Power of Darkness: Switch Off to Switch On!

Please forgive the almost oxymoronic nature of the blog’s caption. We all think that no power leads to darkness, isn’t it?

 

The world owes a lot to Benjamin Franklin, the scientist who invented electricity. It’s human to want light and warmth. God’s first recorded words, according to the Hebrew Bible, were: “Let there be light.”

 

The night has a dark side; literally and metaphorically: ghosts, scary monsters, robbers, the unknown. Electricity’s triumph over the night keeps us safer as well as busier.

 

But whatever extends the day loses us the dark. Our always on, 24-7 culture has phased out the night, so much so that we treat the night like failed daylight.

 

Night and dark are good for us. As the nights lengthen, it’s time to reopen the dreaming space. Have you ever spent an evening without electric light? You would have noticed that when the lights are on, we are all in conformity mode. Saluting the default template, playing it safe, keeping up with the Joneses, effectively talking about our outer lives. Living the expected.

 

It’s different when we are sitting around a fire or candlelight which is when we begin to articulate our feelings. Our inner lives. We speak subjectively, argue less, there are longer pauses. Noticed? Or you could not see it in the dark?

 

To sit in isolation in darkness is curiously creative. We have our brainwaves , best ideas and Eureka moments in the dead of the night and the moment the light comes on we are thinking projects, deadlines, groceries, bills…

 

The famous “sleep on it” when we have a dilemma we can’t solve is an indication of how important dream time | darkness is to human wellbeing.

 

Food, fire, walks, talks, dreams, cold, sleep, love, slowness, time, quiet, books, seasons – all these things, which are not really things, but moments of life – take on a different quality at night-time. Creativity, like human life itself — begins in darkness.

 

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
— Mary Oliver

 

Switch off to Switch on!

 

ENDS

Attention Piece!

It is said that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

 

The poet J.D. McCatchy captured this essential fact beautifully in his observation that “love is the quality of attention we pay to things.”.

 

It’s a no brainer. Before we can create anything worthy of other people’s attention, we have to learn to manage ours.

 

Our world is the outcome of what we pay attention to. Period. Attention is the currency of achievement.

 

Being present is the best present we can give ourselves. And to others. There is a curious power in being present. When we are present, we see the other person more clearly. We communicate better. We make lasting connections.

 

Unfortunately, in our always on, go-go-go world, being  with someone who is fully present and therefore offering attention is rare.

 

Good work and great art comes from deep focus and deep work. Our ability to be prolific, create art that resonates, that strikes a chord , tug at the heartstrings and hit people in the face with a crowbar depends on our ability to focus.

 

Consider for a moment the kind of mental world we can construct when we dedicate significant time and attention to deep endeavors.

 

Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer,” Simone Weil observed as she considered the relationship between attention and grace at the peak of her short life. “Attention without feeling,” Mary Oliver wrote a generation later in her beautiful elegy for her soul mate, “is only a report.

 

It’s hard to carve out time and space for work or art that matters if we’re always distracted by things don’t.

 

So, how much art have you made today?

 

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door “. Marla Gibbs

 

ENDS

Being an employee of our own myth!

We are all frauds! Forgive the blatant articulation.

 

To quote Wikipedia ” The master race (GermanHerrenrasse) is a pseudoscientific concept in Nazi ideology in which the putative “Aryan race” is deemed the pinnacle of human racial hierarchy. Members were referred to as “Herrenmenschen” (“master humans”).

 

Creating is hard for every last one of us– including for the ones from the allegedly superior Aryan race.

 

If you think creating is hard, try grave digging. Or coal mining. Infinitely harder. Do you think miners stand around all day thinking and talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? Certainly not. They just go ahead and do it ie dig!

 

Throughout life, you collect data points or dots. And you probably don’t have a clue how these dots will connect in the future. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect these dots looking backward. But, you can only collect them going forward.

 

In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones.

 

Without the mistakes we make, the decisions we regret and the experiences that didn’t live up to our expectations, we would be very short on material for our creative work.  These things are all just ingredients for your soup, material for making meaning and making art.

 

The creative process, just like the creative life, isn’t linear.  We don’t know how each of our life experiences will impact us down the road. With each step forward, the view changes, the landscape shifts and the horizon offers a different dimension. The most insignificant of our experiences and life’s little skirmishes at the moment can serve as the most informative (and even inspiring) ones in our future.

 

Our creativity is not something that someone can give us, gift us or take away. It’s something thats always within us.  Whether it’s the degrees we earn or the jobs we hate, every experience offers us seeds to plant for the stories we tell.

