I’ve trimmed a seven-minute video promoting the event (I am assuming Contagious won’t mind; after all their name implies they want content to spread) to this 2:30 segment above.
Somehow Sir John captures in a couple of sentences everything a brand needs to know and do in an age where most consumers and users value genuine transparency over some corporate CSR program intended to buy good will.
“Brands have a responsibility to deliver a brilliant product that answers a consumer need as efficiently as they can in a way that is inspiring.”
I’ve added the emphasis on the words brilliant and inspiring, as we don’t get enough of either from most brands.
It sounds rather simple, doesn’t it? A brilliant product that we actually need. Manufactured and delivered efficiently, and ideally, sustainably. And done in a way that inspires.
Does any brand do that? Even Apple and Nike only deliver on two out of three.
John adds another thought that becomes important to those of us in the business of helping shape brands.
“If I were in charge of a brand the first thing I would do is demonstrate that we are creating work that is genuinely a benefit to society and when we talk about those brands, as a consumer advocate, that we’re doing it in a way that people admire.
Again, my emphasis. But Sir John believes that it’s the brand that should be a consumer advocate. That it’s more important to demonstrate that advocacy through actual behavior (versus contrived messages) and that when we do create messages we should produce content that is actually admirable.
Simple instructions for clients and agencies.
Maybe there’s hope for brands and advertising yet.
I remember the days when you walked through the creative department and the tools of the trade consisted of drafting tables, layout pads and Prismacolor markers. Yeah, I know, I’m giving away my age. Then came laptops and Adobe’s Creative Suite. But now things are getting really weird, or interesting, or cool. Depending on your perspective.
A walk through Mullen’s creative department still reveals the aforementioned technologies, but you’re now as likely to encounter MakerBots and the prototypes they’re printing as well as Arduino circuit boards on a table covered with sensors, wires, RFID chips and other pieces of hardware that are unidentifiable to the typical art director or copywriter. Then again, art directors and copywriters, while still prominent, aren’t the only “creatives” populating ad agencies anymore.
Now sitting among the Bernbachian creative teams are developers, UX designers and code-writing inventors. These are true techies, far more interested in building things first and communicating them second. Sometimes they get to make stuff for clients, but as often as not they’re simply determined to make anything. Key cards that play music when you enter the agency. Ping pong tables that move and flash lights at your opponent. Cameras that tell you whether there’s a long line at the coffee bar. Artificial limbs that can high-five you if you had a good meeting.
What does any of this have to do with advertising? Supporting clients? Generating revenue? Frankly a lot. I sat through a presentation earlier this week on physical computing from some of our resident innovators. They shared a simple perspective on how the use of technologies evolves. The progression has five stages: nerdy, weird, witty, understandable, creative.
Think back to the early days of computers, the web, YouTube, Twitter or crowdsourcing. Whether you look at them from the perspective of users or uses, they all followed a similar progression.
It demonstrates a culture of innovation by using rather than simply talking about new technologies.
It teaches people who aren’t technological to conceive things that can be built and prototyped, tested and iterated, expanding their creative repertoire and frame of reference.
And perhaps most importantly it shows clients that their agency is inventing, not just making ads.
All of which has a lot to do with advertising. At least the future of it.
One of the cool things about academia — believe me there is no shortage of frustrations, too — is the amazing amount of freedom you have. Not only in the classroom but also in programs you want to initiate. So I’m pretty excited that in my first full semester at BU’s College of Communication, I’ve been able to launch new speaker series called Doers Makers Innovators.
Last Friday, Gareth Kay, Goodby Silverstein and Partners’ chief strategy officer, kicked off the series with a brilliant talk on how the advertising industry needs to get radical. He probably induced a little bit of panic during the first part of his talk by declaring one out of four clients don’t think their agencies contribute to profitability; three out of five clients don’t think they get good value from their agency; and only one in 10 have any confidence that their agency is evolving to stay relevant in the digital age. Yikes.
Nevertheless, as you’d expect from Gareth, he offered genuine advice on what to do about it. (Note this is an older deck, but includes content similar to Gareth’s BU talk.) Nearly 100 students and faculty attended a session that took place mid-day on the Friday before Thanksgiving. If you’ve been on a campus in recent years, you know that most students manage to avoid classes, never mind extra curricular sessions, on Fridays. So clearly there’s an interest in the topic.
The modest plan for Doers Makers Innovators calls for inviting four to six creative change agents to the college each year. They’ll speak, but ideally challenge, provoke and inspire students to think about their role in the industry’s continued transformation in light of all things digital. However, on a more ambitious scale, I’m joined by my faculty colleagues and some ex-BDW speakers in hoping the series will eventually evolve into a new annual workshop, open not only to students but people outside the BU community as well. In fact we had a fair number of folks from local agencies show up for this talk just from the word-of-mouth buzz it generated.
I’ll share any news should the workshop concept develop, but in the meantime know that your enthusiasm and support would help it along.
I have a wish list that includes people from Red Bull, Deep Local, and the New York and Boston startup communities, but nothing confirmed quite yet. Should things go according to plan, we might convince Google Creative Lab’s Ben Malbon to make an appearance in early 2013 and bring his bag of brilliance that represents the Lab’s output. But if you have other ideas and or influence please share.
Lastly, a huge thanks to Mullen for helping to underwrite the series. Love the fact that the agency is open minded enough to support a program that takes a long-term view by investing in the next generation. Also a shoutout to my new colleagues at COM, Professors Tom Fauls, Tobe Berkovitz and Carolyn Clark who helped make this happen.