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Managing Marketing: The Role Of Creativity In Marketing And Advertising

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Joe Pullos is the Festival Director of Spikes Asia. He talks about the importance of creativity in not just advertising and marketing, but the increasing importance of creativity in solving business problems and driving growth. He also discusses the role of Spikes Asia in showcasing creative talent and ideas from the most populous region of the world – Asia.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Follow Managing Marketing on Soundcloud or iTunes

Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing. Today I’m in Singapore, having a conversation with Joe Pullos, who is the Festival Director at Spikes Asia. Welcome, Joe.

Joe:

Thank you very much, Darren, glad to see you.

Darren:

It should be, welcome me, thank you for having me in your office.

Joe:

We say in Singapore, Salamat datang.

Darren:

Right, does that mean welcome?

Joe:

It means, welcome.

Darren:

How long have you been the Festival director?

Joe:

I delivered my first festival last year. I came on board round about this time a year ago. I’ve been on board for a year. I’ve got my second festival coming up in September this year. I kind of feel I’ve been associated with Spikes for a lot longer than that, because previous to coming on board as the festival director I was the official rep for Cannes Lions & Spikes Asia for about ten years, when I worked at News Corp.

Darren:

Of course, because you don’t have a career as a festival director. You’re not a long term professional director are you?

Joe:

No, my background is all marketing, predominantly B2B and trade marketing in the advertising space. So the way that I came into this business was being the festival rep for Australia for Cannes Lions & Spikes and had a very close relationship with Terry Savage who was then the chairman of Cannes and also based in Australia.

Darren:

He did the same thing. He was Val Morgan and was the representative for Australia on Cannes and ended up being the chairman of the whole shooting match.

Joe:

Yes, exactly. And Terry and I are quite similar in that before I came on board as festival director for Spikes Asia I also came out of cinemas so I was the director of sales for event cinemas in Australia. So there is quite often a comparison drawn between Terry and I and our career paths into festivals.

Darren:

So you are not a mini Terry because there are definitely differences between the two of you.

Joe:

I’m much better looking than Terry.

Darren:

But also one of the things that are similar I’ve noticed, is that you both have a passion for creativity and especially creativity in advertising. Do you think some of that is having worked in cinema because it’s probably one of the biggest advertising canvases that a creative person can have?

Joe:

There’s no doubt cinema advertising is the ultimate format for creativity, particularly because of the length of a spot in cinema and also the size of the screen and the sound. That is very attractive to brand advertisers who want to create this amazing ultimate TVC. Obviously the audience reach is not great but definitely there are some great opportunities in cinema advertising to do some amazing things creatively.

Darren:

Also because you can cherry pick a particular type of audience with cinema. Titles and things like that, you can follow those and pick up an audience that can often be hard to reach or hard to engage. You’d have to say the cinema experience is all about immersing yourself and being open to that experience, isn’t it.

Joe:

Yes, I think with cinema, advertisers are finding it’s a great way to connect with millennials that they can’t connect with on TV. Film also gives great social currency. People love talking about the latest films and films that they’ve seen in cinema. I think focusing on that cinema experience you can really connect with an audience, that hard to get audience.

Darren:

But we are not here to talk about cinema, let’s talk about creativity. What do you see as the role today? Because the days of the TV ad or cinema ad seem to have been usurped a little bit with the fact that there’s so many channels now and especially digital channels. Does that fundamentally change the role of creativity in advertising?

Joe:

I think it does. The last few years we’ve seen a shift away from that importance of creativity. As brands have looked to short term investments across digital platforms they have I think had less of a focus on creativity.

I think brands have also been punished because they haven’t got the results, they’ve got short term results, but their long term brand metrics have not been as strong because they haven’t invested in the creativity to support the brand.

There has certainly been some great examples of that, particularly in China in the beauty space where brands have moved all of their focus into short term investment and short term ROI and away from long term branding and they’ve really fallen from the number 1 spot down to number 13.

There are plenty of examples of that because they haven’t invested in their brand and invested in creativity. I think when I look at the MPS scores of festivals like Cannes Lions, they have dropped in previous years as people have been trying to figure out the whole digital disruption and the new landscape that digital has delivered.

But I think last year at Cannes Lions we had the highest MPS score ever for the festival as people understand the value of creativity and the ROI they can derive from investment in creativity.

Darren:

I think part of that is what appears to be quite a deliberate strategy of moving the focus away from just being a celebration of creativity for the creators and actually engaging the brands, advertisers and marketers a lot more into the festival. Because Cannes, especially is getting a bigger part of the audience that are the advertisers, isn’t it?

