Staff Reporters
Sep 26, 2016

Quick-fire takeaways from Spikes Asia 2016

A running compilation of the most interesting bits from our team at Spikes Asia.

Quick-fire takeaways from Spikes Asia 2016

Our team of reporters at Spikes Asia compiled this collection of brief session coverage over the three days of Spikes Asia. Please see the rest of our Spikes coverage, including not only more seminars and talks, but also shortlists, photo galleries, videos and the awards.

Day 3

Content is Borderless - Infinite Possibility of Content Utilisation

Shuntaro Tanaka
President, The Story Lab

Yoshi Nakano
Senior content manager

Dentsu Media

According to Suntaro Tanaka, content is borderless. “Everything in life is content,” he said. “We’re currently surrounded by media so everywhere is a platform.”

The aim of strong content, he pointed out, was to create passionate connections to people. “If we can breach these emotions, marketing will become really powerful.”

To reiterate the point, Nakano talked about ‘Ninja Warrior’, a popular sports entertainment programme developed in Japan. It was created 19 years ago. Nine years ago, NBC picked it up and localised it for the US market. Other markets in Europe followed.

Dentsu spotted an opportunity and picked up the licensing rights. It brings the agency additional revenue outside of advertising and is now being used as a marketing activity. Dentsu has already partnered with Honda for one such initiative. 

“This is our ultimate goal to do content—acquire content, distribute it, connect it to sponsored package and monetise it,” Nakano added, noting that it is the “complete piece of the puzzle”.

Collaborative Innovation at Speed
Mark Tipper, executive creative director
R/GA Singapore

Innovation gives business a competitive edge. But when most think about doing it, it’s typically centred around big innovation—and that’s the problem.

“There’s no doubt that some big innovations can change the world, like blockchain, but for most businesses, this kind of big innovation is counterproductive,” Tipper said.

He pointed out the agency instead focuses on small innovations, and the pursuit of marginal gains.
“We talk about looking at ways to get that additional 1 percent,” he said. “How you can fix lots of small things for the price of a big thing? Be it in supply-chain management, product or customer communications, it all adds up.”

The marginal gains approach stems from David Brailsford, director for British Cycling and general manager of cycling’s Team Sky led the rise of Team GB cycling and Olympic success in 2012. He coined the phrase “the aggregation of marginal gains” to describe his approach to developing performance.

He famously said: “It’s important to understand the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’.  Put simply… how small improvements in a number of different aspects of what we do can have a huge impact to the overall performance of the team.”

For brands and agencies looking at how they can embrace innovation, and at speed, Tipper offered the following advice:

  • Marginal gains are good.
  • Be honest about aims and goals.
  • Get the right people together, even if they come from outside your company and industry. The ideal team size is more than 3, less than 10.
  • Aim to go fast but don’t lose ideas in your rush forward.
  • Create something tangible. 

Rise of the Machines: the Impact of VR and AI

Tuomas Peltoniemi
President and innovation director
TBWA\ Digital Arts Network Asia Pacific

Dillon Seo
CEO, Founder
Voler Creative

Mitchell Young
General Manager

A crowd packed the hot Discovery Stage room to standing room to hear IBM's Young and Seo (a co-founder of Oculus VR) discuss the role of VR and AI in marketing and creativity. 

The pair barely mentioned VR, and didn't really address the role of AI in creativity; answers to questions on this score tended to talk about precise targeting rather than actual creation. However, their discussion of the potential of AI in customer interactions was enlightening.

Young cited a couple interesting applications of IBM's Watson technology. One, a pilot project with Hilton is aiming to create a digital concierge. Besides giving a good indication of where the bleeding edge is right now, the project also underlines a key point about cognitive systems, in that 'Connie' learns on the job as it is exposed to more customer interactions. Young also described companies in the travel space working toward natural language interfaces that would vastly simplify trip-planning by eliminating checkboxes and pulldown menus.

Seo echoed this by drawing a vision of a world without apps, where cloud-based AIs, connected to our phones over 5G, will allow people to carry out all kinds of tasks using natural language.

Seo's current ambition—developing a virtual friend that can "resolve the feeling of loneliness and elevate one's self esteem", as his website puts it—sounded a bit creepy, and he freely admitted he was inspired by the film HerBut his plan also shows that the technology to have a go at creating something so sophisticated is at least within reach. 

Day 2

The role of innovation in the new tech-driven consumer market
Rana Wehbe
Senior digital editor – Asia
Forbes Media

Two young entrepreneurs from Forbes’ ’30 under 30’ list took the stage to share their insights on the tech-driven consumer market, how they view creativity and the role innovation has played in their success.

