The dog days of summer here in agency-land give us a slight-bit of time to discuss stuff. And nothing creates more fodder for discussion that the results from the Cannes International Advertising Festival.
Last month two big winners at Cannes 2012 were Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” sustainable farming anthem (Grand Prix in Film and Brand Content categories) and Nike’s Fuel Band effort via the brand and it’s digital partner, R/GA. Both great examples of using technology and new platforms to create symbolic and emotional experiences for their audiences.
Conversations have erupted and questions are being asked of each other on how big advertising agencies can develop this type of work on behalf of clients.
And being in a planning department inside a big agency, the one comment I hear the most around this discussion is: “I would love to see how that was briefed in to the team…”
The truth of the matter, is that Nike’s Fuel Band project was not the product of an amazing integrated marketing brief.
It was the result of a long standing partnership.
R/GA has been the digital agency of record for Nike for a very long time. Other digitally focused agencies have had projects here and there and create great work and platforms across Nike’s regions. But R/GA is the title holder. And the most leaned upon.
They have created the code-base for multi-region platforms for NikeRunning.com, NikeBasketball.com, NikeFootball.com, etc. They helped Nike’s .com unit build e-commerce platforms, content management platforms, you name it. R/GA has been the heavy lifter and a big reason why Nike has killed it in the digital space since the swap of the decade.
With the work they have done building infrastructure and developing digital brand systems R/GA has earned a seat at the table as a technology and business partner. Not just as an agency. So when Nike went looking to create an always-on experience for the brand that built on the success of Nike+, an obvious product partner on it was R/GA.
A project like Nike Fuel Band isn’t a result of an agency brief. Filled out by a brand manager and magically countered by a big idea via the agency. This is a product that takes R&D dollars, systems integration, manufacturing support, etc. that would be a major strategic initiative lead by Nike itself. And the digital agency was asked build out the ecosystem and technology, because that is what R/GA has done for Nike for a very long time and with a track record of success.
R/GA brought this thing to life through tis expertise and knowledge on how to get stuff done. But they did not dream this up with a copywriter and an art director brewing up an idea and pitching it to a client.
That’s not how platforms come to life.
So if you are an agency dreaming for a award-winning,category changing project like Nike+, Nike Fuel Band etc., start building the capability and capacity to be a strategic business partner. Know what moves the business. Understand how consumers are behaving and what their expectations are from you. And be able to build that out with your client, together.