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The meaning of ‘creative’

What does creative mean?
What a question.
Ideally, creative is something one just is, without any lengthy discussion.
However, if I must.
Here goes:

Creative is new, unpredictable, capricious.
A smartass take on this is that being creative is a paradox. It is the meaningful combination of things which do not belong together.
And then you suddenly just get it.

The word “meaningful” is important. Randomly combining thoughts, feelings and forms usually ends in confusion. Creative combinations on the other hand must make sense – but ideally not until they are in the mind of the consumer. If he or she completes the chain of thought, decodes the ultimate meaning of a film or a picture then, test institutes please take note, the effect is much stronger than when everything is pre-digested.

Actually, “consumer” is a word that I don’t really like to use. Yes, ultimately, advertising is concerned with selling, but the more messages rain down upon us “consumers” the more we only take heed of the relevant ones. That can be the much-quoted “right product at the right time in the right medium”. Programmatic is the key word here. However, the crucial factor is that the better a message is packaged, the stronger – again – the effect. I prefer to side with “Saint” Sir John Hegarty, and refer to “the public” rather than to “consumers”. We want to sell to consumers. We want to entertain the public. What is good is that a well-entertained public buys more than a well-informed public. After all, we speak of a “buying mood”.

What is good entertainment in a creative form? It’s more than just fun. It’s a new, stimulating thought, for example. A new perspective on life, giving rise to the observation, “Wow, I’ve never really looked at that in that way before”. That is what we remember, that’s what we like to tell other people about.

Good creation thrives on strong feelings. Being enthused, touched, unsettled, buoyed up, amused, everything that moves you. Tedious lists of information do not move me. I am moved by good stories which end with a surprise. Human stories which turn my prejudices and my neatly ordered thoughts inside out and upside down, which develop a dynamic of their own, never to serve their own purpose but that of the brand. This is easy to say, but damn difficult to realise every day.

Of course, creative also means unyielding, untiring and tough. Here’s a good thought: it is not ideas which set good creatives apart from bad ones but their refusal to give up.

P.S. I’m quite proud that I didn’t use the current buzzwords “disruptive”, “diversity” and “digital transformation” a single time in this text. But if you need to, my dear public, just add them mentally where appropriate and then you too will get it. 😉

This article was published in German at W&V.

Does data-driven advertising make good old-fashioned ‘reach’ redundant?

Andrea Malgara talks before his participation at the “Jahreskongress Digitalmarketing 2017” with the Management Forum about the relation of data-driven advertising and the good old-fashioned reach.

Why we urgently need better ways to advertise online

A skyscraper here, a billboard there and more often than not a layer ad between them: on an online page which, let’s say, does not have the needs of its users 100% at heart, it is easy to feel as if you were standing in a side street just off Times Square, with bright lights flashing on and off everywhere you look. It is not surprising that exasperated users turn away. Of course there is advertising elsewhere; in some publications there appears to be even more than on an online news page. However, the distribution of content and ads usually seems tidier and less insistent. It goes without saying that magazines and websites impose completely different layout constraints – but it must nevertheless be possible for advertising material to meet certain standards in the digital environment. Marketers promise high-quality advertising spaces. This is what users want, but the reality is sometimes still reminiscent of an overcrowded funfair.

It is high time for a digital spring (summer) clean. And that means all of us: marketers, advertisers, creative and media agencies. Let’s wave a gradual but final goodbye to advertising as an alien component in design. The optimum user experience should be the paramount consideration online as well as elsewhere. Flagrantly over-used pop-ups have exactly the opposite effect, as do traditional rectangular formats with an appearance and a content which bear little relation to the editorial.

In this online age, relevance is the be all and end all; this should apply not only to content, but also to the aesthetics of advertising. Rule number one: be polite. If I want to persuade consumers to buy my product, I should not be distracting them repeatedly as they read. We must find a way to attract attention without intruding. At the same time, we need balance. Rule number two: online advertising should occupy as much space as possible. Few creatives can really show what they are capable of on 200 x 300 pixels. Sticky Dynamics are a positive feature for use on desktops. Large-format ads which move as the user scrolls and which ideally are enhanced with moving elements but which do not break into the editorial content.

