News of a royal engagement meant a tactical opportunity for us and our friends at Powwownow. Big thanks to Mediacom for securing placement and and massive high-five to our super quick thinking creatives.
Every now and again you get the opportunity to work on something that feels really important, and our recent work with Jamie Oliver fits that bill perfectly.
Tonight, huge digital billboards across London will showcase live tweets from people across the capital, as they tweet the Mayor of London to petition him to feed the city.
As Jamie himself says:
"London, I love you. Our capital has the most vibrant food culture on the planet. Food is part of our beating heart, in a city that’s home to 30,000 food businesses worth over £20bn, and where one in four Londoners has a job linked to food.
2017 marks fifteen years since I opened my first restaurant, Fifteen, and I did it here in London – where else! Food brings prosperity to London, it strengthens our communities, it lets us express our creativity and it sustains and binds our cultures. London’s food is a wonderful and powerful thing.
But here’s the problem – we’re not consistent. Our city’s food environment is also compromising our health, shortening our kids’ life-expectancy, reducing productivity, costing taxpayers billions of pounds, crippling our healthcare service, and widening the gap between the least and most disadvantaged people in our society.
It’s time for us to do something together - it’s time to make a difference."
At Hometown we're incredibly proud to support this brilliant initiative, right here in our own backyard, so if you get a chance please do tweet the Mayor of London at @mayoroflondon using the hashtag #feedthecity with your message of support for the campaign.
Transcendental meditation and virtual reality don't strike you as the most natural bedfellows.
The TM movement seeks to bring about greater awareness of an individuals reality, whereas VR seeks to take us to a new, artificially created one.
Yet listening to Jaron Lanier on the excellent BBC radio show Click (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvpcf), they seemed more related than I thought.
His new book (out today) called 'Dawn of the New Everything' is a potted history of the world of Virtual Reality and an exploration of the future possibles.
However a world where VR becomes ubiquitous as technology becomes less cumbersome and more powerful, has many running scared of the technology's increasingly central role in our lives as humans.
It's seen as driving further detachment from what it means to be human. Less genuine connections, less 'real' experiences, more sitting at home plugged into the matrix.
But in one snippet of the interview above, we hear Lanier propose a completely different view.
He tells the story of a session where a user was plugged into the VR world for a period of time, and whilst he or she was 'in' it, they had a single rose placed next to them on the table.
And when they removed the headset, coming out of the virtual space, they saw the rose.
The real rose.
In a way that they'd never seen it before.
It's gloriously crisp shape, its vivid colour, its smell and the gentle touch of the petals.
The virual experience had helped them transcend in the way meditation does, to give them a whole new sense of 'reality'.
Which I thought was pretty powerful stuff, and an interesting perspective on the real power of transporting people into a virtual space.
Not for them to escape reality, but for them to have a better appreciation of it.
So should brands therefore, in thinking about how VR can play a role, consider the journey from the virtual to the real world...how are consumers going to react to the real brand having spent time with them virtually?
How can they make the most of this hyper awareness of the real?
In a marketing environment, you can see this working brilliantly. From coming out of a virtual experience into a real product space, seeing the your product for the first time, having spent time 'meditating' in a parallel world.
A fascinating new customer journey begins to emerge...
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis - and the beginning of increasing public distrust towards the industry.
August 2007 saw Northern Rock customers flocking to withdraw their savings in fear of the bank going bust, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the bailout of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds/HBOS to the tune of tens of billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money.
But is the future any brighter for the banks right now? Well, something pretty spectacular is about to happen to the banking sector, in the form of PSD2.
Not to be confused with R2D2, PSD2 stands for Payment Services Directive Number Two, which is being brought into force by the European Union - and it’s set to revolutionise the way we pay for things online and how we use banks.
PSD2 will do away with the banks’ monopoly on their customers’ data. It will allow businesses like Amazon to get your account data from your bank - with your permission - so that when you buy something, they can make the payment for you, without you having to use yet another service like PayPal or Visa.
It will also allow other businesses to hold all your bank account information, however many accounts you may have, all in one place.
Many countries in mainland Europe have already implemented the directive, but everyone else - including the UK - has to make the changes by next year.
It’s good news for us consumers - but less so for banks, who are having to invest a lot of money to make the changes within their systems. Even more worryingly for them, it could relegate their role to no more than that of an infrastructure provider - the guys who provide the back-end money piping, if you will.
Banks are, quite rightly, very concerned about this, in a world where people have increasing confidence in mobile banking, and with branches closing willy nilly. We don’t have the connection with or reliance on whichever brand of bank we’re with.
The traditional ‘bank manager relationship’ feels oddly quaint nowadays, with very little financial guidance and handholding coming from the high street.
And a banking system that has relied over the years on an early snaring of a current account customer, followed by the opening up of a world of additional products and services, doesn’t now appear as clear-cut.
Why do I need any relationship at all with my bank if I’m (hypothetically, for now):
Seeing my live account balance when I open up my browser
- Able to transfer money between my wife’s account and mine whilst we’re chatting on WhatsApp
- Using a new app to monitor my spending activity and to optimise by monthly outgoings
- Pay for goods on say, Amazon, without having to use another platform like Paypal or Visa
This breaking up of traditional banking services will result in new fintech companies winning custom away from banks, or web giants like Amazon hoovering up people through their sheer presence in the online world.
