1. Is there a maker movement stirring in agencies?

Is there a maker movement stirring in agencies?

The movement has been around for a while now. It has turned tinkerers into creators. And quite a few times, it has turned their creations into products. But many of you might ask what it actually is

By: | Published: September 13, 2016 6:03 AM
The movement has been around for a while now. It has turned tinkerers into creators. And quite a few times, it has turned their creations into products. But many of you might ask what it actually is (Photo - Thinkstock) The movement has been around for a while now. It has turned tinkerers into creators. And quite a few times, it has turned their creations into products. But many of you might ask what it actually is (Photo – Thinkstock)

Well, WhatIs.com defines the maker movement like this. ‘The maker movement is a cultural trend that places value on an individual’s ability to be a creator of things as well as a consumer of things. In this culture, individuals who create things are called “makers”. Makers come from all walks of life, with diverse skill sets and interests’.

Wikipedia goes on to add: ‘Maker culture emphasises learning-through-doing in a social environment. Maker culture emphasises informal, networked, peer led and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Maker culture encourages novel applications of technologies, and the exploration of intersections between traditionally separate domains and ways of working including metal-working, calligraphy, filmmaking and computer programming, etc’.

So, what does all this have to do with advertising and the goings-on in agencies? Erm, everything. As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a’changing.” And our business is changing along with them. This is causing a shift of focus from just creating ads to making things, experiences, tech and content. It might not be apparent out here, but you see it happen a fair bit abroad.

Some of the innovative agencies out there are making new technologies, apps, products that bring a brand’s idea to life, new distribution platforms and much else. Find that hard to believe? Let me toss some examples at you.

Volvo cars have stood for safety, for pretty much ever. A couple of years back, its agency came up with a product idea for Volvo that manifests safety in a powerful new way. It is called Life Paint. It’s an invisible paint that can be sprayed by cyclists onto their clothes, bikes, bags etc. At night it glows, making them visible in the dark. The paint is being retailed at Volvo stores. And the buzz it created for the brand far outweighed the investment.

Another great example is the Lucky Iron Fish. People in Cambodia don’t get enough iron in their diet. Encouraging people to add a block of cast iron to the pot while cooking had limited effect. They just didn’t do it. However, casting iron into the shape of a fish, a symbol of luck, changed that.

Then there is Dominos’ Tweet-a-pizza. Its agency made Twitter into a new ordering platform by letting people order their favourite pizza on tweeting a pizza slice emoji.

And in the last few years, agencies turned Coca-Cola’s humble vending machines into devices that connected people across geographical and ideological borders and let them share a Coke and a smile.

There are many more great things that are now coming out of places that one would never have expected, the erstwhile agencies. If you examine how they are able to do that, you begin to understand the why.

Three simple principles emerge. You can follow them and run or ignore them and fall behind. The choice is yours. So is your fate.

1) Your competitors are your partners. Now is not the time to be afraid whether social media agencies, tech providers, experiential agencies or content creators will eat into your pie. In today’s media plurality, an idea needs to be able to stretch across a spectrum of apertures whose nuances you may not always get. So you have to collaborate with people who do. And you can’t just hand off the idea to them and expect them to make it work either. You have to let them evolve it, raise it up a level or few. Or it may even mean that you ditch the idea you started with and come up with something new together. It does take a village to make a good idea great. Collaboration not control is the new mantra.

2) 360 degree ideas are dead. Not every brand has the need or the budget to be present in every aperture of its consumer’s life. Find the places that are the most relevant to your audience and your brand. If you force your so-called engagement activities where people don’t really want them, you will end up doing what traditional advertising is accused of — being intrusive. Worse, you could be spamming.

3) Step away from the latest shiny, tech object doo-dad. Yes, be brave. Try new things. But don’t be foolish. You have to truly understand how something works before you know how to use it well. Remember the results of doing anything badly will be tweeted all over the worldwide web by the very same people you sought to engage. In the same breath, I will say this: embrace data, both ‘Big’ and small (your own observations and intuitions). But use that to fuel the making of inspired things, not predictable stuff that a simple reading of the information will lead you too. Knowledge is not helpful if it is not employed in the service of brilliance.

About the new rules of the game I’ll say this, are there any? Inventing the future doesn’t always come with a how to manual.

So, folks it’s time to ask our fine selves, what can I make today? Can I make something that solves a problem? Something that makes irritating chores easier to do, or adds a bit of excitement to the boring bits of life? Let’s get thinking, creating and making. Our time starts now.

The author is chief creative officer and managing director, Publicis India

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