Stranger insights: we don’t know they exist, but they do.

Insights are something that we, as advertisers, never stop chasing and searching for. While representing a pivotal element in building a campaign, insights are really hard to find.

In our industry, looking for insights is a bit like throwing yourself into a Pokemon chase - you never know where it might lead you. But what is the real nature of an insight? What are they? What are they not? And how can you set yourself to find them?

In order to better understand the true nature of insights, it is useful to analyze the key elements composing advertising campaigns. They are the following:

Proposition

Or the client brief, summarized in one sentence: it’s the one bullet to your head, the one thing that synthesizes all you want to communicate in the whole campaign. 

Insight

An insight is an original intuition. It is the support and foundation of your idea for the advertising campaign. 

Idea

The campaign idea is where your insight and your brand finally meet. We can also call it “concept”. It is where your insightful conception meets the needs of the brand.

Execution

The last component of an advertising campaign is the execution, e.g. the proper crafting of the idea. It is the only component people will see. It is the most unfair of the four elements, because if you don't have enough time, budget, resources to work on it, it will not be up to great standards.

Now that we’ve defined the basic bricks building an advertising campaign, let’s deep dive on our main topic: insights.

What is an insight?

As we’ve seen, an insight is an unexplored common denominator of people, as humans. It’s a behavior, a habit, a thought that is shared by a multitude of people. The wider the insight, the more effective the creative idea can be. Insights are universal truths, revelations that are brought to light becoming clear and evident. They become seen and stick to your head. You cannot forget them as they come from a deeply unconscious or irrational domain that is at some point revealed and brought in plain sight. It’s something that concerns a community, something that we didn’t know but that’s always been there. It was there, but it went unnoticed till that moment. On the other hand an insight should not be sophisticated - it is something obvious. When you come in contact with it, you can’t help but raise an eyebrow and say: “Yeah, that’s true!”. A good insight sparks ideas and triggers creativity. For all of these reasons, we can say that an interesting insight should be somehow uncomfortable. You certainly won’t find it where all is quiet and nice - it has to make you smile or feel sad, it has to reach into your memories and generate unexpected feelings.

Insights are unbranded

Also, for obvious reasons, a good insight cannot be branded. Advertising is often viewed with suspicion by people and nobody likes to hear a brand talking about itself: in fact what you should do is to stop thinking like advertisers and start thinking like normal people. Last but not least an insight is not always identified through sophisticated qualitative research but, more often, it emerges from a lucid observation of life: it relates to people, human beings, not to consumers.

Great & insightful pieces of advertising

To understand and fully get the power of insights let’s look at some good examples and understand why they can be considered particularly interesting under an insight perspective:

SPOTIFY: LET THE SONG PLAY

BRAND : Spotify

CAMPAIGN : Let The Song Play

PROPOSITION : Most of the music is listened to in the car, but very little through streaming services: the goal is to push Spotify as a solution for listening to music in your car.

INSIGHT : When we drive we turn into crazy singers.

IDEA : Have you ever let a song finish? When we really love a song, we would be in the car even longer than necessary, just to listen to it until the end.

EXECUTION : The idea is developed through a series of funny cartoons, where people are shown driving while singing Sia's Elastic Heart with huge enthusiasm. People outside notice them with skeptical reactions.

HEINEKEN: CHEERS OR NO CHEERS?

BRAND : Heineken

CAMPAIGN : Cheers or no cheers?

PROPOSITION : Launch the Heineken 0.0 non-alcoholic reference.

INSIGHT : People who do not drink alcohol are normally excluded during toasts.

IDEA : Heineken wants to revolutionize social occasions, including people who for a reason or another do not drink alcohol.

EXECUTION : A time-traveling film where people of all ages who don’t drink are excluded during toasts, till the present time, where this stereotype disappears thanks to the new Heineken 0.0 beer.

APPLE: 911

BRAND : Apple

CAMPAIGN : 911

PROPOSITION : Apple Watch Series 7 allows you to make emergency calls. This feature can save many lives.

INSIGHT : It can be very difficult to make emergency calls during an accident.

IDEA : How to prove that Apple Watch can make a difference to people's lives? By telling real stories of real people.

