I’ve just completed a triathlon. It consisted of 40 hours of sitting, reading and watching. Some snacks were consumed (but this isn’t an opportunity for product placement). What I’m talking about is the first round judging for this years AMEs.
In a short space of time the AMEs has grown into a hugely competitive show – I heard somewhere that the total number of entries this year is edging 1000 (I didn’t have to read all of them thankfully) – so it seems there’s a real energy coming from agencies and clients as they embrace a results-focused culture, and race to prove their efficacy.
What I can also report is that we seem to be finally resolving the tension between creativity and effectiveness. I am happy to wager that the winners on the night will have elegantly proven the effectiveness of creativity. Certainly the best cases that I’ve read delivered their results as a consequence of a genuinely original thought, idea and execution. And this is positive news indeed. I hope that the collective penny drops and that 2012 marks a turning point in our marketing culture across Asia. It’s about time we all start to realize that if we want to deliver our objective of effectiveness, there’s only one clear strategy, creativity.
But beyond this broad and positive health check, the AMEs is a great opportunity to look under the hood – its like a giant MRi scan on how our system is working. What you can see is evidence of the trends we talked about last year becoming a reality this year – it certainly seems the promises sown at Cannes and Spikes in 2011 are starting to flower as ideas in 2012.
What do I mean by that? Well the ideas that are really exciting right now are not singular entities – they are a fusion of things. They don’t appear to operate in one medium, time or space but are instead expressed in a dynamic and sometimes organic form – blending platforms – social, digital, physical and roving between paid, earned an owned. The very best of these ‘ad-nouveau’ ideas integrate the product as the killer app into the experience.
People have tried to coin a term for this type of campaign as ‘always on, or real-time’ but that misses the layered nature of how these ideas work. These are additive, remixed, slightly chaotic things – they incorporate a mix of experiences and ‘ways in’.
One such example is Coke Connect – from Australia. In essence it’s an idea that positions Coke as the currency of true friendship. The product is the platform – rather brilliantly Coke have allowed over 100 different people’s names to be printed on the cans – which means you can literally ‘Share a Coke with Jane’. But in the spirit of adding and remixing, Coke also developed a social aspect, inviting people to vote and generate more names, they layered in a personalization piece in malls, so you could print your own name on a can, and they added in seasonal call outs for Santa (with his name on it). And there were all the conventional stuff that Coke can do – 6 packs of ‘Paul’, vending machines which popped out ‘Peter’. What was also very cool was that this wasn’t driven by communications. At first, people bumped into these name-cans without any idea or introduction as to what was going on. So there was this wonderful moment of intrigue that sparked the story.
An idea (or is it an experience?) like this has put the energy right back around the product. It was more than just a social brand engagement – the transaction became the focus and the product became the fun. And it grew and developed, morphed and changed its form to maintain momentum.
Or there’s a great ‘anti-smoking’ case from Singapore. It’s actually an idea that changes the paradigm, from anti-smoking to ‘pro-quitting’. Very neat – change the rules. But its not simply a government message of encouragement – they decided to personalize it by using ‘quitters’ as the centre piece. This was celebrating the effort to quit, and if you step forward and make a pledge to quit you could feature in the campaign.
To bring this to life and make it more real, the team decided to layer in a social component to create public support for each individual mission. (as we all know, it is much harder to back out of a public commitment). They mixed in social tools, apps and kit like diaries and advice as a support system. Then they realized they could create ‘champion’ quitters as icons of the movement.
The next step was to mix in a giant activation that took the idea on a road show into the communities to provoke families and friends to get the smoker within their networks on board – this shortened the distance between the ‘champions’ and the people on the street. Anyone could ‘take the pledge’ to quit and become a ‘hero’ in their own back yard. If you were willing to quit you would be celebrated and supported by your families and friends. You could even create your own ‘pro-quitting’ poster and feature in your own social campaign to garner further support for your efforts. Quitting changed from being a lonely desperate struggle, to something positive and public. Quitters were Heroes.
Both these ideas were elegantly simple – but the output and execution brought them to life with extra dynamism and dimension. (I’m not privileged to share the stats, but I can also say that they were brilliantly effective).
For me these are icons of the new way to create – they are ‘Remixes’ – effortlessly blending all the mediums, platforms, initiatives and tech that are available to us now into something new, real and exciting – each layer a fresh and compelling component of experience.
