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Does this post make you uncomfortable? Good.

8 Dec

Cat sitting on a balcony railing

The most damning comment I can hear from a client after we present some creative work is: “I’m comfortable with this.”

My stock reaction is to apologize and promise we will do better when we bring back revised concepts. Invariably our client wonders what the heck happened between communicating that they liked the work to my suggestion that it hadn’t measured up.

Advertising that makes clients comfortable makes their audience comfortable too. Comfortable people snuggle down further into their blankies and fall asleep.

Brave advertising takes people out of their comfort zones. It shakes them up or inspires them or makes them roar with laughter or gets them reaching for the phone or hitting the click here button immediately.

Brave advertising should, therefore, make our clients a bit nervous. Not running-for-the-toilet nervous. But giddy-with-the-prospects nervous.

Might it cause complaints? Yes. That’s the risk of not being invisible. There will always be someone who gets upset by your advertising. I wrote about some of our complaints here. It’s impossible to please everyone, so never try.

But why would any business want to take the risks that come with brave advertising?

Simple: because it’s just as risky to put your audience to sleep. And there are no rewards for doing so.

Is SEO now a complete waste of time?

17 Nov

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation is the mystic – or so the ‘gurus’ will have you believe – art of ensuring your website’s content is found organically by search engines and clambers to the top of search results. To clarify, when I say search engines, the efforts of SEO experts are generally focused on one search engine, the omnipresent Google. This is understandable as the SEO industry was born alongside Google and like the Pilot fish, has been swimming alongside, feeding off its oblivious benefactor ever since.

But has Google switched direction leaving the SEO experts out in the cold(water)? This may sound like a statement to bait a response – sorry I’ll leave the fish analogy here – but try typing ‘mobile phone’ into Google and what do you see? It’s probably something like this:

Google kills Search Engine Optimisation SEO

This is a screenshot from my desktop PC. The area inside the black tint is the full extent of a browser maximised for a typical 1024 x 768 screen, the green speech bubble is from the first organic result after web-traffic giant wikipedia which is nearly always going to appear first.

What this example shows is that three quarters of the available content space is devoted to ads. The organic – or non paid – links start appearing way down the page, below the initially visible screen real estate! This is fine if your digital marketing strategy is to ‘hope-users-ignore-everything-that-first-appears and scroll-down-to-find-your-result’. Good luck with that!

Is this indicative of a move away from organic search listings? Not quite – would you still visit Google if all you got was ads? It’s still going to provide relevant content to users, but the balance has definitely shifted to showing you relevant paid ads over relevant organic results.

The argument that Google is prioritising paid content is enforced if you look at your analytics. In October Google announced that for non Google verified sites it will no longer show you what keywords people used to get to your site organically (here’s a clearer analysis of the announcement). These ‘referer’ links are like gold dust for website owners and provide you with free keyword analysis with which you can further optimise your site.

Returning to the original premise. Is SEO a waste of time? Well, if your product or service is in a saturated or crowded market, and if you’re relying on your website’s organic performance in Google search results to drive business then there’s a good chance the answer is yes.

However, the good news, for the moment, is that SEO for organic traffic is still worth pursuing if your product or service is not in a fiercely competitive market. From my tests, search results for non saturated markets attract fewer, or no ads leaving plenty of space for your business listing to compete organically. A good SEO strategy will keep your content fresh, which will always appeal to customers and encourage repeat visits to your site. Additionally, if you buy  keyword based ads with Google, the cost of your ads is in part determined by the relevance of the content on your website.

Moving forward, to me it seems that to ensure your business gets found online you will soon need to widen your focus. Worry less about your placement in organic search results and start budgeting for keyword based ads. With Google starting to withdraw the freebies, the ad space is going to get more competitive. Unless you’ve Apple’s cash pile this means that the stakes are raised for every dollar of your online advertising budget.  Keyword analysis, online copy-writing, integrated marketing strategy and media expertise – to place, monitor and optimise the ads – are all going to be more important.

The free ride is coming to an end.

Are you paying for a campaign and getting an ad?

19 Oct

The word “campaign” gets tossed around a lot in boardrooms and creative meetings. Advertising purists will tell you that the ultimate test of an advertising idea is whether or not it has “legs”: in other words, is the idea executable in multiple iterations?

I’ve always found this misleading, as I suspect clients often pay for campaigns when all they really got was an ad.

What’s the value of a campaign over a single ad?

Multiple executions can build on a story or message, creating new angles to look at, so the audience can get a more comprehensive and memorable view of the product or service or business. That can be even more valuable over time, when a single ad seen too often enters your advertising blind spot, whereas a fresh execution of a strong idea pulls you in all over again, but with less heavy lifting required from the message.