 

Life doesn’t pause or stop to make room for our precious creating time. So, if you are running your own life’s employment exchange, show up and ship out!

 

ENDS

 

Creativity & The Certainty of Uncertainty !

When nothing is sure, everything is possible “- Margaret Drabble

 

Just as change is the only constant, the only certainty is uncertainty. And knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. Life is shot through with uncertainty and sometimes that uncertainty rears its head in profound ways. The assertion here, however, is that there really is no creativity without uncertainty. Put another way: dubito ergo creo. This is Latin for, I doubt therefore I create.

 

The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers. Unleash, invent, create, discover, endure, heal, inspire, transform. Hope hinges on uncertainty. The audacity of hope is what keeps us going. Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.

 

The outside world provokes, persists and insists that we change the story we tell ourselves. Our attitude doesn’t have to be driven by the outside world, but sometimes they overlap.

 

Specifically, when we experience uncertainty – no matter how uncomfortable and unsettling and destabilizing it can feel – the good news is that it opens vistas of possibility for new thought and action. If we have the confidence and willingness to take creative action in that moment, then our experience with uncertainty can lead to new ways of thinking and acting. Taking action, of course, does not guarantee creative outcomes, but it is through new thought and action that we can, at least temporarily, re-stabilize our experiences in new and better ways.

 

“In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.” ~ Deepak Chopra.

 

Courtesy: ISD Global

Organizations are created, powered, and led by people. To lead organizations well, we train people in disciplines such as marketing, finance, and leadership. But uncertainty presents a special challenge since few of us have received training in how to deal with it. As a result, although we may call for innovation, transformation, and change, most people back down at even the hint of risk, falling into a series of behavioral traps that limit organizations’ ability to grow and adapt. The challenge is that all growth, change, and transformation inevitably come paired with uncertainty. We have to go through the uncertainty to get to the possibility.

 

The concept of creative learning describes how we can be moved into a state of actionable uncertainty whenever we experience optimally discrepant learning stimuli, which is something that is sufficiently different from our prior knowledge, understanding, or skills. Let’s remember our brains are hardwired to be lazy, so the reliance on default mode thinking and being in comfort zones is a natural fallout. Creative learning stimuli are optimally discrepant, meaning that they are not so different from our prior understanding that we can’t make sense of them, nor are they so familiar that we simply incorporate them into what we already know. This aspect of creative learning is similar to Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget‘s conception of accommodation, which asserts that whenever we encounter new experiences that cannot be easily incorporated into our existing understanding, we need to change our existing knowledge structures to accommodate the new experience.

 

There are least three creative agency beliefs that seem necessary for us to act in the face of uncertainty. These beliefs include: creative confidence beliefs, perceived value of creativity, and creative risk taking.

 

Creative confidence or, more specifically, creative self-efficacy, refers to the confidence that we can think and act creatively in this moment. So, in the midst of uncertainty, our creative confidence beliefs become fluid and influenced by features and interactions situated in a particular time, task and context.

 

Perceived value of creativity also plays an important role. Even if a person has confidence to think and act creatively, if they do not value doing something new or different then they’re not likely going to invest the effort necessary to engage with the uncertainty they are experiencing in a creative way. Consequently, perceived value of creativity moderates the relationship among people’s potential to act creatively, their creative confidence beliefs, and their creative performance.

 

The third self-belief that seems to play a key role in taking action under uncertainty is the willingness to take the risks necessary for creative action. The willingness to take creative risks serves as a moderator between creative confidence and creative behavior.

 

Taken together, our judgements about our confidence, perceived value of creative action, and willingness to take creative risks seem to work together and inform us as to whether we will take creative action in the face of uncertainty.

 

We seem to be moving onward and upward from IQ(Intelligence Quotient) to EQ(Emotional Quotient) to AQ(Adaptability Quotient)in uncertain times, the best strategy is adaptability. Covid-19 amply demonstrated the significance of adaptability as a powerful asset for individuals and organizations alike.

 

Creativity often aids adaptability. A creative approach to new and unfamiliar situations can often help circumvent apparent awkwardness and head off the lack of confidence that may begin to develop as others watch us struggle to adapt.

 

The future is uncertain..but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity “- Ilya Prigogine.

 

ENDS

Creativity is Futureproof !

Did you know? The future apparently is already here, albeit a tad unevenly distributed.

 

Perhaps a lot of us get caught out like a deer in the headlights because the future arrives slowly and then all of a sudden.

 

That said, I can understand the obsession behind predicting the future. But why are predictions popular? Because they appeal to human nature. They create a sense of certainty in an uncertain world.

 

But they are wrong far more often than we assume.

