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Creativity unlocks technology

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The distance between bands and consumers has almost disappeared, and this combined with new technologies has changed our understanding of what creativity is and what it can achieve, writes ROB NEWLAN, head of the Facebook Creative Shop in EMEA.

Today the bar for creativity is extremely high. It starts with people. Anyone can use the phone in their pocket to shoot and edit high quality video – something that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. Anyone with a mobile phone has a computer in their pocket – from shooting and editing video on a smartphone to banking on a feature phone. Small businesses can shoot a video of their product, market it and accept payment all online. Brands and consumers now exist side to side, and often face to face, in a vast digital landscape. The distance between brand and consumer has all but disappeared, and the resulting intimacy – combined with the ongoing explosion of new technologies – has changed our understanding of what creativity is, and what it can achieve.

We need to inspire people, and more importantly, we need to create value for people. What’s good for people is good for businesses.

The (fast evolving) context 

Digital communication in Africa is booming. The change is so fast paced it’s hard to keep track. Even so, at Facebook one word matters to us above all others. Mobile.

According to ITU data, roughly 685 million Africans have mobile cellular subscriptions, while some 200 million have access to the Internet. 120 million Africans are on Facebook, and more than 80% of them will return to Facebook using mobile devices, predominantly feature phones rather than smartphones.

Mobile is a deeply personal device. Your phone is often the first thing you check when you wake up, and the last thing you check before you head to sleep. Your phone is so much more than a communication device – it is often how you get directions, bank or read the news. And that doesn’t include WhatsApp. The bottom line is people are living their lives on mobile devices.

People are at the core of the Facebook and Instagram experiences. The average user now spends more than 46 minutes a day across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. At Facebook we believe ads can be amazing experiences. Technology unlocks the power to tell incredible stories to the right person at the right time no matter where they are. And the creative community – agencies and brands alike – now have the mobile canvas to tell better stories to people that are relevant, inspiring and impactful.

Video, collaborative creativity and emotional connections

People are increasingly adopting visual language to communicate. As a result, video consumption is sky-rocketing, particularly in high-growth regions. Billions of videos are viewed on Facebook every day, and a full three quarters of these views take place on mobile devices.

We have just started to unlock the potential of sight, sound and motion in a feed-driven world. Two case studies from the recent Cannes Lions festival reveal the power of this transformation.

Despite its long running success for P&G, the Always sanitary pad product recently risked losing relevance with a new, younger audience. The Always #LikeaGirl campaign changed all that by asking every day consumers to explore the meaning behind a common and rather patronising phrase, ‘Like a girl’. (As in “she throws Like a Girl”). #LikeAGirl became the most watched video in P&G’s history, with 48 million views in North America and 76 million views globally. Ad recall was extremely strong, and emotional connection to the brand went up in the target audience, while rivals suffered slight declines. The video was distributed not on TV, but through social media.

Similarly, American sports apparel brand, Under Armour, turned its previously macho male identity on its head with a quirky exploration of the pressures of being female in the 21st century, inclusive of a celebration of women who ‘defy expectations and ignore the noise of outside judgements.’ The campaign centred on the pay off line I WILL WHAT I WANT, and featured two stunning videos, the first highlighting ballerina Misty Copeland and the second model Gisele Bündchen.

Two things stand out in both campaigns.

First, the brands combined science and art to show different audiences various creative ways to discuss ideas that really mattered to them. The end result in both cases was a campaign that genuinely touched people’s hearts and minds. Both brands laid the foundation for consumers to get creative in the realm of personal life philosophy.

Second, in both instances people were a primary creative force. The #LikeaGirl video incorporated real young people, exploring – on camera – gender and life philosophy. The conversation at the heart of the campaign was defined and carried out by the target audience, through the prism of social media. Equally, the I WILL WHAT I WANT videos redefined audience participation. In the video featuring Gisele Bündchen, Facebook user comments were at the heart of the experience: After seeding a teaser film on the platform, we used people’s real online reactions on the platform in our TV ads just two days later. A web experience then became a live interactive experiment.

A custom engine scraped the web for comments made about Gisele. Comments were rendered instantly and displayed on the site. For the first time, the entire online discussion about a single person was happening on one website in real time. Gisele is seen sticking to her routine while contradictory opinions on social media flash behind her, proving will beats noise live.

Collaborative creativity is a vital new force

Facebook cares more about creativity than any other platform. Our goal is to create value for companies and the people who receive it. The Creative Shop wants to be an essential partner to brands and agencies: it wants to help move the industry forward.

Facebook Creative Shop is a team of brand marketers, creative directors and strategists who build ideas to help clients grow their business. We believe that every person’s experience on Facebook should be personal and relevant. Even the ads they see. We work closely with businesses and the larger Facebook team to build tools, processes and creative that drives real world business results and delights people.

To help global businesses show beautiful visual stories in News Feed on every device and connection type, we started Facebook’s Creative Accelerator programme designed to help brands unlock the power of personal storytelling in high-growth countries. For example, in Kenya, Coca-Cola delivered a high impact campaign that had Kenyans sharing their stories of happiness. Nurofen, meanwhile, reached 54% of its target audience through a Moments That Matter Facebook campaign in South Africa.

Facebook recently opened our first African office in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is an important first step in strengthening our partnerships on the continent. People in the creative community are working to “hack” Facebook and Instagram in exciting new ways, to develop new marketing executions. We want to continue to work with the creative community to hack creative on our platforms, and our new office brings us closer to the creative community in Africa.

This expansion has happened because we want to ensure we are able to effectively support the huge range of new advertising formats and communication tools now open to communicators. These include new advertising formats and new connection tools that allow for improved contact with audiences (Book Now buttons are just one such new feature), along with advanced measurement tools like Conversion Lift and Ad tech.

We believe we can work together to create rich creative expressions on Facebook and Instagram that are not just better for marketers but better for people too.

The Creative Shop wants to be an indispensable partner to brands and agencies. We know the future does not build itself. Together with our partners we can build for where people are going.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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