A Sweet Act of Creative Generosity

Most challenges modern agencies face stem from how we, as an industry, spent decades devaluing our one, singular asset: creativity. We gave it away for years since we earned our margins in media markups.

This worked fine, until it didn’t. By the time broadband and mobile fragmented the media landscape into a thousand platforms, we had trained clients not to pay for the one thing we truly own. And the results have not been pretty.

It’s a situation made worse by creative people themselves. We tend to underprice our own product, accepting lower compensation due to our sheer love of making things. That’s why a story last Saturday involving a creative team from Wong Doody LA made me smile so much. Call it “The Saved Quinceañera.”

The creative team was prepping a massive video and still shoot down in Houston with Patrick Molnar, a nationally-recognized, professional lifestyle photographer. As they worked in the museum district off Rice University, producer Amy Wise noticed a group of teenagers posing around a fountain as family members snapped photos with their phones. Being curious and outgoing (invaluable traits in an agency producer), Amy quickly learned it was Jasmine’s quinceañera–the traditional celebration of a fifteen year old girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood. Unfortunately, the large bus they had rented for their celebration hit a curb and blew a tire, setting them back a few hours. By the time they arrived at the park for their shoot, their photographer had given up and left.

And yes, the movie-of-the-week scene you are currently imagining in your head is exactly what happened next. Amy told the creative team, the creative team told Patrick, and within minutes, a major professional photographer was lining up shots of the young woman and her court, saving the day with a level of professionalism far beyond anything the family might have imagined. For no other reason other than it was fun, and it would brighten this girl’s day, transforming disappointment into delight.

The whole experience lasted less than fifteen minutes, but in that time, Patrick squeezed off bursts, insuring he’d have lots of selects to choose from, which he did later that night, retouching frames in the hotel bar.

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Unretouched photo courtesy of Patrick Molnar.

Creative people get into the business for the joy of making things. On Saturday afternoon, they didn’t make an ad or a piece of content or a digital experience; they simply made someone’s day. And in this case, that feeling was compensation enough. Well done Matt Burgess, Vanessa Witter, Callie Householder, Amy, and Patrick.

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Creativity Will Save Advertising. Again.

I know, I know–it’s too late; advertising’s already dead. Digital/social/experiential/big data killed it…

The only problem is this constant, dire drumbeat sounds juicy, it creates alarm, but it’s mostly just opinion or self-promotion. It’s clickbait.

If you want facts, follow the money. In the most recent case, digital entertainment powerhouse Netflix bid $300m to buy Regency Outdoor Advertising.

That’s right, the disruptive, disintermediating, digital content giant wants to buy a billboard company.

Their motivation is fascinating. Netflix noticed that big outdoor imagery stokes social sharing. People posted lots of shots of their “Netflix is a joke” campaign to Instagram which promoted their comedy line-up.

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In other words, people share great creative.

These days, $300m might not sound like an earth-shattering number, but it represents the largest acquisition in Netflix history. Imagine; a leading digital giant offering to pay one third of a billion dollars on a oft-declared dying medium…a smart company wouldn’t do that unless they knew it worked.

And that’s a fact.

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This post originally appeared in Screen Magazine.

Today’s Example of How Creativity Pays

Ad agencies struggle to convince clients to pay for creativity, mostly because we gave it away for years, trusting television’s healthy margins to more than cover the cost of development. And so we inadvertently devalued our industry’s one core asset that spans medium and format: the idea.

Which is why it’s so fun to hear the story of Max Lanman, who recently decided to help his girlfriend sell her car online. Actually, he used her old Honda to produce his idea of making a luxury car commercial around a junky car. Her vehicle was one of a whopping 382,298 Accords produced in 1996, but now, twenty one years and 141,000 miles later, her “Greenie” shows its age…

The thing is, this spot’s fun but not especially hilarious. A similar used car ad spoof featured on this blog back in May used outsized visual effects to far more hysterical effect. Yet the simple fact that Max took the time, made the effort, and did something delightfully unexpected in a tired, uninspiring venues made his work shine.

It also paid off handsomely. Kelley’s Blue Book values the Honda at just over $1400. After posting the spot on YouTube last Thursday, Max and his girlfriend listed the Accord on eBay for $500.

By the weekend, the bidding hit $150,000, and eBay took the listing down, understandably concerned about “illegitimate bidding.”

Now it’s back up and bidding currently hovers around $4300: almost ten times their initial asking price and well above the Blue Book value. All because of Max’s creative idea and approach.

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eBay also released this statement: “Mr. Lanman is a talented filmmaker and we’re pleased that the eBay platform brought us together. We’re hoping to work on some creative video projects with him in the future.

Wow. Nice work Max. Well played.

