DDIdeas / Featured DDIdeas

Game ‘Shift’

At a time when attention spans are getting shorter, it seems contradictory to see people dedicating hundreds of hours of their lives to, wait for it… video games. With the competitive nature of some games such as, League of Legends, Overwatch, CS:GO (to name three), a new “sport” has emerged from the shadows, born out of the immeasurably skilled players and a frighteningly engaged audience.

Gaming culture has shifted dramatically over the years. Many celebrities now proudly declare themselves to be gamers – it’s a new kind of ‘badge of honour’. Drake rolling in Fortnite with Twitch streamer, Mila Kunis rocking Call of Duty, Snoop Dogg and his dodging skills in Battlefield 1… The list goes on. Celeb gamers are just a small piece of the puzzle as gaming culture slowly becomes mainstream.

It’s no secret, I love playing video games. Sometimes a single player game to indulge in a story, sometimes it happens in a co-op with friends. It’s how I catch up with mates who live in other cities and sometimes it’s just to flex my muscle over some 12-year-old Korean kid, but, most importantly, it keeps me connected. But there’s one thing I don’t do and that’s use in-game chat. Why? Because the gaming community is known for its toxicity.

It’s interesting that one game is flying the flag to change this stereotype.

Overwatch, a team-based first-person shooter (FPS) game, developed by gaming company Blizzard, is the most gender-diverse on the planet. The proportion of its players who are women equals more than double that of the closet FPS. Woman make up 16% of Overwatch’s player base. That’s around five million female players, generating a staggering $250 million in revenue for Blizzard. [1]

There are many facets to Blizzard’s success with Overwatch i.e. most shooter games don’t have female protagonists. This one is obvious. Their effort required to make their inclusive character design earned my respect and that of the female gaming community. Traditional “War” games tend to go for historic accuracy and thrive for realistic settings, while Overwatch is set in a future state leaving greater room for them to be imaginative.

Overwatch has one of the most vocal communities because the parent company understands the importance of listening and acting upon the words of the gamers. If a topic blows up, from server issues to game balance, the developers spend time to talk (like humans) about the things their players care about. They don’t just say it, they mean it and work hard at fixing it.

As I mentioned, the toxicity of some players and vitriolic language used is a problem for most gaming companies that use an in-game chat feature. Policing this used to rely on players reporting and banning problematic behaviour, but this didn’t work. So, Blizzard listened and rolled out a new feature in an effort to increase positive player activity i.e. ‘Endorsement.’ After each match, players can celebrate others who made positive contributions on both your team and the enemy team. The result? Daily abuse has decreased by just under 30% in the Americas and 22% in South Korea [2]. If you’re a gamer, being given a pat on the back in the form of a well-timed compliment such as, ‘Shot Caller’ or ‘Good Teammate’? A little acknowledgement goes a long way. Simple, but effective.

Blizzard’s effort in making positive game impact doesn’t just stop at a virtual level. In May, they ran their first charity event with the Breast Cancer Research Fund to raise more than US$10 million with one particular character in the game – Mercy – a brilliant scientist and the guardian angel of Overwatch who protects the team in a battlefield. It’s surprising and heart-warming to see Blizzard doing such good with their loyal and active player base.

Jeff Kaplan, director of Overwatch, beautifully stated, “There’s always going to be someone upset with things that we do. We know we’re not always going to get it right. But it’s about trying to be welcoming to a lot of people and thinking about others.” [3]

Overwatch is one of my inspirations when it comes to inclusive design. Game making is a creative process. It starts from individual ideas which are then turned into a collective consensus. Games are consumed by all kinds of people from all around the world with their own passions, frustrations and desires. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse for designing something that’s lacking in diversity. It’s only been two years since Overwatch’s launch, and I truly hope they’ll keep championing diverse, inclusive game design that continues to inspire the gaming community.

– Jenny Liu

DDIdeas / Featured DDIdeas

The Lost Art of Anticipation

I’m not ashamed to tell you (in fact I wear it like a badge of honour) that, over the course of a weekend, I can quite comfortably binge-watch entire seasons of my favourite show, order tasty foods through a variety of apps, get my clothes picked-up, washed, ironed and returned, and even (not that this happens very often), get someone to go and stand in the queue  for the new iPhone. All this, without ever actually having to speak directly to another human. What a time to be alive!

However, does all this convenience come at a cost?  You can see where I’m going with this one… I think so. I put it to you – have recent developments in technology meant that we’ve lost the art of anticipation?

