Postcard from Hawaii - CLIO2013 (without giving anything away)

Spent last week locked in a windowless room assessing work in the Direct and Engagement categories for this years CLIO Hawaii no less.

One thing that became clear during the week has been that the delineations between the various disciplines in advertising are getting fuzzier and fuzzier. And while the term engagement might seem hackneyed already, it may yet turn out to be where all the cutting-edge communications sit. Obviously, I'm sworn to secrecy, so I won't even reveal the handful of tropes that have become almost commonplace during the sessions, but I can report a couple of thoughts that are indicative of where things might be heading.

1) Unsurprisingly, social media is everywhere. Very few entries didn't feature it in some form or other, but what often separated the men from the boys was how they used it. The best had a clear idea of an outcome they were striving for and regarded the inevitable viral activity has a lucky bonus, while the less-worthy seemed to regard social media mentions as an end in itself–a sort of spray-and-pray strategy that seemed more like PR than anything else.

2) Print is definitely feels like a forgotten medium. There were pretty much no solus traditional mail packs–everything was tied to or part of a wider collection of activity.

3) That said, with case study films for most of the entries, it was interesting how inspecting the physical items changed the jury's mood and provided some much-needed energy and relief from staring at a screen all day.

4) Most interesting were a number of sophisticated and intelligently thought out campaigns aimed at behavioural change, some of which featured no discernable messaging at all. They were pure exercises in getting people to think and act differently, usually by the deployment of prompts, nudges and changes-of-incentives.

The biggest challenge we face here is defining engagement and unravelling it from direct as a category. It might be that engagement is a catch-all hopper for work that is otherwise category-agnostic or that it's work that drives a range of behaviours, rather than the singular purpose of direct. It might also be that it's work that is aimed at changing people's behaviours but without the rigid direct-like marriage to a metric or that it's work that's aimed at attitudes and feelings, not just behaviours.

I certainly feel privileged to have been part of this definition process and to have witnessed so much amazing work from around the world in one week. I feel that I've glimpsed the future of advertising. I'm not quite so sure where print will in all of this, but if the future simply means that anything goes then it will certainly have a role to play.

Thank you to all the CLIO team for their impeccable organisation and for making me feel so welcome (and for flying me to Hawaii). It worth it, even though we were locked in a windowless room for the week.