Advertising: More Than Just an Award

Amir Kassaei, CCO, DDB Worldwide

Amir Kassaei, CCO, DDB Worldwide

DDB Worldwide’s Chief Creative Officer, Amir Kasseai, gave a raw and personal speech that addressed the state of the advertising industry.  Using an introspective lens, he brought attention to the fact that the industry has a tendency to forget about the real values and the real purpose: connecting with real people.

In a jaw-dropping presentation, Amir shared three short stories, each bringing to light how far the industry has strayed since its initial conception.  There used to be a time when advertising had an impact on society, culture, music, etc.  The industry has lost its focus.

Advertising is not about being the “chief asshole officer of some f**ing agency”, Amir said.  It shouldn’t only be about awards.  Winning an award only means you’re good at wining an award. He asked the audience when the last time someone’s child was truly excited to hear they won [insert any award here] and was met with laughter and applause. Because the truth of the matter is, advertising isn’t about that. It’s about truth, love, responsibility and purpose.

Amir ended the last session of Cannes Lions 2015 pleading with the audience (and industry as a whole) to remember their purpose, be honest with themselves, respect people and don’t waste talent doing things that are completely irrelevant – Do This or Die.

#CannesLions — Everyone is a Creative Director

How and from whom is creativity generated?  At the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, it may seem odd that something this fundamental is actually being asked.

Yet, in an industry where mathematicians, statisticians and engineers now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with art directors, answering that question is not as straightforward as one would think.

For the first time, Cannes Lions today unveiled its Lions Innovation event.  Described as a “festival within a festival,” Lions Innovation is a two-day event where data, technology and creativity intersect.   On its site, Cannes Lions describes itself as the industry’s “mirror” – acknowledging that “data and technology are driving creative solutions in ways never seen before.”   It’s a theme that has permeated much of the week’s programming.

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In fact, during a Microsoft/Fast company panel  yesterday entitled “Creativity That Matters – How Brands and Agencies Drive Impact” Wendy Clark, President, Sparkling Brands & Strategic Marketing, Coca-Cola North America, said something that really struck a chord.  Strategists – not artists – are developing the most incredible creative work.   Panel participants, Kathleen Hall of Microsoft and Sophie Kelly of The Barbarian Group, were in full agreement as well.

Driving home the point, Audi’s Luca De Meo told a packed audience during his talk “The Moon.  Land  of Quattro,” that the most creative people play not just with words, but with numbers as well.

Today’s creativity comes from some unlikely places.  From data.  From technology.  From strategy.  In the past, that may have seemed more than a little counterintuitive.  But at the 62nd Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it’s becoming abundantly clear.  Everyone in the industry – whatever their title – is a “Creative Director.”

Six Things We Learned from Pharrell at Cannes

Pharrell is “happy” by nature, not just because he wrote and sang the 2014 Oscar-nominated mega-hit but because, according to himself, he goes after what he wants.  He truly embraces collaboration through creativity and is unafraid of working to get the creative mix of people he knows will win.

American TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest sat down with Pharrell at the Cannes Lions Festival on June 24 to talk about collaboration and creativity.  Pharrell provided some crucial advice about bringing one’s “A” game to creative projects.

Here’s what we learned.

  1. Intention is essential. When Ryan asked Pharrell to give the young creatives in the audience advice, he emphasized “intention,” noting that if you are going to create something, make sure to “write some intention in there.”  What is your intention for a given project? Intention should be the number one ingredient in everything that you do and, if it isn’t, consumers won’t buy into it.
  2. Multitasking is important. Multitasking allows you to diversify projects without “blurring the lines,” Pharrell said. It’s important to have your hand in different things to get the creative juices flowing.  That said, you don’t want any crossover between your projects because it will keep them from being truly fresh and unique.
  3. Have a “second element.” A song isn’t great just because of the way it sounds, but because of the way that it makes you feel.  Just like a movie with all great actors and no plot – you may think that you’re going to like it, but it fails by not providing consumers with the second dimension they need and crave.
  4. Creativity and commerce are related. Many people believe that you can’t have both, or that one relies on the other, but as Pharrell so simply put it, when you really concentrate on your creativity, it translates into commerce.
  5. Bottled delusion would sell millions. Pharrell noted that if you were able to bottle the delusion for greatness that many people have, it would be a wildly successful product.  It’s like the people who genuinely believe they are good singers, but can’t sing a lick – it’s that sense of confidence and delusion that helps people succeed, in addition to providing a fantastic laugh.
  6. Adele is the master of intention.