According to Valenice Balace, founder and CEO of Peekawoo, a dating app in the Philippines, people typically think of dating sites as a platform to “look for foreign husbands”.

Balace was cautious with the brand and how she executed it. “We did speed-dating events and makeup tutorials to build our brand,” she said adding that she roped in her cousins to be bouncers at these events. “It helped us cut costs. The restaurants that hosted us needed patrons so they didn’t charge us and SEO typically won’t work in a market like Philippines, especially for a product like ours.”

Competition from Tinder, she said, worked in Peekawoo’s favour. “Tinder is seen as an app for hookups. We presented ourselves as an alternative, so I’d say it helped us actually.”

For Ha Lam, co-founder of, a Vietnam-based platform that connects tourists with private tour guides in 98 countries, it was passion that drove her to launching the firm. After failing to secure funding in 2013, she sold her house and used the money to build the company. Her fortunes changed when in 2014, after using the, an angel investor came forward and offered funding.

“We’ve been lucky to have investors who really understand the travel industry,” she said. “We’re lucky that they challenge us instead of pressuring us.”

Get Real! Experience VR in Action
Anathea Ruys
Head of Fuse, Asia Pacific
Omnicom Media Group

Gamers are the wedge that will drive VR into the mainstream, normalising the use of the technology, Ruys argued. Because of that, brands need to get involved now to spend time with VR and figure out how it can work with their goals—or miss out because it is moving at an incredibly fast rate.

Some quick factoids:

  • 3 million headsets today, growing to 30 million by 2020
  • A $1 billion industry already but the value of hardware will outstrip that of TV hardware within the next five years.

"In the same way the internet democratised knowledge, VR will democratise experience," Ruys said.

As for its utility in marketing, Ruys described four main areas:

Recreate: Recreating experiences is of course the application that naturally comes to mind for VR. But Ruys pointed out an important twist. "While a test drive though VR is not as good as a real test drive, it's a very good way to pique desire," she said. So much so that in a travel industry example, a VR experience provided a 190 percent sales lift.

Represent: This encompasses applications that are not about directly driving a sale, but about "representing the brand as the kind of brand that cool young people want to be involved with", Ruys said. She cited a North Face example from Korea as an illustration (see below).

Resonance: "Building empathy using VR is an incredibly powerful way of using this tool, because when you walk in someone else's shoes, you very quickly understand more about their lives," Ruys said. Here, she cited Unicef's efforts to spread awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Reward: Ruys described the obvious scale advantage between giving one customer concert tickets versus giving an unlimited number of customers access to a VR concert experience. And not only that, but a concert experience that places the viewer on the stage with the performers rather than in the nosebleed seats.

We were happy to see VR broken down in such concrete marketing-oriented terms. So we didn't mind much when the presentation mentioned less compelling and realistic uses, such as Netflix's effort to let people watch 2D movies inside of a sumptuous VR living room, which Ruys suggested airlines could adapt use to make economy seem more like business class.

(The session promised a VR demo, but our reporter had to leave before it occurred.)

Creative Mobile Moment Experiences: The Connected Generation Changed Everything
Brian Wong
Founder and CEO, KIIP

During his presentation, Wong told attendees that the “moment” is the metric for the connected generation.

“Event (intent/action) + Context (device/time/place) = Moment”

“There’s a US$22 billion gap in time spent by consumers on devices and ad spend by brands,” he added. “Everyone’s on their mobile doing a variety of things, and the monestisation opportunity on mobile has to date been limited to content on device rather than utility.”

Kiip is a mobile rewards network that offers users brand-sponsored real-life rewards or virtual currency when users achieve something in the app, like beating a certain level in a game or hitting a new personal best in a running app.

Wong argued that it is different from rewarded video or an offer wall because users are being rewarded for actions they’d be doing anyway, rather than encouraging users to perform tasks specifically in order to earn a reward.

During his presentation, Wong outlined some tips for engaging users via moments, based on his own company’s findings.

First, there's a need to invent new permissions that don’t centre on the expectation of advertising interrupting the user experience. Reach and frequency don't work well with the mobile connected generation. It’s about depth, not breadth.

Brands need to find the moments that are relevant to their purpose and products. For example, if your product addresses thirst and provides energy, look at moments that would allow for natural insertion. Such an approach is device-agnostic and futureproof.

Look at 1 to 1 scale, the notion of marketing as a service, where engagement is done on an individualised basis at scale. Examples include Marriott Hotels' chat-based concierge and Amazon’s Echo—both offerings that look like services but are essentially marketing as they involve transacting with the brand.

