Creativity needs collaboration

While the trend for in-house work continues to gather pace, the best creative ideas come from collaboration, argues Michael Litman, senior consultant at Contagious

REI, the outdoor goods retailer, launched its Opt Outside campaign back in 2015 with the announcement that all of its stores were going to close on Black Friday. For the third year in a row, instead of joining in the annual shopping extravaganza, it has given its 12,000 employees a paid holiday, encouraging them to enjoy the outdoors.

Opt Outside is arguably one of the strongest creative ideas of the decade, very successfully executed. The surprise to some is that it was entirely created in-house.

This trend of moving creative in-house is increasingly on the rise and here to stay.

However, I’m not going to add to the noise about the demise of the agency.

Having worked at some of the top agencies in the UK for the large part of my career, I am acutely aware of the inflection point agencies are experiencing. It requires a rethink in how they service their clients and what they offer them.

But this is not the end.

Lucozade, Pepsi, Unilever, P&G, L’Oréal, BMW, Pernod Ricard, lastminute.com, Booking.com and Safestore. They’re all household names and have, in recent years, moved significant internal resources out of agencies to fund their own in-house content production processes.

Unilever, for example, plans to double efficiency savings from its brand and marketing investment from €1bn to €2bn by 2019 according to a Unilever shareholder report from April 2017. The number of ads it creates will also be cut by 30% and the number of creative agencies it works with globally will be halved (from 3,000).

P&G has also cut its agency roster by 50% over the past three years and made a pledge to make significantly less but better performing advertising and marketing campaigns.

Self-storage company Safestore has a primary company target for 2017 to bring everything in house. All content campaigns, outreach and PR are currently carried out in-house and it is looking to produce more video content internally.

Lucozade brought its creative and production services in-house after launching its own agency, TED, in April 2016. Not the amazing and inspiring conference platform of the same name.

The creation of Lucozade’s TED was also a move to “reduce fixed costs”, as well as to create faster, more efficient work that worked harder.

According to Jon Evans, the marketing and business development director for Lucozade Ribena Suntory, launching a fitness app in house meant the brand could cut down significantly on development times and eliminate the need for handovers of knowledge and process.

‘By having an in-house agency, we’ve reduced fixed costs compared to costs that go on consumer activity. That’s been the main driver,’ Evans told Marketing Week. ‘We spend £50m a year on advertising and promotion, and we haven’t changed that level of investment. We’ve just made that investment work much better.’

Let’s take a look at the other side of the fence too though. Lucozade is still engaged with ‘two or three strategic agencies’ whose role is more to provide longer term thinking and ‘a global perspective on market activity’ rather than day to day activity.

That is to say, agencies still have a seat at the table, but the cushion has changed and the seat looks different. ‘External agencies give us the best creative talent and strategy, and then TED gives us the ability to go and execute it,’ says Evans.

This is telling.

Brands are now becoming the makers.

Agencies are still doing the thinking, but brands are doing increasingly more of the, well, doing. The benefits to this approach is not only in time efficiencies but also cost. A further illustration of this: it was reported that a recent sampling campaign for Lucozade Energy was funded entirely through the savings made by bringing work in house. Now that’s getting more bang for your buck.

The shifting (communications) sands

Brands as makers is arguably one of the biggest changes in the brand and agency dynamic in recent history. 

But. And there’s always a but isn’t there? The recent Pepsi campaign that was subsequently and very quickly pulled shows that creativity in absolute isolation with no other filters can be a recipe for brand disaster. It was widely commented that the ad spot tried to appropriate the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement for commercial gain when instead Pepsi was “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding”.

A key takeaway from the debacle is that outside, independent perspectives are vital to help marketers avoid creating echo chambers. 

Pepsi Fail

The best outcome would be that agencies, as a result of these in-house moves, would be able to focus more attention on what they do best: the creative ideation and strategy. And brands would use their increased in-house firepower to execute quicker and move more efficiently. This is a compromise that makes a lot of sense for both parties.

Regardless of the death knell stories about agencies, which are often one-sided views, I don’t buy into the argument that the agency is dead or dying. But it is evolving (see Karmarama and myriad others for an idea of where *some* agencies’ futures are heading.)

I believe that, in the long term, the realigning of both parties’ core strengths is a good thing for both brand and agency. The reason this has all come about is a rampant drive for greater efficiency and ROI. This much is not new news, but after an increasing number of brands have put their money where their mouth is, it is starting to prove effective.

