The recently published 'Top 20 Words of the Decade', which catalogues the most influential and commonly used words in the world, have a startling technological bias: Google, blog, twitter and texting all make the list. That suggests one in five conversations, globally, is about communication technologies. The fact that the verbs to 'google' and to 'defriend' were added to the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is further proof that popular culture is increasingly shaped by technology.
Yet in the face of extraordinary change, agency culture seems strangely attached to language and models from a different era. Integrated marketing, a term coined in 1991, is still the dominant theory in multi-disciplinary marketing.
Therein lies the problem: the 90s version of integration was rooted in a mass-marketing/media context, which dictated a 'command and control' strategy of consistently applying a key message or visual to all communications. In 2011, where consumer opinion is an increasingly powerful voice in purchase decisions, brand reputation is just as important as brand recognition.
We have therefore made radical changes to the way we are structured, the way we work, and whom we work with to deliver truly integrated creative business ideas. We call it Brand Choreography.
Why choreography? Like brand planning, great choreography is based upon creative vision, expressing a story, entertaining an audience, rigorous and detailed design, and the application of resources for maximum effect. However, it's the principle of audience interactivity that makes choreography so relevant to modern communications.
To paraphrase John Cage, the composer: performance can no longer be seen as something separate from its listeners or context. The listeners' experience of the work is essential to the music itself.
In this open-source, social world, campaigns shouldn't be detached from consumers, but completed by them.
Brand Choreography is an approach and a philosophy, not a process. There are five core principles:
1. Big ideas need to get bigger
In the age of digital transparency and declining consumer trust, communications cannot be divorced from business reality. BP's travails after last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted from a company talking about 'sustainability', rather than addressing the environmental impact of its business. In our experience, creative business ideas arise from and influence business strategy, not just communications strategy.
2. Six people in a room
The days of the baton-pass are over. Integrated ideas require integrated working. It is crucial to have the right mix of people in the room to create the big idea. We work in multi-disciplinary groups from the start of the process to the end. That is why we have implemented 'one bottom line' for our integrated clients, to ensure that we have the right people being involved in a project when needed.
'Culturally interesting' is now as important as 'strategically right'. The concept of earned media is not a new one. It's what PR agencies do. It's for that reason that we have PR alongside advertising in our offering. In addition to traditional strategic and creative stress tests, we now ask 'Is this idea good enough to get press?' and 'How can we explain it in a headline?'
4. User experience
The art of choreographing the big idea, we believe, is the province of the channel planner. The application of the creative business idea to the customer journey to create maximum relevance and value is crucial to an integrated campaign. We recognise that different issues require different types of communication. That's why we have put channel planning at the heart of the creative process - articulating what the campaign needs to 'do', 'how', and 'where'.
Goodbye tracking debrief, hello real-time evaluation. The days of the static campaign are over.
Beware false promises and over-claim. Being ready, willing and able to react to what people are saying is absolutely crucial to the credibility of a campaign. That's why we didn't hesitate to respond to the mayor of Bangkok's call for help to renew his city after a spell of unrest with a Dulux 'Let's Colour' project.
Brand Choreography is more than just theory. It's an approach modelled on our best work: integrating big ideas, like 'Let's Colour' for Dulux, 'Green Britain Day' for EDF and 'Come and play' for Comet, to their full potential.
Anthony Edwards, communications planning director, Euro RSCG London