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Brief, brief, brief and brief again

Aim at the heart, starting with e brief

Oh yeah, brief, brief and brief again!
I feel I have to get back and post more about the brief because I DO believe that its creation is a pivotal moment in the creative process.

The more I thinks of how the creatives get together to approach the creative strategy and the more I think of… bump cars. Most of the blame should be put on us designers and creatives.
Put the blame on us for the all non-sense sacrality we poured onto our creative meetings… Just think of all the mistery evoque a words such as brainstorming or think tank .

Too many times we decided that brainstorming were endless meetings with no rule at all, lest forget precise rules. The briefs began to look as shaman meetings, more than business meetings.

Too many times are meeting seem to suggest the motto we don’t know where we want to go but we want to get there as fast we can.

Unfortunately it is true that several briefing meeting are pretentious, chaotic and follow no rules. Too often the scenario is far from being encouraging, this is why I believe that an accurate brief could be the first step to begin with to finally land on a successful creative strategy – regardless of the nature of the project, an ad campaign, an invitation or a brochure

We want to improve our image. We want to sell more. We want to attract more customers… These are the indications that too many times occur during the meetings and ALL THESE ARE NON-SENSE, sheer non-sense. These indications could practically fit any company, they are aspirations and way too generic to trigger any successful creative process
And THIS IS WHERE IS NECESSARY TO ACT, in the formulation of these indications, to bend them from simple aspirations into the bones of our brief and our strategy.

Do everything in your power to make sound as close as possible to something like what can we do to increase the over-40s client base? or how can we show using print and tv at our product stays on the road better than our direct competitors? or again how can we design a packaging that can be appreciated also by the elderly?

This is the right tone and the right approach. These are the right type of questions that help to reach more satisfying goals.

These are the kind of indications you should put in your brief documents, at the heart of your brief documents and of your creative process.

It is a little bit like planning a trip, this kind of indications give a better focus on the goal and reach it will be easier – the real challenge is not reaching the goal but doing it in a creative way.

Here some sparse hints, either you are a client or a designer:

  • Chose only one indication, if you can – you will be more focused .
  • Focus on one aspect
  • Communicate only one benefit – the rest of them will be perceived as well, if you succeed in establishing an empathic feeling with your audience
  • Research a lot, but keep it simple

These are rulses that come from the old school – USP, the famous Unique Selling Proposition – but that has still a lot to say in the 2.0 days.


So spoke Ogilvy

David Ogilvy, uno dei padri della pubblicità old school

Quando sono entrato nel mondo della comunicazione – ma in quegli anni la si chiamava più semplicisticamente “pubblicità” – il nome di David Ogilvy, padre del concetto del brand image, incuteva ancora rispetto in seno agli addetti ai lavori, anche per noi che allora eravamo piuttosto giovani e abbastanza arrembanti.
Ricordo che in quegli anni, fine 80, le agenzie facevano quadrato attorno al pensiero del proprio padre fondatore, tramandandolo, rinforzandolo e inculcandolo nelle teste dei giovani account e dei giovani creativi – una sorta di DNA infuso. Creavano il cosiddetto agenzia-pensiero che doveva permeare tutto ciò che usciva dalle teste dei loro creativi.

In quegli anni era più semplice parlare di stile di questa e quella agenzia – anche se, a dire il vero, c’ era chi sosteneva (e sostiene tuttora) che un’agenzia non debba avere uno stile proprio, per meglio mettersi al servizio del cliente.

Personalmente credo che la virtù stia nel mezzo, come sempre. Un’agenzia deve avere una sua personalità e stile, ma anche l’intelligenza per saperla declinare al servizio del cliente.

E Ogilvy, che di pubblicità ne masticava, ha lasciato il suo personalissimo e illustrissimo punto di vista sullo stile che un’agenzia deve avere e lo ha fatto in undici punti cardinali, i comandamenti di Ogilvy.

Rileggerli oggi, in questo periodo di transizione, di grande confusione e di estremo dinamismo – quasi funambolismo oserei direi -fa quasi tenerezza, ma mi piace recuperare un caposaldo della scuola pubblicitaria, i comandamenti dello stile secondo David Ogilvy, quasi candidi, ma ancora attuali.

