And I’m off. Goodbye Duval Guillaume!

This week will be my last week at Duval Guillaume, the Belgian agency I joined after quitting Microsoft mid 2009. While at Duval Guillaume I enjoyed some of the best professional moments in my career together with the team at the agency – especially after we merged both the Brussels and the Antwerp office into one agency. An agency with the ambition to be among the best in the world.

Coming from client side I still remember my first conclusion in advertising after working there for a month or two. The highs are higher agency side and the lows are lower. It really has been an incredible rollercoaster ride with lesser moments like we all have, but I really only want to remember all these great special moments. Campaigns that we released that still today I’m very proud of and especially being at the verge of what is now commonly known as ‘social film’ in advertising with campaigns such as ‘Bikers‘, ‘Push to add drama‘, ‘Poker‘, ‘Coke Zero 007‘, … just to name a few. Especially TNT’s ‘Push to add drama’ generated some results that we could never have imagined – proof being the +50 million views and +5 million people that shared the video on Facebook, out of nowhere really. Anyway, too much great campaigns I will always remember.

And the (for Duval Guillaume) record streak of awards in Cannes, Eurobest and other festivals especially the last 3 years. Becoming agency of the year in Belgium 3 years in a row now. All the jury duties at award shows or keynotes given about our agency at all these fantastic events at sometimes wonderful locations. Good times. The photo featured above taken on top of the stairs at the Palais in Cannes captured all of that perfectly.

And all of that is at the same time the reason why for me it’s time to leave. Why it’s actually time to go do something else, something new, something I haven’t done before. Because that in essence is what I enjoy most. So time to find new boundaries. I am still figuring out what that will be exactly but first it’s time to leave and time to say goodbye to the fantastic team at Duval Guillaume for an incredible 6 years. Thanks!

And now on to the next. Keep you posted.

How to make the mobile phone a social object again?

I did a talk about mobile in marketing at the Mobile Convention Brussels today. It’s not the first time I write about social objects or social currency on this blog, but in the case of mobile the device itself is in essence a social object. It allows us to connect with people, remember Nokia’s claim? And going from Dumbphone to Feature Phone to Smartphone (and yes I like these retronyms) the connections have multiplied. More tech, more possibilities and more people to connect to. Fantastic.

But at the same time we disconnect with the people in front of us. Research shows that already 10% of all Smartphone users feel the urge to check their phone every 5 minutes (!) and in another study 33% of parents admit that their phone and/or tablet was a sore point with kids. And yes I think we all recognize the images I used on slide 7. It’s no wonder the term ‘phubbing‘ was invented: the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention. Rings a bell?

Maybe Einstein was right:

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

So the mobile phone is a social object. Literally because it allows us to connect with people around the world. And it isn’t a social object, thinking about the definition we use for that in the conversation economy because it doesn’t trigger conversations, on the contrary. So there’s an opportunity in marketing to make the mobile phone a real social object, to use it to trigger conversation. To use it in a way it’s not the object itself that matters but the conversations around it.

Like we tried to do with “Reborn Apps”, the campaign for organ donation that won a gold Cannes Lions at this year’s festival.

Or also with older cases like “A Blind Call” or “Baby Connection“. These projects are not only there for conversion (which is also an objective of course) but are created mainly to kickstart conversations.

A few things to keep in mind when you want to use mobile to create social objects:

  1. Digital is not about technology. There’s little technology involved in the case of Reborn Apps for instance, it’s not by focusing on the tech that you will find the great ideas. And sometimes technology can spur fantastic ideas obviously and also that can be a good briefing, but in general it’s not where you start to find the answer to your problems.
  2. Context is key. Also here way too often that is immediately translated into technology, into things such as responsive design for instance in which responsive is just a way of saying how the design adapts to ‘every’ screen. I think that’s limiting ourselves, context is about which device, when, for what purpose, by whom, … and responsive design should be about a way of designing experiences that keep all of that into account.
  3. Find a unique (provocative) insight. I’m planning on doing a separate write down on the ‘provocative insight’ and how we defined that at Duval Guillaume Modem. The important thing to remember is that you need an insight that has a bit more edge to it, that people have an opinion on if you want it to generate those kind of creative ideas that will provoke conversations.
  4. Tap into real human emotions. It’s what makes it situations, projects, products, advertising, … recognisable. You can image yourself into a certain situation, you can immediately see how something like that could also happen to you. It makes it all so much more powerful.
  5. Make it irreverent. Challenge the status quo. Don’t accept things to be like everyone says they should be, don’t take things too seriously, think the opposite. When everybody zigs, zag.

