September 21, 2011

Spikes Asia part 2

What have the Simpson’s got to do with Spikes Asia? Well Simpson’s scriptwriter Joel Cohen was the speaker invited by DDB to talk about “Lessons in Creativity and Innovation from the Simpsons”. Easily the most entertaining speaker at the event, Joel explained how the writing team managed to stay original after 22 years on the air. He talked about some of the crazy scenarios that have appeared on the show and made a connection between that and innovation in our own industry. Joel explained how vital it is to connect with the audience before you innovate. What you say has to be relatable. At the same time big ideas don’t always fit into the context of the story so you have to filter. Joel had a few suggestions for anyone that hits a creative roadblock. Sometimes you just have to suggest the opposite of what you were thinking. But the best solution is jamming together with others to get more diverse ideas.

Laurie Coots, Chief Marketing Officer at TBWA did a seminar on the Gamification of advertising. With a stock photo heavy Powerpoint she said that gaming techniques drove participation leading to engagement and interaction. This leads to greater meaning and behavior change. In the attention economy we had to find greater brand value. The Starbucks app with its reward system was mentioned as one great example. However research shows that 80% of apps are downloaded less than 1000 times.  If you are using an app as part of your marketing campaign then gamification can help make participation addictive. Laurie shared an interesting case study for New York Library where gamification was used to get kids interested in books as a source of information that you can’t find through Google.

Wunderman US CEO Daniel Morel had the misfortune to speak first on day 3 meaning that the room was half empty. He presented a lot of statistics overlaid on stock photos and built his case around the need for Context, Community, Commerce and Creativity. With a big focus on mobile he presented cases from Austria airlines with their Red Guide, UrbanDaddy and HomePlus from Korea who saw sales go up by 130% and an 76% increase in members with their virtual stores in the subway. He was skeptical about co-creation saying that there was very little talent out there but that brands should listen to customers to get real insights. After showing the Decode with Jay-Z case (pronouncing the rapper’s name Gee Zay) he showed the Land Rover Mobile Fair Stand from Austria – a great example of how you can get your brand noticed and generate real results with some left-field thinking.

Jeff Benjamin from Crispin Porter + Bogusky was up next with a much more inspiring talk called Invent or Die. Ironically he opened with the example of Gutenberg who didn’t become rich with his invention of the printing press but died broke.  He said that only later did we realize what he had invented. Culture just wasn’t ready for it at the time. Jeff told us that it was the same for the steam engine and electricity. In a similar way it has taken 15 years for culture to finally catch up with technology and the internet. Not so long ago online dating seemed bizarre, online commerce seemed risky yet we now buy TVs from Amazon and even our notions of what friends are has been redefined by social networks. Digital technology is now an essential part of our lives and the public now expect innovation. Jeff said that the current creative revolution is being fueled by technology. If a brand is not inventing it isn’t going to be around much longer.

He gave a few tips for surviving:

Everyone can be an inventor – it isn’t just the creative department. Burger King chicken fries were invented by an account service guy in their agency.

Fill the void by working out what the consumer needs. The Pizza Hut pizza tracker came from the insight that ordering online is great but then you wonder where your pizza is at for the time it takes to arrive. The technology already existed within Pizza Hut to track employee efficiency. They just repurposed the data.

Prototype fast and often. Inventions don’t live on paper so take action to test your ideas.

Have fun – A great example is the Pringles Crunch Band app that came from their Sweden office.

Fail First. Fail Harder. It’s important to embrace failure and clients need to allow agencies to try things out that might seem risky.

Collaborate. It isn’t easy as many people don’t like sharing before an idea is fully formed. You need to be bold enough to bring in other opinions.

He showed some great examples of the agency inventing new things based on a simple brief. Small Business Saturday was not a campaign. They invented a day to help answer a need for the smaller companies that missed out on the retail frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday that occurred every year after Thanksgiving.

Be fast and nimble, daring and relentlessly scrappy. You need to participate in technology to be able to invent new ways of using it. Be on Facebook and Twitter. The Whopper Sacrifice came about because the team were exploring what could be done with it.
Don’t stop – keep making it better. The Jello pudding face idea was a cool way to read the mood of people on Twitter. But rather than just use it online they came up with a giant pudding face billboard. Always ask what else you can do.

