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Diversity: Your Surprise Button

By | News

Disruption. Reinvention. Transformation. Those are the buzz words that have shaped much of the editorial in the ad agency biz over the last few years. Rightfully so. A curious force that goes by the name Digital has been reshaping every facet of the trade for more than a decade. And continues to do so. But it was at a big trade conference hosted in the name of transformation (4A’s 2016) that another buzz word got a grip on the conversation: DIVERSITY. And it’s still buzzy months later.

The issue of diversity surfaced in the wake of too many Mad Men scenarios in too many upper management circles in too many geographies, typically expressed in gender inequality and sexual harassment, ethnic tensions and lookalike cultures (rather than lookalike audiences).

Let’s agree: it is ironic that an industry so shaped by culture, so reflective of culture, so immersed in culture, lags so far behind culture in erasing boundaries, shattering stereotypes and rising above exploitation.

Ali Merifield has wise words regarding diversity in her May 11, 2017, column in Campaign US:

“Diverse teams mean people coming together from different backgrounds, experiences, cultures and educational baselines.” – Ali Merifield

Notice she doesn’t even mention gender or ethnicity, which are the diversity hot buttons. Perhaps that’s by design. Ms. Merifield’s wisdom is in going beyond the headlines to get at the real values that make diversity worth seeking:

• celebrating individual perspective,

• stimulating remixes of culture and cultures,

• dissolving echo chambers,

• welcoming discomfort.

Of course, agencies can pursue diversity in staffing and even approach the mix of thinking it’s meant to deliver. But the aim of diversity will be scuttled if clients do not also accept or demand diverse thinking themselves. Clients have been known to train agencies to turn over strategies and ideas that fall into a comfort zone, in the name of branding. But even brands languish that seek stasis rather than dynamism. Clients, like their agencies, are subject to their own echo chambers, even as they often do lip service to seeking an expansive world of ideas.

To borrow from David Krakauer of Santa Fe Institute, we need to be open to SURPRISE. In this algorithm-driven digital world, we are growing accustomed to being served up films, songs, books and products that match our preferences. In social platforms we immerse ourselves in virtual gatherings of like-minded “friends.” Adjacency is efficient and comforting and can even be interesting. For a while. But finally, it grows boring.

“The tools we now possess, which are so incredible, should be allowing us to have freedoms that are unprecedented.” – David Krakauer

Algorithms end up narrowing our field of view when in fact, they should be instruments of surprise. And frankly, for the foreseeable future, it is the “human algorithm” that promises to be the most creative force we can imagine. As it always has been. We can all benefit from a surprise button as we surf through experiences, both virtual and real, all the while becoming more creative rather than more silo’d. Frankly diversity is not merely the just goal of enterprises and organizations, it makes the world a far more interesting – surprising – place!

Diversity Is That Surprise Button

We may achieve diversity by staffing diverse talents. But we should be doing everything we can to elicit additional points of view. Even ideas that are off-center can lead to a fresh place. Clients should revel in surprise, step out of the comfort zone, see where discomfort takes them. Agencies should engineer themselves to generate surprise. Diversity will deliver, assuming we have the will to pursue it.

“Championing diversity won’t be easy, but it will take you into new directions you didn’t expect.” – Ali Merifield

Boom Ideanet is one of those new directions: An on demand diversity resource that delivers creative thinking from trusted outsiders in a model you’d never expect to generate so much value. In-house agencies, agencies, brands can press the surprise button by engaging Boom. Diversity by design. Boom connects a network of talented people from across the geographic and cultural spectrum. Members hail from 25 U.S. states and 17 countries. While the network is vetted and members sign non-disclosure agreements, they are never asked to identify their gender or ethnicity. When they accept creative challenges they are asked to respect brand guidelines, but more importantly, they are expected to dig into their individual orientations, leverage their cultural experiences — and differences — to create original answers and offer up unexpected solutions. It’s a plug-and-play creative model predicated entirely on diversity.

Diversity, finally, becomes a kind of disruption. Which takes us full circle.


Welcome to Anywhere

By | Blog


“Good Ideas Can Come From Anywhere.”

