Topshop is no stranger to creating social media sensations. Last year, Topshop took the high street fashion chain’s social presence to a global level when they collaborated with Facebook on a “Customize The Catwalk” experience during London Fashion Week (see my summary of it in my previous blog post).

This year, the brand worked with Google+ to create yet another multi-dimensional experience. The trend for brands to work with social media platforms takes the definition of ‘the medium is the message’ to the digital age. The benefits for brands to co-create content with social media platforms directly is to tap into the expertise of the technology and jointly exploring innovative ways to connect with consumers.

It also guarantees a certain level of exclusivity during content-rich season such as the London Fashion Week when every brand is now producing live streaming of some sort and winning the consumers over unique experience is important.

Brands are also able to make the best use of data collected from various activities. While live streaming, and other ways to give consumers digital access to runway fashion, was more of a marketing tool at first, is now being seen as a research opportunity.

Here I would like to give a brief summary of the key elements of the campaign to illustrate how they are all inter-connected with each other:

Teaser: On 12 Feb, a trailer “The Future of the Fashion Show” (as featured below) was released as teaser of the upcoming activities, giving hints on the ‘storyline’ that would unfold in the following days leading up to Topshop Unique show at London’s Tate Modern on Feb 17. It’s also a crucial step to invite fans to get onboard Google+ that essentially acts as the hub and springboard of the Topshop ‘story’ of the season.

The Future of the Fashion Show – the trailer:

Creating buzz: On 14 Feb, Google+ and Topshop installed a “Be The Model” photo booth in Topshop’s flagship Oxford Street store in London. Customers can try on Topshop outfits and snap pictures in the booth, the device creates animated GIFs users can share with others on their social networks. Organically growing the number of followers and Topshop fans were turned into brand advocates through peer-to-peer recommendation.

Connecting with professional influencers: On 15 Feb, Topshop unveiled behind-the-scenes videos of the models and creative team preparing for Sunday’s show on its YouTube channel, and invited bloggers and fans to join a Google Hangout with Topshop’s creative director Kate Phelan and the Topshop design team. Specific content targets at the fashion circles that in turn act as credible voice for the brand – to give ‘a 360° view of what goes into creating a catwalk show’

Real-time experience: On 17 Feb, Topshop activated its full portfolio of interactive tools. 3-D Google Map technology was employed to give fans access to the show’s space in The Tank at Tate Modern. To create pre-show buzz, 30 mins before the show kicked start, Topshop broadcasted Google Hangouts between fashion bloggers, Topshop fans, and celebrities on their way into the unique space. More opportunities for the content to be widely spread on various platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Hangout Live Backstage Before Topshop Unique AW13:

Topshop Unique AW13 – The show:

Multi-platform distribution of content: The Topshop Unique Show was streamed live on Topshop’s owned website, as well as on Google+ and Twitter (Tweek Walk), in embedded media players on news organization websites and various fashion blogs, and on a giant screen in the window of Topshop’s Oxford Street store.

360° Interactivity: Runway models’ outfits and accessories were fitted with ‘Model cams’, HD micro-cameras powered by SIS Live’s Hawkeye techonology. The tiny cameras broadcast model’s-eye video in the corner of the show livestream, giving audience an opportunity to experience stepping out onto the catwalk through their favourite models’ eyes.

Content optimization: Other spin-offs were adopted from the success of the previous season’s livestream “Customize The Catwalk” initiative. These include the very successful “Shoot and Share” feature for fans to take still shots from the webcast, and various ways to prolong the experience by allowing fans to download the catwalk music tracks (this year the music featuring tracks from the Smiths, Beats International and Saint Etienne) and purchase the make up range. Every single element was fully utilised to extend the lifespan of the campaign.

Data intelligence: “Be The Buyer” post-show custom Google+ Hangout app was launched so that every clip from the runway will be swipable into a ‘wish-list’ which will then be featured on Topshop website. The data from the Google+ Hangout app will help the buyers decide what they are going to actually bring to retail. Fans feel like they are literally taking control of what they are going to buy.

It’s exciting to see how brands embrace digital channels to produce experiences that consumers really enjoy. The use of data also allows designers for the first time to make a very educated decision about how to plan. I believe the clever and seamless application of technology without making consumers feel like they have been put under the microscope is the key to success. As we know, the worst things happen to some of the digital campaign is that they tend to make consumers feel like they are generating content on behalf of the brands rather than having an enjoyable experience.

I would also like to see how this kind of co-creation could evolve to a global level, creating universal experience for consumers from different markets joining in the big event. It also allows brands to understand what works where globally. That could well be the next big news in global digital content creation.

If there were two essential ingredients in creating brand content today, it will certainly be ‘participation’ and ‘sharing’.

