The constant struggle for channel-centric creative

With the Dubai Lynx Festival of Creativity over for another year, it gives all of us in attendance an opportunity to sit back and take stock of what it really means to work in advertising / marketing in an ever-changing media landscape. These days, there’s so much talk about smartphones and tablets, the battle between the first and second screen, the many different social networks and messaging apps flooding the scene, and yadda yadda yadda. Basically, the fragmentation of the way that users’ attention is occupied.

Because of this, there’s been a focus in the media and advertising world towards mastering the latest channels, usually through using a novel approach with the aim of grabbbing the viewers attention and being remembered. The problem with this is that, the more the channel takes precedent over the message and creative copy of a campaign, the less likely it is to make a meaningful impact on the audience. At the other end of the scale, some advertisers put minimal effort into differing digital channels and simply regurgitate the same idea across each.  Too often, marketing in the digital age can fall flat. There is a constant struggle to find that balance between utilizing each channel differently and using great creative. But sometimes, there is a perfect harmony.

At the end of the day, whatever channel you use, you need to strike a cord with the viewer as well as taking advantage of that channel’s strengths. With that in mind, here are some of my favourite campaigns discussed at this year’s Dubai Lynx.

A.1. Steak Sauce “New Friend Requests” – Facebook

Facebook’s Fergus O’Hare championed the need to marry an understanding of the channel used with a great idea that not only leaves a lasting impression, but also conveys the message that the brand wants to get across. A.1. Steak Sauce in the US was aiming to create new use cases for it’s product by dropping the term ‘Steak’ from it’s name. Cue this great video that feeds off the channel it was distributed on (i.e. Facebook) to get that message across. This is my personal favourite.

Hewlett Packard “Bend The Rules” – Vine

David Shing (a.k.a. @Shingy, a.k.a the guy with the crazy hair) emphasised the opportunity in taking advantage of the restrictions of certain channels when telling your product’s story. If you can get your message across in only 6 seconds, then why take any longer? This user-generated campaign for HP’s new laptop / tablet hybrid wouldn’t work on any other platform but is great on Vine. It had some pretty hilarious results to boot.

Hunger Games “District Voices” Web Series – YouTube

Another great example of using the specific strengths of a channel was this campaign from YouTube to promote the latest ‘Hunger Games’ film. Google’s Vikram Tank discussed the phenomenon of YouTube celebrities that are actually more endearing to viewers than real celebritites. YouTube plucked them out of real life and dropped them into Panem, the fictional world that The Hunger Games is set in. The YouTube celebs would generate the same style of content they would normally, but this time in the context of the film’s backdrop.

Apple’s iPhone 6 “World Gallery” –

With smartphones now completely ubiquitous, nearly everyone these days carries a pretty decent camera around with them 24/7 and we all like to think of ourselves as budding photographers. Rebecca Swift from Getty Images highlighted the recent Apple ‘World Gallery’ campaign that showcases the power of the latest iPhone’s camera by utilising user-generated content on their own site. Most of these shots are stunning.

Posted by Rob in Advertising, Design, Dubai, Facebook

Yo! might not be as big of a joke as people first thought

When news came out back in June of an app that did nothing more than allow users to send push notifications simply saying “Yo!”, people shrugged. There’s an app for everything after all. When it emerged a number of days later that the app had managed to somehow raise funding to the tune of $1 million, they stood up and took notice. How could such a novelty generate such a large amount of funding so soon? Talk of a new internet bubble ensued. Since then, Yo! has been valued at $10 million and, what seemed like the joke of the tech world just a few weeks ago, doesn’t seem so funny now.

It seems that there is more than meets the eye to this concept at least and, while it sounds like a gimmick, those investors weren’t handing over their hard earned cash for nothing. They obviously see some potential presumably around the commercial possibilities of contextual notifications.

While at the moment the app is extremely one dimensional, Yo’s creator Or Arbel argues that it’s all about context. This is where the commercial angle comes in. Arbel highlights the potential examples of Starbucks sending users a Yo! when their coffee is ready, or an airline sending a Yo! to let you know that your visitor’s plane has landed on time or that your package has arrived etc.

I think the most exciting thing about this concept is that it may be able to democratise the humble push notification. At the moment, you can only receive push notifications from apps that you have downloaded (no shit!). But there is surely potential out there for a platform that let’s users receive notifications from organisations when they need certain real-time information without negotiating the mobile web or downloading a new app for each new use case.


