You’ve probably seen Nike’s ‘Write The Future’ spot, and chuckled at how real life played completely differently. You also saw the copious offerings from MTN, Coca-Cola and Sony 3D LCD. Well, here’s a best-of list, courtesy of the good folk at adforum.com. To get you started, a print ad from Unilever’s Axe brand (known as Lynx in the UK), celebrating the England team. Obviously, it ran well before the tournament, and before Robert Green’s dreadful blunder. Enjoy.

And see the full list here and here.

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Kuweni Serious empowers people to address Kenya's issues. (Picture Courtesy of KuweniSerious.org)

After we posted the article on the overwhelming response to a grassroots campaign by friends and family of the late Martin Njuma, our attention was drawn to yet another social activism effort, this time with a considerably wider scope. The campaign, under the moniker “Kuweni Serious” (i.e. Get Serious, People), makes use of video interviews of Kenyans — ordinary and extraordinary — sharing their thoughts on the Kenya we know today, and how we can contribute to fashioning the Kenya we want tomorrow. (See their interview with anti-corruption activist John Githongo below)

Kuweni Serious’s themes and method are simple, and therefore intriguing.  The videos are shot, treated and edited with an even-handed, artistic flare – all the while focusing on the subjects. We don’t hear any questions asked. Rather, they are posted on the screen so that we read them and are almost forced to ask ourselves the same. The subjects are frank and comfortable and accessible. They make us want to listen to them. When they respond to the questions, gazing at the camera or the invisible interviewer, they avoid the self-centered ranting we’re so used to.

There are virtually no bitter diatribes, no annoying whining, no pompous posturing. Just people we recognize and identify with, reasoning with us as equals, and educating us on a different point of view. No punches are pulled, though. The truth — at times chilling and bitter — is spoken frankly, but with a touch so personal that we can’t help feeling a lingering optimism for the future.

The videos, transcripts, and a couple of articles, can be found on their website and YouTube channel. The interviews have drawn thousands of views and dozens of comments so far, and attention appears to be growing. We at The Board again, have been forced to pay attention to a grassroots effort directed at a noble cause, by a group of ordinary young citizens. As far as we know there may be no agencies, no big budgets or large-scale media efforts involved. Just a camera, a clear agenda and a deft affinity for employing the powers of the ‘Net. This is what’s going on out there, ad industry folk. This is what the people are capable of. We have much to learn.

To learn more about Kuweni Serious, visit their About Page and follow them on Twitter @kuweniserious.

… we will repost a few gems from the past. After taking our prolonged sabbatical from analyzing, writing and publishing, we went back into our repository to find those article and tidbits that made the Boardroom tick. We found many gems that hold true as much today as they did a couple of years ago.

Look out for them in our new “From The Archives” section.

Have a good one!

(Originally published Feb 9 2010)

The display of solidarity and support for Martin Njuma's cause by his friends and family made audiences sit up and pay attention. Picture by Koki Mutua

You may have heard by now about the tragic demise of Martin Njuma, a young Kenya Airways pilot. He succumbed to injuries he sustained after he was attacked by robbers on Uhuru Highway. We feature this story not just because of our sympathy and support for Martin’s family and friends, but also because we were spectacularly impressed by what they have achieved since.

After launching a Facebook group in tribute to him, Martin’s friends organized a peaceful demonstration to protest Nairobi’s growing insecurity. Hundreds of people were made aware of the event via online invites. Then, the organizers took it a step further. They rented a billboard at the Uhuru Highway/Haile Selassie roundabout, and bought space on the digital screen right next to it. Successful PR efforts saw the publishing of Martin’s story in leading newspapers, and coverage on major TV networks prior to the protest. The result? Hundreds of marchers showed up, many dressed in the unmistakable white t-shirts adorned with Martin’s warm face, and a heartfelt appeal to make Nairobi safer. The story, now moving on its own momentum was featured on the Sunday night news and in the Monday newspapers. To date YouTube videos of the coverage have raked up tens of thousands of views.