Joe:

That’s right. And we are seeing a similar uplift with Spikes Asia as well. More and more marketers are trying to understand how they become more creative and how they build a more creative environment or creative culture within their businesses.

They understand the power of creativity to drive results. For years marketers have been hammered by CFO’s to reduce spends and agency head count costs because they can’t prove ROI. What we have now is, brands that are realising the power of creativity to drive ROI of up to 12 times their investment in creativity.

There’s plenty of examples from McDonalds and Coca Cola and Google who are now looking at the value of creativity and the business of creativity to drive those commercial returns.

Brands like Heineken have built a whole language around creativity and the investment in creativity and how they value creativity internally to drive better outcomes.

Darren:

That’s such a great initiative as well because there was a time when creativity was this sort of mystical black box and to actually have a language, a way of being able to talk about it, is really important because it allows the marketers to participate in a positive way rather than be reduced to oh I don’t like that, why are you doing that?

Joe:

That’s right, and the Heineken ladder as they call it, shifts the focus from a personal description or a personal conversation about a particular piece of creative to give everybody a common language to talk about creativity and how creativity is judged internally.

I think brands like McDonalds have looked at their award winning campaigns versus their non-award winning campaigns and looked at the ROI for those products in the campaigns that have won awards. And the ROI is up to 100 X greater than non-award winning work.

Similarly coming back to the Heineken example, looking at their share market performance in the years when they had all the award winning work, it’s reflected in the uplift of the share market. They’ve had their most record years in the years that they have won creatively and they’ve had some fantastic campaigns in market.

Darren:

Wow. So that’s either because the advertising sold a lot more beer or the investors loved the ads and it got them excited and they paid more for the shares.

Joe:

In the case of Heineken it directly impacted on the volume of sales. So, the creatively awarded work delivered more effective campaigns that have sold and moved more product which in turn has driven the share price, which is fantastic.

Darren:

It’s interesting, because back in last century when I was working as a creative person and creative director and copy writer, one of the big frustrations for creative people is that clients didn’t seem to have the courage to support creativity. I think it’s probably still an issue now, yet one of the things you’ve been doing at Spikes and at Cannes is having advertiser of the year isn’t it?

Is that to recognise their contribution to supporting or encouraging creativity?

Joe:

I think bravery has got a lot to do with it. Brave clients, you can’t do good work without brave clients that are willing to take the risk. The advertiser of the year or the creative marketer of the year as it is now known, directly rewards brands that have won awards across a number of awardships.

So it is not just about, who do we like or who is the bravest advertiser. It comes down to who has delivered the most award-winning work for their brand in the last 12 months to 2 years? Last year it was Google.

Darren:

Interesting choice.

Joe:

Very interesting choice, but they have invested in creativity and they have had some fantastic campaigns. I think when a very analytic, data driven business like Google

Darren:

Well it’s an engineering company, let’s be honest.

Joe:

Is investing in creativity and can prove the value of creativity, I think the case is very well fought of the business of creativity.

Darren:

It’s obviously co-creation isn’t it. While the actual creative inspiration often happens in one person’s mind, to make that idea evolve and flourish into something that really gets the audience’s attention and changes behaviour, it takes a whole group of people to really support it, doesn’t it?

Joe:

Yes it does, it doesn’t come down to any one person in an organisation or a company. It comes down to a culmination and collaboration internally and a great working relationship with your client and also the agency.

Darren:

Now one of the other things that has obviously happened over the last ten years is the rise of technology. Technology is impacting every part of life. Do you think that means new channels or ways of expressing creativity or does it bring about new creativity?

Joe:

Interesting question, but I think it’s both. It changes the way we think about creativity. If you look at a theme like storytelling, it used to be very easy on traditional mediums like TV, print and cinema. One of the things we are looking at with Cannes and Spikes this year and all of our content programmes, is what is the evolution of storytelling, and what does storytelling mean in the digital age?

Darren:

I can’t remember how long ago but there was a pizza company and the agency came up with the idea of a button on the fridge that you could pre-programme with your mobile phone to have your favourite pizza order. Everything was set up so that when you wanted a pizza you just had to push the button.

It would send an order and then you’d get a text message, an SMS just to confirm that you did actually place it. So that you know in your drunken stupor you didn’t just actually fall against the fridge. And it would deliver it, and that’s actually totally technology creativity. It’s not really storytelling, it’s more about application and utility, but it goes to the heart of solving a marketing problem which is how do I get a greater share of the market? I make it easier for my customers to be able to order my product more often.

Joe:

Undoubtedly, technology has delivered some great creative solutions for brands and it is definitely an enabler but it’s about how do you marry technology and creativity to connect with consumers better or make communication more efficient?