 

Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences(circa 2008) Paul Krugman famously wrote in 1998 ” The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, Most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”

 

That one may have slightly missed the mark 😀. Well, well, the best of them can’t get the future right, so what are we crowing about? The problem isn’t just with experts. No one is great at predicting the future. Much of life can’t be forecasted, diagrammed, or reduced to a PowerPoint deck. When the future doesn’t match our expectations, our projections get thrown out (or worse, they’re still followed).

 

How about changing the narrative from predicting the future to ‘ creating the future ‘? Now we could be talking! And one of the strongest arsenal that you have in your armory in creating the future is ‘ creativity ‘.

 

Creativity is human.

 

It’s global.

 

Creativity is technology-agnostic.

 

It doesn’t discriminate.

 

From people working on the bleeding edge of their fields..

 

To others bringing more humanity to technology and industry..

 

The call to action is for creatives to take control of our tomorrow.

 

In it, we’ll seek to recapture the feeling of optimism, not fear,  for the future. Because in the hands of creatives, the future is bright.

 

The creative process is often a matter of changing ‘ What is ‘ to ‘ What if ?’. We first observe the ‘ Status Quo ‘ and then imagine a ‘ Status Novus ‘- Keith Reinhard, Member, Advertising Hall of Fame.

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.

 

Every time you have an idea pop into your head and don’t muster the self-confidence to act on it seriously, think about the opportunity cost you are likely to pay.

 

In the balance sheet of creators versus consumers, the world rewards creators by an overwhelming majority. You will get far more from writing 100 blog posts than reading 100.(BTW, all good writing begins with terrible first efforts).

 

Consumption is deceptive because it makes you feel that you are productive when you are not. Artistic progress is the result of creation NOT consumption.

 

The myth going around is that creativity and productivity are mutually exclusive. But they are NOT.

 

So let’s create more than we can consume.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

 

Creativity is an infinite game. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.

 

To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock (Alvin Toffler), the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots – religion, nation, community, family, or profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. It is no longer resources that limit decisions, it is the decision that makes the resources.

ENDS

Doing by Undoing

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?..echoed W H Davies in his seminal classic poem ‘ Leisure ‘. And he ends by stating,  A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

The biggest lie we’ve been told is that ‘ productivity is all about doing ‘.

Working is Not Productivity. The message once(and even now) was loud and clear. Relentless self-optimisation was a way to cope, but is it really? Humans are NOT search engines !

There has been always something obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that the moment you stop running for even an instant, you will be flung flat on your face.

Productivity is not a synonym for health or safety or sanity. I will go onto add that frantic productivity is actually a fear response. It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular.

Productivity, or the lack of it, has become the individual metric of choice for coping with the international econo-pathological clusterfuck of the Corona Crisis.

Have you taken the path not trodden, step into a void and, by design decide NOT to do anything? And then witness something strange happening? Ideas begin to flow, collide, offering solutions, relief, succour, insights, inspiration, closure..

Our best work will come from undoing—from slowing down and giving ourself time and space. The Japanese call this vacuum ma—an empty space that’s intentionally there. In Hebrew, the same concept is called selah. The word appears 74 times in the Hebrew Bible as a direction to stop reading, pause, and contemplate what just appeared in the text.

There is no preamble or drum roll when ideas arrive. There is no parade. If it’s big, it is not going to wield a megaphone and yell from the rooftop. At first glance, the big thing actually looks quite small. If there’s no void in your life—if your life is full of constant chatter—you won’t be able to hear the subtle whisper when it arrives.

Banish the FOMO that if you slow down, you will get left behind. What you would do is use less energy, you’ll go faster, and you’ll go deeper. The pedal-to-the metal mentality is the enemy of original thought. Creativity isn’t produced—it’s discovered. And it happens in moments of slack, not hard labor. Yes, counter to popular thinking, but true.

During those moments, it may appear like nothing is happening, but appearances mislead. Still waters run deep. As you stare out into the nothingness, your subconscious is hard at work, consolidating memories, making associations, and calibrating a new math while marrying the new with the old to create unexpected combinations.

So, don’t avoid the void.

Mute down the noise, just for a little bit, throughout the day. Give yourself permission to lounge in bed after waking up. Put yourself in airplane mode. Sit and stare at the ceiling. Wander aimlessly through a park.

Allow interior silence to oppose contemporary chaos.

Sink into the rhythm of no rhythm.

Step into the void—where all things that never existed are created.

Relentless self-optimisation is NOT a way to cope. Humans are NOT search engines !

Charles Richards on productivity: “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One person gets only a week’s value out of a year while another gets a full year’s value out of a week.”

