Today we concluded our ethnographic brand tracking in Prague. After one week of ethnography and agency visits, we spent the last afternoon of our class reflecting on Czech culture, and more specifically, how it influences the consumption of autos, beer and fashion. After a lot of deliberation, the three groups came up with culture codes that they think best represent their respective sectors here in the Czech Republic. Check out each of the three culture codes within the sector blogs: autos, beer, fashion.
The ethnographic brand tracking helped the students to observe behavior and identify key patterns within their sector. The agency visits throughout the week helped the students to uncover the cultural meaning behind these observed behaviors within a historical context and learn about some of the successful strategies behind Czech advertising from the best that Prague has to offer: Remmark, Garp, Leagas Delaney, and Ogilvy.
As part of the final wrap up, the students also had a discussion about Czech advertising in general. With the help of Jan Tluchor, who joined us from the University of West Bohemia, the students compared and contrasted Czech advertising with British and American advertising.
Overall, it was an inspiring week. Everyone acted like true ethnographers and soaked up everything Czech culture had to offer. Most importantly, the students kept their minds open and embraced all of the different perspectives we learned about – something that will positively influence the approach they take with future work. Our sincerest děkuji to everyone along the way who helped to make our experience here in Prague so meaningful.
To conclude our time spent in the beautiful Czech Republic, we made a cultural collage with contributions from each student. Each item represents some aspect of the student’s experience here in Prague – none of which could be purchased. Each student’s interpretation of the collage is posted below in the comments section in the form of a headline.
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How much lovely can it be than to sit at Slavia Café, on my last afternoon in Prague?
Slavia Café, across from the National Theatre with its art deco furniture and beautiful murals, is nearly magical. Add to that a magnificent view of Prague castle, intelligent conversation, apple strudel, and delightful companionship and a gray afternoon melted away.
There could be no better way to spend my last afternoon in Prague.
There is no way to take in Prague without letting your senses carry you away. It’s unavoidable. At every turn there is another site lovelier then the last. Each scent nearly glorious and each sound a curiosity. The textures and tastes of Prague simply sweep you up and away.
I have tired to make our time here a sensorial, cultural immersion. Something off the beaten path, a sensory awakening. Something that engages the students with the soul of the city and its culture. This is, of course, no easy task as we are tourists. Yet, in pursuit of an ethnographic sensory awakening we sometimes look nothing like tourists. Is the average tourist a Tesco shopper spending 30 minutes documenting 30 sensorial impressions? I think not. Does the average tourist walk blindly (literally) down the Parizska Street on the arm of a friend accounting for every scent and sound? I think not. Nonetheless, yesterday, that’s exactly what we did. And then we found the sweetest café, tucked around the corner from Parizska Street, where we sat with lattes and hot chocolate debriefing and learning, having taken in Prague with all of our senses.
Other times cultural immersion comes in the form of agency visits. Yesterday we visited Remmark. There we were introduced to Czech consumer culture from three counter points: geo/political orientation, religion, and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. We learned that Czech people are resilient survivors, but skeptical and ironic consumers. For these resilient skeptics, there is one cultural icon that binds them together across time and space — beer.
Today we visited Garp. The energetic team at Garp set up a hands-on workshop focusing on BTL marketing, framed by a Staropramen case study. The students had a chance to use their new-found cultural insights to brainstorm branding solutions. And then, much to the delight of the students, the team offered to moderate a pub tour.
For tonight, it’s time to rest. But then it’s hard to rest in a city that beckons your senses to awaken as never before.
Czech advertising has been on fast-forward since the Velvet Revolution of 1989. In the ensuing 20 years Czech advertising proved to mirror the rush to embrace western ideals while holding fast to Czech heritage. With skepticism abound that was no easy task.
To learn just how challenging a task it was we spent Friday morning with two giants from those early years: Ladislav Kopecky and Jiri Mikes. Both were at the forefront of bringing western style branding into the Czech marketplace. In those early years Kopecky created a documentary tracking the evolution of the Czech Republic to a free market. From 1994-98, he served at Director of Lintas, Prague. Mikes founded the Prague office of McCann-Erickson in 1989 and later work as a global consultant to the Czech government. Together, while working at McCann, they won an Effie for their work on Hami.
