Why less is more will dominate digital creativity in 2013

EE: launched 4G at Battersea Power StationI foresee two key opportunities for the industry creative this year. One is that ambient will become a key battleground for brands trying to disrupt audiences’ daily routines. The other is the move towards the big, the bold and the simple. Both these trends may well converge of course and I look forward to exploring their possibilities.

While Minority Report’s retina-scanning six sheets may not arrive in 2013, I think the drive towards mobile-first advertising and the arrival of 4G will have brands clamoring to become even more visible in our everyday lives. Using insight to identify where ambient opportunities exist will be imperative … so we may see sports drinks advertised on treadmill screens (available in a vending machine near your locker) or footwear retailers offering discounts on sturdy boots with graffiti on snow-covered pavements.

Much like the recent move towards encouraging TV audiences to use their smart devices during ad breaks – Barclaycard using Shazam for an instant win prize draw, or Mercedes’ #youdrive TV/Youtube campaign with multiple storylines determined by audience votes – the dream for marketers is to have audiences’ devices and minds “always-on” and ready to engage with clever campaigns. But with a move towards on-demand viewing there’s noticeably less mass TV audience interaction available and so the move out of the living room has never been more important.

We’ve already seen a transition from online brands like Ebay into offline high street stores, and Kellogg’s Tweet Shop offering snacks paid for by messages. I think we’re likely to see more examples of convergence with brands too … fashion labels and music acts collaborating, co-creative projects like McDonald’s Hong Kong having children design a restaurant they want to eat in. A warning though, there’s a difference between disruption and invasion! So, in the immortal words of Prince Vultan, “Let the combat begin. To the death!”

Big, Bold and Simple

The ever-swinging visual trend between polished computer graphics and simple hand-drawn visuals looks likely to head back towards simple geometric shapes; flat, bright, bold colours; and clean typography. With brands like Microsoft adopting a single colourful visual style across both their products’ interfaces and their brand guidelines, and the Starbucks identity evolving into a simpler, nameless icon, you can already see the trend moving that way. Infographics are likely to have another good year in 2013 and so their influence on a brand’s visual narrative will continue to increase.

Of course the move towards “Keep It Simple Stupid” shouldn’t stop with visuals. Saying more with fewer words will become increasingly popular as brands try to provoke a response with insightful, empathic copy. B2B brands seeking to adopt B2C tactics should think long and hard about shorter, softer copy tone. The trend of storytelling is, again, likely to build momentum in 2013. How campaigns tell their story in myriad lengths and styles will become a fresh challenge … from film content through interactive spaces to the smallest button banner. And this will help audiences create their own versions to pass on, creating earned media within their interest groups.

And, back to my original point, these two trends are sure to combine as brands need to get attention quickly with audiences going about their daily routines, often with blinkers on. The challenge of being heard in this environment will force brand marketers to genuinely believe less is more, and continually pursue that single-minded, benefit-led proposition.

2013 will be the Year of the Charming Provocateurs.

Alan Kittle is creative director at Mason Zimbler.