News & Views

Take 5 @ Spikes


Spikes Asia 2014 was a smaller affair than its European counterpart in Cannes, but offered a great Asian and regional perspective with compelling content, industry leaders, speakers and, of course, award-winning work.

Overall, it covered a solid gamut of of-the-moment topics: Storytelling and content, agency culture, management and new models, as well as nurturing the agency-client relationship. And finally, some deeper vertical dives: a look at traditional culture meeting modern points of view in India, mobile, luxury and public service/social impact in China, Zen vs. Anime ad styles in Japan and Asian micro innovation, as well as health tech, biomimicry, wearable tech design and designing happiness.

And of course the show culminated with some top winners from around the region.

Take five for our five point rundown:

1. Storytelling and Content

A tale of two talks:

Creative content agency Evidently, broke down children’s storytelling into techniques that can be applied to developing brand storytelling. Daniel Zeff, Evidently’s CEO and Amy Lavalette, Evidently's VP of Asia, read beautifully illustrated pages from some of the best children’s books out there, and then followed up with a real world pieces of advertising that used that technique. Children’s books constantly evolve their media: The Hungry Caterpillar has a cut out hole for kids to put their fingers through and wiggle them around like a caterpillar. In a similar way, our media needs to always be evolving and the stories we tell need to become more interactive and immersive as well.

BBH Shanghai’s CCO, Johnny Tan sees agency creatives’ ability to tell stories and present well, as an often overlooked skill. He explained that creatives tend to ignore a client’s position and use all the wrong words. For example, when creatives use language like ‘edgy, different and cool’ their client hears the opposite- that it’s “risky and a bad idea.”

Tan shared a successful example from inside the agency: when Mentos asked BBH Shanghai to pitch for a product placement ad, the team came in with a video showing a *yawn* 20 minutes of pure product placements. This immediately got their client understanding this approach doesn’t work, so they should concentrate on telling a story first, but with the product at the heart of the story.

2. Agency culture, management, changing models, nurturing relationships

There was a lot of talk on how to cultivate the right kind of agency culture, how to constantly evolve, keep people engaged and how to really nurture clients to create longer term relationships.

The Secret Little Agency’s chief creative officer Hanyi Lee, offered up their success story of always being truthful (they had to as a small agency). The agency doesn’t have a set way of working, but keeps changing the model and way they work daily to suit the needs of the brief, client and work.


She gave examples of how they created two machines as actual advertising output for clients, (a Coffee Connector, that only dispensed coffees in pairs and had to be operated by two people, and a GPS-enabled Evian blimp that travelled across Singapore dispensing vouchers). With no point of reference, the agency had to get their hands dirty (literally) to maintain both machines and also had to change their approach on a daily basis, when things didn’t go according to plan.

PHD’s worldwide CEO Mike Cooper, looked at keeping people engaged at work in a similar way to how they are in the gaming world. Gamer traits of creativity, optimism, determination and the ability when needed to collaborate with others, are also key workplace traits. So, can we harness gamification to keep people better and more happily engaged at work? PHD put their money where their mouth is and has built an internal gamified system – Source. Source takes into account everything happening in a media agency. Every activity earns points, allowing people to see for themselves where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and management can too.

Droga5’s chief creative officer Ted Royer, suggested the rules of dating and relationships that we apply in everyday life are exactly how Droga (and agencies) should approach their human client relationships. Agencies need to treat clients like a long term love, and show them every day that you want them to stick around.

With Newcastle Brown Ale, Droga5 sat down and created a No Bollocks contract, where they both promised to be absolutely honest and truthful with one another in the relationship. Royer also gave examples of how agencies only see clients when they want something or have to present something, yet would a real relationship work on transactions alone? Good work comes from genuine, reciprocal relationships.

Finally, JWT Singapore’s CCO Valerie Cheng and JWT Beijing’s CCO Polly Chu, spoke about how female creative representation and leadership is still lacking in agency culture (just 3% at top levels.) It’s not a question of burning bra feminism, but common sense. In product categories like female hygiene, or lingerie, it’s efficient to get a female who is living it and has another level of insight, than get the guys in the room to try and imagine what it’s like to be a woman. They left us with action steps that included looking at your company’s gender ratios and consciously trying to support female hiring, as well as really allowing for balanced and flexi hours, so women can work and be mothers.

3. Deep Dives into Asia

India, China and Japan took to the stage to offer actionable insights into creating culturally relevant and iconic work that resonates locally and stands out globally. Here are two of them:

Cheil India’s CCO Nima DT Namchu, talked of two Indias. One is modern, frenetic and connected like Mumbai, the other is rural with low media penetration. But what seems like chaos or a lack of development, when approached correctly, is an opportunity for impactful and unmistakably Indian work.

Examples included: Hindustan Unilever’s Kan Khajura Tesan’ Station (Gold Media & Gold Mobile Spikes 2014 Winner), which offered feature phone consumers in Bihar and Jarkhand a missed call, followed by a return call that streams the latest Bollywood hits with relevant HUL product and promo ads.

Another was Halonix lights (Bronze Media Spikes 2014 winner). Following rising concern for women’s safety in India, the brand went on Facebook to ask which streets needed better lighting. And then placed street level billboards on them, that lit up at night, so women could walk more safely down them.

TBWA/Hakuhodo’s senior planning director Yoshi Matsuura, showed us how Japanese ads fall into either Zen or Anime categories, or a fusion of the two. Zen is calm, peaceful, using traditional and natural elements and aesthetics, while Anime is more bright, quirky, out there, and/or tech-driven. Matsuura then showed how the two are fusing together in unusual ways for the postmodern Japanese consumer. One standout fusion example (Zen aspects of nature meeting tech animation/Anime) is Hibiki's Interactive Glasses and Harmony Bar (see below).


4. Wearable Tech, Health Tech, Contextual Marketing

The biggest message across these talks was how real time tracking technology and the personal data it generates, has the potential to help make marketing messages, services and brand offerings more relevant and contextual in consumers’ lives.

Stuff magazine’s editor in chief Will Findlater and e27’s editor Surender Dhaleta, talked about how wearables are gaining mass adoption and becoming contextual. They’ve had to get more fashionable and aesthetically cool to appeal to users other than 'geeks.' And mass means more opportunity for marketers. As Findlater so aptly said: ‘Wearables are personal and contextual, and that brings with it a lot of data about each of us-our likes and dislikes and how we react to certain situations and brands….The possibilities for marketers are endless.’ Dhaleta gave a contrasting point on how this disruptive tech actually helps marketers tick every box in the traditional 4Ps of Marketing: Product, Pricing, Promos and Placement.

This tied in with Contagious’ Will Sansom talking about how the best creative and marketing is contextual. It harnesses the power of real-time data like Location, Weather, Mood, Intent and more, to deliver a timely, relevant and useful message or service. And as a marketer that means you can now deliver fewer, but better targeted marketing messages to consumers (win win $$-wise for you and win win, less ads for consumers).

5. Best of the rest:

Stefan Sagmeister talked on how he takes a year sabbatical for inspiration and showed us his latest project theme: design that makes people feel increasingly happy and smile when they interact with it. Lowe Profero and DFS debunked the Asian copycat myth. This is actually micro innovating or improving and further pushing existing models (which nicely linked to Finch/Emad Tahtouh’s talk that Innovation and Invention are being mixed up: Invention is the first iteration, Innovation is a way of doing it differently). And finally, some great biomimicry tech showcased from SapientNitro as we enter the ‘third industrial revolution: industrialising biology at scale.’