Don’t read this. Leave this page now. Go back to what you were reading before. You won’t like it. Not another word. Enough. Still reading?
If you read this, your perception of your recent marketing campaigns may well be shattered. You won’t be happy with last year’s work. You’ll want to go back to scratch and rethink. But maybe that’s a good thing …
From the biggest ad agencies in the world to the most cutting-edge digital idea shops and deliverers, digital media has become one of the most cost-effective methods of reaching an audience.
But we’ve become lazy, really lazy. With all the technology that is out there, with all the super-informed designers, young and old – even with the massive amounts of “big data” being collected – we’re just not trying hard enough to communicate, to really communicate.
Where are the messages that connect? The ones that touch and warm the heart? The messages that shock – that cut through the noise and distraction of our daily lives? Where are the communications that stop us dead in our tracks and, above all, make us think?
To illustrate how mundane digital has become, look no further than the feeble attempts of brands to hook “likes” from Facebook users, highlighted by the genius pastiche page that is http://www.facebook.com/corporatebollocks.
Overall, what we see, what arrives on our tablet, mobile device or into our email inbox, has lost the human element, and is fast losing the ability to grab our attention.
Big corporation after big corporation wants “one campaign for the world,” or “to use the same eDM format as last year.” If we do this, we are failing to use the real benefits of smart devices.
We’re not saying that everything you do has to be new. In fact, the old tech can be great (look at the reapplications of GIFs this year). Instead, our message is clear: Let’s not homogenise.
So what can you do to buck the trend, to soar above the tidal waves of the mediocre?
As Peter F. Drucker said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And here are two things that you should most certainly be considering as we kick off 2013: Think more and think local.
Digital gives us the chance to really experiment – from the hit/miss nature of augmented reality to the fabulous photo-sharing for cash on Foap. Now is the time to try things out, to break down the barriers, burn the existing models and – above all – have fun.
We mustn’t be afraid to experiment and fail, but above all we must communicate like we have never communicated before. Our messages need soul.
At London’s Creative Social on Dec. 10, at LBi, we were warned that bad and boring ideas are only temporarily camouflaged by technology. Reliance on technology alone will only contribute to a relentless stream of disconnected advertising.
As Steve Vranakis, executive creative director of Google Creative Lab, summarises:
“I believe that you need to stop and ask yourself: ‘Have you made things better than they were before?’ When you look at whatever you are doing – if you’re putting up a website – or whatever – you need to ask yourself: ‘Is the Internet a better place after you put that thing up, or is it slightly worse off’ – and we question absolutely everything we do because we need to be making a positive contribution in order to keep moving things forward and making the world a better place.”
With guiding principles like Vranakis espouses, good dialogue and clean lines of thought should guide anyone past mediocrity. If you are in any doubt, have a gander at two of his recent projects: the interactive online and real-time exhibition www.chromeweblab.com or the delightful “play music with friends”www.jamwithchrome.com.
In summary, whatever you create this year, make sure it absolutely delivers and that its user experience is the best it can be.
One standout trend that definitely will have a big impact on the digital advertising world is undoubtedly the rise of local. In 2013 there will be a plethora of possibilities to embrace local.
In the advent of big data mining and the Internet of all things, we have the technology to absolutely tailor our campaigns. We can now dedicate them to specific communities or individuals or both.
Big data is showing us the huge variance in people across the globe. How can one homogenised message really have impact on each and every different person, city by city, country by country?
Global brands adopting local strategies will connect with communities on these personal levels: The ubiquitous Tesco out-of-town, high-street and service-station supermarket has come to represent everything that is negative about a global brand, and nothing that is good.
The demise of the local store has been recognised as collateral damage of the chain takeover, and the few surviving communities that surround local shops are now highly prized. The message is being sent out loud and clear. We need to no longer think global, but instead think and support the local.
A creative agency that plies its trade on a local level may reap real rewards, as Scott Leonard’s Brixton-based The Champion Agency has found. Its recent campaign for Zipcar on bus stops across London featured hyper-local posters denoting local landmarks to show just how much of London Zipcar has covered.
Not content with that, the whole premise of Leonard’s agency is thinking local. It quite literally “champions” young creative talent, offering them opportunities in this age of increased unemployment.
As Leonard says: “The fastest way to change the world is start with yourself, then your friends and family, then your neighbours, then your towns and cities, then your part of the country and maybe if you’re really lucky, the nation. One conversation at a time, delivered with integrity, backed up with action is worth a thousand screams of me, me, me.”
Now consider the myriad digital tech options we have at our fingertips: geofencing, social integration, digital coupons, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, near field communication, GPS, location-based applications, real-time bidding and the Internet of all things.
Then think about the ones we haven’t yet. Consider how these can be leveraged into a more localised campaign.
Time for a corporate strategy rethink? Reckon so. In 2013, let’s move things forward. We need to make a promise to ourselves now: Think more. Think local.
Tim Healey is a freelance creative producer with gyro London.
Follow him @TimHealey
This article was co-written with Alec Woolfson.