The big idea is dead. Long live the big idea

The big idea is dead. To quote Patricia McDonald in a recent Campaign article: “In recent years, the “big idea” has often seemed to epitomise everything wrong and backward-looking about our industry.” And that’s indeed true. In the traditional sense of a 360 campaign, the big idea was to be found in the 30″ commercial or a huge online activity and every other aspect of the campaign had to amplify that centre piece. The big idea was almost not much more than the ever so popular ‘key visual’, the one visual we can translate in all our media for one given campaign.

BigIdea360

It’s good that we most brands start to work differently these days. It’s good that brands start to understand that this idea of a 360 campaign all built around the one big idea isn’t the right way to operate. But as Patricia also highlights in her article, that doesn’t mean we should start thinking small. And therefore the big idea is still very much needed, only we think about something completely different today when talking about a big idea than when we talked about it a few years ago.

Today (and as a matter of fact we believe for the last few years already), that big idea is more of a central thought, a thought that allows you to develop a creative platform in which several small & big creative ideas can be found. It’s a thought that is based on a strong insight and for which the creatives feel the potential, a thought that offers a fertile ground to start creating. Because let’s be honest, ideas can be small and very beautiful or extremely big, bold and complex. But the overarching thought can only be big. It’s linked to the brand’s raison d’être, the link with the purpose and therefore the relevance of the brand in people’s lives.

Once this ‘big idea’ is defined, once we all agree on what that central thought or creative platform is that a brand needs, the quest for the ‘key visual’ becomes less important. It’ll help them understand for instance in the case of Nike that Nike+ as well as ‘Find your greatness’ can be part of the same campaign. In the olden days that would have been near to impossible since they would both feel like big ideas in the classic definition.

So maybe we shouldn’t be using the phrase ‘big idea’ anymore knowing that it has for long meant something else, something that we feel isn’t right anymore today. But whatever the phrase you come up with, let’s all agree that we shouldn’t start thinking small all of a sudden.

Image credit: Enver Atmaca

The Agile Agency. An ad agency’s culture hack

Some 2-3 years ago we decided at Duval Guillaume that we had to re-invent ourselves, that we had to take a more fundamental step in the way we organized ourselves and of course in how we thought about digital as a key element in the communication or advertising that we make. A lot has happened since then but if the 25 Cannes Lions or the Agency of the Year wins of the last 2 years mean anything then it’s probably that we’re doing something right.

The decisions that were taken seemed like the right thing to do but weren’t always that obvious. We decided to get rid of all internal developer resources so we could focus more on our core strenghts – strategy & creativity. At the same time we stopped using online account managers to support the ‘regular’ account managers and we’d stop working with project managers. Instead we organized tech/dev resources to support the creative teams in their creative process and we hired digital producers to play the crucial role between our own teams and the 3rd party developer’s team. All of this in a way that would allow us to keep finetuning & tweaking the idea even while in development to maximize the outcome.

AgileBoard

We were always sure this was the right way to go and we understood the core philosophy behind agile thinking that supported the idea that what we were aiming for wasn’t that crazy. Just like with every good idea though there’s a difference between the idea and the execution and it was/is with guys like Bart, our head of digital production, that we managed to implement agile in the agency. And this in such a way that it’s constantly evolving and that we keep adapting, the essence of agile. And now Bart has written a book about what agile means in an agency environment, most likely the first book on the topic of agile in advertising agencies since he only found books on agile in software/web development when researching the topic.

To stay true to the topic the book was written in an agile way. Of course :-) A must read when you’re in advertising, download the book right here: The Agile Agency, how lean and agile will transform your advertising agency. Another key element in agile thinking that I learned from Bart is that you benefit more when you’re transparant about your own progress, so read the book and add your thoughts.

Create value & value creative

When Lee Clow speaks, you listen. The man renown for his work on Apple and Absolut at TBWA/Chiat/Day talked about his thoughts on agency compensation a few weeks ago in a video for an event organized by the 4A’s.

In the video he talks about how good creative ideas can be very valuable brand assets and that other than in most creative industries (media, artists, …) you don’t get paid for the value of what you create:

“Unfortunately, in our business, we get paid like we’re doing our clients’ laundry. We haven’t figured out that the ideas that we create can become a very powerful asset to the brands we work for. Many of the ideas — whether they be slogans or advertising forms and styles or a voice that we create for brands — could be listed on the balance sheet of our clients as an asset with millions and millions of dollars in value.”

I think he’s right to the point that the power of good creativity gets undervalued. Good creative and good results go hand in hand and therefore it’s important for businesses to realize that it’s not something you can commoditize, like Mr. Clow mentions in the video. We should – together with our clients – work out different ways of valuing ideas though:

“We’re supposed to be a creative business, but I think we have been probably the least creative industry in the history of the world in terms of figuring out how to get paid.”

With businesses under pressure due to the ongoing crisis there seems to be an always bigger focus on the end (marketing) product – what you see is what you get. The time or talent needed to make the best creative possible are often ‘invisible’ to clients which results in what Mr. Clow talks about in his video.

