Intro: Welcome to Planner Parley, a show where we come together under a flag of truce to talk about small agency planning. In today’s episode we’re taking a long hard look at diversity in advertising and how translating the emotional response it evokes can bring advertising impact for good. In his new report Feeling Seen, Jon Evans, Chief Marketing Officer at System1 shared insights from a significant study on how people feel when they see themselves in advertising, and his findings just might surprise you. Listen in as he and John Roberts, chief strategy officer at Truth Collective reveal the power of feeling seen. Pull up a chair and listen in.
John Roberts: Jon, thank you for making the time, welcome to the show.
Jon Evans: Oh, delighted to be here thank you for having me on, really appreciate it.
John Roberts: So listen, why don’t we start at the beginning? Why don’t you give me a little bit, uh, of an overview about why you created the report in Feeling Seen, and then let’s build from that.
Jon Evans: Yeah and I thank you, great question. Um, so, so listen, so last year was quite a big year wasn’t it for, for diversity and conversations around racial inequality, injustice and, uh, many other things and you know we, we felt it in the UK as you know, as I know you did in the US and you know had some tough conversations. And the, there’re a few events last year that got me thinking about the role of advertising in terms of representation inclusion and, and, and so on. And there, there’re a number of sort of events that happen that made me think I need to go an answer a question. So, there was a there’s a big show in the UK called Britain’s Got Talent which is pr, I think it may be the most viewed show actually on TV and that there’s a famous well, one of, one of the early winners it might even be the first winner.
It was a, a dance trick called Diversity, um, interestingly enough and Diversity did a dedication to the Black Lives Matter movement. Quite a powerful moving, uh, display in, in the show back in November and it actually drew, uh, something like 20 000 complaints, because of how it depicted you know the, the, the struggle and how it depicted the kind of Black Lives Matter events of last year.
John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jon Evans: And, and that got me thinking, “Does, do those complaints really represent how people are feeling about representation and when we have the tougher conversations that we should be having?” And then a couple of other things happened as well I, I was having conversations with a few CMOs about their nervousness about doing advertising, more representative advertising and the nervousness came from, “How do I know that the broader audience are going to engage with the advertising in the same way that maybe [inaudible 00:02:39] did?” And it, it sort of it raised a flag to me and I thought, “Well look I wonder if there are quite a lot of CMOs they may not say publicly, but I met quite a lot of people out there who’re in the process to make advertising who are a little bit nervous about stepping in to doing what is the right thing.” And, and I’m sure everyone would agree, uh, about the importance of representation inclusion and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could demonstrate through what System1 does?”
Because what System1 do is measure the emotional response to advertising and we translate that emotional response into the likely business impact. So I, I had the idea, “Why don’t I test 30 diverse adverts and do two things, right?” Firstly I wanted to find out how does the audience represented feel when they see themselves in advertising? So I wondered like, if you have never seen yourself in an advert before, because you come from an underrepresented minority group, how do you feel when you see that and, and does that connect with you more?” But look, as important as that I also wanted to find out how does everyone else feel when they see the stories of smaller minority you know, unfamiliar groups in advertising? And do you know what, John?
John Roberts: Yeah.
Jon Evans: I, I was really blown away and in a positive way, because what I found is, not only do the groups representing advertising feel better when they’re seen, but you know what happened as well? Everyone else feels great when their stories are told. And in fact there is this, there is this false choice in advertising that when you’re representing a small group you’re alienating a big group. That’s not true. So what is good for society, as I call it in the report, is actually good commercial sense as well. And I was delighted to be able to present the evidence why you know, why, why it works, why it’s important. And really what I want to do and, and the reason I felt myself good about it is, is I was giving evidence to anybody that’s unsure, or maybe worried about a Twitter reaction or what people might, might say on social media, that they should actually have confidence doing the right thing, because doing the right thing is also, uh, good for business.
John Roberts: There’s so many pieces in that I’m, I’m going to dig deeper into, because I think it was fascinating for me when I read, uh, when I read the study of knowing System1, because we’ve worked with you and, and your team for, for a number of years now about understand the power of emotion that connects you to business impact.
