What’s trending for creative women? Golden Stiletto entries squash stereotypes
When I sat down to look at the entries for the SheSays Golden Stiletto awards, I was a blank slate. I knew little about the awards themselves, who had been invited to participate, who had chosen to, or even what the criteria really were. So much of judging creative work is about taste, visceral responses, genuine ‘wow’ moments, and frankly, a lot of disappointment.
The truth of our industry remains – a lot of the work we actually produce, isn’t very good.
But that was not the case in looking through the entries for the Golden Stilettos. Much of the work was very good. And in case you’re looking at an award named for a sexy high-heeled shoe, created by an organization called SheSays, and thinking that the entries were a sea of pink-washed brands, you’re very, very wrong about that.
Broad subject matter and no gimmicky tech
The first thing you notice is the diversity of the entries’ subject matter. Nearly every major brand category is represented: automotive, sports, apparel, technology, skin care, energy, non-profit, liquor, and more.
In many ways, the entries were holding up a mirror to women’s interests – they are vast, and contain multitudes.
The second thing you notice is how the best entries use technology as a means to interaction, communication and participation. In an era of billion-strong social networks, this should come as no surprise. Too often, creative uses of technology are much more about the gimmick of the tech than about the purpose of using this technology for this brand. We’ve seen a lot of ‘augmented reality’ apps and Facebook contests in the last year or so, and we saw them in these entries as well. Still, these entries went beyond the gimmicks and created meaning for the brands they represented.
What do I mean by “meaning”? The jury is still out on the degree to which ‘digital’ helps companies build brands. The jury has been in, for years, however, on what the most successful marketing does: it makes a brand physically and mentally available to its customers and prospects. It ensures that a brand is recognizable, distinctive, and relevant to people wherever they encounter it. It gives people reasons to buy, but perhaps more miraculously – and more importantly for digital – it takes away reasons not to buy. This doesn’t have to mean dull, utilitarian advertising. (In fact, I’d say if the advertising is dull, it’s not very useful). Instead, what we see in these entries is some of the best – yes, female! – minds in our industry coming together to imbue brands with distinctiveness, emotional relevance, and meaningful utility.
And the technology involved is impressive. Instead of using augmented reality for celebrity versions of a Flat Stanley, our entrants instead put that technology to use for more involving and entertaining purposes, in one case developing an augmented reality app that reads the gestures of crowds of people, all working together to virtually test drive a Ford at an auto show. You can see the joy on people’s faces as they worked with a throng of strangers to ‘drive’ the car. This places augmented reality into the world of games and real-world interaction, something we so often forget about when designing digital experiences.
Data adds depth, connection
But the theme of the entries, for me, really was data. We hear so much about ‘big data’ and what it will means for ever more targeted communications, but there are other uses for data as well – uses that create opportunities for community, that provide information in useful and entertaining formats, that make things easier for customers and users to engage with your product or your service. Several entries, including one for Premier League Football (that’s soccer for the Americans), and another for Shell, rooted their implementation in dynamic data visualization.
So often we see a ‘data visualization’ project that is two-dimensional – often literally meant to be a poster or a slide in a presentation. But in many of the entries we saw for the Golden Stilettos, we saw data presented in immersive, exploratory ways. Connecting sports stats to correlate with images from a game, designing interactive digital and physical displays to allow users to explore a business and its technology in-depth – these are the ways our best digital creatives and producers are thinking about digital implementation. Digital is not solitary, it is not trivial, and it is not static — these entries hint at the richness of digital experiences, and pave the way for smarter campaigns and implementations.
Death of the microsite?
Underpinning this smart use of data, however, are two incredibly important trends in the way brands use technology. The first is increasing effort placed in understanding real user or customer needs. The ‘big idea’ still matters, but human truths and human behavior are essential to great digital design. As a strategist and researcher I was heartened to see case studies that included going out and talking to real people. We have to keep doing this important work – it’ll keep us from chasing gimmicks and fads, and ensure the relevance of the work we create.
The second is perhaps the most disruptive to how our business and our clients typically do business – the move away from campaign microsites, short-lived contests, quickly sun-setted Facebook apps, or sites and banners disconnected from ongoing brand communications. This is good for brands, good for customers, even good for agencies when we figure out how to effectively manage these brand platforms (and get paid appropriately for our work). The best ideas in this year’s entries moved toward these always-on platforms, or flat out created them. They put data to good use, designed beautiful and useful experiences, and built in back-end systems and technologies that will enable these platforms to scale and sustain.
Don’t get me wrong – there were, among these impressive and promising entries, a healthy dose of contests, ‘viral’ videos, and cursory uses of flat codes and AR. But after looking through these entries, I felt hopeful that the tide is turning for our industry, that we are finally ‘figuring out digital’, and that this will benefit our clients, their customers, and our work. The future is here, William Gibson famously wrote. It’s just not widely distributed. These women are turbo-charging the supply chain.
Editor’s note: Farrah Bostic is the founder of digital innovation consultancy The Difference Engine and a judge of this year’s SheSays Golden Stiletto Awards, honoring women in the creative and marketing industry — which Getty Images is honored to support. She has been a strategist, planner, researcher and digital creative in her 15 years in the world of brands and communications, most recently as SVP, Group Planning Director at Digitas in New York. She has honed her expertise in digital strategy and design, with a special focus on mobile, as well as in customer acquisition and development, both as a consultant to established brands and a mentor to start-ups in the NY tech community. Originally from Oregon, she has been a New Yorker for 10 years, and now divides her time between Brooklyn and London. You can follow her on Twitter at @farrahbostic, and read her very occasional blog at http://prettylittlehead.com.
In NY or London? You’re invited!
The Golden Stilettos is the only creative award for women doing amazing things in digital advertising, recognizing the skills and abilities of those women who are true game-changers. And this year, the awards have gone global, with free (!) ceremonies in London and New York, Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m.
More information: http://stilettos2012.eventbrite.com