If Google’s Creative Sandbox is “a space where everyone can see this insanely great work, talk about it, and roll around in it like a big happy dog” … then I want to get in on this action. I like great work, I like talking (or writing) about it, and I especially like rolling around like a big happy dog.
As I was picturing myself stop, drop, and rolling out of inspiration from the work in the Sandbox, I realized that I have the perfect contribution. It’s called The Giving Wall, and it’s a project I worked on last semester in my Strategic Creative Development class (credits to the four other teammates: Mike, Jiri, Rachael, and Ashlyn).
The class was taught by Edward Boches, the Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen, and we basically got to do the coolest assignments in the history of education. This one in particular went a little bit like this:
The Giving Wall is what came out of this. Granted, it doesn’t actually exist in the real world … But if it did, it would be in the Sandbox. And the five of us who concocted it would be catching frisbees in our mouths with glee.
The initial idea was inspired by some simple research into Boston’s census files. What we saw there was a 23% increase in the number of homeless families between the years 2007 and 2008. And sadly, the trend has only been increasing since 1998. What we also found out was that the vast majority of homeless people are not the ones you see sitting out on the street. Most homeless families in particular are living in shelters.
When we started thinking about how to get people to donate to families in need, we realized something: how completely and totally outdated donations systems are today.
Let’s think about this for just a few seconds, shall we?
But somehow, dropping quarters in a Styrofoam cup has stuck around.
Our goal became to modernize and simplify the donation process through The Giving Wall.
The Giving Wall is actually way more than just a wall. It’s an entire system that brings together homeless families on one end and donors on the other to encourage interaction, provide for the families based on their individual needs, and make giving shareable.
On one end, a homeless family enters a dry shelter, passes a sobriety test, and creates a Heart & Home profile with the log-in system (aka a computer with an Internet connection) stationed in the shelter. Their profiles contain information about their families – as much or as little as they want to share – in either video, audio, or written form so that donors can get to know them on a more personal level. They also contain the family’s wish list, up to $100 worth of items they need from Amazon. Once the profile and wish list are completed, they submit their wish list and can track its status.
On the other end, someone who wants to donate can see families’ profiles and select a family they connect with the most. They choose one item – or two, or three, or ten depending on how generous they’re feeling that day – to donate, pay for it, and can add a personal message to send back to the family when they receive their item. In return, they receive a pre-recorded thank you note/ video from the family that they can then share on their social media profiles if they so desire. If they want, donors can opt-in to create their own profile, where they can receive notifications about when their donation is delivered and send/ receive more messages from the families they give to.
(P.S. You can see our presentation on Slideshare for more details)
Now, the reason it’s called The Giving Wall is because … well, this all happens on a wall. A giant, interactive, touchscreen wall. Originally, the wall would live in some key locations. Our personal favorite was a luxury storefront on Fifth Avenue in NYC. But we also envisioned a mobile wall that would travel the country and appear at events aligned with the cause.
Unfortunately, the most obvious, glaring flaw of this plan is that it would cost some money. Like, a whole lot of money. And it really doesn’t make sense for a nonprofit organization in the business of making donations to spend millions of dollars to build, promote, launch, and maintain this thing … when they could have just spent those millions on the families in need.
Which is why we needed something like the Creative Sandbox. Because we know a company like Google could pull this off with the technology they have. No problem. Sure, they might not make a profit off of our little venture. But they sure would get some great publicity … and show off their capabilities in the process.
Maybe the Creative Sandbox actually needs a more generous sister playground, more of a Helping Sandbox. Where ideas like ours that can make the world a better place – but need the support and backing of a tech company to exist – have the chance to come to life. Google could use the same type of voting system it already has in the Creative Sandbox to determine democratically which causes and projects people feel the most passionate about. And once a year, help make the winning idea a reality.
Because why can’t giving, volunteering, and helping become just as convenient as it is to tap our Google Wallets?
Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.
A preview of Google’s Creative Sandbox platform
Q: How do you get the world’s most innovative people to advertise your products to the world for free?
A: By getting advertising agencies to use your products to create their campaigns.
Q: And how do you ensure that they’ll do this?
A: By giving them a platform to brag about themselves when they do, of course.
Enter Facebook Studio. A platform developed by EVB in 2011 to educate and inspire agencies and marketers by showing off examples of true creativity in a “connected world.” In this context, “connected world,” really means “Facebook” because all submissions must use some element of the social networking site to get posted.
