I got my start in this business making print ads. I loved everything about them: the challenge of the blank page; the possibilities of the two-dimensional plane; the art of combining an image and words to yield an idea greater than the sum of the parts; and the chance to create pictures in a reader’s mind with nothing but a perfectly crafted headline.
In the early days, Mullen was known for its print. Campaigns for Timberland, Smartfood, Swiss Army, LL Bean and many others were a perennial presence in local and national award shows. We built arguably one of the best studios in the business, worked with renowned photographers all over the world, and attracted art directors who were obsessed with the craft.
Then, thanks to the web, it all came crashing down. We got all kinds of new creative platforms — video, social, mobile, applications — but the rapid demise of that age-old form so many of us loved was (for those of us over 40) shocking. At least at first.
But now, the medium is about to get a second life. Thank you iPad. It will give us back all of things that made print great:
- A large two-dimensional space on which to create a piece of commercial art that captures one’s attention.
- A palette onto which we can place stunning visuals.
- An environment (digital magazines) where a reader may actually welcome something remarkable rather than simply look for the little “x” to close the ad.
Of course, it will also inspire something entirely different: a totally new digital form of print. Think Bernbach meets iPhone meets Wired meets UGC meets social media. All potentially combined into a single execution that’s conceptual, engaging, user friendly.
Consdider what Pentagram has to say:
“The conventions of online advertising—banner ads, pop ups, and so forth—aren’t popular with readers, with advertisers, and certainly not with designers. But the iPad is a new medium that will create a whole range of opportunities. Once people start exploiting what it can do, we may see the kind of creative renaissance that will deliver the next George Lois or Lee Clow. People will start subscribing to certain i-mags just for the ads alone.”
If you’re not already thinking about the possibilities of the iPad and the creation of a new form of digital print you should be. I imagine all of the following as possibilities. Eventually you’ll be able to create ads that let consumers:
- View a product from every imaginable angle with the flick of the finger.
- Change the colors and patterns of anything from shirt and tie combinations to the interior of a car.
- Upload and incorporate images of themselves into an execution so they can try on different outfits or pieces of jewelry.
- Instantly link or connect to back stories about how a product was made; learn its carbon footprint or its nutritional information.
- Find all their Twitter and Facebook friends who have bought the same brand or product to get their personal opinion (new application for Blippy?)
- Explore a brand via digital games, back stories, or through integration with other media, i.e. TV shows.
- Decide which version of an ad or which ad from a brand he even wants to see.
- Share, vote, rate ads in real time forcing creators to get better and more responsive
So, while we’re still a couple of months away from the first shipments, there are a number of things you could be doing right now. For starters, order your iPad and while you’re at it reserve at least a few for your creative department. Then consider the following:
- Make sure your current iPhone app developers are in touch with Apple regarding what will be possible with the iPad and have them share that with creative teams.
- Learn what Conde Nast and other major publishers have planned for their magazines’ conversion to tablets and how you can create advertising that will work in their new digital formats.
- Assemble a team made up of creative technologists, UX specialists, media planners, social media thinkers and creative people to start thinking about the possibilities.
- Identify the brands and clients who are most willing and excited about re-inventing how to tell their stories.
- Avoid simply migrating old content, images and OLA type executions to this new platform. It’s a chance to create something entirely new: executions that change daily; that include digital games; that incorporate real-time conversation.
I don’t have my iPad yet. (It is on order, though.) I haven’t seen a Conde Nast presentation in person. And I don’t have a team assembled internally as of today. But it’s all on the to do list. What about you?
Links and other articles of interest.
Sports Illustrated: Tablet Demo
Made by Many: Content design with cojones
CNN Tech: Print media hails iPad potential
Daily Illini: iPad could save print media
C-Change Media: Why ads on the iPad and other tablets won’t make a difference
Steve Jobs photo by: curious lee
It remains the topic du jour. We talk about it from every conceivable angle: the future of advertising; the future of advertising agencies; the impact of digital on advertising; the new consumer-control; even the death of MadMen.
