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Masterproef. Being a copywriter at mortierbrigade. Joanna Ryckaert

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Masterproef Being a copywriter at mortierbrigade Joanna Ryckaert ManaMa Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie Promotor: dr. Ellen Vanpraet Universiteit Gent bedrijf stagebegeleider afdeling taken talen
Masterproef Being a copywriter at mortierbrigade Joanna Ryckaert ManaMa Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie Promotor: dr. Ellen Vanpraet Universiteit Gent bedrijf stagebegeleider afdeling taken talen tijdens de stage stageperiode mortierbrigade Rotterdamstraat Brussel Philippe De Ceuster Partner // Creative director Creatie Copywriting Nederlands 03/05/2010 tot 30/07/ Acknowledgements First and foremost, I thank all of MTB s lecturers for teaching me the nuts and bolts of business communication. My special thanks go to Tom Bruyer, who joined in along the way and served this year s class with his support and organizational skills. And, most importantly, who let us play loud and silly games during the many bus rides. Furthermore, I would like to thank Philippe De Ceuster who accepted me as an intern at mortierbrigade and the agency s staff who shared their knowledge and spent their precious time patiently answering all my questions. Thanks to Stefan, Tim and Thomas for the custom made song on the day of my leaving. Thanks also go to my parents for their love and encouragement throughout my studies. And, last but definitely not least, a BIG thank you goes out to Jonas who supported me in many different ways throughout these three months. Jonas, you are the best! 3 Contents Acknowledgements... 3 Preface... 7 CHAPTER I: mortierbrigade... 8 History... 8 Time for something different... 8 A new school agency... 8 What s in a name Ready for lift-off Structure Megalomania, or not? Independent and media-neutral Three departments Product range Corporate identity Rule no. 1: be unique Rule no. 2: be relevant Rule no. 3: be creative Rule no. 4: be consistent in a surprising way Rule no. 5: be effective Clients A wide range In the hunt for clients Competition Boondoggle FAMOUS Duval Guillaume SWOT Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats CHAPTER II: Theory Introduction & research question Studying great advertising Into the Old Spice campaign The Man Your Man Could Smell Like Questions Old Spice s online responses Success What makes the Old Spice ad campaign an example of great advertising? Underlying principles of the Old Spice TV-commercials A great insight A big idea A flawless execution Old Spice s successful social media campaign Great content Great influencers Personal & ego-driven Old Spice s TV campaign set the stage Conclusion CHAPTER III: The internship Introduction Main duties Canvas Wilkinson Sword Radio Goedele Nationale Loterij mortierbrigade Secondary duties Deutsche Bank Studio Brussel Adaptations Conclusion CHAPTER IV: Conclusion What did I learn professionally? What did I learn personally? Feedback on the MTB-programme Bibliography Attachments Preface Jens Mortier, creative director at the advertising agency mortierbrigade, was invited to give a guest lecture in October I already knew mortierbrigade and appreciated the agency s reputation of making creative and surprising advertising. In my opinion, Jens Mortier was one of the most interesting guest speakers of the first semester and his philosophy one of the most refreshing. Yet, I knew little about the advertising sector before I started my internship. Small corners of the advertising veil had been lifted during guest lectures and classes, but for a large part I found myself in unfamiliar territory. Since I have always wanted to do something creative, I thought that the advertising business was worth an exploratory expedition. So I went out hunting for an internship in the creative division of an advertising agency. Guest lecturer Mark Van Bogaert got me enthusiastic about copywriting and incited me to gain experience in this discipline. I ed and called a few agencies, including mortierbrigade. Beside its good reputation, I knew that mortierbrigade had a pleasantly small size which, in my view, would make it easier to become a real part of the team during my internship. With that idea in the back of my head, I did not hesitate when mortierbrigade offered me an internship. I soon discovered that the task profession of a copywriter at mortierbrigade is far more focused on conceptual thinking than writing a good long copy for direct mails or brochures. For that reason, I opted for What makes great advertising great? as the subject my thesis, instead of How to write great long copy for direct mails or brochures?. The latter is a matter of practice, while the former is more open for debate. 