Archives For innovation

The talk behind content marketing is turning into cash as brands start to build the physical infrastructure and hire the talent to go ‘fully operational’ with in-house newsrooms. The potential for audience boredom is incredibly high.

newsroom, branded content

In a universe of stories, brands risk focusing only on themselves.

 

I’ve seen at least three brands recently unveil corporate plans for dedicated space of anything up to a couple of thousand square feet, complete with green-screen video studios, sound recording booths, video edit bays, press conference areas, interview booths – and all spare walls upholstered with plasma screens displaying real-time, data-and-analytics-driven content marketing dashboards. And the technology’s the affordable bit.

All newsrooms need warm bodies

All those very specialist chairs will need to be warmed by very specialist bottoms – journalists, community managers, producers, project managers, editors, sound mixers, social media strategists, graphic designers, public relations experts and more. None of these roles are traditionally considered part of a company’s marketing department, so they’ll be new hires, along with a shift of internal resources in the form of brand and product managers and other marketing co-ordinators, legal and corporate comms people who will also need to be stationed in these always-on newsrooms.

All newsroom, all the time.

Operationally, these plans also lay out rigorous daily schedules, including early morning ‘editorial meetings’, rapid-response content team huddles, mid-afternoon social scan reports and overnight ‘graveyard shift’ monitoring teams that look for spikes and opportunities in other timezones. Many of these newsrooms are slated to cover multiple markets (efficiencies of scale), which will stretch the news day even longer and also add in the issue of language and cultural relevance adaptations for the content as well.

Running a newsroom isn’t cheap – until you add up the alternative

newrooms, branded content

Newsrooms: lots of moving pieces.

As an economic response to the challenge of producing more content more cost-effectively, the in-house newsroom makes sense on paper. Lots of brands have spent the last couple of years adding up the bills they’re getting from various ad agencies, PR houses, design studios, video production shops and even the new crop of specialist white-label content marketing outfits and have been shocked by the grand total. In many cases, they’re paying for the inefficiency of making a high-concept, production-perfect, risk-minimised production model adapt to a fast-response, relevance-trumps-perfection world of news-based content. So the ops guys have got that part of right.

You think brands are self-centered now? Just wait till they build a newsroom!

I’m predicting a lot of these newsroom investments will result in a wave of incredibly tedious brand-centric content. Not because of the way they’re set up, but because of how they’ll be funded.

If they’re paid for with traditional marketing dollars, they are going to be measured by traditional marketing metrics. So the content produced by newsrooms is going to have to demonstrate that it can sell, almost directly, if the newsroom wants to stay in business. Simply put, whoever is paying of the production of the news (the brand) is going to demand that the news be all about them. Get ready for an onslaught of branded content, created by branded newsrooms, talking about the brand (and why & where you should buy it), all the branded time. Insert branded yawn.

newsrooms, branded content

Branded or not, news still needs to appeal to people who aren’t really paying attention.

 

Measure what’s important, not what’s measurable.

The one way I can see to keep the editorial shackles off these in-house newsrooms, (and, therefore, keeping them relevant to consumers), lies in the clever use of data & analytics to define and justify their role in the marketing mix. And plenty of firms are springing up to offer exactly this kind of data and analytics (Kissmetrics, Hubspot, SimplyCast, Salesforce and others), offering sophisticated metrics that uncover the ‘hidden effectiveness’ of content during all phases of the influence and purchase process.

For marketers that stick with simple ‘likes’ and ‘re-tweets’ as a measure of their content marketing effectiveness, I predict their in-house newsrooms, (one careful owner, very low miles, showroom condition), will end up getting auctioned off for cents on the dollar.

 

This post originally appeared on the Firebrand Talent blog.

______________________________________________________________

About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

 

 

Advertisements

Cannes jury reveals the impossible truth about winning a lion.