You’ll find that taking your foot off the pedal can be the best way to accelerate.

Ends.

Beyond Advertising: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1 @ https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising )

 

Headlines from January 1, 2027, The New York Times

 

Global Warming Ended.

 Ice Caps Return.

AIDS and Cancer Cure Share Nobel Prize.

War? What’s That?

 

Sounds too good to be true. Okay, here are two more from the industry trade magazine Advertising Age:

 

CMO OF GOLDMAN SACHS RECEIVES MORE BONUS THAN BANKERS. CMO WINS NOBEL PRIZE.

 

Well, here is my view of the future and what I believe it will hold. Not only do I think that this represents a realistic view of where our industry could be in a few years from now and I think that our being there today could have a bearing on the world headlines I’ve put up.

 

If I were to look ahead to the future, the hope is that advertising would be focused more on authentic trust building engagement through human insight rather than relentless stalking through data mining.

 

For that, words really matter and it’s time to look at a new advertising vocabulary (Infographic 1.0) and for advertising to challenge entrenched mental models that we have been all prey to (Infographic 2.0).

Infographic 1.0

Infographic 2.0

 

Remember the office desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. Even digital needs a human touch for it to be soulful. Soulful advertising comes from those who interrogate their souls and that of the people they serve to be able to tell the truth in a way that affirms, alters, enhances people’s lives while making money or profit.

 

Advertisers will have to realise that brands will not be the centre of any conversations. Instead, brands will have to deliver opportunities for people to have the kind of conversations they want- with other people. The imperative for advertisers will be to avoid butting into conversations and instead to facilitate the kind of interpersonal conversations people want to have.

 

With so many changes going on within the industry, now is a great time to stop at the crossroads and look in a new direction. To look at the outcomes, – to create work that is as clever and creative as the best entertainment- in fact, so good, we could charge people to watch them. Today’s ads now compete not just with other ads but millions of moments of entertainment from professionally made work to home videos.

 

A dash of the familiar makes something palatable, a hint of the strange makes it interesting.

 

It takes Two to Tango

 

Like the perceived binary of analytics and creative, the short and long term are often in tension- should a brand aim to increase sales now by focusing on the quick sell, or should a brand play the long game, patiently waiting for the numbers to climb?

 

We have two clear takeaways. While Big Data is a revolutionary force, short-term metrics- to which it leans- do not predict long term effects. And emotional, creative campaigns, – which focus on the long term- will benefit a brand far more than a quick spike in sales. The two must work together: investment in brand and trust building combined with short term ‘brand activations ‘to reap the sales benefits of those investments.

 

In the future, analytics and creatives will be a match made in heaven. Designers and operational experts will work hand in glove. Ok, admitted, that is a fair bit of idealism, but then that is the whole point. What if the new collaboration yields an even more compelling and unifying brand purpose that goes beyond ‘the big idea ‘of the traditional ad campaign to create something more lasting, more connected to the aligned objectives that draws heavily on all these disciplines? Something that articulates what all those in the service of and serviced by the brand can relate to, as it is how the brand betters their lives.

 

Fewture Forward

Part of really embracing the future is putting few of your resources on the cutting edge because the cutting edge becomes mainstream so fast. You might look back and realise that you are missing the whole opportunity.

 

Far too often we get narcissistic about the brand (people must be interested in what we make) rather than be humble, empathetic, and interested in their lives. Great brand communication ideas act as a bridge. A bridge between what people are interested in and what you make/sell. A bridge between your world and theirs; real life / culture and commerce.

 

Multiple bets and the Velcro analogy

Brands now and in the future need to do lots of things, not just one big thing. Tying into the point of placing little bets and to be about managing portfolios rather than playing roulette. Google is a great example of this type of prodigious brand- Search to Google 411 to Chrome to Maps … (the list goes on). Creating brands built around a coherent stream of small ideas makes them stickier (the Velcro analogy of little hooks that Russell Davies has used is an incredibly powerful metaphor)- being the brand of new news and seen as having momentum and energy is the best leading indicator of future preference and usage. It also means you are more likely to thrive in a world where 95% of things die.

 

Actions speak louder than words. We need to make communication products, not just communicate a product. Create actions and things, not ads.

 

Curiosity Skilled the Cat

 

The future of how to thrive in the changed advertising landscape is curiosity. Without an inherent sense of cultural and technological curiosity embedded into advertising’s DNA then our industry is doomed to irrelevance. We don’t have to have all the answers, but we need to be asking all the questions because our future will be built by the curious.