Agencies are under far more intense scrutiny and measurement of effectiveness than ever before. The endless data points that are at our collective fingertips have sent traditional thinking and processes into a tailspin. No longer is a gut feel creative idea enough to get through ‘the system’.

This has forced the ideas business (creative agencies) to work out their very reason for being, and what they will need to do in order to exist in years to come.

Maybe 2017 is the year brands and agencies finally agree on the best way to work together, and can take this forwards to 2018.

This article originally appeared on Contagious.com

Mike Litman’s blog as a model for future of media outlet | Wadds’ PR Blog

If you want a glimpse at what a media outlet might look like in the future take a look at how Dare’s Mike Litman has developed his blog. Using a similar model to Newser he’s curating content from around the social, marketing and PR web and presenting it in a highly visual format. And it’s working – he’s broken into the top 150 in the AdAge ranking of marketing blogs.

In Mike’s own words:

“Traffic in raw terms dipped a little in the first month since I changed things around a bit but its normalising again (up 90% in the past month). Time spent on site per person and social engagement per post is all up considerably.”

“Postrank reports that 72% of all site engagement now happens via Twitter, with Delicious accounting for a further 14%, and FriendFeed 2%. It’s a reflection of the far reaching, multi platform age.”

“I’ve noticed that trend over the past year where tweeting is the new blog commenting. Its blog commenting for the time poor but at the same time its more social. I always find commenting on blogs to be a closed experience so it seems to make sense.”

Thanks!

Unemployed Man Google Mapped His CV —Someone Give Him a Job For His Creativity Alone!

A link I picked up on got Gizmodo’d. It was rather lovely.

I had to turn off the iPhone app Boxcar because of all the @replies coming through after @gizmodo tweeted it and linked to it in their blog post.

Being Remarkable

Talking about Chatroulette: Without any indecent exposure

Watch this.

Social media and the power of links: The Matthew Effect

By 2014, Social Media Will Be A Bigger Marketing Channel Than Email and Mobile

Some cool stats here.

7 ways to reinvent yourself by Seth Godin

The Structure of Trends

You’d think it to be fairly self explanatory but it actually isn’t. This just makes it look that way.

The ultimate creative brief

There’s no perfect template for creative briefs. But with the iPad there could well be. This template would be interactive and customizable in real-time – just drag ‘n drop the elements you need. Or download new ones.

The name of this software? iBrief of course.

This. Is. The. Future.

Turning your customers into a cult following

Do digital cameras damage or enhance memory?

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Click on the image to read Matthews thoughts.

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently too. We don’t print out images on our camera any more. When I was back home recently for a weekend, dad took me through a load of old family photo albums from when my brother and I were younger. It was nostalgic, it captured the memories perfectly. I think it’s a shame now with the way things have gone digitally with cameras we lose memories because of the more throwaway nature of it all. If you don’t take the photos off your camera they are in a way lost forever. Then there’s the case of taking all your photos off the camera, putting them on to your computer and your hard drive dying. With the HD dying, those memories do too.

I like it how Polaroid seems to be reinventing themselves, getting Lady Gaga on board etc because I like the concept. Instantly printed photos. But the photo quality isn’t as good as say your conventional 8MP+ digital camera. If Polaroid teamed up with Carl Zeiss and did some super sweet instantly printable photo camera I’d be there like a shot.

How Social Media is Pushing Transparency in Brand Management

Useful deck

State of the Internet 2009 Infographic

Some great stats here.

The Monopoly Revolution – Circular Monopoly Board. WTF?

For its 75th anniversary, Monopoly’s getting a massive update, pitting brazen and new against proven and old: Circular board or quadrilateral? Cash currency or fake credit cards? This is the stuff of ruined relationships.

In the monopoly wars, I’m imagining there will be two camps, not four. there will be people who are OK with the circular board and the switch to digital currency, and people who are fine with neither—the purists and the pragmatists. There will be a middle ground in this fight, but it will be drenched in blood.

I think I might be one of the purists. I get that the new design makes a bit more sense, and that giving players credit cards is less trouble than managing a bank full of cash. But you know what would be even less trouble? A video game.

Monopoly Revolution will be out in Fall, for $35. And don’t worry—you’ll still be able to find old-style boards, too.

Monopoly is one of those things that is such a timeless classic you can’t really tamper with too much. But they have. Will be interesting to see the take up on this.

Millions of websites use Flash: Get used to the blue legos.

The best web experience ever? Doesn’t look like it..