Jon Evans: Yeah.
John Roberts: But the way I’ve looked at the report and what you’re just saying, is that the representation almost amplifies the emotion, which is amplifying the business impact, right?
Jon Evans: 100%. 100%. And, and, and that’s why, that’s why we sort of called it Feeling Seen, because actually how you feel about a brand, or how you feel about an advert it, you know, the more positive the emotion the more likely you are to buy in the, in the very simple sense. It’s why we call ourselves System1 because it’s, it’s how we feel that predicts what we do more than necessarily what we think rationally. And what’s lovely about it and what’s interesting actually there’s, there’s a really interesting nuance here which, which was very, very consistent in all the results that, because everybody has the same response to advertising when they see it both good and bad so if, if you look at the Nike Toughest Athlete ad for example it’s showing you know, pregnant women and recent mothers exercising through pregnancy and, and recent child birth to stay fit and you, and we tested that again, and you test that against a Black British female audience, right?
John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jon Evans: I mean you look at the face trace, which is second-by-second how people feel as they’re watching the ad, there’s no difference at all in the types of feelings that that creates in both audiences. So, as, as a, as a male who’s obviously never given birth I look at that and I, I still get tingles down my spine. I still feel happiness at the, at the moments and sadness other moments. The difference is this and this is, this is a really profound thing, is that the intensity of emotion felt by women when they watched the ad was much greater.
John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jon Evans: So, we all felt happy, but they felt happiness to a greater extent and the reason that’s important is actually what we know from behavioral science is, the more intense the emotion the more likely we are to go and act as a result of seeing it, sort of thing. I mean it makes sense, doesn’t it?
John Roberts: Yeah.
Jon Evans: If you, if you fell a little bit happy about something that’s nice, if you feel really happy about something you’re likely to go and talk to someone else or go down and visit the store or, or buy online sort of thing. So, that’s what we found 100% across all the good ads and there, I say good ads actually in inverted commas, because actually what we did also find is there were, uh, of the 30 there were five ads that only scored one star, there was no diversity impact with a bad ad. So, if you have a bad ad that doesn’t connect emotionally it does, diversity ain’t going to help you out in this in that situation. It doesn’t really matter they’re still going to feel badly about the, uh, value advertising. But in the other 25 that were good ads that, you know, where we saw a good score the good score got better with the audience represented.
John Roberts: And that’s important. This is great you’re answering all my questions all in one flow it’s fan, good conversation. So when we think about the, the role of that empathy it was instant to me as you were just talking about the intensity, because there’s a correlation between that and not in terms of action, but also saliency, okay? Memory and, um, okay, the most intense emotions cause the strongest memories and we’ve also known through communication testing over time that memory means that there’s less repetitional frequency necessary. So that comes in for both the business impact, but also quite frankly in marketing impact of, of how we spend our money. There’s less need for frequency if we’ve created the more intense emotion. Talk a little bit for those of us that, um, for those of you that aren’t too familiar with Sytem1’s methodology. Talk about star ads and I know from work that we’ve done on your, what to get us, most advertising is a two star or below, which means as little or no business impact.
Jon Evans: That’s right.
John Roberts: Talk a little about that Jon, and then come back to talk about what you were saying about, “Bad ads will remain bad ads, diversity or not.”
Jon Evans: Yeah, yeah. No so I, I’ll give you a quick overview then of how we calculate stars. So, we start with, a psychologist called Paul Ekman, did some work a few years ago looking at the universal emotions that we all feel as human beings and, and there are, there are seven universal emotions. So we all feel happiness, sadness, anger, contempt, uh, and so on and, and you can divide those emotions further. You know we have 15 different types of happiness for example from shard-in-Freud to pride for example, and everything in between, you know? So there, there are, there are obviously you know, they do break down and what we did is a, a very big study, a colleague of mine Orlando Wood, looked at 15 years of award-winning advertising. And what he did is he did, he did something very clever which is look at what type of emotion did the award-winning advertising create in the audience and what business effect did it drive?