And this leaves banks with a dilemma.
Do they look to rebuild their services so that they can keep existing customers and pull in new ones by providing a compelling, modern, and rewarding experience?
Or do they break their own services up and compete on a micro-services level with the new fintech companies?
This scenario is already playing out across other industries too.
From pharmacies to car breakdown services, we’re seeing businesses think long and hard about how they tackle the disruption and fragmentation they’re seeing.
The RAC, the AA, and Green Flag for example are watching closely to see whetherUS apps such as Honk and Urgent.ly become enough of a success make their way over here.
And the likes of Push Doctor and Babylon are making the traditional models for GPs and pharmacies look old hat, slow, and irrelevant for modern patient care.
At the heart of this is a need to understand the new priorities of customers, and the new role businesses must play in our fast-paced, on-demand, shiny-new-thing world.
Sure heritage, trust, scale, and history can play a significant role in a customer’s choice of brand, but that is fast being replaced with flexibility, convenience and experience.
And that’s where the need for creative thinking and execution is key to survival for the traditionally big players, as fragmentation takes hold and customer choice exponentially grows.
Investment in the brand, carefully building strong relationships, and continually curating the customer experience is key, because you can no longer rely on inertia to keep your customers coming back.
Banks are going to have to up their game if they want us to keep swiping right on them - and that’s before they even consider the fact some experts are predicting another financial crash, just a decade on from the last...
Hometown has been tasked with taking the brand and its range of products to a more mainstream audience as the pursuance of active lifestyles becomes commonplace. Naturya is also looking to roll out a raft of new products over the next 12 months in order to consolidate its market-leading position.
The agency will be tasked with a range of additional innovations in the social and technology space as the brand seeks to put itself firmly at the heart of the wellness revolution.
Futurebrand has been working with Naturya over the last 12 months to develop the brand identity.
Ali Wilde, Marketing Director at Naturya said: “Our ambition is to become the natural partner to people who want to get the absolute most out of their lives, by providing a range of innovative, accessible products. This isn’t just about superfoods, this is about giving people the products they need to take control of their health. Having met a range of agencies, we’re thrilled to be working with Hometown. Their healthcare experience and entrepreneurialism stood them apart. Exciting times ahead.”
Simon Labbett at Hometown added: “I love progressive FMCG brands. They work quickly and aren’t afraid to do what’s required. We’ll work with them in every channel to make it a success. If it helps shave a few inches off my portly girth, that’s a bonus.”
Whenever one of the tech giants stage an event for one of their announcements there is a degree of hyperbole that we have come to expect from these companies. They are, after all, showing us what they believe to be the next big thing in the industry.
But in among Google's I/O 2017 developer conference last month there was a piece of information slipped into presentation about machine learning by CEO Sundar Pichai that struck me as monumental, despite the understated way in which it was delivered.
“We are excited about creating better machine learning models, but it’s time consuming. We want developers to get to use machine learning, so what better way to better our machine learning than to get the neural nets to design better neural nets…it’s learning to learn.”
Learning to learn. Machines learning how to learn better ways of doing things themselves? This is pretty wild.
But it got me thinking about the importance of learning to learn, and how often it is overlooked as a step towards change.
Digital transformation is a hot topic in the lives of many clients today, and that’s great but what if you haven’t gone through the process of learning to learn how to transform?
On a recent episode of Harvard Business Review's HBR IdeaCast podcast, Microsoft was held up as a great example of a business that had a huge opportunity to transform but in this particular instance, failed spectacularly.
Back when online advertising was in its infancy, Microsoft had everything in place to own the paid-for search market. They had made acquisitions, they had browser dominance, and their MSN portal had considerable market share.
And so they rolled out their solution, a series of pilots to test the efficacy of their solution and it failed.
What transpired was that there were many across the business who didn’t believe in what they were trying to achieve, who felt that their business was software and that was that, and the core business subtlety plotted for the failure of the experiment and it was killed.
And Google won. Microsoft hadn’t learnt how to learn, it assumed that people would just jump on board. The company's leaders had failed to notice a lack of enthusiasm across core parts of the business, which destined the project to be mothballed.
Listening to a panel discussion about modern marketing last week led by some of the UK’s most prominent CMOs, from Paul Davies at Microsoft to Jennelle Tilling at KFC, there was a unified desire for agencies to help their brands prosper at a time of tumultuous change in the industry.
And a universal, thundering warning that agencies simply weren’t up to the task. Agencies were branded slow, expensive, uncollaborative, culturally insensitive, and technologically inferior.
This is largely, I believe, unfair on many agencies built on precisely the agile principles sought by those on the stage, but woven into this is a truth that change is inherently difficult.
For agencies to change, to even have a sniff of a chance to transform, requires a fundamental re-calibration of legacy cultures, systems, roles and responsibilities. And unfortunately, you can’t just jump to that.
