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Marcomm market signals at the Big Idea Conference

What is Big Idea Conference about?

The Big Idea Conference aims to bring the most innovative voices in Advertising and Marketing from around the world to present insights and success stories about the industry’s most important product: the creative idea.

Source: Big Idea Conference Facebook

What motivated you to join?

Our industry has been evolving at a fairly fast pace for some years now. And this process impacts everything from our workflow, to our agency structure, to where we work. I was intrigued to see how creative people view the concept of the Big Idea in 2023. What’s changed (if anything), what’s new.

What’s the general line you’ve noticed from Big Idea Conference speakers?

The discussion topics were diverse, but I noticed two trends. First, there was a lot of talk along the lines of ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’. No matter how much the industry evolves, it is very important that a creative idea comes out of a process that manifests critical thinking, a thorough exploration of consumer needs and motivations and, last but not least, serves the purpose of brand building. And these are, in essence, healthy idea generation principles, which I have personally assimilated since I started working in Advertising 18 years ago (how time goes by). They should remain just as relevant in the age of TikTok.

Then there was talk about courage, about supporting the idea you believe in to the hilt and enthusiastically convincing the customer that it has value. Yes, it sounds like the eternal industry cliché, but you’ll see below why I think at least one of the perspectives at the conference rendered this trend as authentic as possible for where we are as an industry.

Are there any discussions that you guessed before the conference? Did anything surprise you?

Yes and no. Obviously, I had seen the program and speakers beforehand, so I kind of got an idea beforehand about the speeches of the agency people in the line-up. Let’s just say I had about 90% hunch of what they presented and debated (we seem to be in a field with predictable perspectives & opinions 😊).

But we also had some… pleasant surprises, I’d say. Two presentations in particular surprised me. The one by Traian Năstase, Managing Partner iSense Solutions, was extremely valuable because he gave an inside look on how online profiling works for potential consumers targeted by campaigns, presenting through two specific case studies the digital journey from interest activation through ads to purchase. The study presented was made especially for the Big Idea Conference and presents, in my opinion, a fresh perspective on something we as marketers should do more often: look more frequently “in the consumer’s backyard” to discover how they actually react to our campaigns.

At least as valuable was the presentation of Andrea Lupu, Strategy & Innovation Director Starcom. It was called (somewhat generically) “You Can’t Make It Big Without an Idea” and started with a very fair x-ray of the local Advertising industry, honestly pointing out the symptoms we suffer from. From “let’s get some tech in there, it takes the eyeballs”, to “if everything else fails, let’s do something with influencers, just anything”. And clichés. I’ll point out a few of them, which I think I’ve been seeing a lot of lately: on FMCG food you see lots of people gathered together for a meal or a picnic, beauty shots, necessarily product enjoyment; beer ads mean going out to various (but not very, invariably 3-4: terrace, nature, the table in the yard or in front of the block) places with super-friends, usually men as they should™; Fashion Retail is increasingly going for popular buzzwords: diversity, body positivity, inclusivity.

Sort of anti-Big Ideas, then. The good news is that this reality check was only the first part of the presentation. Andreea continued with a sum-up of the stage we are in as we speak, let’s call it post-advertising: people no longer want advertising and are carefully curating all interactions with brands. And their selection criteria no longer come from fascination with one brand or another, or how cool an ad is. Rather, they come from personal experiences and preferences, and individual nostalgia plays an important role in the decisions they make. This leads to the emergence of numerous niche personas, micro-segments with many distinct, fragmented interests, and consumption habits that are no longer defined by traditional psycho-demographic segments – age, gender, background, income, family status and so on. She concludes that exploring these niche personas in detail is the recipe for success for Big Ideas in 2023.

Who was your favorite speaker and why? What was his main idea, the narrative?

I don’t really like to play favorites, but ok 😊

I found the most insightful and entertaining by far the presentation by Raul Gheba and Alex Coteț. First of all, because it was structured as a stand up comedy act and honestly made me laugh (a lot!). Then the content: dryly called “Nobody likes you!”, it was a savoury presentation about how we sometimes self-censor out of fear that there is swirling public opposition to the idea of bold and creative advertising. In other words, the two looked at the tendency (quite prevalent in local advertising) to ideicide, to nip a good idea in the bud for fear that the target audience will hate it, criticize it or (the ultimate crime) not understand it.

And they’ve demonstrated with a few examples from their own portfolio that, when intuition told them not to fear consumer reaction, some very good Big Ideas came out.

Of which I leave the following executions for the latest Pago campaign, for your viewing pleasure:

Source: YouTube Pago

Source: YouTube Pago

Source: YouTube Pago

The 3 commercials, say the authors, broke a few “rules”:
  1. Don’t offend the potential customer;
  2. Don’t go out of comfortable executions;
  3. Don’t make commercials longer than 30 seconds (with tape).

I laughed, like I said. Of course, it’s also clear to me that I did because they’re executions with a very specific kind of humor that I mega-agree with. But also because they demonstrate a certain kind of bravery, welcome in the context of 2023.

What is the state of the marcomm industry at the moment?

As for Big Ideas, we could be better off – that’s pretty much the general conclusion the conference gave me. We are still in a period dominated by safety, somewhat naturally given the sensitive economic (and geo-political) context. Realistically speaking, the marcomm industry lives in a tension of unpredictability of communication budgets. Strictly from an agency perspective, expectations for briefs that call for “more creativity” are very low, for the same reasons listed above.

Going through the personal filter of what I saw at the conference, I am optimistic. The speakers confirmed for me what I already intuited – that audiences are increasingly avoiding “traditional” advertising and curating the type of content they consume, fueled by experiences and their own nostalgia. But this is good news, because here we can track and capitalize more effectively on their interests and expectations and create custom content for them, not ads. Last but not least, perhaps most importantly, it takes more courage and less self-censorship when you’re sure you’ve generated a Big Idea.

Who Dares Wins.