“Amazon Echo accounted for 25 percent of all portable speaker sales in US last year,” said Wong. “It’s essentially Jeff Bezos sitting in a corner of your house taking your money. That’s genius!”

He also had one piece of advice to share for brands grappling with innovation: Start by focusing on what won’t change.

Guinness World Records
Samantha Fay
SVP Global Brand Strategy

Nadine Causey

The pair shared stand-out campaigns from brands in Asia that have been creative, broke records and engaged audiences.

Fay and Causey urged brands and agencies to think of different ways they could use record-breaking to increase presence locally and globally.

Our favourite pick was from LG, which worked with Bryan Berg to build a house of cards atop a running washing machine. The house of cards was built atop an LG Centum washing machine, which was spinning at 1,000 RPM. Berg’s structure stood 3.3 meters tall, and took the form of a 48-storey house.

The record reached 2 million people and garnered 407,000 views on the GWR Facebook page. It got 60,000 views on GWR’s YouTube channel and 100 million total global views. Equally important, it managed 3.5 million shares on social-media networks.

“LG took a risk creatively and it paid off. The promotional piece is now being made into a global creative campaign,” Fay noted.

Passion Trumps Talent
Matt Eastwood
Worldwide chief creative officer
J. Walter Thompson

In his session opening day two, Eastwood used several examples of famous people from around the world, who lived in different eras, to demonstrate the power of passion.

He further explained that he looks only for passion when he's hiring someone. "I've done a lot of interviews and hiring," he said. "I don't look for intelligence, the recommendation, pedigree, or the suit the interviewee holds. I look for passion. Passion is what one wakes up with. You make sacrifices because of it. A passion could be cars, kittens or whatever, but the point is that people who are more passionate about one thing can be passionate about others too. I can't teach passion. Passion gives you a sense of learning. It's a fire under you that wants to make you succeed."  

He made his point with a clip of actor Will Smith explaining how he doesn't like getting outworked by anyone—he would rather die than get outworked.

Eastwood's talk closely mirrored a presentation given at Cannes. Please see A masterclass on 'passion'.

Day 1

Tools for Cracking the Codes of Innovation
Yonathan Dominitz, founder

In his Silent-Stage workshop Wednesday afternoon, Dominitz said 81 percent of Cannes-winning work conforms to one of several creative thought patterns his company has identified—patterns that other creatives can use to guide their own idea production.

As an example, he challenged the crowd to identify the common thought pattern uniting three different pieces of work: An orange juice brand that used the time the juice was produced in place of the brand name on its bottles, a movie theater where patrons paid only as much as they laughed (as measured by facial recognition), and a GPS satnav that used a child's voice to give instructions in areas where kids were likely to be present.

The answer: "dynamic connections" between variables in a system that weren't connected before. To wit, in the example this means connecting packaging design with time of production, the number of laughs with the price paid and location with the type of voice.

"We are scanning the existing variables in any system and trying to see what kinds of new connections we can do," he said. This process can result in not only communication ideas, but also new products. 

In another set of examples, Dominitz described three pieces of work based on the thought pattern of relocation—transplanting an element from one context into another. The work cited: A furniture store that installed real-life Pinterest pins in its store, posters that allow passersby to swipe their credit card to make a donation, and the much celebrated Red Tomato pizza magnet.

How Not to Get Creatives to Embrace Innovation
TMW Unlimited
Marc Curtis, head of labs

In a refreshingly on-self-congratulatory approach, Curtis arranged his engaging talk around ways he has failed to create innovation within an agency context.

"I created an innovation department."

This approach "unfortunately, creates a bubble, with all the innovative stuff inside it, and everybody else can't touch it", he said.  The lesson: Organisations need innovation leaders, not innovation departments.

"I let process kill ideas."

Putting an idea into the agency's traditional pipeline, such as trying to get a client to pay for an ambitious project without proof that it will work, is a sure-fire way to kill the idea, Curtis said. Other bad ideas include introducing startup companies to big-client procurement processes or attempting to scale ideas globally before they are proven. The lesson: Encourage behaviours, not processes.

"I put on beauty parades."

Getting six startups to pitch ideas for 10 minutes each is great fun and allows clients to touch "magic innovation dust", but the hit rate is very low. The approach wastes startups' time, and doesn't really connect with client needs. The lesson: "Don't be a startup tourist". Spend time getting to know startups, and invest in creating a true value exchange with them.

"I expected them to come to me."

Waiting passively for people to present innovative ideas results instead in people coming to you with requests to contribute a five-points slide about innovation for a pitch. The lesson: Innovation happens at the interface between disciplines, and you need to get involved and spend time connecting people.