Yeah, you’ve heard that one before. The claim has champions and detractors. Consider the LinkedIn posting by Jeremy Feldman in the Creative Directors Group, referring to Bob Hoffman’s essay on the “Devaluation of Creativity.” And, as I shared in Mr. Feldman’s comment stream, this argument is an endless loop. Both sides will endure, which is as it should be. But I’ll still weigh in.

Creative Directors get defensive about the source of ideas. Understandable, perhaps. Traditionally, agencies have had the corner on creativity, owning the conception and execution of great ideas. That may once have been the state of affairs. I dare say, no longer.

Believe me, there are great CDs and great creative agencies; agencies who have built hugely successful careers and businesses on the backs of great ideas. But great ideas are rare, even at those shops. Index the curve of idea quality for even the most notable agencies, and I’m confident you’ll see peaks and valleys, if not outright rises and falls. Not even the most renowned and disciplined creative talent can pull off a category-defining or brand-shaping bit of brilliance at will.

That’s why, perhaps even secretly, creative directors would love to have an endless source of ideas: A trustable source of fresh thinking to sift through, to finesse, to riff on. A resource that starts off being close-in, while also stretching the boundaries, manages to be both fresh and disciplined, as well as honoring a brief and respecting the brand.

Imagine: An “anywhere” that CDs can tap into any time.

Thanks to technology and idle creative capacity, anywhere is everywhere; as a network of vetted talent, distributed across the States and around the globe, designed to work with agencies and CDs. Not against them.

  • CDs don’t have to give up control.
  • CDs don’t have to abandon the brand or embrace user-generated content.
  • CDs don’t have to exploit the talent or break the bank.
  • CDs do get to do what they do: identify, refine, extend, enhance … direct.

Good ideas are out there. On occasion rare ideas. Especially when triggered by inspired and inspiring briefs. CDs can now focus a world of idea energy on a challenge. CDs can apply their genius to spotting a promising idea AND nurturing it into greatness. Just as CDs have always done. Boom.


How To Avoid Falling Victim To Sameness And Stale Marketing

By | News

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It’s likely that Mr. Tom Nowak of BestBuy, is presenting some invigorating ideas for stimulating creativity among in-house teams at the AdAge Brand Summit, Chicago, May 5, 2016. He certainly justified in reinforcing the importance of  “staying true to brand values.” It’s tricky for even highly familiar teams to meet that standard. But there can be a price to be paid in doing so: routinized thinking. Or as described in the agenda, “Sameness and Stale Marketing.” These are real issues. With some traditional and some not so traditional ways to address them.

It does makes sense for agencies (in-house or independent) to staff a creative department. Not just because that’s “the way we’ve always done it;” but because there’s a learning curve on a client’s business. Full-time creative teams earn the advantage of learning the brand personality, corporate mandatories and preferences, as well as audience mindsets and behaviors and category issues. That’s what it means to “stay true.”

However there are risks — when staying true also puts teams in a rut:

  1. One risk is that there is always the challenge to stay fresh, to side-step routine thinking. There is a tendency to narrow the boundaries or rehash old territory when the brand calendar cycles around to the same promotion or media strategy year after year.
  2. A second is that the left-field thinking that often comes from “newbies” — even while going out of brand bounds — can indeed lead to unexpected and positive outcomes.
  3. A third might just be that many agencies, especially in the current employment climate, simply tend to overload their creative staff; too many late nights, too many weekends — just when a new business pitch shows up and all hands are needed on deck.

The comfort-zone answer in these cases tends to be to bring in freelancers. Most CDs have a few go-to free agents he or she counts on to step in and save the day. But what if those folks are booked? What if they don’t have experience in the category or the channel required for this RFP? What if what you really need is a volume of thinking, more than one or two freelancers can generate?

