Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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Creating Cultures of Innovation

Innovation is such a loaded word.

How do you constantly reinvent yourself? The team around you? How do you think like a start up when you hit 150 people, 300 people, 500..?

I come across two sets of people every day; the ‘No, but’s’ and the ‘Yes, and’s’. It’s the latter that drive change because they disrupt with positivity.  My starting point is always to invite these guys in and let them thrive for as long as possible.

Once positive disruption is in place (and it needn’t take many people to create a stir) quickly focus on negating potential risk of that running for too long. Once you have something that you intuitively feel is right, start making it. It doesn’t have to be slick, rough and ready is good, but play with it, test it, let others do the same.

Ask yourself; if you were to put money into this how confident would you be that it will succeed?

I can promise you this; regardless of what your idea is you will be more confident once you start making it. You simply can’t get the insight and feedback loop you need from a deck with some words and pictures in it. It’s not the same.

Once you have something tangible, look at what makes it fit for brief, or purpose (depending whether you’re coming at this as an agency or client). The idea itself will die if it’s not put into practice, and quickly.

At this stage you should involve your audience in your beta, this is where you get the ‘authentic truths’ from and where your product will start to improve quickly. This will also help you identify where scale and profitability will come from, which in turn will shape your ‘go to market’ approach.

If you’ve reached this point, well done! You should feel like you have a desirable product or service and this is where sh*t gets real.

There are many ways to go to market, especially with ‘the internet’ enabling us to reach the masses quickly and effectively. Don’t forget to include the audience you’ve just built in your testing, include them as you plan your approach.

Hacker marketing, or growth marketing should never be underestimated, I recommend this book if you’re ready to start getting something out there and you’re a start up, or try this one if you’re an agency or client with an internal team changing the status quo. Obviously feel free to read both!

It doesn’t stop here, once you’re up and running, never stop innovating or disrupting. If you sit on your laurels, someone else will come along and disrupt you, which doesn’t feel good.

Keep pushing, interrogating, improve your product, or move on to something else.

Whatever you do, don’t sit still.

In the words of Steve Jobs ‘If you don’t cannabalise yourself, someone else will.’ And look what he achieved.

stevejobs1image found on Google – thank you

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Behaving Badly

As a transformation strategist one of the biggest challenges I come across every week is getting planners and brand managers to shift from thinking like a brand to thinking like their intended audience. Too many briefs I see only have demographic customer profiles, which fall short when you’re planning for a digitally connected world.

To shift from broadcast to joined up storytelling, just knowing characteristics like; gender, age, marital status, geographic location, socio-economic status and so on simply isn’t enough and to make assumptions is lazy and will frankly lower your ROI.

I’m encouraging inclusion of behavioral insights, or customer modeling as it’s also known, into all the briefs and plans we’re creating with clients and here’s why:

1. Nearly every digital marketing touch-point is intended to invoke an action
2. An action is more likely to be taken if encouraged in a relevant way at the right time in a customer journey
3. A customer journey is made up of a customer behaving in a certain way
4. These behaviors are encouraged by a certain mindset at each touch-point
5. These mindsets are triggered by insights both implicit and explicit
6. Understanding what those insights are better enable us to invoke the intended action

Simple really.

Demographic profiling gives you just enough to paint picture of a typical persona in a hypothetical group of people. Behavioral profiling will give you a much higher chance of success because it’s a stronger predictor of what your relationship can be because it’s action orientated.

If you want to know more, I recommend this book; Misbehaving, written by Richard H.Thaler who pretty much invented the field of behavioral economics. It’s insightful and tells a great story. Not surprising when you think about it.

 

the-brain-009

Photograph: Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/Alamy/Alamy

 

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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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the voice inside my head told me to do it

Psssst

I’ve been trying to work out how to deliver whispers through experiences.

No I haven’t finally lost the plot, though you’re forgiven for thinking so but it has got me thinking about what we need to bring together to do this.

Binaural sound is trending at the moment, though largely delivered through bigger immersive experiences or using 360 video and normal headphones, which is ace and puts you in the moment more than one directional sound can.

But it’s not enough for me. I want to take this one step further and completely blur the lines between visual and sound effects so that they’re delivered together seamlessly…

Imagine a VR headset with built in bone conduction audio that would give you complete visual and audio 360… still with me? Good.