Before any of that can begin, agencies have to learn how to learn in order to set themselves up for success, such things as…
- bringing together cross-disciplinary teams to establish the best way of learning
- creating feedback environments so progress can be shared
- sharing the long-term vision as to why progress is needed
- involving clients in their plans to ensure that they’re compatible
…among a host of others, each dedicated to ensuring that the ways we set about learning new ways of doing things are iteratively improved upon time and time again.
The machines are, in many ways, already way ahead of us.
The march towards an automated world throws up so much uncertainty on the future of employment, industry and the way that we live our lives. However in the motor industry – where advancements have been made at a quicker speed than many other sectors – profound implications have already emerged about what it means for consumers and brands.
Automotive brands have spent decades (and fortunes) building an emotional and physical connection between us and our cars. It’s a relationship that goes way beyond getting from A-to- B.
Car advertising quickly became some of the most evocative and emotive communications of any category, because the experience of driving a car stimulates our senses unlike any other category.
The power, speed, thrill, control, and the roar of the engine for which we take control when we get behind the wheel all get the adrenaline pumping and the hairs on the back of our necks standing up. Car marketing has always played on the ability to make us ‘dream’, and this emotional connection helps offset the fact that buying a car is the biggest depreciating purchase most of us will ever make.
Practicality and responsibility have become more relevant (possibly thanks to regulation) but it’s this primordial connection we have with cars that made us fall in love with them a hundred years ago and keep us buying them in their millions to this day.
But what happens to this relationship when cars become driverless? Sure it’ll take a while before we let go of our steering wheels completely I would take a punt on my four-year- old daughter (and my soon-to- be-born baby) never having to take driving exams.
So, let’s for a moment imagine a driverless world. It’ll certainly be a safer world - 5 people die and 59 are seriously injured on UK roads alone every day. As a result, insurance premiums will drop, as will some of the pressure on the emergency services and the NHS. There won’t be any congestion, as the flow of traffic will become as automated as the vehicles themselves. Emissions will fall as driving efficiencies increase, and those prone to road rage will have to find other cathartic techniques to vent. This is all great news but it will fundamentally change our relationship with our cars forever, and car brands will have to adapt.
Ironically, our relationship with the cars of the future will be closer to the vehicles of the past. The horse-drawn carriage was the transport of choice for hundreds of years before the combustion engine came along. Passengers sat in the back, watched the world go by, talked business, played games and fornicated behind drawn curtains while the driver took care of the A to B. It didn’t matter to them how the vehicle felt to drive and they didn’t care about the ‘brand’. It was all about getting somewhere more quickly and safely than by walking, and in relative comfort.
So, how do brands that have spent decades building the ultimate driving machines market the horse-drawn carriages of the future? Comfort, style, entertainment, connectivity, reliability, space and trust will replace the physical thrill of driving a car. But how brands make us feel and what they stand for will still be key. A manufacturer such as Honda should be able to make the jump in communications quite easily. The Power of Dreams is so much bigger than simply driving a car. It’s about human progression and the ambition to make things better.
But car manufacturers will also face other challenges. When we combine Uber-style on-demand, location-based services with driverless technology, will it make sense to own a car at all? Consumers are increasingly looking for alternative ownership models and this trend will only gain momentum. As a result, many automotive brands – including non-manufacturers such as Hertz and Uber - are developing and testing on-demand and subscription-based services. Why should you commit to one brand or model when you can simply order the vehicle you need, when you need it, without the cost of insuring and maintaining it?
Family trip to Cornwall? I’ll order a LEC - Luxury Entertainment Cruiser. Probably the new Apple iRide 3 – with the latest cinematic and gaming retinal projection features - without the need for clunky VR headsets. Daily school run? I’ve subscribed to Google Go – the best rideshare scheme around. I love the fact it turns up at exactly the same time every day and I can choose who my kids ride with – and monitor them on the way.
Every journey will be tailored to the passengers’ exact needs and every automotive brand on the planet will have to adapt to cater for this seismic shift in behaviour. The challenge for marketers will be to build brands based on non- driving behaviour, grow brand loyalty without ownership, drive subscriptions and repeat usage and demonstrate relevance against new players coming to market. Many It’s the perfect example of technology driving behavioural and cultural change and the total disruption of an entire industry. It certainly won’t be the only one.
On a final personal note, as much as I love putting the pedal to the metal, I’m looking forward to a safer, driverless future.
My 4 year-old daughter, chats incessantly.
Literally doesn't stop talking.
From the moment she opens her eyes and interrupts my till-then perfectly peaceful shower, until the moment I finish reading her a book at bedtime, she's got something to say.
And she doesn't let her limited vocabulary stop her. She carefully sifts through the words she knows to articulate what she wants to tell me, often making making her own cute bastardisations for words she has still yet to learn.
Importantly, she never fails to get across her message across to me.
I watched a one-man-show on Netflix the other day, Rodney King, about the man made famous by being beaten nearly to death by 4 LAPD cops back in 1991, leading to their acquittal in 1992 and then the subsequent riots that decimated large parts of the city.
It was without doubt one of the most compelling pieces of art I'd seen in some time.
One man. One stage.
Sweating profusely in the warm evening.
No special effects, no supporting cast. Just Roger Guenveur Smith giving an unforgettable monologue.