EXECUTION : A woman trapped in an overturned car, a paddleboarder taken out to sea and an elderly farmer who fractured his hip after a serious fall: three real 911 calls become the script of the commercial, along with superimposing headlines and aerial shots.

Conclusions

All of these great pieces of advertising are a great example of an insight that hit the mark by digging deep into small epiphanies that managed to reach the ultimate goal: making sense. Here are some suggestions to find insights and use them in your work

1. Steal
Steal words, jokes, feelings, observe everything without shame and take notes without censorship. Make sure not to miss anything.

2. Train your sensitivity
To find an insight, you need an exceptional amount of experience, mixed with intuition and sensitivity. Never stop learning from others and train your insight hunting skills!

3. Be relevant
If there is no dilemma, conflict, unfulfilled need, or limit, then there is no insight. There are only observations that any brand can make. Look beyond reassuring insights.

4. Look outside the brief
Play with perspectives, look the other way.

5. Look inside yourself 
In-sight: look within you, dig inside yourself, and you’ll find it.

Insights are not to be created. They’re already there. Your job is just to catch them.

The Author

Giulio Nadotti

Creative Director @ The Ad Store Italia

If you want to know more about our approach and on how to develop an effective campaign for your food retail brand, email me at giulio@adstore.it

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The NFT Strategy for us AD peeps

If you’re overwhelmed by the world of NFT you shouldn’t be, because it honestly takes a good 10 hours of solid YouTube research to understand what they are all about, plenty of YouTube channels out there to get your knowledge up to par on what they are, and especially for us, how to think from a brand perspective on that NFT collection for your client and how to properly launch it.

The most important aspect to understand about NFT’s from a brand point of view is the purpose of having an NFT for the brand: is it brand building, is it promotional, tactical, or a combination? What’s most important though is the consumer and what he/she is going to get out of it beyond just the “coolness” of having that brand’s NFT, the art, or the collectible value.  What’s important is what the consumer is going to get out of it in the short and medium term, and if you can crack a long term value then you’ve really aced it. This is what is called the “Utility” value!

The utility you create for that NFT has obviously got to lay on the brand values and a deep understanding of your consumer and why he/she should FOMO (fear of missing out) on having that specific NFT and become part of the collection, the community. Once you’ve thought of that, the rest is basic advertising strategy to launch that collection. 

The launch of an NFT collection is not very different from the launch of any campaign, it utilizes mostly the same channels (depending on budget), great creativity (campaign and of course the NFT art itself), multivisuals, great production, social engagement (x10 of what you are used to, this is the main challenge, to be honest), launch visuals, tactical visuals, and your media optimization mix. See, not so overwhelming after all!

The two main challenges for a successful NFT launch are the concept of that NFT collection, as well as the value you attach to it, and secondly the community you are going to create around it.

The utility is the true value you need to create that people are going to want to have, and the weaker your brand notoriety, values, positioning are the more you will need to pack in.

  • For Pepsi, a super known brand, they launched a collection and sold it in less than an hour and hardly had any utility. They banked solely on great and cool art, and of course their rep thus creating a collectability aspect.
  • Dunkin’ also launched an NFT collection, much the same as Pepsi. However, they had some golden NFT’s that granted owners free donuts for life.
  • Karl Lagerfeld’s "x Endless" collection gave owners a URL ticket to a brand event in Paris in 2022, which will feature another launch where only Karl holders will be invited to take part.
  • A less well-known restaurant in the UAE, launched a two-tiered NFT collection, granting discounts, desert perks and free delivery as utility.

You get the drift; creativity has no limits in creating true utility that is based on the brand values and positioning.

The second challenge is engagement and creating a community, and this is something us ad guys are not used to. We’re used to 4 to 5 quality posts a week, well-crafted with very well thought of messages. When creating an NFT collection, it really is about creating a community and for those of you who are on discord you know exactly what this entails.  Discord is social media on steroids and your social channels like twitter (primarily) and IG need to be on fire, and this is going to go against what you are used to. Handling discord is prime and needs especially skilled people at it.

So, in a nutshell, don’t be overwhelmed by that NFT collection, use your basics, but 10x it!  Or call the Ad Store UAE and we’ll sort it out for you!

