Let them eat cake

Birthday celebration cakeIt’s been a delicious week at Innes Associates. Two of the team celebrated their birthdays and, given that there are some keen (and very competent) bakers among our number, home-made cake was the order of the day – not just once but twice!

And it’s not only in-house that Innes Associates recommends celebrating special occasions with tasty treats.  Having blown out the candles and loosened our waistbands, we thought we’d take a moment to recollect some of the occasions when we’ve helped our clients to mark an anniversary or promotion with a celebratory bake or two…

Thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker et al, there has been a big rise in the popularity of cupcakes.  Innes Associates enjoyed commissioning several hundred specially iced cupcakes for a freight forwarding client’s 10th birthday.  These were delivered to individually named contacts who regarded them as a pleasant change to the business correspondence that passes across their desks on a daily basis.

More recently, Innes Associates staff were involved in hand-delivering some personalised copies of an industry supplement to some of a client’s key contacts.  Knowing how much we all enjoy reading the newspaper with a hot cuppa and a biscuit, we included a tempting piece of Scottish shortbread in the package.  According to feedback, the promotional effort struck a sweet note with the recipients.

If your organisation has a special celebration or milestone coming up, we’d be happy to provide some food for thought – and all in the best possible taste of course!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

ChristmasEverywhere you go, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Christmas lights are already adorning the shopping streets of London and here in Aberdeen the Christmas lights have marched their way down Union Street thanks to the efforts of the council staff.  Let’s just hope that they aren’t subjected to the strong winds that battered them last December, which meant they didn’t shine as brightly or for as long as usual.

Christmas is always a busy time for the retail sector with every brand fighting for our custom.  Each year the big names roll out festive advertising campaigns in order to capture our attention to ensure we visit their stores or buy their products.  This year is no exception, with brands rolling out all manner of festive-themed campaigns.

2012 adverts

Asda launched an amusing advert for its 2012 festive campaign that depicted a mother preparing for Christmas.  However, the minute-long advert has angered some people who claim it is sexist and its strapline of ‘Behind every great Christmas there’s mum’ could reinforce negative gender stereotypes.  Others say it accurately reflects the division of labour in a household.  Perhaps we should just view it in the way it is intended; an amusing look at all the work that goes into making Christmas a memorable family day.  Watch it below and make up your own mind.

Asda hasn’t been alone in irking TV viewers with its advert, Boots and Morrisons have both received objections to their yuletide adverts.  It seems not everyone is enjoying the light-hearted theme that is running through this year’s Christmas ads.

In the Boots advert, dog lovers have objected about a girl blow drying her dog’s hair in order to make it look like a unicorn – claiming it could harm the dog.  Others have raised concerns about children using electrical appliances.  While Morrisons’ advert follows a similar theme to Asda’s and has also been criticised for being sexist, it is arguably more comic than its larger rival.  Perhaps all these complaints are being generated just because as a nation we like to complain!

Last year’s soar away Christmas advert success came from John Lewis.  It was an inspired piece of storytelling that left much of the nation reaching for their hankies to wipe away tears when they realised that the wee boy didn’t want Christmas to hurry up and arrive so he could get his presents from Santa, but instead it was so he could give his gifts to others.

So how would John Lewis follow it up this year?  With a budget of £6million it would turn out to be another great piece of storytelling that conveys the message of it being better to give than to receive.  The journey is the 90-second story of a snowman walking across the countryside, wading through rivers, crossing motorways and dodging snowball fights in pursuit of getting the perfect gift for his snow-lady.  Going by the online response it would seem John Lewis has another winner on its hands and is again helping sales of Kleenex!

 

Christmas crackers

What of yuletides past, what adverts have stuck in our minds?  Marketing Week has had a look back at some of the most memorable of recent years and there are a few classics.  Who can forget that magical place with toys in their millions that was Toy R Us’ 1990s advert.  It was so popular that the toy store remade it for Christmas 2009.  Irn Bru’s fun parody of the 1980’s film The Snowman was a winner with viewers and critics alike when it launched in 2007.

