Tag Archives: Brand Reality Creative

What is Brand Reality Creative? (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

The idea of what I call Brand Reality Creative – for want of a better term and I’m sure there is one – began in a whitepaper I wrote last summer as part of a series of digital workshops we were running with clients and other industry people.

Brand Reality Creative was initially a reaction to the corruption of the concept of Brand Utility that first rose to prominence in 2006; a concept that, despite what was promised by the oft repeated Nike+ story, was drowned in a tide of spam widgets.

Its starting point was in a few quotes I scribbled in my notebook copied out below:

  • “There is no market for messages.” David Searls
  • “People won’t buy brands as entertainment, they want products that entertain. Brands will need to be something people connect with and will want to engage with.” Flo Heiss
  • “It’s translating…intangible propositions into the result of something more basic and useful for society [rather than] just advertising through a medium the individual can use to make it less interrupting” Bram De Maesschalck

But Brand Reality Creative grew to be inspired by the notion of creative work that is “good enough to share“, that usefully reflects what people are doing using digitally enabled and real world channels.

Brand Reality Creative is based on the belief that useful, usable and delightful interaction engages the crowd and helps them connect, either functionally or for the purpose of self- actualisation across both real and digital spaces. It is a useful embodiment of the brand that affects the real world, not a metaphor or a distraction. It is not a tool with a logo.  It is not dry. It respects the need for stories.


It’s about:

  • Creating frameworks that people can use to make their own magic
  • Balancing “doing stuff for the brand (telling people)” with “doing stuff for people (achieving a goal)”
  • Acknowledging that not all brands need to be useful, some can just entertain – it’s not just utility
  • Accepting that really practical stuff can be dry
  • Creating entertainment that isn’t totally passive
  • Accepting real people’s relationship to the marketing web
  • Making work that is good enough to share

Next >> Examples of Brand Reality Creative

This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.

Good enough to share: designing creative with nodal points in mind (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

Often we have seen brands approach the internet like hedge-funds playing the stock market. So many strategies are double plays that aim to have their cake and eat it, to win no matter what the outcome but have a side order of “social” to round out the meal or case study. The result is expensive and doesn’t reflect the reality of the net.

The internet lets the crowd raise-up the things it likes with links and tags and re-posts, and damn the things it doesn’t like with a pointed lack of attention. Old passive message, big idea, objective correlative creative with a big call to action, and series of key frame proof points doesn’t cut it anymore. There is too much noise: now things have to be good enough to share.

But just because something is good enough to share and inherently interesting doesn’t mean it will catch on and spread through the network. The work that is interesting must be structured for the network, as demonstrated by SharedEgg. It must allow the crowd to create nodal points within their part of the network. It must also contain an idea that can be reprocessed and played with, passed on and owned.

This gives us two key challenges, one commercial and one sociological: (1) how do we make things that are good enough to share, and good enough to create or contribute to nodal points; and (2) how do we use creative to help shape the network so that the nodal points it throws up in the future are useful and “the best for society”? I believe that Brand Reality Creative is one answer.

Next >> What is Brand Reality Creative?



A Nodal point is a (potentially distributed) collection of content, conversations and links that spread a meme/concept and cause the ideas and journeys around it to be reshaped and dragged just like a planet’s mass influences the passage of time around it. It is a key point in the narrative of the net.



This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.

What are real people doing in the digital world? (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

Real people’s identities are currently scattered across services, sites and functions on the internet. As new tools, trends and fads have developed, so have the multitude of places where elements of our identity can be accessed. We have become the comments we have made, the transactions we have completed, and the user accounts we have collected or even forgotten that we had. As UnHub, a consumer service inspired by the Skittles campaign, puts it: You are Everywhere.

This fragmented reality does not mean we should all boldly delete our brand- or comms-led websites and march off to join the latest platform: a Facebook presence does not equal “getting it”.

Lets face it, marketers love Facebook. People just use it.facebook_slides11

Social Networking is invisible as a concept. It is a pervasive tool. Just like there is no “new media” anymore, Social Networking or “Earned Media” shouldn’t be seen as a distinct category. It is just interactive but it is people’s space. The recent redesign of Facebook alone proves that people feel they own it and that things in their space should not be interfered with.

What this fragmentation means is that we need to increasingly focus our thinking on how real people are connected – with each other and their own, different online identities – and what they are doing. In fact we need to consider not just pure digital connections but connections via social objects that are increasingly digitally enabled. This is especially true of younger people. They are more connected than any of us and point a way to how future behaviour will change for the majority/mainstream.

Young people’s behaviour in a digitally enabled world is proof of the outmoded nature of the old “six degrees of separation” cliché. One of the best recent illustrations of the complex, non-linear connectivity of real people is the SharedEgg data visualisation.