 

Getting ready for the future of advertising means innovating products that foster creativity, support flawless brand experiences, and vitally keep up with the ever-changing consumer behavior. Exceptional marketers will leverage the unpredictable, moving the brand into the spotlight in real time.

 

Yours Personally

 

We may not personally know everyone we communicate with, but they are as informed, conscientious, and astute as our nearest and dearest. It’s time to treat them as such. Indeed “they” are “we “.

 

The Compass points towards Trust

 

Every three hundred thousand years or so, the north pole and the south pole switch places. The magnetic fields of the Earth flip.

In our culture, it happens more often than not.

And in the world of culture change, it just happened. The true north, the method that works best has flipped. Instead of selfish mass, effective advertising would need to rely on empathy and trust.

 

To be continued..

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks. Feedback welcome at suresh@groupisd.com

 

 

BEYOND Advertising!

Vignettes from A Day In Your Not-So-Future Life

As I walked into the bathroom, the body scanning sensors could tell I had a rough night. Sure enough, looking into the mirror, it displayed an ad for Panadol(extra strength) which was dynamically inserted as sponsor of my morning sports video highlights. In addition, a coupon offer from Nabo coffee was presented along with my daily agenda, which I dropped into my mobile watch.

 

My automated home system had already connected with my Google self drive and ordered me a car. Since I had earned over 1000 points last month based on my social sharing activity, I received an offer to try 3 breakfast items from a sponsor, Tim Hortons, with the caveat to ‘ please share your thoughts on the breakfast with your social network. I devoured the greasy delight while sitting in the backseat of my selfie-car while it drove into the city.

 

The ads that rose from the ether as I looked out of the windows were personalised and behaviorally driven with time and place considered.

 

When I selected quiet, contemplative music for the drive, I wasn’t surprised when the ‘ brought to you by ‘ included a yoga studio and a spa; both offering same week specials if booked within an hour and a voice link to testimonials from ” friends ” within my social network.

 

At the office I entered the Google collaboration holodeck with five others; we connected to the global team(another 12 members) and used voice, text, touch screen tech to share, move, grab, iterate on ideas, designs, models(which we 3D printed) for the proposed E Sports stadium for the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.

 

On the way home later I received several invitations to stop or order dinner for home delivery, al, based on known preferences, what I ate yesterday, my bio read for today, with ratings from within my social sphere.I decided on delivery(noodles) and decided, once home, I needed a good laugh, so asked my virtual video concierge for all Academy Award winning comedies of the past decade, along with ratings my friends had given and also asked to see if anyone wanted to co view and connect this evening.

 

While watching the comedy film, I was on Twitter and received sponsored Twitter amplified comedy shorts; both were outtakes from the movie I was watching and ” best of ” clips from the actor’s other work.

 

I ended the day in bed with my e-book reading a few pages to me, along with sharing tomorrow’s weather(brought to you by Carrier) and any key meetings on my agenda( a reminder from Timex).

Bruce Neve, Former CEO, StarcomMediavest Group 

 

What we find compelling about this above extract from Bruce(projected in 2013) is that the vast majority of what he describes is not only possible today, but is being practiced, tested and evaluated for new levels of effectiveness related to traditional approaches by marketers across categories.

 

Going Back In Time

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Genesis 3:1–5

 

If we assumed this biblical account were literally and historically accurate, we might argue that the serpent was the first advertiser, and this was the very first instance of deceptive advertising. Setting aside that some people would challenge this description’s historical accuracy, others likely would argue that it isn’t advertising—it’s direct selling! Or perhaps it’s public relations. Does that really make a difference? Of course, if the serpent was the first adman, that makes all of us in the industry a professional descendant of the serpent.

 

If we are to look at the future of something, then it is important to correspondingly understand its historical, cultural and anthropological origins. Therein lies some telltale signs and the crystal ball.

 

It is said that the future arrives gradually and then all of a sudden.
We’ve been hearing about the pending “death of advertising” for years, with ever-increasing ads having less and less influence on actual consumer decisions. Today, the up to 10,000 ads we see every day makes each of them less impactful. It turns out that hitting people in the face with a fire hose is actually a bad way to convince them they should take a drink.
The consumer is hard to impress( we could call them ‘ infidels ‘ in some way) and the next decade of advertising relies completely on them buying into our largely tech-driven, utopian vision of making every single advertising message relevant to the receiver. If you consider yourself able to predict the future within any reasonable degree of accuracy, you’ll know that a solid human understanding is absolutely essential.
Over the next 10 years, advertising will move further away from communicating to predicting, and emoting, based on human needs. According to a study by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, three out of eight people now love brands more than their spouses, because thinking of brands releases more oxytocin – the same reaction generated when being hugged. 

