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Why we need to use tech to amplify human ambition – rather than turn it off

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Stop me if you are still in helplessly in love with the culture and practices of 80s adland, but there’s an inherent decadence in the agency sector these days, as technology surges on and humans lag behind. And it’s not helping anyone.

You can see it on the media side, where so many seem to switch on the tech and go to lunch, not worrying about the detail, because it’s all clever stuff and if it doesn’t get the job done, the offline media probably will. That’s the seductive peril of lazy media: technology has become more accessible, more connectable and spread across more media channels than ever before, and the reaction of many is simply to sit back and let it run on autopilot.

You can see it on the creative side too, where much of the ad world’s most expensive talents sit around writing big telly ads that hardly anyone is going to notice. Whilst ignoring the creative opportunities of many formats with just as much – maybe more – potential – the banners, the specific copy, the data-driven creative and formats – because it’s all a bit “downstream".

Media has changed, and so has the creative it requires, but the industry isn’t changing fast enough to capitalise. Tools and automation should amplify human ambition, not replace it. Technology should make us sit forward, not back, bringing us closer to our audiences and the market, enabling us to think faster and move faster to help our businesses compete.

If they're going to compete, of course brands must select, connect and manage their data and technology to surface insights, execute against them and measure the result. But we believe that ultimately, it’s still human ingenuity that provides the real sustainable advantage. And too much of that ingenuity is rising to the wrong challenges and fighting the wrong fights.

At a recent conference there was a particular lamentation about ‘the death of the billboard’. Meanwhile, someone said ‘my son makes about 20 memes a day, and at least ten of them have more of an impact than most of your billboard creative.’ There is plenty of creativity outside the great creative shops, and it is fast, furious and knows its market.

There will always be a need for the kind of creative that requires a longer gestation period. Bigger ideas do take time to percolate through. But a fast world needs fast creative too. And if you’re missing that, then you’re missing a large opportunity and probably a lot of your audience, too.

Smart clients have for years been trying to get their creative and media agencies to work more closely together. But they need more than that – they need a creative message that’s built for the different media opportunities and how that media is being targeted.

As long as creative teams are removed from the wider media landscape, with its technology, its targeting capabilities and its rich market insights, they will fail to do their job right. Creative that is developed without a granular knowledge of the media targeting options is doing half the job, at best. At worst, they will completely miss the point.

The more native the creative, the better it works. The more your Snapchat work looks like great Snapchat content, the better it will perform. Your telly ad squished into that, or a skyscraper banner format, on the whole, probably won't

Perhaps the answer is to follow the example of John Caples, a naval engineer turned creative who now lends his name to some prestigious awards. At BBDO from the late-1920s, he pioneered ad-testing, constantly measuring creative against its results. Tweaking, tinkering, combining. But continually sensitive to the place in which the ad appears, obsessed by the results, and forensic about which aspects worked, what didn’t and why.

Perhaps the answer in this tech-rich age is to get some really old-school ambition.

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Marketing

Telling stories: connecting with your audience to produce an authentic experience

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We’re at the tail end of another year in the ever-evolving world of brand experience and delivering a first-class campaign in both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) environments remains a key objective for brands – and of course, the agencies that support them. Indeed, if 2018 has taught us anything, it’s that storytelling – being able to connect with your target audience in a personal and authentic way – has never been more important.

And within that broad template some other themes have surfaced over the past 12 months, with some of the more notable highlights below.

Bigger Is Better

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If you have the appetite – and the budget – going all-out is still perhaps the most effective way to guarantee attention. You need a good idea, but if something works at one size it’s probably going to work even better if you make it bigger. And things didn’t come much larger in 2018 than the 25ft smouldering sculpture of Jeff Goldblum that Now TV and Fever PR used to promote the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park. Planted outside of the Tower of London, Jurassic Jeff campaign received global coverage, trended on Twitter and even picked up an Instagram share from the man himself.

Building A Mystery

Never underestimate the power of the tease. At this year’s Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, first-time exhibitors Buzzfeed needed to figure out a way to stand out in an expo that was filled with scores of super-brands all trying to out-position each other. So, they went the opposite way, dropping a huge, slightly intimidating red box in the hall, that told you nothing about what was inside. You had to go in to find it yourself, and what an experience it was: a maze that contained a series of connected rooms that you navigated through doors by picking one of two answers from classic Buzzfeed-style questions (examples: “What does LOL mean?” or “How do you pronounce GIF?”).