Be an entrepreneur. Pretend your client’s business is your own. What would you do? When the carrot farmers came with the brief they asked how the public could eat them as naturally as they eat junk food. So the carrots were packaged like packets of crisps (chips if you’re not English) and sold in vending machines.

Jeff talked about how the first 15% of work you do is 90% of the effort. That’s because you need to evolve your idea, experiment and keep changing it until it is right.

You need to invent where people are. That was the driver behind the Whopper Lust idea that ran on cable channel Direct TV.

Above all he said that we have to be delusionally positive. When you are asking yourself “how are we going to make this” and when you’re scared that’s when you find that positive energy breaks down walls.

Later I saw an inspiring talk by Mark Holden from PHd about 2016 – Beyond the Horizon. He started by talking about the famous IBM 1401 computer that is now in a museum. It filled a room but we have more computing power today in our mobile phones. The world is changing fast. Right now one in two people on earth has joined a social network. Indonesia has the second largest presence on Facebook with over 40 million users. If we consider the 1.2 billion social network members globally as “independent media owners” we can see the power of influence they have. He showed how in the UK 44% of mobile phone sales are influenced by online comments. In the next 5 years the true driver of business will be us – the people. But what drives us. It is the desire for abundance – everything, everyone and everywhere. He said that the future depends on Infrastructure, Interface and Internet.

Looking at Infrastructure & interface he predicted that by 2016 the cloud will be default. We’ll be using ultra HD connected TVs. Watching will be a social experience like we can see with HBO Connect.

You’ll be buying through your TV screen with t-commerce being worth 15 billion dollars by 2016. Embedded content will be accessed through natural user interfaces that will work like Kinect and use facial recognition to personalize information. Meanwhile mobile phones will be made with flexible graphene, maybe transparent with NFC, audio spotlight technology and use advanced augmented reality. The world will be seen through the “looking glass” of your mobile device with the internet smeared across cityscapes. Instore you can see instant user reviews while even your friends’ faces will launch augmented reality content.

The internet will continue to harness HTML5 so the web becomes one big app. We’ll see an increased socialization of the web where links become likes, vertical searches mean you can buy straight from search results and you’ll get direct answers to complex questions through AI. Social commerce will dominate and we’ll see an increase in gamification of the web to drive deeper engagement.

For medial planners there will be a social dashboard that will allow everyone to be tailored – even TV ads. There will be a need for audience management platforms where every aspect of brand communication can be optimized. The biggest threat will be social contagion since the power of consumer influence will be even bigger than today.

So what will the agency of 2016 look like? Creative will be more like a technology industry while media will be a data industry.

For the full story buy the book.
2016: Beyond the Horizon

In my next post I’ll share some of the award winning work from Spikes. As usual the Japanese dominated but Australia and New Zealand gave everyone a run for their money.

October 5, 2010

Captain Lebowitz

The third in my series profiling digital leaders features the unstoppable Michael Lebowitz, founder and CEO of Big Spaceship. For over 10 years he has guided the company to greatness while exploring places where no-one has gone before. OK, enough of the Star Trek language. Let’s take a look at the man himself to see what makes him such a great captain. Let’s start with a short video…

Here are a few facts. Since launching the agency in 2000, he has been integral in acquiring and serving its high profile clients, including 20th Century Fox, ABC, Adobe, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Google, Gucci, HBO, Microsoft, MoMA, NBC Universal, Nike, Royal Caribbean, Sony Pictures, Target, Victoria’s Secret and Wrigley. His profile on the site goes on to say that over the past decade, Michael has led Big Spaceship to attain countless awards of high distinction. This includes a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for the agency’s work with HBO Voyeur, Cannes Lions, Clios and One Show Interactive Pencils, as well as numerous Webby, FWA, Communication Arts, W3 and Pixel Awards. Michael was also named among the 2010 Creativity 50 and the 2008 OMMA Online All-Stars.

It doesn’t end there as he is also an inaugural board member of SoDA, the Society of Digital Agencies, he’s a member of AIGA’s Visionary Design Council and the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Not forgetting all his other activities such as speaking, judging and more. It’s amazing that he gets to spend any time at the agency.

