Give consumers tools, win awards.

Today saw the latest IAB and Microsoft Advertising Creative Showcase Awards event, and as a regular vistor to these things,I can say with confidence that it was one of the best yet. Each winning campaign from the past four months – presented by the creative directors resposible – provided an outstanding example of what online can do. Without having seen the feedback yet I’m pretty sure the audience were impressed, informed, and possibly a little surprised at the incredibly innovative technologies that made most of this work possible.

We’ve been running Creative Showcase since 2003, and over the years we’ve seen some amazing work. HoweverI have heard from time to time several comments about digital creativity being produced primarily with the industry in mind, rather than the consumer. Everyone knows what impresses their peers, and therefore there’s been an argument that sometimes online campaigns are executed to win awards and respect, rather than engage audiences. I’m going to sit on the fence with this one, but it’s an interesting point!

WhatI can confirm is that none of the winning campaigns presented today were created just for the digital creative community. The great news is that each and every one was designed with the consumer right at the heart, all relying on their interaction to make the work a success.

We had the AIS campaign for o2, where people were directed to to sign up their friends, and friends of friends to win a party at the Indigo2 venue with the aim of ‘turning customers into fans’. Then there was the Nike Boot Camp stuff from AKQA, who used a mobile and online app to engage 17-24 year olds serious about football and really put them through their paces. Third was the AKQA Ecodrive work for Fiat, which was ‘not borne from a campaign mindset,’ rather based on the idea that you can create a strong relationship with your consumer, and talk to them in a non-patronising way. Last there was the wonderful CHI and Partners with their ‘Forever Story’ – a user-generated tale devised to promote the partnership between Talk Talk and the Treehouse, a charity for children with autism.

Every winner had the audience front-of-mind in its conception and delivery, and this embrace of social media is currently typical ofmanycreative showcase entries we’ve had in 2008. This, i think, is great news. Online has long been promoted as the most accountable medium, but this move towards campaigns of a more social nature is a brave step from clients, and one which we at the IAB applaud. Kieron mentioned in his blog post yesterday that perhaps digital work still isn’t quite as consistently exceptional as it should be, however what we can definitely be proud of is the change of mindset of many UK agencies, and advertisers.

Each of the campaigns presented today provided consumers with ‘tools’ – whether it be the tools to promote your own party in the case of AIS, or the tools to increase your fitness and make you a better footballer with the Nike Boot Camp campaign. I’d argue that providing audiences with these tools and making online advertising useful and relevant is not a trend, rather a mainstay of modern marketing that we’ll be seeing to an even greater extent in the months, and years to come.