Smash this one barrier to make your best work in 2019
A view from Gracie Page

Smash this one barrier to make your best work in 2019

When it comes to tech in creativity, agencies too often separate the 'what' from the 'how'. How can we break the spell?

Why do we still struggle as an industry to "do tech" properly?

Last week's annual CES jamboree was a timely reminder of how need that special sauce to supercharge our 2019 campaigns; the glimmer of an emerging piece of technology never before used in brand communications that you or I might hitch a ride to fame on.

Digital tech is the single most important and impactful lever we can pull today to effectively connect with people and fit our brands into their lives. As long as it’s coupled with human creativity, of course.

This curiosity/obsession (delete as appropriate for your agency) is a great thing.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that we’re fumbling around in a dark device lab, simply hoping to stumble on an Innovation Lion. Every day, our brothers and sisters around the world produce stunning work that truly changes lives through the power of technologically enabled storytelling. But our industry hasn’t figured out how to do it at scale, and en masse, consistently. Yet.

More than a third of surveyed marketers in a recent report said they have so much customer data that they don’t know what to do with it, while brands are recognising the need for agencies to help them not only craft a story but also drive growth. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other; storytelling empowered by technology is how we help our clients build the best brands for today and tomorrow.

But here’s the thing.

Our industry persists in being its own biggest barrier to connected success.

Why? Because we constantly separate the idea (the 'what') from the execution (the 'how'). Just as beautiful creative craft may have limited effect in a modern consumer’s hyper-digital daily life if delivered in the wrong way or moment, technology could prove futile if pointed at problems with no creative vision on how to turn it into a truly meaningful user experience.

Only when you marry technology with creativity can you unlock its true potential. When the two are developed in harmony, the result is synergistic. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a golden fry, but a personal favourite remains McDonald’s Met Office data-driven digital out-of-home campaign.

Moreover, don’t forget the umbrella term "tech" can be broadened to "innovation" to encompass product development. Pedigree "SelfieStix" incorporated algorithms trained to recognise dog faces (no joke), with a tiny plastic phone adapter, to the delight of a quarter of dog owners in market. If that’s not delighting the user with a creative way to put the brand front and centre into their lives, I’ll eat DentaStix myself. It led to a 24% increase in sales, if you’re wondering.

Breaking the barrier between creative ideation and technological development is the most important and easiest step we can all take to supercharging the year in British advertising. Alongside sparkling creative minds, there are some stellar technologists here to build great things, but tech talent must be fostered and must feel included if we’re to grow our industry’s technological intelligence.

Here are three simple ideas for 2019 to recruit, retain and delight your tech heads and build more seamlessly modern work.

  1. Involve your techies in creative briefings. And bring audience insights. If they understand consumer behaviours, they’ll be enormously valuable in helping to shape the creative route and how it might live in the real world.
  2. Act concurrently. Let exploration and development of the idea and the execution happen at the same time. You might just get to where you’re going faster.
  3. Serve the user first and the brand second. Be as fearless as possible when explaining this to your client: if it works for their customers, it’ll work for them. The converse is not necessarily true.

We may have started the year gazing into the connected future at CES on the ground or from afar, but now we must turn dreams into reality for clients. We can be much more than creativity or technology. We can be both – and that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Gracie Page is innovation lead at VMLY&R London