“SharedEgg is a diagram of subcultures based on data collected from the people who make up those cultures. People categorize themselves using their objects and through their categorization are linked to the other people participating in the project. What has resulted is a deeply complex image showing social trends and unknown bonds between people through those trends.”


While SharedEgg has revealed an ever increasing number of “unknown bonds” created by shared activities, points of reference, trends and communication tools, two questions remain: (1) what are people doing to create these bonds; and (2) how can we as creative communicators get involved when these bonds are stronger and more complex that any linear traditional campaign?

The Digital Youth Project (University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley) provides a good insight to the “What are they doing” question.

“The digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression. These activities have captured teens’ attention because they provide avenues for extending social worlds, self-directed learning, and independence.”

Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project

The project reveals a Maslow hierarchy of needs for the digital age.


At its most basic the internet is being used to uplift mood and give people something (and a somehow) to talk about. It is about social oxygen. However, as we get higher up the hierarchy the level of engagement and the level of “digital proficiency” increases. People start making themselves and things.

What can we, as marketers and creatives, do in response to this reality?

Traditionally there are two worlds of thought about interactive creative, two almost polarized camps: those who believe that the answers are Communication & Content, and those who believe the answers are Utility & Context.


But the reality is not black or white, it falls between the two camps. The reality is work that aims to be “good enough to share“.

Next >> Good enough to share: designing creative with nodal points in mind

This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.

The changing nature of interactive creative (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

One response to 2009’s interactive creative trends has been the creative approach we’ve been calling Brand Reality Creative. 

The approach aims to develop creative that is intrinsically structured to reflect people’s true relationship with interactive, but that doesn’t lose sight of the need to affect the real world. It aims to combine work that works hard with work that tells a more interesting and inspirational story.

But before we can jump ahead and answer the questions “what is Brand Reality Creative” and “why do we need to change the way we approach interactive work“, I think it is important to start by looking at what has been happening with a lot of existing interactive marketing and what are real people are actually doing? The two are often very different.

Firstly, what are a lot of brand organisations currently doing?

Whenever you create an online presence it becomes part of the network almost immediately. This has often led to creative work that takes the connections between media – between the pots of content and the ways in which they are served-up and linked – for granted. It leads to campaigns being shaped by one particular interpretation of the network: the marketing web interpretation that believes in an essentially hub-and-spoke structure to interactive strategy.

The Marketing web

The Marketing web

The marketing web places communication activities in a position where they drive in a more or less linear way to concentric circles of organisational focused content/technologies. This traditional, legacy model places social media and mobile technologies in a satellite orbit. Their role is essentially one of traffic driving to the core business function despite their two way potential. The model is dependent on compelling persuasion pathways, a high frequency of message exposure and repeated calls to action.

The problem is people are on the outside and the brand is in the middle. While it is an improvement on what was happening before (the old e-mail – microsite – send to a friend routine) it is still very website-centric.

Whenever I sit in a client meeting about a potential new website brief I always start out by giving our account handlers the jitters by saying to the client, “you don’t need a website.” When the account handler has been revived, or restrained from killing me, I finish saying, “you don’t need a website, you need a platform to share things with people. A website might just be part of it.” Just as we need “less advertising, more entertaining applications” maybe we should also declare “fewer websites, more interactive platforms”? More and more it is becoming what is outside your site that is most important.

The ever-increasing use of “Search online for….” as a call to action on TV and press advertising is part of this less site-centric movement and it is a good sign. I’ve sat in quite a few online-user research groups where, as part of the very first task, we’ve watched people type the URL straight into Google rather than the browser – a fact backed-up by many a search term site analytics report. Indeed if you ask someone what the internet “looks like” then the first thing that pops into their mind is a white page with a multi-coloured logo.

Unfortunately at the moment the “Search online for…” CTA is being used predominantly as a replacement for all the clever marketing URLs that are no longer available.

We need to move beyond shifting campaign journeys to the Google sponsored-ads. We need to target appearing in multiple locations with multiple functions within the natural search listings and beyond – whether this means websites, or application modules, conversation channels or even coverage of physical installations. All of these elements need self-contained, responsive, real-time content that is useful for where we are and what we are doing.

In a similar way to journalism accepting that “the article is not the story” so we have to accept that the website may not be the most effective communication tool – it might not even be the right place to have the necessary conversation. In a world of re-posts and video responses it is the story and context of the communication that is more important for fuelling any conversation. The conversation will not be centralised.

“When thinking about brands and media… we’ll need to make sure that we don’t confuse the article (the advertising) from [sic] the story (the context, the interconnected ecosystem of nodes that “bubble up” to a something much bigger).”

