Capital I Interview Series – No. 1:
KimmiC chats with multi-award winning, ‘Capital I’ Advertising Innovator, Matt Batten
Each day the average person is exposed to hundreds – some say thousands – of advertisements. Generally they range from boring to the utterly banal. In fact, I’d posit that most slide out of our consciousness without us realizing what it is they’re actually advertising.
However, occasionally there are a few fantastic pieces of artful, magical marketing, which embed themselves in the psyche of a nation – sometimes a generation.
Personally, when I think of favourite commercials, and yes, I have a few, each of them tends to reflect the times in which they were created – be it for bologna or beer. I know I’m not alone in thinking that occasionally the commercials are more entertaining than the purported entertainment they are slotted in around. There are, in fact, a myriad of websites dedicated to these entertaining, award winning ads from around the world.
Without doubt, the preeminent award ceremony for the advertising industry, is the annual, week-long, Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Its a time when global Innovators in advertising and marketing gather together to celebrate excellence in their industry and honour the most creative campaigns from around the world – in 2010 more than 24,000 entries were received.
This year, for the first year, Matt Batten, the Executive Creative Director of Wunderman Sydney, was invited to be a judge on the Cannes Lions Direct jury. On his return from Cannes we grabbed the opportunity to explore his thoughts on ‘Capital I’ Innovation in general, and how it applies to his creative industry in particular.
Matt’s impressive bio includes:
- Creative of the Year 2010, APAC – Digital Media Awards, Beijing.
- Collecting more trophies than any other Australian creative at the 2008 ADMA Awards.
- Being the only Art Director in the world with two campaigns in the Top 10 of Won Report’s World’s 50 Best DM Campaigns 2005.
A man with a myriad of interests and talents, an intelligent eclectic, Matt is probably never short of a dinner party invitation. His many interests include antique books, all things old (and French) swordplay, archery, photography, screenwriting and winning – yes, definitely winning.
Matt, do you think that having a wide range of interests has helped you as a Capital I Innovator?
I’m a curious mind. I have a head for mathematics and science and often investigate the hidden relationships between numbers or objects. To that end I will always endeavor to find out the answer to something I don’t know.
This job is all about problem solving. Which is why my fellow Direct jurors and I
unanimously selected the ‘Rom‘ campaign for the Grand Prix. As did the separate Promo jury, totally independent of us
When it came down to three contenders (don’t ask who the other two were), one was an example of the technology and future of advertising, one was a perfect embodiment of the brand’s higher positioning, while the third, Rom, saved a business. And that’s what we do as advertisers. Every communication is to solve a business problem and prevent it from losing market share.
How was jury duty – what were the perks and the pesky problems?
This was my first time as a Cannes Lions juror. I found it exhilarating and draining at the same time – a 14 hour day followed by a 12 hour day.
The biggest perk is being in Cannes throughout the whole process in the lead up to the Festival and witnessing this town metamorphosis from sleepy seaside town to the largest and most opulent celebration of creative advertising. Following that is the honor of meeting and working alongside my fellow judges from around the world, all of whom are talented, interesting and funny people. Of all the judging panels I’ve been lucky enough to be part of, I have never laughed so hard than in the past five days with the Cannes Direct Lions jurors.
I like to think that the Cannes Lions crowd will be inundated with Capital I Innovators… am I right?
I hope so. These guys are our peers, and our future replacements who’d better be
twice as innovative as our generation of advertising Creatives has been.
What was your favourite campaign, and your favourite win?
When I first saw Ogilvy Argentina’s ‘Friendship Machine‘ for Coca-Cola, I thought I had found my pick for the Grand Prix. It’s honest, emotional, beautiful and effective. Then I saw Ferrorama’s campaign and suddenly had two choices for Grand Prix.
But when I thought hard about the campaign for Romanian chocolate bar ‘Rom‘, I knew the issue was solved. Here, an agency solved a true business issue in a creative way.
How do you define Innovation? Innovation is being the first to do or create something using the tools currently
available. In this way it differs from ‘invention’ which would be to create
something which doesn’t rely on existing technologies or understandings.
Do you see a difference between ‘little i’ and ‘Capital I’ Innovation in your field? A little i innovation is a small improvement on an existing technology that could
lead to new and useful ways of doing things. It doesn’t necessarily fundamentally
change the world but it could lead to change.
A Capital I innovation is when someone makes an enormous leap forward from the status quo and manages to change the world in some way.
Do you think innovation is an overused term?
That’s why I prefer ‘world first’.
How essential has innovation been in your career/business to date; and how important do you envisage it being going forward? Innovation is core to creativity. It’s about understanding the existing thinking and technologies and pushing them further to create originality. A lower case innovation isn’t different enough and is often met with the sentence “that’s just like…”
A Capital Innovation makes the idea transcend everything we have done to date. It is ‘gold’.
While most Creative Directors and their Creatives are always looking for ‘original
ideas’ – the little innovation – I’m constantly on the hunt for ‘world firsts’.
In fact, my own office of Wunderman Sydney has produced several world firsts in the past year alone.
Wunderman prides itself “on being at the forefront of technology and creative thinking.” Why? Can you tell me about your favourite examples of this?
You don’t get to be one of the world’s largest agency networks without applying
Coupled with insights and knowledge from our vast array of tech clients, including Microsoft and Nokia – two of the world’s leaders in technological innovation – Wunderman is well placed for applying creative muscle to future technologies in order to truly stay at the forefront.
