Ideas and energy: Taking a different perspective

The marketing and advertising industry’s top brass have returned from a busy week of networking, events and for most, a bit of partying at Cannes. Joking aside, the event, which has been a contentious subject as agency belts are tightened, is still a brilliant opportunity to look at some of the best work created over the last year.

I was particularly pleased to see Sussex Safer Roads low budget road safety campaign ‘embrace life’, pick up a bronze lion. When D&AD blogged about this advert back in March, I loved it. It demonstrates that safety messages can be delivered in a positive emotive manner rather than always through scare tactics. I’m not the only one to feel this way either as the Facebook group ‘Embrace this’ has a growing fan base over 6,000 people and the Youtube video has almost 9.5 million views.

This week I also stumbled across VW’s brilliant fun theory project. The idea is based on the fact that there must be a more fun way to do things that are not always liked. So how do you get more people to take the stairs in the subway – you make it into a giant piano of course! Or what about how to get people to wipe their feet on the mat as they come in? Make it fun by turning it into a DJ deck with scratch noises.

Both the Sussex Safety advert and the Fun Theory project are successful and provoke a strong reaction because they disrupt what is expected. There is also an argument to be made that even the most negative people are drawn to positive representations of things. For example this week Gideon Spanier wrote his regular Evening Standard column on behavioural economics and referenced choice architecture which has essentially shown that presenting things in a different way can lead to real behaviour change.

It’s not just R&D for product development and advertising that can benefit from disruptive thinking. There is also a convincing argument that disruption in business models and strategy can also benefit your company. Just take a look at the buzz around Clay Shirky’s cognitive surplus book and the various columns that have looked at how this idea may change business (e.g. Julie Myers and this discussion on WSJ). So when you’re stuck puzzling over something this week see if you can turn the problem on its head and take a different perspective.

Another year, another resolution and lots of change (like it or not)

Reading the papers this morning one theme that seemed to spring off the pages was that of change. Maybe this is not particularly surprising as it’s the start of the year and many people will be busy trying to change habits with their new year’s resolutions.

Nevertheless, change does seem to be featuring stronger on the agenda than in previous years. To start the leading article for The Guardian this morning was about the proposed change in rules regarding product placement, and the backlash it’s creating. But the reality is that commercial television is under huge pressure. They need to adapt, change and evolve…. or risk extinction to online services.

Another example of the force of change can be seen with a study by the Princes Trust that suggests that unemployed young people struggling to find work could potentially be “scarred for life” by their first experiences of the job market.

There were countless other examples. Including a look at how musicians are being forced to change how they work in order to survive. The piece says fans are expecting more, which means musicians have to do everything from giving away locks of their hair to playing a round of golf with fans for money. Nothing and no-one seems immune with even the football refusing to conform to the normal world order.

Seth Godin recently blogged about the relevance of change in this decade – declaring it a choice between embracing change or suffering the consequence of frustration. Strong words indeed!

I don’t want to belittle the issues of product placement or graduate unemployment, which clearly both need careful consideration. But I think there is a lot of value in looking at these issues through the embracing change perspective. For example there have been some great examples of people using creativity to stand out in the job market such as the creator of ihiredjeffclark.com who built a website rather than sent out CVs.

With a new government looking likely to come into power in the first half of this year, wanting things to stay the same is pretty futile. We may not always like it but it seems that for now at least, the idea of embracing change is the best New Year’s resolution you can have.

What happens when you combine the power of ideas with the speed of social media?

For anyone who was left somewhat bemused by Derren Brown’s recent ‘the wisdom of crowds’ explanation of his lottery prediction, here’s a more tangible application of our collective abilities.

Ideas Culture, is an Australian firm that puts creative thinkers around the globe to work via Twitter to come up with the solution to a client’s problem by morning.

This is the latest example of crowdsourcing.

What’s that you say?

Why (according to Wikipedia) “Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.”

What’s a neologism you say…

Anyway,

Any business can utilise Idea Culture’s “Ideas while you sleep service” by submitting their challenge online by 4 p.m. Then by 6 o’ clock, the challenge is issued to its Twitter-based ‘Ideas Agents’.

Crowd sourcing diagram

What a fantastic example of how social media can be applied to business issues, and an inspirational example of what can be achieved if we work together – otherwise known as “Leveraging Distributed Idea Generation in Innovation”.

Basically a massive brainstorm then.

What I think this shows us is that social media, when used well, shouldn’t be something arcane, overwhelming or confusing, but a convenient technical enhancement of our natural activities, something that makes dialogue easier, faster and more accessible.

At Limelight we still enjoy a good old fashioned brainstorm – but I wonder how long it’ll be before we’re inviting you, dear reader, to get involved?

Producing great ideas through uninhibited creativity

Limelight is a member of the MCCA and is their official PR partner.

Everyone must have heard it said, over the last six months particularly, that companies that market their way through a downturn come out the other side stronger and there is loads of research to prove it. Even so, there is no doubt that the current economic climate has added new pressures to the client–agency relationship in marketing.

Arguably the best agencies will turn these pressures to their advantage. In the MCCA’s blog, Scott Knox (Managing Director) argues that historically, creativity has thrived through previous recessions and this time round should be no different.

The best ideas can sometimes emerge from a completely different starting point. For example some agencies like to brainstorm by opening with the statement ‘what idea would definitely get me fired’. I’m not saying that these weird and wonderful ideas should then be presented to the client, but it is certainly a way of breaking the mould. From an extreme or stupid starting point – some of the most innovative and exciting ideas can then begin to grow.

This year’s MCCA awards are aiming to highlight the need for both agencies and clients to be brave with their ideas and be creatively uninhibited. To get the message across visually, a number of MCCA Best award winners agreed to pose for tasteful nude photographs – which certainly makes a change from the usual call for entry award adverts!

To find out more go to www.bestawards.co.uk

Mike Spicer, EHS Brann, Best Awards 2010