Without a doubt, we’re going to witness(or already witnessing) a shift from obsessing over what advertising looks like, to what advertising feels like. As we call it at ISD Global – Unique Feelings Proposition(UFP) is far more significant than the by now passe Unique Selling Proposition(USP).

And for that to happen, advertisers talking will get replaced by advertisers listening. Hearing what the customer is saying will be more important than trying to devise a break-through creative idea. Answering customers’ questions. Right now. Not tomorrow.The individual is the shaper of her own identity and its own online & offline presentation. She is no longer the consumer of the media. She is the medium– the most trusted and personal channel through which content is created, flows, finds shape, and gets presented to the world.

 

The hyper-personalization of advertising will indeed further empower the consumer but it may also save advertising from its oft predicted doom. 

 

In order to develop a future for advertising brands, there could come into existence a Need Bar. The Need Bar would be personalised for every consumer, so as to give her the ability to look for anything she needs at any time.This would result in a brand not only being present in the life of a consumer, but also catering to her every need, from any brand. Inevitably, the future of advertising will incorporate more consumer knowledge derived from the hard sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics, to complement that acquired from the softer sciences of psychology and sociology.

 

The needle is moving. Most advertisers in the very near future(if not already) would have completed their natural evolution from adjacency(stand next to the stuff people want!) to interruption( stand in the way of the stuff people want!) to content marketing (be the stuff that people want!). Enter a new era where brands that do business using a Consumer Era ” marketing as manipulation ” mindset will become irrelevant and superseded by companies that demonstrate a Relationship Era mindset. And, as forces at play lead the Relationship Era to the tipping point of wide acceptance, I believe that marketers will not be known as the scoundrels who spin but rather people with the greatest expertise in crafting authentic relationships– and adding most value to their brands and businesses.

 

What if?

– What if marketers and brands saw their marketing and advertising as an investment and a value creation engine rather than as an expense to be squeezed?

– What if the brands were seen as bringing in not only advertising dollars but also valued content to the media properties and channels they use?

– What if the creative, analytic and strategic genius that lies within the sum total of the world’s media, advertising, digital, creative etc agencies, research firms, ad tech companies, sponsorship, brand placement, – and all other players who ‘ feed off advertising ‘- were given a more inspired briefIncrease sales and leave the world a better place. Come in on budget and be proud to tell your family about what you helped create. Help us, all of us, be in thought, word and deed, create something truly exceptional!

– What if the community were to be expanded to all those whose actions imparted the brand and how it actually came to life for its audience? Not only the traditional stakeholders, but also others who could potentially describe the broader value of the brand and the brand experience in even more creative and impactful ways.

– What if all the ways that brands were brought to life with their potential and current customers were thought of holistically, and resources were allocated accordingly?

– What if every bit of the US$ 780 billion plus paid, earned and owned advertising expenditure around the globe not only resulted in sales and profit, but also resulted in net positive impact on society and culture? What if, in addition, it made a positive impact on the lives of those who were involved in it and influenced| inspired by it?

WHY NOT?

As Albert Einstein famously asserted ” Without changing our pattern of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought “.

 

Amid all the changes, “the fundamental things apply as time goes by,” to quote the famous song from the classic movie Casablanca. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh, and human nature doesn’t change over time. Our obsessive drives to survive, to succeed, to belong and to be loved, to take care of our own—those passions have been heightened by the pandemic, and advertisers and their agencies who are sensitive to those basic needs will create brands to meet them, an act that will always require advertising.

 

Creativity will remain the most powerful force in business, and instead of changing campaigns with every change of a CMO, advertisers will rediscover the importance of consistently projecting a clear sense of purpose and doing so with a distinctive brand voice. Along the way, we’ll learn the difference between an algorithm and a true insight into human nature and the important difference between big data and a big idea.

 

Advertising has been both cause and consequence of social change.Never was it more obvious than since the start of the twentieth century. That, of course, is both a positive and a negative. It is a powerful tool of change, and like any tool, it can be misused. And at times it has been.I have no doubt that advertising will rise to meet that challenge.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Creative Apocalypse: Preparing your Client

The Creative Apocalypse: Preparing your Client!

There is great, there is good and there is average (ok).

Superlative. Comparative. Relative. Most of us want  (at least there is good enough intent!) to do good work and over a period of time how that transmits to average and below remains an unsolved mystery. Have we ever started out saying; ” Let’s do some Great Work “? No one came into the profession thinking ‘I really want to produce work that’s a bit meh, a bit vanilla, that makes no impact on the world and sinks without a trace.’ So how come we don’t see brave creative work that often? The occasional breakthrough shines like a lighthouse across a lacklustre sea of work that is often undeniably boring, weirdly familiar or just more than a little disappointing.

