the fact it can cause major uncertainties for investors.

This is because for every Farmville there are thousands of unknown titles. It took Rovio fifty one unknown publications before Angry Birds and even when a game’s audience does reach critical mass there is no guarantee they will stay. Remember that Pictionary-style game you used to play a few years back? It was called Draw Something. It was purchased by games giant Zynga for $200 million in 2012 and chances are you, and all your friends, and all their friends don’t play it anymore.

So not watching the Winter Olympics gave me an idea. If the star power of ski-jumping chalet girls and unknown curlers doesn’t offer brands the same return as high profile endorsements then what opportunities do exist? Given the pique in interest over a short space of time Sochi lends itself more to newsjacking, real time brand publishing and social gaming opportunities that follow a similar adoption model.

Visa’s Financial Football, Intel’s You Be The Driver and Old Spice’s Muscle Music are great examples of successful ‘advergames’. For brands looking for innovative ways to engage an audience jaded by traditional media, games leveraging the hype of a major event might just prove effective. After all we need something to do with our hands when the curlers are between ends. Activities designed to embrace the moment, with obsoletion in mind might be a tough sell to clients, but any form of hit would be a modern marketers dream.

About the Author

Will Butterworth is a planner who likes people watching, storytelling, cycling and Bill Murray. When he’s not at work he spends his time trying to achieve spiritual enlightenment through exercise.

Will Butterworth

Planner at HavasEHS


Blog entry for Advertising Week Europe: What Kurt Cobain can teach us about marketing

As featured in Advertising Week Europe

Listen to Nirvana

Twelve years ago at Leo Burnett I was asked the most interesting interview question I’ve ever encountered: “What’s your favourite song lyric?”. I chose a line from Nirvana’s ‘Lounge Act’:

“Don’t tell me what I want to hear, I’m afraid of never knowing fear.”

While it used to perfectly encapsulate my existential angst, I believe it’s also relevant to us marketing agencies. Here’s how.

Don’t tell the clients what they want to hear

“Good, fast or cheap. Pick two.” You’ve heard it before. But the client wants all three – and we tell them that’s OK. It’s not and they’ll always be disappointed if they think it is.

Don’t tell the creatives what they want to hear

“The client really likes your concepts, but…”. We don’t need to be approached with that pained look. We’re grown-ups doing a job. We’re passionate not precious and we can take it.

Don’t tell the consumers what they want to hear

Don’t tell them what they want to hear – tell them what they want. Or at least show them how they feel. That’s what Kurt Cobain did and what Don Draper did (both mad men in their own way), so it must be true.

Alex Hess

Senior Copywriter at Havas EHS


Havas EHS partners with software platform Provenir to underpin FULCRM


London, UK – January 22, 2014Havas EHS today announces its strategic partnership with leading software platform Provenir . The partnership will allow the agency to utilise Provenir’s real-time customer engagement platform as a base for its new client solutions.

The new agreement will enable all Havas EHS business units to craft and orchestrate new digital interaction and social engagement offerings for its clients. The cloud-based platform will give Havas EHS’ clients the ability to proactively listen in real-time for “moments of truth” from consumers and immediately convert them into interactive brand experiences.

“After seeing incredible results from Provenir in multiple pilot projects, we have selected the Provenir Platform to underpin FULCRM, our real-time engagement offerings,” said Tash Whitmey, CEO of Havas EHS. “Provenir is a key partner that we see as being able to enable data inspired ideas on which FULCRM is built. It uses contextual data in real-time to build far deeper pictures of each customer and allows us to deliver immediate, intimate actions that are genuinely engaging.”

Mark Smith, Ph.D., President of Provenir’s customer listening division, added, “This new agreement is a great testament to both the promise of Provenir’s technology and of Havas EHS’ great commitment to deliver truly innovative offerings to its clients across the globe.”

