By Jeremy Garner, Weapon7
Apparently, they used to lunch a lot. Or throw pot plants down stairs. Sometimes they would tear up presentation boards the night before pitches.
These days, it could be argued, one of the most important aspects of a creative director’s job is to weed out the potential connections between brands and consumers by discovering parallels in seemingly unrelated aspects of culture and society.
But often, joining the dots between traits, technologies or thoughts within society and deducing ways that brands can duly form meaningful connections, is something of a moving target.
It’s rather like trying to thread a needle in an offroad vehicle that’s had the shock absorbers removed and which is travelling at 70mph across a pot-holed field.
However, there is one thing that’s remained a constant over the last few years: the switch of influence from the big, monolithic idea to be absorbed in a single point in time, to the multi-portion communications theme.
As if to mirror the skittish dietary experiment programmes that often find their way into the everyday lives of the office-bound middle classes, it would appear that media consumption habits are falling into a steady rhythm of little-and-often too.
Out with the over-indulgent, single helpings of information, entertainment and culture. Multiple, smaller, bite-sized helpings are where it’s at. Just take what you need, dip in and dip out. Whether it’s your news sources aggregated through Google Currents, your chosen TV or movies via Sky Go or the latest from your chosen collection of tweeters using TweetDeck.
People simply don’t have the time, or attention spans, to do anything beyond that.
But why is this?
It’s a lot to do with the ongoing wrestling match between technology and time.
The more immediate and ubiquitous that digital touchpoints become, the more we have to snack on them to feed our addictive personalities. Which, ironically, means the less available time we have.
And, the less time we have, the more we search out tech-driven ways in which we can maximize it through digital snacking. It could be said that ‘it feeds off itself’.
And, when I say ‘available time’, I’m referring to ‘blocks’ of time – the sort you need to really concentrate and contemplate things properly, rather than grabbing the odd moment here or there.
But is this really a bad thing?
After all, some of the most effective and creatively interesting campaigns of the past couple of years, such as Bing / Decoded
have not only been formed of dozens of constituent parts, but have used the ‘little-and-often’ consumption idea as the very mechanic that holds the entire campaign together.
Lego’s ‘Build with Chrome’
is another example of bite-sized engagement. Be assigned your chunk of virtual Australia or New Zealand, and build your bit. Then pop back frequently to see what else has been created. In its construct, it’s not unlike Edding’s Wall of Fame
– harnessing the power of the individual’s creative instincts to add to the collective.
All this raises an interesting point in itself.
It could be said that the most engaging advertising these days is created by companies which mirror the audiences they are attempting to target.
In other words, no departments of ‘specialist’ creative staff entering review meetings with the over-riding mission of protecting a single idea, but instead a mix of creative, planners and creative technologists working in a nimble, collaborative, quick-turnaround way that embraces the ‘little-and-often’, and who are able to collectively steward an idea and successfully fragment it into dozens of energetic little parts.
I believe more can be made of the energy that a dearth of time brings.
If you haven’t already it’s definitely worth switching your old-style, two-hour long brainstorming sessions, with all their unnecessary croissants and plates of biscuits, to shorter meetings that tap into the power of gut instinct and impulse.
Set the stopwatch, set yourself up in a highly relevant – or contrary – environment. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s stimulatory. Then just say what you’re thinking and riff off each other. Try to harness the same energy, the same impulses, that the public themselves use. Try to mirror them.
But take care to fill the brainstorms with people who know how to dig beneath the obvious. Use the sideways thinkers.
Use the people who can connect the seemingly unrelated aspects of culture and society.
Try and draw the parallel.