Creativity has come a long way from the days of a “rock star” executive concocting a catchy hook for a 30-second TV spot which would drive sales and confirm their initials on the agency’s logo.
Today, memorable campaigns are no longer enough. Brands want to delve deeper and offer new experiences across every touch point that delight customers and convert them into loyal brand advocates. It is a theme that is expected to shape discussions at Cannes Lions from this Saturday, when the event’s organisers release a report highlighting how innovative experiences are now shaping creative.
Talking to creatives as they prepared for the discussion on the Riviera, the coming together of experience and creativity is something agencies have spotted and are readily accommodating.
The question they are posing back is: Are brands ready? Can they reorientate siloed roles to operate technology, data, creativity, and customer-facing functions in a more aligned, collaborative way? Crucially, are they self-aware enough to know where they are in the cycle of discovering what customers think of them and which experiences could be reimagined to improve their brand image?
Sous Chef To Maître D’
Peter Kang, brand creative lead at Accenture Interactive, explained how creative teams are now having to be reorganised. The way creatives used to interact with the rest of an agency and the client brand was to start as the equivalent of a sous-chef in a restaurant, he said, growing increasingly skilled before becoming a copywriter or an interface designer, just as a sous-chef comes to specialise in a particular dish.
“Creatives would get good at something and stick to it, and it could become a little repetitive; they’d always be stuck at the oven making pasta, for example,” he said.
“Now they’re being asked to consider the entire experience of enjoying the food, and so they’re being let out of the kitchen when the food’s ordered and enjoyed. The fact the food is good is a given, it’s front-of-house where they’re also needed to make sure consumers are happy with their experience.”
Aligning Teams, Beating Aggregation
Indeed, agencies are revealing that there has been a complete shift in the nature of briefs over the past couple of years, which has accelerated in recent months. Brands are no longer asking for just a campaign, they want to change the way consumers feel about, and then interact, with their brands.
In-house agency specialist Oliver Group’s chief experience officer Mark Bell revealed a key driver for the new approach is brands being increasingly affected by aggregators. Brands want to build strong names consumers love and come to directly or, if they are using an aggregator, pick them out because of the better experience they know they will receive.
“Aggregators have been very disruptive and so brands want to take back control,” he said.
“So it’s not just about advertising any more. Brands are coming to us to curate meaningful experiences that will make them stand out in a crowded, aggregated market. That means technologists and creatives have to work together at the very start of a brief to develop an experience that matters and actually works. An idea’s no good on its own—you need to know from the beginning which tools will help you deliver it.”
“It’s a massive challenge for us and clients,” he said. “The thing we’re finding we have to watch out for is whether brands are aligned to this new way of working. Occasionally, clients might still be based around old-fashioned silos, which makes it harder to work with them in a multidisciplinary way. Their innovation people might be an entirely separate team from their marketing people, for example.”
Will Anyone Care?
Another potential pothole agencies and brands need to be aware of is whether the brand is actually in a position to offer a new experience that truly matters. According to Nina Taylor, creative director at OgilvyOne, the worst-case scenario is if brands jump on the band wagon of offering new, better experiences without considering how well placed they are to begin building longer-lasting relationships.
“The worst that can happen is a brand says I’ve seen this and I want one of them,” she said.
“The conversation then has to centre on what I call my ‘does-anyone-give-a-damn-ometer.’ Sometimes brands don’t realise they’re pretty low down in the things a consumer thinks or cares about. They may have seen an amazing new experience or campaign by another brand, but they don’t realise they’re not in the same position to offer anything like that because they’re not at a good starting point. They haven’t put in the hard yards beforehand to make consumers care about them, so they need, instead, to be laying the foundations first.”
Taylor agrees the way experience is driving creativity means tech and creative have to collaborate from the very start of a project and points to OgilvyOne’s Magic of Flying campaign for BA. The public saw a charming piece of storytelling as a child on a London billboard pointed to a BA plane flying overhead, revealing where it was headed.
What they did not see were the multiple layers of technology that could read a plane’s transponder, work out if the sky was clear enough for the aircraft to be seen, and then sync the child to walk across the screen and point skywards, while displaying the correct plane’s flight number and destination.
Creative With Storytelling, Plus Technology
It is this coming together of creative ideas, storytelling, and the technology to deliver them that is now shaping creativity—a coming together that agencies expect to be discussed at Cannes Lions next week. They say they are tuned in.
However, they do caution that the best work will come from organisations who have taken down the traditional silos and built multidisciplinary teams who are in tune with what their customers truly think of them. Only then can they establish which new experiences will have the most positive impact.