Many people come to Cannes for the superstar keynote speakers. Sarah Jessica Parker and Kanye West made appearances this year while, crushingly, Aaron Sorkin cancelled at the last minute. Quite a few come to drink pink wine and trade gossip. And then there is a dedicated contingent who come for the awards, which is the reason Cannes exists in the first place.

This year, the organisers have provided a real treat specifically for people interested in trophies: a series of talks called “Jury Insights”.  Each day, the jury from the previous night’s ceremony open up and talk about how they chose the work they did and (crucially) why some very, very good work that teams spent months working very, very hard to bring to life, simply didn’t make the cut.

First cab off the awards rank was the Promo and Activation Jury, who revealed probably more than they should have about the grueling (at 3200 entries this year, you better believe it was grueling), task of sorting the storytelling wheat from the in-store sampling chaff.

Here’s their advice on the all-important case study video:

  • You’ve got 30, maybe 40 seconds to capture interest or you’re out.
  • Put the insight and idea in the first half, demonstrate craft and results in the second (or you’re out)
  • Don’t let your VO say: “And it worked!” (or you’re out)
  • Don’t let your VO say:  “Our brilliantly creative idea was…” (or you’re out) That’s for the jury to decide, not you.
  • Spend more time refining the clarity of the case study narrative before you worry about making it pretty.
  • But then spend plenty of time making it pretty (or you’re out)

The other thing that emerged from the session was the feeling that the thing that is really being judged are the judges themselves. They talked a lot about the scrutiny they felt their choices were under and even talked about the task as one of ‘curation’.

Judging the judges

The results for one category tend to get looked at as a whole and, because people are so interested in trends and patterns (shortcuts to meaning). As a result, the make-up of the group of awards can tend to skew individual decisions. If there are too many gongs going to tech-led ideas, for example, the judges felt it was important to balance it out with some decidedly analogue executions. Similarly with the mix of charity clients to big, corporate brands. And regions (can’t have too much from Brazil, for example). Not to mention holding companies or individual agency networks. And if your idea is an absolute screamer but happens to be very similar to another, completely unrelated piece of work from somewhere else on the globe (happens more than we care to admit), then both pieces cancel each other out and neither of you get a shiny statue.

BA, Cannes, Grand PrixFor the agencies and creatives that expend sweat and cash to enter, this information is fascinating, but ultimately of no use. It’s tempting to try to plot a contrarian approach (make your work deliberately analogue, for example), to improve your chances of standing out, but you can’t possibly know in advance if the top-flight entries in a category are heavy on digital or analogue.

A Cannes Lion has always been a hard thing to win. With the scrutiny of the jury and the swelling number of entries every year, it’s not going to get any easier. Except if you’re the genii behind something as jaw-droppingly good as the #lookup work for British Airways. Six lions and a Grand Prix for the team at Ogilvy London, led on the suit side by a good mate of mine, Chris Slough, shows that it’s not impossible, just really, really hard.

 

Barrie Seppings covered the CannesLions Festival of Creativity for Ogilvydo.com where you can catch all of the #OgilvyCannes coverage

______________________________________________________________

About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

 

We’re more than halfway through the week at the #CanessLions advertising festival of creativity and we’ve been reporting the hell out of the place for #OgilvyCannes.  Here’s some of the coverage from the first few days:

Why are we reverse-engineering the creative process?

Simon Wylie, CEO, Contagious Communications speaks to the diffusion of categories at Cannes Lions, the blurring of agency competencies and how technology is forcing us to reverse engineer the creative process.

The revolution will definitely be (sort of) televised.

Eddy Moretti, CCO of Vice Magazine tells us how one online video kick-started Vice’s evolution from magazine publisher to $1.4 billion media empire.

Michael Lebowitz doesn’t want to kill creative people

The founder of Big Spaceship just wants to kill the structures they operate within.