Sono tratti direttamente dal suo libro “Le confessioni di un pubblicitario”, testo sacro della pubblicità – intendendo comunicazione vecchia scuola e ancora hanno fascino e sensatezza:

  1. Ciò che dite è più importante di come lo dite
  2. La vostra campagna fallirà se non la costruite intorno ad un’idea
  3. Date i fatti
  4. Non si convince la gente a comprare per noia
  5. Usate buone maniere, ma non fate pagliacciate
  6. Fate in modo che i vostri messaggi siano attuali
  7. Le commissioni possono criticare la pubblicità, non scriverla.
  8. Se avete la fortuna di scrivere un buon annuncio, ripetetelo fin quando non smette di vendere
  9. Non scrivete mai un annuncio che non mettereste sotto gli occhi della vostra famiglia
  10. Un’immagine di marca è saper scegliere i suoi tratti e mantenere una continuità di stile per molti anni
  11. Non copiate

Così parlò Ogilvy, che forse non era Zaratustra, ma che di pubblicità di certo ne masticava!

Leggete gli undici punti con attenzione, tenendo presente che David Ogilvy li annotò negli Stati Uniti degli anni Cinquanta e li ha pubblicati nel 1962… forse qualcuno andrebbe riformulato secondo le moderne tecniche e i nuovi media, ma tutto sommato…

Merry Xmas!

Merry Xmas to everyone…

Who is your brand talking to!?

In the modern world everything IS communication – even silence… Yep! because even whenn you don’t communicate you are actually communicating – and this is an aspect that too many brands will never fully understand.

Brand communication reaches different publics using different tones and adopting different key contents.
It is quite simple to understand that a brand would set a certain tone for an advertising campaign and another one for their communication activities towards banks and financial partners. The range of activities a brand adopts to deliver their messages to their audiences is called brand communication. Brand communication can result extremely broad and use different media delivering several different key contents, it all depends on the complexity of the brand itself and on the strategy adopted to influence their key markets.

As a matter of fact, brand communication is the sum of the conversations that a brand engages with their several stakeholders – conversation is the trendiest way to describe the communication activities a brand engages with their audience, that usually is rather multifaceted and clustered.

Either you are a designer or a client, it is fundamental to understand which are the key publics – the key stakeholders – of the communication strategy you are working on or working with.

To cut a long story short, the list of your stakeholders should, more or less, look like this one:

  • Generic public
  • Clients
  • Potential clients (prospects)
  • Competitors
  • Employees
  • Commercial and strategic partners
  • Media
  • Possible investors
  • Banks
  • Prossional boards and associations
  • Industry experts
  • Supplier
  • Company board and partners.
  • Everyone involved in planning the brand communication strategy should share the strategy goals and the necessary declinations that you must adopt to reach each of the stakeholder on your list.
    They all have different expectations, different priorities, different jargons. And they will all respond differently to your message.
    Write down a key goal for each of your stakeholder. Write down what action you expect to take in response to your call. Be specific, either you are on the creative side or on the brand side.
    Fine tune a message for each one of the stakeholders on your list, the time you will spend on this task will pay back in terms of ROI and in term of success of your communication strategy.

    The communication team, usually composed of the creative agency, the head of communication – or the brand manager – and some other top/middle manager, should share and understand tones, contents, goals, approaches, media – but, more than anything else, they should know who they are talking to.

    Albeit the contents and the tone set, the communication across the stakeholders must be consistent and convey the values, the vision and the mission of the brand. To achieve this the strategy must clear but farsighted enough. Be clear and don’t just work for the immediate but be rigid enough to guarantee solidity and consistency along the timeline and across the different audiences – but be aware, an excess of rigidity rhymes with sterility.

    Web then brought a new element in the communication scenario, the voice of the consumers. With the rise of web 2.0, consumers can finally have their say and influence from outside and from the bottom the success of brand, contributing even to model the brand strategy and their positioning .
    Who is not good at listening, is not good at communicating – this is the last communication rules the present has given to us.

    Orange is the colour for 2012


    … well, to be’ more precise colour for the next year will be Pantone 17-1463 Tangerine Tango. This is what Pantone announced with their usual late year press release,

    Said so, we should all expect an explosion of orange for the next year…

    “Tango Tangerine reflects the colour of the setting sun and perfectly marries the power of red and the warmth of yellow” – with these words Pantone reasons the choice, commenting on the 17-1463.

