The New 5% Solution: Tech Projects Vs. Media Campaigns

CANNES, FRANCE -- A team from Publicis and word-of-mouth marketing shop Contagious Communications made a case during a presentation at the Media Lions festival here this morning for a new 5% solution for the advertising industry -- one earmarking budgets for new ideas and technologies not otherwise classified.

The 5% concept is an allusion to a milestone reference developed by American agencies Ted Bates (now part of Publicis' Saatchi division) that advertisers and agencies should set aside that minimum percentage of their budget to invest in then-emerging medium cable television. But instead of media, they said, the earmark should go toward incubating new media ideas, especially ones with emerging technology developers.

"You've got brands as a benefactor and technology partner," said Paul Kemp-Robertson, editorial director and co-founder of Contagious, adding, "This is moving away from the traditional media plan."

Among the examples the team showed was an ingenious campaign created by Saatchi's Buenos Aires office for regional beer brand Andes. It developed a new remote-controlled robotic technology that enabled beer-drinking buddies to sit alongside a virtual version of a friend who was stuck back home with his girlfriend.



The campaign, dubbed the "Friend Recovery Program," was a tongue-in-cheek play that leveraged real state-of-the-art technology: a robot hanging out in local bars that could remotely render the real-time facial image and voice of a distant, beer-deprived friend.

Kemp-Robertson said the project took six-months to develop; it actually surpassed the 5% rule, taking up 60% of the brand's production budget for the duration of the campaign. But the results were huge in terms of interaction, social buzz and media coverage.

Not all of the campaigns cited by the presenters involved high-tech solutions, but all required imaginative approaches that deviated from traditional media budgets.

Kemp-Robertson said it required a "skunkworks" mentality vs. a typical strategic planning orientation.

Jess Greenwood, director and Contagious insider, cited Lady Gaga's use of Farmville to launch her "Born This Way" album. As part of the promotional strategy, she sold "tracks" on Farmville. "It was a 5% initiative," Greenwood said, adding, "She just threw it out there."

To some extent, the campaigns the team presented were just great uses of PR and buzz-marketing strategies, but the best examples leveraged some underlying technology or idea of accelerate them.

Noting that Old Spice's work has been dominating the buzz at Cannes all week, Kemp-Robertson said the Skittles brand has actually been doing some incredibly viral, buzz-worthy work, including a campaign that enabled online users to control the dumping of Skittles on the head of a performance artist sitting in a cube. When the cube was full, the Skittle campaign revealed images of "naked Skittles" for users: an image of stark white Skittles with black censor-like strips covering where their genital areas presumably would be.

Kemp-Robertson said the campaign was extremely successful, and that Contagious had even come up with a new "currency metric" to measure it: "It's called a shitload," he said.

Publicis Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Olivier Altmann showed another imaginative use of remote-controlled Web interaction for a regional orange juice brand that enabled online users to squeeze some fresh oranges to make juice by smiling into their Webcams. The brand's slogan is "Open With a Smile."

The campaign generated 20,000 "unique smiles" that remotely squeezed 45,000 oranges producing 5,000 liters of juice that was given to nonprofit organizations.

"Frankly, this could have failed," Altmann said, adding, "Who wants to squeeze oranges on the Web? But because it was fun, it worked."

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