Rob Banks' Caples Awards Diary: Day 3

banks1.jpgRob Banks, senior creative at DraftFCB, Auckland reports from the Caples Awards in New York, exclusively for CB.

My day begins like the previous two. Only there's no beer-stained carpet scrubbing to chew up valuable breakfasting time. Of course there's the obligatory near-death-experience-cab-ride (step aside, Jenson Button, here comes Youssef from Tehran, slip-streaming a black Lincoln down Broadway at seventy miles an hour in two-tonnes of beat-to-shit bright yellow Ford Crown Victoria, with one hand permanently attached to the horn button and the other cupping his cell phone to his ear).
Banks2.jpgThere's no judging today. But it is judgement day. In a change of format from previous years, the awards night happens just a day after judging finishes. But before the short walks, handshakes and frantic distribution of business cards, there's the Caples Courageous Creative Summit. A day of lectures and seminars to 'get our creative juices flowing', apparently. Sounds good.
 
After Patrick Collister from Directory magazine kicks things off with tales of client courage (Cadbury 'Gorilla', Land Rover Austria's wi-fi hijacking of a VW-dominated car show), there's a panel discussion around the shortlist for the Courageous Client category.
 
I'm expecting a list of real ball-tearers, but to be honest, I'm not sure some of the entries are actually that courageous. Personally I thought the German beer brand that served alcohol to rioters from an ex-Police van was a worthy contender, but it doesn't even get a look in.
 
The other thing that stands out, is that not one of the finalists is American. And we're at an American award show. How can this be?
 
One of the next speakers sheds some light on this. It's Torrance Boone, honorary Caples Judging Chair and MD of Agency Development at Google. The title of his preeezentation is 'Agile Creativity'. This should be interesting. And it is. Though not quite how I expected.
 
He gets things rolling by showing us some lovely content for Google+ Hangouts
 
And a vision of what-could-be for 'Project Glass' ('Google Specs' to you and I).
 
But then, like Youssef the cab driver, he hits the gas and things get funky.
 
He begins by making a very valid point. That technology is ahead of creativity, and that we haven't truly exploited the potential of what's on offer. Damn straight. Then the words on his next slide hint at his solution for this: 'Collaboration 2.0'.
 
Essentially, it's Google's vision for the way agencies now need to operate - (and collaborate with Google). In a nutshell, it's about working like a tech start-up - and applying Silicon Valley processes on Madison Avenue.
 
More specifically, it's about working a whole lot faster, de-siloing, spending less time getting things right - and just getting them out there for real time, real world feedback and fine-tuning. That, and eating a whole lot more pizza.
 
He uses terms like 'The minimum viable brief', which involves doing away with much of the current research and analytics that go into brief writing - and treating the brief as an entirely fluid document that can evolve in parallel with the idea. Basically, treat it as a cut-down springboard for ideas, with multiple thought starters (not SMPs) to get things rolling. Asap.
 
More Silicon Valley terminology pops up. There's 'Hackathon Mode', which involves more condensed, intensive, cross-disciplinary brainstorming sessions. Going from briefing, to concepting, to presentation - in four hours flat. It also means being 'less invested in the epic'; thinking smaller and faster, taking more risks - and getting more stuff out there more quickly.
 
What's noticeably absent of course, is any mention of that biggest barrier to agency agility: campaign testing, the main reason why it can take months if not years to get (good) work out in many countries, but especially the U.S. And quite possibly, one of the main contributors to the total absence of American work in the Caples Courageous Clients shortlist - as well as the overall dominance of work from other countries across all categories at Caples.
 
As Google's 'Collaboration 2.0' begins to sink in around the room, it's clear that this vision of agencyland is very different to current reality for a lot of people. But what's more interesting, is that it's Google - not somebody agency-side - telling us this. It's bold. And it perhaps says more about Google's place in the world today than it does ours.
 
After this, there's only one thing to do. Have a beer. And we do. The Creative Summit workshops blur into the awards evening. But instead of the traditional sit-down dinner and rampant table-hopping, it's more stand-around-drinking-and-chit-chatting as the Gold winners are announced on-stage. Again, I'm a little surprised. To be brutally honest, I'd describe some of the night's big winners as solid, safe and hard-working. But not 'Gold'. And oddly, some of the bravest, most engaging work goes home with little better than a bronze.
 
Maybe it's the proportion of Antipodeans in the room, but the beer soon runs out. Followed by the wine. And the bar-staff are free-pouring spirits in a clear attempt to lighten the load at the end of the evening. By 10.30 they've started packing up.
 
There's only one thing left to do. We head off into SoHo to after-party. I bet Youssef knows where the action is...

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