Watching their kids grow up with the Web and new technologies gives these marketing experts insights into where the industry's going
"Out of the mouths of babes oft times come gems." That saying goes back a few thousand years, but it still rings true today. Since we're all about online advertising, it got us thinking---what are marketing experts learning from their children about the industry's future?
We asked some top marketers at agencies across the country and collected these pearls of wisdom. Turns out Bill Cosby was right---kids say the darndest things.
John Coleman, CEO, The VIA Agency:
I've gotten endless ideas, validation, and damnation from each of my kids. My oldest daughter keeps me plugged in with texts that notify me of the coolest videos, products, blogs, music, and everything brands need to be aware of to stay current. When my middle child permanently signed off Facebook a few years ago, she helped me understand that the platform was too "public" for her to build real relationships---and therefore too superficial an environment for building a brand. And as my son kicked my ass on "Halo 3 Live," I realized that the future of entertainment would be participatory.
The most valuable lessons come from understanding that different styles of communication are possible across different social and digital media. How our children use texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even the good old phone is very specific, and brands need to understand how each can and should be used.
Steve Coulson, Senior Creative Director, Campfire:
Watching my kids grow up with technology makes me realize the pervasiveness of "on-demand" culture. DVRs, Netflix, and YouTube mean they no longer recognize TV as a broadcast medium with a fixed schedule. Wikipedia and Google render library hours and "books being out" as archaic. iDevices have become the second-screen experience for real life.
For marketers, it means we've said goodbye to captive audiences, where future generations sit down, shut up, and pay attention to a single flat screen streaming an uninterruptible message. We've now got to earn their interest with interactivity, immersive entertainment, utility, and social connection. We're no longer working in service of the brand---we're working in service of the audiences, who are now the ones in control.
Ned Russell, Managing Director, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness:
We need to understand that digital, gaming, and mobile devices are not inanimate objects to kids---they are extensions of their own being. They believe the iPad or "Madden NFL 13" is part of them. Brands have the opportunity to develop a totally new currency with these consumers. The brand becomes part of how our kids navigate their world, and in so doing, the transparency, consistency, and trust of the brand becomes more important than ever.
Ruth Bernstein, Chief Strategic Officer, YARD:
The first brand my son recognized was Apple---at the age of 1. He recognized the icon as a symbol for entertainment, not technology. With Apple's brilliant, childlike simplicity, it has secured a generation of brand loyalists even before these kids can speak. My son's first screen was an iPad, so he finds TVs a little dull. You can't touch or interact with them. You can't go deeper into a story to uncover more layers, or manipulate and change the outcome. Clearly, the implications for advertising are profound. This is a generation that expects more than just being able to participate in a brand's communication---they expect to be the co-writer.
Carlo Cavallone, Executive Creative Director, 72andSunny Amsterdam:
My seven-year-old daughter is great at finding TV episodes online—she manages to stream almost anything from the most obscure P2P sites. Kids today are accustomed to instant gratification and resolute in their belief that "if it exists, you can find a way to watch it within five minutes or less." I wouldn't be surprised to see a trend that challenges this generation to find content by hiding it or restricting access. Everything is so easy and they are so used to having endless entertainment at their fingertips, that it could be a really interesting way to engage young people and get their attention in the future.
Marshall Grupp, Sound Designer, Partner, COO, Sound Lounge:
You know technology has taken over when my 16-year-old son calls my wife, who is in the next room, to ask her to make him a milkshake. And the funny thing is, she's so used to communicating with him by text that she actually enjoys a real conversation. Our nine-year old, who doesn't have a cell phone and is just beginning to email, does something equally absurd. While sitting next to me, she'll send me an email and then ask, "Did you get my email? Please answer." So I immediately read the new email and readily respond. Don't you just love all of the new communication opportunities technology affords?
James Green, CEO, Magnetic:
Here are some events from my children's lives that illustrate the future of marketing:
- We moved into a new place and chose not to sign up for cable. Neither my 12-year-old daughter nor my 9-year-old son seems to care. Instead, we have a big fat Internet connection, and they buy what they want from Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and others.
- Neither of my kids "own" music. My daughter, the family's music aficionado, loves to use Spotify.
- My son is more interested in watching videos about games than watching TV shows. This year, he requested a video-game birthday party.
These trends make me believe in a data-driven audience, and that distribution and consumption have fractured into niches. No matter what my kids are consuming, you want to know what they want to buy.
David Lai, CEO and Creative Director, Hello Design:
My three young kids already know how to ask for my iPhone and can swipe as easily as they can throw a ball. My youngest just turned 2, and he already knows how to say "iPad." My 3-1/2-year-old is addicted to YouTube and can't stop watching cooking videos. She has figured out how to "favorite" videos and fearlessly presses buttons without knowing what they do.
The best interfaces are transparent and intuitive, and my kids remind me to strive for that every day at Hello. Intuitiveness translates into simplicity. It also means that discovery should be encouraged in an interface. Users should never find themselves at a dead end or penalized for pressing the wrong button. As designers, we're constantly thinking about how to lower the learning curve. We just designed an app for kids and adults, but I couldn't tell if it really worked until I put it into my kids' hands.
Evan Ferrari, Strategic Planning Director, Saatchi & Saatchi LA:
My daughter, Sofia, is only a year-and-a-half old, but she expects every screen to bring her "Yo Gabba Gabba" at a moment's notice. Our smart TV can screen it on Netflix, there's a "Yo Gabba Gabba" music app on the iPad, and to avoid a "Sofie-meltdown" in a restaurant, I'll search for clips on my iPhone. So I wasn't surprised when one day she handed me our land-line phone and said, "Guh Gabba."
When I travel for work, Sofia loves having video chats with me. We have peek-a-boo sessions every day that I'm not home, where I move my thumb back and forth over my laptop's camera and yell "peek-a-boo!" After about 15 minutes of belly laughs, she's off to play on her own, but I think that virtual interaction makes me being gone a little easier on her. At least, that's what I tell myself.