D&AD Festival 2017: 4 big takeaways for brands and marketers

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D&AD festival

“With great reach comes great responsibility…”

That’s us quoting Anna Higgs, Creative Director at innovative media powerhouse, NOWNESS. And that’s her paraphrasing Uncle Ben from Spiderman in her thought-provoking talk on content and her discontent with that word. Touché on making a Spiderman reference in a talk about digital media in front of the creative types that would appreciate nothing more than just that. Even bigger touché on calling out the word ‘content’ for being one very un-sexy way to label a potentially limitless array of creative excellence. More on that later.

Last week we attended the prestigious D&AD Festival 2017, which is where we saw Higgs’ talk, as well as a whole host of others from industry-leading speakers. With people from the likes of VICE Media, Innovation Group, NME and Google talking on everything from creative block to women’s interests, it’s safe to say we were blown away with the quality of the event’s ‘content’ (sorry).

Anyway, as the adage goes, with great powerreach comes great responsibility, so without further ado, here’s us being responsible and sharing our findings with you:

1 – Content is kind of a lame word

See above. In her talk, (Dis)content: Creative direction in the audience age, Anna Higgs reminded us all that the word content is being overused. It’s a blanket term, used to refer to anything from inspirational videos to blog articles, virtual reality to actual reality (billboards, leaflets, magazines).

Her point was that we’re too quick to want to create ‘content’ without really thinking about what it is we want to say. In a chicken and egg kind of scenario, we’ve somehow ended up putting the need to produce something first, instead of starting with something we just have to produce. Sure, content is king, but it should be that way because of the awesome ideas we have, not just ‘because’.

2 – Feminism should be at the forefront of every brand’s mind

The world has changed and brands need to make sure they are not getting left behind. That was one of the key takeaways from Innovation Group’s Lucie Greene’s talk, The future of women’s interest. In a world where women are shopping for the next family car, and men are shopping for groceries and cleaning products, the marketing efforts of many brands are becoming outdated and irrelevant.

Whether it’s garishly pink women’s razors, or male-centric car advertising, it’s no secret that thousands of brands are not only guilty of gender stereotyping, but thrive off it. But it’s an unavoidable truth that brands are being pushed to reposition themselves, and that those that push back do so at their own peril. It’s not enough to simply sit back and ‘be on board with feminism’ either. Brands need to pave the way, and set examples with campaigns that make people stop and think. This is exactly what we aimed to do with our project, Women in Work for Randstad Recruitment. The report we produced addressed the gender pay gap and women’s perceptions of the opportunities available to them, opening up a crucial dialogue that was relevant to the brand and its audience.

This kind of activity is especially important in a time where young people are more militant than ever when it comes to activism and equality. Which brings us to our next point.

3 – The youth of today are a force to be reckoned with

Both Lucie Greene of the Innovation Group and Frederik Anderson of VICE Media played homage to the power of youth in today’s marketing climate when giving their talks. Green spoke of teens and their unflinching motivation to make change. If millennials are passionate about things being put right, she alluded, Generation Z are passionate about taking the action needed to do it. Teenagers today are more zealous than ever about making waves both politically and socially. But what does this mean for marketing? The Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ controversy of a couple of years ago provides the perfect case study. Young people aren’t shy to actively turn against brands that don’t live up to their expectations, and recent history shows that the masses will follow.

Anderson’s reference to youth was also cautionary in nature. “Stop patronising young people,” he warned. There’s a common misconception that teens don’t vote, don’t listen, don’t care. But it’s not true. And there’s this absurd idea among marketers that young people aren’t willing to pay for quality. Also not true. Young people are the future. The next big ideas and breakthroughs are going to come from them. They like quality brands – no, wait – they are their own brands, and they understand the internet better than you. Listen to them, care about them, talk to them. If you get them on-side, they’ll be the best promoter you ever had.

4 – Motivation doesn’t last, but neither does bathing – that’s why we do it every day

Whether you own a company or do the marketing for one; are in SEO, advertising, digital marketing or traditional PR, you’ll be no stranger to creative block. Studio LR’s Dave King gave a powerful speech on this in his talk, Ideas with legs (and arms, and lungs, and a heart). He began by quoting motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

King himself was no stranger to feeling passionate about a project in the beginning, then losing this passion a few weeks or months down the line when things – in reality – turned out to be trickier than expected. The key to success, he told us, is to remind yourself every day of why you were passionate about the project in the first place. Feed your motivation like you would a fire – fuel it by doing the things that inspire you daily, and never sit and wait for it to come to you.

D&AD highlights

All in all, the talks we attended were eye-opening and inspiring. The best thing about the festival, though, had to be the fact that it well and truly validated everything we’re doing here at Found. It’s always fantastic to be able to spend a couple of days among like-minded individuals, and to hear experts endorse the kind of activity we thrive to undertake every day.

Whether we’re working on an SEO-led project, a paid media campaign or are paving the way in digital with our own thought-leadership videos, we continually strive for excellence – to be relevant, purposeful, and innovative. Higgs would be pleased to know that there is no such thing as ‘content for content’s sake’ here at Found.

Thanks D&AD, we’re feeling well and truly inspired. Now to get to that drawing board, and draw.