While creativity sits front and centre for many brands, localisation, stifling SOPs, automation and more now pose major obstacles in the full realisation of good ideas. Campaign sat down in Singapore with thought leaders from Williams Lea Tag, and leading brands, to discuss the best way forward.
Creativity: in-house matter or outbound operation?
Several hot topics were on the table, including the degree to which brands should strive to keep creative in-house, or rely on outside sources. Most would agree that a diversity of thought nurtures creative marketing, but who are you trusting for input?
Cedric Dias, head of digital marketing, product marketing and Silver Segment at OCBC Bank lent his opinion on the matter, “You need both in-house resources and production houses, technology houses, providers, start-ups to come together. Often times it’s making a mix and match of all these things to make them work for you. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s something we’re learning, even as we speak.”
Toby Codrington, CEO APAC at Williams Lea Tag offered up the agency perspective, weighing in on brands’ ability to adapt and avoid creative stagnation, “I think organisations get very used to behaving one way, but your proposition evolves, and then it’s important to have the ability to constantly sense check that. For technology and innovation—agencies have to constantly evolve, they need to invest in their tech. That’s why we spend EUR$60 million (US$70.5 million) on our technology every year in order to be best in class, ahead of our competition. In-house you don’t necessarily want to spend so much money supporting digital asset management systems.”
When expanding regionally, fitting creative ideas to particular locales can also be a challenge, and from the agency side, “you don’t want a global agency passing out standardised retail execution toolkits”, said Codrington. Instead, there needs to be more emphasis on the talent of local execution partners.
Hina Wainwright, marketing director, APAC and global head of marketing at Williams Lea Tag followed up, “When you’re working for a global brand, certain elements are going to be global, you’re not going to be able to change them. If you’re working on a certain asset, you are wasting resources and effort if you are duplicating that same asset in Singapore and London”, She went on “but at the same time, once you have that global brand and global asset, how do you localise it? Because if it’s not localised, it doesn’t work.”
Andrew Craig, head of corporate communications, Southeast Asia at Visa Worldwide, brought in the brand angle, “We operate on a fairly lean team in-house, so we do use agencies in each of our markets. They’re our eyes and our ears and on the ground, and our local voice.”
Keeping innovative in a regulated environment
Protracted compliance and legal processes were also on the docket for the day, which often present obstacles in creative undertakings. While regulation might appear to be quite stifling, those that succeed in the arena know how to differentiate between taking a legal leap and taking a creative leap.
Harish Agarwal, head of marketing at Prudential spoke on the subject of working with compliance, while at the same time maintaining creative flare, “They’ll reduce your creative to the lowest common denominator, the least compelling creative, because that’s the safest creative.” He continues, “So what we try to do is ask ourselves ‘is it right by the consumer?’ If it’s not misleading, if it’s customer-centric, then it’s the right thing to do.”
Kate Robson, head of marketing, ASEAN & North Asia at Thomson Reuters pointed to two assets in her own quest to keep both creative and regulated: content-driven marketing and a strong relationship with compliance—understanding one another’s ultimate objectives from the top down. “We’re in a regulated environment, and yes it’s very strict and some of the work might be struck down, but I think it’s less so because of those two factors.”
The crux of automation
Also part of the discussion was automation. Although machine processes are quite useful components in most brand toolkits, one has to wonder if this will lead to degradation on the creative front. This pressing question faces brands and agencies alike.
Codrington explained, “Yes, automation is going to evolve into the future, as are AI and data…but the more technology is coming into the fold, the more us humans want a human touch to it. Therefore, humanising however we go about delivering content for us is obviously important.”
Robson also offered her unique perspective from Thomson Reuters, “It’s in the ops side of the business, but no, not in the marketing side of the business. No, we still use humans”. Nevertheless, the technology is still widely available in the media, and its place in creative strategy might yet evolve, “News is a huge arm of ours, trusted news and independent news, and you expect that to be written by a human. You balance that against the fact that there are solutions out there that can make these processes much more efficient. It’s fascinating, nobody knows where it will end up.”
Cutting through the noise, there’s still a real desire, and in fact a necessity, in staying adventurous with your work and taking chances. While data sets, SOPs and the like might serve as the chassis, creativity will continue to serve as the engine to any successful campaign.
Wendy Walker, head of marketing, global expansion, rest of the world at Intuit offered a succinct exclamation point to the day’s conversation, “It’s about bravery. If you look at every case study going back as long as Cannes, all the fantastic work that gets awarded comes from a brave client and a brave agency. For me, the role of an agency is to challenge. So yes I want strategy, but I want agencies that will challenge my strategy as well, before it even gets to a creative concept stage. And then, I want amazing work that’s outside the brief, because that’s where the best solutions come from.”