7 CHAPTER I: mortierbrigade History Time for something different Mortierbrigade is a Brussels based independent advertising agency launched in The founders are Jens Mortier, Joost Berends, Philippe De Ceuster and financial director Dirk Debeys. These four met at Duval Guillaume, the award winning advertising company established by André Duval and Guillaume Vanderstichelen. Although responsible for a great deal of the award cups at Duval Guillaume s mantelpiece, Mortier, Berends and De Ceuster felt it was time for something different. Time to introduce a whole new way of working to the Belgian advertising world. Time for a new agency. Despite its young age, mortierbrigade became within a very short period one of the most successful agencies in Belgian advertising. I could probably fill a good few pages just listing their awards. However, the assignment was to keep this historical summary a summary. A new school agency Mortierbrigade has often been called a new school advertising agency. But what does new school stand for? And what is mortierbrigade s difference compared to old school agencies? Away with the accounts This discussion starts by looking at both new - and old-school company structures. For decades, old-school Belgian advertising companies were used to working with account managers, who constitute the intermediaries between client and creative teams. The idea that copywriters and art directors are not supposed to come out of their dark and musty offices was deeply rooted in the industry. Mortierbrigade, however, was the first in Belgium to break with this unwritten law. They dropped the function of account and put clients in 8 direct contact with their creative teams and the people in charge of production and strategy. As such there were no more in between steps. If you are wondering what the reason is behind all this organizational shuffling, the answer is quite simply the following: efficiency. Mortierbrigade s founders are firmly convinced that efficiency is far more easily attained by this kind of direct communication. In their opinion a chain of account managers between sender and receiver, only slackens the process (KDR, 2004) However, the presence of account managers has not completely disappeared. In an interview creative director and partner Philippe De Ceuster (2010) remarks: The duties of an account have partially been taken over by our producers. But not everything. The producers do the practical things, they are not in charge of the strategic part. We have Stephanie [Zimmerman] for that. Were they the very first ones? No, Philippe admits, KesselKramer, an advertising agency in the Netherlands, has been working without accounts for many years now. In the early beginnings of mortierbrigade, we paid them a visit. And we liked their way of working. Besides, he adds, we were three creative people and one financial director. We did not have an account in our midst. Somehow it felt right not to work with accounts. Communicating differently The previous section discussed new school as a new way of organising but there is more to than that. It also assumes a new way of communicating to your public. Together with the company s launch, mortierbrigade s founding fathers proclaimed that, instead of walking the beaten advertisement tracks, they wanted to discover and implement new kinds of advertising. A fine example is their black boy campaign for Studio Brussel s charity event Music for Life in The theme of that year s event was potable water for Africa. Mortierbrigade could have made an ordinary TV-commercial to raise people s attention. However, they chose not to do so. Starting from the ubiquitous glass of water that every TV-host has on their desk, something one does not even notice anymore, they set up a guerrilla campaign. In prime time, mortierbrigade sent a little black boy to the television studios to snatch the presenters glasses. The action got world-wide attention and won a Titanium Lion at the Cannes festival (mortierbrigade, 2009). 9 What s in a name It took us some time to come up with a suitable name for our company, Philippe De Ceuster (2010) admits. Most of the agencies use the names of their partners. LG&F (now called FAMOUS ), for example, stands for Lievens, Ghewy and Fauconnier. For us, however, that was not an option. Imagine our name to be Berends, Debeys, De Ceuster and Mortier. That sounds way too long, right? Well, given that Jens already had some celebrity status and could fall back on a well-known surname, we chose to start from mortier. Out of commercial considerations, yes. However, simply mortier was a bit too short. Plus, it focused too much on Jens alone. Therefore we added brigade so that others saw us as a group of people. And the reason why mortierbrigade is always written with a lower-case m? Again, answers Philippe, Mortierbrigade with a capital M would emphasize too much on Jens alone. We wanted to refer to a mortar [the Dutch word for mortar is mortier ], a type of explosive device and not just to a person. Ready for lift-off It goes without saying that mortierbrigade has taken an exceptional flight since its establishment in Only a few days after the press release, potential clients had already shown interest in working with the newborn agency. Since then, mortierbrigade s list of clients has grown impressively. In addition, their new way of working paid off. In the past five years, the Brussels advertising company has won a stack of national and international prizes. To give an example: during the relatively short time of my internship, mortierbrigade won a Golden Lion at the Cannes Festival, a few CCB s, an EFFIE and they became Boutique Agency of the Year at the New York Festivals. It may sound odd, but the backroom chat I picked showed that mortierbrigade s employees do not even consider this year as a good one when it comes to the winning awards. 