This really would take you to the next level of immersion and rumor has it something is being trialled, which I am very excited about…

Immersive storytelling is about to get a whole lot more… well immersive.

 

vogtk

found on imgflip.com –  thank you 

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Is it a bird? erm nope.

The next era of connectivity is on the horizon, or rather more accurately hovering above it, as tech giants launch their test projects to provide internet coverage for the harder to reach parts of the world.

Google have test piloted Project Loon a few times since June 2013 near places such as New Zealand’s South Island and Sri Lanka, a series of high- altitude balloons equipped with LTE (more commonly known as 4G LTE) that rides the wind currents in the stratosphere.

Facebook have also developed a fleet of solar-powered drones called Aquila now ready to hover at altitudes of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. These can be steered and controlled more directly, constantly circling a two mile radius to stay aloft.

Both the balloons and the drones can be air born for around three months.

Combined with lower priced smartphones coming to market we are seeing the next evolution of connectivity looking set to be pretty rapid.

There’s still a way to go to stabilise the launch and flight of both, plus the clean up exercise once they come back down but the effort to connect the whole world with the internet is accelerating.

Next we’ll be in orbit, talking to the moon, connecting galaxies… well, maybe.

 

clangers

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Personalisation with a side of ease

As someone who travels a lot there’s nothing worse than stepping off a long flight, red-eye kicking in, knowing you’ve still got to claim your luggage, find your transfer, get across town, find your hotel, complete an arduous check in process and get up to your room before you can finally collapse on the bed.

So imagine my excitement when I spent a day with the top tech bods in the travel and hospitality industry reinventing the entire future-scape for the upgrade needed to cater for Gen X & Y travellers.

We talked a lot about the automation of the journey. How we could put in place a centralised data approach with intelligence systems connected to smartphones and robots aiding the various staff throughout. Whilst I find that really exciting, I’m sure you won’t want to be bored with the tech stack, so to let you in on how it might feel in 2025 I’ll summarise a brief walk through of a typical business trip, we’ll start with stepping off that plane again…

The second you switch from flight mode a signal is sent to your smart suitcase where the built-in tracker connects to your phone as you make your way through customs, you time getting to the conveyor belt perfectly. You pick up your case and activate the next signal, which is sent to your driver who now knows to get to the pick up bay within a three-minute window, avoiding parking fees, congestion and more importantly you being irritated by him not being there.

Your GPS switches to your driver who you find with equal ease. You collapse in the back of the car, whatever music you want is synced automatically, the temperature adjusted and an update sent to your hotel with your live eta feed updating your awaiting concierge.

On arrival your check-in is confirmed through facial recognition, you’re then greeted personally and swiftly shown to your room whereupon your climate is again synced, your drink and snack of choice is freshly prepared and your smart TV pre-loaded with your favourite channels. You can even activate a holographic in-room personal trainer should you so wish…

Your dinner table is reserved at the time you would normally eat and on arrival you see that the menu is based on your culinary preferences with wine recommendations to match. Not only that but the seasonal info and the history of the restaurant Chef are sent to your mobile because they know you like to read the background to what you eat and how it’s prepared.

After dinner, you retire to the lounge and login to a guest screen which is loaded with your business itinerary, options to tailor your travel and where to take your clients, plus recommendations on what to do with your spare time.

You relax, confident that every detail has been taken care of.

In this future-scape our aim is to democratise an executive level of assistance so that everyone can have his or her own ‘Parker’ rather than having to rely on ‘Manwell’.

do not disturb

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The return of the geek…

It’s been brought to my attention a few times this year that I haven’t posted to this lovely little space for quite some time now, I had no idea I was letting my fellow geeks down so I’m making a commitment to be back in 2014 doing what I love most, distilling down the innovative technologies I’m so lucky to explore into terms, us mere (non coding) mortals can understand so we can all spread the excitement!

