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Technologies Impact on Creativity

New York by Frank Gehry

The building pictured to the left is a recently opened skyscraper called New York by Frank Gehry. I think it is the perfect real world example of technology meeting creativity, plus I just think it’s beautiful.

I think the definition of what we consider creativity is changing, morphing to include functional aspects. In terms of advertising, how users will interact with a campaign, on which devices, at what time are all just as valid creative aspects as what colour the typeface will be. Many people may see technology as negatively impacting creativity in advertising as the proliferation of people becoming “connected” through PCs, tablets, mobile and social networks drive campaigns that have just as much to do with functionality as they do the big beautiful idea. However, I think it’s actually creating an environment that not only encourages creativity but actually means that it’s more effective.

I believe creative work now more than ever equals effective work. Previously a creative campaign would run it’s course through the paid broadcast media channels and fade away, only leaving word of mouth behind. Now, if people watch something they enjoy on one of their connected devices or with one present, they can then share the experience with their friend network and create discussions around it. Not only that but it lives on as a permanently available record on the internet.

Technology (being connected) & social networks amplify the message of creative campaigns, if people are interested in the content enough to spread it throughout their networks.

Moreover, technology has created an environment which empowers people as content seekers, distributors and creators. We’ll search out and only engage with what we wan’t to, whereas previously we obediantly consumed content that was broadcast to us (because we didn’t have a choice). In this new environment if what we create as advertisors isn’t creative and engaging, more and more we will just get ignored and passed by as people get used to accessing only the content they are after. Television broadcasters are dealing with this issue currently with time shifted viewing, newspapers are being replaced by daily updates on news websites and people are using iPods in the car to listen to music rather than radio. So what do we need to do as advertisors to continue to be relevant to people:

Be Interesting: Lets deliver information and content that is revelant to the person who is experiencing it at the time, whether it’s a price on a product they are seeking out or an amusing video to kill a couple of minutes at the office. Let’s deliver content that is easy and enjoyable to experience for everyone no matter where they want to access it, whether it’s from their mobile, tablet, PC or letterbox.

Do Stuff Rather Than Say Stuff: Look to create things as well as ads. Create utility. Allow people to access the interesting content on their terms.

Experiment: Maybe good enough is good enough. Lets be agile and iterate, operating more like a tech start up than a typical agency. Work together in cross disciplinary teams. Gareth Kay also made the suggestion of putting a percentage of the marketing budget directly towards R&D.

Why can’t the next Facebook/Twitter/Instagram be started within an agency?



Why Bricks and Mortar Stores Will Always Have a Role to Play

Tom Ford Store

Tom Ford Store

I have recently been reading the excellent book, Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. In it, he raised some points which really highlight to me the fact that bricks and mortar stores will always have a role to play in the retail environment. In my opinion it is unlikely that retail locations will be completely replaced by E-commerce, M-Commerce or F-Commerce, ever. To begin the discussion, lets look at defining shopping in a way that frames it as more than the simple acquisition of goods to fulfil a need.

Shopping: experiencing that portion of the world which is deemed for sale, using our senses of sight, touch, smell, taste or hearing as basis of the decision making process. (Ref. Paco Underhill)

The key message for me here is the neccessary sensory aspect is lacking in online retailing. Clearly you aren’t able to touch, smell or taste products without physically being instore. It is alot harder to truly understand the selling points of a product without being able to experience it fully. Take a look at shoppers as they wander round a store, picking things up, looking them over, taking them out of the pack, exploring and discovering. Further to this point, impulse purchases are often a result of touching and experiencing the product and indentifying the benefits it holds on the spot.

Merchandising can be just as powerful as advertising. For the most part we like to purchase based on trial and touch.

Why do we want to touch and experience things before we buy them? Firstly, for many products the tactile qualities of the product are a key selling point, such as luxury clothing from Tom Ford or manchester and linen. Even if the tactile qualities of the product don’t neccesarily require it be touched, they often still need to be experienced to get a feel for their benefits. Take technology products such as tablets, until you’ve had a go on one, flicking through some photos and articles, you really can’t tell how useful they really are.

So what else do stores offer that online retailing struggles to replicate?

Brand Experience: The instore environment can be tailored to deliver an incredibly strong brand experience, stronger then any press ad, TVC or web page. The store design and fit out, music, staff, location and surrounding stores all add up to deliver a message to people about your company and its values. Are you a high end store with exclusive location, plush interior and knowledgable staff or a discount retailer with a large store, bulk merchandising and convenient car parking? These choices alter how people perceive your company in a big way. Music also sets the tone of the environment, no self respecting teenager would shop in a store playing classical violin concertos.

Discovery: Instore you can create an environment which encourages discovery, exploring the store and experiencing the product. Sure this occurs on the internet naturally but instore it’s a much more experiential journey. Point of Sale which creates clarity of where you are in the store without oversaturating the information helps add to this. It sets the tone of the products around it but leaves the opportunity to explore the actual products in detail. For example using fashion imagery rather than text description of exact products. Sounds and smells can also be controlled, which can lead people through the store. Bakerys in supermarkets fill the store with the aroma of fresh bread, alluring you to discover and purchase the freshly baked bread.

