Category: Media Trends

Brands need to inject emotion into their digital equation

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Back when I first started to work in the advertising industry, we understood the power emotions played in creating campaigns that would become part of popular culture and actually motivate people into action; be that to buy something, support something or alter social or professional behaviour. We did it by tapping into their emotional response mechanisms.

It was a time when psychology and sociology influenced ideas and brands were creating effective and iconic campaigns that frequently bridged the gap between art and sales in such a way that they took on a cultural relevancy that brands today, simply aren’t achieving.

People looked forward to the release of a new advertising campaign and friends would talk about their favourite ads in general conversation. Slogans became part of our everyday lexicon and brands actually achieved a love status. As much as digital has a place in youth culture, I’ve never once came home to find one of the children having printed out their favourite banner ad and stuck it on their wall.

However – the emotional purge perpetrated during the digital revolution saw many advertisers sacrifice this human connection between brand and consumer with the result that the media channels themselves have grown to become more important than the brands that are paying to advertise on them. People have stopped crafting brand stories and simply started to churn out emotionless content to fix little boxes on a little grid with little hope of any real engagement.

With many of the world’s most popular social media and search engines now being called out over manipulating their results, the question that many digital advertisers are having to ask is – just how effective is digital and have they been getting the results they were told they were?

For what it’s worth, my view is that digital can be genuinely effective, but brands need to be creating campaigns that people want to be exposed to in the first place and not just force fed. You can’t just bombard people in the hope of wearing them down. We need to create emotional connections with people again – be that making them happy, angry, sad or hopeful about a situation, product or service. When people feel, they act. Apathy is not an option. View digital as one of the many tools at your disposal and not the only one.

As mentioned earlier this week in one of our other posts, two of the most noteworthy campaigns of the past year were rooted in tangible experience that people could see and touch. They elicited real human emotions.

So whilst it might pain some of the digital evangelists out there to admit, we did know a thing or two about brand engagement pre www.

Mission Accomplished!



600 Effectiveness case studies and counting for Patricia


With almost a year under her belt as MD, not to mention over 600 international effectiveness case studies, a clutch of awards and no sign of slowing down, Patricia Killoran, Managing Director at The Mission Control Communications is starting the New Year on a firm footing and with a clear objective.

Ahead of a busy month travelling to meet partner brands on both sides of the Atlantic and throughout Europe, Patricia explains the importance of that face-to-face contact and why the agency will frequently travel thousands of miles for just one meeting.

‘The distance is irrelevant,’ says Patricia. ‘What is important is showing partner brands that we are just as committed to their success as they are themselves. Naturally a lot of what we do can be trafficked and managed with email and calls, but nothing beats that face-to-face interaction and in my experience, people achieve more when they actually know the people they are working with.’

Have you a particular trip that you’re looking forward to? ‘I have to admit; I am looking forward to going to the States again. We work with some really lovely people out there and I do look forward to seeing them and just catching up.’

So it’s not all business then? ‘I don’t think you can work in this industry if you’re just all about “the business”. What we do is very personal. You can’t be involved in creating something and not have a personal involvement in it. You only have to look at the team in the studio to see that. For all of the strategy and creativity that goes into a project, there’s an equal measure of personal pride. It’s the same with the brand teams we work with. There’s not a job that goes out the door that isn’t personal.’

Is it just the boss that gets to travel? ‘No not at all! Since we officially started back to work after the Christmas break, everyone has been out and about at meetings. There’s been no shortage of red eye flights out off International the past week or so and that looks like a trend set to continue for the rest of the month. But it’s great that the team gets to meet with the people they are working with. One of the teams happened to be in England last week and they met up with some of their US partners and they achieved so much in such a short space of time. It’s that sharing of ideas and knowledge and getting to know people as people. That’s what it’s all about – people working with people to achieve a common objective.’

So 2016 is starting busy? ‘Starting busy. It’s always busy and that’s the way we like. I think Christmas Day was the only day that we weren’t actually working. We’ve a great team here and it’s the relationships they form with our partners that gives them that level of commitment to not only go above and beyond, but to do whatever it takes to get the job completed.

It was actually pretty funny on New Year’s Eve night. We were working with a partner across 3 time zones so we had 3 celebrations.’

