Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why we need to #RePicture Females in Advertising*.

Images found on getty images

Women play not just one, but many roles. 

Women are an important economical factor globally: they drive consumption, create new businesses and shape society. Never before have there been so many well educated young women – but the same goes for so many active, older women – being more present in society and business than ever before.

Media today is still portraying women in a limited way. 

The female force is a clear fact, but the reality in media is a different one. Typical images are ‘the glamorous sex kitten, the sainted mother, the devious witch, thehard-faced corporate climber’ according to a UNESCO report from 2009. The conclusion - we will need another 75 years to have gender equality in media. And neither is Germany far ahead compared to other countries, nor has there been a big leap forward in the last 5 years.

Broaden the story - instead of limiting it to stereotypes. 

I do not want to argue about stereotypes being right or wrong – but they are only part of the truth, neglecting that women have a more diverse identity. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sums it up in a TED talk:
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
Advertising has started to use natural beauty, imperfection and age as creative success factors, reflecting that people appreciate an honest reflection of today’s culture. The most prominent example is still Dove’s 2004campaign on “real beauty”. Others have followed – from German female magazine “Brigitte” asking women in their 2011 campaign to “live a life more imperfect” to American lingerie brand Aerie launching their spring 2014 ads highlighting “the real you is sexy” by using untouched images.

We need more diverse images to promote a more diverse society. 

A change in how advertising pictures women is about much more than supporting female self-esteem. It reflects how society is changing and influences how we perceive men and women in relationships, family or work context.

The controversy that followed Barilla’s announcement last year to only support a traditional family image, and not see people outside this as their target group, indicates that we are ready for more image variety - as a legacy to the next generation, to support more choice, a different self-image and a better society - just by choosing from a broader range of female images. That this is possible and that society is ready for diversity shows the just as controversial case from Honey Maid that plays with different family and gender roles - and turned negative conversation on their approach into a message of love. 

* I originally wrote this post earlier this year for the Getty Images Website and their co-operation with the LeanIn.org, creating the Lean In Collection, supporting a different female imagery in stock photography. I only added the Honey Maid case to the article as it seems brands are picking up on the fact that we are ready for diversity in female and family imagery in general. Anyone can and should participate in this conversation around how we can #RePicture women in media and advertising. 

What makes A Good Brief?*

There are no great briefs, only great ads.
There are no great briefs, but there are la lot of bad ones.
A good brief is probably about as good as a brief gets.
(L. Butterfield, Excellence in Advertising, 1997)

There are no great briefs, just great ideas – as much of our work is not limited to traditional ads any more. Have you ever heard anyone outside of advertising discuss the potential insight or message behind a campaign? No – this doesn’t happen – planners are not rock stars and often don’t get the credit they deserve.

Planners play a vital role in the creative process. Creatives look to the brief to provide them with a clear understanding of the business situation and the challenge that needs to be solved. If creatives are unable to do so, they can come up with nice creative ideas – but won’t be able to deliver the solution the client needs. So the question is - what makes a good brief?
A good brief shouldn’t be creative and cheeky with word play, but first and foremost, needs to deliver the business challenge with clarity. Identifying what needs to be solved is a huge achievement in its own right. Good insights can help shape the creative idea and strategy. Insights are not just psychological - a good insight can be based on cultural phenomena or behavioural patterns. We experienced this during the development of Volkswagen’s “Don’t Make Up & Drive” campaign, which was strongly focused on how women use social media – revealing a great way to approach them.
Clarity is also important in terms of being decisive about what the main issue is that needs to be solved. Trying to tackle too many extraneous issues can be a detriment.
A good brief can always be told in a few sentences, without jargon. They are, in the best sense, very brief. And it takes work to reach that level of brevity. Good briefs are not misunderstood as a format that needs its boxes to be filled – but a structure of thought that delivers a good story to creatives.
Good briefs don’t necessarily come from planners alone – they are brought to life through discussion and collaboration. So my advice for a good brief involves not just doing research, but having conversations with the people that are most likely to work on the project down the road. And keep in mind - good briefs not only give direction, they inspire.

