Industry POV

New perspective in old bottle: Day 1 @ Ad Asia

09 Nov 2017

Dentsu Webchutney's PG Aditya decodes major takeaways for creatives from Ad Asia, Bali.

“A creative person should have no baggage,” some wise bloke must have said. Maybe that’s why Malaysia Airlines chose to lose mine, and Prasad Sangameshwaran’s. 

By the time it was retrieved, we’d kick started Day 1 of Asia’s largest advertising conference. 

This year’s theme, Globalizasian (I know, I know) is an attempt to showcase the potential of Asia to the world, reiterated across several opening speeches and sessions. Following a breathtaking introductory music & dance showcase, and honoring some of the continent’s most celebrated veterans, we were set to start.

Also, while this picture of the heads of the AFAA member nations may not be the gold standard in equal gender representation, it was truly overwhelming to see stalwarts from across the continent on the same stage. 

The opening act: ‘Ex-Chief Evangelist at Apple’ and ‘man with a truly contagious smile’- Guy Kawasaki. While the first among his ten tips on the ‘Art of Innovation’- “Don’t hear the customer” was starkly reminiscent of Henry Ford’s quote on ‘faster horses’, there was one I’d love to take home: 

Define your business keeping longevity in mind: the businesses that first ran ice harvesting in the late 19th century weren’t the ones to run the ice factories in early 1900s, the ones who ran ice factories weren’t the ones who made refrigerators later on. We see this trend even today, when the natural ‘successor’ of a product (say, smartwatches as the child of watches) isn’t necessarily manufactured by the same parent company (again, in the case of smartwatches- tech firms playing what rightly should have been the watch manufacturer’s game). 

What’s in it for you as a creative? Don’t expect the ‘way’ your client’s business operates to dictate your advertising. Challenge and find ‘why’ the business exists in the first place. 

Dave Coulthard’s truths on how there is no such thing as ‘half-pregnant’ when it comes to associations, landed a solid punch. In a brand-cluttered space like F1, where each car looks like a North Korean general’s suit, the only way to stay remembered is to stay committed. Reason why Red Bull perhaps went from a sponsor to a team owner, and used its F1 association to draw a compelling parallel to its own brand world. 

What’s in it for you as a creative? Associations are slow burners. When you’re asking your client to invest in an association/partnership, think long & hard on its long-term benefits. If you see none, turn a fresh page. Unless of course, your association is Mercedes ft. Golf. 

Go Jek CMO, Piotr Jakubowski’s slideshow-down-memory-lane was as endearing as it was inspiring. While it’s not surprising that every start-up wizard’s session carries the same ‘swimming against the tide’, ‘crushing the Goliath’ rhetoric, what drew me in was Go-Jek’s ability to find its advertising within its product. Most of Go Jek’s material drew from stories of their own drivers, their own restaurant partners, their own employees. As their business expanded, they found stories from new parts of their product ecosystem. And have managed to make this company on ‘Fortune’s- Change the world’ list still come across as the ‘brand next door’. 

What’s in it for you as a creative? There’s beauty in ‘appearing’ small. Small is human. Small is unintimidating. Small is intimate. If you’re a creative working on a ‘large-ass, no. 1 in the country’ brand, try to find the smallest, most human parts of it to glorify. And you’ll find love grow automatically. 

But what took the cake (and ate it too) for me was Azran Osman Rani’s session on his journey with iFlix and Air Asia. What a guy! Long story short- here’s a brand (Air Asia X) which has attempted to gain share-of-preference (and increase business) simply by observing the way we behave on an airplane. Right from serving the underserved economy passengers through differentiated flight timings, to installing ‘Quiet Zones’ for those who wished not to be disturbed by a crying baby inside an aircraft, to learning from mistakes- like a botched automation attempt on food ordering from your seat, which we were told, turned out to be a logistical nightmare... to, making this possible through an official ticket on flights that weren’t sold out. 

Now here’s the best part: tell me the last amazing Air Asia (or Air Asia X) ad you recall? Exactly. 

What’s in it for you as a creative? Like Air Asia X, there are several amazing, successful, even profitable companies in the world where the kind of advertising we glorify as an industry has little role to play. It’s up to us as creatives to expand our own boundaries of contribution to secure our agenda. 

When I asked Azran’s on his take, “Our agencies help us use programmatic to scale” came the reply. So, now we know where to dig :) 

Up tomorrow: Martin Lindstrom & several more. Keep this tab open :)

(PG Aditiya is the Senior Creative Director at Dentsu Webchutney, Bangalore.)

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