Well worth a watch by the way.
And last night I watched Home on the BBC, a 20 minute short-film telling the story of millions of modern-day refugees, in reverse.
The film was brilliantly done, with a British family taking centre stage, as we see them leave their leafy suburb, face a treacherous crossing with people-smugglers, and ending up in a make-shift refugee camp sheltering from war.
A powerful, perfectly formed story.
Also well worth a watch.
What these three things have in common are the limitations that each finds themselves in.
And in every case, these limitations enhance - in my view - the stories being told. The restrictions of each - vocabulary, supporting cast, duration of film - mean that creativity has to be applied in a non-traditional way to deliver the message.
And working with limits these days is par-for-the-course.
Clients are seeking more for less, pressured as they are by their own corporate challenges.
So agencies have to be smarter and smarter as we are asked to work within tighter and tighter confines.
This is where independent agencies hold the key to the future of creativity.
Our ability to move quickly, to plug into 3rd parties, to manage end-to-end projects that impact the entirety of the business rather than just the marketing departments, are our unique David qualities versus the Goliaths that we compete against.
Our small, but perfectly formed agencies thrive on being forced to work within the constraints associated with being up against the big boys.
We might not have the supporting cast of thousands for every production.
We might not have as long to crack a problem.
And we will often clash things together to create something new.
But our output, and the outputs of our peers, is crafted because of those restraints, not in spite of.
Businesses moving at-speed, in the face of constant change, up against tough commercial backdrops, need agencies that can help them win.
And it is the exciting prospect of creating within tighter and tighter confines that will always give the independent's of the world the edge.
I recently became aware of a design business called Smart Design, via the Tim Ferris podcast. They appear in the documentary Objectified, where they can be seen explaining one of the early steps in their innovation process.
In an opening client exchange that will chime with those in most creative industries, the agency is given a picture of a typical consumer for the brand, an average of all the people who buy/share/talk about/love the product that they sell
Smart Design's response to this is well, er, smart.
“We listen politely and say, ‘well, that’s great, but we don’t care about that person.’”
“What we really need to do, to design, is look at the extremes. Look for the weakest, or the person with arthritis, or the athlete, or the strongest, or the fastest person - because if we understand what the extremes are, the middle will take care of itself. “
The idea that we design solutions – in our case, compelling communications or unforgettable experiences - for those that aren’t our core customers will strike most cost-conscious clients as a risky use of marketing money, but there is merit in being bold.
Communications should be arresting, should be shocking, should elicit an emotional reaction, no matter how little.
And often, a process that encourages a regression to the mean stunts this.
It pushes out the outliers, the crazy ideas, the new.
It keeps everything safe, but that’s not where the change happens.
It’s not where Gorillas play drums or where bankers strut.
It's not where you talk to an ice hockey puck-shaped AI device and it plays your favourite playlist whilst ordering in a takeaway.
It’s where the behaviours and tastes of the majority inform most of the decisions.
I’m not suggesting that every brand goes punk.
But in a world where there’s a shit load of stuff already in existence, creators have a responsibility to create something new, and something valuable.
And that might come from the fringes of your business, rather than the core.
The edges, that’s where the magic is happening.
Appealing to the middle to retain customers kills a brand in the long-term, it stunts its growth, makes ‘middling’ an ambition and rewards safety-first in a world where perpetual change makes victors out of the bold.
None of the breakthrough product designs of the past 20 years played to the middle.
None of the memorable communications work that truly worked played to the middle.
So maybe we should look to start appealing to the few rather than the many, and see where that gets us.
Simon and I are members of an incredible club founded by Gemma Greaves called Cabal. I can't say too much more about it - as we'd have to kill you - but I can say that its members (excluding ourselves) are a wonderful bunch who meet up once a month to take part in a variety of experiences we probably wouldn't normally undertake.
We've met an ex-NASA spaceman on a mission to save Earth, we’ve heard first-hand from Ross Kemp about his experiences with the world’s most dangerous gangs, we've put on our own stand-up comedy events starring extremely brave Cabal members and we’ve been taken on an incredible, humbling journey by one of our members who went from childhood paralysis to walking to the North Pole. But above all, Cabal is about meeting like-minded people and making friends. Which leads me nicely to Cabal's 4th birthday party recently.
The party was at Tramshed in Shoreditch. A waiter took me through the restaurant, under Damien Hirst's imposing formaldehyde 'Cock and Bull', out the back, past the kitchens, through winding corridors unseen by diner's eyes and up a flight of steps into a wonderful, hidden gem of a space in the belly of Mark Hix's restaurant. I joined my fellow Cabalians and Mark Hix himself. Mark was busy creating mouth-watering morsels and happily chatting to everyone. It was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and the perfect venue to celebrate our club in style.
We heard how Mark and his head chefs meet in the space to experiment and challenge each other to keep their creative juices flowing. Surrounded by hundreds of random ingredients, each chef is tasked to create new, experimental dishes on the spot. The one daunting rule is that they can't create anything they've made before. There were obviously some horrendous and sometimes hilarious results along the way but nineteen glorious new dishes were born out of this process and are now available in Mark's restaurants across London and beyond.