The Mission Control Communications is seen as an agency that puts in a lot of hours, is that true, and if so, why? ‘We live in a world that is infinitely more connected than at any other point in history. Brands are doing business simultaneously across multiple time zones so you need to be on hand to work with them when they need you.

Yes we put in a lot of strange hours, but you have to remember, they are only strange hours here in Northern Ireland. In reality, they are just the normal office hours of our overseas partners. So whilst we might work late in the evenings when needed, there will be other times when we can start late in the morning. It’s swings and roundabouts – we’re not slave drivers.

I was chatting to one of the designers about it recently after he’d came back from a meeting and he made a very good point, ‘we’re at the big table, so we’ve got to put the work in’. I think that says a lot about the attitude of the team. They know we are getting to work on some amazing brands and that people listen to our suggestions. Our team sees that and appreciates it.’

What do you mean by being at the ‘big table’? ‘We work with brands that are valued in the billions of dollars and that truly understand the power of effective marketing. These are brands that set trends as opposed to following them. They are brands that want a partner that engages with them and is capable of taking them to the next level as opposed to simply giving them the same old year in and year out.

You only have to look at some work that is out there at the minute and you know the agencies responsible are following a formula that hasn’t changed in decades. That’s not servicing a client. It’s opting for the safe route and ensuring you’re leaving the office at 5pm everyday. That’s not us. We’re constantly looking at how we can work with our brand partners to engage with their audience in new and relevant ways. Granted – you spend a lot of your time in unfamiliar territory – but that keeps it interesting.

It also means that when we are working with international agencies, we are doing so with confidence and authority.’

There has been some criticism of the agency from your competitors for seemingly placing strategy over creativity. How do you respond to that? ‘Oh we’ll always have our critics. But what’s interesting is that those critics seem to end up weaving a lot of our thinking into their own messaging and positioning. Look, I’m not saying creativity isn’t important. It is. But it needs to be channelled. It needs to have a defined outcome. It needs to achieve an objective. We work with multi-billion-dollar brands. They want effectiveness. They don’t want pretty pictures.’

So is strategy more important than creativity? ‘I don’t think it’s an either/or option. You need strategy to direct creativity so that you can enable an effective outcome. So if we had to be labelled as anything, I’d prefer to have us labelled as an effectiveness agency. That’s what we do and that’s what the brands we work with expect. Strategy and creativity are just two of the tools we use to be effective.’

What do you make of agencies that position themselves as creative then? ‘Other people can do as they want. If they feel the need to constantly remind people that they are creative, then that’s their right. But for us, creativity is just one of the strings to our bow.’

You mention critics weaving your thinking into their messaging and positioning, does that happen a lot? ‘It happens. But we take it as a compliment. Truthfully, I’m happier that we’re in a position to inspire, inform and educate other agencies. If the roles were reversed, then I think I’d be having concerns. It can actually be funny at times when one of the team comes across something. I remember we did a campaign for one of our scientific partners and a few months later, another agency replicated the concept for a large inward investment organisation here in Northern Ireland.’

Are you ever tempted to weave other agencies thinking into yours? ‘That’s not who we are. When we launched The Mission Control Communications, we did it with the objective of challenging ourselves to constantly strive for better. If we were to simply take our lead from another agency, that defeats the purpose and we might as well just go work for another agency. That and truthfully, our partners wouldn’t stand for it. They work with us because we are that bit off centre. We don’t go to presentations and start with, “here’s an idea that we did for company X that really worked and we think it would work for you as well”. We’re constantly pushing boundaries and challenging not only ourselves, but also our partners.’

So what will be the next lesson you hope to teach those following your example? ‘Be yourself and stand up for what you believe in. Companies don’t want ‘yes’ agencies. They are paying for your expertise so bring something to the table that is worth paying for. That’s why we keep the lab bench in the middle of the studio to constantly remind our teams of that. Everything we do needs to add value to our partner brands, so before we bring it to the presentation, it has to pass our own internal bench test.’

Mission Accomplished!

Hell yes, we’re effective.


When we launched earlier this year, we wanted to prove to people that our quirky way of doing things actually gets results. We’re strategic in what we do, but in a down-to-earth way. We don’t aim to baffle people with buzzwords and technical jargon; we simply aim to help them create work that is strategically destined to succeed.

