The New Next: Betting on the Muse

NewNext Chris YakobEvery spring, communications professionals from all over the world trek to the high desert above Sante Fe and gather in dark rooms where, after seemingly endless deliberation, it is decided which creative from the previous year is worthy of recognition. Meet the jury for the Clio Awards.

This year I was honored with a seat on the jury for the Content & Contact category. An anomalous category in a creative awards show (appropriately chaired by Anomaly partner Johnny Vulkan), it recognizes "excellence in creative communications through the effective marriage of content creativity and contact innovation," but has become the category for ideas that don't really fit anywhere else. As communications evolves, things that don't fit in elsewhere give hints at how the industry is developing.

Mutations are, after all, the key to evolution.

As our chairman pointed out, the role of these awards is twofold: to recognize great work and inspire agencies, and to reward progressive ideas. Named after the Greek muse Clio, it is only natural that inspiration is an integral part of the awards.

After watching 160 video case studies (the vast majority of which were on actual, physical beta cassette tapes), we asked: What's new? What's next?

We all agreed that a few strands have emerged, especially when it comes to advertising that people actually buy. Building on last year's winner - the Burger King Xbox games that sold for $3.99 each - a few brands have developed ideas with enough perceived value that consumers have paid for the marketing itself, either as content DVDs or as desirable branded merchandise.

"User-involved content" (a phrase coined by Vulkan) has shown how real people can be involved in communication without actually making ads: either as stars in the ads themselves (reality advertising) or as participants in cross-media experiences and games.

Certain regions, such as Japan and South America, were disproportionately represented, suggesting that's where the new ideas are coming from. And even though every Japanese entry, and a few others, seemed to mention the Shibuya district of Tokyo (the coolest place on Earth, it would seem), many also showed a level of ambition in developing brand content that competes with the world's top entertainment properties.

Honest value attracts attention: People like free stuff, and using advertising budgets to create products that are useful and fun and function as advertising just makes sense.

Many of the most powerful ideas incorporate socially responsible elements. Doing good is definitely a winner with the jury and with consumers.

By the time this story is published, the winners will have been announced, and you'll see firsthand the ideas I've been talking about.

One thing is certain: Next year, beta tapes will definitely be replaced by the new next for award shows: digital uploads.

Written by Faris Yakob of Naked Communications, and curated by Paul Woolmington, partner, Naked. (,

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