Okay, let’s be totally honest here … The real brilliance behind Facebook Studio is that there’s plenty of marketers who don’t know how to use Facebook appropriately. Even fewer marketers know how to use it creativity. And here’s to hoping someone will come along who pushes the limitations of the medium … but don’t hold your breath.
So creating a platform to show off the glimmering examples of campaigns that do use Facebook appropriately, creatively, and even push its limits is a ridiculously smart method to teach others how to do so too. And in doing so, improve your relationships with advertisers … and give your users a better experience (by that, I mean fewer stupid ad campaigns).
Similar to Facebook Studio, the Creative Sandbox is a dedicated space for ad agencies to show off their best digital work, creating an “online hub for inspiring and creative new campaigns.” Also similar to Facebook Studio, users of the site can vote on their favorite campaigns, allowing the most popular ideas to rise to the top of the heap.
Google designed a platform for awesome digital creative, and my, my, my are the big boys coming out to play. Brands ranging from BMW to Band-Aids and Axe to Ikea are showing off their guns.
Also described as a “crowd-sourced, social experience designed for exploration and inspiration,” the Creative Sandbox is pretty freakin’ sweet because … well, it’s filled with freakin’ sweet ideas.
The cool thing about the Creative Sandbox (and what makes it inherently different from Facebook Studio) is that the work showcased there doesn’t have to be based on Google’s technology …
But wait … Why would Google let agencies show off how they’re using other technologies and platforms on its own site? Like * gasp * even Facebook.
Well, for one thing, most of the campaigns use Google technologies anyways (Exhibits A and B). And for another, it’s not like Google is in a position where it really needs to show off its innovative chops. We’re all well aware that they’re there.
But more than that, the Creative Sandbox creates a cycle of mutually beneficial relationships between Google and the innovators using cool digital technology in their ad campaigns. Ultimately, the guys and gals inside agencies and creative shops that are churning out the awesome ideas featured on the site are doing the same thing Google is: using technology to push boundaries. Be they tech boundaries, marketing boundaries, societal boundaries, or even making miracles.
So when you think about it that way, it only makes sense that Google would help innovators who in turn help them, so that they can continue helping the innovators who then … well, you get the point.
It’s a way for Google to see how creative people are using all technology – not just its own – and therefore see what holes need to be filled in with new products, product updates, or a just new way of thinking about something (does anyone hear the words “competitive advantage” here?).
And it’s a way for agencies and other creative organizations to be inspired and enlightened as to what technology can do for them, their brands, or their clients. And therefore, be the most creative and most cutting-edge that they possibly can be (and then crushing the competitors … and probably winning a few awards along the way).
Basically, it’s a win-win situation.
And when you throw in all the advertising students out there, it really becomes a win-win-win … because then we get watch hours of Youtube case studies. Which is actually pretty freakin’ sweet.
You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.
A great example of the new creative team in action. Coke and Google in Google’s Re: Brief project.
As a continuation of my previous post on the evolution of storytelling … Not only must the way we tell stories change, the way we think about creating those stories needs to change too. If we’re going to talk the talk of crafting experiences and multi-touch point immersions, then we have to walk the walk outside of the printed page or television storyboard.
Now, before all the art directors and copywriters out there come after me with silver stakes, let me say that good art direction and good copy still have a very important place and time. Take the script in Axe’s “Fear No Susan Glenn” commercial, for example. Or the art direction of this Samsonite print ad.
However, to really change our thinking and approach to marketing problems (and their solutions), we have to shake up the creative team a bit. Mad Men is a TV show, not a present-day documentary (Surprisingly, I find this is a common misconception). A creative pair that throws paper balls into trash cans until some lightning bolt of brilliance strikes them in the form of a catchy slogan just ain’t gonna cut it anymore.
More important than being a “creative” is how creatively the people on the team can think. In addition to art and copy, you need user experience designers, information architects, public relations experts, social media gurus, product developers, and members of the media team.
I know what you’re thinking (especially those art directors/ copywriters who are still sharpening their pitchforks): “Listen, you crazy kid, too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup.”
Well, in case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t making soup. We aren’t even necessarily making ads. We’re making whatever it takes to get the consumer’s attention, affection, and advocacy (P.S. alliterations are awesome). Which might be an ad. But more than likely, it will be something much more interactive, far-reaching, and multi-faceted than just an ad.
Like this. Or the Coke/Google Re: Brief video posted above (I know it’s long, so you have my permission to skip to 7:40 to really get to the good stuff … But fair warning, you’ll really be missing out if you do).
Talk about some freakin’ genius campaigns. They also just so happen to serve as freakin’ great examples to support my point about the new creative team (well, that part might have been intentional, I’ll admit).
