By Tom Goldthorpe  Back in September London’s Tobacco Docks played host to the 3 rd annual F...

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technology.

By Tom Goldthorpe 

Back in September London’s Tobacco Docks played host to the 3rd annual FutureFest innovation fair and I was lucky enough to attend. Education, the Environment, Creativity and even Romance were put under the microscope as field leaders probed how innovation in technology was shaping our future.

Wearable tech was cast aside in favour of embeddables as brave volunteers embraced RFID implants at FutureFest’s inaugural biohack party. Hannes Sjoblad, co-founder of the Swedish biohacker network Bionyfiken, invited intrepid audience members to the main stage where he surgically inserted microscopic NFC chips into their hands. These chips could then be programmed to perform a range of functions, from keyless entry to password storage and data encryption. Although possible uses are currently quite limited, Sjoblad discussed the potential of such technology as humans begin to truly integrate themselves with the Internet of Things.
Unfortunately the technology is still in its infancy and a (since deleted) tweet from one of the organisers revealed that one chip subsequently caught fire after the demo!

Elsewhere, robotic prosthetics, brain-computer interfaces and exoskeletons displayed how boundaries are being pushed with assistive technologies for individuals with disabilities. One haptic feedback prototype, originally designed to aid in musculature recovery following surgery, allowed users to physically interact with virtual reality. It used a series of robotic actuators and a glove-like controller to provide realistic resistance to objects touched and handled inside the virtual environment. Whilst there are a plethora of additional applications and uses for such devices, the recent boom in VR pornography (estimated to already be worth in the region of $800m a year) would no doubt be keen to utilise any new technology that would make the experience a more immersive and participatory event.

Nissan sponsored the event as Innovation partner, an enviable title when billed next to such tech’ heavyweights.
In addition to a stand showcasing their ‘Intelligent Mobility Strategy’ (Nissan’s pledge to build a more sustainable future), Gareth Dunsmore, Director of Electric Vehicles, concluded the first day of the festival with a keynote speech revealing the results of a pan-European study of millennial attitudes toward electric vehicle adoption:

“76 percent of millennials said that an eco-friendly car is the primary action they’d take to make their lives greener”

This was met at the time with great acclamation and has subsequently featured in many of the festival write-ups. It was however the semantics of the above statement that was debated afterwards.
The challenge being that the sentiment alludes to a reliance on advancements in technology to justify a continuation of established behavioural patterns, rather than taking any personal responsibility by discontinuing damaging habits.

Nissan’s study found that the environmental concerns of millennials aren’t smaller scale issues like recycling (24 percent) or overflowing landfills (14 percent) but global issues such as climate change (53 percent) and air pollution (42 percent). To help solve these issues, they are willing to make bold changes such as switching to an energy provider dedicated to eco-friendly solutions (62 percent), or supporting brands that are committed to being more environmentally friendly (53 percent).

This hardly comes as a surprise as no one can really think that individual action such as changing to LED light bulbs, re-using plastic shopping bags, or even adopting zero emission cars will solve the climate change crisis.
But we have lost faith in our governments ability and inclination to tackle the problem at a national policy level. Are millennials the lost political generation? But that’s another conference.

By Beth Manning A little over six months ago I began pursuing the art of silversmithing and as a...

The Importance Of Craftsmanship In A Digital Age

By Beth Manning

A little over six months ago I began pursuing the art of silversmithing and as a result, now spend most Monday nights setting precious metals on fire. It’s been a fascinating test of both patience and dedication to detail, but thankfully my affinity with shiny things and regard for the hand-made has meant that the process is anything but laborious. In a turn of events that wasn’t entirely unexpected, with each new practical skill comes creative learnings that stretch far beyond the studio. One such learning occurred earlier this week actually, when tasked with the challenge of attaching a very small opal to an even smaller piece of silver. But there’s more to be said about that.

