Arati Rao
Jun 30, 2011

Grant Hunter: ‘Agencies have to act more like newsrooms’

Iris’ regional creative director in Asia, Grant Hunter, talks about hybrid talent, the thinking behind ‘Urgent Genius’, and what the agency is really up to in India

Grant Hunter: ‘Agencies have to act more like newsrooms’


The first thing we want to ask you about is Urgent Genius. How critical is the turnaround time for digital?
With Urgent Genius, we’ve been tracking the trend for the last 12-18 months. Jon Burkhart (our social media creative director, who’s based in London) and I spoke at South By South West (SxSW) in Austin, and we’ve been observing brands doing it well and not doing it so well. One of the great pieces of work at Cannes that won a Gold is ‘4th Amendment Wear’ in the States. Basically, it’s by a young US-based creative called Matt Ryan (he’s an Australian) who’d seen news kicking off in November 2010 about the enhanced TSA (Transportation Security Administration) security measures. So he got thinking about it and actually released the idea just before Thanksgiving (a time in America where everyone travels). So he actually sourced his own ink supply to make the metallic ink and got the t-shirts printed. Within 48 hours of the story breaking, he got loads and loads of interest.
So to answer how do you actually equip yourself to deal with that, you need the right type of people who can conceptualise the idea and also do it. Ryan is a designer, art director and copywriter and at Iris we can source those kind of people. We call them “Hybrid thinkers” (who can think and do); we’ve got planners who write music, art directors who direct films and web designers who do comedy shows. So we’re trying to find people who have hybrid talent and you’ll see more and more people coming out like that.
The second part is that you make sure an agency doesn’t act like a traditional agency, but more like an editorial team, more like journalists. You also need more trust from the client, so he gives you more freedom and allows you to go, till he says stop. Traditionally, it’s very much about loads of research, and lots of time taken.
Kenneth Cole demonstrated how you can get social media really wrong, when he tweeted ‘Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online’. The backlash started within 15 seconds. Within 3 hours, someone had actually set up a fake Twitter account called Kenneth Cole PR, where the guys looked over the humanitarian disasters in the history of mankind and wrote a tweet from Kenneth Cole about it. That to us was ‘Urgent Genius’. Old Spice is another good example of that kind of real time interaction. So with our clients now, people like Adidas and Johnnie Walker are actually using those kind of things. With Johnnie Walker, we’re actually going around different F1 Grand Prix with a documentary film company, where we get a five-to-six minute documentary out there for the world to see within 48 hours of the race finishing. That’s another example of us operating more like an editorial newsroom.
How much of that is valid for Asia and India?
I don’t think there’s lots of it in Asia. There’s one really good example from India for Hippo Biscuits by Creativeland Asia where they used Twitter in a really inventive way [turning people into their field marketing force and getting them to tweet wherever they found a shop that had run out of Hippo]. Actually that was an extreme situation which they turned around and they got social media to fuel it.
Another example from Singapore is by Publicis for Burger King, where they did some work around the Football World Cup. When Paul the Octopus died, they saw it as an opportunity for Burger King. They dressed a Chihuahua in an octopus suit (he was called the Octopuppy) and then let him pick the meal of the day from six different combinations. I think if you create stuff which kind of rides off culture, then you’ve got a real opportunity to ride that wave. I hope to see such stuff come out of our India and Singapore offices soon.
Sydney has been playing with it as well, they’ve done some stuff for Sony Ericsson for the Xperia experiments. They actually locked a comedian Tommy Little in a room for 24 hours and challenged him to see how many ‘likes’ he could generate in that 24 hour period.
How is Iris India? It’s really quiet.
I feel they’ve done some very interesting work in the last six months. They did some interesting work around Coca-Cola called ‘The Happiness Machine’ which went around to different university campuses. I think it’s rolling out to about 20 different universities now. We’ve been doing work for Avaya where we’ve taken their global brand proposition and are making it relevant to India.
So what’re going to be your focus areas for Iris in India and Asia for the rest of the year maybe or next couple of years?
Singapore is now a regional hub, where we have about 75-80 people. We’re doing more global and pan- Asian work. For a brand like Adidas, we do all their work for South East Asia; we just did a piece called ‘All 24’ which was a 24-hour marathon, a combination of three different Adidas brands – Originals, Sport Performance and Sport Style. We challenged people – writers, footballers, basketball players, fashion designers, skateboarders – to come down and play for 24 hours and see how many goals they could score or hoops they could score and this rolled out across five different countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Vietnam.
So I think you’ll get to see more work like that where we take on global clients and actually get more involved with them across multiple disciplines and do everything from TV work for Audi, Tiger and Heineken in Singapore to fully-fledged digital campaigns.
Campaign India

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