Archives For Video

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+

The growing tension between global brands and their local audiences.

Globalisation means different things to different brands. McDonalds has a long-held strategy of standardising the flavour profile of its products, so that your first bite of a Big Mac in Beijing will be essentially the same as in Buenos Aires. Partly, that’s a function of quality control and standardisation of sourcing and production methods, but it’s also a recognition of the fact that the first moment you put something in your mouth is a pretty memorable brand experience.

They’ve also pursued some experimentations in localisation, with specific menu items in India, New Zealand, Brasil and other markets to cater to local palates. If you put the product aside for a moment, however, the branding and messaging is absolutely standardised across the globe, and that is increasingly true of many truly global brands.

Wanted: attractive models with obscure mixed ethnic background

This is often a function of economics: the cost of producing and managing 10 different TVCs, for example, to run in 10 different markets (an absolute quantifiable figure), is generally seen as higher than the benefits of improving relevance by tailoring those same TVCs for those 10 markets (virtually impossible to predict and even harder to calculate as an ROI). The worst example of this process are the lip-synced pan-regional shampoo ads, featuring vaguely pan-regional-looking actors in immaculate homes of unearthly whiteness. Ultimately, these ads look like they were created in outer space, or planet ProctorLever.

local relevance, brands, globalisation


The middle of where

So the reflex action from a lot of global brands is to develop a single campaign in a centralised hub – sometimes this is done at the centre of the advertising world (Manhattan or London) or in a centre of cost arbitrage (Bangalore) or geographic proximity to the bulk of the market opportunity (Hong Kong, for a North Asia market, for example). Agencies operating in this model spend a great deal of time playing ‘brand police’, creating brand bibles and managing the approval process.

However, as ’emerging markets’ start to gain confidence and sophistication, demand is growing for brands that talk to local audiences in a way that is authentic, believable and relevant. It’s not to say that local audiences don’t see value in big global brands, but that the brand experience is now expected to become more personally (and locally) relevant. We want these global superstars to come to our house party, but we want them to talk to our friends and sing karaoke with us, not just sit in the corner looking cool, surrounded by minders.

Follow the pendulum, follow the money

Over time, most global brands swing between the extremes of ‘country first’ localisation and ‘global only’ centralised standardisation. The first is expensive and, ultimately, unmanageable at scale – satellite television and social media have effectively ended the idea that messaging can be quarantined to specific countries or even regions. The second tends to result in ‘average-ised’ campaigns that are efficient to produce and work ok in most places, though rarely spectacularly well anywhere.


brands, global, local

Standby to receive official global brand broadcast, which you’re just going to love.


Global agencies make most of their money managing this ongoing tension between global consistency and local relevance for global brands, re-organising and re-staffing as they follow the swinging pendulum between to two ends of the spectrum.

Does the ‘dinosaur medium’ have a plan for the future?

But what if you could build a hyper-efficient globalised/standardised marketing and messaging distribution system that still leaves room for local insights, and relevant local expression? What would that look like? Where would it be based?

Sorry to get your hopes up, but I don’t have the answer, and I’m not sure many global agencies do. But we have been working on some smaller-scale prototypes that steal the idea of global ‘formats’ from the television broadcasting world (y’know, the one that the internet is apparently destroying?).

In particular, we’ve been looking at properties like the singing and cooking shows that dominate the world’s screens. There’s some real operational genius going on here – they are built from the ground up with the intention that certain aspects will be (nay, have to be) modified for local markets, but also with structures and processes that must not and cannot be fucked around with.


If you look at the ‘Idol’ format, there’s always a set number of judges and archetypes that must be followed (the encourager, the eccentric and the bitch), but the individuals in those roles are chosen to be extremely relevant to the local market. The number of shows required to cover the qualifications, eliminations, finals and ultimate winner are also set, but the choice of songs and music styles is, again, completely local. The blue neon logo looks the same everywhere, but the costumes on Israeli Idol are very different to those worn on Brazilian Idol.



They didn’t come to cheer your incredibly well-translated global strapline.


So it’s got more flexibility than a franchise model (McDonalds is not going to let you re-design the menu in every country) but still retains a cohesive brand experience (the narrative of rags-to-riches talent discovery, audience voting to determine the ultimate winner, for example) in all of it’s 46-and-counting global markets. Another key ingredient worth noting in this approach is the use of local production partners and an IP licencing, rather than head-hours fee, remuneration model.

