Moving Brands – Discover Through Play
Thursday morning saw the team head over to Moving Brands in the heart of Shoreditch. Once we’d run the usual gamut of explaining that we’d booked on the app, people telling us they didn’t make the app, everybody who booked getting refused, being sent back outside and then reluctantly squeezed back in again; things finally got underway.
The workshop was led by the R&D team at Moving Brands who clearly have no end of fun discovering things through play. We were treated to a whistle-stop tour of innovations and inventions they’d developed, including large throwable, kickable and shakable cardboard boxes that offered a non-linear way to navigate a powerpoint presentation; and a gadget called the “To&fro” that effectively let the team teleport real notes, in real-time, on real paper from London to New York and back again, complete with the New Yorkers’ annotations.
All of which brought us nicely to their latest take on futuristic cyber-stationery, illa.
Illa is a stripped back virtual sketchbook / post-it note style web app designed to run on smartphones and tablets. Still in early (possibly permanent) beta, attendees were lucky enough to get a log-in and become testers in a couple of quick-fire challenges: draw your neighbour in 20 seconds from memory, draw an inanimate object object in 30 seconds, and draw the Queen in a minute.
Illa itself was incredibly simple and pretty intuitive. Users have a choice of three drawing materials; pencil, graphite and charcoal, which are arranged along a corresponding slider that allows you to select thickness. Double tapping the same slider will swap to eraser. The canvas is simply the screen size of the device and always has a subtle pale yellow, slightly post-it style, colour cast.
Although it was possible to pinch and zoom, it hardly seemed relevant. Illa was at it’s best when users quickly captured their thoughts without becoming overly fussy. As the workshop wore on and users had progressively longer to finesse drawings, it quickly became apparent that less is more. Rather than spending two minutes delicately shading a sketch and adding detail, an idea could probably be communicated better in four 20 second sketches and a chat.
All sketches instantly uploaded to a ‘display wall’ visible on the app and during the workshop this was projected onto the wall for all to see.
All in all, a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at Moving Brands R&D department and an interesting glimpse at a modern take on the classic ‘napkin sketch’ way of visualising a thought.
It’s Nice That – It’s Advice That
This was an odd little talk, in an odd little book shop. Thankfully, this time, we got in without too many app hiccups while others weren’t so lucky. While people argued their case at the door, we waited for the room to fill up and got scolded for taking pictures on our phones; being told that, “We are trying to encourage being present during the talk.” Opposite us a lady got told the same thing and made an immediate non-verbal protest by upping her ‘non-present game’ to DEFCON 1 by taking out a laptop and typing as loudly as possible.
Eventually, the talk began and a weary looking character from It’s Nice That stood up for approximately the length of time it took to introduce himself and say, “we’re going to sit here,” at which point he promptly sat down out of view to click through his slideshow.
For the remainder of the talk we were treated to all kinds of stats and a relatively downbeat, tired and slightly tortured sounding description of just how much stuff It’s Nice That receives, and how only a tiny percentage of it can ever see the light of day in their blog and mag.
While billed as advice on how to submit work to blogs and magazines, (specifically It’s Nice That), it really came across as an insight into how fantastically gruelling it can be sitting around filtering through loads of ‘cool stuff’ all day long.
The poor guys couldn’t even stand up to present, they were so drained from the endless weeks and months of analysis, wading through the mountains of submissions, scrolling through an infinite list of email attachments. Like a demented fusion of Simon Cowell and Nathan Barley, they faced with the never-ending dilemma of determining if this or that supposedly creative thing is creatively cool enough to be tweeted or featured as something they think is creative and cool.
For It’s Nice That, the struggle is real.
Talk / Panel – Planners + Creatives = Problem solved
Here the team behind THIS GIRL CAN talked about Planners and Creatives making sweet music together AKA ‘Finding the Thing’. The most important thing here, they said, was that they all wanted to ‘find the thing’, they knew there was definitely a ‘thing’ to be found and they all wanted to ‘find it’ together. They even had a slide with THE THING written on it in massive letters.
