There are certain debates that seem almost impossible to have a conclusion.

…Left brain versus right brain.

…Is advertising an art or a science?

…Is technology an enabler of creativity or in fact leading to predictable solutions?

…Data versus creativity?

With digital media gaining credibility through archiving highly measurable results, marketers are convinced that ‘Big Data’ will be the number one item on the CEO’s agenda in 2013.

On the other hand, creative folks continuously argue that data kills creativity. In a recent conference organized by Thinkbox in the UK, top creative directors and planners expressed their concerns that creative ideas are often ‘over analysed and pasteurised’.

In the US, leading creatives from interactive agencies even think that ‘data driven creative equals mediocre creative’, since it only encourage risk avoidance. Data does not equal to insight.

At Spikes Asia 2012, a panel of media professionals advocated that ‘data-led creativity is more than just hype, it’s the future’.

While at the Cannes Festival of Creativity 2012, a session hosted by Adobe was entitled ‘Is data killing creativity?’

The strong themes coming through from the session were that a balance needs to be achieved between the two. Data can identify the questions, but creativity must answer them and data must NEVER replace instinct.

Which side are you on?

The answer? There is no black and white conclusion.

What I believe is that data will only gain increasingly important and be considered as part of the tools to verify future direction and strategy. We will all be given much more access to data in more forms. Click-through rate, engagement rate, video playtime, the lists go on and new buzzwords being invented everyday.

When was the last time you attended a presentation either from creatives or strategists, that not a single data was mentioned as support of any argument?

However, data is not always the most powerful piece of evidence that can effectively strengthen any argument. As simple and straightforward as these little ‘evidence’ promise to be, if not used carefully, can create more problems than they solve. Of course there is also the critical cultural differences, what works in one culture does not necessarily mean the same data will apply in another market.

As creatives, instead of fighting against it, we should be more inclusive. We should interrogate it, understand the context around it, learn how to read data and use it wisely. We should also know how to interpret it in the context of the culture and adapt it to make it relevant for the specific brand and local market. Use data as raw materials to transform into innovative campaign platform, like the recent Topshop campaign I have talked about in previous blog. Elevate big creative ideas to ‘smart creative platform’ drawing on insights from data.

Planners, on the other hand, should make sure we are not relying on what had been a hit and success as evidenced by historical data, for that will only lead to me-too creative ideas. We need foresights not mere hindsight.

In one word, it’s teamwork.

At the Advertising Week Europe conference next week, there will be a presentation by Yahoo on the ‘Power of Personalisation’. Let’s see how we can use data to fuel creativity rather than killing it.

If there were two essential ingredients in creating brand content today, it will certainly be ‘participation’ and ‘sharing’.

Ford announced an updated Fiesta social media initiative that will invite content generated by users. It will not be just a one off promotion but apparently a yearlong activity. It will also be the very first ‘innovative ad campaign created entirely by consumers’ according to the press release from Ford.

Tweet_Ford Fiesta movement

It’s in fact an updated version of the ‘Fiesta Movement’ first debuted in 2009, when thousands of consumers submitted entries to be chosen as one of 100 ‘influencers’ given the keys to a Fiesta for 6 months. These Fiesta ‘influencers’ completed monthly challenges, posted video and blogged about their experiences. The videos can still be found on the current youtube channel.

Ford_become celeb

The updated campaign for the 2014 launch is called a ‘social remix’. On the dedicated website, Ford invites people to ‘Join the movement’. There will be 100 ‘social influencers’ being selected as ‘Ford Fiesta Agents’. The ‘Agents’ will be supplied with a Ford Fiesta and a camera. Curated ‘content’ will be shared through a mix of paid media, social media and experiential events so they can become ‘celebs of the social space’.

It seems to have ticked all the boxes. Elements of participation, user-generated content, channels for sharing, are all contained. What remains is the question of how the process of participation and sharing create meaning for the brand.

Perhaps it’s exactly for this reason, that the new ‘movement’ has some additional refinements:

  • A small percentage of the ‘Agents’ will be reserved for celebrities, current Fiesta owners and alumni, potentially ensuring the quality of the user-generated content to a certain degree.
  • There will be a ‘theme’ each month and a particular mission for the theme. The monthly themes are intended to highlight different features of the Fiesta – essentially acting as a ‘brief’ given to the ‘Agents’.
  • Ford will also partner with American Idol, the Summer X Games and the Bonoaroo Music Festival. Fiesta ‘Agents’ will be given inside access to these events.

