Category Archives: #creativity

“There is no such thing as a low-interest category…

… only low interest thinking”

Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi.

So true.

Agencies always want to work for the Dream Client, for example Nike or Apple.

But perhaps the most interesting thinkers should aim to work with the apparently dull brands, in the boring categories.

For example, through great design and their founders’ passion for innovation, Method have made cleaning products interesting.

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My favourite recent example is Volvo Trucks. Unless you are a 5 year old boy, trucks are not the most interesting thing in the world. But Forsman Bodenfors, decided that trucks can be interesting. They created a series of epic test videos, which famously culminated in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Epic Split video that you must be one of the 60 million people to have seen by now. But this wasn’t just a lucky one-off. Volvo and their agency have shown the ability to generate interest with a series of great videos, for example this chase sequence is well worth a watch.

Many people have watched these videos that will never buy a Volvo truck, of course. But if you are a truck buyer, I will bet that you have watched every one of these Volvo videos and shared the videos with all of your truck-buying buddies.

So, no more excuses that it’s merely a “low-interest brands”. My New Year’s Resolution is to make the dull more interesting.

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Branded Content is older than your Grandad.

It’s funny to me that people think that “Branded Content” is a new idea.

It’s so old. (Vanha, as we say in Finland).

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MIchelin first published its Michelin Guides in 1900. Michelin Stars are still the thing that all the world’s restaurants strive for.

I found a new example today. A radio show, completely commissioned by a drinks brand, in the 1940s.

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The 10-2-4 Ranch was aired in the south during the second world war. Great tunes, and a great connection to the brand which was (according to their research) consumed mostly at 10am, 2pm and 4pm. They used the 10-2-4 thought in their print advertising too – a true 360 campaign based on a real insight and including branded content.. almost 70 years ago!

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Who is your most valuable customer?

Yesterday I saw this sign in a food shop in Helsinki. The owner is rewarding people who promote his shop by giving them a small discount.

It seems that Kellogs are also playing with this idea, with people able to pay for cereal with a tweet.

I said a while back that the most valuable customers are not always the ones who spend the most, but can be the ones who promote you the most.

The CLV should be the Social CLV.

The best CRM database systems in the future will measure transaction activity and social activity, and reward you for both. I don’t really know anyone who is really nailing this yet. Do you?

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Why advertising pitches are like ‘The Bachelor’.

For most of my career, I was The Client.

Whenever we needed to pick a new agency, we used to think that pitching was the responsible thing to do – we tested out agencies “for real” as we got to see them work on our problems, not other people’s.

But now I work at an ad agency, and the truth I’ve come to realise is: pitching is the worst way to start a relationship.

Pitching is the equivalent of the TV Show The Bachelor: one guy picking from 30 women according to a pre-defined process and time schedule, regardless of initial chemistry and compatibility.

You get a winner, but you rarely start a genuine relationship.

Just like with personal relationships, it is great when we meet a team on the client side who is so close to us in terms of thinking. It could be the start of a great relationship, a true partnership.

However, nearly always now, we have to pitch creative ideas next. My experience of recent pitches is that, even if we win, it is not a good way start to a relationship:

  1. It distances us from the client at the outset: it sets the relationship on a path of “us” vs “them, of “judge” vs “competitor”.
  2. Partnering and collaborating are not part of the pitching game: Media agencies are told not to intervene, time with the client and other information is limited, and the result is a contest that is more a test of endurance than a test of suitability.
  3. It also frustrates creatives: they know that the work they pitch is only a test, that it probably won’t even be used.
  4. Perhaps, most importantly, by setting agencies against each other, the competition – winning – becomes the important thing. Helping clients and building a true understanding becomes secondary to just beating the other guys.

Instead, when it feels right, when the chemistry in the relationship is there and both parties want to party, then maybe we should just start working and collaborating together and not competing for the prize of a new account. In my experience, working on a real project is the best way to get a team fired up and passionate about the new relationship.

So, to any clients reading this, here’s my advice: have a few “dates” and talk to a few people, and look at their previous work, but then make a decision and start working on something. You’ll find out pretty quickly if it was a good decision, and you’ll be much better off for it.

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Gesturing to the future of interaction design.

Leap Motion might be the most amazing tech thing I have seen in… maybe forever?

In their own words:

“Leap represents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. It’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movements.

This isn’t a game system that roughly maps your hand movements. The Leap technology is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market — at any price point. Just about the size of a flash drive, the Leap can distinguish your individual fingers and track your movements down to a 1/100th of a millimeter.

This is like day one of the mouse. Except, no one needs an instruction manual for their hands.”

It apparently plugs into a computer and just works. It’s available this year and will only cost 70 dollars. Amazeballs.

The possibilities for stunning new experiences and interaction designs just seem infinite. Considering the video above is just a demo, I cannot help but get excited: once this thing is given to the public (this year, only 70 USD!) then the crowd is going to create things that will blow our minds. Guaranteed.

And it makes me glad I work for an agency who can think of creative ways this could be used. We’ve got a couple of ideas already…

Hat tip @Blether.

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The 5 simple steps for coming up with good ideas

I suspect that whatever business you are in, one of your tasks is to think of new ideas. In the advertising business, it is basically the only thing we are tasked to do.

Over 100 years ago, a man called James Webb Young started his career in advertising. He went on to be one of the most successful ad men of his time, setting the scene for the modern ad business. A few years after he retired, he wrote a very short book, which sums up the basic steps of creative thinking. The steps really haven’t changed, even in our digital age.

The 5 steps are as follows.

1. Gather information

You need to spend time gathering information which may be useful to answering the problem. Young explains that you should collect specific and more general information about the issue you are working on. You need to look at information directly related to your client’s business, plus competitor and industry analysis too. You also really should talk to people who are likely to be interested in the product or service. At 358 we also spend time talking to people who represent extremes of behaviour – people who obsess over the product and people who never use the product – to understand the motivations involved.

2. Think hard about the infomation

Go over and over the material, thinking really hard from multiple angles. Chew on it. It is important that the information is fully digested. Try to think of solutions and ideas. Your ideas and connections will probably suck, but keep writing them down and working your brain hard. Look for connections in the data. At some point it will feel like you are going round in circles, and will never be able to piece all of this together.

3. Rest your brain

This is important. You will stay at stage 2 if you do not make the effort to so something else. At least work on something else, at best truly relax by doing something you enjoy. David Ogilvy talks about “going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret”  Forget about the problem and just like Sherlock Holmes, abruptly drop the case mid-way through and go to a concert. You need to do this to unhook your rational thought process.

4. Let the idea come to you.

This is the Eureka moment, which in Archimedes case came when he was relaxing in a bath. Don’t let it slide past. Write down the idea immediately. Be ready for it.

5. Craft the idea

The initial idea is likely to need work. So now is the time to craft the idea, think about the practicalities, and work out how it might really work in practice. Test the idea thoroughly with trusted colleagues and be ready to adapt. Get rid of the bits that aren’t working, and don’t be precious. It is really important that you are open to criticism to make the idea the best it can be.

That’s it. These steps may seem obvious, but it is amazing how often people think they can skip one of the steps, either not working hard enough at the information phases, or not giving their brains time to relax so that their unconscious mind can help to solve the problem in a creative way.

Of course, knowing the steps is one thing – but being committed enough, creative enough, and having a stimulating yet critical enough environment is what will actually make the difference between coming up with decent ideas and truly brilliant ones.

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