pharrell

Cannes Lions 2015: Surviving a Zombie Attack

This post is written by Sara Ajemian, Senior Account Director, who is on the ground at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Day one of the Cannes Lions festival got underway in earnest on Sunday, June 21, and one of the morning sessions had an apocalyptic flavor as WPP’s MediaCom hosted a presentation titled “How to Survive a Zombie Attack and Harness Cultural Trends to Grow Brands.”

Dave Alpert, executive producer of AMC’s The Walking Dead,” Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks, Inc., and Steven Yeun, an actor on the show, were all on hand to discuss the art of their particular type of storytelling and give a small preview of next season.

MediaCom’s global strategy officer Jon Gittings shared how his agency categorizes storylines–hierarchy, individuality, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty, pragmatism and indulgence—and how different countries’ audiences respond to them. Gittings said, for example, that when episodes are indexed against global viewership, North America shows a high preference for individuality and indulgence while Spain, Turkey and Brazil showed a higher preference for storylines that had a strong element of uncertainty.

On day two, our DGC team was on the ground early supporting client-press meetings followed by more programming.

We stopped in to see Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and Citi’s Jennifer Breithaupt, SVP, Global Head of Entertainment Marketing, discuss “Music & Branding Moving at the Speed of Culture.” Billboard reporter Andrew Hampp moderated the session, which focused on the evolution of brand/artist partnerships.

For Metallica, corporate partnerships are all about balance, according to Ulrich, and if a company has credibility in its industry and offers a creative outlet for the brand, it’s a win-win for all involved.

If panelists had one major caution, it was this:  Don’t make the partnership a one-off. Invest the time to figure out how to amplify and give it legs to extend the life cycle. Otherwise, you’ll be yesterday’s news before it’s tomorrow.

We’ll be continuing to share updates from Cannes, so be sure to stay tuned here to the Hit Board, as well as following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Another June, Another Cannes

We’re just a few days away from the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (June 21-27) and the DGC team can’t wait to hit the ground running!
 
Cannes Lions is a spectacular, week-long celebration of the world’s most creative minds and best advertising as well as an opportunity for over 12,000 delegates to network over rosé and intimate dinners. Over the course of the week and against the backdrop of the beautiful French Riviera, talks will be given, awards handed out and meetings taken along the famed Croisette. It’s a chance for the industry to recognize the best creative work of the past year and look forward to where we might be next year.
 
The DGC team will be on the ground supporting clients and sharing the week’s most exciting news, bringing you insights from key industry players, highlighting key trends and observations and sharing live content. This year’s festival has attracted top names to the Palais including, Sarah Koening (Serial), entertainers will.i.am and pharrell and activist Monica Lewinsky.
 
Here are just a few of the sessions we have on our radar:
 
  •  Tuesday, June 23, 3:30PM – 5PM: MediaLink & Adweek “Daily Dose” Programming with Ian Schafer of Deep Focus; Carlton Hotel; Sean Connery Suite 7th Floor
  •  Thursday, June 25,
    • 2PM – 2:45PM: “Ogilvy & Inspire” Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy & Monica Lewinsky. Grand Audi
    • 2:30PM – 3:15PM: “Watson & The Future of Advertising” Saul Berman, IBM & Jerry Wind, Wharton. Experience Stage – Data Creativity
    • 3:50PM – 4:20PM: “Solving the Marketer’s Latest Identity Crisis” David Jakubowski, Facebook & Julia Heiser, Live Nation NA Concerts. Inspiration Stage
  • Friday, June 26 4:15PM – 5PM: “Do This Or Die” Amir Kassaei, CCO, DDB Worldwide. Debussy
We expect a jam-packed week with lots of learnings.
 
