As befitting a good conference – especially one on creativity – the annual Loeries DStv Seminar of Creativity delivered its quota of quotable quotes, quirky one-liners and thought-provoking insights.
The sentiments shared at this year’s event, which was held at the ICC in Durban, spoke to and of an advertising and marketing industry in transition. This was demonstrated by the sheer variety of topics covered by the speakers, each offering a unique view and interpretation of the new (online) order of things.
In a connected world we invent the future, said Steve Vranakis, ECD of Google Creative Lab London. This is because we can “use tech to break down barriers, provide access and give superpowers to others”, he explained. At Google this happens by being empathetic to the user while still allowing them to tell their story by putting the platform in place that makes it easy for people to use technology to share ideas with a global audience. And it’s by sharing that we eliminate barriers and empower each other through education, information and entertainment.
The concept of the individual and what it means to new marketing was explored in Stan Sthanunathan, Senior Vice President of Consumer and Market Insights at Unilever UK’s, talk. Customisation is the fundamental difference in marketing today as communication happens at an individual level. And while it’s exciting that digital makes individual possible, the question of how to do this at scale is one that remains unanswered. In an interconnected system with four main tiers – that of content, data, ecommerce and connecting – marketing becomes something that happens with people but, Sthanunathan cautions, it needs to matter to people. “If you don’t matter to them you don’t exist”, was his straightforward take on branding in a connected world.
It is in this very connected world full of “solutions” that we need to be wary of allowing tech to control us. Chris Clarke, Chief Creative Officer of DigitasLBi raised pertinent points about the need for humans to reclaim agency. “Do you need your watch to tell you when to stand up or drink water?” he asked ironically in reference to a point on the atomisation caused by our increasingly fractured attention span, which distracts us from thinking deeply about things. A connected world needs people (deep thinkers) who understand the context of culture in order to move it forward.
Clarke called for ditching business as usual, suggesting that brands rather:
- Be morally and socially purposeful
- Become tastemakers, not followers
- Create high quality experiences
- Be useful and entertaining
- Lead culture, don’t follow
Easier said than done perhaps but, as he further pointed out, brands are a place to galvanise attention. And that’s something ad people have always done. It just needs to be done differently now.
Fortunately for those daunted by the challenges in this new space there were enough reels of reassurance, such as that we only have to “do one thing really well” (Chuck Porter) and that “if you’re passionate then great things happen in mysterious ways” (Ji Lee) because ultimately, if we’re honest, “it’s just not rocket science” (Ali Ali).