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Five Reasons Why Every Brand Should Be Using Video…Presented on Video

Okay, so it’s a wee bit longer than sixty seconds, but the points remain…

For anyone who prefers written lists, here they are:

  1. Four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Source: Animoto
  2. Viewers recall over 90% of a message after watching it on video, as opposed to 10% from reading text. Source: insivia
  3. Embedding video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%. Source: Eyeview  (Self-imposed time constraints prevented me from sharing the other big number: video makes your site 53% more likely to show up on Google’s page one.)
  4. Visual content–particularly video–is forty times more likely to get shared.  Source: Buffer
  5. Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.  Source: Aberdeen Group

As you may have noticed, I’m particularly fond of number five. That’s basically a mic drop for video…

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Photo credit: Jakob Owens

Where The Wild Things Are Today

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps you too share my sinking suspicion that all this AI, all this data and machine learning, will ultimately create little more than the world’s most brilliantly optimized classified ads.

Oh they’ll be effective ads—remarkably so. They will forge an unprecedented level of tactical and transactional effectiveness. They will optimize the context of a wide variety of consumer journeys, they will weight the messaging hierarchy, they will include nearly infinite personalization integrated directly into the consumer experience.

They will do all these amazing, innovative, unheard of things every minute of every hour without ever taking a sick day or leaving for a new opportunity.

But they won’t fire human imaginations with the white hot power of pure delight. Continue reading

The Best Business Development Plan is Great Work

Creative enterprises develop business three ways: through personal relationships, by expanding existing relationships, and by attracting new clients. And the best way to attract new clients is with great, noticed work.

Digital Kitchen has a considerable creative legacy, but like anything of value, it requires constant maintenance and upkeep. So when we’re not producing a lot of work, our reputation dims.

Great, ambitious work must always be our focus because it attracts great, ambitious clients, the ones looking to innovate beyond expectations.

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Iteration Is Not “First to be Second,” It’s First To Be Next

Advertising creativity values originality above all. Firsts have long been considered its highest expression.

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In less than two months, we’ve already been through lots of iteration.

But that’s so last millennium. One of the best aspects of digital development is its embrace of fast iteration; whether that means improving your own idea or someone else’s. Fast-following is not copying; it’s adapting and learning in real time.

Back in the mid-90’s we all used the AltaVista search engine. Two years later, Larry and Sergei introduced their own search engine, which added popularity ranking based on backlinks. Now the platform they iterated is so omnipresent it’s become a verb.

We believe today’s creative agencies must make a practice of fast-following and fast-adapting. As choices for platforms and technology-enabled executions expand at exponential rates, we must keep learning and reviewing, simply to keep pace with what’s possible, what’s been tried, and how it’s worked. We need to be heat-seekers, because that helps our clients engage with relevant immediacy. And makes our ideas louder.

Happily, the endless waterfall of information shared on the web make this not just possible, but inspiring. So every client deck we present cites breakthrough ideas from other places and other agencies that inspire our iterations to solve the problems at hand.

Building ideas on proven foundations provides a measure of assurance when the stakes are high.

And these days, when aren’t they?

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Inundata: We Have Infinite, Immediate Information, So Why Don’t I Feel Smarter?

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonYep, “inundata.” I just made that word up; coined it without consulting Merriam or Webster, Funk or Wagnalls, Strunk or White. I didn’t invent it because the world needed a new noun, but because I needed some way to describe the intellectual slippage I feel daily, trying to keep up with the crushing flow of breaking news and fresh research and relevant posts–the whole Force Five intensity of the mobile information superhighway that’s never far from hand.

But the critical distinction is that what we live with today is a blitzkrieg of data, not actual knowledge.

I don’t believe we are smarter, I think we’re more distracted.

I don’t think we multi-task, I think we do more things with less commitment.

And I truly don’t believe any of us are wiser despite today’s omnipresence of information. We have always been able to find or conjure data to support whatever belief we hold. It may not stand up to the rigors of the scientific method, but it doesn’t need to; we’re not scientists. At least, most of us aren’t.

Which is why we should all take time to stop and make art. We should all try things, create things and play. Because in the end, creativity is the human data that defines ourselves.

Oh, and it’s also why every brand needs a really well thought out search strategy.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Creativity In Everyday Situations, Redux

At the end of last month, I posted a photo of the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis where someone took the time to add a little zip to the otherwise purely functional movie announcement for Jane Eyre on their marquis.
Apparently, he or she can’t help themselves.  My friend, the towering writer Ross Buchanan, visited his old stomping grounds in the Twin Cities this weekend for a bar mitzvah.  On the way back to the hotel from the synagogue, he snapped the shot posted below, announcing the screening of Kill The Irishman.

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Ross also suggested we might want to hire that guy/girl.

Good point.  And again, well done, movie marquis letter arranger, well done…

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON

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