Please check for updates on the DGC Hit Board, Facebook, Twitter and our new Instagram feed!

Can We Go “Off The Record” ?

There are three little words that, when improperly construed, can get an executive in a lot of trouble when talking to the media.  What are they?  “Off the record.”

Just exactly what does that mean?  The phrase is one of the most misunderstood in journalism and is open to some degree of interpretation.  As such, executives doing interviews with the press must make sure everyone at the table is crystal clear as to its meaning before any sensitive information is imparted.

The most popular definition is that it means the information a journalist is given in an interview cannot be included in the reporter’s article under any circumstances.  The information is strictly for the journalist’s edification and for contextual purposes to help him/her understand the nuances of the story being reported. They can’t use it directly or indirectly. Period.

But not everyone agrees with that interpretation.  Some reporters (and their editors) believe “off the record” means they can use the information as long as they don’t attribute it directly to the person who is giving it to them.  In other circles, that definition falls under going “on background” with the reporter.  And that opens another door that could be troublesome.  If a reporter does use the information, exactly how is it attributed, and to whom?

Some reporters say “according to a source” while others might attribute the information to “a source with direct knowledge of the situation.”  And that leads to another potential pitfall—what if only three or four people have “direct knowledge of the situation”? Then it becomes possible to narrow down the possible source, and that can lead to finger pointing among the people being covered in the story.  And that can damage business relationships.  Another scenario occurs when the information is attributed to “an agency source” or “a company source”?  Again, that can lead to the source being narrowed down and more easily identified.

The best course of action is to make the rules of engagement perfectly clear from the outset.  If at any point in the interview a reporter asks to go off the record, or if the person being interview decides it’s best to go off the record for whatever reason, make sure each party defines the term immediately.  If it is agreed that the information can be used, then both parties also must decide exactly how it will be attributed.

One final, crucial tip–always remember that all these negotiations must take place before any delicate information is given to a journalist.  It’s exceedingly bad form and totally unfair to give a reporter an important piece of information and then tell him/her it’s off the record after the fact. That’s not the way the game is played and it’s the mark of a rank amateur.

Bruce Jenner:  A Person and a Dialogue in Transition  

There’s much the corporate world could learn from Bruce Jenner about public relations and how to take control of a difficult and potentially embarrassing situation.

For months, media speculation on what was really going on with him since his break up with Kris Jenner, the grand doyenne of the Kardashian media/business/gossip dynasty, was on overload – most of it trivial.  “Bruce Jenner Gets French Manicure, Wears Diamond Earrings on Outing,” said one headline.  Another publication photo-shopped lipstick, curled hair and a silk scarf on a picture of him.  Bruce’s story was something deep-rooted and real – not just for him but for many others who identified with his struggles.  Yet, the media portrayed his changing appearance as little more than a simple gossip item…no different than any number of small, unimportant nuggets emanating from the family’s reality empire.

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Rather than remain silent, Jenner took control of his narrative and granted a two-hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on national television and was seen by more than 20 million viewers.   He talked of his personal struggles with gender identity in genuine and raw terms and in so doing he shifted the dialogue away from the sophomoric gossip that filled the tabloids for months into an adult conversation.  The national discussion was now about transgender issues that the mainstream media covered with thoughtful pieces on Jenner’s personal journey and its broader implication for others facing similar challenges.  His family came out in support of him.  He quashed speculation of this being a publicity stunt.  Even the rest of the Kardashian clan – typically known for empty, brain-candy nonsense – came out looking sympathetic, progressive and supportive.  That’s no mean feat.

Through honest, direct dialogue, Jenner changed his media narrative in a single interview.  He did it by being honest and transparent and answering tough questions truthfully and sincerely.  The business world would do well to take heed and act accordingly.