Digital PR: Workflow & Best Practices

An efficient management of Digital PR projects is a key aspect in the life of any full-service agency such as The Ad Store. In this article, Digital PR & Influencer Specialist Margherita Cavallotti will guide us through the dos and don’ts of this fascinating branch of marketing.

What is the relevance of Digital PR today? What is the role of a marketing agency in managing influencer marketing activities? And which are the main steps and activities involved in delivering a successful influencer marketing campaign to promote brands and products?

At The Ad Store, one of the basic assumptions of our approach is that brands are like humans and therefore - exactly like human beings - they strive to grow and create authentic relationships with their audiences.

Digital PR and influencers can help them achieve precisely that - a more intimate, credible and valuable relationship with consumers.

As you know, influencers are creators who, thanks to their knowledge, skills, or characteristics, have managed to gain the authority to influence their followers’ choices and are therefore perfect allies to create positive relationships between the brands they support and their own communities. They can do so in multiple ways, both sponsored and non-sponsored: live events, stories, feed posts, reels, seeding activations, etc.

If we consider the relationship between brands and influencers, the agency plays an important role of intermediary between the creator and the brand and has the responsibility of effectively promoting the brand’s vision, values, and interests.

The management of influencer campaigns includes the main stages:

  • 1  - Identifying and selecting the most suitable influencer profile(s);
  • 2 -Activating and monitoring the cooperation with the influencer all through the campaign;
  • 3 - Analyzing and assessing the campaign results.

Needless to say, all these aspects cannot be improvised and need careful analysis, detailing, and knowledge, acquired through years of experience and creation of relations and contacts.

When it comes to the operational workflow of an Influencer Marketing project, we usually proceed in 7 steps, as follows:

1. Definition of our objectives

The first step consists in clearly identifying the objectives of the marketing effort: do you wish to increase the brand’s awareness or reputation? Do you want to generate new leads or encourage purchases of new products? Or again does the brand wish to position itself as a thought leader? We ask the client the right questions and clearly define the key goal of our campaign.

2. Budget assessment

Carefully considering the budget at your disposal is important to understand the extent of the project you can build. Based on that, you can balance expectations and define what influencer group you should focus on: micro, macro, mega influencers, etc. That will also allow you to establish how many influencers you can involve.

3.   Definition of the target audience

This is key to any marketing strategy. What is the main age group to target? What sector or preferences should you lean towards? You have plenty to choose from: lifestyle, food, sport, sustainability… Also, what geographical area do you want to target?

4.   Identification of the social channels

All the information you have collected in the previous step is essential to decide on which social media channel your target is more likely to be and interact. Based on our experience and the brands we support, the social platform we have used the most for our influencer campaigns so far is Instagram, even though we are starting to shift to other environments, starting from TikTok.

5.   Setting the campaign KPIs

Clients want results, therefore it’s essential to define some specific KPIs you will measure and monitor to assess the success of your campaign. Some of the most common are engagement, quality and quantity of the audience reached, web traffic changes, impact on sales, number of blog and social media mentions. We use several tools, but mainly, at the moment, Fanpage Karma and Not Just Analytics.

6.   Selection of creators

Now it is time to provide your client with a list of suitable influencers based on the needs you identified. The choice can spam from mega influencers and celebrities with more than 1 million followers up to nano influencers with 10K followers. Once the list is approved by the client, the agency will activate the partnership, dealing with all contractual and creative aspects.

7. Building an authentic storytelling

The final step of our workflow is the creation of the right storytelling. For your storytelling to be successful, the creator should convey the brand purpose and values in the best way. Under this respect, we at The Ad Store play a crucial role of intermediaries between the brand and the creator, by driving them in the best way towards the desired objective.

Some recent digital campaigns we created and developed in Italy were for cured ham brand Parmacotto. A campaign that embodies all these concepts and has proved particularly successful was the #caratterevincente (link) campaign that reached 7 million users and obtained 14K interactions among the desired audience - sport lovers. It went viral in a couple of days thanks to the involvement of some leading Italian athletes who perfectly represented the brand’s values: authenticity, passion, and quality.

Another recent successful campaign was the “Anti-waste Wednesdayscampaign that we created for Italian food brand Saclà. The form was that of a social live series against food waste involving several relevant influencers, which obtained outstanding results and contributed to position the brand as a promoter of positive values of sharing and sustainability. The digital effort was also supported by a press campaign.