And what he did is he looked at as I say 15 years of data on the IPA database and what it demonstrated very clearly is that happiness was consistently the emotion that was most likely to drive long-term business gain. Interestingly in short-term in terms of activation it was more mixed. So negative emotion can be quite powerful to make us do something you, react to something, but long term how we feel emotionally, how we feel positively about a brand is indicative of whether or not we’re going to buy the brand in future and, and so on.
John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jon Evans: So we then, we then created a, a five star system which is where we try to find something fluent something familiar to people. So, like you know we, we’re all used to star, the TripAdvisor kind of idea of, of a five star scale and there’s a real, I’ll, I’ll get to the [inaudible 00:10:07] actually which is this, is that what we found is 53% of ads, we’ve tested 50 000 now, have no discernible business impact in the long term. So the old thing that, you know the old phrase, “Half my advertising’s wasted, I just don’t know which half.” It turns out 120 years after that quote was made it was pretty much on the money so, um, whoever said that was a, was a prophet. And what we find is only the five star advertising, uh, based on our definition, is advertising where we see evidence of more than a 3% share gain in the market, or category within which that brand operates, which would be a stellar performance, right?
John Roberts: Right.
Jon Evans: But that accounts for less than 1%. Now I’ll tell you a little thing that becomes tricky, is that I used to be a System1 client actually and, um, of course when, when you have a st, five star system everyone assumes that you get like I’m, you take a, take an Uber ride you expect the driver to be 4.5 or above, don’t you? Everyone’s very used to four and five stars. On, on our system a two star is beating the average.
John Roberts: Right.
Jon Evans: So it’s, um, so it, it, it actually creates a challenge for us. So when I introduced it in the company I was working at the time people would literally get upset with getting a three star. And I’d go, “Three star is in the top 15% of every ad on the data base. You should be doing high fives.” But of course you know, no brand manager ever went around and did a high five on getting a mark that they perceived as being in the middle of the range, you know?
John Roberts: I’ve had those exact conversations with working with you guys, uh, and your colleague Dias. I, and, and honestly it’s also on a greater perspective it’s, it’s less about egos, but also about sense of achievement is that we want a four star, right? We’re driven to four and five stars as success.
Jon Evans: Yeah. Yeah. Of course.
John Roberts: Yes, you’re absolutely true.
Jon Evans: Of course. And in fact in every debrief I do and, and in fact even more so when it’s creative agency is I, I always have to give this little speech at the front about how rare four and five star are and how good two and three star is, uh, you know just, just to make sure I don’t get you know, depress the, depress the room you know, from slide one. But if I may I’ll come back quickly to the claims you made as well about engagement and memory. Because what we also found which I think was really quite powerful is our friends over at Lumen, measure minutes of attention created by advertising and what we found was that five star advertising creates three to four times the nu, uh, minutes of attention as a one star ad. So if you think about it there’s a double whammy benefit here, not only does it make you feel better and more likely to engage with the brand, you’re also more likely to watch it for longer.
And again, it’s funny actually when, when we do these studies you kind of sit back and go, “Well, no shit Sherlock.” You know what I mean? It’s like, “Well of course.” You know? Things that entertain you, things that engage you, things that make you feel something are, are things that you’re more likely to pay attention to, but it’s lovely to have the evidence.
John Roberts: Right. So, that’s interesting, because you’re bringing me back on the notion on the, uh, the evidence part which is as human beings, “No shit Sherlock” That all makes absolute sense, okay? If you were to explain this to, uh, your, your daughters okay, they would go, “Yeah, dad. You mean you get paid to tell people that, that’s obvious?”
Jon Evans: Yeah. I know, yeah.
