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Show 49 – Robotics; Branded Content; Latin America to Europe; Fearless Girl

In the first part of the final show we recorded at Cannes Lions, Russell Goldsmith spoke with Social Roboticist, Dr Heather Knight and DigitasLBi’s Chief Creative Officer International, Chris Clarke, who had presented together at the Festival’s Inspiration Stage alongside Heather’s comedian robot sidekick, Ginger, in a session entitled ‘Can Data Make You Funnier?’, which aimed to look at how data and technology can act as catalysts and enablers for creativity.

Chatting with Chris Clarke and Dr Heather Knight

Heather explained that the key theme of their presentation was that technology should be more than functional and Chris added that it was quite timely given we see so many headlines about the dangers of the Robot Future, with the idea that robots will replace humans.  Whilst it’s therefore understandable that many people get concerned that robots will put them out of a job, Heather said that this is referring to old fashioned robotics, which is simply about automation, whereas she is interested in more innovative use of technology where robots can work alongside people.

Chris said that the questions they were therefore asking was whether or not it is possible to code for kindness or generate empathy with a robot, which is what he believes Ginger demonstrates.  He feels that companies tend to prioritise efficiency in the use of technology, but he questioned whether this was the best goal.

As to why build a comedian robot, Heather said that she is trying to solve the complex problem of how you model people, which of course is not a single line of code!  She has therefore been looking at acting training and dance, because when you look at human performers, they have a lot of insight in how you craft characters and relationships over time.  She wanted an excuse to work with people who were in that format and wondered what could a robot do on stage by itself, and eventually decided on stand-up comedy because she thought that if technology could apologise sometimes, or make fun of itself, then we would be happier people.

Heather said humour is mostly about surprise so when she started, she thought it would be as simple as just teaching the robot a good joke.  But she soon realised that’s not quite true as a lot of comedy is about storytelling, the audience listens and is drawn in, so she had to ensure that the voice came from the robot.  It therefore makes sense for a robot to be telling jokes about its sensors or audience perception!

She started with a database of jokes that Ginger would randomly cue them and look for feedback, but as she’s learned more about the structure of comedy and storytelling, it’s become more planned, but with moments of serendipity.

Ginger The Robot

Heather said that once on stage, the comedian is the ringleader who puts the audience in their place – particularly to hecklers for example. She said when she spoke to comedians in her research, they said that the audience is not in charge.  Chris added that even some of the most famously spontaneous comedians like Eddie Izzard, if you see their show in five different cities, it’s the same show and even the responses to the hecklers are often the same.  This is why he thinks this area is relevant to brands as they know they have to form relationships with customers, which they do through CRM, but it comes across very ‘robotic’, in the pejorative sense – something Heather hopes will one day be a complement.  Chris therefore believes that brands can therefore learn from Ginger, as he said it is possible to have an automated programme that feels human, that is self-deprecating and charming, it is not just about pure efficiency and moves away from doing tasks for people and is more towards having a real relationship.

Part Two starts at 11:56

In the second part of the show, Russell spoke with Catherine Balsam Schwabar, Chief Content Officer at Mattel, on the topic of Branded Content, plus and all things Barbie!

with Mattel’s Catherine Balsam Schwabar

Catherine talked about how content is an expression of the brand in a different format and how brands are now looking at different ways to connect to consumers through the stories the brands have to tell.  She felt that Mattel were in a very fortunate position in that their brands are story driven and much of their narrative is around characters, which allows them to connect with both children and parents and a very content led environment, which works extremely well for them.

Catherine explained that Mattel has always led from a narrative driven standpoint and in fact were among the first companies to advertise to children on the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Disney. But they have been producing content for a long time, when you consider the likes Thomas the Tank Engine or the movies that have featured Barbie in the past.

In fact, Catherine said that the narrative around Barbie’s character continues to evolve.  Barbie now has two new TV series coming out:

‘Dreamtopia’, which is actually about Chelsea, her younger sister:

Launching later this year, ‘Barbie’s Dream House Adventures’, which will be about Barbie and her sisters and puppies and the adventures they have.

Mattel think of Barbie as a person – she is now YouTube vlogger with Twitter and Instagramaccounts, and in fact is very active on social media, plus she is now a fashion icon.

