Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Super Bowl Ads and Vince Lombardi Motto Confirm Need for Simplicity

I was on a video conference call with a client the other day. We had half a dozen people calling in from four different cities and several time zones. I tested my system, accessed the web link, punched in the call-in number and the pass code….and spent the next 10 minutes listening to elevator music…..by myself.

Panicked, I reviewed my calendar to make sure I had the right day and time. Check. I tried the call in number and pass code again to make sure I had dialed in correctly. Check. I tested my system settings to make sure I had all the updated software for slides, audio and video. Check. So, where was everybody?
Slowly, but surely the invitees straggled in….An East Coast team member apologized for having another call go late. Another participant in the Southeast said her building’s Internet service was down all day. Meanwhile, her colleague on another floor of the same building said he did have Internet service, but the IT department had started its weekly patch update right before our call was scheduled. Yet another team member was driving through the Midwest and had no wireless service at the time the call started. Then the slides wouldn’t load.

Sound familiar?

Finally, we got everything loaded about 25 minutes after the one-hour call was supposed to start. And it was a very productive meeting….while it lasted. At about 55 past the hour, people started dropping off because they had to race to their next meeting or conference call (and likely take a bio break). And about half of the action items for next meeting went unclaimed.
In one sense it’s amazing that you can hear and see remote colleagues in real-time and work collaboratively from far flung workspaces, whether in a conventional office, car or spare bedroom of your home. But, is all this technology really making us more productive—even when it works?

I bet this scenario didn’t occur to any of the tech companies (or ad agencies) that shelled out $5 million for Super Bowl air time—even the ones going for humor.

According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey, more than 7 out of 10 surveyed organizations rated the need to simplify work as an “important problem,” with more than 25 percent citing it as a “very important” problem. According to Deloitte, only 10 percent of companies have a major work simplification program today.

Is life becoming too complex or are we just getting lazy?
Take our Web InstaPoll and see how you stack up to your peers.

Bottom line: You can’t do your best work or your best thinking, when you are constantly distracted, overwhelmed, and stressed out just trying to keep up. As management guru, Stephen Covey famously wrote in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:  too many workers today will tell you, “I’m so busy sawing, I don’t have time to sharpen the saw.”
Deloitte researchers said two-thirds of today's employees feel "overwhelmed" and 80 percent would like to work fewer hours. But how can they when the average worker checks their phone 150 times per day? With the flood of emails, conference calls, meetings, and other distractions research says the average office worker can only focus for seven minutes at a time before they either switch windows or check Facebook, according to neurologist Larry Rosen (see video for more).

Fortunately, not everyone has resigned themselves to the tyranny of complexity.

Our client Kyle Walters, founder of Dallas-based Atlas Wealth Advisors recently spun off a tax affiliate. Why? Because his firm got tired of referring clients to tax specialists who didn’t call back, or who wren’t proactive about helping clients anticipate future problems As Walters explained, what most people really want is a single point of contact—a “personal CFO”-- to handle all of their financial issues in one place. “So we stepped in to fill the void,” added Walters, whose firm’s motto is: “Simplifying Your Life.”
My friend Richard Rapp, head of the Westport, CT-based creative agency, Altamira, said that managing complexity, not eliminating it, is the key to achieving success today. Rapp said that complexity usually falls into two categories:  (1) Those that are self-inflicted and (2) Those that are thrust upon us. “We help our clients untangle their complexity challenges through a triage approach that involves key stakeholders on the ground and in the C-suite,” he explained.

Super Bowl ads: Confusing or brilliant?

Some thought many of Sunday’s Super Bowl ads were riveting, while others thought they were great entertainment, but not likely to make them go out an purchase the advertised products or services—even if they could remember who the advertiser was.

According to Rapp, the ads that stood out and scored well on the USA Today Ad Meter were those that “focused single-mindedly on a story that rang true to the brand and resonated emotionally with viewers.” Many ads used humor, action and celebrity to break-through the clutter of 60 plus ads during the game. Here are a few that stood out for Rapp:
  • Buick’s Cam Newton ad told a simple story using humor and celebrity in a very effective manner. Importantly, the entire story revolved around pre-conceived attitudes about the Buick brand. 
  • Amazon Echo and Google Home both aired spots that demonstrated the features and benefits of their AI assistants and both were very good. However, Amazon Echo aired three different 10-second spots, each focused on a different feature. The “play My Girl” ad was 10 seconds of perfection with excellent casting, a simple and beautiful story line, a cute young girl and a simple, clear payoff delivered by the advertiser’s product, observed Rapp.
  • Mercedes-Benz tapped the Boomer emotion, and likely Mercedes-AMG roadster buyer, with one last hurrah for the Born to be Wild generation. The use of Steppenwolf’s classic, the only song available on the juke box in this biker bar, drove the story to its climax as we saw Peter Fonda climbing into his Mercedes roadster and leaving the pack of Harley Davidsons in the dust. Excellent storytelling, use of music and celebrity that was dead on.
  • Kia scored points for the overall use of humor by making fun of cause-minded young drivers and using the most outrageous comedic actress, Melissa McCarthy in the role of the “hero’s journey,” chuckled Rapp. The message was actually very simple: that it’s hard to be an environmental hero, but it’s easy to be eco-friendly when driving the Kia Niro. 

As with so many things in life, the simplest approach is best. Rapp said that “clarity of purpose and vision” allows companies to push their innovation and growth goals more effectively, while better aligning employee buy-in and customer acceptance. Walters said it stems from the rise in complexity in life today and people’s limited attention spans. “There’s so much more going on in people’s lives and there’s so much more that you need to know. The decisions become bigger. The stakes become more dangerous if you’re not careful. I find people don’t even know what they don’t know,” added Walters.
NFL coaching legend, Vince Lombardi may have summed it up best: “People try to find things in this game that don’t exist. Football is only about two things: blocking and tackling.”


TAGS: Kyle Walters, Richard Rapp, Super Bowl ads, need for simplicity, Melissa McCarthy, Steven Covey, Deloitte Human Capital Trends

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