 

So how is the end game playing out? It’s a whole new world out there. Recession or no recession- there is a perennial pressure on budgets and jobs. The ‘always on shifting media landscape and the move from broadcasting messages to managing conversations. The balancing of brand, ROI and an increasing reliance on data and metrics. There is safety in numbers (metrics reloaded!). Data is the new oil. And that too is now old hat. And how! All of these things have stitched together a sinister conspiracy in the last 10 years or so and made it more difficult for creatively brave work to ever see the light today(with some exceptions of course).  It takes real balls for a client, or an agency, to take a leap of faith in this climate. Till then, it’s a lip of fate! And sealed at that. ‘ Faith accompli ‘ anyone?

Where does the skull drudgery end? What can be done? Selling creatively brave ideas requires an ability to promote the safety of risky situations (don’t miss the contradiction here), psychological management skills and a client that can hold their nerve (while letting go of her purse strings!). Sometimes you have to help hold it for them.

This situation provides both agency and the client an absolutely perfect platform to do creative tango. So here is the brief(in vest in it!): Depart from norm(it’s the mandatory new normal, so no big deal), break free from convention whilst remaining true to creating lasting campaign impact and brand recall. Surprise, delight, coerce, intimidate, purposefully provoke, question and come back to do more of the same. The brain remembers only what it least expects. So, deliver the unexpected. Don’t just hand hold the client, hold her heart and get to your customers’ soul in the process. That soul stirring exercise should be your sole purpose.

 

USP(Unique Selling Proposition) is passe, dead and buried. The time is about creating UFP( Unique Feeling Proposition). 

 

WANTED: Creative Bravehearts. On both sides. Ready to take the leap?

ADVerbatim: Some micro and macro outlooks

The caption of this article is a bit of soft pedaling. I am quite uncomfortable with the word ‘ trends ‘ because it is in more ways than one camouflaging what is called ‘ herd mentality ‘ which leads to the inevitable SOS(Sea of Sameness). And in an increasingly commoditized world, you may be birds of the same feather, but..flocking together ??
Amidst the tempest of pandemic driven uncertainty and disorientation, here’s a crystal ball gaze at some obvious and not so obvious landscapes that the advertising industry could be witness to in the coming months.
– The biggest boycott in history to continue- I am referring to ad blocking– with over 600 million devices in its universe and growing, the wake up alarm has long been sounded for brands, agencies and advertisers. According to Hootsuite, the UAE has close to 40% of ad blocking( countries like Indonesia, India are at over 50%). Research states that one of the primary reasons for ad blocking is too many ads that are irrelevant, annoying and have nothing to do with creativity. Creativity is future proof and the sooner brand guardians get re-sensitized to that, in a pull and engage scenario(as against the widely practiced push and control), the better.
– Unless something dramatic happens, online programmatic advertising is writing its own obituary. Advertisers are being abused blind by adtech ferrets. Research from Media Post concludes that out of the US$200 billion global spend, 70% of advertising dollars spent on online programmatic advertising never touch a human being. In effect, $140 billion disappears in “ad fees, fraud, non-viewable impressions, non-brand-safe placements, and unknown allocations” (by “unknown allocations” you can read “shit that no one can figure out”).
 
– The pandemic brought first-time advertisers to many platforms, especially OOH and DOOH, 2022 will be no different. New categories like Fintech, NFTs, Crypto (with their supporting companies), and Online/E SportsWellbeing,EdTech, FoodTech categories will continue to flourish. After the dash for Expo 2020 attention, big opportunities will come to the fore for advertisers courtesy the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
– Advertisers and marketers will need to be as nimble as consumers. The pandemic not only accelerated omnichannel retail but also created hybrid behaviours beyond how we shop. From a mix of virtual and in-person fitness to IRL experiences with digital extensions, how we work, play and live is fluid and consumers expect brands to keep up with the rapid pace. For marketers, that means mapping every consumer touchpoint and applying a collection of insights – location, identity, cross-device, in-person, in-stream, etc. – to creative concepts that earn consumers’ attention while respecting privacyThe agility of marketers to behave as nimbly as consumers will translate into brand loyalty in a rapidly growing hybrid world.
– A largely ignored, under served imperative will come to the fore for marketers and advertisers- Building company culture: The industry never had attrition rates as high as it had in 2021, and we’ve never had as many remote employees either. The Great Resignation continues unabated. Last year, the better organisations focused on retention and put a hyper-focus on recognition. Without in-person interactivity, you have to be so deliberate about your culture, especially during remote work. In the coming times, brands and businesses will put a lot of focus on how they create a culture of retention, diversity and recognition. Creativity will have to make a serious comeback.
 