Havas EHS’ successful pilot projects with Provenir included converting a client’s traditional card-based loyalty programme into one that is digital, mobile, social and connected in real-time. The new solution delivers orchestrated loyalty journeys across live POS interactions, the mobile app, the website and social comments on Twitter.  The brand is now listening to the entire Twitter pipe for comments from its loyalty programme members, and when detected, immediately and automatically awards additional loyalty points. Additionally, members can earn points and redeem them in real-time while benefitting from real-time location-based offers and messages.


About Havas EHS

Havas EHS is a leading UK digitally-driven creative agency, with the single-minded mission of being the best in world at creating and delivering ideas, powered by data, for the digital world.

With offices in London and Cirencester and sitting in the global Havas network, Havas EHS is built on a well-proven foundation of 25 years of world-class direct, digital, CRM and data expertise. With a clear focus of innovation and being ahead of the market the agency has created FULCRM: a bespoke approach to client needs which successfully marries data, creative and digital solutions to create effective and engaging customer experiences. If a fulcrum is the support about which a lever pivots, then FULCRM is the experience about which a brand pivots. Its clients include TSB, Diageo, Simple, Dove, Unilever, easyJet, Volvo, Subway, Pets at Home, Peugeot, e.on and Tesco Clubcard

About Provenir
Provenir is a pioneer in Big Data listening and engagement solutions. With more than a decade of complex event processing experience, Provenir’s platform allows brands to dynamically and immediately interact with customers to create differentiated, contextual and individual consumer experiences. The platform enables brands to proactively listen, decide and engage with customers across all channels in real-time by connecting existing systems, tools and customer data, and allowing marketers to create logical workflows, rules and automated interaction processes. For more information please visit www.provenir.com/listening, and follow us on Twitter @ProvenirEngage.

Keywords: Provenir, Havas, loyalty, digital agency, interactive agency, social listening, customer listening, customer engagement, customer experience, Big Data, marketing, customer communications, real-time, analytics

Learn from the experts; Ben Silcox gives his view on how to build a CRM strategy


The big picture: How to build a CRM strategy for 2014

Back in 2001, the sorry state of CRM implementations as captured for posterity by a headline-grabbing piece of research from Gartner, which reported that 20% of CRM programmes were failing to meet expectations.

Accompanied by a warning that an over-emphasis on technology at the expense of strategic direction was responsible for many of the shortcomings, the research became synonymous with CRM.

Ben Silcox, Head of Data and Technology at Havas EHS gives his thoughts on building a CRM strategy.

To read the article in full click here

DMA Awards gongs cap off a great 2013 for Havas EHS

Last month we were absolutely delighted to pick up three Gold and One Silver for our work with easyJet and Pets at Home at the DMA Awards. It’s definitely fair to say that we beat off some stiff competition.

The DMAs are a very important award category as they represent the very best of direct marketing and are defining the future of our industry and what great looks like for us all.

As one of the judges this year, it was clear that this is still a vibrant area looking firmly to the future of customer marketing, and full of great examples of client work across multiple sectors so to be one of the most highly awarded agencies is both an honour and a huge accolade.

We know that winning awards is critical to us as an agency as it’s a clear demonstration of our ability to create great work that works.

We are immensely proud of everyone who has touched the two accounts and that same work has also seen us shortlisted for three Data Strategy Awards.

It has helped cap off a fabulous year for Havas EHS that has seen us grow in size, capability and talent.

We’ve produced a short 2013 highlights reel which you can check out. Have a wonderful Christmas break and here’s to 2014.

Prosumer Report: Building Brands That Matter

Brand preference and loyalty are not static; they must be earned and re-earned over time. In this edition of the Prosumer Report, we sought to understand what brands must do to stay relevant in consumers’ lives.

Staying relevant has always been important but is especially vital at a time when consumers have so much choice and information at their disposal. Having once had only price to compare products with, consumers can now all peek behind the curtain to glean as much information they want around a product’s provenance and materials/ingredients, as well as the reputation of the brand.

Our study found that brand relevance is underpinned by two essential factors: trust and dynamism. These two factors touch on the brand’s past and future — measuring the place it currently exists while also anticipating its impact on the future.