Note: http://www.stopphubbing.com is on its own also a social object, the verb phubbing was created by McCann Melbourne (yes the guys from ‘Dumb Ways to Die‘) as a campaign for a dictionary. Great job from my buddy John Mescall and his team!

Social Media Forum: Social Currency

Yesterday I did a talk at the Social Media Forum 2011 in Brussels. It’s a topic that I’m interested in since 2006 or so, the time Hugh MacLeod started talking about “social objects”. You’ll find out why when you keep on reading.

I started the presentation with a quote from Mark Twain I had found only a day earlier:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why” (Mark Twain)

The reason for that was mainly that as usual in social media related conferences (or actually on many of the stuff that is written about it online as well) is around tactics, hardly ever about the reason why. One of the other speakers asked a question about whether you need to be active on social media or building your own web presence, I think he used the reference ‘fish where the fish are’ to reference social media. To stay in that analogy that is like saying you should either ‘fish where the fish are’ versus ‘making sure your fridge is at the best possible temperature’. In that idea the tactics we’re all focusing in so much is just the same as thinking about tricks to get the fish to hop in the fridge themselves… that’s a silly idea isn’t it?

Enough about fish already. When I think about Social Currency, I can only think of it as the most interesting thing possible in social. What do other have to say about it though? That’s what you can see on the first few slides. A lot of explanation etc, and I can only think NOPE (thank you Chuck Testa). Why do I think it’s more than that? There are 2 cases I used to prove my point.

First one: The Blue Monster. You can read about that on my blog as I’ve written about it several times before, it is that what I believe made Hugh start to talk about ‘social objects’. Explaining what it meant for him. He called it the hard currency of the internet:

“The interesting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the conversations that happen around them. The Blue Monster is a good example of this. It’s not the cartoon that’s interesting, it’s the conversations that happen around it that’s interesting.”

It was the Blue Monster that gave me, Steve and many other Microsoft colleagues a way into the tech community to talk about Microsoft and how we (as employees) were convinced something was changing on the inside. Only because people didn’t understand why we used the cartoon ourselves. The question to explain that created that window of opportunity.

A more recent example, the second one I used in my talk was the “Bikers” viral we made for Carlsberg 2-3 months ago. I haven’t talked about that video on my blog before, yet there’s a chance you have seen it – as did about 13 million people since launch. You have to see it first before I can further explain:


Apart from thinking it’s funny, what was the first idea on your mind? There’s a good chance it  was something in the lines of ‘would I have done that?’. Carlsberg launched their new baseline recently: That calls for a Carlsberg. And with that also a new proposition. It’s about a ‘reward for a daily act of courage’. And this was our (first) answer to that. Notice that you didn’t just talk about it, you probably discussed about it. It’s almost a social experiment.

That’s what Social Currency is about, a way to create value. That’s also why I think it’s a better word than object. And, it’s not just about talk value, but about discussion value. Make stuff worth discussing. If you keen on doing this, you build Social Capital. And that’s fundamentally much more interesting than learning about a few (ever changing) tactics first.

Hope you like that, feel free to comment. You can find the (small) presentation up on Slideshare:

Creativity World Forum 2011: Making ideas happen

The Creativity World Forum 2011 had to live up against high expectations. When the event was organized for the first time in 2008 (in Antwerp) Flanders DC showed all other conference & congress organizers in Belgium what the new benchmark would be. I really enjoyed the 2008 edition and thus was really looking forward to the event. This years program was a good start. With people like Jimmy Wales, Keith Sawyer, Malcolm Gladwell, Scott Belsky, Oliver Stone, … it’s clear that the €300 investment for a packed 2 days would be money well spent.

