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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.

 

 

 

It’s certainly my lucky year for festivals and conferences. In March I flew to Austin Texas for SXSW14, the world’s largest interactive and tech festival where I was deeply impressed by Chinese maker culture, the old rules for new media storytelling and, of course, Bruce Sterling’s closing keynote. In terms of inspiration and education, Southby is very hard to beat. Oh, and because tacos.

I filed stories and interviews every day from SXSW for Ogilvy’s own thought leadership program ogilvydo.com which is a brilliant example of in-house content marketing that takes advantage of a global network of really talented people while operating on the smell of an oily rag. They must have liked what I wrote, because they’ve asked me to be part of the team covering the world’s largest festival of creativity: Cannes Lions, in the south of France.

Winners, grinners & sinners.

Everyone who works in the biz knows of Cannes and the power of the (really quite ugly) trophies they hand out. But it has become much more than an awards show, with a full week of education sessions, keynotes, seminars and workshops to go along with, apparently, a staggering amount of drinking and handshaking.

Every year, the organisers bring a smattering of hollywood and entertainment types (we have the Hoff and SJP to look forward to this year), but personally, I’m looking forward to hearing from the likes of Jonathan Ives, Spike Jones and (my hero) Aaron Sorkin talk about how creativity works in their particular fields.

Advertising is still all about marketing.

I’m also planning on spending time with the big platforms and publishers – the googles, facebooks, twitters et al – who have really been ramping up their presence at Cannes and are now locked in a kind of beachfront creativity & hospitality deathmatch. Honestly, I can’t wait. The other interesting part for me will be taking our brand new Padcaster video rig for a spin – it’s a really clever piece of kit that turns a regular iPad into a super-portable ENG kit, allowing you to shoot, edit and publish directly on the iPad for near-instantaneous broadcasting. I love how it brings together a few pieces of pre-existing componentry to form a totally new machine.

For some of the most comprehensive coverage and insights, I really recommend ogilvydo.com and for a hilarious (and usually pretty accurate) forecast, you should check Ogilvy SA’s CCO Chris Gotz.

 

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.

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maker, shenzhen, arduino

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

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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

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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‘.

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arduino, seed studios, shaizen, innovation

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

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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.

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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+

This week, I’m handing the w2fm keyboard over to Ogilvy Sydney Art Director Leisa Ilander who won this year’s GROWIE award and, therefore, a week with us in the Singapore office:

“I’m sitting in a small room with Barrie Seppings and two women infinitely smarter than I am. They’re talking about co-collaboration, startups and innovation and I’m quietly thinking to myself “this wasn’t in the brochure”…

singapore, growies, ogilvy

Singapore takes its architecture seriously.

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But come to think of it, I’m not certain what type of brochure I was reading. Winning a chance to work in the Ogilvy Singapore office for a week appeared to be welcome relief to what has been a hectic start to the year in Sydney.However during the week, as I’ve been welcomed into this incredibly (both literally and metaphorically) warm office, I’ve realised I may have to re-write that brochure.

Start by visiting the land of un-paralleled award opportunities

On my first day I wasn’t given one brief. I wasn’t given two. I was given twenty nine. Each, bar one, was from the “wall of opportunity”; a magical place where briefs are given a new chance; and where an IBM creative can have a crack at a brief for Castrol, The Red Cross or Coca-Cola; in the hope of producing an award-winning idea.

At first the competitive part of me stepped into overdrive – where do I begin; which do I tackle first; how many can I do in a week; breathe, Leisa, breathe. By the end of the week I realised how far I travel down this path is up to me, but the fact this path exists; breathing space outside of the routine, makes it a uniquely refreshing place to visit.

Discover innovation

By Wednesday I’d settled into my routine of walking the twenty odd minutes from my hotel to the office (something I’m told Singaporeans do NOT do, due to the heat), and was taken to my next sightseeing destination – the IBM Lab.

And although my imagination was not satisfied aesthetically (no scientists in lab coats doing experiments), our imaginations were ignited by the current projects demonstrated to us. Projects I’m sure the NDA would disapprove of sharing here, suffice to say we walked away with ideas for new campaigns outside of any currently briefed work. A trip I’d definitely be interested to replicate when I get back home. A similar one, I’m told, was where a boy and his atom originated.

singapore, ogilvy

But its not all glass and steel

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Don’t forget to see the outside world

Which brings me to my meeting with Bernice Ang and Grace Clapham. As anyone working on the IBM account would know, you need to have something between your ears to work on this client. In a job where we sell complex software and service solutions every day, you need to be able to comprehend a thing or two.