The biggest change from the original format is that the new Fiesta Movement will generate ALL of the TV, print and digital advertising for the 2014 Fiesta launch over the summer. Which also means WPP agency Team Detroit will have to use the agents produced materials to create advertising content, potentially redefining the role that a creative agency plays in the process.

It may be unwise to assume people will automatically share any content their peers put out. And the new format seems to have defeated the original purpose of letting the Millennials speak their minds. It would be interesting to see how this campaign unfolds.

I will also like to understand the potential of this initiative being rolled out internationally, from the initial reactions on their twitter feeds I have already observed some interests from consumers from as far as India and Canada, given the global reach of social media I feel that is something we should not neglect. How can this be adapted for your market? Feel free to share with me your ideas.

Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days and dates around the world. But in almost every culture, mothers play an important role in the family. Brands understand that, and will take every good opportunity to win over their hearts.

In the Chinese culture, women often are the ultimate decision maker in anything related to the household. Here’s a brilliant analyses of this insight from Tom Doctoroff:

Despite Mao’s famous saying that women hold up half the sky, even “liberated” female consider their role inside the home paramount. In the West, working mothers struggle with balancing career and family satisfaction. In China, the battle is much less fierce; the kid wins, hands down…So, to bond with your female “head of the household” target, tell her she is really really needed. Without her, there would be no family harmony.

In America, mothers don’t really want to see the “perfect mom” in advertising. They consider that the image of perfection is frustrating to watch, rather than aspirational. Kate Reddy, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It only exists in fairy-tales. On the other hand, if brands portray the “real mom” image, it is too close to home – a reminder of the frustrations, rather than a positive view. However, one thing they have in common – they all want to see a positive image that shows the brand delivering a realistic improvement in their life.

In the Thai culture, where people in urban families rarely show their love to each other publicly, a commercial by DATC (see below) made it even more inspiring, and in a way, started a ‘movement’ in the local market.

From food, financial services, retail, communication products to public service; and from China, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil to the UK, this emotion works unfailingly. When executed well and honestly, the effect could be very powerful.

At the time when we celebrate Mother’s Day, I would like to share with you some of the commercials from different countries that capture this sentiment.

I also love to hear from you if there are any great campaigns describing the love of mothers that reflect the unique culture of your country.

John Lewis, United Kingdom

LamSoon, Hong Kong

DTAC, Thailand

Thai Life Insurance (Mae Toi), Thailand

TE AMO (I LOVE YOU), Brazil, Singapore

Note: This public service spot was directed by the award winning film director, Yasmin Ahmad.

▼Bud Light “Wedding Dress”

▼Oxo Cubes: Remember Preston

▼Calbee Cappa Chips: That’s Life

Heinz Baked Beans: Margaret

Tesco: Cheerful Sole

*Special thanks to Helena Rosario from Portugal and Nattavut Leekulpitak from Thailand who sent me their favourite commercials.

Happy Mother’s Day. Wherever you are.

The Creative Effectiveness Lions, the new category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, will be debuted this year. It was reported that the category had received 142 entries from 33 countries.

According to the Cannes committee, this new category aims to reward work that has shown a ‘measurable’ and ‘proven’ impact on a client’s business by affecting consumer behaviour, brand equity, sales, and where identifiable, profit. Entries will be judged for strategy (25%), idea (25%) and results (50%).

It came as no surprise that it has already generated quite a lot of debate around it. Cannes has always been traditionally a celebration of creativity but I do believe that talking about effectiveness is an indication that the industry is recognising the value that we bring to brands. With clients increasingly focusing on return on investment these days, no creatives can really forget about how the campaign performs, so it is a natural development that this category is being created. Not only will it give credibility to the creative work that will be awarded and more important, to keep the award show relevant to the ‘currency’ of the industry at the moment. (It could also be a marketing tactics to attract a broader audience in varied disciplines including procurement.)

I am in particularly interested to hear about the debate on the definition of ‘effectiveness’. Is it about engagement level? Actual sales? What about buzz? And if it’s digital work, is it about clickthroughs or ‘eyeballs’?

Another aspect of it is who should be awarded for this category, is it just the creative teams or in some cases, the communications planner, or even the client?

I am also keen to see how different market perceive effectiveness and whether the award allows those ‘dark horse’ countries being awarded for what they deserve.

I bet the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lion won’t produce clear winners everyone will agree with. It’s not the point. But may be just the opportunity to debate about what ‘Creative Effectiveness’ means is already the beginning.

For those who will be attending this year’s festival, I look forward to exchanging views with you.