The customer is always first

Two years ago marketeers were all talking about disruptive ideas and emotive storytelling. Last year was all about customer / brand co-creation. Now, if you’re lucky, it’s a struggle to keep up with all the content your audience is creating for you. And with some UGC outperforming branded content, is it time we just sat back and let them get on with it?

We all look forward to the Christmas ads. Mainly for the internet backlash when one brand inevitably goes overboard on the schmaltz train. 2015 probably hit peak emote when EDEKA literally poked us in the eye with the corpse of a lonely grandfather. Last year, the cuteness prize arguably went not to a brand but to the 17-year-old maker of that spoof John Lewis ad.

Putting aside the thought that if a student can make a believable alternative to a £1m Christmas campaign in one month then the days of big budget content could be numbered, I’m left wondering if audiences are starting to crave emotion right when brands are cutting sugar out of their strategy? After all, even John Lewis itself decided to go all quirky trampolining dog that year. Because that’s what the internet wants, right?

Clients often think they need to engage Gen Z with bitesize irreverent content in sharable shapes. Being so blatantly ‘disrupted’ as if you’re a vacant click-junky only concerned with trading social currency must get annoying. Perhaps the response of the marketed has been to become the marketeer.

Recently, a film student created an unsolicited weepie for adidas. Which the brand ignored before it went on to clock up 13 million views - almost half as many as the official ad. Whether this old-fashioned emotive ad was targeting the right audience, in line with the overarching strategy or likely to cause a spike in Gazelle sales is another matter.

What matters is that while Gen Y created scam ads for awards. Gen Z seem to be winning the popular vote. And since nobody ever goes outdoors anymore, this next generation are even faking billboards from the brutally simple school of advertising.

The point with these UG ads is that there is a point, a non-frivolous semblance of a creative concept and a meaningful message. Right or wrong, they’re not twerking ponies.

These kids are more emotionally and politically engaged than the cynical marketers who’ve belatedly decided to chuck out the schmaltz. And maybe they’re trying to tell them something: Stop bombarding us with interactive, idiotic content and expecting us to share it. Yes we’re creators. But it goes deeper than an emoji - 2017 is emotional!

A sign of their troubled times then? If (snow)flakey account execs and hardened Gen X creative directors are over the emotional advert, are we seeing a sobfest revival from a new champion? Are Gen Z audiences seeking human empathy in this brave new Brexiting, Trumpeting world and on finding none, creating their own?

Being small, our clients don’t always come to us with huge budgets. This means that over the years not only have we worked harder at the concept, knowing we can’t just throw money at the execution, we have built a reputation for our superstellar contacts.

The result is we’re constantly tapped into bright young things. From student fashion events to pet influencers to our signature blend of specialists, whether in a production studio or their bedroom, assembled bespoke for each individual job.

The benefit to our clients is a rich, intelligent stream of diverse viewpoints and ideas, delivering targeted, stand-out solutions to real business problems.

So it’s encouraging to see that the young creators of both these pieces were snapped up by agencies. As long as they don’t just use them to update their social.