Advertising agencies are competing for people’s time based on new distractions and competition; YouTube content created by the entertainment/music industry and by regular people, movies and TV series. Even spending time with their friends and family, alone have been added to the mix.

Attitude of people: People hate to be interrupted. They are cynical about advertising; they value their time and would not invest a second in something that will not reward them.

However, some pieces of communication have been successful at engaging people:






Why are they successful? They are all centered on the need of people instead of the need of the brand/business, they all provide an experience and they all improve our lives in some way.


For the communication industry to survive and grow, it needs to prioritize:

First by understanding the people’s needs and second, by creating innovative ideas that improve people’s lives. Which in conclusion means People & Innovation come first.

What is the rest of the industry doing? These examples make up a tiny percentage of all the advertising and communication that’s developed in the world. Clients are becoming more aware of the need to engage people and put their experience at the center of communication.

Innovation challenges: It’s a one-size fits all agency structure, and old structures that are still used in most big agencies create silos that do not communicate. (Account Handling, Creative, Production, Media, Digital). The types of people hired are skilled in specific disciplines only (Art Director, Writer, Digital, Marketing). This means that people have a specific way of learning that they study in Universities, and that is reinforced by the culture of their Industry.

The workflow is very rigid, (Client > Brief > Agency Marketing Department > Planners > Creative > Reviewed by the agency marketing team > Client > Production > Media.) which means that innovation cannot happen without accidents, and rigid structures stand in the way of innovation. So change the mentality from a service provider to the client, and transform the industry to an industry that creates innovative products with possible client partners, i.e. (Digitas and Nike) or companies like Amusement Park.


Insight – In the global conversation you cannot tell a lie, you will be found out and exposed immediately.

Action – True is the new New: Create work that is honest. Walk the talk.

Case Study –

Dove Campaign For Real Beauty: The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, launched in 2004, was to support Dove’s mission of making women of all shapes and sizes feel beautiful every day, while widening stereotypical views of beauty. The campaign was inspired by a global study called “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report.” Through two key findings of the study, Dove was able to validate that the narrow definition of beauty is having a significant impact on the self-esteem of women today.

The two findings are:

  • Only 2% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful
  • 81% of women in the United States strongly agree that “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve.” 

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was communicated to the public through a variety of print and television advertisements, a Web site, workshops and films. Dove has created online films such as “Evolution,” “Onslaught” and “True Colors”

The campaign returned $3 for every $1 spent. Dove’s page on Unilever’s Web site says that the current campaign has been shown on over 25 major TV channels and in more than 800 articles in opinion leading newspapers as well as in popular women’s magazines. In the first six months of the campaign, sales of Dove’s firming products increased 700 percent in Europe and in the United States, sales for the products in the advertisements increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign. In 2004, the first year of the campaign, global sales surpassed $1 billion, exceeding company expectations.


Insight – People don’t engage with advertising. They engage with what interests them (and that sometimes may be advertising).

Action – Generate ideas and creative output that is useful and engaging: content, experiences and products, not just messages.

Insight – Broadcast messages are often ignored and ineffective.

Action – By joining the conversation brands can reach a much wider audience and engage them in deeper ways

Insight – Old advertising ‘dictates’ ‘proclaims’.

Action – New advertising ‘does’.

EX: Coke Valentine’s day happiness machine. Ideas like this provide a rewarding, personalized, experience to those who engage with it. What makes them so compelling is that the experience, captured and shared, becomes tangible proof of that brand’s promise.

Insight – (GOOD NEWS!) great ideas continue to be the core of what we do.

Action – Create ideas that ‘DO’.

We know Coke promises happiness and for years now, TNT’s brand positioning has been ‘we know drama’. We looked at a promotion for TNT in Belgium, which I saw on the day it was released, when it already had 100,000 hits on YouTube. Three days later it had 10M! “Push to add drama”.


We came across a presentation by GARETH KAY, director of Digital Strategy at SF agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners. He provided a beautiful image to explain what all of these case studies demonstrate: Kay invites us to consider the mating habits of birds.

Traditional Advertising and Promotions ideas are like Peacocks, all about image and spectacle. New ‘ideas that do’ behave more like Bauer birds. Instead of showing off, the Bauer bird attracts mating partners by doing beautiful things around its nest.

This is to say that in today’s world what matters is behavior, not imagery: changing our behavior changes how we think, not the other way round. In other words it is through our actions, not through our words or looks that we communicate best.

All the examples above are ideas that do: ideas that do something, not just say something.


Team Competences: Examine what people, skills and structure are needed (i.e. content creation, product development, event / experiences…) and what organizational change is required. Think about the scalability, you can’t just add and expand exponentially. Rethink and think how to adapt and then scale. Agencies need to customize and use an adaptable approach.

Need ‘polymaths’, people with multiple skills, and leaders who can manage cross-discipline cross-function projects that allow for less vertical integration, more fluid, with flexible networks.

Digital needs to be a core competency instead offering it up as an addition to the agency.


Principles: The ability to observe the land and discern opportunities within it. Set a plan in order to change the organization to meet the challenges. Focus on effectively communicating the vision and the ability to step out of the comfort zone. Inside of the agency, start championing innovation to inspire the culture.

Actions: Make room for innovation and experimenting (balance, exploit and experiment). Focus on changing the structure of the agency from silos to teamwork, from pyramid to network. Identify talent and hire the right kind of people that are multi-talented (polymaths). Spatially group teams from different disciplines together for projects. Blur the lines between departments. And last but not least change the managing structure from managing down, to up and sideways. Allowing for the involvement from the entire agency VS a select group, which limits hierarchy, process and tasks.

Authors: Marcus Moore, Federico Gaggio, Areej Mahmoud, Ana Paula Catarino