For me, the balance between target group, advertisement and editorial content is another consideration when placing large-format advertising designed to avoid irritation. In print media, advertisers can adjust their advertisement to suit the editorial plan. Although online articles are a much more short-term affair, in these times of big data the maxim “content is king” still holds true. Polite advertising means making the target group in each situation an offer: “You are reading an article about mountaineering. If you still need outdoor equipment for the season, this is the place for you.” Ideally, advertisers will use multitab advertising materials so that users can browse through what’s on offer without leaving the site they are on. In theory, it should be possible for a complete customer journey, including finalising a sale, to take place within a multitab advertising environment.

All content streaming formats function as well as they can on mobile end devices. Content and advertising are clearly distinguished and users can just scroll away from the ads. Generally speaking, every advertisement which does not need to be clicked away is a step in the right direction. This is because most of the clicks on many layer ads accumulate because some users fail to hit the X for closing the advertisement.

Furthermore, smartphones by their nature offer quite different functionality from desktops – interactive move formats such as shake ads, 3-D ads and panorama ads use movement of the smartphone to provide entertaining interaction and a completely new and surprising brand experience for users.

So, dear industry, let’s get to work! We urgently need to improve the quality of online advertising formats, because, unfortunately, the current standard still sometimes borders on highway robbery. The good news is that this seems to be recognised to some extent. For example, BURDA Forward’s “Goodvertising Initiative” is spearheading more user-friendly advertising. Striking evidence of implementation of this strategy is the change in the layout of Focus Online which deserves to be mentioned. The website’s original three-column basic layout has been replaced by a substantially more sophisticated two-column approach.

Excellent editorial content deserves innovative, high-quality and, above all, user-friendly advertising material – which, incidentally, can probably be sold for a higher price than a fairground bargain stall. If we can’t do this, then we know what the alternative is: users who reach the end of their tether and install adblockers.

This article was also published at W&V.

Mobile Relevance vs. Reactance

The time has come: for the first time, mobile (49.7 percent)  has globally overtaken desktop traffic (45.2 percent). (Mobile traffic mainly refers to smartphones, since the traffic with tablets is just 5 percent.) In Germany, the situation looks somewhat different: desktop traffic (62.8 percent) still dominates in use and mobile here is “only” at about 30 percent. Mobile is, however, also “mass market-ready”. Only the advertising expenses for the mobile sector with a sum of approx. 518 million euro for the year 2016 (source: Nielsen) did by far not reach it at all.

How can it be that the rapid growth in mobile usage figures is still not reflected in the investment, as the strengths of Mobile have long been known? No other medium is so close to the consumer as the mobile phone. This can be seen, for example, in the Google “Mobile Moments Study”, which states that 68 percent of the smartphone owners already use their smartphone 15 minutes after getting up. Push functionality allows the advertisers to actively contact the user, and couponing location information or opening times, for example, provide consumers directly with additional information. Just to mention a few of the advantages.

But what is important also in the mobile area, is a well-made creation adapted to the medium. According to an analysis by GfK , creation is the strongest factor in the success of a campaign. This is the only way to convey relevant messages to the consumer.

Mobile is more likely to do this with large formats and less with 6: 1 advertising. It requires meaningful pictures as well as texts, which have to be briefly and clearly formulated. Videos should work with and without sound and are designed for mobile devices so that their main message is communicated in the first three to five seconds.

Unfortunately, in the mobile area much too often the same errors are made as at the beginning of the desktop communication: what used to be the pop-up in the past, is today the overlay on the smartphone. But an overlay can also work when it is innovative and well-made – if it brings a playful added value in the form of “shaking”, “vibrating” or “wiping”. However, this requires an intelligent implementation by frequency capping. The best creation fades very quickly when the consumer has to click it away several times a day.

The most important rule in all lean forward channels is to not interrupt the users during their active use of their contents. New, usability-compliant formats that are high-performance alternatives to overlays make this possible. The so-called “parallax ads” slowly build up in the background with the scrolling process to an advertising integrated into the content. The user can thus interact with his content and connect it to the advertising medium.
And last but not least: mix it! No media genre unfolds its optimal effect when it stands alone. Only when built in a sensible media mix, each individual channel unfolds to its full extent.

