If the past few years have taught us anything, it's that predicting the future is a dangerous game. It's been a period of extraordinary and unprecedented change. And it shows no sign of letting up.
The (so far) scarily accurate Moore's Law predicts communication technologies will continue to double in power, speed and tinyness every two years. Double. That means that we will experience something like 20,000 years of technological progress in the 21st century. If the theory feels a little, well, theoretical, consider that life-changing technologies such as YouTube, Twitter and the iPhone didn't exist five years ago. We don't know what the next brilliant and disruptive technology is, but bet your bottom dollar that it's right around the corner.
However, it seems we're much better at predicting change than reacting to it. Larry Downes, in his recent book, The Laws Of Disruption, said it beautifully: "There is a simple but unavoidable principle of modern life: technology changes exponentially, but social, economic, and legal systems change incrementally." Simply put, for all but a few outliers, companies gravitate towards organisational strategies of continuity rather than change. It's unsurprising, therefore, that even in the face of a communications revolution, the collective agency response has been a steady evolution of how to create and implement integrated ideas, based not on where we're going, but where we've been.
As an industry, we have inched from how we used to work, independently in our disciplinary silos, to a position of "all agency" co-operative working, delivering visually consistent work. Given the protectionist nature of agencies, this is an impressive step forward, but, on the whole, what we produce hasn't really changed. Too often, an integrated campaign's success is measured by how many channels an idea is executed in, rather than how powerfully an idea connects different channels. Surely we should be more interested in the potential value of an idea rather than ease of distribution?
It's for this reason that at Euro RSCG London, we've made radical changes to the way we are structured, the way we work, and who we work with in order to deliver truly integrated creative business ideas. We think that getting to great creative business ideas requires what we call Brand Choreography.
Why choreography? Like brand planning, great choreography is based upon creative vision, expressing a story, entertaining an audience, rigorous and detailed design, and the application of resources for maximum effect. But it's the principle of audience interactivity that makes choreography so relevant to modern communications. Paraphrasing John Cage, the composer, performance can no longer be seen as something separate from its listeners or context. The listeners' experience of the work is essential to the music itself. In this open-source, social world, campaigns shouldn't be detached from consumers, but completed by them.
Brand Choreography is an approach and a philosophy, not a process. There are five core principles:
1. Big ideas need to get bigger
We believe that communications needs to connect and inspire all stakeholders; internal, partners, suppliers, and of course, consumers. In the age of digital transparency, communications can't be divorced from business reality. While BP's true level of culpability in the Gulf of Mexico spill may never be established, much of the ire directed at the company was because it talked about "sustainability" rather than addressing the environmental impact of every aspect of its business. In our experience, creative business ideas arise from and influence business strategy, not just communications strategy.
2. Six people in a room
The days of the baton pass are over.
Integrated ideas require integrated working. It's crucial to have the right mix of people in the room to create the big idea. We work in multi-disciplinary groups from the start of the process to the end. That's why we've implemented "one bottom line" for integrated clients at Euro RSCG. It ensures that parochial P&L structures don't stop the right people being involved in a project.
Culturally interesting is now as important as strategically right. The concept of "earned media" is not a new one. It's what PR agencies do. It's for that reason that we have integrated PR alongside advertising into our offering. In addition to traditional strategic and creative stress tests, we've now added the core PR questions of "is this idea good enough to get press?" and "how can we explain it in a headline?" to our process.
4. User experience
The art of choreographing the big idea, we believe, is the province of the channel planner. The application of the creative business idea to the customer journey to create maximum relevance and value is crucial to an integrated campaign. We recognise that different issues require different types of communication. That's why we have put channel planning at the heart of the creative process - articulating what the campaign needs to "do", "how", and "where".
Goodbye tracking debrief, hello real-time evaluation. The days of the static campaign are over. Beware false promises and over-claim. Being ready, willing and able to react to what people are saying is absolutely crucial to the credibility and, ultimately, the success of a campaign. That's why we responded to the mayor of Bangkok's call for help to renew the city after the recent unrest with a Dulux "let's colour" project.
Brand Choreography is more than words on a page. Or, indeed, an attempt to predict the future. It's an approach modelled on our best work: integrating big ideas such as "let's colour" for Dulux, Green Britain Day for EDF and Come and Play for Comet to their full potential. We believe the future is there to be invented. It's time to get on with it.
- Technology has changed the world at a much faster rate than the agency model has adapted
- Brand Choreography is Euro RSCG London's future-facing approach to developing integrated communications
- It has five core principles: creative business ideas; collaborative working; creating news; user experience and consumer participation
Russ Lidstone is the chief executive and Anthony Edwards is the director of channel strategy at Euro RSCG London
(From Campaign's "What Next in Integration" supplement, December 3 2010)