 

 

 

Last week saw the launch of a new piece of advertising technology, hailed by all involved as “a game changer”. It turned out to be a parody of advertising technology, that then turned out to be the launch of a new advertising conference called Creative Fuel, to be held in Sydney in a few weeks time.

Timed nicely to meet the run-up to awards season, the video takes Christopher Guest-esque aim at gimmicky, technology-driven stunts that many agencies use to create work, (sometimes for a client, but not always), to put in case study videos, to enter into industry award shows.

Ant Keough’s delivery of the metaphor for the pace of technological change probably deserves ‘best in show’.

.

.

As a target for parody, however, this is fish-in-a-barrel stuff. And possibly a little off the pace. Canada’s Rethink agency used 3D printers last year to bypass award shows altogether. A couple of years before that, John St. (again from Canadia) skewered case study video culture with this tongue-in-cheek recap of the marketing campaign for Chelsea Bedano’s 8th birthday.

You can’t stop progress.

The Creative Fuel video, however, betrays a deeper unease within traditional creative agencies. After years of striving to stay abreast of emerging technologies, understand the implications and then put the technology to use for clients, agencies now appear to be saying “stop the world, I want to get off”.

And you can scarcely blame them. The pressure to deliver innovation for its own sake (already great), has been exacerbated by the rate of technological change and amplified by the firehose of instantaneous information (read: press releases). The spectre of new technology now has Creative Departments running away in desperation. In this video, quite literally.

After years of trying to integrate digital departments, hiring (or not, in the case of W+K) Creative Technologists and appointing Innovation Officers, the current rallying cry by ad agencies to ‘get back to ideas’ is actually a neat way of stepping off the treadmill, by calling the treadmill itself into question.

My fear is that it reintroduces a dichotomy between creativity and technology that is largely meaningless and, ultimately, counterproductive.

All creativity requires technology. Not all technology is new technology.

Beginning with fire, pretty much everything we use to express ourselves or to bring about change in the world (the broadest definition of creativity), is technology. If you go back far enough, you arrive at a place where that technology was new. All new technology goes through an experimental phase while we work out what to do with it. In almost all cases, the first thing we ask of any new technology is to replicate the functionality of the technology it’s supposed to replace.

One of the first regular uses of non-military broadcast radio was a live reading of the front page of the daily newspaper, word for word, interrupted by ads. Television started by filming and broadcasting plays, which were staged and performed just as they were in the theatre, except now interrupted by ads. The first time we got our hands on one of them new-fangled mobile phones, we dragged the thing downstairs walked around outside and rang our friends to tell them that we were calling them while walking around ON THE STREET! OMG!

Actually, OMG came much later, but still relied on technology for the delivery.

So it’s not surprising that one of the first things we thought of when we were presented with the possibility of a remote control helicopter drone was to literally strap a client’s product to it.

Variations on the same idea occurred to the marketing teams at Dominos, Coke and this Scottish bakery. So many ad-fuelled drones are taking to the skies, the FAA has had to step in and issue a ban.

Eventually, we get past the obvious stuff and start tinkering, experimenting. That’s actually called innovation, where we try stuff out, maybe have a happy accident or an unexpected collaboration. In our industry, we have to somehow incorporate the brand in our experiments, because that’s how we get it paid for, not dissimilar to Beethoven naming his concertos after his patrons. Some really useful drone-powered stuff appears to be in the works, it’s just that brands and agencies don’t seemed to be involved at this point.

Clearly, not all of this early-adopter advertising-funded experimentation with technology is great. In fact, the majority of it is relatively pointless. But, as the guys (and they are all guys) in the Creative Fuel video point out, that doesn’t stop us making some very slick video case studies and entering them into advertising award shows. It also doesn’t stop these award shows from handing these very slick video case studies for largely pointless (or worse, entirely made up) work a shiny trophy from time to time.

This may well be the part that is getting the furthest up the collective noses of the Creative Directors quoted in the Creative Fuel promo video. I’m not entirely without sympathy.