It reminded me that to break new ground we need to step out of our day-to-day, shake things up and fight the fear of failure. Human nature leans towards comfort and safety and although feeling uncomfortable and out of our depth can be terrifying, it can lead to great things. So, let’s dive into the deep end and leave behind the armbands a little more often.
Cabal’s 4th birthday was memorable for all the right reasons. I’d like to thank Mark Hix for his hospitality and brave kitchen antics, Gemma Greaves for connecting us to such an inspiring group of people and experiences and to everyone involved for organising a wonderful night and making Cabal such a unique club. I can’t wait to see what we’re up to later this month.
Co-founder and ECD at Hometown
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the V&A Museum, especially after we launched their first digital design exhibition ‘Decode – Digital design sensations’ with an open source and crowdsourced campaign called ‘Recode Decode’ https://vimeo.com/42341440
So, when a friend said “You have to go see the V&A Revolution exhibition. It’ll blow your mind.” I didn’t hesitate to invite the rest of Hometown along to see what all the fuss was about.
We arrived with very little knowledge of what we were about to experience, other than it being some kind of cultural and political journey through the late 1960s. As we entered the exhibition we were given headphones (Sennheiser were sponsors) and were left to explore. The tone was audibly set as seminal 60s tracks filled our ears and projections of Bob Dylon’s iconic ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ video filled a wall below the title ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels’.
Youth culture was born and became a powerful driver of change, and it was CHANGE that dominated every facet of the exhibition.
What followed was an inspiring, humbling, emotional, thought-provoking and often challenging journey through events which not only defined and dominated the world half a century ago, but continue to shape the world we live in today. Baby-boomers were growing up and growing discontented. Youth culture was born and became a powerful driver of change, and it was CHANGE that dominated every facet of the exhibition.
The times were indeed a changin’ but not just in music, fashion and youth culture. A new generation demanded political change and a collective discontentment towards the powers that be eventually helped change their world and ours for the better. Race, feminism, equality, war, drugs, LGBTQIA rights, anti-capitalism and global warming were all tackled by people brave enough to challenge the status quo and stand up (and sometimes die) for change and the rights we largely take for granted today.
Change and uncertainty are as present today as they were then but we can all take comfort in that change can be a force for good and shouldn’t be feared. One of our mantras at Hometown is the only constant is change. It stops us becoming complacent and allows us to look at the world with wide eyes and open minds.
Big thanks to the V&A for a wonderful exhibition. Keep challenging, keep changing.
ECD and Co-founder - Hometown
Marketers should develop the confidence to cast off the past, rather than cling to it, writes Chris Jefford.
A recent documentary by BBC Radio 6 Music, Miles Plugs In, charted the controversial six-year period in the career of Miles Davis often dubbed the Electric Era.
Throwing out pretty much every convention in Jazz – those who had firmly established him as one of the cultural greats of the 50’s and 60’s, no less – Davis chose to embark on an eclectic period of creativity between 1969 and 1975 that produced such albums as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and most controversially, On The Corner.
These albums turned the notion of what a Miles Davis album is completely on its head. At the time, they were frowned upon by Jazz aficionados. Now, they are now universally hailed as classics.
Sadly, such creative bravery is rarely seen. Those that attempt to move away from normal run the risk – often in the short-term, at least – of being shouted down. Bowie notwithstanding, changes of style are often met with horror rather than respect and applause.
With change comes fear. Fear of losing control and of disruption, of messing with the fixed world around us, of having our habits challenged – or even more terrifyingly – changed.
So, yes, we’ve thought it through and we think this will just blow over and it would just be better for everyone concerned if we just stayed as we are. Thanks though, great idea, guys… But the music that Miles Davis produced in his Electric Era led him to a range of new audiences.
With change comes fear. Fear of losing control and of disruption, of messing with the fixed world around us, of having our habits challenged – or even more terrifyingly – changed.
Similarly, the late Bowie’s well-documented creativity led him to dominate this year’s Brit awards, more than a year after his death, and where he was described as a man "beholden to nothing but his own boundless imagination and daring".
How reasonable is it anyway, these days, to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done? In a world of surprises – and I don’t think anybody needs me to list a few – marketers are still scared of change, even at a time when change is currently the only constant.
This fear breeds inertia, too. It leads to paralysis in decision-making, to collective fingers-in-ears, acting as if it is business as usual, when often it’s anything but. Then, when the brown stuff hits the spinny-fan-thing, somebody else will be to blame.
So, how do all become a bit more Miles and Bowie about it all? How does one build the confidence to change course and break free from the past?
First, surround yourself with totems of cultural change. Miles Davis famously devoured books on architecture and fashion, drawing confidence from those that challenged convention.
Then, create a culture of speed. Smaller, leaner, more agile teams work around problems and challenges as they arise. Old, linear methods of problem-solving won’t cut it.
Set the process up now, don’t wait until you need it. And trust your gut. Often Miles would start recording sessions as soon as the musicians had sat picked up their instruments, in readiness for the moment when the magic starts to happen, to capture those moments. Marketing needs more – much more – of this.