The Structure of Trends 2010 Presentation by Tim Stock

Jan Chipchase: Nine Trends Shaping the Future of Social Interaction

Reposted from janchipchase.com

The following notes accompany a presentation titled Future Social to the 2008 LIFT Asia conference and relates to this post. The slides can be downloaded from here 3MB

Watch a video of the talk Nine Trends Shaping the Future of Social Interaction

You’re tired, you’re looking for somewhere to sit and rest a while and you come across the space pictured below. What can you do here? Can you have a phone conversation? Could you take out a laptop? Do you think it’s OK to smoke here? If it’s hot – can you take your shirt off? What kind of services does this space support? Is it the kind of place where it’s OK to talk with a stranger?

Tokyo, 2007

What about this person? If you were sitting there how might his presence affect you? And you decision about whether to stay in this space?

But what if you knew more about him? What if you knew that he has very few friends? Or that he got top marks at a very prestigious university? That he has a poor credit history?

How does your perception of this space change depending on what he’s doing? What if you knew he’s a medical student and he’s revising for his final exams? He’s want to be a heart surgeon… and set up a charity to treat kids… whose parents can’t afford treatment. Or actually watching a adult movie? Or that he’s tracking the final stages of an auction on eBay? Or that right now he’s writing nasty comments about you on the LIFT conference web site? Or more likely that he’s multi-tasking and doing all of these things at the same time

As you’re standing there deciding what to do next – how would your decision making process change if you knew he was going to be there for another 4 hours? Or that he’ll be done in the next five minutes?

Tokyo, 2008

The rest of the presentation details nine trends that frame how to consider this design space:

  1. The first is that ever more of life is pocketable – that you will increasingly be able to carry the tools you use to communicate, entertain, that help you understand where you are, what you want to do next – the very stuff of life in other words. As soon as things become pocketable they end being carried and used in a wide variety of contexts. Within what time frame does what stuff become pocketable? How does allow new ways to connect, to what and whom? And what services can they access?
  2. With the exception of pure play socially driven services it will always be easier to design something for sole use rather than shared use. Even if sharing an experience through one device is preferred there will be numerous situations where people will end up having serial solitary experiences – being together in the same space, doing the same thing but experienced through different devices.A simple example of this is the way that Japanese mobile phone users add privacy filters to their screen – not only does it make shoulder surfing on the Tokyo subway impractical – it makes it more difficult for two people to watch the same movie. Yes there are exceptions to this – notably when it is desirable to save battery life or when sharing is as simple and delightfully close as sharing headphones.
  3. That so much more of what we carry is or will be connected – with people, services, the infrastructure around us and other objects we carry. Connected things talk – so what they will talk about? Currently the big shift in this space is whether and how we share location and other rich contextual information, with whom, and with what level of granularity?
  4. Whilst sharing music, video, intimate details is both inherently human and mostly positive – we have to recognise that when the default is to share then it creates significant social pressure on those that prefer not to since the question of opting out of adopting a technology becomes one whether to opt out of society. You can see it today with late adopters who are pressured by relatives or their employer’s into carrying a mobile phone, but the same applies to any mainstream connected technology.
  5. The connectivity, infrastructure and increasing sophistication of online services enables us to reduce the time between asking the question and having the answer and at some point we’ll have access to automated and real time associations of people, what they do, their history, and based hundreds of millions of lifetime’s worth of data sets a prediction of what they are going to do next. Of course not just want they want you to know, but all the other stuff that leaks around the edges.
  6. Technology is being adopted at a younger age by kids who don’t’ share your sense of the right or wrong way to use something. How quickly will your technological and social literacy become niche? How long before you are effectively illiterate?
  7. That the boundaries such as personal and work life that still exist today will continue to erode. For all our intent to maintain these boundaries the discipline it requires is usually overridden by convenience and to some extent social pressures. The photos show a commuter in on the outskirts of Cleveland answering work emails on the way to the office, and during a study in Iran a participant told us about how whilst women need to wear a headscarf in public – there was a significant leakage in that photos were taken in private without headscarf say on a camera phone and that these were then being handed around amongst friends – consequently eroding social norms.
  8. That the speed of technological change will continue to increase and that for some services the lifetime will be measured in days or hours.
  9. That pocketable is just a nano-sized stepping stone to becoming invisible – invisible not in the sense of the designer’s nirvana of a seamless experience, but simply that its technically possible to make objects that are too small or hidden for other’s to see. And that with this – the emphasis on social cues and how we plan to use them becomes even more important.

Related research here.

Prius Experience Lets Users Draw On Times Square Billboard via iPhone

Now this is neat.