Book Excerpt: That’s Entertaining

In the 21st century, the entertainment experience has pervaded even the most mundane activities of our daily lives. Selling widgets on a Web site? You’re not exempt from the need to captivate before you get the chance to take an order. Want more business for your bank? If you’re Citibank, you don’t stop at using an Elton John song in your commercials. You create a content-rich online service that both engages and entertains your customers.
Entertainment is the Esperanto of our age, a universal language that draws people in almost hypnotically, a powerful magnetic force that, in many cases, serves as a bigger draw than the products themselves. This is going to have a huge impact on advertising and marketing. It will influence how we create and craft the brand experience. In the future, I can’t imagine that any creative idea will be executed until the entertainment value has been explored—and embedded into the brand experience.

Like Taking Candy From Baby

Billiken is a very well known candy brand in Argentina—the company makes soft and hard candy, fruit jellies and mints. It has a long history and is known as a high-quality brand. But the brand was in trouble.

The candy market is an interesting one—what the agency team in Argentina calls “hyperactive.” Because the primary consumers in that market are children, kids dictate a lot of the market dynamics. Here is what we know about kids: They have short attention spans. They get bored easily. They crave what’s new. For the candy companies, that means a company’s growth is heavily dependent on the ability to continually launch innovative new products.

When the client approached our agency, CraveroLanis Euro RSCG, the Billiken brand wasn’t attractive to consumers—Billiken was the candy that Mommy and Daddy ate when they were kids.

How do you take a tired old brand and make it attractive to 6- to 12-year-olds?

The agency turned to a partner that seems like a natural: The company made its consumers its brand partners.

Who better to create candy that children will like than the children themselves? Include them in the candy-making process, invite them to literally help design the candy, and kids would be getting exactly what they want.

To launch the concept of candy “for kids, by kids,” the agency turned first to mass media. A series of TV spots introduced children to the concept, encouraging them to “become a part of the dream” and create their own candy, then vote for their favorite idea through mail or online. At the Billiken Club Web site, kids got to draw their candy ideas. Plus, they got to become a member of a very exclusive club—just for kids!—complete with their very own membership card and very own member number.

The ideas the kids submitted were screened by a committee for technical feasibility. Those that passed the test were then posted on the Web site, where kids could vote for their favorites. The winning ideas showed up at the candy counter.

Concurrent with the launch of the Billiken Club Web site, the agency undertook a massive promotional campaign: posters, fliers, inserts in newspapers and magazines, direct-mail samples. It even redesigned the workers’ uniforms. The company forged alliances with schools, not just to distribute samples and information pertaining to the contest, but also to offer activities that would stimulate group creativity.

And creative is certainly a good descriptor for what came out of the children’s imaginations: a chocolate spoon that dissolved in milk. A bubblegum–flavored cookie.

Billiken was hoping that 40,000 children would visit the Web site by the sixth month. It drew twice that number. Billiken was hoping for 2,500 proposals for new types of candy. It received 11,000. Within two months, more than 12,000 children had registered for the club. Billiken contacted them directly every week—giving the company a valuable database and a direct line into the mind-sets of its customers.

But I don’t think the real story here is in the numbers. It’s in connecting the idea, the brand, with consumers in a way no one had ever done before, developing not just a great interactive brand experience, and an entertaining one, but making the consumers fully vested participants in the brand itself.

Billiken’s Leap

The agency was quick to recognize that Billiken needed more than an ad campaign or a makeover—the brand needed to be relaunched. Nothing less would make the brand appeal to children, revitalize the brand’s image and differentiate Billiken from its competitors.



Nokia’s New Game

How do you use the power of entertainment to connect consumers to your brand?

A hundred and fifty years ago, Nokia was in the business of selling paper. Once it got into the business of making mobile phones, it took the company only 11 years to become a market leader worldwide. To remain the dominant brand in a rapidly growing market of evolving technology, Nokia needed to get creative in an increasingly saturated and confusing marketplace.

The year was 1999. Nokia was smart enough to realize that it wasn’t just in the business of making mobile phones; it was in the business of connecting people through mobile services. And to do that well, it needed to connect mobile consumers to the Nokia brand. For that, it turned to its PR agency and interactive agency in Rotterdam, Bikker Euro RSCG and Human-i Euro RSCG.

Eventually the team came up with a James Bond-like adventure story that would be called “Nokia Game,” created by Sicco Beerda and Joost van Liemt, at the time creative directors at Bikker Euro RSCG.

The plan was to offer Nokia Game to all mobile phone users—not just Nokia users—with a primary target of Europeans ages 15 to 35 who had Internet access. This would allow the company to connect with consumers beyond its core customers.

Though it was primarily an online adventure game, Nokia Game used all kinds of media: TV spots, short-message text on a player’s cell phone, mysterious phone calls, and hidden messages in newspaper and magazine ads, in addition to the Internet. Following a pilot project in 1999 in the Netherlands, the game kicked off in 18 countries in November 2000. By way of introduction, consumers across Europe were told only that “Nokia Game is coming—be ready—subscribe on the Internet.” Nearly half a million people registered for the game. On the day prior to the official start date, registered players received a cryptic mobile phone message from a woman who would become one of the main characters in the adventure.