Finally, build a circle of trust. One of the most fascinating things about Davis’ bands was that often the players had never played together, and more often than not he would only give them the barest outline of what he wanted – if anything.
He trusted his players implicitly, he let them run with it. This gave them confidence. Modern brands also need trusted – as opposed to fixed – teams of people working quickly, and together, on a brief.
Being brave in the face of change isn’t easy, but doing nothing is dangerous. And as creative businesses, without mixing it up and flipping it over, are we really living up to our names?
As Miles himself once said, "It’s not about standing still ... If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change."
Chris Jefford is the founding partner at Hometown London.
Hometown has been awarded a place on the roster for the global pharmaceutical giant Perrigo following a competitive pitch.
The independently owned agency will take responsibility for a number of brands including skin care brand Dermalex, Perrigo's flagship pain brand Solpadeine and Galpharm – The UK’s biggest supplier of non-prescription medicine.
Initially Hometown has been tasked with re-launching Dermalex in the UK with an integrated campaign to include TV, Print and Digital.
David Gamble ECD and Co-founder of Hometown said:
"Perrigo is a treasure trove of household brands and brilliant products lining up to join them. Hometown's networked agency approach gives us access to decades of healthcare experience. We're excited by the prospect of helping Perrigo create many more globally respected brands.”
Miranda Osborne - Group Brand Director - Wellness Portfolio UK & Ireland at Perrigo added:
"The decision to appoint Hometown was unanimous following a competitive pitch. They were strategically strong, understood the consumer and delivered a refreshingly original creative approach. We are excited to see how the campaign progresses."
A piece that I wrote for Campaign magazine, about the birth of the DCN agency (hello Hometown) in the face of unparalleled change and global turmoil.
Blockchain has been getting a lot of love recently. The platform that underpins BitCoin, which started 2017 at an all-time high and is rapidly becoming a valid currency, has been seen by many as a panacea for those who campaign for true transparency and neutrality of the net.
Its idea of a distributed autonomous network, every node keeping the rest honest, complete with a borderline unhackable ledger of activities across the chain, has got industries from music to finance jumping up and down with excitement, heralding new industries, new models, fresh ideas, and next-level transparency and fairness.
The blockchain is what the web was supposed to deliver, before the siren servers of Google, Facebook and Microsoft started to run everything, own everything, and make the lion share of the profits from everything.
Owning everything was never the idea of the web. In fact, owning anything is beginning to become a bit of an outdated model, period.
The world is unusually unusual right now. Industries continue to be turned on their heads, political systems are challenged, technology marches inexorably forward to the next brain-spinning innovation, jobs-for-life are a thing of the past and jobs-in-the-future are changing with the rise of AI.
In its first editorial of the year, Wired magazine stated: "We live in uncertain times. In this rapidly changing, aggressively agitated moment, it’s very difficult to discern what the future holds."
So the question is why would anyone who is servicing client business want to own the resources to deliver those services, when the world is in such constant flux? Who needs that inflexibility in their life? The constants aren’t constant enough for business to enjoy economies of scale in this model, so why bother? Which is why agency models will change.
Why would anyone who is servicing client business want to own the resources to deliver those services, when the world is in such constant flux?
While the buzz in the industry right now is around the acquisition of creative businesses by traditional management consultancies – in-effect an old school approach to buying-in (owning) resources – the newest breed of agencies are challenging conventional thought with regards to what an agency needs in order to service big client work.
Creativity and innovation necessarily requires freedom, which is why so many of the best creative minds in the world own their own businesses. Trying to own them, bring them in-house, won’t get you the best results.
The marble hallways of agency networks aren’t sustainable. There is even a strong argument that even the existence of an office at all is counter intuitive in this world of surprise, connectivity, and pivots.
In a recent chat with a client we discussed how his brand had been working with a high performance growth consultant. At the heart of his approach to growth is a determination to jettison anything at all that drags the business back – you need to be as frictionless as possible at all times.
You must be as light as possible. You need to be honest about what works and what doesn’t, at all times. Friction is bad, it slows you down just at the time when you need to be going at full throttle. Which is why, perhaps, the office goes. The studio goes too. The management layers disappear.
The agency role is to become the ultimate interface layer into the creative world for clients. The better the interface layer, the more successful the agency will be. In this model, creative resources are accessed in the form of a twist on the blockchain model, a distributed creative network (DCN), independently functioning, infinite in size, transparent to all.
The agency role is to become the ultimate interface layer into the creative world for clients. The better the interface layer, the more successful the agency will be.
By keeping core competencies in-house as lean as possible, and drawing on their own, curated DCN, such agencies are able to help clients deal with whatever the world throws at them. Access to an unlimited and ever-changing pool of resources means that clients can be proactive and reactive in their marketing approaches, freeing up their brand to live where is most appropriate, and building maximum value into it.
The next generation startup stack that provides start-ups with free cloud tools to get up and running quickly are as equally appropriate to bigger businesses. Communications tools, storage, and applications can be increasingly cloud-based.
This frees everything up, and means creatives can work wherever is most creatively productive, client meetings can be held either on-site or at a relevant inspirational spot, and culture can be supported by holding weekly meetings at rich, varied venues.
