It seems like another era now, but in 2006 the IPA’s "Future of Advertising and Agencies" report predicted that consumers and brands alike would soon produce and distribute content on scales hitherto unseen.
"Every brand will become a media company, content creator and distributor," the IPA said, and diversifying output and service would lead to new opportunities for agencies.
Bang on. Coca-Cola, for example, has put content at the heart of its creative strategy. Others are producing content too: not least Red Bull, Volkswagen, Wrigley, Sainsbury’s and B&Q.
But it isn’t just content. The creative application of technology means brands and agencies can diversify in other ways, whether it’s personalisation, gaming, sharing or giving consumers the chance to play.
As Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca-Cola’s vice-president, global advertising strategy and content excellence, puts it: "We can’t change what’s in the bottle, but we can innovate in the way we communicate."
February brings the launch of the Diversification strand of my ADAPT agenda. We will see how clients and agencies have taken to this new vision, what success looks like and how we can realise new opportunities on a wider scale.
Set aside time and money to explore change
So how do you embrace diversification? Collaboration is vital. So is a more relaxed attitude to risk. We can learn from the way in which scientists hypothesise and test. If it’s wrong, they move on and try something different.
We can also ring-fence time and money. At Coca-Cola, for example, 10% of budgets and 25% of time are set aside for the really new, radical stuff.
Here we highlight just four different examples of diversification.
Case Study 1: Cadbury and the joy of personalised giving/Naked Communications
Chocolate is a common gift, and Cadbury wanted to tap into the emotions people feel when giving and receiving by enhancing the process. Naked’s solution was to create and build Joyville Made, an ecommerce platform that combined with social media, thus allowing Cadbury to connect at a deeper level.
At Joyville Made, consumers could send gifts of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars, personalised by recipient, sender and occasion, and add multimedia messages such as signatures, videos (via YouTube) or photo albums (via Facebook).
"Clients are asking us to take advantage of technology and media changes," says Wayne Fletcher, Naked’s chief planning officer. "We came at this by looking to create equal value for consumers and the client. People will invest time and money if you make something irresistible for them, especially if it’s new."
He adds: "The digital age is about action, and we used technology to inspire action for Cadbury."
Case Study 2: B&Q builds a content infrastructure/Karmarama
"Our proposition has always been to help consumers improve their homes as well as sell them what they need," says Ruth Harrison-Wood, B&Q’s head of advertising. "We have a long tradition of producing content. It’s not profit-making, but its trustworthiness builds on our position as market-leader."
With search analysis enabling it to predict demand hot-spots, B&Q wanted the ability to produce the right content faster and in the most appropriate manner – moving beyond books and DVDs to tablet or mobile – and allowing interactivity.
That meant changing its distribution strategy to video and building a content infrastructure that, as Harrison-Wood puts it, "serves up the right information at all touchpoints. Mobile and responsiveness are key". Karmarama’s appointment in November 2012, she adds, was about putting everything in one place.
The core involves the production by Karmarama of fast-turnaround, branded, DIY videos – almost 200 to date – featuring expert B&Q staff. Depending on seasonality and search patterns, different videos are displayed more prominently than others on B&Q’s YouTube channel.
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Next up is the launch of real-time customer Q&A support through Twitter and Facebook, and spreading the content across platforms including Vine, Instagram and Pinterest.
"We want to be the default destination for people who want DIY information," says Harrison-Wood.
- "We’ve learned not to layer an ad idea across utilitarian content," says Karmarama chief executive Ben Bilboul. "Sometimes it’s better to get something out there than craft it to perfection."
- When trialling new ways of working or output, open up to failure and learning.
Case Study 3: BMW and Heinz explore new tech frontiers/Vizeum
Aegis Group media agency Vizeum wanted to demonstrate its innovation credentials by linking with tech start-ups to solve real-world client business problems. "Clients were asking: what are the opportunities, and how do we find and organise them?" says Vizeum managing partner Piers Taylor.
Working with The Bakery, a Tech City accelerator that matches start-ups with brands and agencies, Vizeum identified two possibilities. One was London Brand Management (LBM), an artificial intelligence (AI) software producer. The other was Future Ad Labs, whose PlayCaptcha service turns captchas into engaging games.
LBM’s AI platform interacts with customers in a live Q&A format across mobile, web and social platforms: customers ask a question and the system replies in real-time as a human would.
BMW has renamed the system BMW i Genius and is using it to deal with initial customer queries about the launch of its hybrid i3 and i8 cars. BMW UK marketing director Chris Brownridge says a new-tech car needs a new-tech marketing approach.
Heinz uses PlayCaptcha to improve user experience and deepen brand engagement. Rather than submit word-based captchas, PlayCaptcha asks users to play a simple game, such as moving two chillies into a bottle of ketchup, to prove they are human.
Case study 4: OneYoungWorld charity and CSR/Havas Worldwide
OneYoungWorld.com is a charity co-founded by Havas Worldwide chief executive David Jones and his colleague Kate Robertson, co-global president of Havas. Known as the "Young Davos", it brings together young future leaders from around the world to link with each other and push for positive change. Last year’s summit in Cape Town was attended by 1250 delegates from 190 countries.
World figures such as Kofi Annan and leading business figures like Unilever chief executive Paul Polman are among its supporters.
"We put a lot of money and effort into OneYoungWorld," says Russ Lidstone, chief executive of Havas London. "We could have sponsored another charity, but can achieve more using our capabilities to facilitate something that makes a difference."
OneYoungWorld is an example of an agency innovating in an area where clients might like to, but could lack credibility or have their motives questioned.
While Havas doesn’t market itself on the back of the initiative, it has brought benefits, says Lidstone. "There’s huge levels of internal engagement with the staff, the ability to access young minds, and it gives us inspiration for engaging with clients. Thanks to OneYoungWorld, we are very aware of the social issues clients face, and it makes us much more adept at talking to them."
- CSR is a must-have for clients. If you practise it yourself, says Lidstone, "your advice has more credibility".
- Social purpose is a motivator and differentiator.