Saclà and Parmacotto are just some examples of influencer campaigns with an authentic storytelling based on brand values, integrated communication, and an attentive and accurate talent selection.If you want to know more about our Influencer Marketing campaigns, email margherita@adstore.it

The perfect project (doesn’t exist)

What is a project and which are the different approaches to manage a project effectively? And what are the main pillars of the Agile Project Management approach? Managing a project using an agile approach requires the adoption of an agile mindset by the whole team. One of the key aspects of the Agile approach is that of servant leadership as a key resource to empower teams.

1 - Project Definition and Life Cycle

“A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” (PMbok)

This is one of the most common definitions to describe projects, which I find a perfect way to understand what a project is. A project is temporary, in the sense that it has a definite beginning and end, and therefore it needs to have a defined scope and definite resources.

It also needs to create value. Not necessarily a commercial value, but also know-how and experience.

The life cycle of a project is normally composed by 5 steps:

  1. Initiating: This is the start of the project, whose goal is to define the project at a broad level. This is when you research whether the project is feasible and if it should be undertaken at all.
  2. Planning: This phase is key to successful project management as it focuses on developing a roadmap for everyone to follow. The first step of this phase is typically setting goals.
  3. Executing: This is the phase where deliverables are developed and completed.
  4. Monitoring & Controlling: This is all about measuring the project progress and performance, as well as ensuring that everything is in line with the project management plan.
  5. Closing: This phase represents the completed project.

In order for a project to be carried out successfully, all the departments need to be involved and aligned, and processes need to be correctly in place in order for the teams to be properly supported.

2 - Possible approaches

Different approaches have been identified by researchers and scholars who have examined and defined the discipline of project management. So, based on the approach, a project can be defined as:

  • Predictive: This is a traditional approach where the bulk of planning occurs upfront and the execution follows all at once, with one individual delivery at the very end of the workflow. This is the case of traditional real estate projects, for instance.  
  • Iterative: This kind of project includes the collection of feedback when the work is still unfinished, with the aim of improving and readjusting the output. This kind of approach is more typical of interior design. 
  • Incremental: If a project is approached by increments, it provides a series finished deliverables half way, which the customer may be able to use immediately. This is the case of the progressive development of a website.
  • Agile: This approach is both iterative and incremental, as it allows to review and readjust the individual items and deliveries regularly.

The Agile approach is relatively new to complex projects. One of its main features is that it provides a quick system of response to changes.

3 - The Agile approach

What is the Agile method?

The actual definition of Agile is found in the Agile Manifesto. The group of experts who synthesized this approach gave a very lean definition, only 68 words, that very simply say that we can work better by valuing the items on the top of the boxes more than the items on the bottom of the boxes.

The Agile Manifesto says: 

“We are uncovering better ways to work by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Respondingtochange over following a plan”

4 - How to create an Agile environment?

Managing a project using an agile approach requires the adoption of an agile mindset by the whole team. One of the key aspects of the Agile approach is that of “servant leadership” as a key resource to empower teams.

Servant leadership is the idea that the main responsibility of leaders is to serve others. A true servant leader will put other people’s needs first, helping them develop and perform at the best of their abilities.

A servant leader approach will tackle a project based on 3 priorities:

  • Defining the purpose, so the team can engage and unite around the project goal
  • Encouraging the team in order to create an environment where everyone can succeed
  • Not planning to follow the perfect Agile process, but instead look for the results

The perfect project doesn’t exist. What should exist is perfect results and happy clients. It goes without saying that the real value of projectmanagers in this case is not so much in their position, but rather in their ability to make everyone else perform better. When project managers act as servant leaders, the emphasis shifts from “managing coordination” to “facilitating collaboration”.

5 - What can the Agile approach add to a creative agency?