    And the colour has already been adopted by several brands, from the design world, to the fashion, to the cosmetic industry such as Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora and Adrienne Vittadini.


    Here is how to obtain the Tangerine Tango in the different colour models:

  • RGB 225,82,61
  • CMYK 0,82,80,0
  • And for the dear old fandecks? Look nearby 7625!

    A different point of view

    The usual frame...

    The Taj Mahl is without doubt one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. Every year millions of visitors travel to Agra, in the north part o India, with their cameras on their straps and, first thing once past the main gates, they point and shoot!

    Nothing wrong with it, of course, but succeeding in finding a moment when the Taj Mahal is not sieged by tourists is practically impossible – the gates open around 7 am, but even if you get there at that time in the morning, the chances to bring home a picture of the monument with no people in it are few.

    Let me give you an advice, nothing technical but that I still like to believe a lot related to photography.

    All the hints and advices from photographers who already had the chance to shoot the same location – possibly with a good result – have the power to improve my own photography skills… It’s a priceless help having somebody to tell you what’s the best time to be on location to capture a certain mood – an advice that is beats any indication on shutter/aperture blah blah blah,

    Many times, when you are abroad shooting, your schedule doesn’t allow an extra day for scouting, an activity that should be mandatory if your expectations are higher than just some holiday memories. But even in the pros world it could happen to only have the time to get to the location and shoot, so I believe that having some advices to rely on could help!

    Here’s my little advice dedicated to all those who want to bring home an unusual picture of the Taj Mahal.

    The Taj Mahal from the Jamuna River at dawn

    Agra is only a few hours of train from New Delhi, I suggest you to get there at least one day before, so you can be on location early in the morning, – the light at that time of the day is simply fantastic but the magic lasts no more than 20 minutes.
    When you get in the city, make a deal with one of the thousand tuk tuk drivers to take you to the Taj Mahal the next morning – the ride will cost you a few hundred rupees.
    Ask them to take you to Metabh Bagh and not to the main gates.
    The place is right behind the Taj Mahal and you get there crossing the Jamuna River on the NH93 bridge and following a country road that ends right on the river banks. Very near where you want to be there is a military compound, so move cautiously when you are there.
    Be there a little earlier – few minutes after dawn. Make sure you HAVE YOUR TRIPOD WITH YOU. Place your tripod and sit back to enjoy one of then world finest views.

    No people in your frame, unless you want them. The river and its reflections. The tranquility to move in closer or change the angle.

    Shutter/aperture?! … Do you really want to know them!?
    Ok. I set the camera in manual mode and metered in central average mode.
    The light of dawn suggested a warm tome and I boosted it a little using an orange Lee filter – sorry I don’t remember which one.
    Long shutter speed (1/13″) and close aperture (f16) – the equivalent of ISO 125

    I framed carefully – getting there a little earlier gave me the chance to shoot a couple of test shots and then decide what I liked the best.
    I was done in less than 15 minutes – that light didn’t last longer – and at 7.30 I was already back in Agra for a my breakfast with lassi and muesli.

    Is Google really so sexy?

    Is it really so sexy?!

    The web has grown and Google has grown with it. So, in the end, is it really so sexy?!
    Well, so it seems.

    We are not dealing with a simple search engine anymore. Google is not only a tool to search the web but, more often,  it is becoming  a powerful marketing tool, very useful to promote products and service.

    Let’s skip all the blah-blah about Google and web-marketing and let’s focus on the reasons why you should -or should not – put on a advertising campaing using Google AdWords.

    • the cost is reasonable and it does not need heavy start-up investments
    • the costs are always related to the responses your call-to-act campaign receives 
    • it focuses the message on the stakeholders you chose
    • it’s global
    • it intercepts the needs of the potential customer
    • it is highly scalable
    • it reacts in real time
    • it integrates with the traditional strategies
    • it generates a high amount of statistic data
    • the target is highly refinable
    Said so, you put up your campaign on your own but I do recommend to rely on communication experts – because it’s business anyway…
    Set up an AdWords campaign gives good results when integrated with the other tools of marketing communication.
    Another suggestion is that you launch your campaign ONLY when your web site is perfectly up and running.

