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How to Avoid the Online Echo Chamber of Advertising



INFLUENCER: Recipe’s head of planning, Dom Roe, says the internet is killing advertising - but not in the way you'd think…

How to Avoid the Online Echo Chamber of Advertising

Our beloved internet is damaging our output as agencies.

It’s no secret that clients are demanding better, faster work for less. One of the results is that it forces us to go to the quickest and easiest route we have: the Internet.

But having inspiration at your fingertips is both a blessing and a curse. Planners and creatives used to get their insights and inspiration from talks, exhibitions, galleries, books and other harder to find, more unique sources. Today, many planners rely too heavily on convenient (but shallow) ‘insights’ from Mintel reports, TGI and open source ad hoc surveys. While, for many creatives, top trending videos and viral memes now dominate their daily ‘inspiration’.

With the average teenager now scrolling a whopping 3km a day, competing with that mass of content isn’t easy. How many ideas have we seen on the internet first before we see them again as big budget ads? Too often, ads mimic popular content with the hope of recreating that engagement - but everything available for you at the click of a button is also available to every other planner and creative team.

Believe me, I get it. We’re all time-poor. When you’re working on four briefs simultaneously and need a quick dose of creative inspiration, the temptation is understandably to default to generic insights and not prioritise real world experiences.

The paradox for us - as an agency that's built to smash the Good, Fast, Cheap triangle - is that the internet helps us come up with insight-driven creative work at the pace our clients need. But relying on the internet alone is rarely enough to get us, our creatives and our clients genuinely excited.

To stand out, we need to create genuinely good content that will get shared, talked about, anything but ignored – and, as scary as it may seem in our speedy, performance-driven world, that sometimes means venturing beyond the comfort of our keyboards. That is true both in the search for unique insights and for making these insights come vividly to life in our creatives’ hearts and minds.

For example, a sports betting brand we work with was won at pitch with an insight and idea born out of traditional online desk research. However, it wasn’t until we got into the betting shops to observe and talk to punters that our ‘online’ insight really tightened up and started to bear fruit. Even more so, it wasn’t until we had briefed the creatives at the dog racing tracks that they genuinely understood and experienced this insight, honestly, offline and in the flesh…for themselves. Showing them online data on a screen just doesn’t have the same effect…they don’t feel it.

I’m lucky to be part of an agency that champions this creative, ‘back to the future’ ambitious approach. Our creative director, Matt Waller, is a big advocate for finding our creative ‘resources’ and inspiration externally. If we ever have a (rare) quiet hour, we’re encouraged to do something that will stimulate us – recently, getting to the latest Gursky exhibition - rather than sitting at our desk.  

Let’s face it, we’re never not going to use the internet for research and I’m not suggesting that we stop. But in my experience, I’ve found that strengthening online insights with real world inspirations has allowed us to create campaigns that are ultimately more impactful and have insights that resonate harder.

And perhaps more importantly still, when you come up with your campaign ideas (presented on a nice online google doc of course) take them back offline, go sit at the racetrack, in McDonald’s, or wherever your target audience are and listen. Listen to what they spend their downtime talking about, thinking about, caring about. And ask yourself, is what you have come up with going to matter to this audience, in their real world? Or is it more self-serving, Reddit fuelled, meme-centric online content… but just not as good.

So much more magic can come from an enforced digital detox, if only you have the guts. So here’s to logging off and grabbing your jacket…

Dom Roe is head of planning at Recipe

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Recipe, Fri, 13 Jul 2018 14:04:22 GMT