I also think technology has made us think differently about creativity because you do have to apply creativity to those technical solutions like the one you just mentioned. That’s a fantastic solution that does require you to think differently about creativity.

Darren:

It must be hard judging awards when you’ve got perhaps a traditional narrative to perhaps a non-traditional narrative to a technology innovation. Suddenly the old criteria is not as defined and it must leave it open to the interpretation of the judges I guess.

Joe:

Definitely when where judging entries, a lot relies on the case film. The case film is still vitally important and being able to tell a story about the success of a campaign and results is still vitally important.

I think an idea is still an idea and you have to be able to tell that really succinctly and being able to communicate that quickly and easily to judges is still vitally important.

But judges will always look at a campaign on the same criteria, which is traditionally effectiveness and the creative idea and the big idea behind the campaign. Whether that is technology driven or whether that is driven through traditional mediums, the criteria is still the same.

What we are doing now is looking at new categories. This year we have introduced some new categories for entries around new realities. So AR, VR, voice to account for the changing landscape in our industry. So those categories are looking at all the new campaigns and the new technologies and how that new technology is driving creativity.

Darren:

Every award show has criteria but my experience and the ECD’s and CCO’s, Chief Creative Officers, when you ask them over a drink, what is the criteria that you use to judge, they go, ‘work that I wished I’d done’.

Joe:

That’s a good criteria.

Darren:

Yes because they say in most cases, you only get to judge awards if you have won awards.

Joe:

That’s right.

Darren:

So therefore you have done the work that meets the criteria but then it’s reduced to gee I wish I’d done that.

The other thing is there is a lot of criticism in the industry around how, for instance, charities, not for profit often get a greater recognition than some of the other categories, let’s say soap powder or utilities. Some of the more mundane categories there is a feeling that it is much easier to be creative when it’s starving children or animal abuse. There is not necessarily an equal footing for some of the more boring categories. What do you think of that?

Joe:

I don’t know that I agree with that. I would definitely say we’ve seen some amazing creative ideas in the not for profit sector because the budgets are so small in that sector.

Those organisations and the creatives working in them have had to be creative to come up with solutions where they don’t have to spend a lot of money but have the biggest impact. A great example was the Palou Pledge last year which was a huge winner at Cannes and that was a very simple idea that required very low cost to implement it.

It was amplified beautifully across social media, but it was about understanding the key drivers of success and working with the government to have a simple stamp put in a passport where all tourists to Palou would take a pledge not to damage the environment.

Very, very simple, great idea and easy to execute and I think that’s why it is so celebrated.

Darren:

The simplicity of it and yet it was incredibly creative because it hadn’t been done before.

Joe:

Right.

Darren:

And probably bringing it closer to home, the organisation runs Cannes and there’s another award show in Latin America isn’t there? And Spikes Asia.

Joe:

So we’ve got 3 regional award shows that sit underneath Cannes. So Cannes is obviously the global award show. We’ve got Eurobest which is a European award show. There’s Dubai Links which is in the middle east and then there’s Spikes Asia which is Asia Pacific.

Darren:

One of the strengths of Spikes Asia is that it does focus on creativity in the region and I bring that up because a lot of people say that local creative work often doesn’t get recognised in global award shows. What do you think it is about Asia based work that it perhaps isn’t as successful globally in award shows?

Joe:

I think there are a couple of things. Agencies in this region are very much focused on local and regional awards shows and I think they have traditionally shied away from international award shows.

I think the way that we build campaigns in this region is very different because our consumers are very different culturally. The diversity of culture in our region is fierce. India is a very different market to Thailand, is a very different market to Indonesia to Philippines.

It’s a very different customer, different culturally and I think we are a lot more conservative in this part of the world. I think there is probably a lot more reluctance to be brave from brands in this part of the world.

We are very results driven so I think it comes down to being more brave and celebrating the differences in this region. I think some people also say that judges in the international award shows don’t understand Asian culture and that’s why they don’t understand the work.

I think that is true to a certain extent but it also comes down to building and understanding in the entry why a campaign has been built the way it has been built to connect with local audiences.

There have been some great examples of campaigns that have done well in international shows from the region but on the whole we probably don’t do a good enough job of telling the story of why the creative has been built the way it has been built to suit the cultural nuance of this part of the world.

Darren:

It’s interesting because when you talk to Europeans for instance, they go, Europe is an incredibly diverse set of markets; German, French, Czech, whatever but Asia is actually infinitely more diverse isn’t it? Even China, for people that haven’t experienced China, will often think of it as a single market but you could argue it’s 30 or 40 different markets because each province, each tier 1, 2, or 3 and 4 city can have very different cultural nuances about it.

