December 8, 2016

Only the brave

In the advertising business, either traditional, digital or somewhere in between, every so often you come up with an idea that you know will be amazing. So you do everything in your power to convince your client that it will be brilliant. You tell them passionately why it answers their brief, why the audience would totally love it, why it would get everyone talking about your product and that it can actually be made. Yet something happens, the client shows a flicker of fear or confusion, they might whisper to each other and you know that something isn’t going quite like you imagined it would. In your mind you pictured the client moved to tears of joy, leaping out of their seat to embrace you as suddenly you’re transport to a stage where you’re receiving that Grand Prix. But instead you’re faced with quizzical faces and a damp squid descends eerily over the meeting. Today that all came rushing back when I saw this project for Lexus featuring a car covered in LED. It’s a year since I presented the very same idea to a client. OK, it’s only advertising. But when you live and breathe this every day it’s heartbreaking to see that another client was brave enough to say yes – let’s do it.

How do you help clients be more brave, to take leaps and try things that have never been done before? Some agencies have a knack for it but then clients for there expecting it from Droga5 or R/GA. For many mere mortal agencies it’s a real challenge. Many clients have limited budgets and want to make sure that your project will get results. When you’re presenting an idea that is innovative there are no prior examples to use as backup. So you have to anticipate the arguments that will come up in the client’s mind. If you’re doing something new with technology try creating a prototype or demo to show something is feasible (this is how we sold another project to the same client which was a huge success). Your client’s priority is not being brave but selling cars, toothpaste, computers or whatever. Put yourself in their shoes and show how bravery can also lead to amazing results. Don’t just expect the client to feel the same way you do.

The fact is, you’ll probably lose more battles than you win. As a creative person you are the one that needs the most bravery. Not to come up with groundbreaking ideas but to see them burn down in front of you – only to come back later and haunt you. So I will leave you with this, another painful episode involving an idea we tried to sell to the same client and failing – then seeing it done a year later.

Grrrrrrrrr

January 4, 2016

Resolutions for the post-digital agency

fireworks

It’s the New Year and we all like to make resolutions. Some of us want to lose weight, exercise a little more and change some of our bad habits. What kind of resolutions could advertising & marketing agencies make to be better, leaner or more energized in 2016? For those that are still trying to become “digital” it’s maybe the moment to realize that the boat has already sailed. We now live in a post-digital world where it’s the new mainstream. But don’t despair, even the established “digital” agencies are not sure where to go next. Many are finding that what they offer is now a commodity and can be done faster and cheaper elsewhere. Some have also become lazy, copying the latest craze, getting consumers to do all the legwork (tell us your story!!), ####hashtagging their way to content overload or just being downright boring. As we look forward to 2016 it might do us all some good to capture the spirit of the pioneering work done during the first few years of the millennium before we all became so digitally savvy. Back then there wasn’t a bunch of successful cases as blueprints to follow. Everything we did was being done for the first time.

So my first resolution is to listen, take time to hear what the experts outside the traditional agency world are saying about what is coming next and how we can use this as a springboard for innovation. The fact is, consultancies could end up eating agency’s lunches for breakfast if they don’t invest in intelligence.

Forrester, in their 2016 Age of the Consumer predictions, puts forward many trends that any agency should be taking a closer look at. I picked out three that I think hold big potential for brands in the coming few year:

1 – Personalization.

As industry leaders we have to “understand and anticipate individual needs to deliver personalized experiences”. We have to be better at leveraging customer intelligence to gain real insights that can help brands gain mindshare and share of wallet.

 2 – Customer Experience.

Forrester predicts the need for “multi-discipline CX strategies to change internal operations”. While some companies are just “executing CX tactics”, the ones that will succeed leverage a “combination of people, process, and technologies” to “anticipate, and deliver on those experiences every day”. We need to think “above and below the visibility line”.

3 – Digital Leadership.

Today “digital” isn’t a discipline but the energy force that connects and runs through everything. Agencies need to understand how to work with their clients and help them to “embed digital into all parts of the business, harmonize virtual and human (e.g., in-store) experiences, and be able to rapidly shift to meet the hyper-adoption/hyper-abandonment behavior of customers”.

