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96.2% of all statistics are made up ...

US advertising journal Advertising Age held a conference in New York this week called the Big Idea. Here are some of the thoughts that emerged.

1. Limitations and small budgets are inspiring. "I can be at my most creative when I have constraints. When I have a lack of time or money, that causes me to think differently. We don’t spend a lot of money on traditional advertising." Less than 2% of Starbucks’ operating budget is spent on advertising. Instead, word of mouth and the physical presence of each location have been its best tools.
—Anne Saunders, senior VP-global brand strategy and communications, Starbucks

2. Trust your gut -- not research. Ad execs need to stop asking permission. As British comedian Vic Reeves’ said, "96.2% of all statistics are made up." The best ads aren’t based on research.
—David Jones, global CEO of Euro RSCG

3. Think like a band. "Bands create music and they don’t know whether it’s going to sell," - they’re not sitting in an ivory tower behind their desk. It’s a very do-it-yourself culture, but ideal. This idea of thinking in a really open-minded, expressive way like an artist is really important."
—Chris Stephenson, general manager-global marketing for Microsoft’s entertainment business

4. Approach your consumer from a ’molecular level’. The first question when it designing a new hotel is: "What do we want our guest to feel?" We design experiences that appeal to the traveller who hates travelling but loves being there -- think mountain views, health spas and expanded bars.
—Steven J Heyer, CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts

5. Digitise everything. “Not just your ads, but also your store, your product and even your employees. What was once the futurist domain of "Tron" is now something anybody with a broadband connection -- and potentially an ailing first life -- can tap into.
—Linden Labs CEO Philip Rosedale, creator of the virtual world Second Life

6. Nostalgia is death. The marketing world tends to slavishly ape bygone pop culture. There’s no creativity behind thinking derivatively -- like, for example, when marketers create toy spinoffs of blockbuster films. Real creativity is about making something that is "entirely new and in the moment. Make the disticntion between nostalgia (bad) from appropriation (good), where familiar themes are a jumping-off point for the creation of a completely fresh idea like the twisted work of Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami.
—Paul Budnitz, founder of Kidrobot

7. Let consumers inside. The Barenaked Ladies’ first independent release worked outside the 12-song-per-album box. Their recording sessions yielded 29 songs, from which 250 tracks well pulled for fans to mix into their own versions. The mixes will be submitted for a forthcoming fans’ EP. "It’s not about control, but the fact that the fan owns the brand, the fans do all the marketing for us."
—Nettwerk
record label, co-founder Terry McBride

8. Prototype early. “That way, said, you won’t end up with "dinosaur babies" (a product "so ugly only its mother could love it"). Creative teams can sometimes get so wrapped up in a project they can’t let go or realize it’s not going to work the way they initially intended. Making prototypes early on in the creative process helps with troubleshooting and allows for feedback on the more complicated areas of the product. "The notion of prototyping is, if it’s bad, you can let it go."
—Paul Bennett, chief creative at IDEO

9. Drugs won’t supply your ’Aha!’ moment. “There was a time where I’d be working on something where I’d need to drink. The problem is, the longer you do it, the smaller that window for creativity gets. And then you’re trashed. Getting to that eureka time requires hard graft and is often about ripping up lots of OK ideas and starting over. (And you thought it was just brilliance and the occasional bong!)
—Alex Bogusky, chief creative officer at Crispin Porter & Bogusky.

10. Flatten management structure. "We don’t have enough managers, and we intended it to be that way … the lack of bureaucracy is a big reason for the Google’s success in bringing new products to market.”
Google’s chief engineer, Craig Neville-Manning

11. Market to the interested. “40% of the American population owns a dog. "When I run an ad on TV, 60% of the people watching have no interest in it. It’s bad for the client because they don’t want to advertise for people who aren’t interested. And it’s certainly bad for the delivery system, putting ads in front of people that are boring them."
—David Verklin, CEO of Carat Americas

12. Go for a brand back rub
Philips introduced the concept of "brand chiropractics" for example sponsorship of commercial-free football games. "It’s slightly unorthodox and [hands-on], but when it works it makes you feel really good."
—Eric Plaskonos, director-brand communications at Philips Electronics North America

13. Give consumers some control. "Once you’ve allowed the consumer to create something around your brand, you have to assume that is not something you can control," Brightcove allows marketers to build video-content channels of their own -- and provides users with the building blocks for their own creations. This way you can make sure the ideas are still coming from the marketer, and that’s the key to successful consumer-generated media. It’s highly empowering to consumers and helps to accentuate those brands as opposed to diminish them."
—Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Brightcove

14. Discourage sleep. Starwood transform hotels into big bars and meeting spaces that just happen to also have bedrooms. "We have to give guests a reason to use their time in other ways. The last option is sleep."
Steven J. Heyer, CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts

15. Don’t be (obviously) big, be brilliant. To stay cool we make more toys and more money than you think we do. We devote a huge amount of time to working out how to be big without getting bad and he said the key, quite simply, is to be guided by the question "Is it beautiful?" Don’t be guided by money or other considerations.
Kidrobot

16. Sit under the table. “See things from fresh perspectives. One of IDEO’s staff had done a project for Ikea to produce storage devices for young kids. To develop ideas, he followed a child around for a day of play. The children liked to huddle under tables, he ended up ignoring traditional shelves and went with a device that attaches under the table and allows kids to shove toys between rubbery protrusions -- the product is now a best seller.
—Paul Bennett, chief creative at IDEO

17. Every day should be independence day. For a recent BMW print campaign, we played up the BMW’s uniqueness in the automotive industry, it’s the only car maker that isn’t part of some greater parent company. BMW is a very unique company because we’re purpose-driven,… it’s hard to beat the competition when they’re your parent company.
—Jack Pitney, VP-marketing at BMW North America

18. All creatives are created equal. “Great creatives are everywhere, but that they are too often hampered by bad management or the strictures of structures. Free your copywriters and art directors and you’ll get better ideas and, most importantly, better execution.
—Alex Bogusky, chief creative officer at Crispin Porter & Bogusky.


Thanks to my former business partner, Greig Buckley, for the heads-up. Greig is now VP marketing for Canadian Company MediaOne . He also introduced me to Food Alley in Albert Street where you get the best Laksa in town … oh, and Google—it was Greig who first said hey, check out this new search engine all those years ago. He clearly spends too much time trawling the web.

If you only follow one link from here make it Kidrobot

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