Ford announced an updated Fiesta social media initiative that will invite content generated by users. It will not be just a one off promotion but apparently a yearlong activity. It will also be the very first ‘innovative ad campaign created entirely by consumers’ according to the press release from Ford.

Tweet_Ford Fiesta movement

It’s in fact an updated version of the ‘Fiesta Movement’ first debuted in 2009, when thousands of consumers submitted entries to be chosen as one of 100 ‘influencers’ given the keys to a Fiesta for 6 months. These Fiesta ‘influencers’ completed monthly challenges, posted video and blogged about their experiences. The videos can still be found on the current youtube channel.

Ford_become celeb

The updated campaign for the 2014 launch is called a ‘social remix’. On the dedicated website, Ford invites people to ‘Join the movement’. There will be 100 ‘social influencers’ being selected as ‘Ford Fiesta Agents’. The ‘Agents’ will be supplied with a Ford Fiesta and a camera. Curated ‘content’ will be shared through a mix of paid media, social media and experiential events so they can become ‘celebs of the social space’.

It seems to have ticked all the boxes. Elements of participation, user-generated content, channels for sharing, are all contained. What remains is the question of how the process of participation and sharing create meaning for the brand.

Perhaps it’s exactly for this reason, that the new ‘movement’ has some additional refinements:

  • A small percentage of the ‘Agents’ will be reserved for celebrities, current Fiesta owners and alumni, potentially ensuring the quality of the user-generated content to a certain degree.
  • There will be a ‘theme’ each month and a particular mission for the theme. The monthly themes are intended to highlight different features of the Fiesta – essentially acting as a ‘brief’ given to the ‘Agents’.
  • Ford will also partner with American Idol, the Summer X Games and the Bonoaroo Music Festival. Fiesta ‘Agents’ will be given inside access to these events.

The biggest change from the original format is that the new Fiesta Movement will generate ALL of the TV, print and digital advertising for the 2014 Fiesta launch over the summer. Which also means WPP agency Team Detroit will have to use the agents produced materials to create advertising content, potentially redefining the role that a creative agency plays in the process.

It may be unwise to assume people will automatically share any content their peers put out. And the new format seems to have defeated the original purpose of letting the Millennials speak their minds. It would be interesting to see how this campaign unfolds.

I will also like to understand the potential of this initiative being rolled out internationally, from the initial reactions on their twitter feeds I have already observed some interests from consumers from as far as India and Canada, given the global reach of social media I feel that is something we should not neglect. How can this be adapted for your market? Feel free to share with me your ideas.

Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days and dates around the world. But in almost every culture, mothers play an important role in the family. Brands understand that, and will take every good opportunity to win over their hearts.

In the Chinese culture, women often are the ultimate decision maker in anything related to the household. Here’s a brilliant analyses of this insight from Tom Doctoroff:

Despite Mao’s famous saying that women hold up half the sky, even “liberated” female consider their role inside the home paramount. In the West, working mothers struggle with balancing career and family satisfaction. In China, the battle is much less fierce; the kid wins, hands down…So, to bond with your female “head of the household” target, tell her she is really really needed. Without her, there would be no family harmony.

In America, mothers don’t really want to see the “perfect mom” in advertising. They consider that the image of perfection is frustrating to watch, rather than aspirational. Kate Reddy, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It only exists in fairy-tales. On the other hand, if brands portray the “real mom” image, it is too close to home – a reminder of the frustrations, rather than a positive view. However, one thing they have in common – they all want to see a positive image that shows the brand delivering a realistic improvement in their life.

In the Thai culture, where people in urban families rarely show their love to each other publicly, a commercial by DATC (see below) made it even more inspiring, and in a way, started a ‘movement’ in the local market.

From food, financial services, retail, communication products to public service; and from China, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil to the UK, this emotion works unfailingly. When executed well and honestly, the effect could be very powerful.

At the time when we celebrate Mother’s Day, I would like to share with you some of the commercials from different countries that capture this sentiment.

I also love to hear from you if there are any great campaigns describing the love of mothers that reflect the unique culture of your country.

John Lewis, United Kingdom

LamSoon, Hong Kong

DTAC, Thailand

Thai Life Insurance (Mae Toi), Thailand


thinkfamily.sg, Singapore

Note: This public service spot was directed by the award winning film director, Yasmin Ahmad.

▼Bud Light “Wedding Dress”

▼Oxo Cubes: Remember Preston

▼Calbee Cappa Chips: That’s Life

Heinz Baked Beans: Margaret

Tesco: Cheerful Sole

*Special thanks to Helena Rosario from Portugal and Nattavut Leekulpitak from Thailand who sent me their favourite commercials.

Happy Mother’s Day. Wherever you are.