Dino Demopoulos, Chroma

One big brand that has taken a first step with this distributed approach has been Skittles.

SkittlesInterweb the rainbow” campaign is the great hype story of recent months and has been successful in creating noise, but not all of it is good – not that a single, on message, monologic approach to the internet could ever exist. However, the Skittles approach is a great example of the mechanic exceeding the message.



Skittles took an idea that had been previously implemented effectively by the digital agency Modernista! and “deleted their website” by replacing skittles.com with an overlay unit that sat over Skittles related content on other “real web” websites. It created a filter on a distributed internet experience across Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook so people could see the brand “through the eyes of the web”. The insight was quite sound, after all does an FMCG brand really need a website with yet another “About us” section?



Unfortunately the campaign implementation fell down. Skittles was marred by inexcusable usability issues – issues addressed previously in Modernista’s approach – and a blunt legal department-imposed age-checker that turned the experience into that of a site that happened to pull other sites into itself.  But beyond this what let it down was the fact that it was actually a great mechanic rather than a conversation. Skittles provoked a lot of conversation but had nothing to say. There was nothing beyond the brand name. There was nothing to channel the crowd’s interest. The content stimulus was weak, and so it was filled and abused by people who like to swear in public.

However, the campaign’s relative merits are still being debated online thus adding to its success in generating more attention than a traditional microsite-focused campaign could do on a similar budget. In effect, it made us look, now what?

Despite these failings Skittles can still be seen as an important step forward by a big FMCG brand in its use of interactive marketing. Skittles recognised that there is an internet beyond the “marketing web”, where real people exist outside of brand control. There are platforms being used by real people that are “their territory” and they are far better than any “walled garden” faux-social network that most brands could afford to build.

Distributed campaigns like Skittles offer an effective and more interesting future for interactive marketing – campaigns that reflect what people are doing in the real world and the digital world.

Next >> What are real people doing in the digital world?

The Crowd – Cloud linked collaborative communities, creativity and tools

14 Oct

What does this mean for marketers? The answer is that if you free up and increase the places and ways you can access Digital creative and communications – if you enable the Cloud – you also free up the numbers of people who have access – you enable the Crowd.

How does design and creative have to evolve to meet the needs of marketing and communication in light of the Cloud and Crowd? The principles of the semantic web point the way. The goal of the semantic web is not to make people think more like computers (the old way of web design where the user was not always right) but to make technology think more like humans – with all the quirks that this implies.

Hierarchy of design approaches, influences and areas of investigation

Hierarchy of design approaches, influences and areas of investigation

Traditional Interaction Design and creativity tends to be rooted in the Physiological and Psychological, smaller scale areas of study. The future of creativity involves moving up the approach hierarchy to focus more on Anthropology and Sociology – to embracing and understanding the way that Crowds behave and connect and then catering accordingly.

This union of the Cloud and the Crowd is the new reality of digital.

The new reality of digital is people helping to shape products and services and then trialing them digitally. The new Internet is useful and real. It is people – not computers – talking to each other, sharing information, entertainment and functionality. It is using and enabling the power of the Crowd and getting them to manipulate and process brands in a useful, productive way.

The marketing motivation behind digital in the new real world is about ‘doing’, about active engagement, both now and in the future. It reflects the famous Lao Tse quote:

What I hear, I forget.
What I say, I remember.
What I do, I understand.

And it is the embodiment of Seymour Papert’s Learning Theory of Constructionism – the belief that people learn most effectively by doing things rather than sitting and listening – in this case applied to brand messages.

The bluring between the product, the social element, the interactive film, the website and the mobile application is already making the difference indistinguishable. As the Cloud grows people are interacting with all spaces. It is not new media any more, and people are coming together as Crowds. They are contributing, developing and sharing, and creative and services need to be responsive, personal, informative and fun. Future creative and marketing needs to reflect the open-source and democratic potential of the Cloud and Crowd.

“Now, people collaborate together to create software, releasing it back onto the web where it outperforms the ‘commercial’ competition. They share information about medical conditions, challenging the authority of the medical establishment. They co-operate to drive down fuel prices, publishing the cheapest price for your postcode. And they join forces to bring down brands who let them down, publishing videos of underperforming products.

The age of the Trilogue has arrived” Andrew Walmsley, Superbrands.

The Cloud is leading to a large range of connections within Crowds – from strong to weak. The weak connections include the direct connections with brands. The strong connections are with each other.

Online Crowds are brought together by common interests – by the niche (and not so niche) ideas and content that they can consume, manipulate and/or contribute. Ask what binds them and it is behaviours and attitudes not ages and incomes. These are the strong connections that technology – and the Cloud – has enabled.