Another that makes it onto the Marketing Week list is Coca Cola’s holidays are coming campaign.  The main theme of the advert hasn’t changed over the years; it always proves popular and is now a Christmas mainstay.  Perhaps it works so well because it has run for so long and taps into our nostalgic memories, taking us back to a time in our lives that seemed so much better.  But, in 1993 Coca Cola dispensed with tradition and went with polar bears settling down to watch the Northern Lights with a bottle of ‘the real thing’.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolates and Quality Street makes it onto the Marketing Week list with its 30-second magic moments lollipop lady advert.  It’s heart warming and amusing, not least because of the way the wee lad nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders and says: “It’s OK”.  At what other time of the year apart from Christmas would you eat Ferrero Rocher?  Whether it is at a diplomat’s party or just round at your friends, Ferrero Rocher’s adverts always at least raise a smile.  Back in 1985 Cadbury’s said thank you very much very simply with this 10-second Roses advert.  A short and simple advert with a memorable jingle!

One brand whose Christmas adverts didn’t rely on a memorable jingle, but instead used a cracking Christmas hit, was Andrex.  The toilet roll manufacturer used Slade’s ‘So here it is merry Christmas’ as the backing track to its festive campaign while a Labrador puppy darted about in the snow chasing toilet paper and a duck skidded on ice.  Cuddly and amusing, but it also reinforced the age old message that a puppy is for life and not just for Christmas.

Staying on a canine theme; whatever you do don’t forget a present for your four-legged friend.  Pedigree ran a very clever campaign about a dog getting revenge on its owner when they forgot about it at Christmas.  So be warned, don’t miss your pooch off the Christmas list or this could happen!

Just as we publish this story news is reaching us of HMV’s 2012 campaign.  Nipper the dog is coming to life alongside his best friend Gramophone in a series of 11 animated spots.  The humorous Christmas Tales campaign is a departure from HMV’s previously product and price focussed advertising.  From those we’ve seen online the short ads have made us chuckle.

An extra stocking filler

Still in need of more Christmas adverts?  There are more on the Thinkbox website and if you search for UK Christmas adverts on YouTube, this selection box appears.  And, if you’re now singing ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ to yourself, here’s Bing Crosby’s version.

Happy shopping and remember, just like John Lewis’ snowman, it is always better to give than to receive!

Innes Associates shows support for Cash for Kids

Innes Associates is pleased to provide north-east charity Cash for Kids with public relations support in connection with the launch of its Mission Christmas Appeal 2012.

Cash for Kids’ Mission Christmas Appeal encourages people to donate toys or make cash donations towards gifts for children throughout the north-east who otherwise would not receive any presents on Christmas day.  This year’s campaign has been kick-started with a donation of over 100 soft toys from Aberdeen’s Disney Store.  Cash for Kids distributed 2,444 gifts to youngsters in the area last year and anticipates that demand will be even greater in 2012.

“We have already received over 1,500 applications on behalf of children who are unlikely to be visited by Santa this year,” says Michelle Herd, charity manager, Cash for Kids.  “Most of these applications were received prior to the official launch of our appeal, so we are urging as many people as possible to get behind it.

“All gifts and donations will be gratefully received, no matter how large or small.  We have set up 24 drop-off points for gifts throughout Aberdeen city and shire to help make it easier for people to make a contribution.”

Previously known as the Christmas Toy Appeal, Cash for Kids’ Mission Christmas Appeal has been running since the charity’s launch in 1996 and has grown in scale each year.  Further information on the appeal, including details of gift drop-off points, is available at www.northsound1.com/missionchristmas.

An Emotional Time Back At University

Tears in a lecture theatre?  Who could ever have imagined that a lecture could be so emotional, but that is what happened when Ian went back to his alma mater, Robert Gordon University (RGU), to deliver a guest lecture on communication.

Towards the end of the hour-long session as one of the TV adverts he was showing came to an end, Ian looked round the class and spotted a student with tears rolling down their cheeks.  What was the advert that tugged the heartstrings so much?  John Lewis’ Christmas offering from last year, and the student sitting in the lecture theatre wasn’t alone in needing a hanky to dry their eyes.  When the advert was shown on TV screens in 2011 it provoked a crying fit among the public and reduced celebrities and TV critics to snivelling wrecks.

But why was Ian standing up at the front of a room full of students showing them TV adverts in the first place?