I originally wrote this post for the DDB blog lemon2020.com in January this year. In order to better share with my peers and to leave room to comment I re-post it here on my blog now.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Cannes review - through the eyes of a planner.

It's been a few weeks to digest all the inspiration and ideas we where confronted with. Every year the Cannes festival of creativity seems to get bigger with more categories, more players, more entries.  And again delegates could hear all the buzzwords that have been around for a while - storytelling, content, innovation. But again we also saw many great ideas - and though I was only able to attend for 3 days I picked up some things that seemed very present across different talks, seminars, and creative cases - awarded or not.

For me, 5 main topics emerged: 

  • Be good, not cynical
  • Deliver valuable service and content 
  • Fusing human and digital  
  • Create exceptional entertainment and experiences
  • Make it close and personal  

In one sentence: Cannes 2014 again showed that creativity needs to add value for people – by either offering great entertainment, personal experience or support our society and real life. 

All of these topics are connected - and even though I picked quotes from the panels as well as ideas that highlight what is behind each of the four topics you will easily see that many of the ideas fit to at least two of the above. Not all of the examples have won big in Cannes - but they have been part of speeches and screenings and support the topics I saw emerge. 

1. Be good, not cynical 

Happy with Pharell was one of the big winners. The panel on „Nice is the new black“ set this as their theme. But it emerged at many other points as well. There's a craving not just for great stories, but for great ideas that create positive emotions. The days of cynical seem over - at least for the moment. And brands are celebrating to follow a purpose that evokes meaning and goose bumps. 

„Oxcitocin is the chemistry of nice. Things that are personal. It is about true feelings.“ 
BBDO panel 'Nice is the new Black'  

"We are good if people think we are great. But we are great if people think we are good." 
David Droga 

„What we stand for - things that touch people. ... it is only fxxking great if it does something.“ 
David Droga

Further examples where this was very present are: 
Even though looking at the retail category there is a clear counter-trend into the complete opposite direction: "Sorry, I spent it on myself" for Harvey Nichols shows that you have to stay true to who you are as a brand, still reflecting an extremely human insight. The craving to do oneself something good, without feeling guilty - shifting from the We to Me. 

2. Deliver valuable service and content

„Great content always wins – and everthing competes with everything today, eg. Hollywood moview and a film of a guy running after his dog on YouTube“ 
„Put people first. From marketing to people to marketing with people to marketing for people." Keith Weed, CMO Unilever 

„Work outside in, what are you solving? Make it human – and make it fluffy.“ 

„Why would they even bother to engage with what we are putting out, we need to reward them.“ David Droga 

"Brands already have great content. It is just a matter of collecting it in the right place." 

We again heard a lot of talk about how we need to deliver valuable content. But what actually creates value? Overall, it can be anything that delivers a useful support to peoples lives - by helping individuals or society with a specific service or advice.  Cases that put this to work in impressive ways were many - as this topic seems very Cannes worthy - and a way to ride a popular wave that hat a lot of award attention as well as many categories where it can be presented. Here is a selection from both award show and talks.  

Terre des Hommes Netherlands: SWEETIE  is an impressive experiment that draws attention to webcam child sex tourism that does more than raise awareness - and that was awarded not only Gold but also a Grand Prix. In order to track down pedophiles engaging in webcam child sex tourism,  "Sweetie", a computerized version of a 10-year-old Filipino girl, was sent into online forums and cought some 1,000 predators from 71 countries.

The CNA speaking exchange is a language learning school in Brazil knows that most of their students might never have the chance to practise their English lessons in real life. In order to find conversation partners they connected their students with old peoples homes in the USA. 

