Stephen Cave, director of Cambridge University’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, in an interview in 2017 said ‘When a company thinks about what to do with AI … they think about augmenting humans rather than replacing them. They should not ask, “How can I build machines that do what humans do, so we don’t need humans anymore?” but, “How can we build machines that help humans to do what they do better?”.’
In one sentence, how do you define effective marketing?
Effective marketing is when someone tells you about an amazing book they just read; when you proudly display a brand’s logo on your clothes; when a search engine helps you find the right product before you finish asking the question; when a social network recommends the perfect restaurant based on your and your friend’s preferences.
In short, the most effective marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. It feels personal, timely, relevant and valuable. Anything else is just noise.
— Jonathan Akwue, EVP & Regional Client Lead, APAC, Publicis Groupe.
Starting with a problem allows for a larger universe of possible answers. A typical agency creative brief is a distilled positioning document – useful in many but not every case. In the case where a functional creative solution is needed, we require a tight definition of the problem, not the communications proposition.
Defining the problem requires rigorous research. We need to check that the problem isn’t one that’s coloured by our personal view of the world. It needs to be grounded in real consumer insight. As Google rightly said, “Start with the user and all else will follow.” More empathy, less ego.
Agencies traditionally assess ideas from a proposition or narrative viewpoint. When creating things for a lean-back, content-consuming user, this makes sense. But when making things for a lean-forward user of products, services and experiences, this isn’t very helpful.
There needs to be a greater understanding for “functional creativity” which means employing creative thinking to a physical or digital product or service so that it delivers a specific or set of outcomes better.
Functional creative ideas need not be dry and boring, mind you. They can bring users a world of delight. A prime example is the iPhone – it changed how we interact with and what we expect from phones, forever.
How do we improve a drive-thru service?
Functional creative solution: Start the drive-thru experience enroute to the drive-thru itself with the power of artificial intelligence.
How do we make an automotive sales presentation more engaging?
Functional creative solution: Utilise augmented reality to bring a car engine to life.
How do we enable a food ordering experience for a group of people who aren’t in the same location?
Functional creative solution: Enable group ordering with a Facebook Messenger application.
In the book Great by Choice, author Jim Collins shares the story of two explorers, Amundsen and Scott, who led separate teams on an expedition race to the South Pole in 1911. The journey there and back was roughly 1,400 miles, which is equivalent to a round-trip from New York City to Chicago.
Although both teams would travel the same distance as each other through extremely harsh weather conditions, each team took an entirely different approach to the journey.
Scott’s team would walk as far as possible on the good weather days and then rest up on the bad days to conserve energy.
Amundsen’s team adhered to a strict plan of walking 20 miles every day no matter what the weather. On good days when Amundsen’s team were very capable of walking further, he was adamant that they walk no more than 20 miles each day to conserve their energy.
Which one succeeded?
The team that took consistent action. By taking consistent action daily with the 20-mile march rather than spurts of inconsistent action, they made it to the South pole on schedule. Scott’s team that only travelled on good days ended up dying on the journey.
I think that the lesson of this true story is that to really go far, do your 20 miles per day. And stick to it. No more. No less.
Some creatives, bedazzled by award-winning case study films that are so hot right now, believe that the highest goal of their jobs is to create work that will Change The World – cue villagers in a third world country smiling a lot, men or women in some urban setting crying a lot, or helpless domestic animals rescued from horrible circumstances. I’m all for ideas that make the world a better place, but I don’t think that’s the apex of advertising creativity.
David Ogilvy said “Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.” That’s why marketers hire agencies. To come up with impactful ideas so they can sell more stuff than their competitors. I’m sorry but they don’t pay us to improve the lives of people for the duration of a case study film. Don’t you think consumers can see through the gimmickry of one-offs?
Sometimes the right idea has an element of social good. But don’t simply assume that the best idea is one that must.
The Changing Nature of Advertising
“Advertise” is an intrusive verb. “Check out that guy over there, trying to advertise his widget to me – F off!” The noun hasn’t got great PR either: advertising is something people have to put up with, a necessary evil. Yes, the role of advertising is to sell, that hasn’t changed, but the means has. We can create things that people won’t find intrusive or think of as a necessary evil.
You can influence people on social media. You can create something useful. You can collaborate with users on projects. Advertising has gotten bigger.
By doing more that, we can redefine what advertising means to people. And over time, people will say “advertising” less and say “creative idea” more. “Check out this cool creative idea I saw on Facebook.” Now that’s what I call advertising.
Here are the 3 primary values of innovative creative agencies. Does your agency possess any of the 3? Employ these values and action plans to deliver the new thinking and creative work required by clients today.