Well – in less than a year, the team has scooped 4 international effectiveness awards including 3 Generator Effectiveness Awards and 1 Davey Effectiveness Award – so we must be doing something right.

At this rate – we might need to get a shelf or something.

Mission Accomplished!

Even our table is part of the brand story.


Earlier this year whilst on a shoot at Terry’s, we spotted this old science lab bench tucked away at the back of a warehouse. It had been salvaged from a local school where it had been used by thousands of students over the years to carry out all sorts of experiments and then pretty much forgotten about. Well – with our experience working with brands within the sciences and healthcare sectors, we decided to give it a new lease of life and take it home with us.

Since then we’ve had brand managers and healthcare professionals from all over the world join us around it, not to mention we planned the 2015 Conservative General Election campaign here with a few very well known faces.

We’ve also been very lucky in that we’ve attracted some very talented people to join us at the table to help deliver multiple award winning projects with our clients’ marketing teams. But we’ve always got room for more.

Now we’re planning on using it as the backdrop for work that will be featured on our new website – due to launch early in the New Year not to mention something epic pre Christmas.

Mission Accomplished!


Ad blocking and why it could actually be good for your brand.


If you’re a marketer, you’re probably very aware of the latest wave of panic sweeping through the industry – namely ad blocking. It looks like people have finally cottoned onto the fact that they don’t have to sit and be force fed ads on a daily basis like chickens in a battery farm.

Historically, ads have been the unspoken price society paid for free content. But it looks like it’s a price people are no longer willing to pay. When Apple released its latest version of iOS in September, it gave millions of users their first proper taste of a fully native ad blocking reality.

Whilst publishers and advertisers are the unwitting casualties of the new iOS operating system – many believe that there is a bigger strategy at play. One in which the pawns are now being sacrificed as Apple makes a decisive move against Google. Remember – Apple doesn’t make its money from ads, unlike Google.

In 2014 Google made almost $60billion from advertising but according to PageFair, during the same period, ad blocking cost it a further $6.6billion. It’s not only Google that will be feeling the pain.

Mike Germano, chief digital officer at Vice caused a stir earlier this year at a conference in New York when he said: ‘I love my audience, but fuck you, ad blockers – 20% of my revenue is gone’.

This raises an interesting conundrum. How do publishers pay for generating the quality content people want without advertising revenue? Some publishers have responded by introducing paywalls whilst others are exploring anti-ad blocking technology.

The FT is probably one of the best examples of a brand and business model to have adapted to the situation. Its subscription-based model has something in the region of 500,000 paying subscribers.

But ad blocking isn’t actually something new. For an old hand like me, I first encountered it way back in the early 90’s when I started out in the industry. Back then it wasn’t some piece of clever code created by a hipster in a trendy warehouse with cappuccinos on tap, it was a chunky piece of black plastic, usually made in China, though sometimes Thailand, that came with big coloured rubber buttons and we called it the remote control or ‘commercial killer’.

The remote control was one of the most fearful and powerful pieces of ad blocking technology ever invented. Yet I don’t recall their being the same level of fear as there is today. Back then, the industry just responded by creating better ads. We looked at the problem but better yet, we understood people and what led them to flick between channels.

Looking back on it, the answer really wasn’t that difficult. By creating content that people liked, we actually had them tuning into see the ads. People would talk in the pub about the ads they’d seen. Brand slogans worked their way into our everyday speech. Hell – the brands even started to merchandise characters from their campaigns, opening up new streams of revenue.

But when digital arrived, things started to change and it wasn’t necessarily for the better. Publishers and agencies made fortunes for doing very little and brands quickly realised that they didn’t have to put as much effort into reaching people. They had a captive audience. This led to a degree of arrogance and bit-by-bit, the relationship that existed with people changed. But what brands failed to recognise was that as publishers sought to standardise platforms with page templates set to basically allow for the maximum number of paid ads to appear, their hard won relationship with customers was being steadily eroded.

It was inevitable that society would eventually rise up against the meritocracy and arrogance of the industry. So when Apple introduced their upgrade to iOS in September it gave millions of users their first proper taste of a fully native ad blocking reality.