And there are a lot more valuable offers out there, for example the following: 
  • Intel - Project Daniel. A true way to inspire that the brand is about empowering people to realize valuable things with technology - for example in their cooperation with Mick Ebeling and Not Impossible. (Look Inside You). One of my favourites that shows how a brand like Intel has been progressing from pure storytelling to something deeper and more valuable - so more than deserved they received a Titanium Lion for this. 
  • Unilever - AllThingsHair giving a lot of valuable information on anything that people would want to know about haircare and hair styles - just by being the hub for all hair related content on the internet, a great work example from Razorfish. 
  • Unilever - Khan Khajura Radio via mobile phones. A service for rural India that offers entertaining content via mobile phones in areas where people might not have access to other forms of entertainment, awarded with 3 gold lions. 
  • IKEA - 2nd hand campaign - a way to help people sell, not let anything go to waste, and turn Facebook into digital flea market (Bronze lion film) 
  • #detroitreboot, a Project by LOWE Detroit with Detroit icons and start ups that helps re-imagine a city that has been bancrupt and is now rebuilding with the help of their own community. 
  • CLIMATENAMECHANGE.ORG – changing the hurricane name system, name after climate change deniers. 
  •  WaterisLife Drinkable Book supports a way to filter water and make it safe to drink. 
  • Johnson +Johnson  "My name means" from dm9ddb is an app that searches the internet for info on names. Another way to access existing content and data. 
  • SharemyDabba by McCann India for  Happy Life Welfare - an idea that uses stickers to share the left overs from the typical indian Dabby lunch box with people in need. 
  • Guide dots for the blind by Y&R Singapore use beacon technology to offer aid for the visually impaired. 

3. Fusing human and digital 

The fusion of real world and digital is something that can be seen in aesthetics, message and experiences - to tell stories of today. 

"Every smartphone has 100.000 times the power of the computer that sent 1st men to the moon." 

„Make your own brief and create things by yourself“
PARTY, agency based in Tokio and NYC. 

„There is a trend to use very digital imagery, digital art. Also we see a lot of cellular structures. Cellular is where all life evolves.“ 
Zoe Lazarus,  LOWE Counsil

Here are some great ideas that show how this is put to work - and some are nicely combining this with all of the above mentioned features as well - like for example Google Fibre and Nicks First Pitch.  Google Fiber tells not only a great story but also puts technology to great use with their "1st telerobotic baseball pitch".  The bone marrow drive that found a donor for Nick Legrand exaggerates why speed matters more – truly emotionally explained and experienced. 

"The Sound of Honda" brings to life the Ayerton Senna race of 1989.  Internati is the Honda navigation system, that has been tested and perfected in racing cars of the 1980s. Therefore Honda told its story by re-enacting the fastest lap by Ayrton Senna from the 1989 Formula 1 Grand Prix of Japan. The collected data from the car's on-board system allowed them to recreate the lap with sound and light of the Suzuka Circuit. Senna is driving with Honda without being there - turning data into pure emotion and story - and letting Honda receive a Cannes Titanium Grand Prix. 

The Gaga doll is a creative idea that the team from japanese creative agency PARTY showed as one of their work examples. There were quite a few more intersting concepts like the idea for the Cut Copy album release "We are explorers", a video that only used 3D printed figures - and that started with the users, as the figures came as a bit torrent bundle - just two out of a bunch of tech infused ideas. 

Vera Glahn from FIELD showed in her talk at the Google beach a great work for Nike Hyperfeel that also makes the same point on how  we fuse human and tech today. 

Further examples that cultural anthropologist Zoe Lazarus showed in her great talk in addition give a lot of cultural background on what we can also learn from the art and design world: 
What Cecil B. Evans produced for the London Serpentine Gallery with the bot AGNES. Something that reminded me very strongly about the 2014 film HER by Spike Jonze. 
The GIFGIF site from the MIT media lab offers a fun way to vote online.  
And fashion putting it to work with the pulsing GIFs that Diesel produced with Nick Knight or the Gareth Pugh Monolith - an installation at Selfridges London with Oculus Rift & Facebook. 

4. Exceptional Entertainment and Real Live Experiences 

Creativity can take us out of our daily reality - and offer fantastic, over the top real experiences and experiments - as well as very staged,  animated or extravagant and surprising colorful entertainment. 