There is an entirely novel option:

  • What if the creative department leadership could call on a vetted network of disciplined creative talent who can step in almost instantly with background in a channel or experience in a category? You’d have a ready pool of specialists to bridge the gap as needed.
  • What if you could call on experience in digital? Direct mail? Campaign concepts? You’d have an abundance of thinking that by its nature pushes the boundaries, explores new avenues of thought, reveals new ways of unraveling old problems.
  • What if the ECD could tap a dynamic network of creatives capable of honoring brand guidelines, respecting a brief. YOu’d have a resource that could turn around original ideas in short order?
  • What if you could engage this creative talent confidentially? You’d have an expansive pool of thinking without going public with your activity; ideal for pitches and campaign development.

This is not about user-generated content or ideas (ala Doritos Crash The SuperBowl). This is not about multitudes of hand-raisers who’ll do almost anything once — for $5. This is about a connected, distributed, vetted network of NDA’d creative experience. At your fingertips. It’s a way to bolster your creative resources and generate original ideas not just on demand, but on brand. More conveniently than wrangling freelancers. More affordably than one might think.

It’s not crowdsourcing. It’s ideasourcing. It’s about as far as agencies can get from stilted, stale sameness.

Want to know about the varieties of creative crowdsourcing and how Boom Ideanet is different? Find out more when you download our free eBook here:

No obligation! And no drip email follow-up campaigns. (Another novelty of Boom.)

How Agencies & Brands Can Tap The Sharing Economy Without Sharing Plans In The Process

By | News


More and more categories of work are being addressed in crowd-based platforms, here in the “maturing” days (to borrow from Jeremiah Owyang) of the sharing or gig economy. The willingness of free agents makes it possible. Digital connectivity makes it practical.

Platforms are proliferating. What began as easily parseable tasks, such as coding and data entry, has now moved up the complexity spectrum to include creative challenges: design, video, campaign concepts and more.

However, most platforms are open to public view and merely request a social media account to log in. That may be fine on some projects. But how many brands or agencies want to open their books on crucial marketing strategies and executions? Who wants to expose those plans not only to anybody with a Facebook account, but to every competitor out there?

Doritos might – ala The Crash The Super Bowl Contest. But most marketers would prefer to keep plans confidential until launched. At the same time, gaining access to the deep creative resources of a crowd is inviting.

Finally: Firepower With A Firewall.

Fortunately, there is a creative crowdsourcing platform that offers both the creative energy teams need and the confidentiality they want: Boom Ideanet.

  • Boom offers clients creativity AND confidentiality.
  • All members of Boom have signed non-disclosure agreements.
  • They’ve shared examples of their work and identified brand and channel experience.
  • They know how to honor brand guidelines and respect mandatories.

So marketers can tap the idle creativity capacity of a crowd, without exposing product launches or unveiling campaigns — until the time is right.

The approach is perfect for meeting peak demand when the creative team is loaded up or the team just needs an abundant supply of fresh thinking.

On the QT.

Learn more here. Also download free eBook.

How The Creative Department Of The Future Saves Time & Money Now: Three Examples.

By | News

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Over the first four years of Boom’s existence many of challenges revolved around the conception and production of broadcast advertising. Today, more and more brands and agencies are waking up to the deep creative capacity available through Boom for campaign concepts. It’s an expectedly easy way to handle the ebb and flow of work load without staffing up or sacrificing quality. Boom offers an approach that pleases CFOs and satisfies ECDs. No easy task! Here are three examples:

East Coast Agency – New Business Pitch

An agency engaged Boom to help develop creative for a new business pitch in the specialized pharma category. The firm often handles peaks in demand via freelance. But it can be a challenge to identify freelancers with the right experience, either in a category or a channel — as well as a challenge to procure more than a few ideas for review. In just six days, Boom generated more than three dozen concepts. The client was rewarded with a volume of expansive, original thinking that also honored the narrow boundaries of the brief. The agency fine-tuned six of those ideas to present to its client. Boom offered them a no hassle, disciplined creative scenario that worked fast and affordably.

