Mashup Bash: ‘Adweek’ Conference Dissects the New Creation

LOS ANGELES Can old agencies learn to love new technologies? Can a viral campaign that starts with the “right” four people replace a network TV buy that reaches 40 million? These were just two of the questions asked at Adweek’s 33rd annual Creative Conference: Mashup 2007 held in Los Angeles last week, which focused on innovative media solutions.

Lee Clow, chief creative officer of TBWA Worldwide and a self-proclaimed “old guy,” whose keynote speech, “The Next Creative Revolution,” kicked off the two-day confab, compared today’s climate to the creative revolution of the 1960s. Advertisers, he said, are creating not just advertising, but media arts. “Everything we do now is media,” he said. “It’s how people come to a decision about a brand.”

Clow, for the first time in public, announced his intentions to start another industry awards show, the Media Arts Festival, set for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in spring 2009. The concept of the show, as Clow sketched it, is to honor media arts in any form. He pointed to the need to recognize executions ranging from viral videos on YouTube to branded T-shirts.

Miles Beckett, co-founder and CEO, LG Studios, and Greg Goodfried, co-founder and president, LG Studios, discussed the history behind their revolutionary YouTube series lonelygirl15. They described a labor-intensive year of writing scripts, finding actors, seeding interest and living off their credit cards to launch the realistic videos about a girl named Bree. (Their U.K. spin-off, Kate Modern, launched in August with major sponsors.) The pair has additional dramas for international audiences in the works for next year. “We broke down the barrier of users talking to fictional characters and used aspects of alternate reality games to introduce puzzle solving,” said Goodfried. “We try to layer in interactivity that jumps platforms, from the Internet to real life.”

In a panel discussion devoted to using media creatively, Alan Cohen, evp, managing director of Initiative West, said, “You have to try 10 things to get a spark. Ask yourself where your consumer is from seven until midnight and see where you are.” Jim Poh, director of creative content distribution, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, warned that advertisers should not abuse their ability to reach consumers at all hours: “We try to tread the line between invitation and invasion.”

Asked if agencies were as up to speed on digital media as they claim to be, Gordon Paddison, evp, integrated marketing, New Line Cinema, responded with a firm and succinct “no.” Paddison participated in a panel about getting users to participate in the creative process without sacrificing control. And on a panel devoted to talent development, John Butler, cd at Butler Shine Stern & Partners, echoed that sentiment: “We got so frustrated, we started a program called ISL—Interactive as a Second Language—and made it mandatory for creative and account people.”

Of course, agencies connect with consumers all the time, as the winners of Adweek’s Emerging Talents contest, Mike Brenner and Greg Coffin, a copywriter and an art director, respectively, at Attik in San Francisco, ably demonstrated. Chosen by the conference’s panelists and speakers, the duo’s work for the Toyota Scion xD this summer (their second campaign ever) consisted of black-and-white drawings of angry creatures for “Little Deviants.” The integrated effort included animated 60-second cinema and TV spots, wild postings, a comic book, subway signs, scratch-n-sniff print ads and a microsite.

Even with all the possibilities for creating compelling content, speakers stressed that agencies need to know their role in the changing media world. “We in the advertising world don’t know what makes a great feature film,” said Jae Goodman, cd at CAA Marketing.