Rome wasn't built in a day, but maybe commercials can be

The Drum has assembled an enviable panel of magnificent minds from the industry and beyond to identify the latest trends and brilliant ideas shaping our space. Here’s what’s been exciting them lately…

The trend for real-time is causing Jenny Crothers to question everything.

The wave of real-time reactive content and advertising is having a massive impact on the way I work, and it’s exciting because it means that the traditional brief has gone out of the window.

Audience attention spans are becoming shorter, and brands have got to keep up. ’15 minutes of fame’ now seems like quite a long time – content can be created in minutes and be online within seconds.

Take examples such as Oreo’s ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ response to the power cut at the 2013 Super Bowl. I personally didn’t find it overly creative, but it gets top marks for reaction speed – hence why it was one of the most talked about adverts that year. Similarly, Snicker’s smashed it out of the park with its PR stunt around the Jeremy Clarkson scandal, by sending him a box of bars, cleverly using their slogan, ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’.

I always think in two channels when creating work – one for ongoing campaigns, which push the product/service, and one that simply gives them a voice which is constantly relevant. It’s a great opportunity for clients to exhibit their brand’s personality, aside from their long-term goals. I consider it like this: if your product was a person and you were sat having dinner with them, what would they say about the latest news?

Adapting to this ‘real-time’ trend is making me start to question things in a different way – be it the breaking news headlines, celebrity gossip or latest tech. Suddenly everything trending contains a potentially effective piece of work.

As a creative, once you’ve accepted that not every idea is going to ‘go viral’, you can have fun with it. In a world of disposable content we’re now allowed to fail several times before we hit gold. That’s also where the feeling of freedom comes in – it feels like fearless advertising. It costs nothing to send a clever tweet, whereas when you’re making a million-pound TV commercial, there isn’t really any room for mistakes. I guess the biggest challenge is the balance of speed versus quality – you’ve got to be sure the idea has substance, and you’re not just doing it for the sake of trying to look like a ’social media ninja’.

Putting reactive content out there does require that rare breed of client who is willing to take creative risks. Hopefully, as this method becomes more popular, it will push those who are more hesitant to keep up with their competitors. There’s no time for fannying around anymore – if the idea isn’t out within the same 24 hours as the headline, you might as well forget it.

By joining in the conversation that consumers are already having, brands can further close the gap between themselves and their audience. Companies who do this, such as Paddy Power, are pretty much a fourth wall demolition team when it comes to acknowledging the consumer.

This trend lives primarily in the land of digital and social, but perhaps in the future we will see more traditional platforms, such as TV and print, offering up space for off-the-cuff media. Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but maybe commercials can be.

Jenny Crothers tweets at @crothh, she is a presenter @TheBoogaloo, copywriter @TheMinimart and journalist @TheDebrief

This piece was first published in The Drum's 20 April issue, guest-edited by BMB founder Trevor Beattie.

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