Chicago Ad Agency – Working with Agency Planner & Creative Director

Boom can literally serve as an agency’s creative department. We just generated a wealth of campaign thinking for a financial services brand, under the creative direction of a Chicago shop. The planner & creative director handed off the base brief, including target audience research and brand guidelines. Boom generated a first round of loose campaign concepts. The agency reviewed the ideas just as they would have had the work been produced in-house. With additional input, we went back to assigned teams with over-arching themes, and further input to develop campaign concepts. The agency used those Boom concepts to prepare its own final presentation. You can learn more about this project here.

New York Marketing Consultancy – Working as Creative Department

A marketing firm in up-state New York generally works with a set of creative freelancers, but chose to engage Boom for fresh thinking. We collaborated on a brief, assigned the challenge to five Boom Ideanet members who each delivered “adcepts.” These rough ideas were shared with their client. They chose favorites, shared input; finalists were refined, reviewed again and a “winning” idea was chosen. We then worked with the consultancy to bring the “adcepts” into alignment with branding. It’s a novel approach that still delivers the kind of quality thinking brands expect from more traditional agency models. Find out more here.

SUBMIT: Why Crowdsourcing Invites Controversy. ENTER The Alternative.

By | News

New_Submit_Button sLanguage matters. Words have meaning.

Consider the creative crowdsourcing world. Talented people conceive a campaign concept,  produce a video, conjure up a name or slogan, or design a logo; load their creation — their intellectual property — into a web application; then press that little SUBMIT button and wait for the payout.

Seems harmless enough. But is it?

In fact, that button is far from harmless. The term “submit” may be a rather innocuous verb, but it literally does signal submission. Creators by the thousands submit themselves to the rules and stipulations and the will of platforms and clients. Often without any compensation whatsoever. In almost every crowdsourcing platform, the crowd member is a submitter. Should they choose to read the fine print, they’ll typically discover language like this:

“The Member agrees and acknowledges that all title, interest, and rights to the Works submitted for the applicable project shall be assigned in full to the Sponsor of the Project.” – Other crowdsourcing platform

Not cool. And in many cases, they’ve already been expected to supply ideas that could shape an entire business!

At Boom Ideanet – in our quest to operate an ethical crowdsourcing platform – the crowd member retains his or her intellectual property until purchased by the client or, to use the euphemistic legal term above, sponsor.

It’s part of our zeal to give the client an advantage over traditional models without taking advantage of the creator. You know, the talented, inspired, hard-working human beings who are contributing their work. That’s why we are careful about the terms we use. Enter rather than submit. Entry rather than submission. Contributor rather than submitter.

Boom shows respect from the outset:

“Entry of your ideas constitutes your agreement with these terms of entry. You will retain intellectual property rights to any ideas you suggest … unless you win.”Boom

Yes, there is competition in the Boom model. There are winners. And even losers. But we insist that the model seek a balance between competition and compensation. Otherwise, the crowd-driven platform is just a churn model that uses up talent and creates trash piles of intellectual property that benefit no one, least of all the creator! Long term, nobody wins in that scenario. Not even the sponsor.

We recognize that creative people are contributing their ideas and their thinking. But we believe they need not sign over all their rights to that idea in the simple act of clicking a button.

We accept that there will continue to be controversy around crowdsourcing. But if we start to care about even little matters like the language employed in these models, we may begin to establish sustainable crowdsourcing models that benefit all parties, including the creators.


The NFL Draws A Different Kind Of Crowd

By | News

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“Goodell said the competitions received more than 1,000 total submissions. Not all of the ideas were brilliant, though that was sort of the point. ‘Out of what we think might be crazy, you might find a gold mine [for safety],’ he said.”

That remark was made by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, regarding the league’s exercise in crowdsourcing solutions to the concussion problem. They just declared the winners of its second “Head Health Challenge,” in an “open contest for devices or ideas that can make the game safer. The program, a joint effort among the NFL, Under Armour and General Electric, produced three winners.” (Quotes from the December 3, 2015, issue of The Wall Street Journal.)

So … even the stodgy old NFL is doing things a new way!

His position is exactly one that ad agencies, brands, and start-ups can take as well. Shake things up. Break through routine approaches and engage Boom Ideanet for a wealth of original thinking around marketing challenges.

Your “gold mine” idea could come from the most unexpected place. Boom is here to help you find it.