After he graduated from RGU with an honours degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management Ian spent five years working at Aberdeen’s exhibition centre.  While there he wasn’t able to shake off his links with the university as students studying his old course visited the venue annually for a tour and presentation.  When he moved to Innes Associates in 2009, his old lecturers tracked him down and asked if he would deliver a guest lecture to first year students studying hospitality, tourism and events courses.

Having endured all manner of guest lectures during his studies he knew how important it would be to make the session as entertaining as possible in order to hold the class’s attention.  Thankfully the days of Kepplestone with its hard seats – padding had been worn away by years of use – and overhead projectors and acetates were long gone.  Replaced instead by the Garthdee Campus’ comfortable tiered theatres that are fitted with an array of multimedia, allowing videos to be played with ease.

After defining communication and poking fun at our nosy nature, he looked at communication methods and compared today’s methods with those of 25 years ago.  Here he felt rather old – most of the audience were children of the 1990s and knew little of BBC computers, walkmans and car phones!

That section was rounded off by looking into the future and highlighting some of the technologies that are likely to be commonplace in a few years.  He also touched on how social media and technology is making it very easy for people to complain and suggested that they watch Dave Carroll’s video United Breaks Guitars.  The idea was to get them thinking about what communication methods they and their customers might be using when they enter the world of work.

Ian underlined that we don’t just communicate by written and verbal means; our dress, poise, actions and gestures communicate a lot as well.  Then it was into explaining the differences between internal and external communication by splitting it into the who, what, why, where and when of communication.  Having worked in all of the sectors that the students are studying, Ian was able to give real examples of the differences between internal and external communication in different situations.

Before giving his vocal chords a rest by showing the students some adverts, he explained a little about what he does for clients at Innes Associates.  But why play the students TV adverts; surely they see enough of them when they’re watching daytime TV?

Each advert was chosen because they are felt to be good examples of effective communication because everyone could relate to each of them in one way or another.  First up was Hovis’ 2008 epic 122-second advert that took viewers on a journey through 122 years of the firm’s history.  Featuring 750 extras, it depicts landmark events since 1886 that every viewer can relate to either in person or through their knowledge.  It also taps into our thirst for nostalgia and refers to the Hovis lad of old.

Then there was Cancer Research UK’s 2009 advert about being diagnosed with cancer.  It uses a minute-long montage of different people to provide the narrative that takes the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotion.  Again, everyone can relate to it and it tugs on the heartstrings and stops people in their tracks.

Next up was John Lewis’ 2011 Christmas advert.  Set to the Slow Moving Millie track “Please, Please, Please”, it was both amusing and unexpected.  It stirred the soul and took everyone back to the days when as a child they wished Christmas would hurry up and arrive as they knew there would be the chance of some presents being delivered.  But there was a twist and this is what catches the viewer off guard and winds them.  The wee lad wanted Christmas to come quickly so that he could get pleasure out of giving presents to his family.

Finally there was the BA Taxi advert from summer 2012 that showed a plane taxiing through the streets of London in advance of the Olympics.  An online version encouraged the public to enter their postcode and take a flight down their street.  The advert was personalised by using Google’s Street View, something that could be included in more adverts in the future.

The session was rounded off with a slide on differences in tone.  It covered the importance of spelling correctly, choosing the right words for a particular situation or publication, and not using text speak in letters and documents.  There was also a cautionary note regarding the internet with students being advised to think before posting pictures and text online as they are there for all, including prospective employers, to see.

So go forth and communicate, but as your Granny might say, remember your hanky!

Starting out in advertising, marketing and public relations: A guiding hand

ChecklistMany of the people who approach Innes Associates for support have ‘inherited’ responsibility for their company’s promotional or communications activity and may not have any experience in this area.  Innes Associates also receives a lot of approaches from young people who are looking for more information about public relations and marketing as career options; one of our team members, Ian, is called upon on an annual basis as a guest marketing lecturer for Tourism & Hospitality Management students at the Robert Gordon University (click here for the blog entry on his latest lecture).

Since it is our day to day business, the team at Innes Associates has put together a series of guides to public relations (PR), marketing and advertising.  We realise that most people are time-poor, so each guide is reasonably short and easy to read. The guides describe the basis of each subject and – we hope – help to clarify the differences between our three core activities.  Happy reading!

Innes Associates Guide to Advertising

Innes Associates Guide to Marketing

Innes Associates Guide to Public Relations