The aim of marketers and brands used to be to try and crack the killer creative idea. But in today’s world, creative ideas are simply no longer good enough, argues Matt Holt, Associate Director, Digital Strategy at OgilvyOne London.
In days gone by big brands went in search of the creative idea: a killer message that would be broadcasted to the nation on TV, posters in magazines and on the radio. And agencies responded with great creative campaigns. The masses listened. People went about their daily lives, listening to the messages being broadcast, buying products as a result of those messages. Marketing was relatively simple. And brands were happy.
Fast forward to today and there can be no doubt that marketing has changed fundamentally. The advent of the Internet, mobile and digital technology has heralded unprecedented changes in the ways consumers interact with brands, products and services. Consumers’ already limited attention for brand messages is split amongst ever expanding media. Indeed, as of August 2013, the worldwide web has at least 3.56 billion pages, an increasing number of which are user-generated. Astoundingly, human beings now generate as much information every two days as was generated from the beginning of time to 2003.
The sheer amount of information available at our fingertips has profound effects on consumer behaviour, one result being that a brand’s marketing efforts can be focused on the wrong place at the wrong time. It means an award-winning creative idea months in the making, pounds in the investing, hours in the toiling, can simply be missed by your target audience. A TV ad can be as polished and beautiful and insightful as money can buy, but with media fragmenting in ever changing ways, will your audience actually see it? When there’s an ad break are your consumers watching ads or are they checking Facebook or Twitter to see which of their friends is watching the same programme they are? Are they watching it on catch up and fast-forwarding through the beloved creative? Are they watching it on the Internet? Even if they see the ad and want to purchase the product, will they also go online to read reviews, which could change their decision? The answer to all of those questions is increasingly yes.
Which is why I believe marketing efforts are increasingly wasted when trying to originate a creative idea. Instead, what we should all be striving for as marketers is the co-creative idea. So what constitutes a co-creative idea and what makes it different from a creative idea? Put simply, a co-creative idea is one that is:
1. Collaborative – i.e. created in conjunction with the audience. Whether this is done formally (e.g. beta development) or informally (e.g. featuring user-generated contented) a co-creative idea is participative and developed in partnership with the audience.
2. Content-rich– as Howard Gossage, one of the original Mad Men, once said, “nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, sometimes it’s an ad.” Effective marketing has always been about content, about having something interesting to say. The difference is that now we have ever more places to push content, ever more mediums to tell stories, ever more chances to make editorial content pieces that live beyond a simple advertising message.
3. Conversation-starting –big co-creative ideas are conversation starters, rather than the final word. We don’t always know where they’re going to end, but we do know how they start. Modern marketers know this, and as a result they’re ready to shape and fuel the conversation as it happens.
4. Contextual – i.e. reflects time and/or place. For example, Oreo uses social media to create messages with real contextual relevance, as shown by its ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ Super Bowl tweet, which reacted to an event in real-time in a clever way. (Note lots do it badly but that’s the topic of another blog post…)
5. Co-existent – within the online and the real world, as reflects the modern consumer and how technology is woven into everyday life. One feeds the other. Brands that understand this create a permanent cycle of content and conversation that can sustain engagement over a far longer period than an advert.
6. Constantly in flux – i.e. never finished, platforms that evolve rather than campaigns that live then die suddenly. Insight and content that is generated at the point of consumption and loops quickly back into marketing activity.
When you’re planning your next brand initiative consider if your idea has these attributes. If not, see whether you can push and develop it further. Not all ideas will do all of these things but certainly the more of these co-creative attributes an idea has, the better its chance of success.
And finally, in case you think this entire blog post is wildly simplistic, let me be clear; I am not saying that there isn’t a role for traditional creative ideas in marketing. In certain instances where your audience just consumes messages via broadcast media it can play a very important role. But undeniably these instances are increasingly on the decrease, which means brands and marketers need to ask themselves a big question. Is my agency obsessed with creativity or co-creativity? Ultimately, as media becomes increasingly participatory, the brands and marketers that deliver co-creative ideas are the ones that will succeed in the future.
Matt Holt is Associate Director, Digital Strategy at OgilvyOne London