This also puts pressure on the client –  agency relationship, something which doesn’t lead to the best results either as shown by Frank Shuring at the ‘My message in your brain’ conference (NL). His neuroscience research showed that better client – agency relationships directly lead to much better results. Surprised? Not really. Sounds obvious, so now let’s make it happen. And let’s discuss what it is that both sides value most, so we can get out of this crisis together.

Stratégies Gagnantes: Agile Planning

About a week ago I did a presentation at an event in Charleroi called “Stratégies Gagnantes” (which means as much as ‘Winning Strategies’) together with other speakers such as Michael Cawly (COO Ryanair), Nathalie Klein (Director Consumer Insights Coca-Cola), …I was asked to present about what I thought would contribute most towards winning strategies from a marketing point of view. This based on my experience in digital and specifically as Head of Digital at Duval Guillaume Modem, the agency I work for in Antwerp.

The topic I chose to talk about was ‘agile’, more specifically ‘agile planning’. We all know by now the world is changing, and it’s changing fast. So I didn’t want to go in to much about that, but instead focus on how we need to rethink the way we plan to cope with a situation that is always ‘in motion’. It was an easy choice to make since I’ve been fascinated about agile and about how we should use this thinking (that originates from the agile software development) into our business, into the way we think about planning for the future. Neil Perkin has written quite a few good posts about ‘agile thinking’ as key for anybody who wants to be more future proof. I’ve used some of his thoughts in this presentation.

In the presentation bring forward 4 ideas that need to be considered when thinking about introducing agile planning to your organisation:

  1. Ideas from anywhere: get out of the organization silos – idea generation happens best when people across all business lines get together
  2. Plan for the unknown: imagine what would be possible instead of solely relying on what you can deduct from past experience
  3. Measure to improve: instead of measure to report – make sure you get the learnings when you can still adapt
  4. Budget for change: make sure there’s time and money to make the change happen

Let me know what you think.

Step into this TV ad…

We’ve launched 2 new campaigns for AXA during the last few days. In line with our “i-Ad” campaign using digital to make a print ad come to life, we’ve now come up with an idea to get more out of a TV commercial using a QR code. The code doesn’t serve as a link to a nice extra piece of information, it actually let’s you enjoy the full story. Check it out in the video below.

Only a few days earlier we also launched a campaign for AXA’s new renovation loan, using a billboard on which we’ve created a QR code with 3.800 paint pots. Quite a bit of work as well to make that one happen :) See video below.

The crying invoice

Did you know that 1 in 3 invoices in Belgium are paid late?  That brought us to the idea for this campaign we created for ikki, a new service of USG People developed to support freelancers. From now on invoices will never go unnoticed again: the crying invoice.

Hats off to my colleagues at Duval Guillaume who developed the idea.

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:

Apple iSad

I was just reading this:

“Apple issued a cease and desist letter to Newsday regarding their iPad app commercial. The commercial essentially showed how the iPad can’t completely replace newspapers as the screen will shatter when your hit flies with it. Long story short, Apple doesn’t want their iPad’s glass getting shattered as a newspaper app commercial.”

Is that true? Because of this ad?

You have to be kidding. Really Apple, sometimes you can be so small. Small-minded that is.

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.

Facebook goes offline!

For real. So the site is still up and running (don’t worry about that!) but it is clearly becoming a trend to bring some of the key Facebook characteristics to the real world. The examples below are perfect proof of that.

During summer Coca-Cola in Israel introduced “The Real Life Like. Together with Publicis E-dologic they figured out a way to embed user data in IDF bracelets, and thus allow people to “Like” real world objects, places and events spreading the word about it on their facebook accounts.

“The implemented these facebook-bracelets at the Coca Cola Village, a watersport, sunbathing, gameplaying amusement park activity-thing for teenagers. When the guests arrive, they are given a ‏ bracelet ID which transmits an RFID signal, which they program with their facebook login. They can then “like” activities and places in the real village, and their actions show up on facebook. Teenagers are driven by vanity like everyone else, so there was a photographer present as well, if you wanted to tag yourself in any given image all you had to do was wave your ID bracelet to the photographer.”

colalike

Probably sometime during the same period, Diesel introduced Facepark aka The Analog Version of Facebook as part of the Be Stupid campaign. Go outside, speak with actual humans ;) Definitely my favorite of all these examples btw, just watch the clip if you haven’t seen it before:

As part of that they also invented the Facebook Ass Status, no sign of that being used within my network yet though :)

The last example to pop up onto my screen is this one from Saatchi & Saatchi in Budapest: Taking Facebook to the streets for T-Mobile:

“At a busy downtown square in Budapest, they painted a Facebook wall(it was not an LCD screen). when users update messages on the online, they will manually place the messages with caricatures on this street wall.”

t-mobile-facebook

Not the most brilliant example if you ask me. Anyway, if you’ve seen other examples that would fit this trend, let me know in the comments.