Don’t throw the bluetooth out with the arduino.

Rare is the individual able to grasp the full potential of a new technology first swing at the plate. While we were all sniggering at the ‘twats’ talking with themselves in teenspeak on Twitter, CP&B took the time to understand how people were using the technology in an informal way. They quietly scaled it up and created Twelpforce, making Best Buy one of the most accessible brands in the US and casually bagging a Titanium lion in the process.

It’s important to note that Twitter had already been going for almost four years and we’d seen a lot of relatively pointless, ad-funded crap on Twitter by this point. In fact, we still do. Some of it is even winning awards.

Absent from this (entirely manufactured) debate are the voices arguing for gimmicky campaigns running on obvious (and obviously new) technology. Which makes it hard to work out who exactly the Creative Fuse crew are railing against? People who like using technology in advertising? Gullible award juries? The clients who fund this sort of work?It’s not immediately clear. Maybe they’ll turn up to debate the point in a panel discussion on the day.

Let’s go to the video one more time

While it’s a fun (if a little lengthy) video and it’s working brilliantly as a piece of marketing against the target audience, it will be interesting to see how many put their hands in their pocket for a $600+ asking price that covers just a single day of presentations. By way of comparison, SXSW gets you five days of inspiration for around the same coin, admittedly it’s a long way from Sydney. TedX at the Opera House charged half that, if you were approved.

Although Reg Mombassa is always good for a story and anything featuring the work of Dr Suess gets a tick, it looks, at a distance, to be shaping up as a full day agree-a-thon.

For my money, I just can’t buy into the technology vs creativity argument as it’s presented by the Creative Fuel promotional material. This one’s a zero-sum game – one that can’t be changed.

There’s no one without the other. Technology is part of the creative process (and creativity is inherent in all technology). Terrible ideas are terrible ideas. Awards juries will sometimes fall for these terrible ideas when they are very well packaged (please try to remember which industry you’re working in before you allow yourself to become too upset by this). Nothing to see here, move along.

History, research and pretty much anyone writing seriously on the topic knows that there are many paths to creativity.

I just don’t believe running away from technology is one of them.

 

______________________________________________________________

About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

These are confusing times for brands, and the people charged with growing them. On the one hand, we need to ensure the ROI of everything, while on the other we must pursue constant innovation. We need to be open to new technologies, platforms and networks, but we can’t spread our investments too thinly. We’ve got to stay on brand and on message, but we also need to go viral.

These competing ambitions make it very difficult for marketers and agencies to make intelligent choices for their brands – but it is largely our own fault. As an industry, marketing is particularly susceptible to ‘the shiny new object’ syndrome and, after attending SXSW interactive in Austin, Texas last month, I’m predicting that we’re about to start chasing after two diametrically-opposed aims yet again.

Plug in to everything.

Many of the presenters and panelists gave compelling testimonial that technology might not quite be everywhere, but it soon will be. More to the point, they believe it should be. Once we work out how the make wearable computing look more like clothes and less like, well, wearable computing, it appears inevitable that we’ll all be individually wired up, all the time. The ‘quantifiable self’ movement was also highly visible, arguing that the responsibility for monitoring health will soon shift to the individual – and the battery of sensors and transmitters embedded in our bodies.

.

data, story

Expect data everywhere.

.

Our homes, shops, offices, cars and skies will be literally buzzing with input/output devices, WiFied to the max and constantly shipping information to the grid. For marketers, this new tide of data will start to drive the automation of more decisions and more executions – we’re practically already there with automated media buying exchanges and personalised recommendation engines.

Easily half of the conference seemed to be welcoming our new Big Data overlords and the relentless efficiency it will bring to our lives, ready or not.

But stay, y’know, kinda human.

