Spikes Innovation Jury President Ben Cooper On Destroying the Word ‘Campaign’
Hunting out ideas that transcend traditional campaign time-frames and not necessarily looking for innovation totally reliant on technology, this year’s Spike’s Innovation jury president has his work cut out for him.
As a digital strategist, creative and technologist, Cooper has headed the digital and innovation capabilities at M&C Saatchi across the group’s ten businesses and in May 2014 launched the heavily awarded world-first shark detection system, 'Clever Buoy'.
With 17 years experience working across London, Zurich and Sydney, he also keeps busy running the Aussie arm of the international digital collective Creative Social and prior to M&C Saatchi held senior digital roles at creative and content agency The Monkeys, social media start-up The Population, creative agency Host and brand experience agency The One Centre.
When it comes to Asia, Cooper is excited by the challenges and opportunities of a region that has long been the epicentre of manufacture, where, as he puts it “…tradition and craftsmanship sit alongside bleeding edge technology”.
Catching up with LBB, he says above all, he wants the Spikes Asia Innovation jury to be looking for work that can have life-changing impacts and transform how we live, interact and thrive.
LBB> How are you preparing yourself for your stint in the jury room at Spikes?
Ben Cooper> Like all jurors I would have looked at all of the entries (approximately 150) before we arrive at the show today. The good news is, I was a judge on the Cannes Innovation Jury this year – where we had to look at 350 submissions – so a fair chunk of it will be familiar.
LBB> What words of advice will you be giving to your jury?
BC> I’ve been in touch with the judges and briefed them on what I think we should be awarding. The key messages are: to clearly identify the brief, thoroughly examine what problem the ‘innovation’ aims to solve, to interrogate its feasibility and be mindful of how it will scale. Then above all, to consider how life-changing and transformational the solution is to the way people live, interact and thrive.
Also to remember that ‘innovation’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘tech’. The best solutions can be surprisingly simple and analogue.
LBB> What kind of campaigns do you hope to reward in the Innovation category?
BC> Firstly I’d like to destroy the word ‘campaign’. We don't want executions that are flash in the pan. We want solutions that go the extra mile and give long-term hope and promise. Not for three months but for three years. Or a hundred.
There are two innovation sub-categories at Spikes:
1) Creative Innovation, i.e: Business solutions in association with a brand or creative template.
2) Innovative Technology, i.e: Innovation that solves problems that aren’t brand-based.
Sometimes it’s a hard balance determining the two.
As mentioned above, our big focus is making sure there’s a clearly identified problem solved in an innovative, creative way that the world hasn’t seen before and that has the potential to scale. There are some great examples from Cannes this year – solutions that piggy back on peoples’ behaviours borne out of brilliant cultural insights. Solutions that have major positive impacts for relatively little cost. The ones that give you those ‘head slap’ moments where you go, “Bloody hell, why didn’t I think of that”.
That’s what we’ll be looking for.
LBB> Obviously you’re going to spend a lot of time locked inside for jury deliberations… but is there any event or talk your hoping to catch while you’re there?
BC> There’s a lot of great stuff on but I’m particularly keen on catching David Mellor from Framestore who’s giving a Tech Talk on virtual reality at 10.15am on Wednesday.
His talk will explore the astonishing potential of VR, its inherent challenges and how to overcome those for truly immersive human experiences.
All bias aside, also not to be missed will be the Innovation shortlist presentations. It's the only chance for attendees to see the best of the innovation work on offer from the people who made it in face-to-face 10 minute bursts complete with a Q&A from the judges. It’ll be a great opportunity to get under the bonnet of what they’ve made and why the judges rated it so highly.
LBB> What do you think the big talking point (aside from the awards!) is likely to be at Spikes this year?
BC> I think there will be a few things. As touched on, virtual reality and real-time VR storytelling. Youtube has a 360 player, Facebook has Oculous Rift, but we all don't just want to see Drone footage of city or landscapes. We want to see where this tech can really take us. How it can give us a really unique perspective, and not just a 360 one.
What’s always really interesting about Spikes Asia is that it provides a unique view and context from a massively diverse set of cultures that make up the region. Toggling from the business-like Singapore to the culture and tradition/tech dichotomy of Japan, to India and its diversity and the massively burgeoning China. And that’s not to mention the likes of Uzbekistan in the mix.
We’ve got tradition and craftsmanship sitting alongside bleeding edge technology. For me the great gift of Spikes Asia is the opportunity to take leave of my western thinking and context and immerse myself in this very active, dynamic part of the world. One with populations hungry for both knowledge and experiences. Trying to get a handle on understanding Asia Pacific is not a choice anymore. It’s a necessity and Spikes Asia is a brilliant window into that.