    So, listen to the wordss of those who are real web marketing experts and try to avoid the number of time wasters, fine tune your web site and set your goals (real ones)… said this, HAVE A GREAT CAMPAIGN!

    Projects with a… strong character

    Most of the power of graphic design comes from balance – or the lack of it – between two fundamental elements: images and text.
    As long as we stay in the visual field, almost evyone understand what power to communicate have images – we all know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”…

    The power of text – as a graphic element – more often, is not understood by everyone, not too mention the even fewer that are actually able to appreciate it at its full.
    Designers themselves, especially if they form in the digital age, find little interest for the role that text plays on a page, on a poster, in a brochure or on the screen.

    Computers got us used to have access to somewhat like a hundred of typefaces – fonts – just a click away. I open a menu and I can chose from a an endless list of fonts… Nothing is faster, easier. Quite easy, I’d say.

    Many graphic designers think of typography as a secondary element while designing.

    Type foundries create new typefaces almost everyday and the web make them accessible in dozen. The times when designers such as Frutiger and Lubalin or Moser sat at their desk to design their immortal typefaces are gone.
    Nowadays few designer actually bother to know the history behind a typeface family… Even because most of the times there is none.

    I see as we all have become a sort of sommelier with a bad nose and the result is right there under everyone’s eyes, and our advertising campaigns, our brochures and our posters show their limits.

    We go for safer solutions or for solutions that follow the current trend and we end up with adding a another project on top of the pile of those that won’t remarkable or memorable..

    I am speaking to the fellow-designers – they have a,l the tools to feed their passion for typography, if they only want – I’d love to think that I am talking to potential purchasers of creativity and I’d love to think that I am somehow help them to enter the world of typefaces and give them some new tool to find their way around the typography fine world and, why not, push us to do better.
    Don’t panic, it’s not going to be a lesson…

    First of all a humble suggestion. Look for sinthesys.
    If you are commissioning a brochure to promote your company and you wrote the text a that we designers use to call copy – look for synthesis. Don”t ask the agency to fit your copy into few pages, when you wrote a whole book, and do go crazy if the designers are compelled to cut the wordy text.
    Text is fundamental but only of your readers actually read it. Otherwise it is only wasted ink – and wasted time,
    Please try to remember, people don’t like to read. And they do it only when captured by what they read.

    Before getting into the details of typography – that I will do in the next posts, let’s think of our text as WHOLE. How does my text look on my page? How much room? What is the relationship among the different elements? Do you find harmony? Is there balance?

    Observe the project with a certain detachment and isolate the elements, stripping off their meaning and treating them as sheer graphic element .

    I believe this is an excellent exercise and few client do it.
    it’s an exercise that allows the eye to catch the harmony and the rythm of fills and voids.
    Do this with a brochure page or with and advertising campaign, with an invitation card or with a poster.
    Train your gaze! I am certain that you will soon begin to look at graphic design projects with a different approach.

    Working under pressure

    BAD PRESSURE kills creativity

    Advertising – and communication in general – has a myth: “the best ideas are found under pressure”… “I give my best under pressure”

    I’d love to see this myth fall.
    Please let’s be serious… It is basically like saying that you wish that a Champions League would last only a handful of minutes instead of 90. Will you be happy to play your quarter of final in four rounds of watch? I don’t think so

    Smettiamola con questa storia dell’essere sotto pressione… un balla colossale.

    Creativity is a peculiar matter. Quite a misterious, no one actually knows when the Big Idea will come along and unfortunately this adds up to create the myth that the creative staff is a sort of magic box, with no rules and no time, where ideas comes from nowhere.

    If you have serious intentions in investing in creativity, my suggestion is to invest in TIME, too.

    Creativity has got a lot to do with the personality of e designer, with their backgrounds, their professional environment… And other thousand of aspects.

    There are designers who are organized and designers who are very instinctive, designers who love to sit and think and designers that just… create.
    Some of us handle pressure better than other. We are different and respond differently to external stimulation and pressure.
    Some of us can handle tense situations better than other, some have personal resources, creative resources and techniques that allow them to keep calm and focus.

    I like to think that there are two kinds of pressure: good pressure and bad pressure.
    The first one helps you to grow and get better as a designer, the second one only brings in confusion and anxiety.