Coca-Cola recently had embarked on a big move to centralise its European marketing operation into a London hub. Joe Thomas of Marketing Magazine (Marketingmagazine.co.uk, 20.04.2010) reported that Coca-Cola currently uses a roster of agencies from countries across the region, all of which contribute to its marketing activity. Adding to the complexity, the marketing campaign is decided and activated by marketers at a national level, rather than collectively from a region-wide or global perspective. Not only it results in a total lack of synergy in its advertising in each market, the localised marketing activities and ideas actually create unnecessary costs.

Some may comment that many of the markets in Europe operate, on occasion, purely for their own benefit, without considering a wider regional picture. The Diet Coke TV commercial featuring Duffy was criticized for being an idea that will never going to work outside the UK. Some even commented that as a Welsh singer in a supermarket would not appeal to any other audience. Putting side the fact that I actually quite like the song (and secretly love the commercial), the way it was adapted for other markets by simply dubbing the line and subtitling the song in Austrian, Slovenian, Bulgarian…and so on, it has lost its simplicity. As an idea, it has been diluted as an execution – and it was an execution that cost Coca-Cola money.

Addressing local needs while leveraging on the global platform is one of the key objectives for global brands these days. Creating a truly viable global creative platform and at the same time leaving room for local manipulation, is the real challenge for any agency working on global brands.

Some global brands such as McDonald’s, the fast food restaurant chain, is asking its advertising agencies to adopt a more collaborative approach as it seeks to enhance the effectiveness of its marketing. Under the leadership of Mary Dillon, McDonald’s global chief marketing officer, a collaborative culture has been built among all the different creative agencies working on the business – which includes DDB Worldwide and TBWA, both part of Omnicom Group, and Leo Burnett Worldwide, owned by Publicis Groupe, as well as Cossette, a Canadian independent, and Brazilian shop Taterka.

The multiple-agency scenario which creates inevitable power struggle among the agencies is becoming a norm – and will never go away. In the case of McDonald, DDB could well argue that they do have offices in Brazil, a market where Taterka has the specialist expertise in. But the fact is Taterka has a good reputation in the Hispanic market and they do have a value within the marketing operation of McDonald’s – adding to whatever other political reasons, ‘de-coupling’ them out would not be a wise option.

There is always conflict between the central marketing team, regional teams and then the creative excellence team, which fits into the middle. Projects can come from anywhere in Europe, and the fact that it moves around so much shows they are not clear about what to do. It is overstaffed as a result.

In these cases, a global marketing implementation agency can play a role including:

Centralised agency collaboration: Building a platform for all the agency partners to work together, helping the global client in managing the activities and enhancing the communications among the numerous counterparts. This could be a ‘technology solution’ and/or an international ‘agency activation’ function with staff in each hub.

Creative and cultural hub: Helping each agency partner to roll out campaign originated from that office, turning the locally created idea into a viable global platform by providing a global creative and cultural consultation and adaptation at the idea generation stage. It is already happening that some of the Hispanic market specialist agencies are creating concepts that could roll out internationally, at the moment they do not have the resources to adapt it creatively and making it culturally relevant – plus production related consultation of course. And being in the maze of the multiple agency partner situation, the independent shop, Taterka for example, obviously find it sensitive working ‘with’ DDB. And that’s where an independent global creative resource (like Freedman) is valuable.

Marketing magazine reported that Coca Cola has gone ‘back to basics’ with latest TVC (marketingmagazine.co.uk, 08.04.10). To my knowledge, the commercial is almost certainly not a new campaign. It had been adapted in many different languages for many markets.


Combining visual analogy with tailored made voice over treatment – is certainly a typical ‘formula’ of a global idea. However, whether this will really go an extra mile in reinforcing or even reminding the consumer of the emotional value of Coca Cola require a strategic creative adaptation technique.

Base on the same ‘formula’ of the execution there is an opportunity to stretch the idea further and create voice over that is more creative or even leverage on ‘topical’ issues relating to the local consumer in each country. There are also untapped opportunities to create scripts that reflect different consumers’ special interests – targeting towards consumers in different ‘channels’ (for example the voice over for the spot airing during X-Factor could well be different from the voice over for the spot airing during the World Cup season!). In doing so the commercial can remain current and relevant at any time. In my opinion, this is where the real potential of the idea.

The arrival of multi-channel media consumption had greatly fragmented the viewing habit of consumers. The web and mobile and instant messaging have also changed the consumers’ relationship with media from passive to active. It certainly won’t work anymore adopting a force-feeding and ‘uniform’ style of communications. The new ways in which companies connect with consumers need to be personal, exclusive, unpredictable and participatory. The commercial’s net takeaway message of Coca Cola being ‘a drink for every occasion’ simply won’t have the power to cut through the clutter.

Just like the approach of digital contents, TV commercials of today need to be ‘dynamic’ rather than ‘static’ – meaning the content needs to facilitate frequent updates and able to be customised for specific channel. Brands need to avoid generalised claim such as ‘for everyone’ but convince consumers that the message is genuinely tailored for them, and talks to them on a personal level.

