Let’s get digital, digital

Observations December 1, 2010 2:12 pm

(Best read to the tune of Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’)

The One Community recently named the 10 winners of ‘The Best of the Digital Decade: Digital Advertising that Defined an Era, 2000-2010′ and I am in AWE of the campaigns.  Let me repeat, in jaw dropping, let me wipe my chin off the floor, did they really just do that…AWE.

The winners:

1. SUBSERVIENT CHICKEN, 2004, for Burger King, by Crispin Porter & Bogusky

2. THE HIRE (aka BMW Films), 2001-2, for BMW, by Fallon Worldwide

3.  NIKE PLUS, 2006, for Nike, by R/GA

4. UNIQLOCK, 2007, for Uniqlo, by Projector

5. WHOPPER SACRIFICE, 2009, for Burger King, by Crispin Porter & Bogusky

6. CHALKBOT, 2009, for the Livestrong Foundation and Nike, by Wieden & Kennedy

7. DREAM KITCHENS, 2005, for Ikea, by Forsman & Bodenfors

8. ECO DRIVE, 2008, for Fiat, by AKQA

9. HBO VOYEUR, 2007, for HBO, by two agencies, the BBDO New York division of the Omnicon Group and Big Spaceship

10. DOVE EVOLUTION, 2006, for the Dove brand, by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

(videos and descriptions of the top 10 here)

If those 10 campaigns don’t impress you, I’m not quite sure what will.  The campaigns ooze creativity, innovation, uniqueness, and pizazz (excuse me if my breathless adoration of these campaigns affects my writing skills and use of adjectives).  And most importantly, these campaigns make me EXCITED.  Yes it’s nerdy but true, but they make me EXCITED about what great advertising can be (and that’s all advertising, not just digital advertising!) and EXCITED about what’s to come as technology and ideas continue to develop.  And hey, maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll just have a bright, shiny idea to add to the conversation!

Taking some deep breaths and calming down, I made a few observations about why I thought these campaigns were just brilliant:

1.  It’s not about ‘talking to’  consumers, it’s about talking ‘with’ consumers.  And it’s about giving the consumer more control than the advertiser. The campaigns engage consumers as if the consumer and advertiser were in a two-way, mutual, and friendly conversation.  The campaigns invite the consumer to build their own personal experience with the campaign, making the campaign engaging and relevant.

(ie, viewers tell the subservient chicken exactly what to do, those affected by cancer/supportive of the livestrong community are the ones controlling the tweets of the chalkbot, viewers control their sensory experiences with the HBO Voyeur campaign and IKEA kitchens…)

2.  It’s OK to take risks and break boundaries.  Controversy and backlash can be a good thing and can create buzz.  And it’s about being transparent so consumers can trust your brand. The campaigns made a splash because they were different- whether it be mainly to creativity that broke through the clutter, or honesty that made consumers do a doubletake, or backlash from a campaign that actually gained more impressions than the campaign itself.

(ie, Dove, a beauty products company exposing the industry’s way to create glamorous beauty photo shoots, Fiat widget allowing drivers to see exactly how their driving affects the environment, expanding the mission of the livestrong community/cancer awareness with personal sentiments on the world stage, IKEA giving consumers a 360 view of what their kitchens could look like, Burger King using Facebook for the opposite of Facebook’s purpose– by deleting friends for a Whopper…)

3.  It’s not about completely new technology/invention, it’s more about re purposing existing technology. The campaigns and the teams behind the campaigns were able to see the world through a different lens and incorporate existing technology/concepts with new technology to create the ‘wow’ factor in the campaigns.  Consumers need to be able to relate to the campaign, and if everything is new, that may be hard to get that connection.  Most of the campaigns didn’t reinvent the wheel, just took apart the wheel and re purposed it to better reach their consumers.   You have to understand where technology is now and what consumers want now in order to be able to create the successful ‘next best thing.’

(ie, Winning creative combos: Running+Music+network= Nike Plus; Chalk+Robot+network= Chalkbot; Friends+Fast Food+Facebook=Whopper Sacrifice; Music+Storyboard+network=HBO Voyeur; Chicken Suit+Fearless individual+webcam/network= Subservient Chicken)

4.  It’s about ideas being (seemingly) absolutely ridiculous… but actually not at all. All of the campaigns were probably laughed at when first introduced and dismissed as ludicrious, impossible, or insane.  But then some pushy creatives/teams got the head honchos to pay attention, and THEN.IT.WORKED.  Tradition was thrown to the wind and the companies allowed their ad campaigns to step out on a limb.  (probably with a little good market research first 🙂 )  You can’t be afraid to fail, you just have to take a deep breath and move forward.

(ie, Scenario One: ‘You want me to advertise Burger King by having some guy dress up in a chicken costume? How exactly does a chicken looking like a fool relate to selling Burger King?’ Scenario Two: ‘But I don’t understand- a robot that’s connected to a network? And how exactly do you plan to just go out there and write on roads- surely there’s a law against that.’ And Scenario Three: ‘We’re a beauty company.  Our products make people beautiful, and you want to expose what really happens at photo shoots… and that by using our products chances are you aren’t really going to look like that?’)

Innovation, engagement, a little bit of foolishness, and lots of creativity and determination- not a bad way to approach an ad campaign! (Or for that matter, life!) These are the type of campaigns that are moving the industry forward- and why a campaign like Subservient Chicken is still in the top 10 of the decade list even though it burst onto the scene in 2004.  The digital sphere is far more developed now (hello social media?) than it was in 2004, but advertisers still haven’t fully embraced the idea– it’s time to get digital! (digital)

Inspired by the ads and my learnings, I challenged myself to take the principles and think of the next great (digital) ad campaign.  And drumroll, please…

A campaign to raise money for public arts education.

The concept:

– Student art displayed and on sale in ‘galleries.’ Only these galleries aren’t in a museum or office building or school, they’re on the streets.  And the ‘galleries’ are white ‘canvases’ (actually screens) strategically placed around various cities, digitally showcasing students’ work.  The bottom of each screen reads like a typical PSA: ‘Donate to public arts education.  Buy this piece of artwork by texting xxx-xxx-xxxx and you’re helping ensure our children are getting a quality arts education.’ (ahem, not a copywriter but you get the point) The message is accompanied by a price tag for the art (nominal) and a phone number- the viewer just has to text the number to purchase the art (similar to texting campaigns for relief funds, billed right to your next cell phone bill.  And the artwork would be shipped to the address on the cell phone bill)

– The digital aspect: Students would create art in their classrooms and upload their work (through scanners, etc) to a central website.  The website would then digitally transmit the images to the various screens around the country, rotating them out once bought.

– Challenges: To work the program would probably have to be coupled with a major art event– free museum night in NY, a major art auction at Sothebys/Christies, outside of a huge art fair (Armory Show, Basel, etc)… and may only work in major cities with major arts outlets.  ‘Canvases’ would need to have some sort of electrical outlet since they are screens connected to a network, and there would have to be a traditional PR campaign so students would know to submit artwork.

Lots of challenges, but it’s- innovative, engaging, creative and a little foolish so it might just work!

Maybe my favorite deeplocal (creators of Chalkbot) can help me figure it out!


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