My 5 main issues are therefore:

  • Relevance vs. Reactance: relevance in communication is good, avoidance of irrelevance is mandatory.
  • Mix it! – Combine mobile campaigns with other local media such as Digital Out-of-Home to extend further the local reach.
  • Think Big! – 6: 1 formats are not the future. Rather, the unique added value should be exploited and adapted to the device size.
  • Less is more! – Creative advertising media have had a positive impact on the mobile advertising experience. Messages on mobile devices have to be even more reduced and adapted especially to the size of the advertising media.
  • Don’t disturb! –The user’s behaviour should not be severely interrupted by the advertising. Advertising media should be preferably integrated in the content.

 

Source:

 

Trends 2017: Italy 4.0

2016 has been a good year in terms of the Italian economic upturn, thanks to a government that has made important reforms to work, recruitment and retirement, so (hopefully) we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel: after years of decline and stagnation, in 2016 investment in advertising is expected to grow by 3%.

Media planning is getting ready to capitalise on the opportunities: investments in digital have been growing rapidly in recent years, and in 2017 they are expected to make up a quarter of all communications investments. It’s also worth noting that mobile web has grown to make up more than twice the extent of PC use, and next year will absorb a third of all digital resources. We are experiencing significant developments in live videos, fresh daily content with Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram, and new scenarios such as native advertising and chatbots.

Nonetheless, TV is expected to still play a major role in the landscape, representing half of total investments though with one key difference compared to past situations: forget about wide audiences. In the meantime, unlike TV, other traditional media are not showing any significant signs of evolution. Their trend seems irreversible: fifteen years ago print represented a third of total investment; now it’s only 13%.

In such a challenging scenario, it’s no surprise that Programmatic is increasingly gaining share of use vs. traditional media planning: in Italy, Programmatic spending has grown from €42 million in 2013 to €260 million in 2016. Reports predict that next year Programmatic advertising will be worth €360 million, and €515 million in 2018.

Live videos

Mobile video consumption is forecast to grow by 33% in 2017, and by 27% in 2018, reaching 33.4 minutes a day. In this context, live videos will continue to grow among brands over the next few years. Social media users love to feel “in the moment,” and live videos give them that sense: rather than seeing a recorded event, they want to experience something immediately.

Live events foster engagement. When large groups of people are concurrently watching a live stream, it is a far more social experience than when they watch an on demand video on their own. Social connections and interaction during a live event are very attainable and extremely valuable.

Fresh daily content

Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram offer the chance to tell stories in posts, videos or photos that self-destruct after 24 hours. This means that each company must create fresh daily content for its users.

In addition, this volatility makes any content more interesting and appealing to the eyes of your followers. The knowledge that tomorrow will be too late to take advantage of the experiences, stories or snaps clicked today is dependent on curiosity, and creates urgency around the need to stay up-to-date.

Programmatic buying

In Italy, Programmatic spending has grown from €42 million in 2013 to €260 million in 2016. Reports predict that next year Programmatic advertising will be worth €360 million, and €515 million in 2018. As has already happened in more mature markets, the Italian panorama of Programmatic is becoming increasingly crowded, so in 2017 the big operators will redouble their efforts to increase the efficiency and customisation of their solutions, while clients will continue becoming increasingly aware of the offer.

Native advertising

Ad blocking is a phenomenon that continues to grow in Italy: currently, ad blocker usage is at 13% among PC users, while on smartphones it is at 7.6%. The prevalence of ad blockers is provoking serious reflection on the nature of online advertising. With an average click rate at 0.06%, it is now clear to everyone that online display advertising has to change. And so, native advertising is forecast to grow by 156% in the next 5 years, overwhelming the 52% market share that display advertising in Europe currently has.

Chatbots

Brands are beginning to use artificial intelligence for their customer service. The main advantage from using chat-based assistance is a speedier response, which could reverse the trend of consumers pouring out negative feelings about the company on social media. The Italian startup Responsa has created a Messenger chatbot to offer self-service customer care with high conversational content. The technology combines contextual analysis and natural language algorithms (NLP), ensuring a spontaneous and immersive experience for customers.