This brings us to an important crossroads. Whilst some publishers and brands are responding by exploring anti-ad-blocking technologies, testimony to just how deep rooted, the arrogance of the sector is, others are embracing the opportunity that now exists.

Think about it. If people are opting out of seeing ads, it means they won’t be seeing your competitors’ ads either. That allows you to get both imaginative and strategic with your messaging and positioning. It allows you to get up and go out into the real world and get to know your customers as something more than algorithms. Remember the old Ogilvisym, ‘your target audience are not A,B,C1 demographics. They are your mother, your father, your brother and your sister’. In other words they are real people.

It challenges you to think about the content you’re creating and makes you ask yourself, is this just all about me, or has it a worth and relevancy to the people I want to influence? You know that saying about thinking outside the box – well it’s time to start thinking outside the standard 728 x 90 pixel box.

For the first time in a long time, brands have an opportunity to get to know their customers again – as people and not digital personas. Ad blockers are not the end of digital advertising – instead they are simply a much needed kick up the backside that will force agencies, brands and publishers to respect their customers and stop taking them for granted.

Mission Accomplished!

Multiple Wins in New York at the Communicator Awards for The Mission Control.

The Mission - King Kong

New York, NY (April 26, 2015) Earlier today the winners of the 2015 Communicator Awards were announced by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. With more than 6,000 entries received from across the US and around the world, we were over the moon to hear that The Mission Control had scooped not one, not two, but three silver awards with distinction at the international event that recognizes the best and most effective work.

The campaigns awarded include the Equiniti PeopleAX Integrated Campaign Strategy for Effectiveness and Unleash Your Creative Monster for Best Use of Direct Mail and Best Self Promotion.

Created by RS Owens, the producer of the Oscar® and Emmy® Awards, the new Communicator statuette is a symbol of the continued pursuit of excellence in marketing and communications and the three wins are an amazing endorsement of The Mission Control and its ability to deliver highly effective B2B campaigns at a world class level.

This is not the first time that The Mission Control has been recognized internationally for the effectiveness of its work – last year the agency also picked up awards in the States for the launch of the new Taconic brand campaign.

“It’s always an honor to be recognized at the awards,” says James Killoran, Strategy Director at The Mission Control. “But to be competing and winning at this international level proves, like our motto says, everything’s possible.”

Judges from this year’s awards include, Condè Nast, Disney, Keller Crescent, Lockheed Martin,, MTV, Time Inc., Tribal DDB and Yahoo.

Mission Accomplished!

Taconic Biosciences Global Launch.

Taconic Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 14.01.11

The mission began in January 2014 in a small town two hours north of New York. Stepping off the train in the midst of the Arctic Freeze, we made our way to the meeting that included two generations of the family who owned the business and contributors from Miami, San Francisco, Germany and Denmark.

We were all gathered to hear the plans for the coming year that included a major rebrand that would effectively position Taconic as the sector leader and introduce clients to a host of new services offered by the company.

Our mission was to work with the Taconic marketing team in the United States to create and deliver all of the brand assets that would introduce the world to Taconic Biosciences as a new entity. Recognising that those we would be targeting included NASA – one of Taconic’s existing customers, we quickly established the scale of the challenge facing us.

In addition to the obvious challenges that you face in creating an engaging roll-out strategy, we were also tasked with ensuring the roll-out simultaneously across two continents.

Working in real-time and on location with the Taconic Marketing team in Hudson and their partners in San Francisco, we managed the development of the new brand assets and their distribution throughout the company – ensuring buy-in from all levels within the company.

We then worked with the Taconic Marketing team to facilitate a seamless transfer from the old brand position to the new one. This was not just a change in logo – this was a fundamental cultural change that challenged perceptions – both internally and externally, creating a new chapter in the Taconic brand story.

Key to the effective delivery of the project was undoubtedly the collaborative relationship that developed between the Taconic Marketing team and The Mission Control. Honest debate, valid critique and commercial integrity were the linchpin to ensuring the successful completion of the strategy and rollout.

Mission Accomplished!

Getting Tactile with Tactility Factory at the London Design Festival.

The story of Tactility began for us just two months ago when through a recommendation from another client; we were invited to meet with the founders of Tactility Factory.

