Contagious’ annual Now Next Why event provides a thought-provoking forum for a cross-section of industry speakers and Contagious members to discuss some of the biggest challenges facing creative businesses over the year ahead.
With this in mind, the first session kicked off with Contagious’ Patrick Jeffrey posing the question, ‘What’s the biggest creative challenge facing businesses over the next 12 months?’ to some of the most influential names in the advertising industry, from brand CMOs like GE’s Linda Boff and Mondelez’s Dana Anderson to revered agency leaders such as David Droga.
The answers you might expect – that of an ever-changing landscape of platforms, new technology and shifting audiences – weren’t there. Instead, more practical concerns emerged: avoiding strategic short-termism, how to ensure employees were motivated, and therefore better-placed for disruption within the marketplace, as well as the ever-increasing complexity of the agency landscape and its multiplying subdivisions and specialisms. These themes very much set the agenda for the rest of the day.
On came Copa90’s James Kirkham (disclaimer: he’s my old boss from my days at digital agency Holler) to explain exactly how they’re doing a grand job of disrupting the football marketing landscape. Seeing the giant gulf between Alan Hansen sitting in a suit in a stuffy glass commentary box at the Rio World Cup vs. the fans on the beach below taking photos, singing songs and being the centre of attention was the spark that launched Copa90. They now embrace fan-led new technologies, such as Snapchat and Periscope, to empower fans and launch lightning-quick pieces of content with the audience in the engine room, and turn around content to serve the need of the new hyper-connected fan. Not all of it sticks, but you shouldn’t fear failure, mused Kirkham. And of course, always listen to your data. ‘Embrace data, don’t scrape it’ were his parting words – inferring that data literacy needs to be baked into everyone in the business to really drive content success – not siloed in a corner, pored over by a few Excel monkeys.
Next up came Contagious’ Chloe Markowitz and Truffle Pig’s Paul Markum, to talk through some of the innovative ways that brands are using Snapchat and how it’s simultaneously managing to both excite and petrify brand clients across the globe in equal measure. Some fears in the room, of mostly 30+ marketing professionals, were assuaged when Chloe revealed that the 35+ segment is one of the platform’s most rapid growth segments, and therefore Snapchat is no longer the place where teens go to hide from mum and dad on Facebook.
One of the most interesting sections of the day came from Contagious’ Katrina Dodd and Grabble’s Daniel Murray to talk through ‘responsive retail’. Katrina explained how marketers are pushing the limits of tech and infrastructure to service the needs of the customer better than ever before.
- Belgian loans provider Record Bank managed to extend the consideration phase of their car loan product by developing an innovative app that allowed users to scan any car ad they saw with a phone app to reveal exactly how much they’d pay back on a loan for that vehicle.
- Try.com taps into the sharing economy model, allowing customers to try clothes for free and only pay for the clothes they keep. The service has seen participating brand mentions and conversions skyrocket as a result of the service.
- Daniel Murray’s Grabble – a ‘Tinder for fashion’, a reductive tagline Daniel possibly regretted giving it, is currently the fastest growing mobile commerce app in the UK. The app allows discovery and has elements of curation, meaning users can quickly hone in on the clothes they like, and discover the clothes they didn’t know they needed at the swipe of a finger. He puts the company’s success and resilience through a turbulent time down to constant iteration of the product, and a refusal to stop moving.
The day rounded off with Contagious’ Arif Haq and Heineken’s Josefein Olij discussing the challenges of creative leadership. “‘The hardest job in the industry falls not to those who come up with creative ideas, but those who risk their careers in approving them’ observed Haq. He explained we’re naturally inclined as humans to reject creativity, despite saying it’s what we need – we innately don’t like change or the new. However, these ambiguities can be embraced and Haq gave Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches as a perfect example. The creative team had a hunch that women were more beautiful than they would describe themselves to be. Before it was tested, they actually had no idea if this would be correct. The client felt reassured that the fact that they didn’t know also meant that it had never been done before and encouraged them to proceed: self-confidence is important in creativity, but equally vital is a sense of self-doubt.