Tag Archives: SM4P

“What the Inside Should Do”

7 Mar

Today, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Matthew Godfrey, President of Young & Rubicam Asia. His illustrious career of 21 years saw him being nominated as a finalist for Media Magazine’s Asian CEO of the Year, as well as Marketing’s Agency Professional of the Year.

Asians should be happy. The world is shifting, explains Godfrey, and capital is flowing in Asia’s direction. In a world where Innovation outpaces Creativity, it is nice to know that Singapore ranks number 1 in terms of an innovating environment. Going forward, I feel that our government needs to loosen up, and resist chilling free speech. If not, the coveted number 1 spot may well be snagged by China.

Advertising has got to be one of the toughest jobs in the service industry. Not only does one have to react with the clients needs, one cannot compromise on creativity. Yet, this is what makes the industry unique – the perpetual flux of ideas and the never-ending tensions. Godfrey loves the randomness and vibrancy of the industry, and how it keeps one interested. Is being in the advertising industry more stressful than being a surgeon? Godfrey is on all fours with this statement. After all, no one argues with a doctor, and they are in total control of their time. In advertising, one is faced with pressing deadlines and skeptical clients. Sounds like the legal industry doesn’t it? But here lies the crucial difference. You can leave a mark or alter social thinking and ways of seeing through advertising. As for the legal industry, the same does not apply.

So how can one avoid being a ‘talented imitator’ and be an innovator instead? It is not an easy task and admittedly so. Innovation, which may take on forms and channels that are diverse and foreign, are often rejected as people fear the unknown. Godfrey utilizes the example of Steve Jobs’ initial iPod launch of 2001 that was greeted with much skepticism, and contrasted it with the ubiquity of it today. Jobs took the world by storm by challenging norms with his strong conviction and desire to constantly innovate. “Hunger, is what differentiates you,” aptly summarizes Godfrey.

Godfrey expounded on three key factors crucial to advertising success. Media innovation, executorial innovation and strategic innovation. Briefly, here are some of the major takeaways.

First, media innovation. Look around you, what strikes you when you encounter bank advertos? I did not realize earlier, but thanks to Godfrey, I understand my confusion between UOB and OUB. I used to think it was just me being apathetic towards the banking sector. Now, I understand a more legitimate reason for my confusion – most banks lack a corporate identity. The portrayal of shiny happy people, the same old firm handshake and, oh look, yet another well-dressed man gazing into the future! Alas, they all look the same. How to break out of this? Be different. Like Axion, a Belgian bank which utilized banner concerts to connect with youth – done simply, by giving the space to youth.

Secondly, executorial innovation. An example was how they placed an art farm in a background shape of  a tooth to emulate how cavities will gradually eat away teeth, the same way ants tunnel through the gel. Interestingly, this series of advertisements found their way into the Guinness World of Records for the Largest Ant Habitat! Godfrey surmised that one way to assess if an ad is innovative and successful enough, would be to see if that Ad earned a place in the Guinness World of Records.

Lastly, strategic innovation. To illustrate this, he showed us dTac’s ad. Typically, in the telecommunication industry, the expectation is for consumers to be constantly connected. What differentiates dTac’s ad, is the smart tagline “Disconnect to Connect”. It makes one stop and think.

Another example of strategic innovation brought up: Diesel’s campaign. Diesel Sneakers – not made for running, great for kicking asses. Where attitude rules over functionality.

With these 3 ingredients, in Godfrey’s words, “will you be able to Rock-n-Roll!”

Godfrey was extremely approachable and stayed to respond to our individual queries. I was curious as to how one would be able to ‘stay in’ the industry (i.e. preserve one’s shelf-life), since the turnover rate for advertising industry is one of the highest. Godfrey’s thoughtful response to this was enlightening. Every company would face a crisis at some point. Staying on, and dealing with the company’s problems, would make one invaluable. Fleeing when the company is in need, just shows one’s inability to deal with problems – in addition to the lack of loyalty.

Godfrey has inspired change in the advertising landscape, and I am certain he will continue doing so and ‘leave the industry with [his version of] Old Spice.’

At the end of it all, 2 words he left with us lingered in my mind: Be New.

Thanks SM4P for organizing the talk

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