'Can you make us the next Pokemon Go?': creatives share frustrations with client briefs

The use of emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality in advertising campaigns has been on the rise in APAC.

The use of emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality in advertising campaigns has been on the rise in Asia Pacific the past year, with many brands hoping that their products will become the latest craze, according to creative directors that The Drum spoke to at Spikes Asia 2017.

Ever since Pokemon Go took the world by storm in 2016, brands have been hoping to emulate the success of the AR game by insisting that their creative agencies use AR in their campaigns without fully understanding how the technology will help their business.

It is especially difficult when brands do not follow the technology industry and their usual exposure to technology tends to be the high-profile gimmicks, explains Stan Lim, executive creative director at Isobar, because that is the starting point for a lot of technology.

“When you talk about AR, people will start thinking about Pokemon. When you mention VR, people will think about counterstrike,” Lim says. “Their position of the matter just stops there and a lot of brands, when you go to them with AR applications, they will say they are not interested in the photo app stickers, but it is a lot more than that.”

Lim admits that it is frustrating when clients ask for AR and all they want is Pokemon sticker label application because, while that is fine for some users, it is different for others. “Sometimes, you will find that with a particular brief that they have and their desire to use AR, there is a much better solution that can provide value.”

What should agencies do to help clients understand the value of technology then? Lim says that when Isobar talk to clients, the agency makes it very clear that they are technology-agnostic because it is not about a particular AR solution, software or product that it is trying to push. “We do not even talk about technology and we sit down and say 'We understand what your brief is and tell me more about what you are trying to achieve and your frustrations'.”

“Once you engage them at that level, you can start to feed in ideas on how technology can help solve those needs and you will slowly open up their minds, as well as their willingness to think about technology in a different way,” Lim adds.

Chye Yong Hock, innovation director at Isobar Singapore, who recently worked on General Motors’ VR-showroom app with Lim, explains that it is important to educate the clients that it is a collaborative process and that they are not shopping for a service. “We are not VR salesman who is trying to sell them a product,” he says. “In a sense, we are not married to these products. There is new technology every day in the market now, so there is bound to be something suitable for a client, rather than the one they are thinking about.”

Chye further explains that Isobar tries to talk to clients about their needs first and educate them on the different things to look at before formulating a plan, as clients need to understand that it is an investment and if they stop at the first phase, they are wasting their money.

“That is the problem we are facing with clients because they are only paying for the buzz. Our measurement of success is the tech can be used for real purposes and not just for a one-off, to make a YouTube video. Those all are very short-lived and will not help businesses,” he adds.

Concurring with Lim and Chye is Pat Baron, chief creative officer at McCann Worldgroup Australia, who is of the opinion that changing clients’ mindsets is important because when one is standing in one place and the world changes, you need to look at your view and filter of the world that you are viewing.

“It is probably more important than anything else for us to stand in a different place and see the world in a different way,” says Baron. “That is what great work does, it makes you see and feel things differently. It is a good thing to challenge ourselves on how we view things and that is certainly happening for us at the moment.”

Baron’s agency counterpart in Malaysia, Ng Seong Heok, adds that because clients these days want agencies to do more, but are paying less because there are so many platforms that they need to worry about, it is important to remind them that people in agencies are not machines and are still humans. “You need to change mindsets faster because the world is moving very fast, so if anything, we are now asking constantly ourselves 'How do we train ourselves to work at that speed' and 'How do we come up with solutions fast enough'.”

There are merits to using AR too, acknowledges Victor Knaap, chief executive at MediaMonks, adding that the creative digital production agency embraces brands who are keen to push the limits with emerging tech and has produced a few such campaigns for brands that won awards at Cannes and Spikes.

One of those campaigns was with Google Tango-enabled smartphones for a ArtScience Museum’s installation called ‘Into the Wild: An Immersive Virtual Adventure’, which uses VR to help users to encounter key inhabitants of the Southeast Asian rainforest, learn about the imminent dangers they face and observe the animals in their natural habitat.

Knaap notes it is really becoming interesting in APAC for brands when it comes to AR because there is a whole generation of people that did not have a desktop machine unlike the latest generation, but put a mobile phone in their hand for first time, and they will all be able to do AR.

“You get an interesting mix between the real world and virtual world that a whole generation will grow up with that don't know differently,” he says. “Looking at how young kids are interacting with computers, they are all touching the screen. That's how their generation, the five-year-olds that will get a mobile phone device and will grow up with AR. It will be absolutely normal that you have a layer of digital, on the real world. That's their world.”

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Shawn Lim

Shawn Lim is a reporter at The Drum, covering industry news around the Asia Pacific region with a focus on Singapore and Southeast Asia. Based in Singapore, he has worked across photography, video and online, covering a range of subjects including current affairs and sports.

Before Game of Thrones, he was a huge Breaking Bad fan. He does CrossFit and yoga to stay healthy.

All by Shawn