    What’s behind good pressure?
    The right commitment, a positive environment, being aware of the importance of the project fr the client, our self esteem.

    And bad pressure?
    Tight deadlines, difficult relationship with the client and with the rest of the creative staff, a negative environment, bad organization and a dull commitment.

    I love working when there’s good pressure around. It is stimulating and pushes to do good. It drives me to stay at the computer and work more and even when I am gone from my desk I am aware my brain is still on the project.

    When bad pressure rises, anxiety and chaos take control.

    Good or bad, pressure will always be your uninvited companion of journey, a component of our job with whom we must learn to deal.

    Turn a blank page into a communication project always generates a good deal of pressure, it is up to us and to our client to learn to keep the pressure on the good side.

    Perhaps it is good that clients understand what happens in the creative staff when bad pressure takes on:

    • individual approach overcome teamwork, and quality usually dropslack of time limits research
    • lack of time gives you more chances to make mistakes
    • designers chose to play it safely and rely on safer solutions, discarding risky or alternative solutions

    Think about this when you buy a project and set the agenda and impose deadly deadlines!

    I believe that little time is as lethal as too much time. It might sound incredible but too much time for a project usually has the result to make the creative staff to lower the guard – too many times we, designers, said the crucial words “no problem we got plenty of time for this….” and too many times we postponed everything until the very deadline eve.

    I am also convinced that the words “I give my best under pressure” is usually an attempt to cover some organization flaws and our innate habit to postpone.

    A little pressure is great as a performance boost. A constant pressure causes burn-out.

    Try to explain to your clients that creative projects are the fruit of an organized process that passes through sharing the agenda and agreeing on deadlines, and not only the final ones.

    Organization is the keyword to beat deadline anxiety.
    Organizing the different phases of the creative process helps to maintain the right pressure – the good pressure – and the right focus, necessary to bring the project home. Experience will do the rest. I also believe that experience and organization CANNOT replace creativity, but they can give it a great hand.

    Maintaining the brand

    The brand lives everyday and brand managers must work daily to make the brand grow

    Handle and keeping consistent the assets of a brand is definitely a challenge, almost more difficult than creating a brand.
    You have just bought you new logo from the creative agency and they have just delivered the basic applications of it, such as the business cards, the letterhead and your new envelopes. You feel satisfied, it has been a frantic period, back and forth from the agency, while they were working on you projects and eventually now is done. Done!

    Big mistake, pal. It’s now that the work, the real work, begins.
    Many clients believe that the real investment is the money you put into the project and the energy and effort the agency put into creating the logo and the few tools to start using it.
    Somehow it is like that.
    You have to look at the new logo as a the basic tool on which build your brand.

    Consistency and enlightenment are what you actually need to cleverly manage a brand, especially when newly born.
    The management MUST understand that managing a brand is the summaof several daily tasks that must be done with patience and dedication and that brands live and survive only through these daily little tasks.

    Strong brands bring in added values that simple products just can’t, for this it is always worthy to invest into building brands, but you must be aware that it is a lengthy and expensive process that DOES NOT COMPLETE with the presentation of the new logo and with the delivery of the biz cards and letterheads.

    If the management is not focused on those activities that are necessary to strengthen the brand equity and if the resources are not adequate, the risk to dissolve all the efforts put into the designing project.

    This is a very frequent scenario: the client invests a lot in the designing of a new logo and put down the basis for the launch of the brand, the agency works hard and present a good job… Then everything stops and the brand never picks up – with the client usually blaming the lame success on the agency.

    It may look like a paradox but the creative phase is the simple part. The designing phase represents only the first step and the next steps are always very delicate. It is important the the client understand this.

    What should brand managers do? And what do agency should?
    A solid help could be found in a guide line handbook. The agency should define a practical guide to help everyone how to use the logo, how to use colors and typefaces to build consistency.
    Anyone asked to define the rule must have a good understanding of the brand and of the paradigms of communication. Most of all the agency must have a good sense of reality and understand that guide lines are effective when can be followed.

    Managers, instead, must understand that they must pay lot of attention to details and to how the brand is communicated – colors, typefaces, tone of voice, visuals… Everything matters and everything must be consistent.

    I think that a good agency must be able to offer both phases: the designing phase and the following part, made of consultancy, execution and creativity.