10 Structure Megalomania, or not? Mortierbrigade originally started off with four people. Their intention was to close the first year with the same number. If desired, they argued, we can hire more people starting from year two. But things turned out differently. After three months already, two more people had been taken on. Eventually mortierbrigade closed its first year with a staff of fourteen. For the moment, however, the number seems to be stagnating. For two years now, around twenty-two people are working at the agency. Along the road, Veerle Devos bought a share of the company and became a partner (De Ceuster, 2010). Will mortierbrigade continue to expand in the future? Jens Mortier remarked in De Standaard (Mooijman, 2004) that to preserve their integrity, they do not want to become any larger than thirty thirty five people. If necessary, he adds, the crew will start a second agency. According to Mortier, two little ones are better than a giant. We worked in agencies with a staff of more than 80, Philippe (De Ceuster, 2010) explains to me. But such proportions do not boost productiveness at all. Besides, if you are that large, you want to stay that large. Creativity will eventually suffer, because pampering your clients is the only thing you do. In my opinion, that is not a good way of doing advertising. Independent and media-neutral Mortierbrigade is an independent as well as a media-neutral advertising agency. Being independent means that they are not tied to a larger network of media and advertising agencies. According to Joost Berends in De Standaard (Mooijman, 2004), such an extensive network can be a significant advantage for any advertising agency. However, he adds, in practice these networks are never fully exploited. Moreover, most of these groups are listed at stock markets and therefore held under large pressure by their shareholders. The outcome of all this? The only motive is money, while spirit and fun are far gone. Being a media-neutral agency then, mortierbrigade does not sign deals with media centres. Lots of agencies had such deals in the past, Philippe De Ceuster (De Ceuster, 2010) explains. They made billboards, promotional films, radio, no matter what... all because they got some percentage from those large conglomerates. We, however, just wanted to give our 11 clients what they need. That could be a radio commercial, but just as well something integrated, like we did for Jacques and Callebaut. When both chocolate brands merged, we did not shoot a TV- or radio commercial but organised a real wedding instead. We were convinced this would be more effective than using the more traditional media. And we were right. Three departments The agency s organizational structure is deliberately, quite simple. To raise effectiveness, mortierbrigade stirred, shook and cut up the usual configuration and replaced it by a less complicated structure. Three main departments were withheld: strategy, creation and production. Head of strategy is Stephanie Zimmerman. She develops strategies at mortierbrigade, but is often accompanied in strategic meetings by both agency partners and creative teams. According to Philippe De Ceuster, only the largest advertising companies have four to five strategists at their service. Most agencies employ one or two, he says. Or none at all when they work with freelance strategists. Mortierbrigade brands itself as an creative agency, so it may not come as much of a surprise that the company s creative department occupies the largest chunk. Four creative teams in total, each of them consisting of one copywriter and one art director, are currently working at mortierbrigade. That is, two senior teams, of which one is French-speaking and the other one Dutch-speaking, one regular Dutch-speaking team and one junior Dutchspeaking team. They account for eight people out of a staff of twenty employees in total. Planning, organization and most of the phone calls occur in the third department, which is called production. A group of four women, sitting together at one desk, runs this division. Production also holds the subdivision studio, where all the graphic magic happens: three graphic designers are constantly working on adverts, brochures, websites and so on. 12 Product range Mortierbrigade is a full-service advertising agency (, this means that they are not limited in the kind of services they offer. Clients can approach mortierbrigade for the creation, planning as well as handling of their advertising. They can either come to the agency with their own finished