But when Forrester talks about it people listen.
Well last night, at a MITX-sponosored event here in Boston, he debuted some of this findings, all of which Forrester will eventually turn into advice for both agencies and marketers as they continue to navigate the turbulence brought on by digital technology, the social web and changing consumer behavior.
Here are some of the findings from Sean’s presentation, due out in final form in a couple of weeks. Anything in italics is my take or conclusion. In the next week or so I’ll develop additional thoughts and share examples of what people are doing and or struggling with in light of his observations.
It is a new world defined by technology and consumer control
- Consumers today have a complex relationship with media: it poses challenges as to how and where to engage with them
- Despite Edelman’s recent findings, Forrester insists that consumers trust consumers more than they trust brands: it means we need to mobilize fans and followers to evangelize on our behalf
- The Groundswell has gone mainstream: the consumer is now a creator/sharer/distributor; learn to harness and inspire that
- WOM reigns again: your content and the experiences you create must stimulate it
- 3.5 billion brand conversations happen every day, all of them in public: time to master the art of listening
Consumers hate most advertising
- Only 5 % agree with advertising claims: start being honest and authentic
- 50 % say brands don’t live up to advertising promises: really, start being honest and authentic
- 67 % complain there is too much advertising: forget messages, create experiences and conversation
Adaptive marketing is the new model
- Everything is powered by digital: hire digital, think digital, learn digital or die
- Real time response, as in political advertising, is the future of marketing: monitor social media regularly and get everyone a Flipcam
- It’s all about pull not push: the formula is SEO plus value equal traffic
- Addressability is here: you should be thinking versioning, customization, options
- Intelligence and analytics will drive everything: make it part of your strategy before and after creative development
Media needs to combine paid, owned and earned
- Paid: for scale and reach and speed: social can’t do everything, reach, scale and speed come from paid
- Owned: for content, relationships, listening and co-creation: open source opportunities are everywhere so create great content, utility and apps
- Earned: social, WOM, PR, bloggers, influencers: paid can’t do everything; you need a social and conversation strategy, not simply a presence on Facebook
Successful agencies will move well beyond campaigns
- Build campaigns PLUS platforms: you need both, Nike-plus without a brand behind has no plus
- Stop thinking in terms of audience and think about a community of participants: a brand’s consumers may be your best creative resource, or at least your best medium
- Undo unbundling: unbundled won’t work anymore: agencies need to find ways to integrate; become curators; and learn co-creation, curation, and crowdsourcing
- Embrace and master new technologies quickly: you are working on the re-invention of print ads on the iPad, right?
Clients will look for three things
- Ideas: note this does not mean messages or ads
- Interaction: engagement, connection, community, media
- Intelligence, as in you need to collect, report, analyze and predict: if you don’t have robust analytics, you’re in big trouble
Sean has other findings and conclusions, but I’ll leave it to him to package, reveal and explain. Suffice it to say, this is what’s been released as of last night.
Finally, the photo above (stole the idea from Sean who talked about the history of agencies as well) is a reminder that this is an old business. Agencies have been around for a long time. They have adapted from being agents who sold, to owners of the brand, to creators of the big idea, to specialists in advertising, DR, CRM, PR, design and digital. It’s time to adapt again. And quickly.
The week before last I had the privilege of being an interview subject for a comprehensive study on creativity. Thomas Vogel, an Emerson College professor currently on sabbatical to research and write a book on the topic, inspired me with questions for well over an hour. Thomas has a very specific hypothesis and framework for his project that I’ve promised not to reveal, but suffice it to say he’s interested in the following:
Techniques for identifying creative talent.
Whether a culture or environment can encourage creativity.
How to evaluate creative ideas.
Ideally, Thomas’s book will deliver both a report on how great creative organizations do what they do, as well as offer a blueprint for companies striving to become more creative themselves.