If you want to put some heads together, ping us. Brainstorm with our idea directors about any marketing challenge. First hour is free.

Back To School On Content @CMOCollective

By | News

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Big Data, Metrics & Analytics may be the most popular subjects in the hard knocks school of marketing right now. But CONTENT is still the topic putting many CMOs to the test. September 9 through 11, Boom participated in the “Back To School” Conference in Austin, TX, put on by The Digital Collective, Chicago. As might be expected, attendees were exposed to pleasing numbers, revealing graphs and illuminating pie charts. But content proved to be the source of, well, discontent.

Lesson One: In spite of all the buzz and purported experts, most brands are just fending for themselves when it comes to content. Many are daring to dive in and work through the how-to’s via trial and error. Some are standing eagerly on the sidelines, awaiting that moment when it all becomes clear or the imperative too pressing. Whatever the current stance, the executives responsible for figuring out this content “thing” are asking a lot of questions!

  • What constitutes content?
  • What content is meaningful to my customers?
  • Who creates content?
  • How does a brand brand content?
  • Where does content strategy come from?
  • How is content distributed?
  • If I host it on my own web properties, how do I drive traffic to my content?
  • How do I staff to handle content?
  • How do I go outside for content?
  • How do I budget for content creation, distribution, tracking?
  • How do I track interaction and engagement and, daresay, conversion?
  • Who’s doing content right?
  • How do they know if and when a content strategy is successful?
  • And perhaps one of the most challenging questions of all (addressed by Bryan Jones, VP North America & Commercial Marketing, Dell): Am I willing to invest in content when 80% of it may have everything to do with relationship-building and connecting personally, while only 20% has to do with selling!?

Lesson Two:  One hurdle is that the term “content” itself may be too unwieldy. Almost every conceivable kind of marketing communication has been tossed into the content bucket; from old-fashioned tv spots to text-links. That doesn’t make things any easier. Even for brands who’ve chosen to focus on one area versus another, it’s safe to say the trade is still in the pioneering days of content creation, distribution and evaluation.

Lesson Three: The carrot of measureability is being held out before us in the age of big data. The fact that content is such a conundrum is evidence enough that we still don’t know how to do it. We don’t yet know how to leverage the data we already have, learn from it and then apply that knowledge in ways that have utility for the customer and drive value for the brand. The brands who are succeeding have struck the “relevance” chord. Some are acting on the “fail fast” principle, operating on the promise that one day they’ll discover what works.

Lesson Four: There is evidence that brands are successfully “doing content.” Consider Whole Foods Market. Attendees enjoyed a Q&A with Digital Activation Leader, Nicole Lindstrom and their content partner OneSpot. Her content strategy goes beyond recipes to blog posts and guides to culinary topics and information that validates brand values, as well as the values of its passionate core customer. Their “north start” is personalization — which is likely the secret ingredient in a successful content strategy for almost any brand. After all, what is all this data for if it doesn’t ultimately lead to targeted, branded content that is meaningful to each customer?

Lesson Five: @CMOCollective indeed featured inspiring teachers:

  • Julian Aldridge, VP, Brand Evangelism & Activation, Schwab, roused our courage to create marketing with a venture capital mindset. (#killfear)
  • Bryan Jones, of Dell, illuminated us about the principles of “social selling.”
  • Philip Rather, Head of Partnership, Facebook, drove home the age-old direct marketing mantra of “right person, right message, right time,” but stirred the group with surprisingly convincing data about how FB delivers on that rubric in the new-world.
  • Stephen Webster, VP, Global Brand & Design, Mary Kay Global, shared how to be “nimble control freaks” to help a brand stay consistent, while also being adaptable enough to stay relevant to cultures and customers around the world.

Lesson Six:  Don’t give up hope. The CMO Collective introduced us to three Austin-based companies focused on addressing “content” questions like those above: Invodo, Spredfast and Umbel. Tony Weber of Time, Inc. hosted the conversation.

As for technology, Techstars offered up four start-ups who are wrangling new tools, data and metrics to shape marketing and customer experiences in the digital age: Experiment Engine, FashionMetric, MetricStory and Written.