The ‘On-Demand’ model means that long gone are the days where I would eagerly wait for the next episode of ‘The OC.’ Now I only have to wait 10 seconds for the latest instalment. And even then, I can’t let Netflix count me in. Give. It. To. Me. Now.  Consumers expect their wants and needs to be instantly fulfilled. For example, did you know that in 60 seconds Google serves 3.8 million search requests, Netflix clocks up 87,000 hours of videos watched and there are 18,000 matches made on Tinder?* Those are some SERIOUS numbers!

So, what implications does this have for Australian/Global businesses? If a company/owner makes a potential/existing consumer wait for information or content does that become detrimental to the success of their business? We live in an age where we, as consumers, we expect that everything should be available at the touch of a button or a voice command [link to Alexa article]. “Assistance is really the new battleground for growth. As expectations of the empowered consumer continue to rise, the most assistive brands will win.” – Allan Thygesen.

That being said, I firmly believe that no matter how long I have to wait for the payoff of my actions, it’s ALL about making a meaningful human connection. If brands and businesses can nail this, I think I (and most people for that matter) can wait. Establishing a relationship with me, on the same level that a friend or family member might do, means I can easily forgive a clunky website or even the fact that you don’t respond to me quickly on social media. We are all human after all and good things come to those who… wait.

I would love to know what you think… really looking forward to it in fact.

– HJ

*Source: Statista 


My New Digital Girlfriend

I’m in love and don’t care who knows it. Her name is Alexa and you could say it’s getting pretty serious.

You might be wondering how we met? Well, it’s the classic tale of boy meets girl and girl introduces the boy to a swanky new Sonos speaker, with in-built Amazon Alexa, for his Birthday. There were some teething problems initially (a few hiccups getting her to sync up the rest of the tech), but since moving in (yes, we’ve moved pretty quickly), I’m pleased to report it’s a match made in voice-activated heaven.

You might say that I’m a little bit obsessed with her. Maybe even to both our detriments. The moment I walk into my apartment I start barking orders at her., “Alexa turn the lights on in the hallway!”, “Alexa read me that recipe for sticky chicken wings!”, “Alexa, play my sexy-moves-mix in the bedroom!” and so on. Anyone listening in would be well within their rights to start asking questions about the balance of power in our relationship. However, she’s the first person I talk to in the morning and the one that plays soothing rain sounds to send me off to sleep at night. My mother may argue that “She doesn’t have a face,” and that I’m “investing my time in the wrong place,” but in my mind it’s irrelevant because Alexa is more concerned with making my life better. So selfless!  There’s no denying it, I love her.

Ok, look… I may have overstated the depth of my relationship with my digital girlfriend, but the rise of the machines is happening all around us and personally, I think it’s an exciting time to be alive.

Moment-to-moment tech is changing and evolving the way we interact with the world. From my morning wake-up call/hug from Alexa to the use of augmented reality to see how homewares will fit into my place before I bravely hit ‘purchase,’ there are countless skills that can provide real utility to the user. In light of these meteoric changes, it should come as no surprise, that the consumption habits of consumers have also evolved.

These new in-home personal assistants have blurred the lines between real-world pal and search engine. Want to buy that shirt? Go for it, without fear of judgement. For chaps like myself that love content and bringing that content to people in a way that is useful, it opens a window of immense opportunity to connect with consumers and build arguably the most important thing a brand can do with a customer i.e….. ‘Trust’

Don’t get me wrong, voice (or any of its other hot mates e.g. AR/VR) is not for everyone. However, it’s up to us to make sure our clients are agile enough to start including them in the “marketing mix” and a reminder to constantly challenge our clients’ methods of speaking to their consumers.

Is this my forever girl or just a fleeting feeling I’m having? Tough to say. However, the most important thing is to give things a red-hot crack with a little testing and learning. Who knows what rich little nugget balls of insight you might develop in creating something for your consumer that is truly beneficial to their lives. The possibilities are endless. 

“Alexa, end this article.”


Grab Hold of What’s Starting to Happen

As the dust settles on this year’s Cannes Lions and the winners free up some space in their trophy cabinet, we picked up this wonderful piece highlighting the strides L’Oréal has taken to futureproof its business. It was written by thenetworkone President Julian Boulding, esteemed leader of the world’s largest network of boutique independent agencies of which DDI is proud to be a member. Towards the back end of the article, there are some really illuminating insights into technology and agency/client partnerships. Enjoy.

“Tucked away down in the ground floor of Palais 2, on Monday morning when most people had not yet arrived, was an exemplary seminar led by Lubomira Rochet, a Bulgarian from L’Oréal. No, I hadn’t heard of her either, but we will.