But as Barrie begins his interview I am completely overwhelmed. By their intelligence. By their ambition. And by their comprehension of something so completely out of our world.

Barrie is preparing his uniquely Asian-centric coverage of SXSW, and these two women are giving us a sneak peak into their talk Co-Creation by Design: Asia, Women & Innovation. And it’s incredibly enlightening. Not only in it’s content; but the action itself. To look outside of our agency and category bubble and to prepare ourselves for the future is not only relevant, but possibly crucial for our survival as thought-leaders and taste-makers.

These three things I’ve learnt from just a week working with Barrie and the IBM team in the Singapore office. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed re-writing the brochure with you.

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Leisa Ilander is an Art Director in Sydney, who always keeps her heels, head and standards high. You can follow her on twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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+

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Creative Berlin is also a privatized Berlin, where companies provide the necessary infrastructure in exchange for a chance to win euros and brand loyalty

What happens when hipsters become an economic strategy

After extensive research, I can reveal that the only thing as good as a holiday is, in fact, a holiday. And the only thing better than a holiday is two of them.

11 days on a 65ft boat with 8 mates chasing waves around the Mentawis is a standard-issue Northern beaches fantasy holiday that, on this occasion, lived up to the hype. If you’ve ever dreamed of going, GO. And if you do go, I thoroughly recommend this boat. This shot is of a lefthander called Green Bush that, thankfully, decided not to kill me.

 

3 weeks in New York with the family, however, did almost kill me. Mainly due to overconsumption of ribs. And slice. And burgers. And Crif Dogs. And Argentinian BBQ. And bagels & lox. And pretty much everything, except decent coffee. We saw everything and ate everything and still barely scratched the surface. If you’ve ever dreamed of going, GO. And if you do go, I thoroughly recommend this site for accommodation. This shot is of a rib & brisket platter at  Fette Sau that, thankfully, decided not to kill me.

Taking almost 6 weeks out of the workplace is a rare luxury and I have to acknowledge my colleagues at Ogilvy and elsewhere who picked up the slack while I was gone. Admittedly, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about work while I was away, but I have come back with a new list of projects and priorities and, hopefully, a more relaxed attititude to, well, stuff.

I also came back to the opportunity to run a w2fm workshop with a lovely crew of people from St George Bank and I was reminded of the fact that I’m pretty fortunate to do the things I do and still call it work.

We’re going deep into the heart of Texas this month – along with about 15,000 other digital professionals, enthusiasts, evangelists and just plain obsessives for the Interactive part of South By Southwest 2011.

I’ve been trying to get to this event for a few years now and am thrilled that Ogilvy have committed to sending a small team from the office here in Sydney. I’m even more thrilled that I’m on that team, along with a couple of real heavyweights from the digital marketing industry, Brian Merrifield and Damian Damjanovski.  The three of us will be covering as much of the event as we can, live and daily, to try and give our clients and colleagues a view of the very near future of digital marketing.

Follow the coverage from SXSW

We’ve had great support from Mike Boyd and his team at Appcast, who are whipping up a custom site that aggregates the various twitter, flickr, video, podcast and blog feeds that three of us will be generating from the festival. Feel free to hit the site and  sign up for daily updates via email.

The plan is to divide and conquer.

There’s an overwhelming amount of content on offer – some 700+ presentations, panels, keynotes and workshops are on the official schedule, with countless meetups, tweetups, parties, lounges and the inevitable guerilla/ambient marketing assaults on a fairly tech-heavy audience. Plus, there’s a giant trade show/exhibit hall where plenty of startups are betting the farm on becoming the next ‘breakout app’ of SXSW.

I actually met a young Aussie company at a pre-event mixer in Sydney last week that will be launching iTourU, their guided audio tour app for the iPhone at the trade show in Austin – great to see a local crew stepping up to what is arguably the world’s biggest stage for startup launches.

My focus will be to look for trends, ideas and innovation in the areas of content development, curation, apps, mobile, digital publishing, B2B marketing and beyond – and then to try and put that into context for my clients both in Sydney and throughout the Ogilvy network.

I guess you could call it an iPadcast rig?

Of course, I’ve used it as an excuse to get some gadgets in my kit bag: a completely mobile audio podcast rig.

This one is built from an iPad, an Optimus mic, manfrotto mini tripod, Twisted Wave app, and the Podbean podcast hosting service. I’ve managed to record, edit, upload and publish test files all from the iPad, even on 3G. Stay tuned for the first episode of the official Ogilvy #ausxsws podcast early next week.

I’m spending the next few days off the grid, breathing deeply and thinking about the utter madness that SXSW interactive promises. I’ve got some schedule planning to do, and a few interviews and meetups that I’m trying to orchestrate but I also have an old friend and colleague who is now an Austin – and Digital marketing – native to help me when i hit the ground, so I’m feeling confident.

Here’s the thunderbolt from the Argentinian leg of our w2fm Sth American tour: you won’t be able to extract customer insights from your partners and channels, if their insights aren’t being listened to first.

Partners: hear them first, before you ask them to listen on your behalf.

That came through pretty clearly in a few sessions we ran in various countries recently, but it really crystalised for us as we tried to run a game of “What’s my motivation in this scene?” with a few partners who were cast in the role of customers. Sure, the language differences weren’t helping, but it became obvious the partners needed to discuss their own motivations first.

When you think about it, that’s logical. But marketing often just considers partners as just a link in the messaging chain. At best, they simply pass along the script, verbatim. At worst, they’ll let the marketing materials pile up in their inboxes like so much spam.

Because, without relevance, all massages are spam. And all humans are refining their mental spam filters every day, punting as much as they can to the junk folder in their cerebrum, trying to keep the cache clear for more important, interesting or entertaining messages. In fact, this “filtering” is getting so intense that some writers have pointed out that increased internet use is re-wiring our brains. And perhaps, not in a good way. Yes, we can process more messages faster, but at the expense of being able to concentrate on more complex, involved or even simply lengthy messages. Good news for tweets, bad news for books.

Net net: the message you are sending also has to be relevant for the messenger, or it will just get caught in the spam filter.

Another revelation from the Buenos Aires leg: I now know someone who has a patent for a robot. That does sound like rocket surgery.

We’ve been invited back to South America, to bring some w2fm thinking to a series of ‘insight and messaging’ training sessions, and it got us thinking about the importance of being relevant to your audience.

Insights are everywhere: if you know where to look.

It’s one thing to talk about relevance, but how do you work out exactly what relevance is? How will you know when you’ve found it? And what language will it be in?

As usual, we didn’t waste any time trying to come up with the answers ourselves – we just asked all of the really smart marketing, planning, creative and strategic people we knew how they go about discovering relevance.

There's a lot of good intel in the sales department - but how do marketers extract it?

Although the channels and techniques and methods varied (online listening posts; eavesdropping at conferences; buying a front-line sales guy a cup of coffee), all roads kept coming back to the audience, and a devastatingly simple process:

Step 1: Find them

Step 2: Listen

 

So we’ve collected the wisdom and put it in a framework that allows us to continue the ‘magpie approach’ of adding new twigs of information and ideas as we find them, continually building up a collection of tools and approaches to discovering relevance.

The result is The Relevance Engine and we unveiled the idea at a 2-day session in Sao Paulo, which revealed a whole bunch more “twigs” from the get-go. There was a feeling that our friends in Brasil already had access to a lot of customer insight and were ready to start combining their sources. We hit upon the idea of having a “hunch” and using the engine to collect the data to either support the hunch with facts, or find an entirely new customer insight.

I had a hunch this was lunch. I was wrong.

We’d also like it to be noted that the Paulistas are amongst the world’s most generous hosts – catering wise. It’s so much easier to facilitate a workshop wen everyone is fed and watered, so a huge thankyou goes out to the Brasil team on this score.

Already, we can see that rather than try to continually ‘develop’ and ‘refine’ The Relevance Engine as we go along, it seems more natural to allow local teams to ‘tune’ it to their local needs. Unsurprisingly, The Relevance Engine works best when it is allowed to become more relevant to the audience that is using it.

We have a couple more stops at Buenos Aires and Mexico City over the coming days, so we’ll write a little more about the engine plays out in these markets but, in the meantime, I’d like to ask you to help with some virtual performance tuning too:

“What’s your fail-safe method for discovering what is truly relevant to your audience?”