To catch a trout, you need a fly. To catch a fish you need to fish where the fish are. For the fish to bite, you need tasty bait. Global ad man Hamish Pringle’s fly-fishing metaphor, to describe the advertising process, is not so far off the mark then.
Pringle was in South Africa this month for a couple of presentations to advertising and business people, one of which was Continental Outdoor Media’s ‘Continental Conversations’. Pringle was primed to talk about planning the ideal channel and content mix, and to illustrate his talk, he gave some lessons in the finer points of fly fishing.
“I think that the metaphor is quite apt. I did really enjoy the fact that he illustrated how ‘pretty’ we try to make communication elements and that pretty doesn’t necessarily equal sales. And how we go fishing for consumers and they’ll decide whether or not they like what you have to offer or if they will go off and bite someone else’s hook. Because it is true!” says Virginia Hollis, director of Magnetic Connection.
“Overall, hats off to Continental for bringing Hamish to South Africa. It is always interesting to hear how people are thinking beyond our borders and for me it was great to have confirmation that our thinking is not that different, they just use better analogies than we do,” she says.
“Fish where the fish are is not news in media,” says Gordon Muller, head coach at GSM Quadrant and South Africa’s ‘longest surviving media planner’. “In South Africa, though we need to recognise that the fish are moving and therefore, in many instances, we need to cast our fly where the fish will be tomorrow.”
Pringle, the former director general of the United Kingdom’s Institute for Practitioners in Advertising for 10 years and author of several books, including Spending Advertising Money in the Digital Age – How to Navigate the Media Flow, Celebrity Sells and Brand Immortality, shared an anecdote about his unsuccessful attempts at fly fishing during his school days in Scotland and how he could not understand why the fish were not lured by his flies, which were clearly “things of beauty”.
“Years later I read a magazine article written by someone who had taken photographs from the beneath the surface of the water, looking up as if he were a fish, to see what the insects landing on the water looked like. It looked nothing like the flies we used to tie! It turns out that it’s the little dimples created by the feet of the insect on the surface of the water that fish have evolved to spot and that’s what attracts them. If it’s not stretching the analogy too far, I think sometimes we regard our media as things of beauty and we don’t spend enough time looking at them from the customer point of view,” he told the audience.
Pringle’s fly fishing story goes something like this: Different insects hatching at different times, appealing to different fishes, swimming in different waters. That means the communications planner needs to look at the customer journey from the fish’s point of view… and cast media fishing lines with right content ‘flies’. Well-chosen, well-placed, timely, and tasty bait succeeds in catching those flies.
So do South African media planners focus on the fish’s point of view? “I always punted the old adage, ‘creatives ask what will this ad to people?’ but media always asks ‘what will people do to this advertisement’,” says Muller. Good media people have always focused on the consumer’s perspective and good media-owners have always sold their relationship with consumers, not just the numbers. Again, not news.”
Hollis believes good strategists and planners try to look at campaigns from a ‘fish’s point of view’. “But sometimes it is hard when you are given international creative. What resonates creatively with a consumer in the US and Europe does not necessarily push buttons with our consumers,” she says.
“Putting yourself into the consumer’s shoes can help see their point of view, but this is impossible to do when you are trying to plan against a market that is completely removed from your social economic status. Research is terribly important when you are trying to understand who you should be targeting and correct interpretation of that research is vital, and the ability to interpret comes with experience. Get this wrong and your entire strategy/plan goes in the toilet!”
Muller doesn’t believe technological developments are helping planners see the fish’s view more clearly. “No,” he says, “But the process is really intuitive. You can’t always measure everything. Sometimes ‘fuzzy logic’ is more than suitable.”
Hollis believes technology holds planners accountable because everything done online can be measured. “So getting it right is critical. With this comes a real positive; we now have a huge amount of information you have on the people who has responded to your campaign. So we are able to hone in on our markets and even personalise messages. So yes we have a better view of who we are directing our messages to,” she says.
Pringle punts what he calls the F.A.I.P.A model for communications planning.
Fame: creating ‘buzz’ and ‘talkability’
Advocacy: enabling word-of-mouth/mouse
Information: providing the product detail
Price: price points and special offers
Availability: telling customers where to buy
“Do I think this this model is relevant to SA? Yes of course. I think the model is relevant to almost all countries,” says Hollis. “In my opinion fame is invariably linked to something new, innovative, exciting. It is not always possible for brands to create this. Anything that is a ‘grudge’ purchase will find it really hard to generate ‘fame’. But is it something any client would want for their brand, absolutely. “
She says word of mouth is more powerful than any other medium. “One person has a positive experience and spreads the word and you have success. You can have the best and most creative brand campaign in the world, but no one reacts to it … your brand/campaign fails. It isn’t always possible to create fame but your campaign should always try to illicit a positive reaction.”
Pringle says creatively awarded campaigns were 12 times more efficient than non-awarded ones. Is this true for South Africa too?
“People consume media despite advertising, not because of it,” Muller says. “Nothing cust through faster than good creative. And by good I also mean relevant not just disconnected artistic expression. Twelve times more effective? Guess one would have to read the book to see how that figures was arrived at.”
Hollis says people do respond better to “creative creative (that sounds odd), but we also need to bear in mind that consumers react favourably to retail ads, and they are certainly not creative,” she says. “They are all about product and price. If you are talking about brand advertising, then good creative campaigns will build brand awareness. Brand love is something completely different, because this is all about the consumers experience with the brand – do they love the brand, does it enhance their image, will they pay extra because they love the brand so much? “We are all consumers and let’s face it we all react better to something that looks good and makes us feel good. In SA I think that this statement would be very dependent on who you are a talking to and the message you are trying to convey.”
Pringle believes the out of home medium can certainly create ‘fame’. He says OOH ticks most of the F.A.I.P.A boxes, excluding ‘advocacy’. “No doubt great creativity can get the brand talked about, but until the medium becomes more fully digital with technologies like QR Codes and others which enables sharing, online and mobile are more effective channels for advocacy,” he says.
“In terms of conveying information OOH can be very effective if the sites are located where there’s plenty of dwell time. Similarly with price, OOH can do a good job in communicating a simple number, but is less effective when detail is required. Finally, availability which is another great strength of OOH, because of course the sites can be chosen as signposts to a destination which is so effective given the high proportion of decisions which are made close to the point of purchase,” he told the audience.
He singled out the Bells Man of Character Continental billboard campaign encourages consumers to nominate, by SMS, the names of the unsung heroes in their lives who could then get their name up in ‘neon lights’ on huge billboards. They can metaphorically ‘give a man a Bells’.”
He also commended Continental’s Doom campaign for its creative impact: a poster for Doom insecticide in Braamfontein, a collage made from different colour shoes to recreate the pack design and communicate that Doom is far more effective at killing bugs than smacking them with a flip-flop!