This is the power of a campaign ran, not from powerful ad agencies and media buying companies, but from a group of concerned, dedicated and passionate individuals, moved by the needless demise of a promising young man. It is amazing what his family and friends have done to make so many people aware of the needless death of so many individuals. Now, the Internal Security Ministry and the Kenya Police have been prodded into action. Continuous patrols on the highway have been promised. Martin Njuma has been on the lips of thousands of Nairobians, now concerned and aware and empowered. The change has began. The results are visible and tangible. And if this, as one protester said, is just the genesis of the movement in Martin’s honor, then the ad industry should watch and learn what great things can be achieved when advertising is carried out from the heart.

Local advertising once needed a friendly nudge in the right direction, and that season passed. It then needed a slap on the wrist, and then that season passed. Then it needed a swift kick in the pants, but we’re beyond that period. We’ve now careened past the point where a complete paradigm shift was required.

To change things now will require straight-up brawn, sheer willpower, thick skins, nerves of steel. We need visionaries, ass-kickers, foot-put-downers, ballsy hustlers, revolutionaries and psychos. We’ll need to rally the old guard from the good days, the loud-voiced short-tempered lady who made clients shut up and listen, the kid with the homemade portfolio and a dream. Bring back the culture, the spark, the dream, the adventure, the risk, the leap of faith, the late nights, the nutty parties, the brass trophies, the recognition. We need to bring back advertising – in all its novelty and anguish and glory.

We’re not in a hole just yet, God forbid, but getting us out of this dip will take superheroes who have not forgotten where this industry has come from and why it is here.

What will you do?

Yes, the fanfare’s minimal, but after a very necessary hiatus, we have indeed returned. Browse our archive and look out for our new material.

And thank you for coming.

Happy New Year, people.

Yes, another compact batch of 365 blessed days, and we’re excited about
each one of them. This will no doubt be one of the most active
years in advertising ever. We’ll be swamped by a smorgasbord of commercial,
political and social messages, obviously stoked by an improving economy, a charged market, and an impending General Election.

Much as the industry will be a lot busier, will it be any better? That, we’ll leave to those that clutch the stakes; the clients, the agencies, the smaller ad shops, the creatives, the media planners, the media buyers, the media owners, and the Good Lord.

We’ll be observing from the sidelines, and doing what we do as best as we can. We hope you’ll stay with us.

Thank you. A toast to 2007!

If you were anywhere near a radio on Monday the 12th, on the eve of Jamhuri day, even for a few minutes, then you probably heard it. The ad – more like a jingle, that was played incessantly, ALL day, with at least 5 to 10 minutes interval between airings. It’s lyrics “Freedom is coming tomorrow …” were definately inspired(?!) by the classic song of the same name by Mbongeni Ngema. All we heard was the song, followed by the Celtel ident at the end. I really have no problem with the idea, it worked well for its eventual reveal the next day. We had this one little problem:

IT’S ANNOYING!!

While repeatedly assulting an audience with the same ad message might seem like a good idea, it’s in reality a terrible thing to do, much like feeding a toddler mashed pumpkin every 15 minutes. It’s good for them, but they’ll get sick of it, and they’ll never like it again. This isn’t the first ad we’ve had to sit through and bear for more than times than we care to stand. The same perpetrators sickened us with their 40 bob scratch card radio spot. All I remember is a Luo-accented lady yapping away and ululating at the end.

It’s all I would like to remember. Anything beyond that is traumatic.

Think back to the time when the words ‘Win A Car’ generated mass excitement, and realize just how much brand promotions have been trivialized. It seems the trend is to get the market excited, albeit for a short time, about one brand or the other.

Yet, it is common knowledge by now that no brand promotion will generate any long-term brand equity. The short-term sales peak is good, but promos will never be the be-all and end-all of brand communication.

Still, it was intriguing to see the extents to which brands were willing to go to ‘reward consumers’ and earn millions of shillings in bite-sized morsels. Since promos seem to be all the rage now, we decided to put together a few pointers to follow if you’re considering getting your own little promotion running. All these, we have observed from the veterans in the game. Ladies and Gentlemen, we present:

The Ad Boardroom Guide to creating a Brand Promo™:
Step One – The Loot
Get a nice ‘grand’ prize. It drives the promo. It’s not really the size of the booty that matters. It’s how you present it. You can’t go wrong with money. It’s the denominating factor that unites everyone; even those outside your target group. It may present a few problems when a house-help wins a Merc, but even a middle-aged man could win on an Always promotion if cash is involved! Always remember to flash as much of the brown legal tender as possible, all over you artworks and TV commercials. Refer to it as ‘cash’; feel free to precede it by the word ‘easy’ if you like. Keep the main prize amount at six figures and above. Always display the reverse side of the note – the one with the elephants – because showing former presidents’ portraits might evoke unfavorable reactions. If you must make use of visage, opt for the one of our founding father. Oh, and never doubt the power of consolation prizes. Anything smaller than the main prize can count as consolation, from a power generator to a family-size Thermos flask.

