Category Archives: Strategy

That Startup Show starts up

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I am quickly coming back to my earlier post about Reactive working together with start ups. Now everyone can inhale a whiff of modern entrepreneurialism by watching the live YouTube project ‘That StartUp Show”. It kicked off in a pub-come-studio in Melbourne, which is by no means a statement on the city’s tech-edge over Sydney. Yet judging from how many times Fed Square, Flinders Street and downtown Melbourne were pushed in the interstitials (hello sponsor City of Melbourne) they kind of think it is. But being from the Emerald if not yet Silicon City, we’ll let that slide. So please watch the first episode down below.

Picking strong cues from ‘The Gruen Transfer‘ and a sprinkling of ‘The Dragon’s Den‘, it pairs stand up comedy with a bar-camp like crowd and light-hearted yet informative chat with founders, journos and (dare I say it) online gurus. I think the wild dancing sequence in the beginning of the show was a bit ill conceived. But keep on watching, the shows gets much better afterwards, decidedly more professional than lo-fi channels like Silicon Beach Santa Monica.

Thanks to host Dan Illic pounding on comic opportunities, we heard catchy lines like “St.Kilda is Sim City for Perverts” (take that, sponsor!) and “Google Plus is the Adelaide of social media“(take that, Google!). Guest and Google Australia’s engineering director Alan Noble just had to grin and bear it.

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More entertainment came from Dan re-combining 2 random expressions to create start up ideas: Pinterest for Babies, SnapChat for Kebab lovers and Procrastination Tool for Bored People (‘That’s Facebook!”). Other guests included the founder of (show sponsor) Blue ChilliSebastien Eckersley-Maslin. Start up incubator Blue Chilli is actually a place I have spoken at a while ago during one of their ‘Pizza and Beer’ weekly wind downs.

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While incubators like Blue Chilli and Muru-D don’t really rival our own agency offering, they do sometimes provide or connect to UI/UX and development resources. This is another sign of our two worlds overlapping In my view it’s for the greater good of creative ideas and speed of innovation in Australia. But maybe you disagree, what experiences have you made at the intersection of agency- and start up land?

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Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin sitting in the middle

Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief – Advertising’s Next Generation

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I have contributed a chapter to the upcoming Creative Social book “Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief – Advertising’s Next Generation“. My chapter is called ‘Proving MC Hammer Wrong” and deals with how much we love to touch: our fellow human beings, well designed objects and naturally all those shiny new screens and interfaces. The whole book will soon be available on Lulu and I’ll be sharing news on the launch, chapters and the other contributors here soon. Suffice to say, the book’s authors include some big hitters from the best digital companies, startups and creative agencies around the globe. If you happen to be in London on Tuesday, September 2, do make sure to get to the launch event at Digitas LBI. You can get the last few tickets here on Eventbrite.

Questions addressed in the book are for example: 

  • What does the industry need to do today (not tomorrow) to stay valuable and relevant?
  • What the f**k do clients know about great advertising?
  • How can copying make you more original?
  • How do we ‘do’ innovation?
  • Should we make things people want rather than make people want things?
  • How do you find emotional resonance in real time marketing?
  • What’s the best way to punch procrastination in the face?
  • And why are we so excited by the next generation of advertising?

Here are some rave reviews:

“A punchy, provocative and perceptive trip through some of the bigger debates of the moment, from a gang of the most pioneering creative minds in and around the industry. As a collection, it’s like an idea grenade. It should be required reading for agency CEOs and leadership teams.”
Ben Malbon, Marketing Director, Creative Partnerships, Google

“Forget the past, the future is where it’s at – and this is your guide book.”
Rosie Arnold, Deputy Executive Creative Director, BBH London

“Less of a book and more of a lively debate. So rather than read it, ‘listen to it’ and get stuck in. It’ll make you want to ask questions, nod vigorously and heckle from the back.”
Graham Fink, CCO, Ogilvy China

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Digital agencies teaming up with start ups

I am sure you have already noticed:  digital creative agency work heavily overlaps with start ups. I am hardly the first to notice that talent, ideas, formats and processes are very similar in nature. It’s no wonder some talented staff leave agencies to pursue their start up ideas. Murat Mutlu has delivered a great rant on it here. Similarly, whole agencies team up with venture capital to pursue start up ventures. R/GA’s Connected Devices Accelerator comes to mind. Check out the crowd in this new YouTube content called ‘That Start Up Show’ (you can read my review here). You’d be hard pressed to tell the people apart: agency geezers or start up folk?

