Over the past month, two points of view and one Super Bowl spot wove a narrative for me that triggered some big questions. Wieden+Kennedy’s Tony Davidson via Vimeo, W+K’s Dodge Charger Super Bowl spot and design legend Bruce Mau speaking via Skype at The University of Colorado all came together in my head around big questions of how designers and agencies may tackle big problems in coming years and how I can help.
In the first piece, a 30-minute video, Davidson just sits on a stoop and riffs on everything from culture to technology and creativity to how agencies may operate in the not so distant future.
One thought that resonated with me was his idea that at some point agencies may have teams of people who figure out how to solve big problems and then take those solutions to relevant brands who can foot the bill for implementing the strategy. I want to be on a team like that.
Davidson’s thoughts were an interesting juxtaposition with W+K’s Dodge Super Bowl spot, Man’s Last Stand. The moral of the spot is that guys put up with a bunch of shit in life, but it’s all worth it because they can drive the car they want: a Dodge Charger.
The spot was well executed, but in the end didn’t leave me with much. I already knew that a lot of dudes bitch about their wives and like to drive muscle cars. This felt like ground that has been plowed before and overall very safe. Being the agency’s first work for the American car company this probably makes sense.
It’s clear W+K continues to work magic with a 30 second spot as evidenced by their brilliant new Old Spice campaign, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. However, the Dodge spot has since been all but forgotten.
The final piece of my thought provoking triumvirate was Bruce Mau staring down at me and 99 other people during the University of Colorado Innovator series. Mau was supposed to be speaking in person, but had to cancel. From his home office, Mau spoke via Skype of the end to interruption and the dawn of a new type of creative content that actually enriches people’s lives.
A recent and much lauded example of a company providing a utility instead of interruption for their customers is Nike with their Nike+ system that let’s runners measure and save run data via a connection between their iPod and their sneakers. What’s great about this effort is it further embeds Nike into running culture while meeting a need of many runners to capture data about their workouts.
A very different example is IBM powering National Geographic’s Genographic Project. According to the project’s web site, the effort seeks “to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. In this unprecedented and of real-time research effort, the Genographic Project is closing the gaps of what science knows today about humankind’s ancient migration stories.”
The entire project is powered by IBM technology. It includes a robust web site, television specials, and a traveling consortium. As the project expands it provides great brand recognition for IBM and the company gets to show off its capabilities while contributing valuable information that is reshaping what we know about human history. How many campaigns can you say that about?
I bring these two examples up because they seem to be the types of projects more brands will need to be a part of to be relevant to people in the modern world. These types of efforts display product capabilities, enrich people’s lives, and don’t take the form of something that interrupts a person’s media consumption like a television spot or YouTube overlay ad.
When clients come looking for a spot, site, or any deliverable I think it’s time that agencies start asking “does it have to be a spot or are there other more meaningful ways to reach people.”
What if instead of producing their Super Bowl spot, Wieden+Kennedy and Dodge decided to create a campaign based around An American Car Company Reinvesting in America? Maybe Dodge could have sent 1,000 trucks down to New Orleans to haul away all of the dilapidated houses and wreckage remaining from Katrina. To help with the work, they could hire unemployed contractors. Once they hauled everything away they could give the trucks a special paint job and sell them as pre-owned (Saints colors anyone?).
The effort would definitely be filmed and a companion site could launch telling the story of Dodge reinvesting in America after the country bailed it out. In the end you would see Dodge vehicles in action and a company showing its value to prospective customers in a way that actually solves a problem and isn’t vulnerable to TiVo.
I explained this idea to my wife and she thought it was crazy. Maybe it is, or maybe people have just become accustomed to brands communicating in a certain way and anything outside the standard forum is hard to fathom. I just know it would be awesome if brands considered such efforts. I can’t see a reason why we shouldn’t solve real problems and put brands on display at the same time.
It seems there could be much more impact than a few million spent on another Super Bowl ad that fades away in a matter of days.