I think that this years event had an even clearer focus on creativity than the one 3 years ago. With in my opinion 2 big topics related to that: the first one being about ‘how to be creative’ and the second one (maybe biggest one) about ‘making ideas happen’. Often speakers would refer to the fact that coming up with ideas isn’t that difficult but choosing between ideas and making them happen is.

The first day started with failure. Jimmy Wales said “don’t tie your ego to a particular business” referring to the fact that he himself had failed several times before starting with Wikipedia. It’s also the main reason why he likes Silicon Valley so much, in his eyes it has the culture that supports failure – in Silicon Valley one who fails is still better than one that never tried. Peter Hinssen in his talk made similar references to failure, definitely a popular topic. Peter focused even more on speed however, that’s where his famous ‘good enough is great’ reference is coming from. In the context of speed and the examples he gave that makes sense to me, in all other context I find it rubbish (as you could read right here).

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it. If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better. The crudeness of the early models in particular is very deliberate.” (Jim Glymph of Gehry Partners)

It was Alexander Osterwalder – known for his book on Business Model Generation – that used this quote during his talk. I liked the idea of putting even more effort into prototyping, which he sees as having a conversation with an idea. I like that. Another element that helps being better at creativity is collaboration. That’s the main topic Keith Sawyer talked about, debunking again the myth of the Eureka moment from the lone genius. Creativity is a group effort, ideally a cross-group type collaboration effort. See also my presentation on Agile Planning where I talked about this as well. Last speaker of the first day Malcolm Gladwell. In a sense he talked about the opposite of Jimmy & Peter earlier that day. Why is it that we tend to reward creativity/innovation so much on being the first to do something? History has proven that it almost never is the first to come up with an idea to be the one to market it. In his opinion the innovation strikes hardest when the tweakers come in. Really interesting but although being the first is definitely not enough, this talk almost sounded like a plea to be the third in all that you do… I don’t think that’s supposed to be the truth. I did remind me of a quote Tom Kelley from IDEO used during the first Creativity World Forum:

“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes” (Marcel Proust)

Presentations linked to a book always tend to be hyper structured. I like that. Scott Belsky’s presentation was one of those clear and structured talks. Probably no coincidence that he sees structure as a key element in making ideas happen, next to collaboration and leadership. Interesting thought on that last topic by the way – silence the visionary. Anyway, I’m a fan, make sure you check out the man’s work. Good start of the day as well, later on there was Jamie Anderson who kinda confirmed what we had heard before and then Garr Reynolds came to talk about Presentation Zen. Good presentation as to be expected, but maybe just a bit too many quotes and also it was great to see him stick to the timing, but still weird for a presentation guru to have to skip like so many slides to make that happen.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki)

Probably the quote I liked most from all the ones Garr used in his talk. It is indeed of great importance to try and “unlearn what you have learned” as Yoda would say, to be really creative. How can you look at things in a really new way when your expertise makes it so that you automatically scope out what in your mind is not possible? You can’t.

Last but not least, final speaker of the 2 days, was Oliver Stone. He did a panel conversation with some Belgian movie director who’s name I’d happily forget, and I think we all just listened. Just think about all the movies this man has created, you can only respect that. One of the things he said that resonated most with me, something that I’ve been thinking about actively since then was the following question: “what’s the narrative of your life”? Something we should all ask ourselves from time to time. On being creative, Stone urged us all to think about the time we create for ourselves to be creative, because we’re not making enough time for it in general mostly because of the loads of distractions we have these days.

Key take aways from these 2 days:

How to be creative:

  • Create time – there’s no flash of insight, eureka moment but it’s more like an emergence of time. So create that time needed.
  • Prototype – have that conversation with an idea
  • Collaborate – get people together, cross-group preferably and share ideas liberally

Making ideas happen:

  • Choose between ideas – it’s more important to realize a few ideas, than to have created many
  • Organize yourself – creativity x organization = impact (dixit Scott Belsky)
  • Progress begets progress – show progress, surround yourself with it as it’s important to keep going that you see the results during the process
  • Share ownership of ideas

Make change happen:

  • The flip, the shift, … – it doesn’t really matter what you call it, when change really happens, it happens big time. This means that is impossible to stick with the things you know if you want real change to happen.