strategies or call in mortierbrigade s help. It rarely happens though that clients order strategic ideas and do the advertising by themselves. As mortierbrigade is a relatively small agency, they assign quite a few things to freelancers and specialized companies. The recording of radio commercials, for instance, is done by Het Geluidshuis. For TV productions they go to CZAR. And during eventful periods, the people at mortierbrigade s studio often get assistance from freelance graphic designers. In contrast to many other advertising agencies, there is no online department at mortierbrigade. All web design assignments are therefore executed by group94 or other partners. However, this is probably going to change in the future, as Philippe (De Ceuster, 2010) told me: More and more clients are asking for it. We see this as a business opportunity, so we will definitely start off with an online division soon. Although I must say it is quite difficult to set something up during a financial crisis. But it is certainly our intention. Corporate identity Relevance is what turns creativity into effectiveness This is mortierbrigade s baseline. They say their number one priority is - and will always be - their effectiveness for their clients. In the agency s view, however, creativity can offer a great help. But, they add, merely being creative will never be our single aim (mortierbrigade, 2010). To clarify their corporate philosophy, mortierbrigade has created five rules. These five rules are referred to quite often, for instance during agency presentations to new clients. Let us have a look. 13 Rule no. 1: be unique We believe everything starts with finding out what makes you unique. Our first step is to know you better than you know yourself via market research & strategic meetings. But most importantly we buy your product, we use it, we experience it. When mortierbrigade takes part in a pitch and wants to make strategic recommendations, it cannot solely rely on its staff s intuition. In order to tell a reliable story, they need testimonials, numbers, facts and figures. Therefore, mortierbrigade organizes street interviews or calls the help of a professional market research agency. The latter agency sets up a quantitative study, but can arrange qualitative research, such as focus groups, too (De Ceuster, 2010). Rule no. 2: be relevant We believe that in the end your consumer is your best salesman. So we provide stories that are relevant and fulfil his needs, because if it is relevant he will remember it and spread the word. We will get as close to your consumer as possible via consumer research & personal contact. Mortierbrigade does not want to make advertisements just to please their clients or themselves. In their opinion, every story they tell should always be relevant to the people they would like to reach. As an example of relevance, mortierbrigade likes to refer to its new campaign for Win for Life, a National Lottery s scratch game. Although the agency felt that Win for Life was a powerful product, the brand itself, however, was not strong enough. In their view, it missed some relevance. So mortierbrigade had a good think about the real benefit of winning Win for Life and found out that it has little to do with a tremendous change. Rather, it is about your life becoming somewhat better. About a number of day-to-day worries that disappear. Therefore, the new campaign altered its focal point to peace of mind [Dutch: gemoedsrust]. And, in this way, became more relevant to customers, which was translated in higher sales (mortierbrigade, 2009). Rule no. 3: be creative In an overcrowded media & marketing world, the consumer decides what he wants to see or hear, so we need to attract his attention. Creative content makes that happen. 14 Creativity is deeply rooted in mortierbrigade s DNA. In their view, advertising can and has to become better. Moreover, they are convinced that any audience will be more susceptible to a message if is brought to them in a fresh and witty way. Doing what has been done before is therefore not done at mortierbrigade. In other words: any idea sounding too familiar is immediately rejected. However, Philippe (De Ceuster, 2010) adds: We have the overall image of being very creative people. Creativity for the sake of creativity. But that is not true. Maybe it was like that in the first year after the launch, maybe a little bit. Why? You are a new agency you are trying That is normal. But not anymore. Now there is really firm basis, our creations are underpinned with numbers. And with research. Creativity for the sake of creativity, is just too gratuitous. We do not work like that. Rule no. 4: be consistent in a surprising way To be successful, a brand message needs consistency and the creative translation needs to be surprising. Just like in a relationship, sometimes you want your partner to surprise you but most of the time you want him to be consistent. That is why your brand needs consistency in how it behaves. But it still needs to surprise from time to ti
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