Is innovation one of the key ingredients to create a successful campaign according to DotControl's creative team? Gavin: 'Innovation is not a must. When a campaign asks for innovation to bring it to market, you should definitely incorporate it. If not, it has no point. A good example is the campaign 'Run Like a Refugee' (Where Gavin worked on) where innovation was needed for people to be able to not just understand, but also feel the story. You walk on a treadmill, with VR-glasses on, right into the world of a refugee. The treadmill and VR-glasses work together to let you experience how difficult it is, to escape the situation refugees often find themselves in. That's how we struck the right chord with this campaign.
Marcel: 'Innovation in a campaign is usually not a goal on its own, but can definitely contribute a great deal in the story you are trying to convey.'
Radha: 'technological innovation, like VR, is largely still just for a happy few. With most campaigns, your goal is to reach a lot of people, so you don't fully commit to this kind of innovation. Often, it's the video of the experience that has a bigger reach. While the actual experience is done by maybe a few hundred, three hundred or maybe three thousand people. But what is innovation? That's such a big concept, it's really just about good ideas.
Marcel: ' the consumer, so, your target audience, is the biggest pillar in creating great ideas. Those great ideas should be co-created with the target audience. To not just push a product into the market but create a pull effect. You have to make sure that people want to have the product, want to interact with it or donate to it. It's all about that long term relationship people get with brands. The most important tools to help you with that are; your own eyes and ears. To be open to others and not just take a seat on the arrogant advertisers' chair and tell brands that you have the best ideas. You have to listen and really engage in the conversation. To do so you can use a lot of digital tools, every month new ones pop up, but it's not necessarily about the tools yet more about the mindset. As long as you are open to a new world, you are speaking the same language.’
A creative duo’s working habits
How does that really work, being one half of a creative duo? Gavin: ' We complement each other well. What we often do when we get a briefing, is that we have a good conversation and dive right in. We investigate what's going on, in and around the brief, before we run off with an idea. That's how we figure out what the real problem is and let that sink in for a while. That's when we start again and strip everything down to the core.
Radha: 'We always challenge everything that's in the brief. A good idea always starts off with a good problem. Often a lot of work has to be done before you can even get to that problem. Like talking about it even more. We really challenge each other to get to the root of the problem, not just to make assumptions. Sometimes with the help of digital data or cultural data. Or simply follow your eyes at a bus stop, a party, on a holiday or in the supermarket. It's all about noticing the little things. We are also consumers, never lose sight of the ordinary consumer, I sometimes remind myself of.'
Gavin: 'As a creative, you are almost like a detective. You keep looking for the details that others might never notice’.
Radha: 'At the start of the process we often work separately. The moment we start sharing our findings it makes perfect sense to both have different insights, and sometimes it's better to simply disagree. We're in a business where you should be able to convince anybody of a good idea. Why it's smart to do certain things, why you would notice something and why an idea is different or evokes something relevant for a brand. To disagree with each other also makes you stop and think ' are we on to something here, or not?'
From briefing to idea
The best part of the creative process? Radha: ‘It is a satisfying feeling when you move from possible concepts to concrete ideas. Only then you realize if it’s a funny idea that makes you laugh or maybe something super profound or special.
I’m talking about the moment where you connect the dots. To focus or zoom into the mundane is also fascinating. Grab it by its head and don’t look back. Often it is habits people have or ways they look, or the real perception they have.
Gavin: ‘many stages can pop your mind, but the moment you share an idea with your team is what it’s about. When everybody starts brainstorming on top of this idea, you feel the ‘magic’ it releases. A collective state of ‘let’s make this shit happen!’ A very fulfilling experience.
The new creative team, originally from Amsterdam, joins Rotterdam agency DotControl to empower its ambition. Gavin: ‘In the agency world you’re two steps ahead when you have all the powers in-house.’ Dot has managed to do this. We can actually make things in-house instead of bringing in a production agency from outside.
Dot also features a nicely equipped data centre. For me personally, that’s a big plus, because I always learned to rely on my own powers without the help from others. My opinion is that some traditional agencies still lack this in-house power.
Marcel: ‘In this day and age that’s a prerequisite. Brands have become more democratic. You can’t direct what people say and feel about your brand. It’s all in their hands, so that means your ways of communicating fundamentally has to change. You can’t force an idea on your audience anymore.
An idea has to be fueled by your audience itself or the data you have collected. To stay connected with them, you have to come up with lots of small ideas. Not only big campaigns, rather non-stop contact will instill a deeper relationship which ultimately defines a brand’s success.
DotControl brings growth via digital transformation, through co-creating with its clients. They work for National Geographic, Eredivisie, Talpa en De Persgroep.
A data-driven creative agency with offices in Rotterdam, Heerlen, and Willemstad (Curaçao). Currently with more than forty vacancies.
Radha: ‘DotControl works for many interesting clients, some I haven’t worked with before. Their all-in-house approach brings a very solid base for exciting and relevant work.
Marcel: ‘We are not concerned with the sexiness of the clients we work for or their products. What moves us, is their mindset. Companies that are open to the new world, because that is what matters most to us. For instance, at the first briefing or launch of a product, we question the product market fit. Does it fulfil a real user need?
If not, we will talk about it and suggest adjustments to, or a completely new product. Something you have to embrace as a client. Because we want to work with brands who challenge their own thinking and their competitors’.
We believe those brands have the ambition to be successful in an extremely demanding age. It sounds like an exciting time for DotControl. Are there any brands on your ‘wishlist’?
Marcel: yes there is. If we can partner with an underdog food brand, a product of the new world, that would be nice.