Said process, as I was soon to find out, is a long one – riddled with techniques tried and tested by thousands of makers before me. So I set to work, sawing and soldering with utmost enthusiasm only to reach the point where I had to hammer a piece of 0.5mm silver until it was 0.3mm thick. I figured working with such tiny numbers would be a breeze, but 45 minutes and a vaguely bruised hand later, I’d learnt otherwise. As it turns out, spending the best part of an hour thinning a piece of metal by 0.2 millimetres (unsuccessfully, I should add) makes you think, mostly about how different my perspective on creating is when staring at a screen. It’s interesting, because in our current landscape it’s almost unheard of to go to the lengths of a craftsman for anything that exists in a purely digital sense.

In the technological age we call our own things move quickly, putting the fundamental principles of good craft at risk. That’s not to say I’m suggesting one should spend hours writing a single tweet or weeks finessing a two minute video, but imagine what would happen if the dedication to detail that makers have could be channeled into day-to-day digital pursuits.

Craftsmanship is more than just creating at a meticulous level. Obviously that’s important, but truly great craftsmanship goes beyond what is being made and carefully considers who it’s being made it for. It’s about doing what’s best, regardless of how it needs to be done. It’s a deliberate kind of artistry that leads to truly unique results.

Creating great things has not (and never should be) fast, easy or obvious – as evidenced by these ancient acts of making. It would however seem from what they know that with patience, passion, and a flair for creativity; creating greatness is absolutely possible. So tomorrow morning I’ll spend an extra moment deliberating the details of the brief that lands on my desk. I’ll look at the next sentence I write through a particularly considered lens. And, despite the desires of my bruised little hands, next Monday night I’ll keep hammering until the job is well done. Because that’s what craftsmanship is. A fervent pursuit of perfection, no matter the size or type of the task at hand.

IT’S NOT TOO LATE Don’t be fooled by the displays in shops it is still 67 days until Christmas ...

Christmas is coming: Be prepared for shoppable social

Don’t be fooled by the displays in shops it is still 67 days until Christmas and 6 weeks until Black Friday, this coupled with consumers no longer conforming to a long and logical purchase funnel brands the million-dollar question on many brands’ lips this time of year should be ‘how do I get my social to payback?’

With only 1.5% of ecommerce sales coming from a direct social media referral the next big opportunity is monetising your social audience. In short turning the significant investment of money and time building followers and likes and taking advantage of the increased reach, the better brand engagement and advocacy and the deeper more ‘real’ connection you have with your customers into a genuinely attributable ROI.

There are a host of opportunities to talk to your customers in social from innovative ad formats such as Facebook Canvas or Instagram Carousels, new platforms such as Snapchat, or capturing customer attention when it matters on mobile however probably the most important element is getting payback through the integration of shoppable social into your brand content.

The concept of social commerce is not ground-breaking, it is the inevitable next step in the journey, indeed with 40% of consumers researching products on social media (GWI) and most finding shopping inspiration on Instagram (24%), Facebook and YouTube (both 22%) and Snapchat (5%) (Ad Week) social now needs to be a multi-channel shopping experience.

The core channels have got their act together and have recently launched native tools such as Pinterest’s ‘buyable pins’ and Instagram’s ‘Shop now’ plus there are a number of frictionless media checkout tools such as Pixlee and Wirewax generating links between social media and ecommerce webpages.

However we strongly believe it is not just about harnessing these tools and adding ‘buy’ buttons brands also need to understand how best to engage with consumers and the key here is strong branded content that get their attention and keep it. As the agency that levitated whisky for Glenfiddich, created mind reading toppers for Hendrick’s’ Gin and drove cars through the power of positive thought for Hyundai we know the powr of great content and the integration of shoppable social is the (mostly) logical next step.  

By Joana Couto At Gravity Thinking we like to explore visual expressions, and we do it in a v...

A new, but old, photography technique

By Joana Couto

At Gravity Thinking we like to explore visual expressions, and we do it in a variety of ways. From VR and 3D film, to handmade typography and illustration, we fall in love with almost everything visually exciting that can be created.

