Straight out of Singapore: Highlights of Spikes Asia 2015

Creativity, technical innovation, diversity and communication numbered among the hottest topics at the annual gathering

SINGAPORE — Spikes Asia 2015 runs through Friday here, bringing together advertising creatives from across the Asia-Pacific region in an event presented by Lions Festivals and Haymarket (publisher of Campaign). Here are top takeaways from the 28th annual event.

The more brands ask of consumers, the less interested they are in participating. In a study by TNS and J. Walter Thompson, just over half of consumers say they are interested in consuming brand content. But only three in 10 are open to interacting with brands online, and just 8% have any interest in creating content for brands. (This is among people who are already considering a purchase. The interest level is far lower among people who aren’t looking to buy.)

Data mining and nuanced analysis will be weapons of tomorrow for digital planners today. China has its own digital environment, and it’s common for an individual to have multiple accounts for each social-media platform. This makes it difficult to get a clear picture of the demographics of a market, according to Fareeda Cassumbhoy, chief strategy officer at Hylink.

"By creating a platform to capture and aggregate the data, mining through the information and analyzing it, planners can play a much more effective role in helping brands reach their target audience," Cassumbhoy said. "If you’re not scared of Big Data, you should be because if you do not prepare and learn to use it, you will be left behind."

Innovation and boredom are best friends. "I innovate and experiment because of boredom, or because I’m tired of doing the same thing, or of repeating something done by others," said Vincent Laforet during his "DDB Presents" talk, as he explained the discovery of the tilt-camera technique for which he has grown famous.

That said, Laforet told Campaign’s roving video reporter Adrian Tse that it’s not all about technique. The best thing about technical innovations is that they make high-quality tools accessible, but storytelling remains the most important element of creative work.

Asians aspire differently. What Asians regard as "aspirational" is unique and rooted in the region’s culture, according to BBDO’s Beijing CCO Arthur Tsang and Greater China CSO Hans Lopez-Vito. Western ideals, which are rooted in ancient Greek philosophy, are centered around individualism and personal freedom. These are often diametrically opposed to Asian ideals, which are based on the teachings of Confucius and focus on harmony and social responsibility. Along these lines, aspirational branding in Asia should be tied into themes of filial dependability, social responsibility and mutual prosperity rather than personal success.

It’s not possible for a consultancy to do everything in-house anymore
A day in the life of Fitch, said Asia-Pacific ECD Darren Watson, "is like creating a film. Film directors create a moment with a winning team. We used to be insular; now we depend on a large group of collaborators that we can’t do without. ... It’s very much about joint ownership and joint credit."

Consumers will pay for content. "It may not be massive, but I think it will grow and people are willing to pay for quality," YouTube star Gursimranjeet Singh Khamba of All India Bakchod said in an exclusive video interview.

Fearless people are not necessarily an asset to creativity. Agencies need to look for courageous people with a healthy sense of fear, according to BBDO’s Andrew Robertson. Similarly, when trying to create great work, they should not try to be bold but simply learn how to manage risk.

Stop using tech for tech’s sake. Virtual reality can add depth to brand experience, but don’t use it for the sake of novelty. Early involvement and collaboration is key to successful execution; VR cannot be an afterthought, according to David Mellor of Framestore Pictures.

E-commerce is helping women. Ruth Stubbs, CEO of iProspect APAC, and Marie Gruy, regional head of insight at Carat, discussed new CCS research with Orange Cortez from Johnson & Johnson, Penny Cox from Redmart, and Shannon Kalayanamitr from Moxy. The panel revealed that women have turned to selling online to supplement their incomes – with a 65% increase in consumer-to-consumer sales in Indonesia. "Online retail is making participation a lot easier for women both from a buyer and seller point of view and the fact that this trend is accelerating due to women’s greater access to education and technology," said Cortez.

Diageo believes in the power of blending — not only Scotch whiskeys but also creative people. The company built its luxury portfolio into a $2 billion business in part by eschewing traditional product marketing and creating new ways to manifest its brand values, Lawrence Law, Diageo’s global general manager, told Spikes attendees. For example, Law pointed to the art exhibit below, some parts of which even violated brand-compliance guidelines.

If you build a good startup idea, brands will come. In a session on entrepreneurship hosted by Vizeum, Carlo Calimon, founder of Mobkard (a service that targets promotions to customers), noted that all brands are simply trying to reach out to and connect with consumers. If as an entrepreneur you are able to make life easier for the end user, brands will want to support you. (Mobkard clients include Unilever, J&J and Nestlé.) "I challenge everyone to continue innovating and finding opportunities in crisis," he said.

You can control your online story without social media. Despite staying off social media, Christina Hendricks, of "Mad Men" fame, who was speaking at Spikes Asia as part of Mcgarrybowen’s Icons in Action speaker series, is nevertheless an expert at steering conversations around herself. She is known to have walked out of interviews that reference her body and now carefully vets both journalists and the topics they plan to ask her before agreeing to speak with them."There is a time and a place," said Hendricks of conversation management. "If I’m doing an interview for a fashion mag, I’m quite a girly-girl, and I like fashion, and I like getting dressed up. But if the reason I’m being interviewed is because of my performance, well, that’s what we should be talking about. Because we work really, really hard, and that’s why we’re getting the attention in the first place."

Creatives should not be afraid of data or AI. Shun Matsuzaka, a creative planner who led McCann Millennials’ AI Creative Director project, said the initiative had been driven by a desire to understand how data could inform creativity. Matsuzaka said it was true that advertising creatives still tended to be frightened by data and that there was indeed some fear within the agency at the suggestion of AI taking a role in creativity. However, he said the idea was not to replace creativity, but merely to inform it.

There’s a reason people still buy ‘90s-style stock images. Rebecca Swift of Getty Images explains.

Guilt could be the reason there are so few female creatives. While we question dwelling on this particular point as a barrier to the rise of women in the industry, it is interesting that it is this much of an issue. "I’ve asked other women in the industry, ‘We’re lacking in creative women, what is the barrier?’" said Merlee Jayme, chairman and chief creative officer of DM9 Jayme Syfu. "One woman said, ‘I’m engaged, should I continue in this career?’ One even cried and asked, ‘I’m pressured to have a baby, should I carry on?’ They look at a career in advertising as a demanding one, and at odds with having a family."

The best Twitter campaigns need collaboration. Without collaboration you will get nowhere, according to Steven Kalifowitz, head of brand strategy and advocacy for Twitter in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa. Collaboration has to happen across client stakeholders. When clients collaborate, agencies are able to collaborate more easily. With collaboration happening among clients & agencies, they are also able to treat customers as collaborators who have a stake in the brand story becomes easy.

The fastest way to a client’s heart is through your ears. Really listening to the client and getting to the heart of its brand identity led two young people to success at the Young Spikes Facebook Creative Hackathon.

"We got the beginnings of our final pitch after we talked further to Elmer Sotto of PhilDev during the hackathon," said Jessica Chen, junior planner at Young & Rubicon Advertising Singapore, one-half of the winning team. "It was after hearing about the founder and the aspirations of the organization that we realized that they are not like other NGOs and therefore needed something different."

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