R/GA's Nick Law On What Works And What Doesn't In Digital Advertising

nick law r/gaNick Law OF R/GA.

Photo: R/GA

Nick Law, R/GA’s North America evp/chief creative officer, has just been named the first-ever judging chair of IAB International’s Mixx Awards, which recognises the best of the best in digital advertising.Before he wades through hoards of submissions combining creativity and digital results, Law told us what works and what doesn’t in what he describes as an “ever-expanding media landscape.”

The first question you MUST ask yourself:

Law told us that in order to make an effective online or mobile campaign, an agency first must ask themself one very important question: “Why would anyone give a fuck?”

In other words, why would anyone care to interact with, say, banner ads, “which by nature are periphery images?” While this primary consideration should be a given, Law told us that advertisers are grappling with making things relevant.

“In TV, marketers weren’t faced with this question,” Law said. “The answer was: They will watch the ad because they want to watch football.”

Steer clear of kitsch:

One of Law’s pet peeves are gimmicky ads that are only there for the sake of creating “award fodder.”

For example, Law sarcastically recalled a “cute little trend in banner advertising that demands the user to turn their video camera on”—an unnecessary inconvenience. Users were then rewarded by seeing an image of themselves in a certain setting, with a mustache, etc, etc. “It was a technical fetish that people have to get out of their system,” Law said.

So, what works?

“Stuff that will help you get stuff done; stuff that will help users connect more with their friends,” Law said.

Rather than focusing on what users think of a brand, brands should create platforms that users want to share with their friends. “I don’t want to be friends of a brand,” Law explained. “I want to be friends with my friends.”

Law used digital stunts that revolved around sporting events—giving Facebook users profile picture backgrounds related to their favourite teams, creating apps around March Madness—as an example of what can work.

“There’s a social currency there,” Law said. “It becomes viral because people care.”

Don’t forget to coordinate:

Since there are so many new advertising mediums—from print to television to Facebook to Pinterest to mobile … you get the idea—it’s become a challenge to coordinate a singular message or brand mission.

“It’s difficult now to find one agency that can handle all of this,” Law said. “So how do you curate multiple agencies and stakeholders and have a singular thought.”

It’s a new world:

Law was on last year’s IAB Mixx Awards jury and found that “the things that rose to the top was work that didn’t even look like advertising.”

In fact, Law thinks “we aren’t totally in the advertising industry anymore—we call ourselves that by proxy since we don’t have a better word for it.”

It’s hard to predict where digital advertising will go since devices are being used in ways that advertisers would have never predicted five years ago (or even one year ago).

“In the beginning of smartphone emergence, people thought they’d never watch a full TV narrative on a screen that small,” Law said. “And they do. On planes people watch whole series on them.”

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