Big advertising is no longer best, Kay tells Future Flash

The director of brand strategy at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners urges the industry crowd to “break the tyranny of big and think small.”

The ICA Future Flash 2011 conference ended its roster of speakers with a keynote from Gareth Kay, director of brand strategy at San Francisco-based agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, on why advertising needs to reduce its reliance on large-scale traditional campaigns and think small to build ideas that last longer, rather than fizzling out after the initial campaign-launch fireworks.

Big campaigns simply aren’t working, said Kay, citing US statistics from McKinsey that said “in most cases, a brand’s market share is stationary.” The stats also said four out of five advertising categories are seen as increasingly homogenous.

Referencing books such as Nudge by Richard Thaler, Kay told the advertising and marketing industry crowd that, “in an increasingly well-designed world, it is the small things that make a big difference.”

Kay said small ideas tend to be in the service of people.

“Servicing consumers may sound like the basics of advertising,” he said. “But a lot of times brands get caught up in narcissism.”

Small ideas also force companies to change the way they think about communications.

“Right now companies treat communication strategies like roulette,” said Kay. “They put all the money on black 39. Instead, companies should be putting lots of little bets on the table. See which ones work and expand on those, and quickly get rid of the ones that don’t.”

Using small ideas rather than big also means companies don’t just talk about what they are going to do, he said.

“Companies need to be like Velcro, with lots and lots of little hooks to make them sticky,” he said. “Agencies need to break the tendency to just communicate the product. They need to make the products communicate themselves.”

Kay offered these quick tips for companies looking to start thinking smaller:

-Build brands from the bottom up, not just the top down.
-Be useful, entertaining, interesting and playful in service of people.
-Make communication strategy reactive to user experience and make it easy to understand.
-Doing something interesting leads to something interesting happening. Stop having meetings for the sake of having meetings and start doing things.

Future Flash 2011 was the fifth annual leadership conference from the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA).

MiC also covered talks the first day, from Ty Montague, founder of New York-based brand studio Co. on the importance of storytelling and Asif Khan, founder of the Location Based Marketing Association on rethinking geo marketing.