YouTuber licensing

In Italy, licensed products represents business worth €3.18 billion, while the global licensed products business hit €214 billion in 2016. A new trend is for “co-branded” YouTuber-licensing. To take one recent example, the Favij nickname, featured on various products, has proved to be a winning formula: the licensed Panini collection has received more than 1 and a half million sales. If at first no one wanted to produce a book with a YouTuber, today they are queuing up for the chance.

Creativity is Matthias Harbeck´s profession and calling

First published in Red Bulletin Innovator.
Interview: Christoph Kristandl

Creativity is elusive. Only too well we know of situations where it abandons us. If we need an idea, if we brood over the solution to a problem – simply nothing comes to mind. It happens. But what if creativity is your occupation? If you have to drive yourself to peak creative performance every day in order to create something new, something as spectacular as possible, and to convey a message as well. And what if it’s a message that nobody wants to see? – Advertising. A conversation with the multiple award-winning Matthias Harbeck.

The Red Bulletin Innovator: You were honoured with more than 600 national and international awards, including 22 Lions in Cannes. Do such honours mean something to you?

Matthias Harbeck: Naturally. If you win a Golden Lion, that’s a feather in your cap. There are people who say that Cannes is something like a parallel society. The true needs of the client would not count for anything there, and it’s a vanity exhibition of creatives who celebrate themselves there. There is even a grain of truth in that. But apart from the fact that quite excellent work from day-to-day business is also honoured in Cannes, you have to view it as similar to prototypes at an auto show or the haute couture of the great fashion shows. What you see there you will never encounter on the street.

Why produce it then?

What’s extremely successful moves the industry forward. Sometimes the idea is so extraordinary, often the technology too. It works with media innovations that can set trends for everyday life.

With what, for example, have you been successful in that regard?

With real-time advertising, for example. With Serviceplan we were able to score a coup with that a few years ago: over 90 minutes of the Champion’s League Match of Arsenal against FC Bayern we switched six 60-second live spots directly into commercial blocks of Free-TV channels. You’re watching normal advertising, for example, on PRO 7, when suddenly an announcement comes, the game is seen live for 40 seconds, and at the end, the Sky-Order Hotline appears, so that in the future you can see such games completely live. The response was huge. Also because, of all things, in one of the slots Lukas Podalski scored the goal which left Arsenal only one down at 1:2!  The idea was relatively simple, but the technical implementation was complex. But that’s the sort of thing we’re attempting: something extraordinary, which makes the industry sit up and take notice and which can then take a pioneering role, too.

What advertising trends can we expect in the coming years?

Consider the films in our newsfeeds on Facebook, where you only hear the sound when you intentionally click. That’s not a trend that comes from advertising, but it changes the thinking of the creatives. You have to succeed in being so good in the first two, three seconds that people click on that video. That also means that the sources of inspiration change. You focus on silent film, for example, and why Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin were so good at it. Perhaps we’ll soon also produce moving images in 15 different versions in order to optimally satisfy users’ differing expectation profiles and to be able to address them digitally in individual ways. And then there are hardly any campaigns that are originally made for the mobile phone screen. That is a big issue.

“Advertising must be so good that, ideally, people even actively search it out.”

How do you deal with the fact that nobody wants to see advertising?

It is a step forward that increasingly we can provide people with customised content. In the past that was not possible technologically. But that does not make good ideas superfluous, on the contrary. More than ever, we have to surprise and involve people through a new kind of staging. The trouble is that we’re in a permanent competition with thousands of advertising messages, indeed, messages of every sort. On top of that is the public’s practised avoidance of advertising. Therefore, the good idea, the great story, the fascinating staging is more important than ever. Advertising must be so good that people don’t want to just see it and share it, but rather, ideally, they even actively search it out because people are talking about it.

With all the staging, doesn’t the product sometimes get left behind?

That is the great challenge. On the one hand, communication has to become ever more entertaining. On the other hand, there are clients who pay for it and say, “Now where is my product that I want to sell?” Just to say that a screw costs 2.99 Euros is not communication, that’s information. You have to do a balancing act: to maintain contact with the brand and at the same time deliver a certain factor of desire.