Download the full report here >

My second resolution for agencies is to be more observant. Be aware of what is happening in the industry and be ready to seize opportunities or react to threats. Social@Ogilvy issue an excellent report each year that observes and comments on current or future trends. This year is great reading as usual and also features predictions from 2015 that came true.

One of the topics that stood out for me was ad blocking. Just when mobile finally came of age as a powerful marketing tool we’ve seen ad blocking technology being unofficially endorsed by Apple. Agencies are going to have to work harder in order to earn the attention of the public. The Ogilvy report mentions how microtargeting is going to be necessary to reach people with content that they actually want to see. As agencies, we need to make it relevant and wanted. Otherwise our audience will be suffering from content indigestion.

brandedcontent

Of course content will continue to rule and video will see a major evolution. There is so much of it out there now you really have to be innovative to stand out The 360 degree video example for Star Wars on Facebook points the way to make really compelling content.

 

2016 will be the year everyone wants to try Virtual Reality. The Ogilvy report has several pages looking at this. With everyone launching VR viewers and various platforms offering immersive video there will be an avalanche of experiences to choose from – some much better than others. Of course, with all of these things you want to be part of something so new and exciting but there will be many hiccups along the way. Don’t expect VR to be the answer to everything. Anyone remember Second Life?

Check out the full report here >

My final resolution for agencies is to never stop learning. It’s a scary fact but clients are now more knowledgeable about the latest innovations than their agencies. They take the time to run workshops, they visit the headquarters of social media platforms and many clients have their own in-house innovation labs. How many agencies have the freedom or budgets to do that? Don’t rely on a “Head of Digital” to educate everyone in the agency. Make it part of every team member’s job description to stay up to date with developments. Give out subscriptions to websites like Contagious so every few days they can see what new things are happening out there. Start by sharing their 2015 summary of the Most Contagious work >

So those are my three resolutions for any agency (or agency person) wanting to stay relevant or even still exist in 2017. This coming year marks 20 years since I started working in what we once called “New Media” yet I’m determined not to stay in my comfort zone or repeat the past. Digital might be mature now but many agencies have stopped pushing the boundaries. If we all keep listening, observing and learning then we’ve got a good chance of inventing the next 20 years.

I will leave you with some opinions of what was the most innovative work from the past year. Let’s see if we can all do even better in 2016.

 

October 28, 2011

Future up for grabs

With the sad demise of Steve Jobs the world of technology suddenly has one major obstacle out of the way. Nobody could out innovate Jobs and without him Apple could eventually lose some momentum. Other companies now have a fighting chance of being seen as innovators not just Apple followers. Microsoft has already made huge strides with the Kinect but is still lagging. With this new video they are planting their innovation flag firmly in the world of productivity. It all looks very interesting but can they pull it off in reality. Time will tell…

October 12, 2009

Ogilvy Digital Labs

Since the first Ogilvy Digital Lab appeared in New York others have been popping up around the world. This video shows some of the innovations that have been showcased there in the past 12 months.

October 8, 2009

Digital remastered

Forget about the Beatles Remasters, another, equally influential, fab foursome have released remasters of all their albums this week. Kraftwerk helped change the course of music and, in many ways, present an interesting parallel with the world of digital advertising & marketing.

When Kraftwerk began producing electronic music they had to make many of their instruments themselves as the available technology could not produce what they imagined. In the same way the early days of the commercial web involved a huge degree of invention. Those of us working online in the mid to late 90s were inventing new ways to communicate and interact with the audience. Like Kraftwerk we were experimenting with new forms of expression and not everyone got it. Then suddenly…. the world caught up.

Looking back at the history of electronic music, the 80s and 90s saw a slow decline in the quality of output from early electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk while others built on their inventiveness to take the genre further. Then electronic music became commoditized to the point where today anyone can make a song in their bedroom or even on their phone. We’ve witnessed the same thing on the internet with web 2.0 allowing anyone to be an online publisher. The results have not been pretty (I’m looking at you MySpace) even though the idea (of putting the power of the web into the hands of the people) is fantastic.

Yet while this web of the unwashed masses has been turning the internet into a bit of a mess we have seen a resurgence of the kind of inventiveness that made digital such an exciting industry when it first began. The original pioneering spirit is being remastered by a new generation – building on the past to create something new. The past was exciting but maybe the best is yet to come.