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.

Celebrity endorsement in advertising is nothing new. From the long time strategy adopted by brands such as Lux who pioneered female celebrity endorsement or Pepsi’s relationship with pop culture in their ‘Taste of the New Generation’ platform, to the more contemporary usage of celebrities by brands such as Mandarin Oriental’s ‘I’m a fan’ campaign. The use of celebrity used to be about helping to shape the brand positioning (as in the case of the Lux being the choice of ‘stars’ and Pepsi’s association with the ‘New Generation’), or in some cases, purely as an awareness exercise.

In Asia, celebrity endorsements had long been a ‘formula’ favoured by brands aiming to achieve an instant fame, from China, India to Japan, often without much careful consideration of the compatibility of the celebrity’s persona with the brand’s image. Every Bollywood star has a product to endorse, and every Japanese whisky has a Hollywood star in a talking head commercial. That’s probably the reason why in the past when a client said they wanted to use a celebrity in the upcoming campaign, it almost always signified the beginning of a formulated creative process.

To a certain extent, this has changed.

The recent trend for brands to associate with celebrities indicates both a changing nature of ‘celebrity’ and the practice of ‘endorsements’. Celebrities are no longer just the face or simply play an acting part in a commercial. In fact they are now hired as creative directors. Some of the recent appointments include:

  • Justin Timberlake for BudLight Platinum
  • Alisha Keys for Blackberry
  • Marc Jacobs for Diet Coke
  • Will.i.am for Intel
  • Lady Gaga for Polaroid

Here are some of their own words in response to their appointments:

Some of them are more credible, as in the case of Will.i.am who actually carries the title of Director of Innovation and reportedly holds an Intel fellowship at the company’s HQ in Santa Clara to constantly dream up innovative ideas, working in collaboration with Intel’s futurist Brain David Johnson. This seems to me one of the more successful collaboration. For other, it could well be just another ‘form’ of celebrity endorsement.

However, one thing is for certain, celebrities are no longer one-dimensional and with their ability to generate ‘content’ in the digital space, it’s where the potential begins. And when brands are moving towards acting as ‘publishers’, the need for relevant and quality content is paramount. When BudLight announced Justin Timberlake’s appointment they said he will ‘provide creative, musical and cultural curation for the brand’ while Justin Timberlake said he is ‘looking forward to not only being a part of the creative process, but in bringing other talented musicians to the forefront as well.’ Could that mean the brand’s future involvements on platforms such as MySpace? Let’s wait and see.

Will the trend of ‘celebrity creative directors’ adapt well in your market? What are the differences in terms of the driving force behind it and its effectiveness? I would like to know.

With all the best creative works in the world, hundreds of hours of seminars, forums, workshops, screenings, not to mention the chance to catch up with creatives from all cultures (and scanning QR codes on each other’s name tag), Cannes Lions remain the definitive global event that the whole industry converge, debate and celebrate. ‘Rethinking’, ‘redefining’ are the usual buzzwords at Cannes. It’s a time to take stock of what we do and what it means to us, to our clients and to the industry as a whole.

Here are a few personal favourites, takeaways and observations.

Diverse talents

Every year, the winning works in Cannes often lead to healthy debates and discussions. This year, the most talked about winning works were from some of the most diverse talents.

Ogilvy Shanghai’s entry entitled ‘#CokaHands’ that won the agency a Grand Prix in the outdoor category was designed by Jonathan Mak, a 20-year-old Hong Kong designer. Some people questioned what the agency’s involvement in the creation of the work and whether ‘co-creation’ deserved to win in Cannes. The truth is, creative ideas can now come from absolutely anywhere. The role of creative directors is increasingly becoming a ‘curator’ of talents or a ‘conductor’ of ideas from various disciplines. The power of an idea sometimes depends on the content created by the crowd. It wouldn’t surprise me that in the future there will be an award dedicated to the public.

Connected thinking

In the past few years, digital had been the hot topic. This year, it’s all about ‘content’. The Festival afterall, had been renamed as the ‘Festival of Creativity’ for many years and it now covers creativity across all disciplines. This year the Festival had added new categories including ‘Branded Content and Entertainment Lions’ and ‘Mobile Lions’. For ‘Branded Content’, it was defined as “the creation of, or natural integration into, original content by a brand”. The new categories reflect the diverse formats of the creative content being created, making sure the Festival remain relevant to the evolution of the industry.

The conventional ‘art director + copywriter’ creative team structure is also becoming obsolete. In order to create truly innovative solution for clients it’s more common for creatives to be teamed up or partnered with technology strategists, or in some cases, producers in the entertainment business.