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Enter a door to discover one of Buzzfeed’s many brands, including Tasty, Nifty and Goodful, with a personalised experience from each. Buzzfeed’s super friendly team was on hand to guide you on your way, and for me it was absolutely one of the very best exhibition stand experiences of the year. (Oh, and it’s “laugh out loud” and a hard “G”.)

Feeding The Senses

Many of the best campaigns are both experiential and immersive, and this is one area where food and beverage brands have a distinct advantage. "Whenever you can, put a company in your mouth,” says Bobby Axelrod, the billionaire hedge fund manager on TV’s Billions. Back in July, Bombay Sapphire and Wasserman invited artists and guests to a warehouse takeover in Shoreditch to stir their creativity at a live art experience. The event, which was called Canvas and ran for four days, celebrated creative flair and featured interactive drink-making installations for visitors to enjoy. By combining the very social pursuits of real-time art with cocktail making, Bombay Sapphire unveiled a truly unique experience which resonated on a variety of spectrums.

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So, what can we expect from brand experience in 2019? As we tiptoe closer to true artificial intelligence expect breakthroughs there to help marketers deliver audience experiences that are both increasingly sophisticated and personal – think Minority Report – driving huge advantages for event and sales staff, too. Indeed, the divide between sales and marketing departments will continue to narrow to ensure that an agile but singular experience is delivered to the ever-savvy consumer. Creatives will work harder to smooth out the steps on that all-important customer journey to forge a seamless, holistic experience. But while some things will change, others will stay the same, with connection, communication and conversation remaining the key elements for optimal customer experience. Because brands that tell stories, win.

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Identity are a sponsor of The Drum Experience Awards. The finnalists of these awards have been announced, you can purchase tickets to the event on 4 December at the Marriott Grosvenor Square London, now.

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JWT partners with University of Sydney to explore tech-driven creativity

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J. Walter Thompson has formed a partnership with the University of Sydney to explore how technology can be applied to the creative process and develop creative solutions for digital transformation in China.

The partnership will kick off in December 2018 with an Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU), that will see 16 University of Sydney students from interdisciplinary areas form small teams to develop creative, ethical and context-sensitive solutions over four-week intensive courses. The University introduced ICPUs earlier this year, to provide units of study based on authentic problems and issues set out by industry, community and government organizations.

Students will be based in Sydney for the first week, where they work through the project brief, background research, and information, as well as country information. They then undertake intensive targeted research with their project groups. During weeks two and three, students will work in Shanghai with JWT China.

The final week will be spent back in Sydney, where they write up their assessment task and undertake interactive workshops to encourage critical reflection on their experience and transferability to career development.

“Ultimately the partnership will work towards what actions creative agencies can take now to deliver efficiencies across their business, and to ensure creativity is able to effectively adapt to the implementation of artificial intelligence and new technologies,” said Carter Chow, the chief executive officer of JWT China.

“We're particularly interested in exploring the connection between human and machine learning and how this will change roles in the future. We hope this is the start of many innovative and future-facing topics that both JWT China and the University of Sydney can work together on solving for the creative industry.”

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Circles.Life unveils Discover, its new AI-powered lifestyle feature

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Digital telco Circles.Life has launched an AI-powered feature called Discover in its app to allow customers to explore interesting events happening around the city.

According to the Singapore-based telco, the more Discover is used, the smarter it gets in recommending events that users are most likely to go to. This new feature, which is personalised based on the interests of individuals is available for everyone, including users who are not Circles.Life’s mobile customers.

It is optimised for local events in Singapore, enabling users to explore trending events in the country, customises the event suggestions based on the users’ interests and allows users to share the events on social media, and invite their friends.

“Circles.Life is setting up the world’s most personalized digital platform leveraging its innovative telco stack and proprietary data platform,” said Rameez Ansar, the co-founder of Circles.Life.

“Two years after the launch of what is now the leading no-contract mobile service in Singapore, we are taking a step further. Discover is the first AI-powered product outside our core mobile service. It is available for ALL users inside the Circles.Life app!”

Last month, in an attempt to get consumers to re-evaluate the value of a mobile contract and challenge the assumption that it always saves them money, Circles.Life explained to The Drum why it used the country’s favourite food, chicken rice, to prove its point.

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