Thanks again Flanders DC and everyone involved for making this event happen. See you again in 3 years.

Check out Alfa Romeo’s MiToManiacs

Last week we launched a new campaign for Alfa Romeo: MiToManiacs as part of the Alfa MiTo launch. MiToManiacs is a nonstop race that will take you from site to site via banners. The best and fastest banner-racer will actually win a real Alfa MiTo.

And like all good games, there are some shortcuts built in. Depending on the co-driver you chose, you can unlock some shortcuts. I’ll give you one, in the scene above you can actually follow a different way to avoid being annoyed by the octopus.

Game on! I’ll tell you, you will need some practice and find those shortcuts if you want to get into the top 10.

Thanks to the people from Clint.be for the collaboration on this one.

The promise of interactive television (part 2)

There are 3 reasons I once decided to get a digital television at home:

  1. Better quality. Especially with one of those fancy new full HD screens that’s a much better experience.
  2. Comfort features. Think about the EPG, easier recording, movie rental, …
  3. Interactivity. Push the red/blue/whatever-color button and you will get a richer experience

The end score, 2 out of 3. I don’t know how it is in the rest of the world, but in Belgium interactive part is pretty nonexistent. I’ve used the red button less than 5 times in the 3 years I’ve got digital tv at home. It was always a disappointment. Useless information, bad experience, ugly, … Content makers nor advertisers seem to show any interest in it. Too bad because I had really high hopes for this. It’s pretty easy to imagine how this could be used in many really cool ways. Didn’t happen.

When I read about the My Generation iPad app from abc it sounded like they built an app to do what interactive tv couldn’t. The same promise all over again, but you’ll need another device to experience it. And only with My Generation on abc.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these are cool evolutions. I’m just wondering why none of the richer tv experiences have ever really succeeded without the help of peripheral devices. Sounds like a missed opportunity to me for television makers.

Anyway, good stuff from abc. Curious to see how this will evolve further. What do you think?

Using digital to make print come to life

I didn’t have time last Friday to post it when this campaign was launched, so I’m bringing it to you know. Our client AXA launched their new iPhone app which helps you out when you have a car accident, making sure you deal with it in the right way. Since this is the first app to deliver such a service in Belgium, we wanted to find an innovative way to promote it as well. Here’s what the team created:

Talking tree

Really nice campaign for EOS magazine from our friends at Happiness creating some good buzz for the moment.

“Eos has launched “Talking Tree”, a campaign that turns the environmental debate on its head by giving a voice and “feelings” to a 100 year old tree living in living in Bois de la Cambre, on the edge of Brussels. The tree has been hooked up to a fine dust meter, ozone meter, light meter, weatherstation, webcam and microphone, providing regular updates to followers through YouTube, Flickr,Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud.”

eos-talking-tree-site

I think the website isn’t the best part of the whole campaign but other than that, definitely worth checking out.

SMC2009: Marketing Renaissance

For more than 20 years I believe Stichting Marketing organizes the biggest Marketing conference in the country… and I’ve never ever felt the need to go before. For one because the 2 day congress happens to end on a Saturday, but also because I’ve always seen it as a well established marketing congress for well established marketers hearing to hear about … well you catch my drift I suppose. This year I was invited by the organization (thanks to @mediagast) so no reason not to check it out this time.

So I went to the congress, and truth to be told, I had high expectations. I hoped Stichting Marketing proved me wrong about my opinion about the congress, I hoped to see some interesting and inspiring talks and (last but not least) I really hoped to see at least a few speakers that could make that connection between the more traditional way of marketing versus what we’re all supposed to be doing right now. Why? Because there was a window of opportunity given the audience’s background I suppose. And the premise seemed to be right:

“There’s a growing consensus that in times like these not every ‘old rule’ still applies. More than ever, we have to be smart in marketing. Rationalizing our structures or adapting old models just won’t do it anymore. … We have to understand that marketing solutions are not there for eternity just because we’ve successfully used them in the past. Some insights still apply, others are clearly past their shelf life. What we need, in other words, is a true marketing renaissance.”

