Staff Reporters
Sep 10, 2013

Spikes Asia 2013: What it takes to win

The presidents of three key categories outline their expectations for this year.

Spikes Asia 2013: What it takes to win


Film, Print, Outdoor and Radio and Integrated 
Tham Khai Meng
Worldwide chief creative officer
Ogilvy & Mather 

People always ask me about advertising trends at moments like this. I’m not too interested in fads, or the latest things; there’s only one thing that really interests me and that is the oldest one: emotion. It always does good to remind ourselves when approaching an award show about some fundamentals, about what exactly it is that we do for a living. As far as I am concerned, we are communicators and our job is to move a person from State A to State B using the power of persuasion. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And it is, but for a long time advertisers lost sight of this simple truth.

Persuasion requires subtlety, art, charm and seduction. It requires a good story and for you to tell it well. The means of communication between human beings is the same now that it has always been: through the heart. We are hard-wired to be moved by stories that revolve around the big five: birth, life, politics, death and God. Advertisers of course have tended to shy away from them, but those who grasp the nettle find it can pay dividends in terms of emotional payload.

We are hard-wired to be moved by stories that revolve around the big five: birth, life, politics, death and God.”

Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy & Mather

Another subject everyone asks about is integrated. Is it a good thing? My answer would be yes and no. It seems obvious. If you make a great film, why not also do it on the mug, the T-shirt and, as the parlance goes, ‘socialise’ it? Yes, but… For me the foundation of any great ad campaign has always been a great brief. That’s where it all starts. A brief that distils a very complicated commercial marketing nostrum into something very sharp and short that the creatives can then dramatise. It’s all about focus. Whereas the integrated idea is about expansion. If the idea is a big one like Dove’s ‘Real beauty sketches’, if it lends itself naturally to being expressed in numerous different media, then scale it up. Small ideas, however, can be quite impossible to make integrated. In the same way that a Renaissance fresco was commissioned for a specific wall, quite often an advertising idea is invented for a specific space. Would the Mona Lisa work as a tapestry?  

For years, part of the genius and brilliance of advertising was the shortness of it. Ads came and went in a second. A poster lasted as long as it took to drive past it. This has changed. Now, we are seeing more long-form content in film. Well, that’s fine by me. It gives you room to breathe, and scope to go deeper, but it has to be done brilliantly. You have to earn those extra minutes and the consumer often begrudges you them. I think I will always at heart be an aficionado of the miniature piece of brilliance.

Brevity is integral to print and outdoor, which is what makes it such a hard medium to crack. Asia has a very good feel for it. The brilliant ones operate like Trojan horses: they charm themselves through the reader’s defences, smuggle in their message and plant it in the heart. Often without the reader ever quite knowing what happened.  

Discipline is the soul of such great art. One discipline we don’t celebrate as much as I would like is radio. Yes, you can almost hear the inward groan when I say that. It’s just not glamorous, is it? Not like TV. I’ve never understood this. As an advertising medium, radio is a marvel. Look what happened on 31 October 1938 in America. That was the night they broadcast Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds. People were gripped by a mass panic that they were being invaded by Martians. The news spread around the world overnight, and even today excites the popular imagination. The power of good radio is clearly startling. The images went straight in through the ears and into the deepest darkest part of the heart. As they say, you get the best pictures in radio. And they are free because the listener provides them for nothing. Anything you can imagine can be made on radio.

But all these things, be they radio, print and outdoor, film long and short, integrated… they are all means of delivery. They are the horse and cart that delivers your message. The important thing is the message and how it works. And when it comes to that, I’m just like any ordinary Joe sitting in the movie theatre. I don’t care how you do it, just move me. Make me laugh or cry or sing. And if you want to win awards, dial it up, take it to the ultimate. If it’s funny, make me fall about laughing. If it’s sad, make me embarrassed because I’m a grown man crying. And if it’s charm you are after, well, as they say in New York, make it so it could charm a dog out of a meat truck.

The way to do all that can be summed up in one phrase. Give me a big idea. How will you know if your idea is really big? Simple. Everyone will drop by your office and offer to work on it with you.


Mike Cooper

PHD Worldwide 

Media in Asia has made enormous strides over the past 20 years. Having spent 19 years in Asia in my previous role, I’ve seen first-hand how it has transformed from a very ‘nuts and bolts’ approach that was fundamentally numbers-driven and short on creativity, to being the home to some of the best work in the world. Just look at some of the work that has come out of the global awards shows this year.

It’s clear that Asia’s media creativity is challenging the traditional markets like the UK and US. And there is no doubt that at this year’s Spikes we’re going to see outstanding work that’s on parity with the rest of the world.   

“As well as seeming braver, there is a trend towards more collaborative work”

Mike Cooper, PHD

As a media judge at a creative awards festival, I’m going to be looking for really outstanding, big ideas. It’s unquestionably going to be the brave and audacious thinking that can operate seamlessly across multiple media touch points that will really stand out. It’s never been so important for every single piece of communications to work flawlessly across multiple channels — whether it’s digital, outdoor, social, or branded content. The central idea and how it is executed has to be resilient in its thinking to work across all these touch points. It’s what separates the good ideas from the really great work.

Having said that, you occasionally see a retail or event idea that is so surprising and different that it takes your breath away. It is these examples more than anything that encourage me to be a judge, because seeing these great ideas is so invigorating.   

Having been a judge at most of the major award shows, there’s one thing that consistently happens and that is that the best work always rises to the top. It doesn’t matter if it’s TV, digital or outdoor — the judges usually unanimously agree when they see a really outstanding piece of work.   