Ultimately it requires work to keep it cohesive, but the end-product is a business that can help other businesses deal with the only constant in their business – change, much like the arrival of Bitcoin itself.
Chris Jefford is the founding partner at Hometown London.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/2017-year-dcn-agency/1420207#vVmUE33pwEkAj8DC.99
Another excellent listen on the way to work today from This American Life, link at the end of this post.
In amongst a whole bunch of fascinatingness, was a soundbite from an ultra conservative Christian broadcaster, in which he was discussing the choice now facing Republicans with Donald Trump looking like a shoe-in for the presidential nomination.
“My beliefs run deeper than the culture of the moment”.
What a great line.
Does he just ‘go with it’, vote for this guy? 7 out of 10 Republicans seem to be, so maybe he should too.
Or are his beliefs more important that the current wave of opinion?
The culture of the moment.
So important today.
In a world where the small can take the shape of the very big, very quickly, it is more important than ever to be clear on what we believe in and stand by it.
Not to be heartless, but the outpouring of grief over the passing of a Prince or a Bowie amongst people who would struggle to name a handful of songs is a case in point.
We’re often driven by social-surges, a herd-mentality that bend and form a new set of beliefs out of a given situation.
And often that change of heart is born out of opportunism. There is a chance to get a slice of this, to build social capital out of a situation.
Brands do it all the time.
Hook into this, appropriate that.
And that’s fine, if it chimes with what you really believe.
Otherwise people suss you out pretty quickly.
See through you, see you for what you really are.
A chancer. An opportunist. A Trump.
Successful brands, really successful for the long-term, know what they stand for and act accordingly. They have a north-star that guides them, their principles, their hiring policies, their product development, their marketing strategies, their messages, their alliances.
They go back to basics, remind themselves of what brought them into the world in the first place. What was their purpose, why do they exist?
Who are they here to serve, and what impact are they looking to leave behind?
And then they stick to it.
Don’t stick a trap-track on your ad if you don’t believe in the power of youth culture to change the world, and you’re not going to back it.
Don’t use the latest celebrity to front your campaign if they don’t share your values.
Do think carefully before adopting the ‘culture of the moment’, because consumers will see through you if you’re suddenly whistling to an inauthentic tune.
And they will take you down.
We were pleased as punch to pick up an award last week at the prestigious B2B Marketing Awards, held at the rather swish Honourable Artillery Company.
Attending the event, both our lovely Powwownow clients and us had high hopes of success with our ‘Avoid The Horror’ campaign. We had already seen it achieving fantastic cut-through and conversation during its campaign run, and in a category marked by conservatism and low-energy creative, we had fingers crossed that our piece would walk away with the best-in-class creative award.
And it did!
Getting awards isn’t what drives our business. But seeing good creative work get recognition amongst a B2B audience, and in a category where it is seldom seen, it of tremendous credit to everyone involved.
So, huge high-5’s to the whole Hometown team for conceiving and developing such a smash-hit of a campaign, and to our Powwownow clients for backing us all the way.
Our 888 Poker ads are going great guns, so we thought we’d share this behind-the-scenes film of the shoot…enjoy.
Three different ads were shot, each featuring players engaged in a fun battle of one-upmanship, under the campaign banner of ‘Live The Game’
The first spot, “Dance Off,” showing three players transition from playing poker to competing on the dance floor. Each tries to outdo the other, using poker philosophies in so doing.
The second ad is entitled “Bar Tricks” and the players again apply poker strategy when attempting to out do each other while performing various tricks. The theme continues in “Dive,” the third advertisement that shows the players are thinking in terms of poker when contemplating raising and going all-in when diving into a swimming pool.
The ads were shot in Cape Town and directed by David Lodge at RSA.
Creative Agency: Hometown
Creative Director: David Gamble
Creatives: Luke Till and Lawrence Bushell
Business Director: Sarah Wood
Account Directors: Bethany Ryan, Annabelle Monks
Agency Producer: Alison Fraser
Design: Shaban Siddiq
DOP: Daniel Holland
RSA Executive Producer: Garfield Kempton
South African Production Company: The Farm
Music and Sound design: Guilt Free
Post: Big Buoy
I noticed this article today, and it made me think.
"iPhone 7 rumoured to include a pressure-sensitive home button."
Now, this obviously might be bullshit, as is generally par for the course in the run up to any Apple release, but is this really all we've got? Is this the height of excitement, the next breakthrough development to justify us ditching the 'old' technology in our pockets for the newest shiniest model on the market? Even as a bullshit rumour it lacks excitement! Come on guys, where's your imagination!
Or is it just another example of how tinkering around the edges has become the new norm?
Consumers may be reaching this conclusion too if recent sales in the iPhone are anything to go by. They're fatigued by the tinkering.
Yes one could argue that it's more difficult than ever to excite audiences by new tech. There's so much of it that we've become desensitised to it. Like bombs going off, or Team GB getting cycling medals.
But there is also a truth in that there is a very clear tech equivalent to the economists favourite, the law of diminishing returns. There is only so much you can do to a technology before you start to see a fall-off in people's interest.
The graphics on the Commodore 64 were astounding to me.
The iPod touch was magic to me.