I feel strongly that the new breed of creative talents will all have the natural capability of ‘connected thinking’, and integrated approach will be at the heart of everything we do. Just look at the Grand Prix winner in the ‘Ambient’ category entitled ‘The Invisible Drive’ promoting the Mercedes-Benz F-CELL hydrogen-powered car. The outcome was that the big idea connected with consumers as wide as social media, PR and mobile channels. Ambient or mobile is no longer the ‘peripheral’ media but in some cases they become the key to integrate other touch points.

Another remarkable example of truly cross-disciplinary thinking was Nike+’s Fuelband, which Stefab Olander said in his presentation, that the products and services had become the marketing. Bob Greenberg of R/GA described Nike is a ‘functionally integrated’ company that offer ‘seamless, interconnected services and experiences, not just products’. This way of thinking will become the DNA of future brand architecture, and naturally influences how we as creatives tackle the challenge.

Democratisation of content

A couple of years ago, when MOFILM started to challenge the industry by introducing a new content-based democracy, inviting film production talents from all over the world to crack the creative brief and produce content for big brands, a lot of us were sceptical about the practice. Was it just a trend? Was it created out of brand’s desire to shop around for ideas and driving down production costs? Today, it all seems to make perfect sense. Not only has it met the demanding nature of the explosion of multi-screen channels, it actually turned out to be a totally viable model to unite production talents from creative agency, film and the music industry. Clients also become more involved and actively participating in the creative process. But I think the most exciting development is in nurturing new talents. The ‘Welcome to the industry’ initiative from MOFILM, has already starting to break down the barriers within an industry historically being dominated by a few big giant production houses.

Clients believe in magic

In one of the Cannes stories showcased in Cannes, Sir Martin Sorrell said ‘creativity is what makes clients’ precious marketing budget goes further’. Cannes has always served an instrumental value of promoting the passion of creativity not just among creative teams but also among clients. It’s an opportunity for clients to witness why creating and producing good work matters to us, and how we could work together to build trust and empathy towards meeting each other’s objectives.

In the seminar ‘Can your Client Be Your Friend?’ Joel Ewanick of GM and Jeff Goodby demonstrated what’s the perfect client agency relationship is. When your client starts a conversation and you complete the sentence, that’s good partnership. An agency is not a ‘service provider’ but someone to help connecting the dots.

Local creativity shines

The international representation of the delegates has boosted the importance of local creativity. Local creative talents had been given the opportunity to showcase the unique creative approach that often creatives from other culture do not understand. Brazil had set up their design focused showcase, China Advertising Association promoted the creative culture through mobile technology, production house from Russia and digital group from Thailand all tried to take advantage of the opportunity to reach out to international creatives. Mexico had even erected their ‘pop-up’ venue just across the street from the Palais with the aim to welcome clients and creative talents who like to know more about the market.

Among all the seminars, Korea made a point about their ‘cultural assets’ with the recent success of K-Pop phenomenon, and Japan took to the stage and shared with us the success story behind the global icon of Hello Kitty being localised for different markets. Julian Boulding from the Networkone continued to showcase work of independent creative agencies from China to Spain and Sweden, the presentation not only was about sharing the great work coming from independent agencies, but also the unique approaches that reflect their local culture. My favourite, however, was the local pride demonstrated by R. Balki, Chairman and CCO of Lowe Lintas India and Shekhar Kapur, Oscar nominated director. Balki firmly believed that the desire of India is to remain India, and when he said ‘Where there is a difference, there is a creative interest’ he addressed the issue of global advertising head on. I salute to that.

Creativity for good

There has been much talk in recent times about how the advertising industry should use our wealth of creativity to help change people’s behavior for the benefit of the world. That message was amplified when former President Bill Clinton gave a heart-felt and compelling talk in Cannes. Not only did his insight and global context made the case impressively, the topic was also timely and very much in line with the current trend of ‘building brands for good’. He also pinpointed our role as creatives is to spread the information and get it right. He said “A lot of the facts that will form the trends of the future are not apparent to people. The communicators will have a profound influence on how the next 20-30 years will turn out…People need honest communication. You can do that.”

Indeed, some of the freshest ideas that won in this year’s Festival were rooted from a desire to create something meaningful and useful for people. Examples like the Chipotle’s ‘Back to the Start’ film combined with the brand’s Cultivate Foundation. The ‘Unhate’ print work from Benetton connects the brand with social responsibility.