So when is a campaign not a campaign?

Take a look at this series for Send4Help, an emergency service that uses satellite technology to allow you to send an alert when you need assistance. Could be a life-saver.

Send4Help ad with woman

Send4Help ad with man

Send4Help ad with woman 2

The way I see it, it’s just the same gag over and over. The models change and the wraps change, but the ads are indistinct from each other. None of these ads is likely to move you more than another. Nor does the story build or become more interesting with each subsequent telling.

Here, one ad would have just as easily communicated the benefit to the audience. Somehow the agency managed to convince the client to go the whole hog.

(Another issue I have with the campaign is the tired old “there’s a better/easier way” approach – where you show people behaving in a ridiculous manner to suggest how challenging the problem is to solve conventionally. This sums up half of the advertising out there it sometimes seems. But I digress.)

Now check out this campaign for UK mag Nuts.

Nuts Magazine Stripper ad

Nuts Magazine ad "from behind"Nuts Magazine "not pregnant" ad

The ads look more or less the same but they are not. They each build the case for the magazine, using different situational prompts. You are likely to have your favourite, or at least one you dislike the most! Is the story less interesting and effective if you start whittling the campaign down to one ad? I would argue that it is.

Not so with Send4Help.

There are countless worthy campaigns out there, but too often there are single ideas masquerading as more.

If you’re a client, are you getting less than you paid for?

So based on the criteria of my rant, what do you think of the next series. Campaign? Or single idea?

Lowell Blonde ad

Lowell Brown ad

Lowell Dark ad

A remarkable Victoria furniture designer gets a makeover

8 Aug

Victoria furniture designer and maker Christina HilborneMeet Christina Hilborne.

She’s talented, skilled, ethical, and a little bit nuts. Which is why we love her.

She dropped in to see us in April with an amazing portfolio of furniture she designed (talented) and built (skilled) herself, with an emphasis on sustainability in her materials (ethical) that we admired.

She had also adopted for her business the unusual name of Splintered Minx (little bit nuts) that we recognized as an opportunity for her and for us: She needed a makeover.

We’ve since spent 3 months working with this amazing woman and we are happy and thrilled to introduce her work and her new look to Victoria furniture lovers.

New company name, new logo, new website, Facebook page, sales piece….and a marketing and social media plan in the works.

People like Christina are why we dig this business.

screen shot from Christina Hilborne's website(website)


Screen shot of Christina Hilborne's Facebook page(you know…)


photo of the cover of Christina Hilborne's sales piece/catalogue

(cover of her sales piece)


photo of inside spread of Christina Hilborne's sales piece/catalogue

(inside spread)


The Copeland team comprised Michael Tension (graphic design and art direction), Asmaa Methqal (account management and digital planning), Tom Hammarberg (website design) and Lindy Philip (production goddess).

Copeland makes a big new hire

19 Jul

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the name Shane Goth. He has been providing original and thought-provoking content since the blog’s inception in 2008.

Here he sits in his zombie lair.

Copeland Account Manager Shane Goth leaving for Vancouver

I’m sad to tell you that he is leaving Copeland to move to Wasserman in Vancouver. One of our clients also did exactly that 3 years ago, and they are now back working with us, so I’m hopeful we have not seen the last of Shane.

As our senior Account Manager, Shane had some big tickets in his capable hands during his 4+ years here: BC Ferries, The Times Colonist, Connect Hearing, the Vancouver Sun/The Province and Academy of Learning. Fortunately for us, Shane is a guy who never, ever drops the ball.

His resignation came less than a month after I bought the company and it kicked me into full-on hiring mode very quickly. I am relieved and thrilled to announce we have hired a rock star to replace one.

Former Connect Hearing Marketing Manager joins CopelandJodie Carlisle, the national marketing manager for Connect Hearing, joins us August 8th as Director, Client Services.

This comes after an exhaustive coast to coast search, in which candidates were forced to eat their own limbs to prove their suitability for the job. I’m kidding. No one was forced.

Jodie and the Copeland team have worked together for years now. I want to say on opposite sides of the table, but typically Jodie will get up and come and sit beside you.

She is the most enthusiastic marketer I have ever come across: Copeland team, back me up on this.

A 15-year marketing veteran, Jodie is principled, thoughtful, razor-sharp and wicked good fun. Is that not the ultimate job description for someone in advertising?

She will be a tremendous new business driver and an invaluable source of input on issues and challenges on the client side.

With all the big decisions I had to make about Copeland this summer, this hire is the best move yet.