The other half, however, were preoccupied with that most human of endeavours – storytelling. There were panels and presentations and seminars and workshops on Product Storytelling, Immersive Storytelling, Content Storytelling, Transmedia Storytelling and on and on it went. The unified message from this side of the house seemed to be: use your marketing to tell human stories to human customers in a human voice, you’ll be able to make your brand appear more, well, human.

I’m being flippant here but some of the storytelling advice was pretty solid: stick to a linear format, don’t be afraid of offering complexity to your audience and don’t try and chase out all the imperfections, visual or otherwise. Implicit in all this advice was the belief that storytelling is an inherently good way to go about marketing.

.

Is it possible to pull together the threads of story and data for an experience that is accurate and human

Is it possible to pull together the threads of story and data for an experience that is accurate and human?

.

 Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

Maybe it’s just a re-imagining of the old above-the-line vs below-the-line marketing split for a fully digitized age, but I believe there’s a real schism developing here. The choice appears to be between a marketing philosophy based on ensuring the absolute accuracy of everything (marketing by algorithm, if you will), and one based on overtly accentuating the human element of communication (artisanal marketing, to borrow an adjective from the hipsters).

Perhaps the answer is ‘yes’.

Yes to being both data-informed and also to being story-driven, which is to say human. Just as we have seen the rise of ‘Data Artists’ in the visual arts world, ‘Data Visualisers’ in the statistics world and, more recently ‘Data Journalists’ in the publishing world, perhaps marketing is about to make room for ‘Data Storytellers’.

.

11025394966_c9e8c37de7_b

Data Storytelling: patterns stay in the background, humans take the stage.

.

This industry needs another made-up job title like a brainstorm needs a ninja evangelist – or like we need brainstorms, for that matter. Real creativity, however, often comes from combining two previously unrelated ideas to develop a new approach and I see real potential in combining these two ascendant disciplines.  A mashup of data analysis and storytelling could result in a new type of communication approach, one that is both accurate and human – and creative in a way we’ve not seen before.

 

This post originally appeared on the Firebrand Talent blog.

______________________________________________________________

About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

______________________________________________________________

Etsy for solder – Tindie sounds like it should be about dating, but it’s about making.

While kickstarter projects and tech-hipster “maker faires” get all the press coverage in the West, China is quietly leapfrogging the hobbyist phase and developing a maker culture that’s a natural precursor chemical to the manufacturing industries that have been the engine of its stunning economic development over the last 30 years. Welcome to the world’s newest hotspot of maker culture: Hua Qiang Bei district in Shenzhen, the sprawling manufacturing city in China’s Special Economic Zone.

.

maker, shenzhen, arduino

Imagine RadioShack the size of Wallmart, times 15 city blocks.

.

University of California Irvine researcher Silvia Lindtner gave the SXSW crowd an eye-opening update on the state of Chinese maker culture recently in her talk “Made with China,” and the implications are profound. While ‘maker spaces’ are mushrooming in the west, the Chinese government is planning to virtually carpet bomb their cities with xin che jian (literally translates to “new factory”). The first of these spaces to appear in China was opened by a small group of tech entrepreneurs as an annex to their existing co-working space in late 2010. There are about 18 official makerspaces in China right now, but the city of Shanghai alone expects to open 100 more by the end of this year, including a bunch aimed specifically at schoolkids. Next-level is about to go next-gen.

Location, location, location.

It is in the Southern city of Shenzhen, however, where Lindtner sees the most powerful version of these new makerspaces emerging. Imagine setting up your space in a small, abandoned factory in the midst of a 15-block suburb crammed with multi-story electronic and mechanical component department stores. The real kicker is your next-door neighbour: the most concentrated, competitive and varied manufacturing area in the world.

In this situation, the DIY ethos of ‘maker spaces’ goes from tech tinkering to something completely different: a viable platform for rapid prototyping and affordable mass production, which then becomes an on-ramp for building sustainable product-based tech businesses. It doesn’t hurt to be in a tax-exempt Special Economic Zone and have one of the world’s busiest commercial ports just down the road, either.