They shared their passion for advertising through historical case studies that illustrated the importance of cultural branding — branding that respects the subtle (and not so subtle) nuances of culture. Kopecky enlightened us with the back-story of a highly skeptical Czech consumer thrust into a free market economy. Mikes inspired us with a presentation on sustainability and the absolutely essential role that corporate social responsibility must play in the future.
Today they share their wisdom with a new generation of Czech advertising and marketing students — and a few very lucky students who visit from aboard. Kopecky is affiliated with with Charles University, while Mikes is with the University of Economics.
Our wonderful hosts Vice-Dean Vaclav Kaspar and Premysl Prusa from the University of Economics made us feel most welcome. Prusa presented his research on wine retailing in the Czech Republic, as we sampled the topic at hand. And after a meeting with Vice–Dean Kaspar it’s clear that richer opportunities lie ahead for our two institutions.
And so, to my Czech colleagues in this lovely Prague spring I say, “děkuji”
Walking through Manchester Amanda and I came across Magma Design, a bookstore I wanted to take home with me. Unable to do so, I settled for purchasing two books. One I gave away as a gift. The other was much too coveted to part with. I tore through it on the plane. (Actually I’m writing this on the plane.) That book changed this class and EVERY class I will ever each in the future.
How to be an Explorer of the World is an ethnographer’s dream come true.
So how does one dream? Freely and with our senses unhinged. In our dreams we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch without reservation. In her book, How to be an Explorer of the World, Keri Smith (who, by the way, is an artist) implores use to be uninhibited and free while awake. Harnessing an uninhibited sense of wonder and using her book as a guide, one is bound to experience the world in ways that cultivate inspiration and insight as never before.
Like the exercises at the back of my book, Teaching Advertising Creative, make copywriting come to life, the exercises in Smith’s book make ethnography come to life. (Even if she is an artist. Or maybe because she is an artist.) Her “One Thing” exercise is a twist on my cultural collage. “Fifty Things” encourages explores to document 50 things on what might otherwise be a mundane trip to the grocery store or library. Or how about her “Sound Map,” which challenges you to sit in one place for an hour and map out every sound, marking the approximate location relative to yourself? Follow that up with “Found Smells” by going for a walk and sniffing every smell and identifying its source. Then there’s “Your Favorite Street.” Imagine sending people into the field to describe every detail of their favorite street. And for my copywriters, there’s “Found Words.” Be a voyeur and sit in close proximity to your target audience and eavesdrop. Collect every gem they utter. My personal favorite, and the perfect way to bond a new group of ethnographers, is “Self Ethnography.” Use yourself as the subject and document all your movements, activities, behaviors, and conversations through the course of one day, then report back. And at the end of the book there’s a spot for field notes. It’s the best hands-on, inspiration driven idea book I’ve laid my hands on.
And so dear students I will be enlivening our cultural explorations and tweaking the blogs posting assignments. How could I not?
Look out Prague. Here we come!
After a quick train ride from London to Manchester and an hour-long adventure down beautifully winding English countryside roads in a coach bus, the class found itself at (hands down) the coolest B2B agency that I’ve ever seen: IAS. The IAS office is nestled in the hills of the charming village of Bollington, just south of Manchester. The building sits between trees, gardens, walking trails, a park and a canal. It is an inspiring environment that undoubtedly fosters the creativity of the agency.
To kick off the day, the students heard a presentation from three of the IAS creatives, Alistair, Natalie and Chris, who spoke about killing cliché B2B marketing tactics through the use of contextual, positively different, and multidimensional creative approaches. After learning about a few case studies and seeing some examples of the work, the students were put to the test. The proposed challenge was to create a set of concept ads in one hour. Each small group was given a creative brief prepared by IAS, a fact sheet and background information for one of the agency’s REAL clients, and then were set loose to explore the area, get inspired and start producing ideas. How exciting! Each group of students then presented their ideas to the rest of the class and the IAS creatives. IAS then showed the students the actual ad campaign that they came up with for that same client.
The visit to IAS overwhelmingly exceeded everyone’s expectations. I’ve never seen our students – or any group of students for that matter – so blown away and excited about B2B marketing. IAS makes B2B marketing cool. It was definitely worth the journey to Manchester. There is no question why the B2B Marketing Awards named IAS the best marketing agency last year.
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