John Roberts: And yet we do have those conversations with our clients, because when we started talking about the notion of feeling seen, that’s a really interesting part of, clients are looking for some sense of validation and confidence, okay? Which is fair enough that we, that they, the proof that the, the steps they’re going to take will be successful as best as we can help prove out. Feeling seen is interesting to me, because we have seen in the US with our client base as well, people are nervous about standing for something and yet we’re seeing more and more across everybody. And I think 2020 is an accelerated year, okay? It was true but in 2019 but it’s, things have been amplified which is consumers, real people have an expectation that you stand up and you speak for something.
Now that could just be in terms of you know, the stridency of I’d say of, of a Nike and a [inaudible 00:14:07], or it could be less voluble than that, but still being very clear about what you stand for. How’s Feeling Seen helping CMOs with that?
Jon Evans: Yeah, 100%. Well I, I have two objectives and, and objective one was the confidence question, right? I wanted to give the, the rational evidence for why, uh, diversity and inclusion is important, so that if there’s any doubt in anyone’s minds I want to take that doubt away. And I want to be able, arm, uh, you know CMOs, people who make and run advertising MOS to have the evidence for it. So they, so we take let’s take that away, let’s take that fear, nervousness, because I think, look we’re all human and we, we all see some of the conversations that go on, on Twitter and other social media and of course if you’re running a brand it, it can make you nervous, I get that. So, first thing was to take that fear away.
The second thing I wanted to do was point to the work that does it very, very well to show people how. Because I think again there’s, there’s, it, it’s like when you’re, in the creative process if, if you’re doing something that you know is, is a sensitive topic in society you feel a greater sense of you know angst and danger, I suppose. So what I wanted to do was go, “Well look here are.” And in the report we, we feature 12 ads, “Here are 12 case studies where they’ve absolutely nailed it and they’ve represented the audience in a very authentic way.” You know, they, they’ve researched it well in advance, they’ve told stories that are real and authentic to the audience being represented and they’ve executed the details well. And I just wanted to give those examples, because actually do you know what there are, there are actually a lot of good case studies out there that are, are being done very well and I wanted to celebrate those and make those very widely available, so that people could pick up the, the you know, the inspiration from those.
John Roberts: Okay. Great and actually that leads me into, um, one of the juicy and, and there’s many in the book, but one, one I particularly noted was this notion about, um, represent more than reflected.
Jon Evans: Yes.
John Roberts: So, talk a little bit more about what you found, what that means and, and what you found?
Jon Evans: Yeah I, there, there’s lots of lovely little nuances actually, you’re right. I mean one of them that you just touched on there is, is quite interesting, because with what we did is we did the [inaudible 00:16:18] status study which is you know, how everybody felt and responded and we also followed that up with some qualitative one-on-one interviews to get the nuance and the depth behind you know, kind of what’s going on.
John Roberts: Right.
Jon Evans: And what was fascinating is that when we talked to let’s say, I mean I was talk, this is in the US of course, but when we’re talking to say a Black British audience, or, uh, British gay audience or whatever, they didn’t want to be associated with the struggle. They, they were like the, the feedback came back as, “I just want to be seen in an everyday context doing normal stuff.” One good example of that was the IKEA Wonderful Every Day, which has a British Black family having a load of fun, you know? It’s, it’s really joyful it, it, and it’s in the house you know, throwing cushions at each other and it’s just an uplifting every day, fun ad. And that did really well, because you know the, the British Black audience looked at it and said, “That’s, that’s my everyday life.”
And, and they loved seeing the every day. Now of course that’s not going to necessarily win credits for awards, it’s not groundbreaking, it’s not kind of challenging any kind of you know, strongly held beliefs, but there’s something quite important about representing people authentically and, and showing, uh, you know showing real life and people in normal, uh, in normal situations. So that was, that was particularly, uh, particularly good to see. Um, another, another thing that I concluded actually from it was it’s better to tell someone’s story well, than try and tell everybody’s story badly. So another, another thing that we found was that many brands take a sort of all-inclusive approach to advertising which is, “Let’s try and tick every box. Let’s try and do a montage so that we sort of you know, include everybody.” And actually when you do that you end, you actually don’t really include anybody actually.