Joe:

That’s very true. China is a massive market, very, very diverse depending on the region. There are so many dialects. India is another great example; very diverse market within a single market.

Darren:

Between north and south, it’s very different. The people are very different, the attitude, the culture is quite different isn’t it? And then within the caste system, there’s difference again and now we’ve got the rise of probably what will be the biggest middle class in the world in India, which is changing everything as well.

Joe:

There’s no doubt that it is a very exciting time to be in Asia. There is so much happening, particularly in South East Asia with the explosion of the middle classes in markets like Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

Vietnam is a really interesting market, they have a very young demographic. I think 70% of the population in Vietnam is below 30. So we are seeing some very interesting campaigns coming out of Vietnam.

There’s a lot of brands moving into that market because they can see the power of, not only in the audience size, but the younger generation who all of a sudden are getting smart phones, getting PayPal accounts, which allow them to shop online. All of a sudden the world is opening up to them.

I think my vision for Spikes, coming on as the new festival director, is for Spikes to be that platform for Asia. I’m very much about supporting Asian creativity and I want to use Spikes as the platform to help the region do better internationally and perform better at international award shows.

And to celebrate the great talent that we have got from this region and try and educate everyone form account executives working at agencies to CMO’s on the brand side and CEO’s in agencies, as to how do we better on the international stage and how do we promote Asian creativity better, so we can perform well on the international stage?

Darren:

There is a recognition there because of the cultural differences and the very unique and peculiar aspects of different markets. There is a belief and probably true, we talk about Maddison Avenue as the home of advertising and then there’s the London advertising view of the world.

In a way it’s a bit like the movie industry. There’s Hollywood that India’s managed to create a whole new category which is Bollywood, and yet you rarely, rarely see Bollywood films winning an academy award.

It will, under the foreign film category but it’s almost like you have to change or frame it so that it’s appearing in a recognition that it is very separate. Yet Bollywood films will be financially more successful and infinitely more popular.

So if you measure on commercial success it should be winning awards anyway. I am just wondering if we need to reframe the concepts of creativity. Whether we need to recognise like the film industry that there are many different ways of making a film and telling a story that is deeply embedded in the culture. Or do we acknowledge that it is a very Anglo Celtic approach, very Trans-Atlantic and that’s the way to do it?

Joe:

I think there is definitely a myth that only big brands and big agencies can win awards and we have got a lot of data through 65 years of running festivals that show there are plenty of smaller brands and independent agencies that have won big awards.

I think you are right. We do need to create opportunities for regional work to be recognised in their own right and this year we are launching a number of new categories in our award show that will award work in single market campaigns, campaigns on a smaller budget and culture and context.

So, that will give brands, and agencies in this region more opportunities to get recognised within their own segment.

Darren:

I personally think it’s really interesting when you see a piece of work that you may not have experienced because you are not from that market. I remember there was one and it was to do with I think, contraception in China.

The case that they presented was to do with the fact that this is incredibly taboo amongst university students and yet here was the problem and they had a whole interesting way of dealing with it, and still working within the cultural constraints of that particular campaign.

From my perspective it’s really enlightening. I just wonder sometimes if a system that sets a particular view of the world, whether there is a bias in the process generally that would be working against those differences.

It would almost be ironic because the idea of creativity is to be different and yet if you had within the system a hidden bias that was working against the differences, that would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

Joe:

I wouldn’t say we experience any bias. We have a very robust jury selection process to make sure that we are not biased towards any one particular market or country. And definitely, our jury teams, particularly at Spikes and also Cannes have got a really diverse range of judges.

Darren:

Perspectives.

Joe:

That comes with very different perspectives and we’ve also got a very even mix of male and female juries to try and even out those biases. Of course, bias is always going to exist but that’s why you have robust debate in those jury rooms so that the bias is evened out.

Darren:

It’s interesting because so much of the industry looks towards these major awards because it really does set a tone of the year—the best work of the year. In 20 years’ time people will look back on Spikes Asia award winners for 2019 and that will be almost a time capsule where advertising creativity was.

Joe:

Yeah, absolutely and I think people look at trends in advertising from an award show like Cannes and Spikes and they look at the major themes as guidance for how they should be building their campaign.

For example, politics was a huge thing this year in Cannes, as was experience and humanity. And I think a lot of brands are now looking at how they can take a political stance for their brand to connect with an audience and align values of the organisation with their audience.

So, people do take cues from those things and also they want to understand from our festival, from the content they see on the stage, what’s next. What’s the next big emerging trend in our industry that they should be looking for and be aware of when they’re building their campaigns and connecting with consumers?