There are plenty of people who’ve written about creativity as it relates to our business. There are the classics like Bob Levenson’s The Bill Bernbach Book, filled with quotes from the master and remarkably relevant to this day; The Book of Gossage, arguably the genesis for the creative perspective that defines Goodby, Silverstein and Partners; and Richard Wilde’s Problems: Solutions: Visual Thinking for Graphic Communications, lessons that have helped teach two generations how to think visually.
More recently, anyone interested in creativity has been rewarded with Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element, a brilliant thesis that admonishes the public school system for confining us to such narrow definitions of intelligence; instead it implores us to find our personal passion and a tribe that can foster it. IDEO CEO Tim Brown shares his insights in Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. And, of course, there’s always Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers with its simple message and evidence that it’s all about practice. Lots of it.
But thinking about organizational creativity – is that an oxymoron? – makes a lot of sense in an age where ideas, stories, technology and media aren’t simply converging, they’re crashing into each other.
Yes, Jaron Lanier, in his You Are Not a Gadget, reminds us that group think won’t yield the kind of original creative idea that one brilliant individual can conceive, but the fact is that we create more and more in teams now. Take a look at Pixar for example. What comes out the back end is so much more than a writer’s or even a director’s original vision. Sure someone has to be the benevolent (or not so benevolent) dictator, but the finished product requires not only lots of individual creativity but a culture and organization that fosters it. One that accepts diverse opinions and doesn’t suffer the “not invented here” syndrome or tolerate the ugly kind of competition where people feel compelled to stand up and declare, “that was my idea.”
When we made ads, it was easy. A writer and an art director had an idea and executed it. But today, the possibilities of technology, the difference UX can make, the need to design, program, and build something complicates matters.
It’s hard enough to identify creative talent. Getting different kinds of talent to work together, toward a single goal, all welcoming each other’s contributions to make something better is a challenge. Whether or not one book can help remains to be seen. But an effort to explore how creative companies foster originality — comparing techniques for hiring, identifying common characteristics, understanding how leaders inspire — is a welcome one. It will be both fun and interesting to compare one company to another and learn each other’s tricks.
My guess is that Professor Vogel’s ambitious project may not give aspiring creative organizations all the answers, but it will at least force them (and us) to ask questions about what they’re doing and whether or not it’s fostering more creativity, or just getting in the way.
I wish you luck with the project Thomas. Can’t wait to read the results.
Photo by: Lisa Dragon
I’m not sure what’s more interesting, the fact that the first college to encourage personal videos as part of the application process was Tufts University, a liberal arts college just outside of Boston, or that more than 1000 applicants responded to the optional request.
The former shows just how mainstream content creation has become and the latter reinforces the new level of comfort and familiarity the digital generation has with expressing itself publicly through virtually any medium – images, blogs, videos.
Obviously there are advantages to both college and student. The admissions officers get a better look at the whole student and sense of how creative he or she is. The applicant receives a signal he’s considering a school that thinks progressively and looks beyond the standard academic record and test scores.
Granted the idea of using video as part of the application process isn’t entirely new. Plenty of organizations and contests, from the Ford Fiesta Movement to MTV have employed the technique. And other colleges allow applicants to include portfolios or writing or even websites to augment their application. But this example brings the video application even more mainstream, generating response from kids who aren’t necessarily pursuing careers in film, social media or entertainment.
It seems there are a couple of takeaways. The first is we better make sure our kids (as if they need any help) are good at conveying ideas and arguments using all of the new tools if they’re to compete for a place in those coveted classrooms. (See this blog from 13-year-old Orren Fox.)
But for those of us in the business of advertising, marketing and branding, there’s this. Tufts’s little experiment is clearly one more reminder why user-generated content, crowdsourcing, and personal branding will continue to grow in popularity.
We are only a few years away, at most, from marketing to prospects and communities who themselves are as comfortable at crafting messages, making videos and earning people’s attention as those of us who practice these crafts professionally. And they clearly welcome any opportunity to do so.