Our Test: Here at Boom, we are applying what we learned.  Our lesson plan is to explore new and efficient ways to harness our vetted crowd’s energy to produce relevant, branded content on-demand. Stay tuned for contentment. Boom.

Freelance Talent? Take Five Tips from AdAge. Or One Tip from Boom.

By | News



AdAge just published a fine article that recognizes the growing reliance, among ad agencies, on freelancers “Best Practices For Managing Freelance Talent.”

The opening statement describes precisely the environment in which Boom Ideanet was founded in 2011: “A succession of economic downturns, long-term marketer budget cuts and a new generation with a different workstyle has ushered in a heyday for freelancers at ad agencies.” Boom is not a one-to-one freelancer work model, but we do provide opportunities for freelancers and offer creative bandwidth for agencies.

We are indeed operating in an ad world that represents growing opportunities for freelancers matched by growing challenges for agencies. And the reverse.

How does a creative manager find productive, experienced  freelancers? If you’re lucky you know a freelancer(s) and he, she or they are available. Or you engage a temp service. Or a contractor staffing firm. Or you venture into something like Behance. Or, more often than you care to, you just ask someone on staff to work a little longer, a little harder.

How does a talented creative find productive, talent-worthy challenges? Don’t most creative freelancers live with the mantra-like question, “Where will my next project come from?”

Boom Ideanet offers one best practice to both sides of the equation. Our model hosts vetted, experienced, NDA’d creatives, with idea energy available on a project basis. And we host legitimate creative opportunities, available when time and interest allows. Check out our Work or Services pages for examples.

So take five and apply one best practice: Engage Boom Ideanet.

Boom: A Platform In Sync With The New Rules Of Work

By | News


“The old rules of work applied to an economy of factories and offices, a world of “standard”, stable employment with large employers, over careers with more or less predictable trajectories. The new rules belong to another universe—flexible, precarious, and entrepreneurial, less and less tied to specific times, places, and employers.”– Ross Perlin, FastCompany, “These Are The New Rules of Work.”

Here’s a recap of the new rules Perlin outlines and some quick notes about how Boom aligns with each:

1. “WORK CAN HAPPEN WHEREVER YOU ARE, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.” You leverage connectivity to take on Boom challenges. Great ideas come from anywhere. Welcome to Anywhere. Boom Ideanet.

2. “YOU’RE ON CALL 24-7.” Flexibility exacts a toll — if you let it. With Boom projects, members always choose whether to participate or not.

3. “YOU GO FROM GIG TO GIG, PROJECT TO PROJECT.” Boom offers up gigs, with a little competition mixed in. But we seek a balance so you aren’t gigged by the gig.

4. “FOR BETTER OR WORSE THE LINE BETWEEN WORK AND LIFE IS ALMOST ENTIRELY DISAPPEARING.” This is true as am employee and as a freelancer. The freelancer may have a bit more freedom to meld the two or allow the boundary to flex.

5. “YOU WORK BECAUSE YOU’RE “PASSIONATE” ABOUT A “MOVEMENT” OR A “CAUSE”—YOU HAVE TO “LOVE WHAT YOU DO”.” If anything, Boom is about shared interest. For now, that interest is commerce-driven creativity — or commercial art. The members of Boom are moved to meet challenges, solve problems, apply idle creativity, practice a discipline, enjoy the satisfaction of conceiving of an effective element of advertising or design … and also earning some cash.

Go back to Daniel H. Pink’s “Free Agent Nation.” Or the ongoing “Future of Work” podcasts hosted by Jacob Morgan, or any number of articles in FastCompany, The Wall Street Journal and others. Visit the growing number of freelance organizations and businesses built around serving contractors, such as MBO Partners — and the growing number of crowdsourcing platforms and you have all the evidence you need that the nature of work is changing.

Boom Ideanet is founded to be in sync with this new world of work. And our goal is to do in an ethical fashion that provides opportunity, balances competition with compensation, and offers an advantage to clients without taking advantage of creators.