Photography is a vast subject, practised by most artists. But there is a not so known technique that got my attention in the last couple of months: "Refractography".

After an inspired exhibition and a sexy conversation about lights, I decided I wanted to try to shoot some light reflections. So I did some quick research online and that’s when I bumped into this abstract form of photograph. With almost no post-processing or digital manipulation involved, this technique gives us infinite possibilities of exciting visuals. Beautiful light textures purely analogue and not computer generated.

All you need to have to start shooting is a dark room, a lens-less SLR, some refractive objects like a glass, and a bright light source (torch). When the light points at the glass (placed in front of the camera) it reflects and refracts the light into the camera. The object itself becomes the lens. 

The challenge starts here; you have to play around with light source distance and object positioning until you start seeing some amazing results. Without a lens it is also hard to get the subject focused, but with a bit of persistence you can create stunning visuals.

I am now moving from still image to film. Capturing moving light refractions is the next step. 

By Rhys Edwards Earlier this year IBM announced Watson Ads, a cognitive ad unit that enables bra...

The Interplay between Artificial Intelligence and Advertising

By Rhys Edwards

Earlier this year IBM announced Watson Ads, a cognitive ad unit that enables brands to conduct conversations with consumers via text or voice. The platform leverages natural language processing and reasoning ability with a sprinkle of machine learning – allowing Watson to grow more powerful each day. Similarly, the launch of Amazon’s Echo lineup is positioned to disrupt how people access information such as weather, news, and recipes, providing a ripe opportunity for brands to jump on the AI bandwagon to communicate with consumers on at an intimate, one-on-one level.

In a statement from Theresea Agnew, CMO for GSK Consumer Healthcare, “Cognition humanises the use of data as we move from intent-based advertising to actual one-to-one interacting.” It’s interesting that the rise of artificial intelligence and the infinite opportunities it presents has arrived at a time where brands are, once again, warming to the notion of ‘debranding’ – take MasterCard, for example, who unveiled their new logo earlier this year; retaining it’s overlapping red and yellow symbol whilst moving the text below the balls.

Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business recently said, “Consumers are jaded about advertising in a way they weren’t several decades ago”, so it makes sense for brands to become less corporate and more human.

It’s not the first time this has happened, but it is the first time artificial intelligence has had a part to play. We’re faced with an opportunity for technology to provide a near-human, one to one experience between brand and consumer, meaning that the days of content-first creative are behind us. But audience-first creative presents an exciting problem to solve.

You see, measuring real world impact of audience-first creative is difficult, which is probably not what clients want to hear. But with the combination of both emotion recognition software and cameras that determine age and gender; as artificial intelligence progresses we’ll have more than enough data to produce and consequently analyse pieces of creative that are entirely bespoke. Recent reports have said that industry is expected to reach USD 5.05bn by 2020, so it’s only a matter of time until we’re inundated by AI Ad Tech startups pitching for a slice of the advertising pie.

But the future is bright. Across digital mediums we’ll be able to leverage CRM data to track the success of everything we do, generating the perfect layouts, the perfect images, and the perfect copy to accompany everything we do – meeting our audiences with what they want to see, when they need to see it.

By Janaina Scalise   Advertising is full of quotes about ‘breaking the rules’, ‘thinking outsid...

It's time to modernise planning, but are planners capable of breaking their own rules ?