„Imagination connects people.“ 
Superheros, Make Innovation Fluffy

„Old Spice is an entertainment franchise, not a deodorant brand.“ 
M.Prichard, P&G 

„They do not know if they get inspired by an entertainment company or advertising“ 
David Droga

The key case in Cannes this year was surely "Epic split" from Volvo that by now is close to a 75 mio views -  and if you have not already check out the whole case that shows that behind the most prominent stunt is a great number of further experiments of what is possible for and with this brand - always truly rooted in product features. 

Further pieces of pure entertainment that take on a very playful mode: 

Chipotle Scarecrow shows how it is possible to transport a meaningful message in a very playful and entertaining way - helping to build a sustainable brand.  Their App based free game turned them into top social brand and taking on Taco Bells No.1 position. The Cannes Lion is a clear acknowledgement of their creative and commercial success alike - waiting for the Cannes Effectiveness case in 2015. 

OldSpice does it twice - first with the Mom Anthem "Smellcome to Manhood" and taking it to another level with OldSpice "Let your Hair do the talking" in getting a women's attention. Both give hilarious, over the top entertainment experiences.

Newcastle Brown Ale's ifwemadeit.com is a fun way to entertain in a very exaggerated way and build on the Superbowl craze - showing how Newcastle Brown Ale would have gone over the top on their Superbowl commercial if they had the budget - complete with VIP support, winning a Cyper lion for it. 

5. Make it close and personal through context

„Mobile makes marketing personal again.“ S.Sandberg

„People are a moving target...” Contagious 

“I’m not interested in user-generated content; I’m interested in user-generated communities.“ D. Droga 

Again we could see how important it is to reflect context in creative ideas in order to get attention and be relevant. The use of media context helps not only to make content relevant, but also to make it close and personal and spark conversations. Some of the ideas that did that truly well are: 

British Airways Billboard and their idea to get people to #lookup at Piccadilly Circus in London won a Grand Prix in the media category and is one of the fine examples on how to use media according to its context. 

Bob Dylan Box Set Promotion "Like a Rolling Stone"  a video that ran across all channels to promote the SONY box containing all his recorded music and offering a great video experience that connects across all channels, letting Dylan take over TV - or rather 16 channels at the same time. It was awarded with 3 gold Lions in Direct, Cyber and Branded Content & Entertainment as well as a Bronze Lion in Film Craft. 

McDonald Worldcup „Fry Football“ on Facebook - letting people reenacting the game with fries. The same idea for 500 m Facebook members that are interested in football – but always offering a personal experience, executed in real time according to Sheryl Sandberg that presented the case in her stage appearance. 

The Japanese Rice code for the Inakadate Village rice field won a Gold Lion for Outdoor - showing rice fields that grew into sharable photos and also had an integrated direct code for shopping &  delivery. (also on Integrated shortlist) 

Adidas - D Rose jump store  offers a great personal experience for the UK market and young, urban London basketball target. The case film will show you more on the award winning idea that gained 4 m people to participate in 10 days with #jumpwithdrose in an audience that is not interested in classical media. 

With The Foundary UNILEVER has also taken on an interesting way to provide deeper connections with consumers - as this platform lets them cooperate closely with tech start ups to deliver new solutions. One example Aer with Magnum to share one anywhere – making freezers intelligent, connecting them with people that are craving an icecream. 

So what about the (future) Role of Ad Agencies in all this? 

We have always had a clear role and that is to push ideas forward to help business grow. 

Contagious had a very inspiring session on teaching new technology old tricks. (Unfortunately the video documentation seems to be not available any longer - get in touch with them on how to get access). They highlighted again that we do not need to search long to see how we can add value - and used a great quote by 70s ad icon Mary Wells Lawrence: „Imagine a company that specialises in waking up global marketers to their boring idioticy.“ 

Knowing our clients business, seeing opportunities of where we can add value with ideas is  the key to what a lot of industry experts are talking about: being influential. David Droga put it very clear in his appearance on stage. 
„We are in the business of influence, clients pay us to have influential ideas. I want to build the most influential business." David Droga

At DDB for example we have even build it into our tag line of "Imagine. Inspire. Influence." and strive to create influential ideas that will make brands influential. 

But never forget what Forsman & Bodenfors highlighted when asked about the next step after the Volvo epic split: „There is no recipe.“