Immediately the chemistry was there and within days we were part of the team; creating a strategy that would allow TF to participate in London Design Festival and undertake a trade mission to the Middle East.

We essentially became squatters in the TF office, working alongside the founders to verbalise the brand story and define a recognisable industry descriptive for their evolutionary product range.

That descriptive was to become Infused Concrete®.
Working in partnership with those clever people at Wylie Communications, we shaped a strategic roadmap for the London Design Festival and the Middle East that utilised a range of supporting channels to deliver a coherent and consistent entry point for Tactility Factory to introduce the concept and reality of Infused Concrete®.

This included the creation of a brand lexicon and a catalogue of emotive images that would run through all audience touch-points – culminating in a strategic plan and roll out for the coming year.

Good luck to the team at the London Design Festival and on tour in the Middle East.

Mission Accomplished!

Sorry folks. False alarm. Nothing to see here, just some attention grabbing headlines.


Stop thinking about websites – they’re dead,” that was the headline statement from Asda at the 2013 Social Media World Forum in London. Naturally there was a lot more said at the event than just that, but for some reason this was the statement that caused millions of us to fall to our knees and ask the question, “Why God? Why?

The nation, neigh the world was still paralysed with grief at the news that we had just lost websites when adverting industry legend, Trevor Beattie announced that we had also lost television. Yes my friends, Mr. Beattie, the man who had brought us FCUK and ‘Hello Boys’ broke the news that after 70 years, “the 30-second TV commercial is dead.

Websites and the 30-second television all dead within days of one and other – it was just too much to cope with. Imagine it, a world with no more dancing ponies, or websites with pets that look like their owners. It really was the start of the Aztec Apocalypse we had been promised.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got home and turned on the television expecting to find reports surrounding the End of Days, only to switch on and see not one, not two – but dozens of 30-second TV commercials’, including one from Mr, Beattie’s own agency: featuring a mooing cow cheese container

Fearing some sort of television zombie apocalypse, I rushed to my computer to see if I could contact other survivors and glory be – I found that there were still websites out there.

So what’s going on? Has London heard something that the rest of us haven’t, or is it just the latest hype by a PR machine that’s churning out the same basic obituary story, but with different victims. {INSERT NAME is dead}.

My money would be on the latter. You see; it seems to be the popular thing to do at the minute to come out and announce the demise of one media channel or another. I suppose it’s like the old adage says, “no news sells like bad news.

But what if we didn’t have to play media Cluedo and no one had to die? What if we could find a way for all of the communication channels to co-exist? We did it in the past, so why can’t we do it again? I mean, radio didn’t kill press and television didn’t kill radio. And I did hear a rumour on the lowdown that television and online had even worked together.

In an earlier post,’d touched on the subject of how planners were having a much more difficult time now trying to solve the Brand / Channel / Audience equation. But it’s not an impossible task and some agencies are managing to do it without having to resort to channel murder. Yet whilst some are embracing the challenge others appear to have found a much more brutal approach to resolving the problem. They just kill off what doesn’t fit into their neat pigeonhole equation.

However – rather that killing channels off, shouldn’t we be welcoming the arsenal of opportunities that are now at our disposal and finding new and exciting ways of using them to improve the conversations that brands are so desperate to have with people?

OK – so television isn’t the dominating force it once was, but it’s still a pretty useful card to play if you can afford to do it right and most importantly of all, if it’s relevant to the people you’re looking to start a conversation with. And there I go again with that word – ‘people’. It’s strange how often they get forgotten about in the melee of obituaries and channel bashing. And to prove my point, think about this – two weeks ago television reintroduced us to something that many of us will have spent thousands of pounds in therapy trying to forget – PJ and Duncan’s, Let’s get ready to rumble:

Television brought it back to peoples attention and the web allowed people to make it the UK’s Official Number 1 – something it failed to do when it was originally launched all the way back in 1994 and something that those of you who bought it online will one day have to answer for.

But it does go to prove a point – people are fickle and you shouldn’t be in a rush to kill off anything that still has a role to play in communicating with them. Just because we start the conversation on TV doesn’t mean to say that it has to stop there. If the subject matter is relevant and engaging, people will take it and pass it on.