For starters, the new creative team is collaborative. It’s not siloed or broken across floors or working in isolation. A big idea can come from anywhere or anyone … be that the product developer (take Puma Social’s product extensions, for example) or the media team. And being open to these ideas creates a more fertile (aka fearless) environment from which even more big ideas can bloom. Naturally, the more big ideas that are bouncing around the office, the greater the chances of landing on one that is truly brilliant.
The new creative team also has a more integrated understanding of its consumer. Beyond knowing about consumers’ relationships to the brand or category you’re working on, you must understand their behaviors, media consumption, where they hang out, what they’re doing there, and how they interact with each other (I know, not surprising that an aspiring planner would say these things … but still true). Take Coke’s project with Google, as an example. When you really think through consumer behavior, it becomes rather obvious that utilizing a drink machine makes perfect sense. What else are thirsty people interacting with or hanging around when they’re out and about? And then when you throw in that little bit extra to connect these people around the world, the consumer relationship is taken to a whole new level.
And lastly, extending the creative team beyond art and copy lets the ideas expand, live, and breathe beyond art and copy. Where is the art direction or copywriting in this? Thinking in terms of life experiences and less in terms of advertising is what the new creative team is all about. It doesn’t even matter if the ideas are “possible” … That’s why we’re adding all those designers and engineers to the team. Because they can make it possible (within reason). And if they can’t, well let’s be honest … Google probably can.
The bottom line is that to succeed in thinking in these news ways takes a new creative team. I don’t know about you, but I sincerely hope to find myself on one of those teams someday.
It sure does sound like a hell of a lot of fun.
No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.
Once upon a time …
The world needed stories. They taught us our moral codes, passed on our histories, and were down-right entertaining … especially considering most other options included something like sewing, going to a public bath, or watching gladiators kill each other (none of those very sound appealing, though for very different reasons). Our lives actually depended on good stories. How else were we supposed to remember how to plant our corn? Or who to blame for that drought?
Being a bard (or shaman or raconteur or whatever other fancy name you prefer) must have been incredibly difficult. They had a lot of words to remember. And telling a good story could earn them a free meal or a place to rest their weary heads. No pressure or anything.
But then something magical happened. People learned to write. And learning to write meant they didn’t have to remember their stories anymore.
Then something even more magical happened … We had a machine that made copies of the things that were written down! Now everyone could remember everything we wrote. (First the printing press, and then … well, Xerox.)
And then the greatest magic of them all. The computer … and the Internet. Ooooh ahhhh. Now we don’t even need books or copies. As long as we have Google, I can learn anything.
(My extreme compression of human history would appall many a history major out there, I’m sure.)
Ever since mankind became literate, the nature of storytelling has been evolving. Because we simply don’t need it for the same purposes anymore. And entering the digital age has been no exception. We don’t even have the time or attention for stories anymore unless they’re told to us in 140 characters … or less (gotta leave room for the retweet, you know).
We all know that storytelling is still important. It’s just a lot different. No longer are stories shown or told to us. We choose what stories we want to be a part of, along with when, where, and how we experience them. No longer does a “story” simply mean sitting and listening to a crafted message. We can experience them across multiple touch points for immersion, interaction, and interpretation. No longer is there one source from which the story is handed down like Moses and the 10 Commandments (especially since less than half of people even trust advertising messages in traditional media, which a recent campaign for Rice Krispies Squares mocks with awesome vigor). We are all storytellers. We tell our own stories, we tell our friend’s stories, and we tell a brand’s stories every time we write a Facebook post, check-in on Foursquare, or post a picture to Instagram.
So in the age of the everyman storyteller, how does a brand get its story heard? Allow your consumers to become a part of your story. Give them an experience they will want to spread. Or collaborate with them to fully immerse them in your brand.
People love to brag. Especially when they find something super cool that none of their friends have heard about. People brag so much, there are people who blog about how much people brag (check out these stats about how much content is generated on Facebook alone). So naturally, give people something to brag about, something to discover … some kind of experience. I mean, a real experience. A cool experience. An immersive experience.
As far as collaborative storytelling goes, let consumers contribute to some part of your brand. People love being a part of something. It makes them feel important. And people will always come back to something that makes them feel better about themselves than they did before.
What all this means is that we, as marketers and advertisers, have to change the way we think about our brands’ stories when we start creating them. We have to meet our consumers where they are. Thanks to digital media, mobile technology, and a growing number of screens, that means meeting them basically everywhere with multi-platform experiences.
… And they all lived happily ever after.