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Opinion and Insight

Six Things Doner Learned at #AWEurope

Doner, 2 years, 6 months ago

Creative agency shares its thoughts from the time on the conference benches

Six Things Doner Learned at #AWEurope

The third edition of Advertising Week Europe was held last week in Piccadilly, and Doner was at the heart of it. An ambitious roster of entrepreneurs, creatives, tech experts and marketing pioneers were provided a platform to discuss the rapidly changing face of our industry, with the odd Hollywood star, international footballer and disco legend thrown in for (mostly) good measure.  

Once the sugar haze from the free pick’n’mix cart had worn off, our team settled to discuss what they had learned. Shuffling through our notes on the science of social story telling, shaking up the system, and selfies with Salma, we shared the key points from our time on the conference benches.  

Disruption rules OK

Disruptive innovation was a recurring theme, from Ad Week's keynote speakers to the independent ad shops. Nigel Morris, CEO at Dentsu Aegis Network spoke on embracing chaos, asserting that brands and ad agencies need to behave like a start-up.  

Morris claimed that start-ups have an operational advantage as their energy and willingness to innovate attracted talent, ideas and as a result ridiculous levels of funding.  If you’re not behaving like a start-up then you are a “turnaround” - a dinosaur from a bygone age, where the likes of physical infrastructure and set working hours prevent a brand from keeping up with the times, which will ultimately result in their extinction. 

Morris claimed that by 2020 all companies will be “100% digital” and that 40 of the existing top 100 FTSE companies will be disrupted out of their place in the world rankings.  Was Morris being sensationalist? We don’t think so.


Even the biggest brands need to behave like start-ups. 

Know your platform, and it’s probably mobile

Mashable’s CMO Stacy Martinet asserted that you can’t simply expect audiences to flock to your website or destination to see your content. Branded content creation “has to be relevant to social and mobile”. Ignore these words and prepare to #fail. 

BBH Labs explored similar areas, sharing how what started as the experimental branch of the agency - exploring novelties such as the ‘social web’ - is now a pivotal cog to the company’s operations and ethos. MD Mel Exon stressed the importance of leading with a foot planted in the future and remaining “restless”, whilst Matt Elek of Vice argued that with 50% of web traffic coming from mobile, when planning your content, creativity and distribution simply must go hand in hand.

Facebook MD Steve Hatch provided the trump card, stating “Mark Zuckerberg only has work presented to him on a phone.” His point was reemphasized by the sound of the audience fumbling, flicking and taping into their phones.


Evolved tech means there are no excuses left for making poor content

“What would you want to see? Focus on that” Matt Elek, EMEA MD of Vice, told Rob Newlan, the director of Facebook’s creative shop who had been trying to unpick the secrets of what make’s Vice’s creative output so strong. Newlan began their conversation with the (almost) rallying cry: “we’ve had a tech revolution… we’re on the edge of a creative revolution”. 

Vice News hires filmmakers to record their news, people who are used to creating stories, not news. By removing the formula they produce credible and engaging short films. The only rule is that they can be no longer for two minutes; they know their platform, their audience and their attention span.

Elek makes a point that cutting edge equipment of 3 years ago is now ours for a couple of hundred quid, and this, combined with nimble feet, stories can be created anywhere.

He concluded by saying you cannot hide anything from your audience. They know what’s real – it’s there, in their life. If you brand has a hiccup, address it. If you consciously avoid something, your brand will seem out of touch. If you’re taking no risks, you can’t expect rewards.


On the Edge of a Creative Revolution: Grayson Perry's 8 Lessons in Creativity.

Shareability is identity and emotion and conversation and there are no formulas

What makes one bit of highly produced, thought-through content a viral hit, and the other a flop? A mix of tech, insights and gut feeling can help, but volume is also important.

Buzzfeed caused a stir with a parody of the viral video ’10 hours in NYC as a woman’. Turning a serious video on its head, they produced their own video called ‘women catcalling men’. It served to highlight a salient issue through comic relief, but the video was not only relatable to women; it received around 50M views from a wide demographic.

But why did this work? People to want to share content that stirs emotion in them; shareability is simply wanting to pass on that emotion. Jumping on ‘The Dress’ conversation first, Buzzfeed generated 38m views; the emotions were disbelief, curiosity; the conversation was around popular science, with medical reasons for people seeing different colours following in a second wave. 

Insight tools can be useful to discover what works well and what doesn’t: from their own analysis, Buzzfeed are making more video content. But this data is only as powerful as the company will allow; the more you publish, the more you will learn. You need both art and science to create a viral smash.


Authenticity and Integrity remains king in brand partnerships

Whilst some brand ambassadors will be purely looking at the 000’s on the contract, most in a financially comfortable position will look for the brand ‘fit’ first.

BAFTA-winning actress Selma Hayek emphasized how brands can be a force for good, using their reach and everyday presence in the public’s lives to talk about the issues that really matter.  She reflected on why she took the gig as the face of Avon, rather than a bigger, more luxury cosmetic brand because of Avon’s commitment to the issue of domestic violence. 


Salma Hayek with Doner's Social Media Director, Nigel Carlos

Reputation is sacred to both brand and ambassador, with integrity being crucial as otherwise the consumer will see through it. Too often brand execs will negotiate a poor fit due to their bias towards a sport or talent – this will lead to poor work across the board. 

From the talent perspective, they all crave input into the creative process. Rebecca Adlington spoke of her admiration for Speedo, who allowed her to have an input into the design process meaning the rest of the campaign felt ‘natural’. Rio Ferdinand had a similar sentiment, stating that he’d been in several meetings where he felt the creatives’ ideas were unnatural and that this showed in the end product. This is particularly poignant on social media, where the fans want personality, not a dry brand message, and can clearly distinguish between the two and will call you out on it.

Rio Ferdinand asserts that social communities can discern between authentic and non-authentic brand messages. 

Stuck? Take a break and go see a movie or something

Spotify had a rare one-on-one discussion with superstar producer and disco pioneer Nile Rodgers on his creative process and his collaborations with pop royalty like Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross and Daft Punk to name but a few.  

Our very own Social Director, Nigel Carlos quizzed Rodgers on how he gets around a creative roadblock and his tips for us folk in Adland. Rodgers advice was simple: “when I feel that we’re not making progress in the studio we go do something else – like go the movies or something.”

He did, however, initially start his answer with “I don’t really get a block…” adding that his mind is a constantly whirring musical blender: “I got this weird thing in my head that always has music going round”.

With his stellar track record, we’re not surprised that Nile Rodgers doesn’t suffer from writer’s block. However, for anyone in our industry that’s wrestling with that killer idea or thought – take a break and go see a movie or something.

If that fails here’s Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry’s 8 lessons in creativity.

Follow Doner on Twitter @DonerUK

Genre: Creative technology , Digital , Music & Sound Design , People , Storytelling , Strategy/Insight