I’ve been away in the last couple of weeks. So much work, no time for anything. But now I’m spending some days at my hometown and I’ll try to write a few things. The first one is about the Brazilian Planning Conference that happened some weeks ago in Sao Paulo.
The theme was (guess what?) Conversation. A cool theme for an advertising marketplace that needs to really understand this concept and re-shape the structures to start to respond to this new culture.
It was a great day, with lots of inspiring people from the client side, journalism, design, pop nerd culture, research and planning. You can have a better sense of the day looking at these pics or at Gareth’s blog here.
Albeit all of the speakers have done a great job, I’ll stick to comment four presentations that best demonstrates the thinking behind the Conversation concept in my opinion.
The first is about Nike, represented by its head of marketing in Brazil, Tiago Pinto. Once more, the brand proved why it knows how to make things happen. Nike is all about connecting to the culture of each sport they are into. Plus, it really knows how people behave in each culture because the company participates running, playing and skateboarding with them in Brazil.
This is a brand that understands their folks are more interested in things that provide social currency for them to share and connect with their peers. So Nike provides what makes conversation. In two ways: between the brand and its consumers and between consumer-to-consumer. The usage of events, utility and content is the way to reach a broader goal of making the dialogue happens.
My second comment is about a nice surprise and a refreshingly voice coming from Fred Gelli, founder of Tatil Design. His approach on conversation was related to the ongoing thinking brands must have on a more eco-conscious and sustainable society. But his speech wasn’t an “eco-boring” thing, rather a very inspiring way of considering Bionic as a powerful learning for industry and brands. Besides, his stuff showed how designers have a different (and in many cases, a broader) mindset to brand thinking.
His first point has to do with cycles: how nature doesn’t throw energy away and how it designs for the long-term perspective. The opposite of the industrial consumerism thinking that has the short-term perspective and lots of wastefulness problems. His second point was on how Bionic leads to new solutions. To make that closer for the planners in the room, he made a brilliant correlation of flowers as the most successful nature’s brand experience. Because flowers changed, optimized and romanticized nature’s procreation process. Than he showed some slides with similarities on brand experiences and flowers. Beautiful and sensitive stuff.
As sensitive are the two planners who spoke over there. Two of the guys who are trying hard on the quest to move planning forward: Adrian Ho and Gareth Kay. Of course they have a similar view on the planning issue, but it was very interesting to hear how one is trying to change not just planning, but his whole agency and how the other had to quit the ad business to start doing things instead of advising in the conversation reality.
Gareth’s main point is that planning needs planning. It means that this discipline needs to re-evaluate itself and must be radical in terms of attitude and approach on doing that. It starts by the comprehension that the business we operate in is culture and not communication or branding. Then it evolves to the notion that we need to translate the other way back, bringing social grammar into the commercial world and not keeping the translation of commercial into social. Where, finally, brand is measured by its energy and not by some static attributes like awareness.
Gareth defends that energy is what drives conversations. Something that makes lots of sense to me if we think this is the leading indicator of usage and preference, something essential to a friend endorsement, for instance. So, planning outcome naturally shifts for brands to: have a social/cultural point of view, be additive and not interruptive, to interact not just integrate (I would say lots of agencies really have to learn this one) and do stuff, lots of them.
Underlying his main point is the fact that in today conversation world messaging is gone. And this may be the great issue of this whole industry we are part of. Digital and design are free from it, for instance. Messaging isn’t part of these discipline’s roots, just part of advertising roots. I’m the one saying that, but Adrian presented his case of liberating from the messaging paradigm.
Zeus Jones came from two “personal failures”, as Adrian put. Based on personal experiences, they (he and his partners) sow that advertising (massaging) was limiting the power of their strategy. Even if they had a brilliant insight and a deeper strategy concerning product and other touch-points of the brand experience, at the end of the day, they were stuck in the ad pieces square. Not accidentally, Zeus Jones is focused on doing things not saying things. Their belief is that marketing only exist as service and that there is not as important as the experience of using the product.
Personally, it was a great opportunity I had to listen to some guys and brands I already was an admirer. Professionally, I’ll continue to support the conversation idea. It’s essential that Brazilian advertising understands this shift for our own sake. Conversation requires more strategy, new approaches and renewal minds on agency and client sides. Just as a last thing, look why Crispin as Creativity’s agency of the year has everything to do with the conversation age.