Darren:

That is the point isn’t it? It is a festival of creativity, not just an award show, because you have the days of presentations and workshops and things but you also have a training component as well don’t you?

Joe:

There are a lot of different facets to Cannes now and we’re starting to employ the same formats in Spikes. So, there is our training academy for under 30s in agencies, our young lions and Spikes competitions, which are really valuable for recognising and nurturing up and coming talent in agencies.

We’ve also got a very full agenda for marketers. So, we’ve got our marketing growth council at Cannes this year. We’ll also look at replicating that at Spikes. Another really successful programme that we’ve developed in the last couple of years is See it Bare, which is our female empowerment programme, supporting women in creative roles.

So, there are a lot of different facets to the festivals other than just the award shows. Spikes has got 3 days of content over 4 different stages. Cannes is infinite—120 sessions across the whole programme—it’s vast. So, there is a lot more to it than just awards.

Darren:

And yet it’s award shows that seem to draw a lot of media attention. I know Cannes and Spikes does get a lot of media attention about the content. But I read somewhere that there are 700 awards shows for advertising globally. There are a lot of award shows. One of the challenges must be to remain relevant and to be popular because the competition is part of it, and for it to really be driving the industry because it has to make some sort of contribution doesn’t it?

Joe:

That’s right. You have to have a purpose and you have to stand for something over and above just how you’re going to do an award show. The biggest piece of feedback we get for Cannes and Spikes is that we’re difficult to win. And we’re unapologetically difficult to win because we are the highest accolade for creativity in Asia/Pacific, and Cannes from a global perspective.

There are plenty of award shows that are easy to win. For example, we don’t have any minimum amounts of awards that we will give out each year at Spikes or Cannes. We will only award great work whereas other award shows, I’ve judged them before and they’ll say, ‘we need to give out 5 golds in the category’. That’s not the case with Cannes and Spikes.

The industry recognises that if you want the recognition of the best in the industry, which is Spikes and Cannes, you have to submit great work and work that is of the right calibre.

Darren:

A lot of people might think you have the cushiest job in the industry because Spikes only happens once a year. What are you doing the rest of the year? It’s 4 days—there are 361 days—what are you doing, Joe?

Joe:

I did ask myself the same question when I started in this job and I am busy year round so my focus is very much, outside of Spikes, it’s about working with the industry to help promote creativity. I do a lot of guest speaking on creativity. I work with a lot of the big agency groups running workshops on helping them put together better awards submissions. How do they improve the talent within their organisation to build an awards culture?

Plus, there are a lot of logistical elements involved in my role to actually put on the show. We are always looking for great sponsors to partner with us to help build that delegate experience. We are always talking to agency groups and brands and adjacent creatives about content.

There’s the logistical organisational side of the festival and then there are also our awards categories. One of the things I really wanted this role to be when I came onboard was to be very market facing and I spend the majority of my time in market talking to people, making sure that the awards we organise, the content they see on our stages, and the show that we put on is relevant for the region and we put on a show that the industry wants.

And that is not something you can organise by just going to a venue and putting up a couple of trade stands and getting a few speakers. It’s a lot of hard work to understand the industry and understand what the industry is demanding and to give them a show that’s relevant that will keep them coming back.

Darren:

So, it’s not quite 24/7, 365 but it’s damn close. You do have a holiday don’t you?

Joe:

Around Christmas time, yeah.

Darren:

I thought maybe straight after the festival.

Joe:

Straight after the festival we’re straight back into it.

Darren:

O.K. wow. I mistakenly, earlier thought that you had a version for Latin America and the reason is that Brazil, particularly, as a market, does very well in international awards shows don’t they?

Joe:

They do. They perform very well.

Darren:

They almost don’t need their own because they do very well in every other award show.

Joe:

I think what’s interesting in a market like Brazil, there is a talent drain out of Brazil because there are so many great creatives that come out of that country. A lot of those great creatives always seem to head to New York and London.

Darren:

Oh really.

Joe:

So I think it’s a big challenge to those markets. But, yes, there seems to be an imbalance of the level of creativity that comes out of those markets.

Darren:

Let’s hope that the continuing work and role of Spikes Asia will start to lift the recognition of Asia creative or creativity in Asia.

Joe:

That’s definitely my aim and that’s definitely the vision for Spikes and the purpose I see for our brand, to be that platform for creativity and talent in the region.

Darren:

Thanks for making time, Joe, it’s been terrific sitting down and having a chat.

Joe:

No worries. Thanks, Darren.

Darren:

Just before I go, come on tell me, who’s going to win agency of the year this year?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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