Towards Madison Valley

CR’s Click conferences in the US revealed that software and storytelling are becoming equal partners in the American ad scene

CR’s Click conferences in the US revealed that software and storytelling are becoming equal partners in the American advertising scene

Last week CR ran our Click conference on digital creativity in New York and San Francisco. New York highlights included B-Reel‘s Ben Tricklebank talking though the making of their We Used To Wait interactive online video for Arcade Fire (see our post here) and former CR Creative Future David O’Reilly providing a glimpse of his latest animated work, The External World, a short film of short films.

And in San Francisco, my personal highlights included hearing from Iain Tait about his transfer from Poke to global executive creative director-dom at Wieden + Kennedy, Tool of North America explaining how they pulled off David on Demand in which, for the entire week of the Cannes Advertising Festival, a Leo Burnett staffer had his every move determined by Tweets and broadcast live online,

AKQA’s Stephen Clements talking through their Halo Reach robot campaign (which we blogged about here) and the ever-charming Vincent Morisset (featured in CR January 2010).

Brett Wickens, Peter Saville’s former collaborator who now heads up Ammunition along with former Pentagram partner Robert Brunner and Matt Rolandson underlined another theme of the day – the development of digital products. Ammunition has a separate company producing apps, one of the most successful of which is the TimeTuner, a clock radio for the iPhone that carries 14,000 radio stations. Wickens also showed another app, this time developed for Nielsen, designed to be used while watching the My Generation US reality TV show.

The iPad app uses ‘sonic watermarking’ embedded into the shows. At the prescribed moment, content on a user’s iPad is triggered by this watermark as they are watching, taking advantage of the fact that many iPad owners have the device on their laps as they are watching TV. Thus, they will be able to access Twitter streams, quizzes or additional content about a character or, of course, targeted advertising. The show itself was not a success, being cancelled after just two weeks, but the technology has been attracting attention from all the major US networks.

It was also fantastic to have Eric Rodenbeck from Stamen come to talk about data visualisation and its many uses. In the early 90s I worked on a book series called Browser which set out to document the cool goings-on of a new fangled invention called the information superhighway or World Wide Web. Rodenbeck was, along with the likes of Jodi and Matt Owens, one of the few artists and designers that were genuinely attempting the radical and the new. He was ‘visualising data’ online 15 years ago.

One of Stamen’s current projects is Michal Migurski’s Walking Papers, which encourages people to enhance the OpenStreetMap wiki mapping project by downloading and printing out an OpenStreetMap plan of their area, annotating it, scanning it and uploading their version back to the site.

And aside from all this cool stuff, the two events also threw up some memorable insights on the way in which the ad business is changing.

In setting up the day in San Francisco, our chair, Gareth Kay of Goodby, Silverstein, talked about how marketing communications had moved from staking everything on one big idea – usually executed via a spectacular commercial – to placing lots of small bets and seeing which one looked like paying off. He also noted that marketing budgets were becoming R&D budgets in which companies were testing out new products and services, such as Nike+ which, four years on, is still being held up as the way forward.

Kay characterised the shift in emphasis and skills that this will require as a relocation to ‘Madison Valley’ – whereby advertising will combine the storytelling skills of Madison Avenue with the technical know-how, collaborative working methods and social media awareness of Silicon Valley.

This point was reinforced by Iain Tait who compared the way in which stories and software are traditionally created:

Stories Software
Writers             Engineers
Individuals       Teams
One version     Many versions
Done                Continually tested and revised

Integrated modern ad campaigns, Tait argued, have progressed from Stories to embrace the Software model and are now work best as a combination of the two. One of the best examples off this must surely be W+K’s own Old Spice campaign, which was one of the first things Tait worked on in his new job.

The campaign began with a TV commercial but what made it really lift off was the day that W+K devoted to shooting bespoke responses to people who Tweeted questions to the ad’s star, Isaiah Mustafa. Read WriteWeb explains it all here.

It seems like, in the US at least, the ad industry is finally getting to grips with the opportunities afforded by the new media reality. In earlier Click conferences there was a lot of talk about the battle between Traditional and Digital. Predictably, the new reality is a combination of the two – what Tool’s Jason Zada painfully termed, with tongue firmly in cheek, ‘Tradigital’. Ouch.

Click London is on Thursday November 11. Details here

During the lunch breaks at both conferences, our partner Monotype Imaging set attendees a distinctly analogue task – to create a book about one of their typefaces using pen, pencils and even Letraset sheets. The SelfMade project is open to all – and you could win an iPad plus £3000 worth of fonts and a year’s subscription to Web Fonts. All details here



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