Link to above TVC: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1847321790?bctid=76595062001

Same campaign for different markets:


I know we all have just been recovered from the Christmas ‘commercial’ craze, but I just picked up this news from my Czech friends and thought this is such a great example of brands making the best use of local culture.

Kofola, a Czech soft drink that competes with the likes of Coca-Cola dropped Santa Clause (Jezisek) in the festive commercial since 03. The ad made use of a local legend, according to which a golden pig shows itself to those fasting on Christmas Day. The commercial shows while trekking through a snow-covered forest in a quest of a Christmas tree, a father tells his daughter the golden pig tale until the little girl declares she won’t have to fast because she already sees a pig. A wild boar chases them away.

One of the main challenges for global brands seeking to expand to foreign markets is the task of balancing standardization with customization. When global brands expand overseas, they are often tempted to repeat their tried and tested formula in the new market as well. In execution terms meaning they often without further exploration, will try to adopt the global advertising with minimum adjustments for the local market. The assumption is that customers would be too eager to adopt the brand because of its ‘global reputation’. However, we have to understand that each market has its own subtleties, unique characteristics and preferences. Many of these unique characteristics are deeply inspired by the local culture. The challenge in fact is how to build on the global platform and execute it creatively with local relevance. In this day and age of 360˚ communications, it could well be achieved by combining local executions in ‘non traditional’ medium.

In the case of Kofola, obviously they do not have that ‘baggage’ since they are a home grown brand, but their creative tactics is something that global brands can take reference from.

TVC link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlTUBgyvQaA

In an article on how the adland weights up the impact of the recession (Campaign, 19 September), several agency heads had shared their insights. One aspect which I think is certainly emerging from the impact of the recession is how agencies now really have to think of ways to make global campaigns work. In relation to this we can also see agency network streamlining their operation. Martin Sorrell commented that it was “ludicrous” that his company didn’t have a common back-office but that each company operates independently (Campaignlive.co.uk, 11 September). As someone who had been working on global and cross cultural campaigns for the past decade, I cannot help but stress the fact that organisation restructuring had to be accompanied with a rethink on how global campaign is created, adapted and implemented. The traditional concept of simply translating the work just from a language point of view will never work anymore and will certainly not be able to survive with the test of the time, especially in a climate where consumers think twice before they spend and will reject message that does not engage with them culturally.

It is relevant not only to creatives but everyone in the strategic team. Claire Beale already pointed out that during this year’s APG judging planners had emerged as ‘translators of global ideas into local culture’. The ‘Keep Walking’ campaign by BBH for Johnny Walker culturally adapted for the Chinese market is a perfect example.

In fact, transcreation of global campaign should not be regarded as an after thought but should be considered right from the beginning when the creative brief is written. Creative teams who are tasked in creating a campaign that will potentially go regional or global has to open up their mind and exercise their strategic thinking, not only from an execution point of view but also from a messaging point of view.

Using the much celebrated “carousel” TV campaign by Tribal DDB who has won the Cannes Film Grand Prix in 2009 as an analogy, all the technical aspects and the meticulously planned post production work had become the centre of attention; ‘special effects’ in this case is not purely a ‘post production procedure’, but has become an integral part of the big idea and was considered right from the very beginning. And that’s how the process of transcreation should be handled.

See the commercial here:


A few campaigns that had been launched recently had caught my attention. Not only because of its brilliant idea or execution but coincidently they all seem to have been inspired by visual arts.

Sony’s ‘Soundville’ brilliantly turned Seydisfjordur, a small village in Iceland, with a ‘sound installation’ for a week by putting up speakers playing music from the likes of Death In Vegas and Bob Dylan. The clever thing about this campaign is that they have chosen such an unusual setting to convey the message, there is a poetic effect to it. The result had encouraged the audience to focus on the message rather than influenced by the familiarity. Alienation all of a sudden becomes so approachable in this case.

Volkswagen’s ‘Theory of fun’ outdoor stunt had converted a set of steps at the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm into working piano keys. The campaign built on the VW’s brand personality of the joy of driving and encourages people to take the staircase instead of the escalator. It has often been said that commercials riding on emotions rarely transcend cultures, but in this case I think they have absolutely nailed it. It can be understood and appreciated across cultures and can also be easily adapted creatively using local site specific executions. 

The recent CCTV commercial advocating ‘The power of the brand’ had used ‘ink animation’ to illustrate the progress of modern Chinese culture. It is a brilliant video art on its own. Not only it is visually stunning, it also demonstrates that traditional cultural elements can be translated in contemporary context too.

With the impact of visual arts globally and the consumers’ growing interests in the appreciation of artistic projects, visual arts could be one of the powerful tool in creating globally effective communication.