THERE’S NO “I” IN PRESS RELEASE

Press releases are to public relations like TV commercials are to advertising.   In a time of customized messaging – of programmatic advertising and brand-to-consumer tweets – the traditional 30-second spot can come off a bit like a relic of a bygone media era.  Rather than tailored to the specific interests of an increasingly granular audience, a press release seems too “one-size-fits-all” to stand on its own and hook an audience.

The press release shares another point of similarity with traditional TV advertising:  a lot of smart people have been (wrongly) predicting its demise for some time.

The press release – like any other form of communication – has evolved over time.  Once a standalone document that could be blasted out en masse, it now needs to be part of a larger PR toolkit that includes social media outreach, individualized pitches, real-time tie-ins, etc. to generate impact.

For all its limitations, a press release offers a number of strong value propositions to its sender(s) as well as its receiver(s).  For the sender, the internal approval process is essential – insuring that whatever goes out to the press is cleared by executive leadership, legal representation, etc.  Any mistake – from a factual inaccuracy to a typo – lives on in infamy on the Internet.  The formal review process that is required of a press release is integral to protecting an organization from making an irrevocable error.

For the receiver – i.e., the media – the press release is a factual reference sheet.  Its headline places the main news value front and center.  The spokespeople are identified and quoted.  The key story elements – from background facts to company overviews, etc., – are all contained within.  The actual format of a press release may seem dated to some – but the notion of it – its purpose and content – is absolutely core to communicating a company’s news to the press.  If it were to be eliminated – it would have to be replaced by something very similar in substance, if not style.

It’s about evolution, not elimination.  TV advertising has evolved from an isolated channel to working in tandem with digital media; a TV spot is part of the overall cross-channel marketing mix rather than an island all its own.  Press releases are evolving as well—from a catch-all press document that stands on its own to a key part of the PR toolkit – most effective when part of a “team.”

There’s no “I” in press release.

What Can Brian Williams Do?

The Brian Williams story will ebb and flow until NBC figures out whether it will bring him back to the anchor chair following his six-month suspension, which began in February. As you may recall, Williams, the $10 million man, was disciplined for exaggerating some of his experiences reporting on the Iraq War, among other stories.

Williams has his supporters, not least the eight million nightly viewers he drew to the NBC Nightly News.brian williams

Some of the debate has revolved around Williams’ journalistic credentials or lack thereof.

Sam DiGennaro, founder and CEO of DiGennaro Communications, is in the camp that thinks his journalistic chops are beside the point and argues that this is more of a CRM story—the relationship Williams has with the general public and devoted viewers.

She writes on the Forbes Leadership blog that Williams’ situation is a cautionary tale for everyone: “In the age of social media, public and private citizens alike, not to mention brands, are at risk of being pilloried at any moment,” and offers some steps the anchor man can take to restore the public’s trust in his personal brand.

Oh, the Wonders (and Limitations) of Periscope

We’re mad about technology at DGC, always casting an eye toward how to use new platforms to tell our clients’ stories. Right now, our obsession is Periscope, the Twitter app that enables users to live-stream content directly to your followers on Twitter.

CNN, The Weather Channel and Coca-Cola are among the myriad entities taking advantage of Periscope and its closest competitor, Meerkat, to offer viewers behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive access and content that makes you feel as if you’re truly part of the story.  Live-stream technology makes our jobs as communicators so much more interesting and offers us a platform to engage more deeply with our clients and audiences.

Some of the ways we can take advantage of these new platforms:

  • Broadcast your news: If appropriate, find a way to live-stream your next big announcement to a global audience on Twitter. Forego the press release and use Periscope to break news in a more engaging, conversational format.
  • Bring your audience in: Use Periscope to share content, engage with a live-audience and start a dialogue with them.
  • Intimate access: A live-stream is a great way for your C-level executive to connect with an audience.

Beware, however, that you don’t livestream owned content lest you draw the quizzical wrath of business titans like New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

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