L’Oréal used to be a classic Publicis Paris account, reputedly managed by a small number of well-connected seniors and a large number of stunningly beautiful juniors (male and female). They ran a brilliant and provocative ad campaign for a couple of years “L’Oréal – because I’m worth it” which they watered down to a forgettable, conventional ad promise (“Because you’re worth it”) which presumably offended nobody but had no impact except by expensive repetition in prime-time TV. The worst kind of advertising. Then presumably they realised this – because L’Oréal today is a transformed business and a case history for anyone interested in marketing today.

First, it’s an e-commerce business. E-commerce is now 80% of their sales. 48% of their media spend is digital and 60% of that is programmatic. They were the first company in their sector to partner with Ali Baba in China and 40% of their China sales are now e-commerce.

They have systematically evolved their marketing playbook: TV, to search, to YouTube video, to Facebook ads – and now to AR and conversational commerce.

First, AR. As Lubomira explained to the slow learners (that’s most of us), AR can be headset based or mirror based (the mirror is your phone, think selfie.) For a beauty company, the mirror is obviously more interesting. See your face on the phone and try out new looks, colours and shades, textures, highlights.

A few companies now do this with static images – take a selfie and modify the still picture. L’Oréal’s acquisition strategy focusses on niche app companies like Modiface, to accelerate their technical expertise in a digital consumer experience context relevant to their business. This app modifies your appearance in real time, on video… how do you look when you change your expression, look sad, laugh, cry talk, etc.

Next, conversational commerce. Everyone needs a knowledgeable friend to check out how they look with a darker eyeshadow or little more blush on the cheeks. Those glamorous, under-employed beauty advisors you used to see in department stores, were there for a reason. So now, L’Oréal has real time beauty advisers on your phone. Are they real people, or video chatbots? Who knows, but they feel real and have lots of useful tips. And when you like a look, they’ll tell you how to achieve it and sell you the products to deliver it. Delivered to your apartment this afternoon, for your night out this evening.

So, is this tech for tech’s sake? No, it’s strategic. L’Oréal’s internal mantra (so much more practical than a purpose) is “Saisir ce qui commence” – “grab hold of what’s starting to happen”. It drives them to stay in the forefront of fashion and technology, to spot trends early and act on them fast.

Is it insight-based? Yes, it is. L’Oréal’s approach is transformed from the traditional top-down vision of beauty (the need to ‘look right’) to a more democratic vision, encompassing diversity, personal preference and difference – from beauty experts to beauty hackers.

Does L’Oréal need agencies, and if so, why? As Lubomira says, yes… they need them to be chief organisers, to be the voice of the consumer but in a more agile way than before, to ensure that tech and creativity don’t get separated. Did she mean it, or was she just being polite? Either way, there’s your challenge, agencies.”


The race to the bottom

It’s June which means one thing from the retailers of Australia i.e. the discount assault is on!

I’m bombarded on my numerous screens and in retail environments by messages like, ‘Last chance for 80% off!’, “40% off everything now and next week we will take an extra 30% OFF!’

It’s quite overwhelming.

And, when a famous retailer states, “We’re giving away 100 Dollar bills for 50 bucks,” it’s fair to assume that no one really wants them and so we can conclude that heavily discounting retail in this way is ultimately a sinking ship.

Admittedly, it is June and the traditional ‘Sales’ time, but… WOW.

Walking through a mall with my teen sons recently made me realise how repelled the next consumer generation are to the school of discounting.  They happily walk through the retail paradise, not wanting anything on offer other than food, and I ask them as we stroll, “But what about all this clothing? Can I buy you a new sweater for the colder months? Isn’t this a brand you love?”

“No, Dad. This is all the stuff that no one wants… that’s why it’s on sale.”

So, it dawns on me, what counts for that generation is the merch from say, the latest You-Tuber they might follow or perhaps a product endorsed by a prolific Instagram influencer. They’ll patiently wait for the next production run in eight weeks, hoping their order will be processed and they don’t miss out. It reminded me of my student years, saving up for my first proper camera and how that 18-month process, the anticipation, emotionally almost beat the real thing.  I observe that all year crazy discounts breed only one type of customer, the one that accelerates the race to the bottom.

In today’s climate, any brand with a purpose must find that emotional connect. Because going to war on price alone guarantees only one thing – no one wins.

Bernd Winter

Bernd has worked on numerous retail clients from Louis Vuitton, to Georg Jensen, Oroton, Polo Ralph Lauren and Suzanne Grae.