One common factor that contributes to outstanding work is bravery. The best work is always really confident and any really strong idea in media has to show real commitment and attention to detail. You can have the best idea, but if you can’t execute it well it’s worthless. So much is in the detail and the best examples of media creativity show a massive commitment to the idea, and are brilliantly executed. 

As well as work seeming braver and more confident, there is a definite trend towards more collaborative work, as agencies recognise the benefits of working together. It’s essential to have joined-up thinking when approaching today’s ever-evolving landscape and agencies have to put their differences aside for the common good of the client. The move towards a more collaborative approach is also indicative of the fact that media in Asia has a seat at the top table in terms of media communications.

A great example of the power of collaboration is Unilever’s highly awarded ‘Real beauty sketches’ campaign for Dove, which benefited from a central team with representatives from media, client, creative, PR and social agencies working in a room together from day one, and for the duration of the campaign period. This global command centre was set up to enable real-time monitoring, optimisation and response to conversations, sentiment, media performance and content distribution.

As the media agency involved in the campaign, PHD saw first-hand how working hand in hand with Ogilvy Brazil, Edelman, The Audience, Mavens and YouTube resulted in something amazing which became the most viewed piece of branded content ever, with 168 million views globally to date. 

Another trend that we’re seeing with cutting edge marketing thinking in Asia is how brands are positioning themselves as challengers. It’s a far cry from the early 90s when a lot of Asian companies were not that committed to advertising and thought they ‘had to’, rather than seeing it as the key to establishing a competitive advantage.  

I’ve been truly impressed by some of the ideas coming out of Asia in the past year. Work like McDonald’s ‘Macca’s’ campaign from Australia and ‘A million reasons to believe in Thailand’ from Coke, really stand out. The widely awarded Metro Trains work, ‘Dumb ways to die’, is an example of how attention to detail in every channel really pays off. 

In this year’s entries I’m looking to be surprised, shocked and delighted and I’m 100 per cent confident that there will be some real gems. But that work has to have some real results behind it: without rigorous evidence of effectiveness, it’s not going to make the grade. And any agencies planning on entering anything remotely scam-orientated should not bother. We’ve seen examples creep in over the over the years and it’s one of the judges’ pet hates.

I’m sure I speak for all the judges when I say how excited we are to be sitting down and reviewing the work. Judging is hard work, but also lots of fun. And that’s the really great thing about Asia: it’s such a relentlessly positive and optimistic environment and I really do come back feeling energised and more enthusiastic about the industry that we’re all lucky enough to work in.


Creative Effectiveness
Jarek Ziebinski
Leo Burnett Asia-Pacific

Creativity is the only source of competitive advantage today. This is why there has never been a greater emphasis on creative effectiveness than now. A troubled global economy and an increasing need for accountability brings a new reality for agencies and clients. As professionals, we believe in the value of marketing in creating and building brands. (If you don’t, you probably should consider a career switch.) For chief marketing officers around the world, proving the value of marketing within their organisations, versus investments into other areas, has become ever more vital. 

“Results are meaningless if there is no clear illustration of the link between the idea and the outcome. Creative effectiveness measurement requires a separate set of metrics from standard brand metrics”

Jarek Ziebinski, Leo Burnett

Fortunately, there is no more debate about the correlation between creativity and effectiveness. It has been repeatedly proven that great ideas work. Creativity is not only the core of our business, but also the key to marketing competitiveness, as it has the power to impact the way people think, feel and ultimately behave. 

Broadly speaking, creative effectiveness could be defined as successful results achieved against objectives set by client and agency before the idea is born and the campaign is developed. To further elaborate, the key focus of establishing creative effectiveness should firmly be on the return on marketing investment.  

In other words, the results are meaningless if there is no clear illustration of the link between the idea and the outcome. For creative effectiveness, there should be a different set of metrics to measure success separate from the standard brand metrics to ensure that the idea and campaign are isolated from the other elements that could also have an impact on the results. 

Are we doing enough today as an industry to entrench the culture of effectiveness in our agencies? Probably not. On a more positive note, things have definitely improved over the past five years. We are clearly moving in the right direction, except that we need to do more and speed up the process of change.  

What is great to observe though is that, at leading effectiveness shows globally and in the region, the juries, which are made up of leading agency executives and marketers, are increasingly looking for the direct relation between ideas and results. They are no longer swayed by the shine of potentially unaccountable facts like YouTube views or click-through numbers and are looking for work which clearly affects behaviour change that leads to profitable returns for the brands. Continued success over the long term is also celebrated and rewarded. This is a crystal clear positive indication that change is slowly but surely spreading throughout our business.

I am really looking forward to the creative effectiveness cases of some of this year’s most creative campaigns globally. Work such as Dove’s ‘Real beauty sketches’, Intel+Toshiba’s ‘The beauty inside’ and ‘Dumb ways to die’ for Metro Trains are some of the shining examples of creativity today and I cannot wait to see their continued success on the creative effectiveness stage later on. 

In our part of the world though, more often than not, effectiveness seems to be almost accidental. There is an urgent need to bring about change more broadly within our business to put effectiveness as the basis of the work we do. 

Clients will only stay with agencies that add value to their business and effectiveness is the ultimate measurement. Successful agencies grow and get stronger through their clients’ success in the market place. It is a win-win. 

As Leo Burnett once said, “Our real purpose in life is that of improving the sales effectiveness and reputation of our clients through ideas.” That is definitely a good statement to keep at the back of our minds in everything we do.

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