The first time I heard the word ‘activation’ was when I was put on an account which had two teams. ‘Innovation’ and ‘Activation’. I remember feeling very smug about the fact that I was on ‘Innovation’ because the ‘Activation’ team only got into the act after the scripts were approved. Realise now that this was absolutely absurd and immature thinking.
But let’s face it. We can’t deny the fact that there’s something about the word ‘activation’ that makes it sound like sweat and labour. Devoid of brilliant creativity. Something that comes in well after a creative idea has been approved and agreed upon. Or at best, something that helps sell a creative idea. The support slides of a pitch presentation. Lacking the pride of the television commercial, the well-oiled process we have grown up with: scripts, directors, casting, PPM, travel, post, music and the final presentation on state-of-the-art equipment.
Yet, the most effective case studies today are about ideas that have engaged the consumer on ground or in the cloud. Activities that have viralled out of proportion and created huge impact.
Creating a brand experience or engagement is a must today.
It is what finally creates an affinity. An association. Action.
Very soon, a creative idea devoid of this will be inadequate.
Question is, how do we get the teams excited about such ideas? Make these ideas the core, to begin with, rather than ancillaries or a one-off project.
Maybe the word ‘activation’ itself has baggage from the past.
Needs to be re-branded - industry style.
Brand idea? Brand experience campaign? Brand engagement program? (They all exist as terms, but not necessarily at the core of a new brief).
Something that puts the brand and not the creative idea at the centre.
Briefs can be re-formatted, redesigned if required to address this.
Client-agency inspiration sessions and coffee conversations are not just about the top ten commercials but also about the top ten brand engagement ideas.
Meeting consumers is a must. No amount of armchair research can give the agency team the pulse of the consumer - the drivers, the conversation in hang outs, what happens on their mobiles, social media behaviour and more. In fact, consumer contact programs have come down drastically for agencies and this has potential to work against ideas that have the consumer at the very core.
Have the confidence that brand engagement ideas have emotions too and are no less impactful in creativity.
Make execution and implementation a passionate drive rather than something to be outsourced.
Co-create. Curate. Harvest. An engagement idea can originate from anyone. From the sales team to a child in a shop.
Recognise Brand Engagement Ideas as creative benchmarks as well, in the industry, and award them as mainstream ideas.
Workshops on sparking off the learning curve on this. We need to know what works.
Given the reality of the power of the television, make such ideas the content for airing. Again, we look at it differently because we treat them differently. Not just in terms of budgets, but also in our mind. Reach numbers, as defined today, may not always be a defining factor.
A good engagement idea means unleashing the potent power of communication. Where the brand braves the heat and stands out there in the arena with the consumer, as a partner. Standing for a common cause, a shared experience, making lives better, happier. Or simply empowering the person out there to believe and express. It’s powerful. It’s real action.
The writing is clear. It is not an option anymore. After all consumers start brand conversations well before a brand has made that first official, well- crafted tweet.
(Babita Baruah, executive business director, JWT India. Views expressed are the author’s independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.)