"I started with a single approach."

Companies and people exist in different states of readiness and have different needs, so a uniform approach will not work. Better to start with a "portfolio" approach: remain flexible and try lots of different things.

Curtis closed with a list of four things agencies need to work on to up their innovation game: 

  • Value systemic innovation
  • Move fast and embrace smart failure
  • Practice disciplined collaboration
  • Never be satisfied.

Virtual Victory: eSports Playing to Win

David Mayo
Chief Executive Officer
Bates Chi & Partners

Chester King
International eGames Group

Raiford Cockfield
Director of APAC Partnerships

L-R: King, Cockfield

In the day's final session, Mayo introduced the massive opportunity esports represent, especially in Asia. Marketers, agency leaders and creatives would be foolish to ignore the burgeoning audience and opportunity, he said.

For their parts, King and Cockfield made a convincing conversational case for the size and demographic attractiveness of the gaming audience (which numbers 250 million and is growing quickly) and the extraordinary amounts of time Twitch users spend consuming esports content (116 minutes a day).

They also spent considerable energy arguing on behalf of gaming itself, which contrary to certain stereotypes is a highly social activity that rewards teamwork, strategy and real-time problem solving, Cockfield said. 

Agency ßeta II - The Secret of Team Prototyping
Masaru Kitakaze
Worldwide chief creative officer, Hakuhodo

"It's the new ways of creating that bring about revolutions," Kitakaze observed in a presentation urging agencies to apply IT-style 'beta' prototyping to their very business models. "It is difficult to create something different from yesterday using the same method you used yesterday," he added. Yet the creative agency business has transformed much less than others over recent years despite enormous societal and media-landscape change.

Kitakaze offered mantras that Hakuhodo adheres to as it tries to rapidly evolve—such as 'Create the way we create' and 'No rule, new game'—along with a wealth of examples that the agency's various units have come up with, including a bookstore that sells beer and a cooperative arrangement with the Japanese space agency.

If the utility of some of the ideas in the rapid-fire presentation went over some heads or caused chuckles, that was beside the point. Or perhaps it was the point. "The ad industry thinks too much," Kitakaze admonished. Much better to feel and act before thinking, he suggested in all seriousness, before concluding by (inevitably) quoting Darwin's contention that only the organisms most responsive to change survive.

Controlled Disruption: How To Reinvent an 'Ordinary' Company
Flying Fish Lab / SilverNeedle Hospitality
Joël Céré & Mário Braz De Matos / Paul Emerson

During a Silent Stage session, Paul Emerson, VP of brands at SilverNeedle Hospitality, shared lessons learnt from the process the Australia-headquartered hospitality group went through in consultation with Flying Fish Lab to its offer, products and communication.

The hospitality industry is currently facing what Emerson called the “four forces of the hotel apocalypse”: Hotel product parity, commoditisation thanks to the rise of OTA, disruption from the new shared economy and power of the mega hotel groups.

The soon to be launched Linq Hotel brand was the result of a framework which combined crowdsourcing, challenger-brand thinking and business incubation to formulate a feasible self-disruption strategy.

“You start by asking the outsiders for ideas and perspectives that you can then use in tandem with internal ideas,” Emerson said.

Mário Braz De Matos, managing partner at Flying Fish Lab, said that at end of the idea gathering process, you’re left with a set of ideas in its very early stages, followed by "distillation and convergence" of concepts, and prioritisation and "an actionable 12-month plan”.

“Innovation and disruption is great, but if it’s not feasible, then what’s the point?” Braz De Matos said.

Creative Spaces – Designing for Mobile
Jason Li
Creative lead at Facebook and Instagram
Jason Li, Facebook and Instagram’s creative lead, shared tips on how to crack the shift to mobile and have people discover and experience brands on these devices. 
“Content consumption on Facebook mobile is fundamentally different,” he said. “They consume content faster with the sound off.” 
Viewers have more control over what they want to consume and tend to be interested in what you say in the beginning, but if they get confused they drop off. “The good news is that every single media evolution came with constraints, but there is always an creative opportunity,” he added.
  1. Carousel can add a sense of movement and transform static images into a beautiful cinematic experience and transform the way users see images.
  2. 360 photos ensures the photo experience is no longer bounded and users can experience a much bigger image.
  3. Facebook Live ensure immediacy and is a great way to use celebrities
  4. Vertical videos are important because people do not like to flip their phones. Brands should take advantage of this new way of storytelling and tailor content to maximise screen real estate. 

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