We kicked off day one in rather good fashion, Don Sull (Professor of Strategy of London Business School) did a talk on “The Upside of Turbulence”. And just as the title already suggests, Don talked about the opportunities you have in times of turbulence, stating clearly there aren’t just downsides linked to it. He showed us he sees to different kinds of ways to deal with turbulence, one being ‘agility’ and the other ‘absorption’. Something he explained using the famous Rumble in the Jungle fight between Foreman (‘absorption’) and Ali (‘agility’). Conclusion of all of this being you got to have both to be able to deal with turbulence in the best possible way.

After a quick stint from Nokia’s Global Marketing SVP (I’m sure he knows what he’s doing but presenting is clearly not his ‘shtick’) we got Jonathan Salem Baskin to talk about the “Digital Plague”.

jonathansalembaskin

I expected quite a lot from this presentation and I think I was kind of severe afterwards to Jonathan when I told him he had missed the opportunity to really convince people. We agree on the main idea of his presentation, saying digital is not just something you do aside it is part of the whole thing. You don’t need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy (just like before) that’s ready for the digital age. Why missed opportunity? Because I don’t think it came across that way to everybody, I think some people will have walked out of that presentation thinking that doing business as usual is just fine. Anyway, that might be just me – I still enjoyed the presentation and we had a great chat afterwards so that’s good :).

Day two opened with Charlene Li, another keynote I was looking out for. Great personality, nice talk and we had a quick chat afterwards as well but nothing new to learn. The talk we had afterwards was related to the work of an analyst and it’s one of the things I still miss in presentations such as Charlene’s – tangible examples from non global high involvement consumer brands. It’s on thing to analyze why Vodafone or DELL have been successful with some of their social media activities, building and implementing your own strategy for a brand of say sandwich meat is something else. Charlene still is one to watch though, don’t get me wrong on that. Here’s Charlene’s presentation btw.

Dan Hill (President Sensory Logic) told us we get way more effect by being on-emotion instead of on-message, playing on human emotions instead of being factual. Nice talk but hardly anything new. And sometimes jumping conclusions – Dan showed some eye-tracking research showing people didn’t look at the ads to then suggest to change the ad placements… now that’s not really what this means right? Then Niraj Dawar (Professor of Marketing, Ivey Business School Canada) talked about “Downstream Innovation”, an interesting talk about re-focusing our innovation efforts into how we deliver products to consumers instead of just on what to deliver. We at Duval Guillaume often also ask our clients about the why on top of that.

Last but not least, our own Geert Noels (Econopolis) closed the congress. Always good to see someone looking at something you know from a totally different angle, this time Geert who is an economist shared his look on marketing with us. You can find his “Marketing lessons from the Econoshock” right here. Just started a conversation with Geert on Twitter about his presentation, let’s see where that leads us ;)

Anyway, that was that. I enjoyed the congress, it was good meeting up with people as usual but I did miss eye-opening, truly inspirational talks… presentations that would have people go home and change the way they do marketing. Maybe next year?

Leon (age 64): the real fake candidate

Before we go any further I need to ask you to take a look at the video below. This is the clip of an audition during the television program ‘So You Think You can Dance’ in Belgium. Never mind the language, just look…

Meet Leon. I suppose you noted the consternation of the jury not only when they saw a 64-year old doing an audition in what is basically a program targeted at youngsters, especially when they saw Leon end his audition with a split. The best of all this? Leon was actually entered into the competition by Milk (VLAM) as a part of the campaign they’re running to show that drinking milk on a daily basis will help you to stay fit and flexible.

Obviously nobody knew about Leon being part of an ad campaign until we (Duval Guillaume) revealed it after the show was aired on television. This was one of the first campaigns where I was part of the team that developed it so it was especially great for me to see the outcome of it.

To get the full picture of the campaign you should also take a look at the video below, this shows the initial commercial that was created for Milk a while ago and which has been on air earlier this year. The idea of doing something special with ‘So You Think You can Dance’ seemed a logical follow up on this ;)

I hope you like it, I know I do :)