Five Rules for Creating Tech-Savvy Work

The Execution Doesn't Have to Be a First -- But It Had Better Be Relevant and Useful

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Sherwin Williams Google Glass App
Sherwin Williams Google Glass App

A Birds Eye pop-up restaurant where you pay for your meal by taking a photo of the food with Instagram. Vibrating underwear from Durex that's triggered by an iPhone. Uniqlo's Magic Mirror, which allows customers to change the color of the garment they're trying on without actually changing clothes. An app that lets users find a Sherwin-Williams color they like based on a photo they snap in the real world by combining Google Glass' camera with Sherwin-Williams color-recognition technology. These are all ideas that just a few years ago would not have become reality. But advertising strategies are quickly being reshaped by technology, and marketers and their agencies are constantly rolling out new ideas—creating everything from the low-tech Vine videos or Snapchat interactive billboards to complicated wearable technology. Now with every marketer and agency experimenting with new media and means to bring their produce experience alive in the real world, there will be lot of hits like the ones above—and plenty of misses. Here are some simple guidelines to help create relevant, creative and fresh marketing ideas using technology.

Not being first is the worst?

Just because a technology is new doesn't mean marketers need to be the pioneer. Lowe's may not have been the first to use Vine as a marketing tool, but it still won because it created useful videos demonstrating home-improvement and organization tips. "Everyone wants to be the first—there's always this desire to play with the shiny new toy," said Angel Anderson, VP-experience director at MDC's CP&B and creator of NailSnaps, a startup that creates instant nail stickers from Instagram photos. "When Vine hit, everybody wondered who would be the first. Sometimes you'll hear, 'Well, someone already used that channel so let's not use it.' But just because someone got there first doesn't mean you can't do it better. It's important to really just think about what it is you're trying to do. Ask yourself if your audience is using that channel, and if they are, then use it if you have a good idea. Don't be held back by who was there first."

Usefulness is Key

Never forget utility. Resist tech-forward campaigns just for the sake of doing so if it has no brand relevance. "Apps can still be useful," said Sam Cannon, exec creative director at Razorfish, who cautions marketers not to view all apps as antiquated. "You can still build useful apps and services and have them be brand-relevant, but it requires more thinking to have lasting utility." Mr. Cannon pointed to a tool called Social Wipes, created by VML and Ajax, which easily allows users to clean up their social networks. By signing in with a Facebook or Twitter account, it aggregates the user's likes in one place, making it easy to eject undesirables.

What's Old is New

Outdoor advertising has seen a resurgence of innovation thanks to recent technologies. Audi, with help from Razorfish, opened car-free digital showrooms overseas as the company moves into smaller, more expensive city centers.

Duracell and Cosette in March created a branded bus shelter in Montreal that heats up when everyone holds hands.

DDB Stockholm created a giant Pong-like game for McDonald's on a billboard where passersby use their mobile phones as controllers for a digital paddle game, no app download required.

And British Airways created digital billboards in England that featured little kids that get up and point at real British Airways planes as they fly by in the sky overhead. The billboards feature the flight number, and where it's coming from, or going to—a way to market all the destinations the airline flies to.

Involve Tech from the Beginning

It may seem so simple, but it bears repeating: For both agencies and marketers, having tech people—whether it's user-experience specialists or programmers—involved on a project from the first meeting is crucial, said Jeff Brecker, VP-managing director at R/GA. "If you don't have the tech team that will take this product to market in at the beginning, you'll end up wasting time and money," he said, noting that tech specialists often know the intricacies of intellectual property hurdles. "If you have the tech people involved, you can develop better ideas and know when you're stepping onto a landmine."

Ahead of the Curve

So what's the next hot thing in marketing and tech? It's anybody's guess, but some observers say that smart-home technology is on the verge, with companies like Nest, a home-automation company bought by Google, making big moves. "In the short term, smart homes might not offer up a new channel for marketers, but in the long term very well could," said Ms. Anderson. "When things are automated in the home, it'll open up space to offer new messages on those platforms. There's a lot of glitz and glamour on wearables right now, but smart-home technology is a really exciting place."

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