And, and so you know, if you take the Starbucks ad with the transgender boy writing his name on the cup for the very first time. That, that’s a moving story and, and although that may only apply to 0.2% of the population identify as trans in the UK, everybody watches the story and they can they, they, they sort of almost live out the story with, with the boy, do you know what I mean? And that, and that, so it’s again that’s another thing that people worried about is, “Well, if we tell a niche story, uh, are we going to alienate everybody?” But actually if a story is well told and if you think about you know, you think about the power of a Disney movie for example, it allows you to escape and imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes and you get taken away, don’t you? So that’s, that’s the power of advertising is to help us see and walk in other people’s shoes and experience what they experience and if it’s done well there’s no reason why it can’t have very broad appeal.
John Roberts: And that’s a great reminder for me you know, I was talking a little bit about the, the, um, the [inaudible 00:18:59], um, the study’s actually about, what you were just saying is about better representation of real life every day.
Jon Evans: Yeah. Yeah.
John Roberts: Uh, and the broader, broader audience, again [inaudible 00:19:08] on a terrible media brief for athletes, right?
Jon Evans: Yeah.
John Roberts: But the people celebrate representation even though, though it’s not necessarily representing themselves, but they celebrate the action of, of representation.
Jon Evans: Yes, that’s right. I, I think we undere, I think we underestimate as well how most people do celebrate seeing other people represented and, and that, that for the majority of people that’s a really positive thing. So, so again I think we all recognize that that’s an important thing to do and, and the audience recognizes that as well.
John Roberts: Right. And you’ve mentioned a couple of times this is a great study based on UK based work and tested with a UK audience, um, and those plans you were telling me offline of, of doing a US version of this, is that coming up later on this year?
Jon Evans: Yeah it is. No, I’m really, uh, really, really excited about it. So we, as I say we, we did this in part in the UK.
John Roberts: I was going to say if it’s a secret we have to edit this, Jon.
Jon Evans: I know right, edit, so you know the, a little, uh, a little break in here. But, um, so we, we did the, we did the UK study with ITV, who are the biggest broadcast, TV broadcast in the UK and with DECA Media Consultants who are specialists in advising companies to get representation inclusion done well in media planning and advertising.
John Roberts: Yeah.
Jon Evans: So, I wanted to get a, you know, kind of a group of people that represented you know, both media owners and also, uh, diversity experts. So that was very important to me that we were thorough in the way that we did it in terms of the sample and how we approached it and also credible in our recommendations, but of course the US is a much, uh, bigger market than the UK. You’ve got a different history to the history that we have over here. Different ethnic graphic makeup as well and, and obviously different advertising which, some of which has been controversial, some of which hasn’t, you know? Uh, and so what we’re doing is we’re taking the study we’re taking the same approach, but we’re going to scale it up. So we’re going to, we tested 30 ads in the UK we’re aiming to test 100 ads in the US. We want to, we want to cover more demographic groups, uh, we want to get an even bigger sample of, uh, different diverse advertising.
And actually we want to try and get as representative as we possibly can in the style of advertising and the groups represented as well. And I want to really look at and I’m going to be so fascinated to see what are the differences in the US compared to the UK, because you know I, you, I mean although we consume similar media there, there are definitely differences cultural differences, differences in experiences and you know differences in our history. So, I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how the data, what the data tells us.
John Roberts: Uh, I, I hear you and you know it’s funny, I always think about the role of researches to both prove out a hypothesis and learn something new and I have a feeling we’re going to do both, I think with the next, next US study.
Jon Evans: Yes. Yes. I’m with you, I’m with you. So listen, I’m very, very open to offers in terms of what are the adverts that have, uh, both positively done representation? Maybe what are the adverts that have not done representation very well, that have kind of started conversations in kind of US culture that we can, uh, test and put to the test. I mean the, the one that sticks out for me is the Kendall Jenna, Pepsi ad, of course from, from four years.
John Roberts: Correct.