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Photo by Heisenberg Media under CC

Or look at the photo above: is it a group of start ups or a digital agency? Click through to Heisenberg Media and you will find out. So in many ways there is little difference. The reason we are still somewhat different is how agencies deal with a variety of industries & clients rather than one target market or one vertical. And most importantly, we differ in the way ‘our businesses work’. We agencies handle risk and reward a lot different from start ups. More often than not, we agencies would love to follow up, evolve, optimise and perfect our ideas for apps and services. Yet the budget often isn’t there for those last hard yards. On the side of the start ups people must often re-adjust their ideas and pivot the whole entreprise. And still their genius might hit a wall. Or the money might run out. Or the market might not react at all.

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Photo by Heisenberg Media under CC

Despite those differences, I thought there is so much to be gained from getting closer to the start up world. I investigated our own Reactive agency & start up relationship further. And as part of our constant Research and Development, Reactive has started a relationship with Telstra’s incubator program Muru-D.

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Through them we got to know a Sydney start up called ISSUE. Their venture is a browser-based authoring tool that creates mobile/tablet ready magazines with e-commerce and affiliate marketing, all built in. Or as they would call it: “Mobile magazines with shoppable stories”.

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Last week Reactive Sydney turned into a little film set, hosting the ISSUE crew shooting a demo reel with us. Reactive is acting as their partner agency in this video (with yours truly among the amazing cast). The final video (see below)  features fashion & design bloggers Lisa Hamilton from See Want Shop and Terri Winter, founder of Top3 by Design. They worked together with us to create an amazing interior design and fashion mag – and we had a blast being part of it.

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We will post this ISSUE hype video once it’s finalised. In the meantime you can check out the elaborate set and suave actors in these ‘Behind the scenes’ shots:

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Cannes Young Lions 2014

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The Cannes Young Lions 2014 competition for creative teams under 28 has just opened (deadline is April 4). In past years, digital entry levels have unfortunately never  reflected the size of our industry or the depth of talent within it. I have been Chairman as well as juror of this competition and have seen and written about how teams have struggled to enter top quality work. The entry levels reached only 25% of the Print entries which in light of where the work is going, didn’t make any sense.

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Reasons for it were twofold in my opinion. Firstly, it was (and still is) challenging to succinctly explain a digital campaign. Keeping the core idea separate from the complexity of execution is a skill that not every junior team has mastered yet. Secondly, the competition had until now required the teams to actually build their concepts. Which had to be in the format of display banners. This “smallest common denominator” approach led to a watering down of concepts. Teams entered what, according to their technical skill level, they thought they could actually build in Flash and HTML.

In 2014 it it is now no longer required to build the concept a.k.a. a display banner. This is going to broaden the scope of the ideas significantly, for both the local competition and the international version in Cannes, France. Reactive’s young ones in Melbourne and Sydney will challenge themselves to be among the best young digital creative teams in Australia. And I am looking forward to their results.

If you feel like you got what it takes, stop lurking behind your more senior colleagues. Enter, win, make your way to Cannes and take out the prize for best digital creative team in the world. But before you practice your acceptance speech, you should probably start by entering the first round before April 4:
http://www.newscorpaustralia.com/young-lions-digital-competition

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Tractor Design School

If you lead an agency or marketing department, you know what the bane of our industry is: it is starved of really good digital talent. Talent that can fuse genuine, explosive creativity with systemic thinking. The ‘systemic’ part means that these people know a lot about and can use existing digital formats, e.g. media, video or social content. And then combine these two realms to create new, innovative solutions.

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One of our new recruits at Reactive actually took a course in Digital Design at Tractor last year, a school established to address this lack of creative, digitally-savvy newcomers. And this year, with help from us and some other industry heavyweights from places like DT, R/GA and MentallyFriendly, Tractor is growing up to become an accredited school. Some of the sessions will again be led by one heck of an inspirational teacher-posse, in the shape of my colleagues Gabriel, David and myself.

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Additionally raising Reactive’s profile as a place of excellence for digital creativity is my mate Tim Kotsiakos, ECD of Reactive in Melbourne, on the advisory board.

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If you want to invest into your own career, sign up. Courses start March 3. If you already know a lot, why don’t you give back and offer your help in the shape of talks, playing host or other course support? Those digital superstars of tomorrow won’t grow on trees you know.

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