These ideas didn’t start out where they ended up. The creative process in itself was a remix of structured thinking, intuition, proactivity, and opportunism. And it was the combination of creative talent from many different disciplines that made it happen.
This spirit of ‘remix’ can also be seen beyond our industry. The better ideas coming out of SXSW, the interactive exchange in the US, were the ‘remixes’ of technology that are designed to bring new experiences to life. One of these is called ‘Social Discovery’ – by layering GPS into ‘social’ it has created a major new way to enjoy social. It makes social ‘real’.
“This next wave of social media can automatically tell you that you’re standing in line next to someone who likes the New York Yankees and you like the Yankees so you should strike up a conversation,” Hugh Forrest with SXSW Interactive said.
There are new services from ‘Highlight’ that use information from places like Facebook and Twitter to establish connectivity. Or ‘Gauss’ which goes one-step further by layering in personalization that allows you to define what type of people you are looking for. “If you are into sailing, we’ll only connect you with those people” Vidar Andersen of Gauss said.
Then there’s Kaggle, a brand I came across in 2011 that has now won some real seed capital and looks set for the future. Now Kaggle is a bizarre, but beautiful remix of crowd sourcing, nerds, predictive analytics, data modeling and big cash prizes. You got a data problem? No worries – hand it to the Kaggle community and they will battle it out to find the best solution. The best idea/data model wins the cash prize.
This ability and desire to mix stuff up is infiltrating everything, and it’s not just the small entrepreneurs that are quick to take advantage, but the major multinational brands that are investing time and energy in the ‘remix’.
When Nike launched NikeBand they also opened up the application programming interface (API) called NikeFuel — the company’s metric for tracking physical activity.
NikeFuel is the technology behind Nike’s FuelBand, a waterproof wristband introduced in January that measures a user’s movement and syncs with an iPod touch or iPhone. By opening up their API they hope to encourage third-party music developers to infuse NikeFuel features into their apps or platforms.
And take the new Nike Flyknit. Is it a shoe or is it a sock? (it’s a shock…ahem). Apparently the Flyknit has been in the design phase for many years until the technology was available to make it happen. So the Flyknit brings new ingredients together in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible before.
And within that small statement is a powerful insight.
Today things are much more possible than they were yesterday. The proverbial ‘shit’ works, tech is stable, stuff can talk to other stuff, wireless hotspots are, well, ‘hot’; art, design, engineering and science are enjoying a wonderful never-seen-before intimacy, with all of it increasingly accessible for us to explore and use, and to bring it back to the beginning, – we’re all getting our head around the fact that creativity has become beautifully effective, in all its myriad forms.
To put it simply, the really cool stuff works, and because it works, it sells.
As a kid I always wanted my Lego to work with my Meccano – and now metaphorically in 2012 it does. And this is breeding a culture of remixing in and around our industry. More and more creative people are realizing the vast possibilities when you layering and blending stuff together.
This isn’t tech for tech’s sake. This is about tech liberating our ideas. I think its fair to say that our industry is often behind the curve on innovation. Not a bad thing if you listen to Gladwell, but I believe this notion of remix is going to have a powerful impact on what we need to do next and how we need to start working.
We need to take our core thoughts, and simple, elegant ideas and begin adding, blending and layering in extra dimensions to make stuff that is richer, deeper and more immersive. Where we end will often be very different from where we begin.
This doesn’t affect the surgical nature of good planning and strategy, or the spine tingling magic of a simple idea, but it does suggest we need to turn more of our ideas into 6 million-dollar men – loaded with exciting capability and potential. And that does change the way we create – or rather the ‘big bit between the idea and the execution’.
As executions get more complex, layered and mixed, they need to be designed. We need people staring and sharing the blueprints of our ideas – to visualize how things link to each other, and to see where the gaps and opportunities lie.
And that’s where the rub is – this feels like a job for many, not few. It feels like an opportunity to open up the processes within and between our departments, and reduce the distance between us and the ‘hyper-social-digital-engineer-data-tech’ experts that work down the corridor. We need to ‘remix’ the talent and great thinkers around a simple idea so that we can explore what is possible and take advantage of all the new and wonderful ingredients that are available. Which in itself is an anathema to the purist one-owner-idea-ethos that our industry has cultured.
What once was impossible is now reality – and our source material is everywhere. It feels like a great opportunity for the many ‘creative’ minds that populate our industry to enjoy building ‘it’ together – whatever ‘it’ is…
Welcome to the remix.