By Janaina Scalise 
 Advertising is full of quotes about ‘breaking the rules’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘being innovative’. Our industry, however, struggles to actually apply this thinking. It’s a behaviour that needs to change.
Planners from all over the world have been discussing the same things for years, but only a few have really broken the rules in regards to:
-      Creative Briefs Templates
-      Briefing Sessions
-      Comms Planning Framework
-      Process
-      Clarity on roles & responsibilities
-      Presentations
-      Reporting
-      The planning function
-      The role of traditional research
-      The effectiveness of social media metrics
…and the list goes on.
Imagine if more planners were willing to break the rules when it came to process. Imagine if more rules were broken in regards to diversity – how many of us have actually hired someone with a less privileged background, or someone that has been in prison but would like a chance to start again. I see agencies and planners sharing a hundred different thoughts, but I don’t see actions. Job titles, functions, our intellectual backgrounds – these processes are so deeply ingrained in advertising culture that it’s hard to see the light end of the tunnel.
An industry that claims to understand human behaviour seems to be incapable of understanding and changing their own. How contradictory.
Imagine if planners focussed less on how smart they were and more on the importance of changing the way we work.
Admit it. Chances are you’re no smarter than anyone else – you’re just well-considered, probably with an interest in culture, psychology, trust your gut instinct. But we can’t achieve the best possible outcomes if there isn’t input from a diverse range others. No one can.
Why do only creatives work in teams? Surely examples like this are enough for us to acknowledge the importance of collaborative culture.
Creative ideas come to life with the help of an art director, a copywriter, a designer, an editor, a Creative Director, etc, etc. Why then, should an entire strategy come from just one person? How can strategists come up with innovative insights while sat on their own putting a presentation together? Creatives know that their work requires many brainstorm sessions, time (quite a lot of it), and people who are happy to help them out at every step of the process. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with that. But have one little thing to add.
Agencies should function as one big team, helping each other regardless of job title. Accounts, media, community managers, strategists, designers – everyone would benefit from true collaboration. After all, we’re all responsible for achieving something truly great and remarkable. We all make the credits list, right?
In a world full of strategists with all sort of different skills, it has become harder and harder to achieve the best results if only one strategist is responsible for the entire strategy. One strategist alone won’t:
-      Identify the business problem
-      Do all the research
-      Analyse data
-      Write an inspiring creative brief
-      Have enough expertise to help a creative team build on the idea, making it truly relevant to consumers
-      Be tactical to discuss what is possible, what isn’t, where and how ideas should be executed
-      Have great media knowledge
-      Have understanding of the online community
-      Be as good as community managers
-      Write an action brief
-      Make sure comms strategy is in place
-      Have a killer understanding of KPIs, reporting, metrics, measurement tools
…and the list goes on.
I can wear some hats, but not a hundred. No one can.
Perhaps at bigger agencies you have people to do each of the tasks listed above, but most smaller agencies doesn’t have that luxury. Even if we did, true collaboration would still be key.
And that’s why at Gravity Thinking, the more we analyse the different hats a strategist is expected to wear, the more we realise the importance of REALLY breaking the rules and changing the way planners work. We are taking action, ACTION. We are in favour of planners working in pairs or even on what we have coined a ‘cabal’; a small team made up of strategists, creatives and community managers responsible for a smooth process. It’s a way of working wherein we have more knowledge from the start and less layers of bureaucracy, ego or traditions that prevent the creative process from being truly effective and nimble.
Since we implemented the ‘cabals’, we’ve seen some amazing results, some of which you can see here. Most of the work was completed thanks to tremendous collaboration from everyone in the cabal team. For example, I’ve recently worked side by side with our designer, Joana Couto, to figure out the best way to approach a UX task since it’s not my field of expertise. The brief was completed in less than 30 minutes and was exactly what Jo needed. From the moment she realised she could really count on me, even if that meant bouncing simple ideas off each other, the work was done very quickly. It was a smooth and enjoyable process, plus I learned some new skills from her.
Why don’t you give it a go?
On the 20th of September, I went to an APG talk called “Think Like a CSO” and the guests were Charlie, Chief Strategy Officer and Anna, Head of Strategy, at MullenLowe. I’m so pleased to have attended because they discussed their agency process and their belief in pairing planners to get better briefs and as a result, more creative and effective ideas. Anna said that this new way of working has already proven to be successful, as they have been seeing bigger and braver ideas that can morph into different shapes and spaces – needed today! They too believe that Planning, as a function, still suffers a bit of a hangover from how planners used to be “A bit too slow. A bit too intellectual. More interested in strategy than creative zest”.
MullenLowe, we are with you on this one. ACTUALLY breaking the rules and challenging an industry that are otherwise ignoring their own needs.