The next day players received an e-mail message directing them to tune into a TV spot, which in turn directed them to a Web address and then to a newspaper. The evolving story line also included communication between players, who essentially “lived the adventure” for three weeks, day and night. All 500,000 players started the game at the same time and lived the same story in their own languages. The buzz generated around the brand even led to the creation of some 30 Internet sites that players created on their own to discuss conspiracy theories and share information.

With Nokia Game, client and agency succeeded in their mission to connect mobile consumers to the Nokia brand, not just as a company that manufactures handsets but as a provider of meaningful and entertaining mobile services. They wanted to change the way consumers think of Nokia by delivering on a brand promise that said this product helps you shape your life and connects you to others and to the world around you. And for good measure, the integrated multimedia campaign picked up a gold Lion direct award at the 2002 International Advertising Festival in Cannes.

Nokia’s Leap

At the time, Nokia’s advertising tagline was “Connecting people.” The agency team began to think of ways to make Nokia’s tagline come to life. The team ultimately settled on the idea of connecting with consumers by, essentially, drawing them into a really good story. “We wanted to show Nokia that there was another way of connecting people—not just by product but by communication of the Nokia brand itself,” says Marco Boender, chief operating officer of Human-i Euro RSCG. “That’s where the creative leap began. We thought, what would be a better way to connect people? What do people talk about? People talk about good stories, about good challenges.” What the agency team had discovered was the essence of the consumer DNA. They had tapped into what the consumer wanted to experience. Now they just had to connect the consumer to the brand.



‘Room Service’

One of our agencies in Sweden created a TV show that was rated No. 2 on its channel in the first year. It all started in what seems the most unlikely of places: Sweden’s paint industry. Ten years ago, Malaremastarna (the Swedish Association of Painting Contractors) created an association for the paint and painters industry in Sweden called Färgdepartementet—which roughly translates as “Institute for Color.”

Since the organization’s inception, the goals had remained consistent: Defend the market of paint and paint services against other markets; expand the market; and, ultimately, place painting high on the priority list in consumers’ minds. To accomplish those goals, Euro RSCG Söderberg Arbman had relied primarily on traditional media, including one commercial that featured some of Sweden’s top politicians.

Then the home-decorating trend hit. Suddenly, decorating became fashionable, trendy, a cool thing on which to spend time—and money. The paint association wanted to be part of it. To capitalize on the trend, the association decided it needed to overhaul its image. Painters had been perceived as not-so-bright, not-so-creative guys who paint only in white. The industry wanted to make painting and painters more fashionable, more artistic.

The agency thought it had come up with an idea that perfectly met every objective. It would showcase fresh new decorating ideas that were extremely affordable. It would demonstrate that painters can be creative types who can work wonders in one’s home. And, ultimately, it would get more people to hire professional painters in addition to selling more paint.

What the agency proposed was a television series to be aired on national TV in Sweden. The series of 10 half-hour shows would introduce viewers to fashion trends in home decorating, feature young, artistic painters, and include new ideas for decorating with paint—and lots of rock ‘n’ roll. A young, fun, hip TV show with a rock feel seemed like the ideal vehicle with which to reach the primary target: young people (ages 25 to 35) living in small apartments with equally small budgets, people who care about their living space but have no idea how to redecorate.

To recruit people for the show—both those who wanted to have their spaces redecorated and those who would make up the Room Service decorating teams—the agency distributed leaflets in coffee shops, game centers and other places where young people hang out. The show was promoted in all paint stores in Sweden. A Room Service Web site was launched. Ads ran in print and on television. The TV channel also provided the agency with a lot of airtime prior to the show—the agency cut together trailers, which teased upcoming episodes.

The ratings for Room Service exceeded estimates by 100 percent. The show was so successful that Channel 5 has signed up for another season and the paint association has agreed to fund it. Room Service has even spawned a new logotype called “Johnnie Starpainter” (Johnnie is the name of the painter in the TV show), which is being used in a recruitment campaign to attract young people, both men and women, to the painting trade.

Room Service’s Leap

The ad campaigns created by the agency up to this point had been reasonably effective. They had shown audiences the importance of having nice surroundings at home and in the office—even in public facilities. But now it was time to break new ground. The agency knew what it needed to do: bring fun and fashion into painting and show viewers the simple, even inexpensive things one could do to improve one’s decor with paint.

This is the end of advertising as we know it and the beginning of something new. To me, it is so exciting, so stimulating from both a left- and a right-brain point of view, and also potentially so much more rewarding in every way than the “old” advertising business. I believe it’s absolutely the most exciting time to be working in this industry … as long as we constantly remind ourselves of what business we’re really in.

FROM “LEAP: A REVOLUTION IN CREATIVE BUSINESS STRATEGY,” BY BOB SCHMETTERER. PUBLISHED IN 2003 BY JOHN WILEY & SONS.