To get started again I’ve put a little review of my top favourite things I got to play with in 2013, and over the coming weeks I’ll be looking into the techy trends I predict will explode in 2014 too, plus some other cool stuff…

 

Number 4: Google Glass
After months upon months of beta testing, these sleek little glasses are starting to resemble something that could actually be useful in every day multi tasking, they still have a way to go before what they can do matches the price tag but, across 2013 Google have evolved the rudimentary to something tangible that takes your smartphone to your head in a fairly comfortable lightweight way…

It still strains my eyes a little though…

google glass

Google Glass

Number 3: My PS4
I recently donated my Xbox 360 to my 10-year-old cousin, whom I haven’t seen since as he’s now mastering his new found love of gaming.

It was a tough call, but this time round I’ve gone with Sony, why you ask? Simply put; the graphics have more horses behind them than ever before, the interface is brilliantly simple and intuitive and my thumbs don’t hurt as much due to the sleek controller. Oh, and it’s much quieter… shhh

Sony PS4

The full PS4 kit

Number 2: Bio stamps
You’ve all heard of the Nike Fuel band or the Pebble smart watch right? Take that and put into a silicon plaster laced with a circuit board one fifth the width of a human hair and you have Bio Stamps, taking the bulky nature of technology and matching it the soft contours of the human body; simply fascinating.

MC10 Bio stamp

Courtesy of MC10, a Bio stamp

You can explore more here; http://www.mc10inc.com/

 

Number 1: Oculus Rift
A clear winner for me; the guys I work with have been exploring the future of this amazing piece of tech for quite some time now and last year saw us launch a world first experience combining martial arts and car prototyping in a world that felt so real it caused some users motion sickness.
Launched on Kickstarter in 2012 to gain funding following a demo at E3, Oculus have raised millions since and a version should be available to consumers at the end of this year.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

Words can’t do it justice so check out this video to get an idea of where it can take you…

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Life is just a game

I’ve never been a massive gamer but as a Digital Marketing Expert the concept of gaming connectivity and the way it continues to take our virtual world by storm is exciting.

Traditional consoles have been around for a while and services such as Xbox Live have seen the interaction of users spiral. However, I can’t help but think that if gaming is to reach out to wider audiences (me for example), then developers need to focus on more flexible platforms for the future, a multi-touch tablet perhaps?

Beyond what the game is actually played on though, Content is still King and shall remain so. Games need to continue to be faster, better and more exciting. In addition, just to add a layer of complexity, they also need to be accessible.

The app store model is one of the most straightforward ways of acquiring games straight to the palm of your hand, perhaps this is something that the big players need to consider more.

Imagine that through shorter development periods you could build a gaming release model with phased iterations. Quick download and the ability to compete to get to the next phase openly would surely offer the longevity to consumer engagement those businesses desire. By doing this they would also understand more about the trends of consumers; win, win.

Next gen consoles are due out around 2013-2014 from market leaders Microsoft and Sony. I’m hoping they’ll include something that will finally push me over the edge to becoming a gamer.

I just wonder who will get there first, will I have a PlayStation tablet or an Xbox pad in a year or so’s time?

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Facebook and the Future

Facebook were in our basement the other night talking about what the future looks like for social. It was a really interesting talk with one subject in particular catching my attention.

More and more we hear about the influence fans of brands have on their friends but, increasingly so it’s more about friends of fans. These guys have for more influence as it’s perceived as unbiased, if, the message gets that far.

As it stands 90% of fan pages on Facebook have fewer than 100 fans. Mainly because the page isn’t backed by media so there’s nothing driving traffic (I’ve certainly had my share of clients who assume that just by sticking a brand page up, the world will ‘like’ them and share the love).

Shock, horror and revelation! This is not so.

Whilst the media buying and planning lot of you out there will know that’s old news, the exciting revelation is that bridging the gap between media spend v social currency seems to be closing, and it’s doing so in the guise of Polling Ads.

You still buy the initial space either on a CPC or CPM basis but the reach they can achieve improves the potential ROI several times over.

Facebook claim that current case studies have shown: 160% uplift in brand recall, 200% uplift in message awareness of the ad and a whopping 400% uplift in purchase intent.

That, coupled with the current predicted reach for potential customers falling in at around more than 500 million and as we all know, still being able to profile your audience by; location, age and interests really leads to a  no brainer.

I have a few clients trying this already and the rewards have been notable for them: extended reach, higher awareness, growing loyalty and a marked improvement of their brands resonating online.

My advice – get all over it!

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