Konrad Spilva: Creative capital in a world of Innovation

It’s been four years since I was last at Cannes Lions. Some things feel different, most things feel completely the same. Of course there are the parties, lots of Rosé, celebrity sessions, scam entries and those one or two pieces of work that are truly brilliant, which inspire jealously, envy and awe simultaneously. But this time around, I skipped most of the main stage hype in favour of two intensely insightful days of the Innovation Lions.

We’re at the tipping point of creativity in emerging technology.

In the next few years, creativity in VR, AR, AI, IoT, neural wear and connected commerce is going to explode. Now I know most people reading this article live in a pretty strange advertising bubble where 95% of us have all experienced what it’s like to strap on a VR headset and we’re a way off any scaled audience. I’ve seen a lot of examples over the last two years but the last two days opened my (already open) mind to the incredible power and possibilities of the medium. Samsung took us through how experts are using VR to treat depression, improve mindfulness and train surgeons. The NY Times has launched VR editorial content to showcase refugee stories, a Birdseye view of Manhattan from the top of the World Trade Centre and what the universe looks like from the surface of Pluto. And PlayStation VR (due to launch later this year) will bring the ability for 400m global PS users to strap on a headset and become batman.

All of these experiences are not advertising and they never should be. But to truly embrace this new media, clients and agencies need to think completely different, hire different types of people, define different processes, create new ways of measuring effectiveness and truly put the user experience before any type of brand message.

AnInnovation Lab’… We’ve got one of those

At Isobar, we launched Nowlab a few years ago — a dedicated unit within the business to accelerate our understanding of emerging technologies and the possibilities they bring for our clients and their customers. It worked in shifting the needle towards a more complete agency model but it never felt like it should be a department and we never talk about Nowlab anymore. It’s just what we do.

After hearing talks from Absolut, Coca Cola, Unilever and Pepsi, all of these incumbent businesses have their own model for Innovation. Whether it’s a dedicated innovation team, a VC model investing in startups or a collaboration with emerging tech and media tech firms, the big brands desire to “Act like a startup” is a ridiculous notion that screams “we have no idea what we’re doing and we’re scared we’ll be irrelevant in a few years”.

Creative Capital builds brands, not advertising.

Some people hate Scott Galloway. I love the guy. At Cannes he shelved his regular four horseman talk to give the industry a bit of a well needed wake up call. In Scott’s view, the rise and rise of ad free streaming content and ad blockers means that “Advertising is a tax that will become the domain for the technologically illiterate and the poor”. That’s pretty brutal but I think what he’s really saying is that the cost of advertising in traditional media (mainly broadcast TV) keeps increasing whilst viewers are in decline. It’s been that way for a while now and we’re about to seriously fall off the cliff. And to compound this, the largest spenders of advertising in the world are all businesses that are decreasing in market share whilst the disrupters (the brands taking share and growing quickly) shun traditional advertising in favour of spending their money on developing better products and services. Or as Scott says “the future belong to the builders over the brands… building brands isn’t as important as it once was”.

But whilst I agree with the sentiment, I don’t believe he’s entirely right. R/GA gave the audience an in depth tour of their much vaunted accelerator program where they invest sweat equity in a number of start ups and use their ‘creative capital’ to build business value and engage customers. It’s brilliant. Design and creativity has never been more important in building business value, it’s just not what the Madmen days would call advertising anymore.

At this year’s Cannes, it really seemed to me that the penny has finally dropped for brands and our industry. I just wonder if we all have the guts to change as quickly as we need to, before we all fall off that cliff.

Konrad Spilva, CEO, Isobar Australia & New Zealand.

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