Importantly, from a creative and strategic standpoint, although there are things you can’t change when you work on one of these global formats, there are plenty of very satisfying levers you can pull, which helps attract quality local talent to work on these global formats – a very real issue in the agency world.

As we start to see real business benefits coming from global brands offering locally-relevant experiences, there may well be a change in the way agencies operate to deliver these formats: less of the command-and control of the McDonald’s/Starbucks globocorps and more of the adaptable formats & partnerships approach of Fremantle Media or Endemol.

The recent acquisition of a stake in Droga5 by LA-based talent agency William Morris shows that it’s probably already happening.


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.


Pure functionality: a studio that completely conforms to the artist

The turning of the calendar tends to provoke a little reflection: year-in-reviews are a staple of long-term agency-client relationships. But it’s also a great opportunity to turn this reflection into projection.

Rather than sitting back, waiting for the briefs to roll in and hoping to uncover the creative opportunity, we’re starting by identifying the sort of work that the collective team should really be pursuing in the year ahead, looking at what we’ve learned from the previous year’s activities and talking about what we’d like to improve on and experiment with to generate better results. It’s the classic Direct Marketing approach of Test, Learn & Optimise, but scaled up to fit the brand ambition for a calendar year.

There are four areas that I believe offer scope for creativity, innovation and results in B2B marketing this year:

1. Content (as kingmaker)

I witnessed first-hand the incredible rush to content as a cure-all for the B2B marketing blues at last year’s SXSW and spent much of 2011 pursuing different types of branded-content projects, with varying degrees of success. We looked at a range of formats, from live webcasts and serialised feature articles, to infographics and even the good old-fashioned printed newsletter. We also experimented with a variety of production and distribution models, including content syndication,  media partnerships, outsourced white-label production and inhouse agency-brand collaborations.

And what we learned was:

  • people (and their expertise) make for the most compelling content
  • media partnerships struck without editorial buy-in are asking for trouble
  • snackable and shareable versions will improve reach, particularly through social channels
  • authenticity is difficult. It is also absolutely critical.

While the common wisdom suggests that content is king, I would argue that content should ultimately be in the service of the brand, pledging its allegiance to the noble task of generating leads. Content’s real role in the marketing mix, is as kingmaker.

And that’s where the real opportunity/challenge lies – not in creating and distributing compelling content, but in setting up clear pathways that lead the audience from that compelling content, through to engagement with what the brand has to offer. In B2B, the standard by which branded content must be held, is demand generation. Not easy, but it’s got to be the only game in town.

Next up, opportunity #2: platform thinking. Getting away from the tactic-by-tactic mindset can be difficult when the business is driven by quarter-to-quarter numbers. But, just maybe, there is a way. Stay tuned.

One of the coolest things I took away from SXSW was a renewed faith in people. Not just the people on the streets and in the bars, or the locals who took me on a tour of their very happening city, but the visionaries and thinkers who got up and showed us that it’s cool for people – and brands – to care deeply about stuff.

I was deeply impressed by Cameron Sinclair, the self-styled Chief Eternal Optimist for Architecture For Humanity and his take on open-sourced architecture. Fashion designer Marc Ecko became my new personal hero when he rocked a madcap Prezi to take us down the rabbit hole of ‘AWEthenticity’ to a place where we were confronted by the issue of state-sponsored violence in U.S. schools.

Science-fiction author and SXSW veteran Bruce Sterling saved the best for last, launching into an incendiary call-to-arms for millenials. Nothing short of generational change will suffice for a man who, by his own admission, is in the wrong generation.

I fulfilled a life-long dream and got to floor the accelerator of a brand-new Corvette, saw a ‘secret’ Foo Fighters performance at a the official closing party and will forever be seduced by the words ‘breakfast taco’. I’ve got my longhorns cap and my wife scored a shirt from the Driskill hotel. Austin, you were great.

But most importantly, I’ve got some very clear ideas about where our industry (or parts of it, at least) is heading and I’m lucky enough to be in a position to be a part of it. I’ve collected together a lot of the links and resources from SXSW and related coverage here and I thoroughly recommend you start working on your plans to get yourself to SXSW 20112.

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

Judging by the number of talks and panels on the topics of Branded Content, Brand Journalism, Branded Non-fiction , Branded Entertainment, Branded Narratives, Brand Storytelling and the like, it would appear that anyone with a brand or product is about to become a publisher, if they aren’t already.