Spotify's ability to give me access to any song I want still stuns me.
The iPlayers ability to show me any Olympics event I want to see when I want it still amazes me.
These are disruptive, game-changing technology developments. They set a new precedent, they were and are - to lift from Arthur C Clarkes most oft-repeated lines - indistinguishable from magic.
But in a fast-consumerist world, the pressure is on to release products, quickly. To plan the obsolescence of x, and replace it with xS.
And it's often pointless. Mere tinkering.
Innovation devoid of problem solving. Short-termist, superficial tinkering designed to push new product rather than solve real challenges.
Even Ranieri stopped tinkering and look where it got him.
Problem solving should, in my humble opinion, solve problems.
Tinkering around the edges doesn't.
Which brings me to creative agency land.
We tinker. We scratch the surface.
We answer the brief, yes. But how often is the brief really solving a problem.
A proper problem, a big hairy one.
We need a concerted effort to do that more, to challenge the brief, to challenge the client, to challenge ourselves.
Because if we don't start to do that, the brands that we support will lose faith in us too, and our ability to really change their fortunes. They'll swap us in and out for the next shiny tinkerer, no one is building value for anyone, and we all lose out.
The successful agencies of the future (of which I'm happy to say, we are very much one) will be the ones that tinker less, and change more. Ones that build agile teams around real problems rather than finding solutions to fit the teams. Ones that will look to build lasting impact rather than short-term fame.
Ones that are little more like dear old Claudio...the new one, not the old one.
Today was one of those days where something clicked.
I've always been a bit of a geek. I try and hide it, but it's there, just under the surface.
I get excited by technology, ideas, new things.
Before entering the world of advertising, I used to code - programming as it used to be called - inspired by my dad who brought home a Sinclair 16K back in the day, and would never buy me a console as you couldn't 'program it'.
Understanding how it worked, how the game or the application fitted together, was important to me, and in later life served me well. I decided not to pursue a career in coding, wanting to go a bit wider, but I've always been able to explain how things work to people.
Since moving into advertising as a project manager, through to where I am now as a co-owner, explaining the magic of technology was always as important (maybe more so) as showing the magic, in getting the magic bought in the first place.
But somewhere along the way I think we've lost this.
Agencies still love a bit of mystery.
The fabled creative process. Often a black box of activity of indeterminate length from out which pops out an idea.
Sometimes if you're lucky, a big one.
In tandem, there is a continual struggle to promote and demonstrate the efficacy of this process and validate the price that we put on it.
Which is tough if you can't quantify the process itself.
Which brings me to my point and inspiration for today.
Literate Programming was a book published by esteemed programmer Donald Kruth back in 1984, and its approach is to create a programming structure that includes the internal thoughts of the programmer.
"Rather than writing the code in the order the compiler likes to see it, write the code in the order you’d like to think about it along with a constant narrative about your thoughts while you’re developing it."
[taken from this great post]
So writing code becomes more human-driven, and reading code suddenly becomes instructive even without understanding a word of it.
Herein lies my totally rad game in which a bird flaps to avoids pipes.The code is structured in this manner:
<<the objects and characters in my game>> <<the main loop>>
@ This is the main loop, It contains the logic and state machine, but it also has a loop to update all the graphics within each object.
<<the main loop>>+=
<<the game logic>
<<the graphics> @
You get it.
Some jargon but you begin to understand.
Because you can see the thinking behind it, and the intention of every step.
We need the same approach for agencies.
Let clients see the working.
Let them hear your voice.
Show them how you get from A to B.
Demonstrate the range of decisions that have to be made.
Don't think that creativity is a language that is ungraspable.
Don't think it's the preserve of the few.
Don't let them think its easy.
Make them part of the game.
Herein lies my totally rad game in which we try and get your consumers to engage with your brand more.
<<brand information>> <<consumer information>> <<cultural information>> <<the planner loop>>
@ This is the planner loop, It seeks to define a single minded objective and insight to so we can proceed to the <<concept loop>>.
<<the planner loop>>+=
<<insight planning> @
A black box of creativity isn't helping in an age of transparency.
Our role as creative business leaders is to lift the fog.
Tell the story.
Let clients see the workings in our head.
And then, perhaps, they'll see that it's worth it.
Yeah, its a thing now if you like.
Jura Whisky, part of the Whyte & Mackay portfolio, have awarded their global communications business to Hometown following a four-way competitive pitch. Jura is distilled on the Isle of Jura, an island off the west coast of Scotland where making whisky is at the heart of its community. As an Island, it’s also synonymous with being the place where George Orwell wrote his famous book, 1984.
Hometown has been tasked with building the Jura brand in the UK and US markets, with campaigns running across all media, taking in both traditional media and future technologies.
Gemma Parkinson, Jura Global Marketing Manager said,“Hometown demonstrated a great understanding of our brand, and a creative flair that challenged and excited us. We look forward to working closely with the team to help us take the Jura brand to our growing global audience.”
Chris Jefford, Founding Partner at Hometown London said, “Jura is an amazing brand with global ambitions. It’s a wonderful, fascinating island with an incredible story to tell. A story we look forward to telling in new and innovative ways, to audiences around the world.”