Talking: Stores attract groups of people, if discussion can be fostered, the products begin to start selling themselves. If for example a group of girls are out looking for jeans, they will chat about the products and which looks best on each other, then perhaps running into friends and start getting their opinions also. This conversation my spread to the shoppers around them, bringing them in to the discussion. Sure it may be argued that this can be replicated to an extent online with F-Commerce (social shopping), but I don’t think it’s quite the same as the organic face to face conversation that can occur in a store environment.

Where does this leave online retailing to fit into the picture?

Obviously it will be a requirement for all businesses to offer their products online in some capacity in future if they wish to make the most of their revenue opportunities. I see it working in tandem with their retail locations. Bricks and mortar stores will be about delivering a strong brand experience for those who visit, allowing people to touch and experience the products in a controlled environment. Online retailing will then open a new avenue of sales rather than canabalising stores. Those that aren’t able to reach your physical stores perhaps due to location or lack of time, are able to purchase. It’s also great for making convenient repeat purchases on products you are already familiar with or low involvement purchases such as groceries. The convenience of being able to shop from a laptop, mobile or tablet, 24/7, 7 days a week is something people will come to expect and is an opportunty for retailers especially considering online stores don’t require staffing to be open and don’t have the same cost overheads.

Online retailing also allows retailers to take advantage of The Long Tail, a theory by Chris Anderson that there is actually more money in the “non-hits” rather than the “hits” as there is a substantially larger amount of them. It is too expensive for a bookstore for example to stock on a shelf a 15 year old book on the history of extinct moth species, filling them instead with the latest Harry Potter. However since online it costs nothing to have it available and you may actually sell one or two a year, add all these “non-hit” purchases up and you have a large revenue stream.

Technology is affecting the way retailers are doing business just as it is effecting the way we advertise to people but I don’t think there will ever be a substitute for the good old fashioned retail outlet.

If you’re interested in reading Why We Buy, you can purchase the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Buy-Science-Shopping/dp/0684849143


Gareth Kay on How To Make Strategy More Useful

I last night attended a talk by Gareth Kay (@garethk) from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners on how to make strategy more useful. Thought I’d post up my rough notes of key points he talked to.

I think the key take aways for me were that creative work is becoming more effective work over time as technology and social networks create an environment where the message of creative campaigns gets amplified. Secondly, in order for us to make strategy to drive this creativity more useful, we need to create better problems. It’s definitely a case of more creative work in is conducive to more creative work out.

Notes below:

Creative work more than ever equals effective work. Technology (being connected) & social networks amplify the message of creative campaigns. It drives business and fame plus is more efficient over time.

 How to make strategy more useful:

 1 Define better problems – not just “sell more” or “raise awareness”. Interesting problem provides the foundation for interesting creative. “make 999/1000 people not want to be a police officer” (a problem for creative regarding recruiting police officers).

 2 Be in the service of people

 3 Be a bit less visible – less interruption , visibility through invisibility, don’t necessarily expect people to come to you – be part of their day.

 4 Break the tyranny of messaging – “what should we say”, consider doing things rather than saying things.

 5 Look at the way we work – big ideas aren’t necessarily so big anymore, more small bets can create momentum. Consider an “R&D budget”, iteration, experimentation vs planning, cost of failure is less, agile cross discipline teams, can’t be perfect, improvising towards a simple goal. Embrace change.


Musings On The Future Of Radio

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We all know about the impact of smart phones,  but what about smart cars. As cars become more and more digitally enabled, what does this mean for the future of how we advertise to people in this context and thereby radio?

Take the images in the slideshow above of the new 5 series BMW for example. Here we have a passenger who is able to browse the internet from the comfort of their vehicle. Perhaps catching up with their social networks via the likes of Facebook or Twitter or checking the latest news via their favourite website. Radio could potenitally be being streamed into an environment where people are not only a captive audience, but connected to the web just as they would be in the living room (or on the street with their smart phone for that matter). Moreover, if radio is being streamed digitally, does this open up the possibility of being able to interact with the live stream much like digital TV?

Computer technology is finding its way into all aspects of our physcial lives, creating new meaning and utility. I’d like to consider two key aspects of utility that could potentially be built upon by utilising technology in this space.

Convenience – delivering relevant information when & where you need it. It’s all about making it as easy as possible for people to get the product information they require in order to purchase. Whats for sale, where, and for how much. If for example you heard an ad for groceries which you were then able to interact with via voice or a computer screen, you could potentially seek out more details about the products and where your nearest store is to purchase them. Being able to do this instantly from the convenience of your vehicle may become natural as people get used to being “always on” and connected. Perhaps in future you’ll be able to purchase groceries whilst on the way home, during a radio ad and have them delivered to your door. Convenient.

Context – relevant information delivered in the correct context for the environment. Simon Bond (BBDO) made the argument earlier this year at Cannes that no screen is equal, we must tailor our messages to the individual platform. He also discussed how we view each platform differently, relating each to Jungs personality Archetypes (PCs for example as a Sage). With this in mind, I’d see radio as somewhat of an Explorer/Sage, assisting you make sense of your environment and imparting information that is relevant to you. To this end, digitally enhanced radio could become more hyper-local, transmitting content related to stores that you are driving past, alerting you to deals that are close by. Perhaps radio could be streamed to different target audiences by selecting the types of vehicles you wish to reach. This could be quite effective as the type of car people choose to purchase is often quite reflective of their personality also. Those who drive new Audis would most likely be interested in high end products for example.

Time to order my new car.


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