Step Two – The Baptism
Pick a good name. Since it will be the most prominent identifier of your promo, it should sound “nice”, “catchy and “memorable”. It’s best if the name sounds good when mentioned at deafening decibels in sing-song Kenyan style, by a male voiceover on a sugar high. Always craft the name using the tried and trusted ‘Promo Moniker Template ™’, which follows the format; ‘Kiswahili Title’ followed by ‘na’ followed by ‘Brand Name’. The Kiswahili title should depict a won state, either explicitly (Shinda, Kuwa Bingwa, Tajirika, Vuna Doh’, Nyakua Chapaa, Pata Bibi) or implicitly (Jionyeshe, Meremeta, Rarua, Bambika, Rembeka, Washa, Tetemesha, Ura, Timua Speedi, Simama, Angukia). The inevitable ‘Na’ should comfortably lead up to your Brand Name, because with so many other promos out there, your brand needs to be part of your unique promotional ID.

Step Three – The Process
Put together your mechanics. They must be fashioned so as to make the promo as “Easy-to-Enter” as possible. There must ALWAYS be a purchase involved; otherwise your overall efforts will be useless. You could either include an entry form only with the pack, or ask the consumer to include a proof of purchase with his entry. If you’re in the service sector, then ensure your mode of entry is tied as closely as possible to the service in particular. Then, you can proudly place the token reminder at the end of your communication: “The more you enter, the greater your chances of winning!!”
If you choose to ask a question, please don’t strain your consumer. Go for an absolute no-brainer; “The Sokoni magazine article entitled ‘Ad Boardroom’ is published by which magazine? S_K_NI”
Place a bin outside a “selected outlet”, into which the entry forms will be dropped. Plaster it with enough promo posters to create a radiation-proof layer. This will not only assure you of ‘strong branding’ in all the clutter. It will also keep your bin from being tampered with.

However, there’s a different route for those of you with the cheek to make your audience spend more money as they try to win some. Avoid entry forms. They’re so 1990’s. Use mobile telephony, and make more money! It’s not enough that your audience is buying into your brand. Burden them further by having them send a certain code to a premium rate number where you can charge them more. Besides, they do want to win, don’t they?

Step Four – The Noise
It’s time to let the people know! Radio, and point of sale material will suffice if you are unable to go into TV and outdoor. If you are fortunate enough to have a monopoly, get away with a simple on-pack sticker.
The objective of any promo is to be as loud as possible. So don’t hold back. Starbursts are your friend. The whole colour spectrum is yours for the plundering. Use the largest typefaces you can fit within an A3 poster. Go into photography. Use beautiful, elated-looking models. Let them smile giddily, laugh insanely, jump, dance, run, scream, bang a drum, climb a tree – whatever makes them noticeable – just as long as the masses are able to remotely identify with them.
Use the power of women. Take a bunch of pretty college girls and station them at the above referenced selected retail outlets, and traffic-heavy roads. Give them a profuse supply of flyers to hand out, and have them rehearse little speeches to recite to your audience one-on-one. If your ad doesn’t get the people you want, the beauties will.
And finally;

Step Five – The Buffer
Cover your back. Promos are made and handled by the hands of mortals. Mistakes happen. The phrase, “Term and Conditions Apply” applies to you too. Use it generously. Should there be a fiasco of any sort, remember that there are some that fell into that murky pit, and came out shining. So can you. Make your conditions clear, but in the smallest print your crammed space can allow. They’re there only for legal formality’s sake anyway. And never forget to pay the Betting Control and Licensing Board its dues. Ignore them and regret it for a long time. Always award your winners. Make it a public spectacle, so that the next time you come around, you shall be believed and followed.

And there, my friends, is promo-creation at its simple best, as demonstrated by the experts. No need to thank us. You’re welcome.

We can’t get enough of Scott Adam’s wit! Here’s more from Dilbert. Enjoy

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