Sure, the cynics and over-confident among you will view these videos and feel you have nothing to worry about. It’s not as if any of these are likely to rival a quality TV commercial, or even find enough of an audience to take them viral. But this is still a trend worth watching.
And it should make make things interesting. When we’re all communicators, who’s talking and who’s paying attention?
OK, the examples I’m about to share do not rival the legendary tales of Rolls Royce. You may have heard the oft repeated tale of the plutocrat whose Phantom develops a transmission problem in the South of France. He telegraphs Rolls Royce and that evening while he’s sleeping blissfully in his hotel room, the motorcar manufacturer helicopters in a team of mechanics who repair his touring car before dawn and then leave neither bill nor record of the repairs. After all Rolls Royces do not experience transmission problems.
Stories like that live on since they epitomize both the brand and the definition of service. These days we have come to expect the total opposite. And, in fact, they are the stories that get told. Usually via social media. Receive lousy treatment in a restaurant? Shout it out on Yelp or Foursquare. Airline refuses to replace your broken guitar? Compose some angry lyrics and post them on YouTube. Comcast doesn’t show up when scheduled? Rant about it on Twitter.
True, more often than not such condemnation is deserved. It feels good to vent. And in some cases our outbursts actually yield improved products or services.
But it strikes me that if we can so effortlessly dish out anger and accusations, we ought to, at least once in a while, offer up praise when it’s deserved. Just maybe, by doing so, we’ll encourage other brands and marketers, service providers and retailers to emulate that Rolls Royce behavior – or something remotely similar — that could earn our loyalty.
So here goes, a recap of some good service I recently received on a family vacation in Florida.
Jet Blue is responsive on Twitter
Delayed flights are the bane of every traveler, but when you’re on vacation with your family it’s even more annoying. Worse yet is not having accurate information. The word “Delayed” doesn’t quite cut it when it comes be keeping you informed. But on a recent trip to Florida, I found that all my questions regarding the arrival of my aircraft, accurate departure time, and other updates were delivered in close to real time via @JetBlue on Twitter. I even got more information than was available on the airline’s mobile website and got it fast. Not sure how they do it and if they can do it all the time for their many travelers, but definitely impressive.
Hertz delivers exactly as they said they would
I’ll start with the fact that rental car prices the week of school vacation are nothing short of highway robbery. In fact the sales manager at Tampa International Airport’s Hertz office actually admitted that the company jacks up prices by 15 to 20 percent that week. But I can’t argue with how great the service was. We had a brand new VW Routan that ran fine, but a few days into the trip, when a malfunction indicator light came on and left us reluctant to drive any distance without knowing the cause, Hertz delivered another brand new vehicle to us less than two hours after we called. No insistence that we come to them. No questions asked. A pretty good way to assure my next rental will be with Hertz, too.
Tommy Bahama Tropical Café is not laid back when it comes to service
I can honestly say I’ve never had this happen before, and I’ve patronized some pretty good restaurants all over the world. Two days after eating at this popular spot in Sarasota’s St. Armand’s Key, I got a call from the manager asking about our experience. In a brief but meaningful call she wanted to know about our reception, the preparation of the food and the service of the wait staff. I’m pretty sure she was even taking notes when I suggested the sauce on my grilled Snapper could have been a tad more subtle. She told me the restaurant calls most of its patrons who make reservations for a quick follow-up. Given that the place did virtually everything right and nothing wrong, one might conclude that they actually listen.
It doesn’t seem it should be that hard to provide great service. Zappos (a Mullen client) does it all day long every day. Apple delivers it in virtually all of its stores. The W Hotel has built a brand around service.
If you want stories told about your brand, perhaps you should forego trying to save money on service by trying to limit the length of phone calls or refusing to treat customers as individuals (Chase, are you listening?) and take a lesson from some of these companies.
What do you think? Is it possible to encourage better service with praise? Or should we resume venting?