Clearly Michael does find the time as they recently won their 50th FWA award for Skittles Experience the Rainbow. In this interview for FWA, as well as saying that he works 50 to 60 hours a week, he says that he finds his inspiration everywhere. He goes on to say “I read dozens of blogs, watch a fair amount of TV, read books and magazines, and try to see movies, though it’s become difficult since my son arrived earlier this year. I also get tremendous inspiration from my co-workers at the spaceship and my friends at other agencies. We’re very fortunate to work in an area of the industry that has such a high level of intelligence and curiosity”. What’s interesting is that at Big Spaceship nobody has the word “creative” in their title as they believe that everybody and no one is creative. In this AdAge article Michael credits the team system in helping to create a culture of cross-pollinated talents. “If all the designers sit together, you get a culture of departments. And departments, in my mind, lead to fractiousness,” he says.

Time for another video, this time from Linda.com where we get an “intimate look at the inner workings of one of the web’s most innovative firms”.

In an interview with Agency Spy we get further insights into how Lebowitz thinks. To quote the article, “strategy, production, design, development are some of the keywords Lebowitz used to describe what his company does. His job is to contextualize, to facilitate communication and does so by participating in nearly every project”. But, he says, without micromanaging his “superstars.” When he started out there was a “big realisation” that the bigger agencies were producing terrible work yet there was brilliant people working there. “The bigger the company”, he said, “the harder it is to consistently take on work that keeps everyone happy, and produce work that’s top quality”. “Never repeat yourself”, says Lebowitz, “referring both to the type of jobs taken on and their execution”. Read the full article here.

HBO Voyeur has to be one of Big Spaceship’s crowning achievements winning awards across the globe from a gold Cyber Lion to gold Clios. Yet after winning big Michael Lebowitz (as reported in on the CREATIVITY website) “famously chided BBDO (and Cannes) for what he felt was Spaceship’s slight in the awards draw for its work on the HBO “Voyeur” campaign, he went on to criticize the current digital vs. agency divide”. Also in Creativity he wrote: “Digital agencies are pushing for (and, in my opinion, deserve) greater ownership of the overall consumer experience.”

In the end Michael believes that it’s “all fun and games” as we see from this article on Apple. To quote the article, “we’ve earned a reputation for innovation, so we get to do incredibly fun stuff for great brands,” he says. “We’re not a traditional graphic design company — we’re always thinking about new ways to engage with people.” The article finishes by saying that they have succeeded because they make interactive marketing fun. “We like making people laugh, and we like making people scared,” says Lebowitz. “Evoking emotion is high on the list. And we love the ‘aha’ moment. If you can make somebody say, ‘Oh! I’ve never seen anything like this before,’ or ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’ We thrive on that. That’s the best kind of impact we can have.”

Follow Big Spaceship on Twitter.

Read my other profiles of: Lars Bastholm and Tom Eslinger

June 24, 2010

Digital roars at Cannes Lions

It has been an exciting week at Cannes for anyone who has been slogging away in the digital space for many years. Finally it has taken its true position as the driver of 21st century marketing communications. Digital has extended its reach into direct, promo and activation in an unprecedented way this year. What is clear however, both in the Cyber Lions and the other categories, it is that digital combined with the physical is where the magic happens. Let’s see some of the winners:

A gold winner in Promo and Activation from Ester Stockholm. To help prevent aids they developed a campaign where unique numbers were put on condoms given out. People could then go online to tell their story of how the condom was used. “By printing 100 000 condoms with numbers we gave every condom a story to be told by whoever got lucky with it. Every condom-package contained a uniquely numbered condom and a text that encouraged the recipient to share the condoms fate, by uploading his or her story at the blog kondom08.nu The 100 000 condoms became the message, the media and also the solution”.

Also in Promo & Activation, BBDO New York won gold for their HBO Imagine campaign in the category Best Use of Internet/Online Advertising in a Promotional Campaign. The video speaks for itself – it shows how creative ambition can now be fullfilled online if you have the ideas and the budget to match.

