Faaez Samadi
Nov 28, 2016

Innovative tech not just a bolt-on for brands

For too many brands and agencies, new technology is an afterthought rather than the centre of a story, according to two leading executives at Havas Australia.

AFL legend Adam Goodes & Steve Waugh with the 'Riderless Bike'
AFL legend Adam Goodes & Steve Waugh with the 'Riderless Bike'

Creative agencies must use and help invent technology to bring a brand story to life as consumers demand better, more personal digital experiences when being engaged.

Stuart Turner and Seamus Higgins, executive creative directors at Havas Australia, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that creative agencies need to be deeply involved with any tech innovation being used in a campaign, to ensure it is used effectively and not as a gimmick.

“There’s a lot of tech [in advertising] that still feels superfluous,” Higgins said. “People just bolt something onto a campaign rather than having a really good reason for it. But tech gives us a way to invent our own channels.”

Havas Australia points to its recent ‘Riderless Bike’ campaign for famed cricketer Steve Waugh’s charity as an example of innovative technology fully baked into a campaign concept.

Together with sister PR firm Red Agency and Finch, Havas created the world’s first self-propelled bicycle, which completed a 720 km journey to raise money for children with rare diseases.

The campaign has earned more than 200 pieces of coverage so far including several major news outlets, and raised more than A$1 million. The key to its success, says Turner, was the fact that the technology was at the heart of the story.

“It’s getting back to doing wonderful tech but having a clear and powerful idea in it,” he said. “A lot of people are getting into it, but you have to do some hard yards before getting it right. Lots of ideas die because we say ‘that’s a good piece of tech, but no one’s going to care about the story’.

Stuart Turner & Seamus Higgins

“It’s about accepting that you can’t do it all in your creative agency—we’re not experts in building tech—and finding strategic partners to help deliver an outstanding experience.”

Pitching such ideas to clients can be difficult, Turner added, because the creative or technology is not always fully sketched out. But with growing consumer cynicism over technology for its own sake, taking bigger risks with technology is vital for making meaningful content that stands out.

“These briefs aren’t coming in, we’re seeking them out,” he said. “We’re being proactive and turning a content brief into a tech brief.”

Higgins said: “In this time of digital transformation, you’ve got to be constantly challenging yourself. People think of tech as a one-off project, which devalues the proposition. You can develop it into a longer-term platform to build on, but it all has to come back to the story.”

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