Quite what that ‘thing’ was never really became clear.
Nor did the planner + creative equation for success. Throughout the course of this talk we couldn’t help but think that what they were really doing was trying to post-rationalise a fairly non-linear and mercurial process into some kind of standardised formula. But all that really emerged was that it wasn’t a formula, and the very fact that they couldn’t clarify that process down any further than ‘finding the thing’ seemed to prove that.
What we did find out was that they had a great client in Sport England, who seemed constantly willing and eager to push ideas further to create something fresh and disruptive. We also found that they had a strong evidence based emotive insight right from the get go. During Sport England’s research, predictable barriers to exercise, like time and cost, came up. But one of the strongest themes to emerge was fear of judgement. When choosing an exciting ‘enemy’ for the campaign to fight against, ‘time and money’ pale into insignificance against ‘judgement’, which is an absolute gift for planners and creatives alike.
On top of this, they all knew that they were promoting a product with no downside i.e. exercise and ultimately, health. So when you plug a product with no downside into an enemy that is universally seen as something we all need to overcome, i.e. fear of judgement, you immediately get an incredibly strong brief that is very, very easy to believe in. When you contextualise that brief against the background tension of traditional sport brand advertising, featuring impossibly toned perfect models achieving unachievable goals in every area, then you’ve got creative rocket fuel.
The team summed up the brief. And what a brief it was…
“Give judgement the finger!”
Some fantastic lines later and they had the bones of an amazing campaign. Putting some realistic, believable, sweaty, red cheeked, jiggling flesh on those bones got the campaign closer to greatness. And finally, having the money to add the perfect soundtrack from Missy Elliott is what really = ‘problem solved’ on this job.
All of which suggested that, based on this, the real equation for an absolute killer campaign is:
Planner + Creative + Open enthusiastic client, genuinely willing to push the creative + Fantastically emotive evidence based insight + Product with no downside + Universally hated ‘enemy’ + Misleading existing context that needs correcting + Energising four word brief + Fantastic Copy + Fantastic Art + Enough money for a Missy Elliott style soundtrack = Success.
Key takeouts from Thursday
1. Creativity is playful.
There is a theory that says the best ideas flow from a relaxed state of mind, the same state of mind you have while playing in a no pressure, no consequence environment. The trouble is that almost all jobs have consequences and pressures. These pressures immediately constrict the mind and lead to ‘safe ideas’ or ‘vanilla ideas’; things that won’t set the world on fire but won’t cause any real problems either. So what’s the answer? Try to introduce an element of play into creative, take time for experiments and creative play that isn’t tied to profit or clients. Some of the most interesting ideas are creative accidents, they don’t have a brief at all.
In 1968, Spencer Silver was trying to develop a super-strong adhesive when he accidentally created a low-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive. For five years it sat on a shelf at 3M as he tried to find a problem for his solution. But when Arthur Fry attended a seminar by Silver in 1974 and suggested using the adhesive to keep the bookmark in his hymnbook in place, suddenly the Post-It note was born.
In many ways, illa comes from the same place the Post-It note did. It comes from play.
So make time for creative play, even if it means taking time out or spending time outside of work.
2. Don’t be self deprecating when submitting work for publication.
It’s nice to be humble, but if you don’t believe in your work, then why should anyone else. These guys have got a lot of stuff to plough through, and they are already exhausted. Your self-deprecation may weary them into an early grave and it will definitely lessen your chances of being featured in It’s Nice That.
3. Want to succeed in advertising?
Simply find an amazingly open client, seeking to promote a product with no downside, against an enemy everyone wants to eliminate and put your best people on it. Get them all working together to give focus to a pre-existing backlash against universally confidence crippling, unachievable ideals (perpetuated by the same industry that seeks to solve it), sync it all up to a killer, No.1 hit song and boom, you just found ‘the thing’.
4. Nobody made the D&AD Festival App. NO-ONE!
Even more than on Wednesday, people were eager to distance themselves from any potential involvement with the app. Every person, on every door, at every event definitely did not make the app.