In the Direct category the Grand Prix went to a campaign that could not have been possible without the power of digital. Special Group in Auckland developed a campaign for ORCON Broadband that “created a world-first event, a chance to re-record ‘The Passenger’, live online, with Iggy Pop. Our direct response objective was two-fold: Attract a large enough pool of talented auditions to ensure we could select our virtual band. Maximise the country’s engagement with the auditioning process. The call for auditions went out first to Orcon’s customer base, to its facebook friends, and via online advertising. This was then extended by 15” TVCs and street posters calling for people to Play live with Iggy Pop. Entrants then uploaded auditions directly to a specially built facebook application, where they could be browsed”.

Gold in Direct also went to BBDO and Ester for the two campaigns already featured here. Meanwhile, in the Cyber Lions, the Grand Prix went to the Nike Chalkbot from Wieden + Kennedy featured on this blog a few times and the Volkswagen FUN THEORY campaign from DDB Stockholm.

As they say on their entry, “Volkswagen asked us to create a campaign that would generate interest around BlueMotion Technologies. A series of cars and innovations that help reduce environmental impact without compromising on performance or the joy of driving. Our insight was that VW made it easier to choose an eco car by making them more fun to drive. Our solution was a theory, focusing on the thinking behind the cars; that the easiest way to change human behaviour for the better is by making it fun to do”.

We’re back to sex again, this time with a Gold winner from TBWA Paris in the category Banners and Other Rich Media: Charities, Public Health & Safety, Public Awareness. Rather than just stick with the simple video in a banner, they “took Willy, a young potential stud, in an expandable banner, to deliver the message in an interactive and playful way. Never moralising. Always fun. So, the story line, the actors and the location are the same… now discover a (more) hands on user experience. Don’t be shy, grab Willy (he wont mind) and celebrate happy safe sex.”

Lots of other Gold winners have already won awards this year so they are the obvious (but still worthy) choices. We choose the Moon, IKEA Facebook Showroom, and Monopoly City Streets to name but a few. Check out all the Cyber Lion winners here.

Just a final thought. While I was there I took a look at all the Titanium Integrated entries being shown in various screenings. Socially conscious campaigns driven by social media seem to be the flavour du jour. It all became one big blur. You could have switched brands and never have noticed. In the attempt to be “of the moment” many campaigns came across as being too “try hard” or bandwagon jumping. The real creative challenge is to stand out in all of this white noise. My bet for next year? Social media may be seen by many as “so yesterday” and the baby will be thrown out with the bath water.

May 15, 2010

One Show Interactive Winners

So here we go again… awards season is upon us. Last night the One Show winners were announced and you’ll be seeing these project again and again in the coming weeks as they take home all the prizes at various festivals. I’ll stick to gold winners here but many other great projects picked up silver and bronze. Here are some of my favourites:

Monopoly City Streets by Tribal DDB London

Below is an unofficial demo video I came across. It’s amazing how Hasbro has been able to bring their classic games to life online and generate a lot of hype. Creative Director Matt Ross and Head of Technology Matt Oxley where the brains behind this great idea. It is also one of the more innovative Google Maps mashups.


HBO Imagine by BBDO

Just 2 years after blowing us all away with the incredible Voyeur project they come back with Imagine which allows you to see a story from various perspectives in a way that changes how you perceive it. Online video has really come into its own.


BMW Z4 by Dare

In a sign that augmented reality is being taken seriously it now has its own category. This project was truly integrated with an amazing TV campaign and mobile app.


Nike Chalkbot by Wieden + Kennedy

I’ve featured this project before on this blog so I’m really happy to see it pick up gold at the One Show. When you answer a brief by inventing a piece of technology it is really thinking out of the box. And all for a great cause too.


Swedish Armed Forces by DDB

Over the past few years some amazing work has been created for this client by DDB. Not sure if the example below is the project that has just been awarded (the winners list PDF is not specific enough) but it show what kind of thinking is going into the work.


Ikea Facebook Showroom by Forsman & Bodenfors

Another project previously shared on this blog. So many campaigns are now using Facebook as their platform but few use it in such an unexpected way.


No doubt the One Show site will be updated with case videos for all the projects. Take a look at all of them (not just gold winners) and try and be more creative, innovative and unexpected – yes, I’m talking to myself here!!:)