Cannes 2016 – a summary

Two weeks of Cannes are over – an extremely great, exciting but also exhausting time. Strenuous for the brain and the creative muscle. 25 judges from 25 countries. 25 completely different minds with different views, with statements, inflammatory speeches and discussions; simply fantastic.

My conclusion from the area “Direct”: there weren’t any radical, major trends, but there certainly was a “hidden trend”, namely Gender Equality. This issue is becoming more and more important. No matter whether female, male, transgender or homosexual – every person has the same rights.

This is recognised not only by the NGOs but also more and more Super-Brands are showing a clear stance and taking a stand.
A great example is Doritos:

My other highlights

Snapchat, WhatsApp, mail and Facebook … That all trends in communications bring a work that Grand Prix shows that our voice is our most original communications organ, proving “The Swedish Number”:

And yes, breast cancer prevention can be fun. A lot of fun even:

My personal favourite is Case OPT-Outside of REI: it’s incomprehensible when an outdoor retailer abolishes its strongest sales day of the year and thus triggers a whole movement. And with a clear message: do not go shopping – go outside on Black Friday. Enjoy your life, your loved ones and nature. Great great great!

Until next year!!

Sustainability and advertising

Anna Gauto, editor at “forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften”, spoke to Pavan Sukhdev and Florian Haller on advertising and sustainability. Pavan Sukhdev is a former manager at Deutsche Bank and founder of the “Corporation 2020” sustainability campaign. Florian Haller is CEO of the largest independent advertising agency in Europe, the Serviceplan Group. Both will speak at SusCon 2012 in Bonn.

 

Anna Gauto: Advertising does whatever you ask of it. Is advertising blameless?
Florian Haller
: Advertising is not blameless. It is responsible for how a brand is perceived. Our task is to support and guide it with this in mind. For this reason, advertising cannot be blameless.
Pavan Sukhdev:
Advertising is certainly not blameless. Advertisers like to think of themselves as experts, who cater only to the needs of their clients. In order to break through the system of reckless consumption, however, both advertising agencies and the companies they represent must consider the message they are sending out.

 

Today, companies are effectively adopting the concept of sustainability for advertising purposes. How has sustainability become a sign of a company’s prestige?
Haller:
The trend towards a sustainable way of living comes from people, not companies. Well-managed brands are using this desire for sustainability as a business opportunity.
Sukhdev:
We have numerous hard-working writers, scientists, entrepreneurs and citizens to thank for the fact that environmental issues have become so prevalent. How the term sustainability has become so popular, however, is a mystery to me. It is often used incorrectly. It actually describes activities which have been practised for centuries. Companies must be able to account for any claim to being sustainable. This is why the standardisation and regulation of ratings, rankings and seals of quality is necessary.

 

Cigarette advertising shows that selling well does not automatically mean selling something good. Does advertising need a conscience?
Haller:
Advertising per se is an instrument which can be used in many different ways. For this reason, advertising as such is neither moral nor immoral. Advertising is, however, a powerful instrument, which can be used to turn a moral concept into a business opportunity.
Sukhdev: Advertising does need a conscience, but we shouldn’t leave it to the industry alone to develop it. We need to ask ourselves which advertising techniques are excessively misleading and what sort of information should be included on product packaging.

 

There is an increasing demand for ecological products. Has consumer behaviour changed advertising or is it the other way round – has advertising influenced consumers?
Haller:
I don’t think we can overestimate the influence of advertising. The need for sustainability has been shaped by reports on climate change and wildlife conservation as well as numerous food scandals. For two years we have been using the Sustainability Image Score to investigate which companies in Germany are perceived as sustainable. This allows us to determine how the public perception of a company’s sustainability affects its brand value and therefore its corporate success. One important finding is that companies should not only use the opportunity to put sustainability into practice, but to discuss it intensively and professionally, at the same time winning over consumers. They must practise what they preach.
Sukhdev:
When it comes to the ever more popular topic of sustainability, consumers have far more influence over advertising than the other way round. One should encourage the other. Read more