In terms of Wunderman’s innovation, our work includes burying cash on the Internet in a world first campaign for Microsoft, inventing a media channel and whole new ‘fertilising’ printer’s ink for Earth Hour, and the world’s first audio-based Facebook app for Nokia – a campaign that simultaneously provided the social network with a whole new technology they hadn’t done themselves.
Can you be too innovative in marketing?
But you can get too complex with the marketing that envelops the innovation. You often see overly complicated campaigns wrapped around some technology, and the innovation gets buried under the complexity. There must always be a simple, relevant idea that requires the innovation – always idea first.
Are there agencies who stand head and shoulders above others with regard to how the incorporate Capital I Innovation? I think there are several agency networks with a proven track record of having a
great sense of applied innovation, including Weiden + Kennedy, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Crispin Porter, and DDB.
How have recent technological innovations changed the way you approach digital strategy?
There is a danger in using someone else’s innovations of simply replicating – the
original innovator and all the OTHER Creatives who also use that technology in their advertising. We must be inspired by innovation rather than re-use it. Inspired to either create our own or push existing technologies even further than anyone else ever has, or could.
Two years ago, when everyone else was using Augmented Reality to create pretty 3D images, we added geo-coding, personalization, live data streaming, and social
sharing to take the technology further than it had ever been, innovate a world
first, and create a totally immersive experience for our client.
The best way to approach a brief is to start the proposed solution with “what
if…”. And then find a way to make that crazy idea a reality. Sometimes that
involves researching for existing technologies and innovations that can achieve it, either in whole or in part and then extending or repurposing the technology to suit the campaign idea. Or create your own innovative solution.
And at the Cannes Lions awards, Ogilvy’s gold-winning ‘Watson’ for IBM campaign is a superb example of utilising existing technology AND creating your own innovation to make a brilliant piece of communication.
Where do you see Social Media being used most effectively? Social media is a tool through which brands can have a relationship with consumers, and through which consumers can share brand content.
This can bring a greater immediacy to the product being in the consumer’s hand when they want it. And it provides massive potential to spreading communications faster than ever before.
But with it comes a price. The consumer now controls the conversation. And as fast as brands want positive socio-viral spread for their comms, negative socio-viral spread will always be faster.
Brands cannot afford to do any wrong.
What piece of innovation did you expect to happen/take off, that didn’t? Tough question.
We live in a world that moves at such a fast pace, and advertising moves
considerably faster, especially in creativity. So what was an Innovation yesterday
is instantly de rigeur today, observed with the all too common “that’s been done
before.” This means that even the best Innovations (after winning an award or two) are no longer useful for original creativity and therefore they never ‘take off’.
However, there will always be capital Innovations that continue to be used as
Creatives attempt to squeeze every bit of life out of then with little innovations.
For example, Augmented Reality was a capital Innovation about 4 years ago and
continues to surface in award shows.
And QR codes will continue to be used by brands to show digital superiority and try to engage consumers, but in most cultures the QR code is ignored by consumers.
In judging the 2011 Cannes Direct Lions, we did discover a truly relevant and
superior use of QR codes in a Korean campaign for Tesco that the jury unanimously agreed was worthy of double gold.
But now that the QR code has been used so extensively by brands (and so successfully by Tesco), they will be the furthest thing from the minds of most Creatives.
If you could give a ‘Capital I’ Innovation Award to anyone, who would you nominate? This could be individuals, organizations and/or companies. Many would be quick to name Apple as an Innovator. But I think Microsoft is by far the greater Innovator. You may think I’m doing my duty of defending one of
Wunderman’s primary clients, but as Malcolm Gladwell said in his Cannes Lions
seminar, “Apple win by being late to every innovation. They perfect, not invent.”
Whereas, Microsoft invests serious money into R&D to produce technologies far beyond their competitors. Most consumers just don’t realise it.
I also think HBO is an innovator in terms original, quality and highly-watchable
And there is probably no bigger innovator than Facebook. We’ve seen the movie and we’ve poked our friends and this brand continues to find new ways to engage and connect people and serve as a content and communication provider.
Do you think that location matters? Does Innovation have a home/nation?
Innovation exists in just one place in the world. The human mind. While that means location is irrelevant, there is obviously greater stimuli for the human mind to use for innovation in some cultures more than others. But to counter that, developing nations have a greater need for innovation and therefore potentially have a greater effort to achieve it.
On a personal note, there are two Wunderman campaigns in particular which I’m very fond of, one is the Legacy pitch for the Gruen Transfer – its aim, “to convince the Australian public to allow refugees arriving by boat into the country” - and one for one of Melbourne’s best kept foodie secrets, the Taco Truck , which turns up on random street corners, and purports to serves up “some of the best tacos this side of East LA” . What I want to know is – and I know its a purely selfish question, but:
Is the Taco Truck coming to Sydney? Please!
I’ll see what I can do.
Sí, sí, sí por favor!!!
If you could ask Vint Cerf ‘father of the internet’ any question, what would it be?
I am very pleased to announce that I will soon be interviewing Vint Cerf, known as ‘one of the fathers of the internet’, for the Capital I Interview series.
In the spirit of collaboration, and net neutrality, which Vint supports, I am offering followers of the KimmiC Blog the opportunity to ask Vint a question of their very own.
All you have to do is sign up to be a blog follower, and then post your question in the comment section below. The three best questions will be included in the interview. (Of course I will credit the person who asked the question!).
I look forward to exploring your ideas!
Capital I Innovation Series Introduction