Culture, culture, culture.

Maker culture is certainly starting to emerge in China, with the establishment of several incubator-style programs and spaces, boosted by the close involvement of MakerBot co-founder Zach Hoeken, who reportedly now spends half his time in Shenzhen. Former Foxxcon CEO Terry Cheng is also involved in the scene, and the government is funding a string of makerspace education facilities aimed specifically at kids.

China, innovation, maker, hacker

China + makerspaces + popup = boom

.

Lindtner sees some interesting parallels to Chinese culture in this budding movement, including innovation born of necessity (almost every corner in every city sports an electronics repair shop) and also the often-maligned culture of Shanzhai, which has been described as either  “Robin Hood’s center for design” or a pit of shameless IP theft, depending on your point of view. More recently, the shanzhai manufacturers have started ‘open sourcing’ their own production methods, by readily sharing their ‘bill of materials'(the ingredients list of components and specifications for manufacturing hardware) and this approach has led to genuine innovation, such as Seed Studio’s reworking of the popular Arduino microcontroller board, now dubbed the “Seeduino‘.

.

arduino, seed studios, shaizen, innovation

Better, faster, cheaper. What’s not to like about innovation?

.

The real hurdle to developing a widespread maker culture of innovation and production, however, may be the Chinese attitude to manual labour. In an era when parents are eager to see their children in office jobs and white-collar professions, a return to the transistor radio repairman may be a tough sell.

Still, there’s a real velocity to what Lindtner is seeing on the ground. Shenzen hosts a recurring maker carnival, organized by China’s Communist Youth League, and 3 local kickstarter-style funding platforms have emerged in just the last year.

It seems the maker revolution is about to go into production.

A version of this story originally appeared on Ogilvydo.com as part of the agency’s coverage of SXSW 2014.

______________________________________________________________

About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

Startup Accelerator 'Boomtown' Launches in Boulder with Alex Bogusky's Help  

Warning: humblebrag approaching

I’m paid to generate ideas and that’s fun, but it’s becoming clearer that execution is the new black. If that’s true, then I’m here to declare longevity is the new chrome. One of the better ideas I’ve had (okay, stolen) in recent times is an internal program we’ve established at Ogilvy Singapore called the Ogilvy Adventure Squad.

Screen Shot 2013-08-04 at 12.16.46 AM

Know the face, but not the name.

The program was created to help tackle the siloification that invariably happens in organisations as they become larger, both in terms of headcount and areas of specialisation. The mechanics of the idea involves throwing a small group of people from different departments together for a short but reasonably hardcore adventure trip, doing or learning something new and physically demanding.

The Adventure Squad kicked off last year with trips to Malaysia to go rockclimbing, out into the South China Sea to go scuba diving and over to Sri Lanka for a what turned out to be an unbelievably good surf trip (4 to 6ft of swell and glassy conditions, in case you were wondering). All the trips offered something for the enthusiasts as well as professional lessons and gear hires for newbies.

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 12.04.37 AM

Shared experiences lead to shared goals

The result was a whole bunch of new informal connections and networks springing up all over the business between people who could probably help each other a lot, but so far have found no real reason to say anything beyond “Hi” in the lunchroom. And here’s the truly heartening result: in 2014, the agency is backing it again.

Not coincidentally, the agency is also restructuring to foster more integration between specialisations (I know: everyone says they are doing it but I’m yet to see it happen, at scale, as a result an intentional). While structure and method and org charts are important, I’m a big believer in getting the bloodware right, which is much more an ongoing management process than a run-and-done engineering task.

snowboard

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pack my Burton jacket and Anon goggles – the next Ogilvy Adventure Squad mission is our snowboard trip to Hakuba, Japan, where the forecast is for snow, snow and quite possibly more snow.

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________________________

About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

______________________________________________________________

Feeling entrepreneurial: this guy is giving away 100 business ideas.