While almost every marketer has developed at least a piece of content or two over the last couple of years, they’ve largely done so in the context of a campaign or project. If the argument put forward in many of these sessions is to be believed, prepare to witness it in the context of a Business Unit.

We’re talking corporate re-structuring, Chief Content Officers, investment in talent and infrastructure, codes of conduct & ethics, mastheads, revenue streams, regulatory hurdles and a whole mess of trust issues as the line between publisher and advertiser simply disappears.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn What The Future Of (almost) Everything (possibly) Looks Like.

Stay tuned for the final episode when Barrie talks about old dreams, new heroes and why ‘Giving A Damn’ is the new black.

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

David Ogilvy is a pretty quotable guy, but certified Aussie Ad Legend John ‘Singo’ Singleton is not far behind. He often used to say that he wasn’t interested in being part of the advertising industry – he was interested in being part of the industries his clients were part of. Singo would have loved SXSW.

No matter what you – or your clients – are into, there was a panel/presentation/meet-up/workshop/demo devoted to exploring the future of it: Banking, Retail, Fashion, Television, Telecoms, Education, Employment, Architecture, Philanthropy, Latin America, Law Enforcement, Agriculture, War, Politics, Sex and, um, Zombies were all covered. And that was on day one.

The good news is that everything is about to be gamified. Or prototyped. Or democratised. Possibly all at the same time.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How To Become (Rich And) Famous.”

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn “What Your Clients Are About To Become.”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

 In times gone by, the fastest way was to get three friends together (ensure at least one of them can drum), learn three chords, choose a faintly ridiculous name, and form a band. Now, you get three friends together (ensure at least one of them can code), put together a pitch deck, choose a faintly ridiculous name, and form a tech start up.

The SXSW festival is merely the peak of a year-round tech mountain that everyone in Austin seems to be climbing. I was lucky enough to spend some time with @equintanilla, a very switched on Austin local who gave me a glimpse of how the whole ecosystems works – from the 80 to 90 tech, internet marketing and web service firms that have sprung up in the last few years, to the University of Texas with its tech-heavy curriculum and its incubator  programs, the funneling of oil profits from Houston and Dallas into serious local VC firms – all the way up to the city and state officials who are determined to see that Texas does not participate in the recession that is clearly calcifying the rest of the United States. No wonder ad agencies are trying to work out how to think like software firms.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “Why You Shouldn’t Write Off Yesterday’s Hot Technology.”

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn “What The Future Of (Almost) Everything (Possibly) Looks Like”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

If you have any experience with mobiles, or South East Asia, or mobiles in South East Asia, you’ve probably come across QR codes several times over the past six or seven years and filed them quietly under ‘Only in Japan’. Get ready to take them out dust them off, as the general population starts coming to grips with the ease of ‘mobile bookmarks’ and people start dreaming up cool new uses for these pixilated black and white squares.

QR codes, and the companies hoping to ‘monetise’ them were at SXSW in full effect, reminding everyone that SMS started life as a test signal format for telco engineers and its current iteration is as a popular web service based on messages of 140 characters. You may have heard of it.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How To Throw A Party (Like You Mean Business).”

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn more “How To Get (Rich And) Famous”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

 It seems you can make a lot of friends, and some business as well, by renting out a bar (or auditorium) and inviting everyone in town, a tactic employed literally dozens and dozens of times every single night. Apart from the decidedly rockstar party thrown by The Barbarian Group (featuring an indie-rock supergroup, with actor Michael Cera on bass), the really big money events were bankrolled by publishers, software houses and platforms.

Hosting company Rackspace went burlesque. Microsoft held a massive BBQ for start-ups & VCs, and a huge dance party for their latest browser upgrade – both on the same night. Tech blog Mashable took out a double-fronted, three story pub for two consecutive nights yet, in true publisher style, they sub-let the party to a slew of major sponsors. The Foursquare and Frog Design parties were easy to find (just look for the queues) but took hours to get into (just look at those queues!). The biggest event was the official closing party, thrown by Media Temple (mt) (yet another web hosting company), held at a 2,000 capacity open-air bar and featuring a live musical performance. By the Foo Fighters.

The money these parties must have burned through was simply astonishing, but they were packed to the gunwales with people pitching, angling, dealing, wooing, financing, networking and recruiting. It was just like being at the conference, only with a (free) drink in your hand.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How to Launch an App”

Here’s the next episode, where ad agencies learn “Why You Shouldn’t Write Off Yesterday’s Hot Technology.”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.