We are proud and delighted to be presenting on the main stage @SMWLDN on how we are helping our ...

Uncanny Valley - our talk @smwldn 13th September

We are proud and delighted to be presenting on the main stage @SMWLDN on how we are helping our Clients avoid falling into 'Uncanny Valley' 
The talk will focus on the rapidly evolving nature of technology has resulted in a new connected society where social media has given people a bigger share of voice in the conversation. This has fundamentally changed the relationship between people and brands, there is now an expectation of transparency and brands need to talk to people as people.
The problem is that social channels are intrinsically human and brands struggle to define how they should communicate resulting in either a confusing schizophrenic personality or at worst – through the use of bots – where very few of the important human personality traits are displayed. This means they create a sense of unease and often end up in ‘uncanny valley’ as they forget all people aren’t the same and they adapt to speak to different people in different ways. Discovering a clear multi-dimensional brand personality allows them to differentiate and creates a foundation that allows brands to escape ‘uncanny valley’ and unlock the potential of social media.
Using practical examples, data including IBM Watson and Crimson Hexagon and psychology techniques, brands can evaluate what type of ‘human’ people think they really are and what personality traits their communications portray. We will then show how we decide what type of human a brand wants to be and the implications this has for all technology led communications.
Speakers will be:
Martyn Gooding – Creative Director, Gravity Thinking
Michaela MacIntyre – Business Director Gravity Thinking
Adam Nickson, Marketing and Communications Director, Hyundai Motor Company UK

By Jane Hovey Head of Planning  As a child back in the day I remember complaining to my dad t...

Should I hire a robot for my Strategy Department?

By Jane Hovey Head of Planning 

As a child back in the day I remember complaining to my dad that a simple program I had written on the ZX Spectrum displayed red instead of my favourite 80’s shade of magenta. Rather than sharing my frustration he simply pointed out that it was my very human error. This years APG conference was excellent and thought provoking as always but speakers seemed to treat robots (and tech) like something sent down from Mars HG Wells style, not something we can be involved in creating, programming or developing.
The conference designed to spark debate occasionally felt schizophrenic with Steve Hilton’s opposition to smart phones for himself and his kids seeming at odds with his and his wife’s successful tech careers. What excited me most (like many) was Russell Davis centaur chess analogy touching on the need for robots and strategists or organizations and tech to find better ways of working together. Tech can be bad for people — the effect on children building relationships is a good example but it can also be marvelous — connecting communities making people feel less isolated, freeing time and highlighting social issues. Occasionally the APG can feel like the ad industry playing catch up seeing technology as something to do battle with, something ‘other’.
From exploring how to garner big brand insights from social listening or how to look at brands using IBM Watson planners need to embrace technology now. But we also need to start thinking about what we as a planning community need. What are the problems humans need help to solve. As good planners we need to stay ‘curious’ about new developments knowing how to use them to add the magic. Taking insights and data, inspiration from art, observed human behaviour and a good dollop of imagination to take strategic leaps might not be something robots can do in my lifetime but they might help us get to better solutions. As a consumer I don’t like buying washing powder so I am not scared of bots choosing it but in other categories I care a lot and will always be involved. So in the same vain I need to work out what I want tech to do for me and what needs human involvement.
Embracing tech could mean one day having a robot in the team. A robot now could take some of the guesswork out, to focus on some of the detail that is occasionally lost, to optimize and find new inspiration…to make connections and point out when the obvious is being suggested to look at the wider communications landscape, nuanced influences and more detailed customer journeys. In the future planning could use robots to mimic the consumer so we understand audiences needs better or to look at how a brands personality would play out if made into a sentient being — how cool would that be…
I would be happy to have a robot in the team if we worked with them collaboratively. Helping the agency be braver, more creative and solve clients business problems like all the planners I hire.
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