The World's Leading Independent Agencies 2010 is a Campaign advertising supplement published for thenetworkone.
Leap to create Cultural Movements in today's world. Psychological impact needs leap mentality. Leaping leaves competing brands in the dust, because you're thinking entrepreneurially, creatively and laterally. Leaping isn't about being irresponsible - it's about being curious and fearless. Fearless in that you're hungry for innovation, but grounded in great storytelling on every platform; adaptive, agile as hell, and, if you make a mistake (as everyone does), you course-correct in mid-air.
But it's wise to look before you leap. Leaping forces you to know deeply the challenges we'll face as marketers. Like leaping into mobile.
We all know we need to be "in mobile". The first question is when and where to leap. Mobile phones have become globally ubiquitous, and their internet use in developed markets is accelerating faster than the PC web did. We know there are a lot of eyeballs and fingertips out there.
History tells us that jumping first has its advantages: establish leadership, perhaps even gain significant share in a new market; get closer to best-practice faster than the competition; provide a reason to believe beyond the "innovation" bullet-point in the brand book; do something remarkable.
History also shows it is possible to screw it up and waste a ton of money in the process. The marketing roadside is littered with the wrecks of good ideas come too soon, or enthusiastic, yet misguided, projects that spin out of control. Instead, let others go through the pain first, and learn from them.
For some of us, the sense of deja vu is inordinate. "What is a website for, why should I have one?", sounds eerily like: "What is a mobile site for, why should I have one? Oh, and I heard we should have an app". A little over a decade between the two. Same story, slightly hotter planet.
Should we go mobile or not? And how? Your decision.
The correct answer, of course, depends entirely on circumstances. But taking mobile seriously is now mandatory, whatever the circumstances. Even if that serious decision is "not quite yet". Know why you have made that decision, and why and how you will change it when the time comes.
Collectively, we can either be fearful of this situation, or excited. The game is changing so fast that most of the rule books can be torn up (though save a few of the best pages). For those of us who revel in the opportunity to re-write a few of those rules, bring it on. For anyone stuck with outdated DNA, the survival of the fittest punishes the slowest runners. So get ready to be a fast follower.
First, you'll need a business case (remember that thing we all forgot ten years ago?). At least know how many people might be able to reach you via mobile devices and how many might actually want to. And get real about what's technically possible at the start. Yes, everyone has a phone, but for most people, the chance of someone using them for anything other than talk and text to interact with you is very low.
Factor in that there are many different phones in the majority's hands that handle online in varied ways. Delivering anything beyond a very basic experience for them is financially prohibitive - unless you happen to be an operator, handset maker, or very committed. Outgoing text is great in developing markets when a basic phone is the only means of communication, but in the West, it just pisses people off unless they specifically requested it. The reality, in Europe at least, is that nothing has changed significantly for most phones. They are not much more interesting than they were five years ago. The reason mobility matters now is because of smartphones. The big difference is a decent browser that people want to use, bundled with an affordable data plan. Add to that location detection and personalisation, and you have a potent combination.
You would be forgiven for having iPhone fatigue. It seems as if, in our industry, no other phones exist. But, beyond the hype, there is good reason for this. The reality is that (according to AdMob's December figures), the iPhone OS represents 78 per cent of all online mobile traffic in Western Europe. And mobile ad requests on AdMob's network alone went up nearly 12 per cent in December, to 1.3 billion. Lagging far behind is Nokia's Symbian with 10 per cent (but a very fragmented device specification, hence hard to develop for), and Google's Android with only 8 per cent, but growing quickly. Everyone else is a rounding error: sorry RIM and Microsoft. Although perhaps RIM can find a way to get its users to click on their browser icon one day soon. We wish them luck. Come and join the party, you're invited.
For now, this makes iPhone the mainstream target platform, and puts the responsibility on the other vendors to match iPhone's spec. So yes, aim for iPhone and test on Android too. Don't worry about the rest - yet.
The bad news is that the main tool we have been using to deliver rich-media advertising and interactive campaigns for the past ten years is not supported. Flash has become almost synonymous with online advertising, to the degree that it has conditioned us in terms of our beliefs about what's possible. Yet iPhone (and now iPad) don't support Flash, and won't. Ever. So don't hold out for it. If you saw Steve Jobs demo the iPad, you might have noticed lots of blank spaces with blue Lego blocks littering the web pages he passed over. Those blank spaces are where your ads were supposed to be playing. Oops.
Wailing and gnashing teeth can be satisfying, but it's not going to save our favourite tool. Think forwards, not backwards. Tools don't really matter, great ideas and execution do. Rather than splashing out on media to corral consumers towards a flashy experience, we need to be focusing on delivering context-relevant, informative and entertaining experiences that deliver ongoing service value. That's a lot harder than making a decent ad.
The good news is that we have a virtually unlimited list of new contexts of use to reach out through. Connect with shoppers while they are actually out shopping. Entertain partygoers as they stand in line for the club. Inform someone while they wait for the bus. Even help them find that bus in the first place. Just talking to someone sitting at their desk starts to feel very limited indeed, and even a little bit retro. Get up from your desk and go to people, then enhance their experiences by listening to their real needs.
Letting go of the mouse and embracing touch brings other good news. The potential for raw, visceral engagement is much greater. We have all been conditioned to point and click - soon we'll just be pointing. A barrier between man and machine has been stripped away. We have moved a step closer towards each other.
In this new environment, brands that can deliver truly intuitive experiences have the potential to touch consumers at a deeper, more profound level. Be it rummaging through a clothes rack or a stack of photos, turning a product over with our fingers, or connecting us with the world around us as we move through it, mobility is not just making our role more ubiquitous, but more human. Handle with care, earn trust, and anything is possible.
If we can just keep our heads when all about us are losing theirs, ours is the Earth and everything in it. And, what is more, you'll have a plan my son.
Olly Wright is the director of strategy; Hans Howarth is the chief executive and David Warner is the executive creative director at StrawberryFrog Amsterdam
AT A GLANCE
Scott Goodson, founder and chairman; Sophie Kelly, managing director and partner, New York; Alexandre Peralta, CEO and partner, Sao Paulo; Hans Howarth, CEO and partner, Amsterdam; Karin Drakenberg, founder and COO
Amsterdam, New York and Sao Paulo. Mumbai in progress
What would you like to see more of in 2010 and why?
More global advertisers going for global micro agencies vs traditional networks
Which country's creativity (other than your own) do you most admire?
Brazilian creativity is something inspiring to be admired. The ideas, aesthetic and craftsmanship is second to none