Jon Evans: That’s, that’s the, that’s the one that made it over here in terms of news item, you know? So it must’ve been off the scale conversations, uh, you know when it happened in US, but it did make it’s way over here. Um, but you know I, I don’t just want to pick on maybe examples that didn’t work because it, it’s actually mo, more important to me that we celebrate … This is another, this is another thing that actually came through in the, in the research is, uh, let’s celebrate all the great things about culture and so in, in a lot of the great case studies, uh, for example the best performing ad was actually won by Tesco, which is the biggest grocery chain in the UK and they did a little story based on Ramadan with three Asian brothers who were trying to cook their auntie’s recipe while in lockdown and they had the aunty on kind of you know, Zoom call and they’re trying to prove to her, “Look we can do it aunty even if you’re not here and we can’t wait until we get to see you again and, and do it together.”
And it’s a lovely, lovely kind of heartwarming you know, heartwarming film. But what was great about it is, is we were celebrating with them you know, we were celebrating kind of, um, their, their achievement and, and everyone could feel that. And equally there was a lovely, um, Maltesers ad, uh, with a, with a disabled girl and, and she sa, and it’s a very funny story, but she’s telling it to camera and what, what’s lovely about it is she is managing the conversation.
John Roberts: Okay.
Jon Evans: We’ve been invited in as the viewer to kind of experience what she experienced and, and we’re laughing with her and I think that’s what lovely about when you get, you know, inclusion right is you give the power, in this case you know to the, to the disabled woman to tell her story and, and we enjoy it with her. And I think celebrating culture and you know, celebrating different groups I think is part of the secret to getting this right.
John Roberts: I hear you and I, I think it’s, it’s going to be fascinating, isn’t it? Because I think it ties back Jon, to what you were saying earlier that, that common emotional intensity is something that is really, um, um, there’s an empathy to that, okay? Whether that’s the, the pregnant woman example you were sho, you were talking about with Nike, but also the broader audience that you know, the likes you, you and I can still empathize, but still recognize the, the intensity of that, that emotion. Even though in the US some of the functional differences and cultural differences are, are going to obviously have variances. So Jon, um, when we think about the, the context of the report as a whole we were talking about unpicking about representation more than reflection which is great, uh, being reflected. Were there, were there some other key surprises for you in the report?
Jon Evans: Well, there, there, there were positive surprises in, in, in as I said before actually in, in how the, the, the general audience also responded positive representation. So that, that was super that was a posit, that’s what I hoped to happen. In terms of other surprises I think there was an interesting lesson in when we were researching the ads to include some groups were very hard to find examples of. So again British examples. We have 7% Asian population and it was very hard to find Asian representation even though actually we’ve, we’ve you know, we’ve had an Asian population for quite some time and you, and they make up a big percentage of our, of our audience and yet it was very difficult to find good examples. Another one was older women as well. So we struggled to find non-stereotypical kind of you know, you know, rather than the sort of gray haired lady in retirement sort of examples, right? But we found finding older women role models in advertising quite difficult.
So, that was one thing that was interesting even in the, even in the exercise of trying to find the sample to, to test, was interesting. And then another, another little surprise which I thought was, was interesting and, and it’s a good one for advertising agencies this actually is, some of the ads I thought were not very good, because they were stereotypical performed very well. So sometimes our pre, sometimes our kind of preconceptions of how we, so I’ll, I’ll give you an example so Patak’s, a curry sauce in the, in the UK have a very traditional Asian kind of story of you know, uh, you know the, the parents making the recipe passing it down to the kids, it has traditional Indian music, it’s very stereotypically Indian in terms of accent and, and stuff like that. I think as, as a group we were looking at going oh, I’m, I’m sure the audience must look at that and just go, “Oh gees we’re, we’re fed up of being stereotyped as, as you know, in that kind of way.” We were wrong. In fact all the responses were, “Oh, it’s lovely to see our culture authentically represented.”
So, again and it’s you know, this is an important lesson for any marketer isn’t it? But It’s important to take your own biases and prejudice away and actually listen to what the audience are saying and sometimes what maybe we think is stereotypical we might have a reaction on behalf of the audience, we got to check is that actually how the audience are going to react to it, you know? And it works both ways, doesn’t it, you know?
