To commemorate the Apex Awards ‘coming of age’ (it turned 21 years old this year), the very first Apex Masterclass was launched, consisting of thought leaders in various fields giving presentations. Michael Bratt attended the gathering to find out more.
The Apex Masterclass was created to build on what Apex has created during its 21 years of existence, according to Odette Roper, CEO of the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA).
“It’s not just an awards programme, it’s a symbol of our efficacy, enhances collaborations between clients and agencies and is a process that encourages learning and info sharing, particularly around best practice,” she explains.
Hosted by the hard-hitting Jeremy Maggs, six thought leaders delivered very technical, short and punchy, TED-style talks. The gathering was also the launch platform for Swiss designer Logn Falsk’s newest creation, the Lope.
First to take to the stage was Monique Claasen, director of media and digital at Millward Brown. She explored marketing in a digital era, particularly whether likes and clicks are enough for a campaign to be successful. She did this by describing her journey through digital from the introduction of the click through rate to the explosion of social media.
The basic message underpinning her entire presentation was that the only thing that matters in a campaign is the purpose and objective of it as well as the creative. “Define your brand’s objective up front and tailor your digital rollout and chosen platforms’ measurement around that. Don’t back engineer campaigns,” she advised.
Building on the above message were these supporting points:
· Not everything that can be counted should count
· Not every online result is driven by online advertising
· Digital advertising builds long-term brand equity, not short-term results
Next up was Enver Groenewald of Unilever. He touched on how to reach the consumer through media clutter. In his words, “People are no longer where advertisers need them to be, doing what they need them to be doing”. His solution to this problem came in the form of five rules of thumb (get the pun, as people are using their thumbs more with digital and social media!).
· The big dogs don’t rule as ordinary people can now create, curate, distribute and criticise content
· Stop, collaborate and listen. Operate in the collaborative economy
· Be relentless media agnostics as there is no distinction between traditional and digital media
· Don’t let operational thinking lead your media strategy. Today’s media is too fluid for you to be formulaic
· Content is king, context is queen. Make sure you place compelling content, which will make consumers want to engage, on the right platform, frequently
Groenewald also offered this strategy, which Unilever has benefited from using in the past. “There’s an extent where we harm ourselves by testing. Sometimes instinct has to take over.”
The next presenter, who provided some insights into the role of strategy in creative campaigns, was Ivan Moroke, CEO of Co-Currency. Beginning by saying we are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, he went on to say that the spray and pray approach to marketing does not work today.
“If your strategy is wrong, you will only make annoying noise and if your strategy is right it won’t work on the wrong platform, he said, instead advising that the most important part of strategy is the ‘so what’ factor, how you utilise the data that you have gathered. By gathering insights on consumers you can then utilise creativity to do a proposition to a client as well as utilising creativity in briefs to inspire the creative. He also elaborated on the importance of strategy. “Doing a campaign without strategy is called luck. Luck is not a strategy… sometimes simplicity is the best strategy you can use.”
A tea break followed, allowing for a much needed break from the talks, some light snacks as well as a chance to network with other delegates. The best presentation of the event came directly after the intermission, done by Alastair King, chief creative officer at King James.
He explained how work can be created that works, delivering creativity and effectiveness. In his opinion, one word sums up a successful campaign… surprise. “The best advertising in the world uses the element of surprise. Surprise is a very polarising, emotive word… process sucks the life and soul from everything that we do,” King explained.
Most agencies tended to gravitate towards a security blanket of known and convenience, leaving them sitting in a comfort zone which squashes surprise, he said. King stressed that “truly great ideas crash in and take us utterly by surprise… allow random acts of imagination. We are not in the digital age; we are in the imagination age”. His solution was that systems need loosening along with clients loosening up more.
He also offered this advice during his session:
· Advertising, PR, social media and digital all need to be in the same room
· Strategy and creative are not separate things
· You can’t teach creativity. You can only throw it at people until it becomes a way of life
· You have to have the big balls to know you can take risks
The penultimate talk focused on a specific area of advertising, experiential marketing. Given by independent consultant, executive and business coach, Dawn Klatzko (ex-Metropolitan Republic and Power FM), she highlighted how effective this type is.
“Experiential marketing creates relevance… experiential marketing is brilliant at the art of conversation”. Utilising three case studies to illustrate her point, the ultimate take away from the presentation was, “To win the conversion to sale battle you need to turn your brand promise into a meaningful, engaging experience. Make contact, listen, engage.”
However, she did admit that experiential marketing is not for everyone, “Experiential is not a numbers game. If you’re looking for reach, it’s not for you.”
The big reveal
The final discussion was very entertaining, presented by eccentric Swiss designer Logn Falsk. According to Maggs, who introduced him, he had previously created an exhibition using human body parts as household objects. During his talk he spouted such gems as “Aesthetics is always more important than pure functionality in design” and “most designs today are utter shit”.
Along with problems with the slides on his presentation and Falsk constantly losing his place in his presentation, it was a complete mess. And then came the unveiling of his brand new product, Lope. The most obvious thing for the audience was that Falsk never stated what the product was used for, rather talking about how beautiful it was and how it would sell itself.
Eventually Maggs lost his cool, telling the organiser of the event that Falsk’s presentation was a complete waste of time and then telling the Swiss designer to get off the stage. The big reveal was then done: Falsk was a fictional character who was being played by a South African actor, along with a fake product that he unveiled. All this to reinforce the ultimate message of the event: products have to work for consumers. There is no point in designing something beautiful if it doesn’t work. The Lope was an example of work that doesn’t work as it does absolutely nothing.
The very first Apex Masterclass seemed to be a big hit with attendees. It was followed by the Apex Awards in the evening, where performance excellence of communications campaigns in the industry was celebrated.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8
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