Agile in marketing is difficult to define, because here the strategy is fluid by design and teams are often working at a high degree of collaboration. Still, the agencies that take an Agile approach, even more those that take a Human approach like The Ad Store - put the customer front and centre of everything they do. This may sound obvious – after all, what kind of marketing activity can ignore customers? Yet, marketing teams sometimes are guilty of operating one step removed, devoting their energy to managing the brand or churning out campaigns to schedule, but losing the focus on the why and whom.The question agile marketers should aspire to answer is how best to engage their customers at every stage of the journey. This isn’t normally a question that marketing teams can answer on their own, so collaboration with other business functions is a cornerstone of any agile marketing approach.

you a new contract, to open new doors or to close them forever. They also offer a great chance for you to test and try new tools, methods, ideas, peoples and/or partners.

The Author

Martina Uggeri

Project Manager Italy & UAE 

Have you found this interesting? Drop ma an email if you want to know more:t martina@adstore.it

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Pitch perfect – How to bring your creative pitch to the next level

Creative pitches are the craziest and most surrealistic moment of a creative agency’s life. Iconically associated with the advertising industry, they define and sum up how crazy and unpredictable our job can be. But how can you prepare for a creative pitch effectively and bring the pitch experience to the next level? After years and years of successful and less successful pitches, I identified 9 key aspects that can help you plan and manage your creative pitch preparation effectively:

1. Carefully manage your time

Divide your available time in three phases

  • Set-up phase: This is the most important phase ‘cause everything starts from there. Here you set up the whole work. Allocate around 25% of the total time.
  • Creation phase - This requires more time - about 50% of the overall project - and excellence in every respect: synthesis, execution, and style. 
  • Final rush phase - This could also be called the “extra mile” phase. It is the final effort, the extreme push when everything else seems to collapse. It takes around the remaining 25% of the time.

2. Timing

When you approach a pitch, you should start from the basics - brainstorming. This is absolutely essential and should involve all the creatives working on the pitch. You can use several tools for help:

  • Competitors analysis
  • Target analysis 
  • Results of focus groups and surveys
  • References and inspiration from pinterest, instagram, vimeo, youtube, etc.

3. Strategy

This aspect of your pitch is extremely important. Clients don’t really buy your TVC, leaflet or Instagram campaign. They buy a new vision, a new angle. Something that solves their problems and often opens a long journey of collaboration. They also buy your agency’s style and quality of execution.

4. Creativity

Think back to your school days and take that naive and crazy approach you had years ago. As now you can back it up with years of experience and knowledge of clients and the market. This is the moment to listen to the kid inside yourself.

5. Quality

You have to make your ideas, presentation and design boom. There are far better chances of winning a pitch when your creative work looks basically ready for execution to your prospect’s eyes. And bear in mind that clients usually have very little imagination. That’s why you should show them an idea that is as complete as possible. My recommendation is to present your concept through a rubamatic or a stealamatic, with scenes and snippets taken from existing sequences, assembled along the lines of the story you want to tell to generate an emotional impact and give particular emphasis to immediate sensations.

6. Proposals’ tactics

The number of proposals you present is also very important. Three is the magic number as it allows you to test the client on different approaches:

  • Your first proposal should be particularly impactful.
  • The second proposal should be safer and more reassuring.
  • The third proposal should be more unconventional.

This will also help you tackle the attention factor: your client will have a lot of attention during the first proposal, a bit less for the second one and probably not much attention left for the third proposal. By keeping this in mind you can modulate the presentation in order to lead the client where you want them to go.

7. Change

We are made to change our mind. At this stage of your creative pitch preparation it is 100% fair and legitimate to ask yourself and your team-mates if your idea actually works. It is a crucial moment. Does the concept, the proposal work? If the answer is not 100% positive, then you’ll probably have to take a deep breath, go back and fix it.

8. Pitch Day

It is essential to dedicate an internal pre-pitch meeting to go through the presentation deck and define roles. Who is going to present what? Who is going to answer specific topics? Also, get ready to answer your client’s questions about budget.

9. The role of creative pitches

This last aspect is more of an observation. Creative pitches are more important than other projects, because they are the lifeblood of an advertising agency. They have the power to make clients choose you or leave you, to get you a new contract, to open new doors or to close them forever. They also offer a great chance for you to test and try new tools, methods, ideas, peoples and/or partners.

The Author

Giulio Nadotti

Creative Director @ The Ad Store Italia

If you want to know more about our approach and on how to develop an effective campaign for your food retail brand, email me at giulio@adstore.it

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