Let’s use the package delivery example from above ; I might use DHL once or twice a year for example. Not much point in downloading their app to track my parcel for a service I use so infrequently and which will take up valuable screen real-estate on my mobile. But if I give them my Yo! username, hey presto, I’ll get a quick notification as soon as my package arrives at it’s destination. Similarly, I arrive at a bus stop heading into town. Not one of those fancy new bus stops with a nice screen telling me when the next bus is due, just a plain old regular one. I send a Yo! to the bus stop and it tells me that my bus will be there in 3 minutes. Lovely.

With any platform, building an initial critical mass of users is crucial to it’s success and Yo! seems to be well on it’s way to doing this, mainly due to it’s novelty at the moment but that’s beside the point. That’s not to say that another app can’t come along and steal it’s thunder, but just that Yo! is well placed to take advantage of this area at the moment. The use cases are there, there’s no doubt about that.

There is also some pretty cool potential around ‘push commands’ in the whole Internet of Things space. Imagine sending a Yo! or whatever it might be to your home security system to activate your alarm etc. There’s a lot of players in this area doing pretty sophisticated things like Nest and Smart Things to name but two, but this is more towards the high-end of the market and will work best with your whole house locked in to their ecosystem. A push command system using a Yo! like platform might offer some more open sourced opportunities in the Internet of Things space.

Either way, while the current Yo! app might be a bit of a laughing stock, and rightly so, I believe there is definitely some potential out there in a platform that breathes new life into the plain old push notification.

Posted by Rob in Apps, Design, Mobile

For the user, technology is simply a means to an end

There is a substantial interest today in the development of the tech scene with hundreds of news sites and thousands of blogs dedicated to covering even the smallest movements of the big players in the market. Enthusiasts are obsessed with the rumours around the latest gadgets and apps and are always on the lookout for the next big thing.

But when it all boils down to it, the hardware and software is just a means to an end. A way of enabling the user to complete an action, to facilitate a service that makes their life a bit easier. Mobile advocate Scott Bales suggests that a platform’s success is much more to do with user behaviour than the specifics of the technology itself.

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to exploring the mobile landscape as a means to engage modern mobile consumers is that the device or technology is king.

As an app developer or a product manager, your first step is to accept that the technology device does not matter, your first priority is creating a unique and compelling mobile experience for the consumer.

Bales highlights the importance of understanding how any technology fits into the users’ lives and behaviours and mentions three key aspects to consider;

  • Context – when and where does the consumer use your service?
  • Behaviour – how and why do they use it?
  • Utility – what does it do and how does it do it?

Only by understanding in detail how the end user is to interact with your service can you possibly hope to produce something that will stand the test of time. But we see this over and over again, web or mobile products ‘designed’ by engineers without an in-depth consideration for user behaviour. With a focus on function over form. But if a user can’t figure out how to use an application, or it doesn’t fit easily into their lives, than your product could be dead in the water.

With the competition never as fierce for users’ attention as it is at the moment, the smallest details could be the difference between your product’s success or failure. For this reason, it is more important than ever to strip away the technology itself, and focus on creating something that can be easily and intuitively used and that fits seamlessly into the user’s lives and behaviours.

banksy mobile lovers‘Mobile Lovers’, Banksy

Posted by Rob in Apps, Design, Mobile

A quick look at Google’s new design approach

Android is getting a new lick of paint this Autumn with an update known as Android L. The design changes centre around a new ‘material design’ style which Google says is based on basic shapes and sheets of paper. This version features some slick new animations and what Google likes to call meaningful transitions. It seems that, in terms of design and intuitiveness at least, Android is starting to catch up with iOS.

Posted by Rob in Android, Design, Google

Coders Are the New Rock Stars

This video from has gotten quite a bit of attention over the last week, mainly due to the tech heavyweights including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates who feature talking about how getting into coding from a young age had helped them become successful.

While there’s no doubt the world will need more and more coders in the future, I don’t think kids will need any help getting excited about coding considering the amount of time most will spend on the web or their smartphones etc. (plugging the cool offices and free food that these tech companies tend to have won’t do any harm though).

The real problem will be how fast educational institutions adapt and allocate sufficient resources to coding in schools. That is why outlets like and Ireland’s own Coder Dojo are so important in giving the next generation a chance to learn coding on their own terms.

As for the rest of us, I learned basic web design skills online in my spare time. It’s like everything else these days, all the information is out there on the web, just a Google search away, available to anyone who wants to use some initiative and learn some new skills.


Posted by Rob in Advertising, Coding, Design