The cream of the crop I think clearly goes to the ‘Help Memories Bandages campaign’ created by Droga5. The campaign had turned marrow registration as a part of an everyday act by putting a marrow registry kit into a box of Help Remedies bandages.

A standing ovation

In an industry that brings in fresh new talents every year, it’s important that we pay respect to the gurus who had shaped the idea of great advertising over the years. This year Google’s ‘Re: Brief’ project had done exactly that. The project aimed to challenge whether the most iconic advertising campaigns can be ‘re-imagined’ for a modern audience. We had the chance to meet Paula Green, the original copywriter who authored the Avis slogan ‘We Try Harder’ and Harvey Gabor, the art director who helped to make the Coca-Cola ‘Hilltop’ TVC a global success. Google’s objective of this campaign was to prove that digital channels could extend any big ideas in innovative ways. For us, witnessing the collaboration between the legendary creatives and the bright young things was simply a joy. By applying fresh thinking, innovative creative ideas sometimes could be born out of genius adaptation. No wonder at the end of the seminar, the adland legends received a standing ovation from the audience.

Before it all becomes distant memories, what are your best bits of this year’s Cannes Festival? I like to hear from you.

I will also expand some of these themes in future blogs and apply insights from a local perspective, please join in the discussions.

Apart from a few obvious global giants, few brands establish dominant positions in multiple markets. Often this has become one of the main challenges for brands to create one single global creative platform.

There are a number of reasons behind it. Different perception and taste of the product is one, what I call the ‘marmite effect’. Or the product could simply be reaching a totally different product life cycle in each local market. Orangina is one such example.

When Miss O meets Tora-san

In France, the brand began its production in 1963 and has been so established that, arguably, it has become a lifestyle brand. In its popular advertising featuring the classic Orangina Rouge to the controversial ‘furry animals’ campaign back in 2008 through to the most recent ‘Miss O’ creative platform, it’s all about creating buzz and keeping the brand fresh and current in the mind of consumers. It’s what’s outside that counts!

In the new series of spots by Fred & Farid Paris directed by Joseph Kahn, the lady wolf is portrayed as a heartbreaker, in “Working late” she lies to her wimpy boyfriend and then in “Dump”, she breaks up with him in a very public way. The work, centred around the wolf, who is Miss O, asks you who really is the boss when it comes to relationships.

The local culture also provides a perfect playground for such creative platform to flourish, share and engage. The tagline “C’est qui le sexe fort?” (creatively adapted as “Who is the boss” or literally means “Which is the strong sex?”). Interestingly, the French consumers with GSOH are not steered to take the message literally, and the creative idea was instantly recognised, accepted and embraced.

On the other side of the globe in Japan, Suntory acquired the Orangina brand in 2009 and the new-look Orangina replacing the classic pear-shaped bottle was just launched in March. As a relatively new brand in the market, being French has its advantage. The recent ‘Toro-san’ campaign featuring Richard Gere rides on that ‘foreignness’ and was distinctively designed for that market.

In the launch commercial, Richard Gere appears as Tora-san, the lovable ‘loser’ in Shochiku’s very popular 48-film series of Japanese comedy movies entitled 『男はつらいよ』(It’s Tough Being a Man). Not only is he a contemporary adaptation of the original character played by Kiyoshi Atsumi, the commercials also use the same iconic music “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo” from the series.

The original Tora-san in 『男はつらいよ』:

The underlying message is that the brand is a western idea adapting within the framework of the Japanese culture. By riding on the character of Tora-san who is famous for being a bumbling Mr. Everyman, gives the brand personality a distinctive western dimension.

George Field wrote in his book “From Bonsai to Levis” (1983), and commented that in Japan culture, contrary to the stereotype, the woman is the boss (in the context that Japanese women control the purse strings in the family and are well positioned to occupy the seat of power).

There is an intriguing irony between the dominating ‘Miss O’ and humble ‘Tora-san’ here. Though I have a feeling that it is just a happy co-incidence, I cannot help but imagine what if ‘Tora-san’ meets ‘Miss O’, could that be a marriage made in heaven?

Could that be a cross-border joint production and creative adaptation?

One might argue that going for a completely localised approach, it means that it will be a long way when Orangina can create a truly global brand that captures a common language as in the case of some other globally aligned beverage brands.

For the time being, the brand may not be able to take advantage of the costs efficiency enjoyed by creating a centralized global idea that many marketers aim for, but they certainly give the brand an opportunity to grow with the local market at the right time, in the right place. This also reinforces the belief that there is no single, optimal answer to the question of how to manage a global brand.