John Roberts: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s that, that two sides to the, the implicit bias we talk about here okay, of the stereotype. It can be a very negative thing, but also it could actually be, because stereotypes originally are founded on a really human truth and insights in terms of what, what does make people distinctive.
When you look ahead, awesome news that there’s going to be a US version. It is, certainly having spent time with the report and the work that we do I know that there’s some absolute commonalities of human behavior, whilst the nuances of, of society are going to change. We’re going to learn some more. Um, I was thinking about this and I wanted your, your council on, we have a report, we know that you know, the conversation that we’re having now parleys extensively for small agency planners. People that don’t have necessarily have a big network within the department, or within the client base and so on. How can we as strategists, how can we take your work and make the work less remarkable in a year’s time?
Jon Evans: Yes. Yes. Yes. And, uh, that’s a cool question. Um, I think it’s about sharing the work with, with, with the right people in the right parts in the process. So again, so what I would be keen is that, is that particularly client side people who are briefing, having the original, creating the original plans even before it gets to a strategist in an agency. If you can influence upstream it makes your job a whole lot easier, because then I think the brief is right. So, it all starts with a brief if we can get the brief right, everything becomes easier. Then as you go through the process I think it’s about finding, it’s about finding authentic stories to tell and engaging with those audiences at the right point in the process. So it, this isn’t about a casting decision later down the line you know, this has got to be upstream. So the further upstream you go the better and more authentic the work’s going to be. Then I, then I think that’s what’s going to lead to making unremarkable, as you say.
John Roberts: That’s really good council Jon. So, you are a CMO, you’re a CMO of a fantastic ad affect organization, it’s more than research for me it’s about the application of that in terms of the work System1 do and you had prior lives of CMOs at, in more, um, perhaps more traditional companies. As a CMO what would be free tips for how strategists can talk or share this work?
Jon Evans: I think the best work I’ve ever done in my career has been when the part, the parties involved are involved right at the very, very start. So I know prob, probably the best situ, I once had to relaunch an energy brand in the UK. We were going through a really turbulent time and actually what we did, the first thing we did is, is, I called it Mission Control but we, we, we, I got one person from each of the kind of key, like I got strategists, creative, my PR, uh, media planner and there were about six or seven of us and act, and actually we co-created the plan itself. So I, I didn’t, I didn’t write a plan and then did it up and say, “Right, you know you, you do your parts.”
I actually you know, took them away and we actually created the essence together the, the division, the whole thing. And, and actually that was really powerful it was powerful for a number of reasons, but it made us very quick because we, we made decisions together and, and on, on the fly, we didn’t have to wait for permission and so on. But it also meant that everyone was bought in to the idea very, very early and that, in this case the strategists from the, from the, the ag, the agency I was using had a seat on the table at the very beginning and in all the decision making processes. So, now again it’s a big ask and I’m, I’m, not you know, that, that was an exception event and it took an exception event for me to work in that way, but I would say if you’re working with clients who have got some chunky challenges and they really want to produce good work then, then ask that you’re involved at the start, I would say. So that, that would be the first thing.
I think that the second thing in that process and, and I’ll come back and do a little plug for System1 there actually and I’ll tell you why, because this is actually where I started working with System1, because in, in this same example I had made the mistake previously of, of, of spending weeks doing qualitative research and kind of pausing the process to go away and ask a load of questions and then come back and re-start the process and that was incredibly time consuming and it, it often had mixed results. The beauty and joy of the System1 24 hour turnaround and the fact that you could go and get 150 people to give you feedback straight away, it was beautiful. Because I, I mean in this particular example where we landed on a, probably the best strategy I’ve ever been involved in, resulted from this kind of collective working. And, uh, I remember the, the excitement from the team going, “Jon, we think we’ve got it and we just can’t wait to share.” You know? It’s that palpable energy that you get when you think you’ve really landed it and they really did an amazing job.