Whilst there has been some controversy recently around body image, Catherine said that within the Fashionistas line, Barbie has a celebration of diversity with different ethnicities and body shapes, which has been taken forward with Ken too, with the launch of a new selection of diverse dolls. She added that Mattel tries to think about diversity in all its products and that no matter who you are, you should be able to find yourself in the characters that Mattel is giving you to help you imagine what you can be in the future.   She said that this can be seen in BBDO’s ‘Imagine the possibilities’ campaign where the diverse dolls are seen front and centre in not only how the brand expresses itself to the consumer but also how the girls are expressing themselves back to the brand via social media.

Content is very effective for Mattel.  Catherine said that they recently teamed up with Hudson Media and ABC in the US to make a show call ‘The Toy Box’ where inventors bring their new toys to the show to be judged by kids.  She said it was very successful and the winning toy [ArtsplashTM], launched in May, sold out in many markets, and then appeared on eBay for four times the original price! A second season of The Toy Box is now in production.

They have a similar measurement around content they produce on YouTube for Thomas the Tank Engine and Hot Wheels, where they see a correlation between the connection their consumers have with that content and rising sales.

Catherine said that as long as the company is connecting authentically, on the right platform, reaching the right audience at the right time, it works for the business.  However, their biggest challenge is in keeping up with the rapidly changing relationship that consumers have with their screens.  Therefore, when thinking about narrative marketing, Mattel need to write for all different screens simultaneously and on a global scale.

Final Part starts at 20:49

In my final interview from Cannes, Russell spoke with Pablo Walker, President of McCann Worldgroup Europe where they talked about the culture differences he’d experienced since moving from Latin America to Europe, plus his thoughts on the 3 x Cannes Lions Grand Prix winning campaign, ‘Fearless Girl’.

Chatting with Pablo Walker , President of McCann Worldgroup

Pablo has been at McCann for about 25 years, with much of his career in Latin America but moved to Europe a few years ago.

In terms of cultural differences between the two markets, for Pablo, the obvious one in terms of the consumer is language, as in Latin American there are two main languages – Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese and as both are similar, he said that if you speak one, you can understand the other.  However, by contrast in Europe there are more than 30 languages. Therefore, he thinks that in Latin America, there is a lot of cultural activities, such as music, TV and literature that works everywhere in the same way, so there is a regional culture there, but in Europe it is country by country culture, and so he thinks that this makes it much harder to have regional level impact in Europe with the same kind of communications.

From a business perspective though, Pablo cited labour flexibility as a key difference, as he said that in many countries in Europe, it is very inflexible and so in today’s market, where you need to reshape your business very quickly because it may be changing in a very dynamic way, you need flexibility to adapt your structures and he thinks that, compared to Latin America where it is easier to do, he thinks it is very difficult to do this in Europe as it’s slow and very expensive, making it harder for companies to invest, meaning it’s not good for employees either and therefore he believes that this is a dangerous situation.

One thing that is the same across the markets, however, is that the clients are looking for the same everywhere – they all want to improve their top line and want ideas that have an impact in their market that can be measured, whether that market is developed or emerging.

From a creativity perspective though, Pablo said that both regions can learn a lot form each other.  He feels it is more comfortable in Europe, possibly due to the wealth of the region, but in Latin America, you may be able to develop ideas that are more difficult to be acquired in Europe, but then you can implement them more easily in Europe as it may be more difficult to do so in Latin America due to cost. Overall though, he feels that Multiculturalism is an asset in the industry and so believes we need people from different nationalities and gender as his business is one of ideas and those come from everbody.

It was great timing to be speaking with Pablo given McCann had picked up multiple awards at Cannes Lions for their Fearless Girl campaign, including 3 Grand Prix awards and naturally, Pablo was extremely proud and happy with the recognition it was getting.

Fearless Girl (image via Wikipedia)

Fearless Girl was created for McCann’s client, State Street Global Advisors, a New York investment firm, and involved the commissioning of a statue of girl of around 12 years old, that was placed directly opposite Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture.  The aim of the campaign was to promoting gender diversity, whilst raising awareness of State Street’s ‘SHE’ fund, which invests in businesses with female executives, among financial communities and was launched to tie in with International Women’s Day, which took place in March.  Pablo said that whilst the initial idea was to place the statue in Wall Street for just one week, due to it being so popular, the aim now was to now keep it there for at least one year.

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the series are available on the Soundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

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