The eight-year-old AKQA, as in All Known Questions Answered, is a global digital media agency with offices in San Francisco, New York, Washington, London, Amsterdam and Shanghai. Clients include Target, Unilever, Nike, Virgin, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, AOL, Motorola, Smirnoff and Gucci, to name a few. In 2005, Lars Bastholm was tapped to open AKQA doors in New York as its executive creative director.
AKQA, which really stands for the initials of the company’s founder, has one goal: to connect with the digital consumer, the person who has assimilated into the digital culture, not someone of a certain age. This consumer, said Bastholm, has grown up with having complete control over everything that they do, all kind of media that they consume.
“The world is literally at their fingertips, no matter what they do and what they want to engage with and interact with,” he said.
And if anyone is to take away anything from his keynote, he said, they should take away this: Most everything that anyone does at any point in time in life can now be done through a computer.
But it gets even better. In Japan, said Bastholm, only about 20 percent of consumers access the Web through a computer; the rest do it through their mobile phones. The launch of the iPhone last year represented the first truly portable computer. And, once the U.S. networks “pull it together and manage to actually provide decent access speeds to data,” then doing what is done on computers will be able to be accomplished on a phone in a very short manner of time.
The digital world, Bastholm said, also has given way to much more of a dialogue between companies and consumers, to where digital is becoming completely mainstream and all encompassing, but also invisible, just part of the daily fabric of life.
Bastholm pointed to Nike Plus, a collaboration between Nike and Apple, where a consumer uses an iPod Nano with a little chip built into its sneaker that basically records how far one has run, and the user can choose which music to run to.
But, more importantly, it’s turned running into a social sport.
“You can upload your running results to a Web site and compare with other runners around the world. So, where running used to be the most solitary sport around, now it’s actually become one of the more social ones.”
Then Bastholm said something that may have taken some of the marketers in the room by surprise.
“I was actually watching TV a little bit last night…but it was just stunning to me how horrible a lot of the spots that I sat through were. I think I heard the line ‘Introducing the all new…’ about 16 times in the span of a couple of hours. For the love of god, if your agencies put in that line, kill it. Please do me a favor. It’s just painful,” he said, adding that most media-savvy consumers don’t watch TV ads at all anyway since the advent of TiVo.
Creating a culture, he said, as opposed to ads, is how to connect with the consumer these days.
“You need to create something that people can latch onto, something that will make them excited.”