But then, then, because the strategy was right they, they came back and they said, “Jon, we, we haven’t got one idea we’ve got seven.” And, and I remember, I remember the moment where they literally they, they, in this particular agency the creatives worked in pairs, right? And they had seven pairs coming in pitching for 15 minutes each and I was blown away. But I mean the beauty of a clear strategy and a clear, uh, clear, uh, goal inspiring creative and the creative, I mean I had that awful feeling of, “I can only pick one.” And we had immense debates about you know, which one should it be. I, I mean I learned a lot in that process and one of the things I learned was that when, when you’re on a creative roll your head is so far in the future in terms of where it could go, that you forget that the consumer is going to see it for the first time and they’re going to have to get it, right?
So, what I thought is, is we’re, we’re just like, because the idea was so funny we were falling over ourselves with laughter about some of the executions we were going to make in the future. When I presented those executions to the, you know through the system on test, no one understood them (laughs). We had, you know we hadn’t started at A we’d gone to Z, do you know what I mean? Anyway, so I learned something there which is, sometimes you have to, you have to launch an idea as if it’s the first time anyone’s ever seen it first and then you can be clever later. Anyway, so I thought that was quite interesting. But the good thing with the System1 approach in that, in that event was we didn’t have to wait. Like we, we could go and test seven ideas. 24 hours later I knew the idea to go with, it wasn’t the idea I thought it ac, turned out to be the simplest articulation of the strategy, not the cleverest or funniest which I, I was a bit gutted about, because I had already cast myself in the role, you know (laughs)?”
John Roberts: Right (laughs).
Jon Evans: I already, I already auditioned for the role as you know, starring in this one, anyway and then actually, interestingly enough in this process later on in the editing suite, where we’re making decisions about soundtrack, which scene to go for, which sequence is right to tell the story? Again we were able to go and test those things out, so it wasn’t a, it, it, I tell you what it did. It made decision making quick and it took the angst away. It, it took the confrontation away between clients and agency.
I mean you, you, I mean you’ll know this, but when you get those tense moments where you really, really believe in going that direction and the client is very uncomfortable and what you need is, you need some way of answering the question about going left or going right and that’s what System1 does basically.
John Roberts: I hear you.
Jon Evans: Is, is give you decision making ability in the moment, where you need to make the decision and it takes the emotion, ironically because we’re about proving emotion, but it takes the emotion away from the confrontation between agency and client and makes it a bit more of a sort of a rational, rational discussion. So yeah, you get involved early then test often, uh, and then, and then work collaboratively I think across, uh, all the parts so that the client feels you know, that it’s one team not separate you know, kind of separate parts all competing with each other.
John Roberts: Fantastic. Great perspectives and thank you. And you know, um, for the listeners here, the the depth of System1 we explored with Orlando actually in last season. Um, so we spent a whole 45 minutes picking his enormous brain into what we’ve learned the system, of System1, but also in terms of how we can apply it. Um, and also a plug for, um, anyone that’s picking up on Jon’s cues from CMO, with, uh, the Uncensored CMO hosted by our very own guest today Jon Evans, which I listen to, to try and get great you know, a little more experience of em, empathy and understanding the realities of being a CMO today and how strategies can help facilitate that. Jon, this has been great we can talk for ever and a day but, um, taking away from this and, and encourage all listeners.
Feeling Seen, coming back to the beginning, okay? Was, is a great way, as you were just saying, taking away some of the emotion of the uncertainty of the intention of CMOs. The intention is there to help better represent the real word today, the audience in terms from a cultural and, and, um, of sensitivity. Feeling Seen validates that, but it isn’t just about, uh, standing up and representing people, but it also has a broader impact for us all. We celebrate everybody celebrates better representation, um, and I love what you were talking about earlier about the recognition of the survey and the study show this about the intensity of emotion to drive business impact. Thank you Jon, it’s been a fascinating quick run through and I’m really looking forward to well, we’re going to talk more I know, once the US study’s done. Hope you enjoy that time.
Jon Evans: Yeah, you too. Great stuff, thanks man.
Outro: This has been a Truth Collective production.