Three Emerging Clusters in Creativity
Three Emerging Clusters in Creativity

Functional Relevance and Re-assurance – "This is What We Do" – Brands trading in this world are based on decades of doing and providing service and a have a genuine claim to speak to the audience in a certain way at this time.

Genuine Higher Order Ownership – "This is What We’ve Always Done" – Brands withing this work to a core set of truthful statements and show a relentless commitment to making a contribution based on core brand values.

Situational Context Led – "This is What We’re Doing Now" - Brands trading in the middle - beware. The things these brands are doing now are not necessarily good or bad but they’re highly situational led. They can run the risk of it appearing opportunistic and trading off something. Always question whether what you’re doing here is adding value or producing potentially risky messages… You are doing things that make sense today… but today is changing all the time!

Three Scary Media Issues
Three Scary Media Issues

Eyes Not Hearts

There has been an explosion of available audience and it's hugely tempting to pile into the market because the audience is there, and they’re stuck at home absorbing media but the sentiment research is saying 'go easy.' Overdoing advertising at this time will mean that you’re getting eyeballs but not emotions. There is a lot less audience attention. Their concentration span is gone and there’s masses of distraction while they’re viewing.

An even stranger summer (than usual)

Heineken is a lifestyle brand about fun and connectivity and about socialising – so it’s difficult to figure out what you need to do for the summer. People might go absolutely bananas when they finally get released from lockdown and be wanting to do everything all at once but the brand has to make some decisions about where to focus.

Frequency Time-bomb

Help your clients navigate this – there is a frequency time-bomb coming – everything will happen at once at the end of the year! People will all be competing for the same budget/attention at the end of the year. Try not to be wasting money but finding clever ways to cut-through. If you as an agency can help your client navigate that, you'll be onto a winner. Everything is being compressed and it will all be scrambling and competing for the same space later so watch out!

Client Continuum - In this partnership, where are you and where are your clients?
Client Continuum - In this partnership, where are you and where are your clients?

Selling vs Listening

Am I listening to the client or am I selling to the client? Ideas must be linked to the performance of the business – creativity is in service to the bottom line of your clients.

Don’t pitch random things because they are a good idea – they need to assist and help with the business.

Survival vs Creativity

Which mode are they in? Creativity and moving forward or barely surviving? Are they just trying to not close their business down? Right now, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies – they need to survive and then they will come looking for your expertise and assistance to make things happen.

Clarity vs Action

A lot of people want to help clients and are coming to them offering their services; what CMOs need right now is clarity. We need to have clear objectives and then the agency can assist with that but we can’t take action without clarity. Be clear… Are we hunkering down till the end of the year? Are we setting ourselves up to surge back in 2021? Are we trying to maintain brand awareness throughout the whole thing? Demand clarity from your clients – is it clear what you’re doing or are you just doing it because it’s comforting to do stuff!

Marketing vs Sales (and Finance)

We sit in marketing in the wider world but truly at this moment in time we need to connect the functions of the business because it’s about the holistic survival of the business. Our marketing metrics move more slowly then sales metrics. If you need to forgo awareness and give money to the sales team, these are conversation that CMOs are having. Is it worth giving all the money to sales and discounting massively in November and December to sell at the end of the year and forgo any on-air advertising as you know that this Q4 sacrifice will help create sales and save the business? You can then come back with world class advertising and messaging in Q1 of 2021.

We know that consumers will come back - behaviour will come back. It won’t be exactly the same but people are people and they seek joy and happiness and sociability and they will return. Temptation is to dive in right now and try to fix this but there is no fix – this is happening right now and we’re just managing this right now.

The brands that do it right will win. The messaging you use when the burst of positive sentiment comes back in 2021 will be powerfully important. It’s a very challenging time but in the end, you can still see a world next January/February when we’re ready to go and the consumers are waiting for us to sprinkle some joy and magic back into people’s lives.


Do you think any of the bigger brands have a responsibility towards their agency to keep their businesses alive?

"Yes – don’t be short-sighted on this. You will need your agency when you come out the other side of this so you need to support them as much as you can. You will need to share some of the pain – agencies will need to take a bit of pain too but don’t pull up the drawbridge and leave them out in the cold. Make sensible changes based on profitability changes – we’re down this, we need to lower your fees by this. You need to have your agency on the other side and you have a responsibility to help your partners... It’s the right thing to do for your partners."

Do you think brands will start activating experiential in a small scale in Q4 or will brands hold back until we’re back to whatever normality is?

"I think it depends on the category. There is an opportunity – people will be craving contact, new experiences and opportunities – people will be seeking it out and demanding it so there is an opportunity, but it really depends on the category.

Experience doesn’t have to be anchored in human contact – consumers want evocative moments of experiential energy. What if fans can sit in the goal at sports event; they can sit on the pitch, put a camera on the line… If we can only bring a smaller number of people to a match, let’s make sure that’s an interesting experience.

Challenge yourself! The things that on the surface look shit might turn out to be great. Always look for opportunity. Fundamentally what we are seeing is resilience, people are shocked by what has happened but believe that things will be okay… Not that they’ll be the same, but they’ll be okay…

The lockdown is something that applies to everyone – your house is your house wherever your house is. There is element of continuity of experience as it’s all new and we’re all experiencing it collectively – no matter where we are! It’s human! It's universal! We are all the same. And it’s new for everyone – no-one can say “the last time this happened this is what we did…”

Do lessons you learned from the last recession apply?

"From a business perspective, it’s different as it will take a bit longer for the business to get back to normal levels. Budgets being cut by whatever percentage has happened before; we have all been dealing with that forever, but this is not just a 10% cut to your budget; this will be a big impact to your finances and it will change the conversation.

However, terrible things have been happening forever and the human spirit is to bounce back! Two or three weeks of not seeing any way out and then you go back to restart – it happens again and again. The human condition is very consistent. In the end, things have always happened and we recover. There’s a feeling there that we’ve dealt with these emotions before (in other ways) and we know what to do.

The situation is serious and you will have to wait a bit – you have to breath – you’re dealing with the tide and you can’t just scream at the tide – you need to wait for it to come back itself – you can’t change it.

Stay in touch but in a way that is reflecting what’s truly going on… Don’t send anything that makes you look disconnected from reality – show empathy and awareness of people's live right now…

Someone will work out what people want in lieu of the old ways – Think about what you’re going to do and how do you get ahead of this. Step 1 is 'whoa this is terrible' but Step 2 is 'how do we spin this?' "

Jonnie Cahill - Thought Starters
Jonnie Cahill - Thought Starters
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