– For better or for(commerce)verse- Last year we saw a continued acceleration of social with e commerce and sowing of the seeds of ‘ community commerce ‘ glued together by community, creators, shopping and entertainment like never before. In 2022, we’ll see social commerce give way to the “commerceverse” as people begin to move from entertainment to purchase. And as consumers look to build out their environment with virtual goods and experiences, brands will have the opportunity to connect with consumers in a surround-sound way.
 
– Agency In-Housing: The in-housing trend at brands will not go away, but it is in reverse — to a point. Turns out, it’s too expensive, too complicated and too political for many brands to do at any real scale. Especially when so many businesses are trying to wrangle costs, not inflate them, during a global economic downturn. The pandemic’s knock on the economy forced many marketers to live hand-to-mouth and the flexibility offered by agencies proved to be critical to survival.
– Artificial Intelligence will find a greater say in services like copywriting and content generation– especially with tools like GPT 3(Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) -an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. It helps instantly generate high quality copy for Email, Ads, Websites, Listings, Blogs & More. Save Time And Money Writing Clever, Original Content And End Writer’s Block Forever is the pitch.
 
– One should have heeded this as a premonition- sometime back the Meaningful Brands study conducted by Havas told us that most people would not care if 74% of all brands disappeared for goodHow can brands bridge the gap between apathy and action, particularly with that all-important millennial audience – the biggest generation and the leaders of tomorrow as we collectively take responsibility for getting closer to the UN SDG(Sustainable Development Goals).If we want to change the world, we all have to be involved. All people, of all ages, every brand, no exceptions. Bridging that gap means recognising that brands can be citizens too, with a responsibility to promote, share, create exposure and help to make change. Most importantly, brands can help people to connect to a political process that will make an impact on the world they live in – and that their children will inherit – to act as citizens themselves and not simply as consumers. That is a brand’s role as a citizen – to help consumers be citizens too.
 
To quote Woody Allen, ” 80% of success is just showing up “. There is no better time to create a bright future.
 
– Playing it by earWhile our eyes may be ‘maxxed’ after more than a year of relentless screen time, our ears have bandwidth. Our ears are more reliable curators, opting for human connection and unscripted conversations that podcasts and radio provide. A recent WARC Lion’s Intelligence study showed consumers now spend a third of their media time with audio, but most brands spend less than 10% of their media budget with audio. There is no question brands need to right-size their audio investment. But, getting beyond the spreadsheet and learning how to create a real human conversation with the consumer is the secret to winning with audio. Here’s to more conversations about how brands can get heard and get growth with audio in 2022.
 
– This is how the cookie crumbles:The impending demise of third-party cookies has drastically altered the digital advertising world while simultaneously highlighting how vital first-party data is and will be into the future. For now, first-party and third-party data will continue to exist, and advertisers can maximise this opportunity to run various experiments to ensure they are ready for when third-party cookies are no longer a source of targeting data. Brands that embrace first-party data, contextual advertising, and other third-party data alternatives today will be the industry leaders tomorrow.
– RIP to RFP? : The RFP(Request for Proposal) bandwagon indulged in by enterprises from agencies to extract the cheapest possible price for their services. This comes with scant regard to competence, expertise, empirical evidence and worse who contributes the original idea which is now happily being sacrificed at the ‘ cheapest pricing altar ‘. And we are all aware that ‘ insider trading ‘ is not just restricted to the stock market. Time to cremate this archaic, merit agnostic practice.
 
– Measurement will be back as the next frontier in 2022 — fueled by the unprecedented rise of CTV, the uncertain future of cookies and identity transactions in digital, and the disruption of Nielsen ratings. As we build for an ever-interconnected digital future, the ‘measurement reset’ is an opportunity to build the relationships between consumers, content creators, publishers and their advertising partners.
 
– Meta will emerge as part of brand experience and communication conversations and NFTs(Non Fungible Tokens) will begin to come into the brand ecosphere but we are still some time away from these becoming right, front and centre.
 
I remain conscious of brevity and hence would come to a halt here though there are quite a few more that I would have liked to list as we telescope into the emerging future of the advertising and marketing industry. Maybe in a separate piece.
 
ENDS
Suresh Dinakaran – Chief Storyteller at ISD ISD Global, a Dubai based branding and ideas hotshop and the Managing Editor of BrandKnew, a multifaceted media asset, published across print, digital and web versions.