The challenge is how do we make the weak connections stronger and how do we let them have a positive effect on the connected Crowd?

One possible answer is that in this world Brand creative needs to become Brand Reality Creative.

Continued…Brand Reality Creative – Breaking away from the objective correlative in advertising and interactive

Clouds, Crowds and Brand Reality Creative – distributed creativity and information, collaborative tools and ideas.

6 Oct

This is a whitepaper on near, medium and long term interactive creative and strategy that I wrote at the end of the summer in response to a “what should we be doing/thinking next?” question from several clients. It covers my belief that the semantic web leads to the need for a new way of approaching creative and content challenges – that the old “objective correlative” way of advertising and marketing has to evolve to a “Brand Reality Creative” approach which will hopefully be a step beyond “Brand Utility”. The paper can be downloaded here or found on my website  (http://www.davidjcarr.com/clouds_crowds_whitepaper.pdf) and I will post a blog-friendly version shortly.

In fact it starts here…

Interactive or digital? Big ideas or rich ideas?

14 Jul

When people start talking about the “digital space” I always react with the belief that “interactive is a philosophy not a channel”. It’s not the technology, it’s what you do with it that counts. And even more importantly, why you do it.

An old presentation I used to give to students in my militant phase was subtitled “Stop folding TV ads and learn how interactive works” and while I may have mellowed a bit in my old age – the trousers might disagree – a lot of the interactive creatives I’ve been interviewing lately still rail against the notion that digital is a place you can lever a “big idea” into given enough lube.

Mass ATL media was based on the concept of a simple “big” idea, a single proposition or USP delivered in a linear form. It was a bit like Don Simpson’s idea of High Concept movies – without the coke and hookers and Tom Cruise “Playing with the boys”.

For the old BDAs in advertising this would mean a 60/30 TV ad, a couple of press executions and, if you were really lucky, it would stretch to a bit of radio. Then someone would take it downstairs to the “digital” boys in the basement a week before launch and you’d end up with a flash game. Sounds bitter? Maybe. But really it was the communications process mistaking a Big execution for a Big Idea. The Gorilla worked for Cadbury not because it was a big, great execution (it was) but because of the rich idea of “Joy” that underpinned it. The second ad, just like the later Sony ones after Balls, seemed to loose sight of this and in the process seemed to loose its Soul.

Hopefully this cliché is dead or at least dying despite some BDA’s attempts to resurrect it.

Instead it should be about looking for a Rich Idea as a starting point. And Interactive is fundamental to this approach.

Interactive is about a multilevel proposition or complex idea delivered in a non-linear narrative. The ideas or narratives are assembled by people or, better still, used by people in the form of an application or entertainment, a slideshow, interaction, video player, service or personalisation that is useful, usable and delightful.

It’s lots of rich ideas rather one big one. A journey from A to C to D to B to E, not A to B.

At Chemistry we’ve channeled this into a set of 6 interactive creative principles:

Understand and appreciate the people you are talking to on their own terms without shouting. Promote their point of view.

Talk don’t push. We have no right to talk to anyone, it has to be on their terms and they have to give us permission or it is just so much extra noise.

Appropriate Intervention
Do things when it is right not just because you can. Technology lets us target according to time of day, part of a journey or behavioural activity.

Relevant Conversation
Talk about what they’re interested in and what they want based on what they have been doing and previous conversations.

Be playful, be useful. React and reward.

The real world will always trump the virtual. Show and connect, don’t tell. Take interactive into the real world. The internet isn’t computers talking to computers, it’s people.

In practice these are then channelled via a mix of acquired/borrowed/learnt/ever growing beliefs that we can use to create a way of working.

• You can’t know everything but you can be open to anything
• Do good stuff
• Do fun stuff
• Do useful stuff
• Take ideas and don’t be precious with them
• Push the ideas into shapes and places that people, not marketers, are interested in
• Tell a deeper, more involving story – but know when to be shallow
• Try to create technical and cultural innovations not the same old shit
• Let people be playful and explore
• Don’t be difficult
• Have smarter conversations with people
• Have entertaining conversations with people

Part of this means the death or evolution of the old Ad team model. The work is too complex for the old model to work. The idea is in effect the easier part – not that good ideas are ever that easy. Making it happen and making it easy to use and engaging is the hard bit, hence it is now about a collaborative effort. Teams need to be prepared to share or even give up their ideas at an early stage and get much more involved in the production process; a process that needs to be predominantly in-house if you want to have control, collaboration and flexibility, to play and to learn.

So if your BDA comes wielding a big idea you might want to decline and ask for a rich one instead and spend less time on the digital and more on the interactive.