Source: Innovation: the European perspective

At the end of 2016 eurobest, the Festival of European Creativity, took place in the striking Palazzo Barberini, the baroque Roman palace home to some of Italy’s most prized works of art. Against this historic backdrop, creatives from across the continent came together to debate the future of their industry. The decision to blend the traditional and the modern in this way would prove prescient: over the course of the Festival, innovation emerged as a key theme for eurobest 2016, but so too did the need to reconnect with the tradition of creativity that underpins the industry.

“50% of media time is spent on mobile devices. [And] in five to ten years it wont be mobile first, it’ll be mobile only. Whether we like it or not, we have to do it.”

Ian Wilson, Heineken

Science imitates art
Nowhere was this marriage of the old and the new clearer than in the talk from J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, ‘The Next Rembrandt: Challenging the Identity of Man,’ in which the agency’s executive creative director Bas Korsten spoke about his team’s double Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning project: teaching a machine to think, act and paint like Rembrandt.
The project, Korsten explained, started as an interesting brief for the agency. It was challenged by ING to reinvigorate the bank’s sponsorship of Dutch arts and culture – something the client felt was in danger of looking stuffy. The solution the agency came up with was wild, ambitious, but not, it would turn out, too far fetched.
“We were by no means trying to make a new Rembrandt painting,” Korsten explained. “He’s the only one that could do that. What we were trying to do was distil the artistic DNA out of the work that he made in the past and create a painting out of the data.”
The ultimate success of the project, he added – resulting as it did in a believable, Rembrandt-style portrait – raised all kinds of uncomfortable questions: “What is the relationship between artificial intelligence and creativity? What does it mean for our industry? Do you need to have a soul to touch a soul?”
ING, needless to say, was pleased with the results of the project. But Korsten told the audience how embracing innovation so wholeheartedly has proved an overwhelming success not just for its clients, but for the agency itself. On top of an impressive trophy haul at Cannes Lions 2016, Korsten revealed that the agency has seen an influx of interesting briefs, as well as the ability to attract and retain talent that they would otherwise have lost out on to “Google, Facebook or even Netflix.”
“If you have control of all your data it gives you the opportunity to find better audiences, at better times. You can make much smaller target groups and individualise the content for customer journeys.”

Verner Bager, Mindshare

The end of advertising? 
In Mindshare Denmark’s talk ‘AfterAd: The end of advertising,’ strategic director Verner Bager similarly advocated harnessing the power of data. He cited findings from a recent Danish study in which 36% of people surveyed said they find advertising irritating every time or almost every time it crops up – as well as the fact that just 6% of respondents in the same survey said that advertising was capable of holding their complete attention – and used this as evidence for an industry-wide need to change strategy.
Previously, he pointed out, the creative industry has been operating on an ‘If we build it they will come’ kind of approach. “We’re seeing that mantra repeated among clients,” Bager explained. “[That] if we build great content, people will find it, people will use it, people will share it.

(The end of advertising: Verner Bager, Mindshare)

“But the reality is that a lot of good content was never found. And if it was found by accident, people might use it once and then forget about it. It’s an enormous waste of good content.” So how do you go about making this good content discoverable?
The answer, Bager explained, is data. Not only can data create works of art, it can continuously improve and optimise our content. After all, “If you’re not relevant, useful or entertaining it doesn’t matter: your content will travel nowhere.” Thanks to data, he explained, we can now identify a myriad of different consumer and customer journeys.
“If you have control of all your data it gives you the opportunity to find better audiences, at better times. You can make much smaller target groups and individualise the content for customer journeys.” He stressed however that the solution to getting your content out there goes beyond tech, quoting Simon Sinek when he added, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
While Bager conceded that “this freaks out customers who’ve never had any higher purpose than share holder value,” he added that today, brands with purpose “are growing at double speed than brands that don’t.” He illustrated his point with Mindshare Turkey’s work ‘Vodafone Red,’ a secret alarm app to protect women from domestic violence, and a piece of work which aptly demonstrates a successful blend of data-led innovation and social purpose.
The three b’s
With his time on stage, PHD’s Global Innovation Director Phil Rowley explored what he describes as “One of the biggest changes to politics, society and economics that we’re likely to see in the next 10-15 years” – the so-called “sharing economy.” The sharing economy is already well-established, he pointed out; you can borrow someone’s time on TaskRabbit, a film on Netflix, or music on Spotify. But Rowley explained that it’s only going to expand, estimating that its “value to the Italian economy could be 19.5 billion euros by 2025”.
“The three b’s: buy something, borrow something, belong to something.”

Phil Rowley, PHD

 (Opportunities for marketers in the sharing economy. Slide from PHD presentation)

So what can marketers do to tap into the sharing economy? Rowley offered a structured approach to innovation, one which takes into account “the three bs: Buy something, borrow something, belong to something.” If your task is sales, he said “that’s buy out of the three bs.” While “If you want to get deeper engagement, [you should] start thinking about borrowing and belonging.”
He cited a number of examples that demonstrate brands using the sharing economy to their advantage: “Ikea, for instance, found out that people were turning to TaskRabbit for help putting furniture together, so they put their own people on there to make sure the billy bookcase was being put together properly.” Drawing on the ‘belonging’ element of the “three bs”, he mentioned Sneakerpedia, an online hub for trainer fans powered by footlocker, along with the fact that “Unilever has created Cleanpedia and gathered cleaning and household tips in one location.”
Heineken’s senior director for global, digital and marketing development Ian Wilson also stressed the importance for marketers to evolve and adapt with the times. “In the States,” he pointed out, “50% of media time is spent on mobile devices. [And] in five to ten years it wont be mobile first, it’ll be mobile only. Whether we like it or not, we have to do it.”
While Wilson acknowledged that Heineken is currently benefitting from what he called “credentials” in the US – the heritage and history of the brand, because of the craft explosion in beer – he was quick to point out that the brand still couldn’t ignore the need to optimise its content for a mobile-first world. So, in yet another example of the old and new coming together, it has used the traditional storytelling afforded by video, and gone about optimising this for Facebook.

(Video optimisation for mobile delivered improved results for Heineken. Slide from Heineken presentation)

Each change made has seen incremental improvements, he explained; before anything was done to adapt its video content for Facebook, the video completion rate was at 1.8%. After small adaptations, including the addition of subtitles, this increased to 3.2%. After another change, posting the video in a square format, this went up yet again to 6%. In an echo of the Mindshare session, Wilson pointed out that while the content itself might be good, “a lot of people in agencies don’t think about this systematic process enough.”

“I’ve been in the business for 30 years and I don’t think I’m being creative as I could be.”

Dave Buonaguidi, CP+B

Dave Buonaguidi, chief creative officer at CP+B UK, admitted on stage, “I’ve been in the business for 30 years and I don’t think I’m being creative as I could be”, and neither, he suspected, were most of his peers across Europe. A stark warning that although the spirit of technology informs nearly every aspect of creativity, the industry needs to reconnect with its creative side.
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