Killer apps: ads’ tech tipping point?

Strategy executive editor Mary Maddever on the app-ification of brands, and a new shopper-focused award show.

Our Next Big Thing and B!G issue offers some serious food for thought.

Our B!G award winners prove that if you want the most creative office space ever, you go to Gold-winning Sid Lee, and that tapping an ad agency to help with recruitment can result in a global best practice coming out of Canada (congrats to Silver winner MacLaren McCann and MasterCard). And finally, if you’re a brand or a charitable organization looking for novel ways to get attention, you’d do well to work with Bronze-winning Cundari, as BMW did.

The B!G awards were designed to recognize the different challenges big brands were bringing to agencies and the creative solutions that went beyond advertising. Now, with priorities shifting even further afield from ads, a reputation for thinking outside the traditional ad box is growing in importance.

As digital and social media become bigger 24/7 priorities for brands, whoever becomes a go-to source for digital solutions is influencing more of the overall shots.

Marketers are turning to companies like Facebook and Google for new ideas and direction. They’re also looking to tech and digital innovation experts, and based on intel they’re getting back, many seem keen to grow the scope of those relationships.

At Cannes, agencies used to dominate the agenda. Now companies like Microsoft are stealing the spotlight as they unveil new tech, and there’s more CMOs sharing plans for new ways to reach consumers, often via content and technology.

Beyond high-profile offerings like Nike FuelBand, many brands are building niche communities of interest – thereby creating free media channels – via helpful or entertaining apps. Retail brands are also in the vanguard of trotting out new consumer-enabling tech, and across the board more marketers are becoming the architects of their own digital strategy, working directly with, and abetted by, these new partners.

Duncan Fulton, CMO at Forzani Group, is in the midst of teching up retail to a degree hitherto unseen in Canada, often going beyond traditional agency circles for ideas and to field his crew of experts. When asked where it’s all leading, Fulton says, “I would argue that most successful marketers in the next five years will be experts in digital, and will be their own general contractors.”

As to what this means for agencies, Ken Wong says in his Forum column that as roles are in flux, and new partners take on brand tasks on the many new interface fronts, it creates a need for more overall co-ordination and curation. A role that would be ideally helmed by agencies.
Shopper marketing is another area tech and digital are triggering new trends, and we’re seeing retail/brand partnerships rapidly evolving and expanding their range of activities. Since this brand focus shift is impacting overall plans and strategy, we’re launching strategy‘s Shopper Innovation Awards, to find and share the best innovation and collaboration in that space. The show is on March 5, and entries are due Nov. 5.

Our co-chairs, Loblaw’s Uwe Stueckman, Kraft’s Melissa Martin, and Tony Chapman of Capital C, along with an advisory panel of top industry execs, helped develop this new program. For more info, visit: