An alumnus of the USC Film School, Rod Findley, Executive Creative Director, C2K Communications, is a staunch believer that great storytelling is the corner stone for any great communication. With over 20 years of experience as a director, writer and creative director, Findley started his career in advertising by making TV commercials. Today, he has integrated his creative capabilities with the latest technological advances to create award-winning campaigns for his clients.
Findley believes that a revolution is coming and that it will see innovations like virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) take over how we perceive communication. BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Findley to know a little bit more about innovations and how willing are brands to invest in them over more traditional media. Excerpts:
There is a lot of talk about digital and innovations but are brands willing to invest the money in innovations as compared to traditional media?
Brands are very interested in and excited about new technologies because they understand that even though things are just beginning now they really can blossom into something huge. They want to be in the vanguard of new technologies and so many brands we talk to want to explore what VR is and what MR is. These brands don’t want to be second, they want to be the leaders. So it is very important that people take that leap of faith and invest a little bit of money into it now so that by the time the technology really matures they know exactly how to utilise it. Because all this is going to happen very quickly. In a year or two, this technology will become absolutely mainstream and you have to know what the grammar of communication is with VR and MR. You also have to look at it from a slightly farsighted point of view. It is new technology not everyone has adopted it yet but when the cell phones came out who would have imagined about mobile advertising? So, now is absolutely the time to be exploring these new media, which are not going to be new that much longer.
It is a fact that traditional media still reaches a lot more people than what a virtual reality experience can and a lot of brands value reach over experience. What should brands be really looking at?
I think it is always a matter of trying and targeting who you want to speak to and what story you want to tell them. Yes, the TV commercial has a broad reach but is it reaching the target that you want? Are people engaging with it? TV commercials are fantastic. I grew up watching TV commercials, making TV commercials is how I got into this business but it is not the right recipe for every single implementation. So it is not the kind of thing yet where you create a virtual reality experience that everyone download and watch on Google Cardboard or something, we are not at that stage yet but within the next few years we will be at a stage where people are really interactive with VR and MR, this technology is going to be one of the dominant forces. Many of the clients I talk to think TV is too expensive and too much of a shot gun. It is like you are spending a lot of money to get your message across to a lot of people who don’t care about what your product is. It is one thing if you are selling a mass market car and you have a very broad market but if it is a niche product for which you want to target a specific audience then you have to find the right technology to convey that message and I believe that VR, MR and AR are like arrows in your quiver that you can pull out. It might not be the right technology for everyone and every solution but it is the right technology for some and it is going to become more and more relevant.
When Pokémon Go came, it was all the rage but today you hardly ever hear about it. So are VR, MR and AR novelties that will wear off or are they here to stay?
Pokémon Go was absolutely a phenomenon but with any game like that is that they are fun for a while and then people get tired of them, it is just their nature. I think that things will become only more and more enticing and engaging to people. The significance of Pokémon Go is that it should not be underestimated because it was the first time the people had the experience of being able to connect the internet with real life. It is just going to happen more and more. I don’t think that it has been unsuccessful, there are tons of places where it has been tremendously successful. Whether it is still as popular a year from now is sort of beside the point. It had its impact. Let’s say a brand had created it and even if there were able to harness that furore and loyalty for a year or even six months, the position of that brand in my mindshare is going to be huge and I think that is what is exciting about this, that all this is opening up now.
Some brands, according to you, who could really benefit by the use of such innovations.
This is a hard one to answer because any brand can find some facet of their product that could use VR, MR and AR. The ones that are sort of no-brainers are travel and tourism, destination hotels, cruise lines. Beyond that any brand like Starbucks or Toyota could find one secret formula for one element of their brand and that is really what is fun for us. Creatively looking at a brand’s problems and whatever opportunities they may want to take advantage of and trying to create the right solution and the right jigsaw puzzle of technology to sort of drive it and that is fun part for us.
Some brands around the world are at the top of their game when it comes to using innovations?
We are working with Toyota and I think they are very forward thinking as far as technology goes in the US. I have to say Marriot hotels really got into it. Topshop did a virtual fashion show some two-and-half-years ago. There are a lot of brands out there who are doing it right.
What is your take on the Indian advertising space vis-à-vis the global scenario?
We have only started to work with some Indian brands recently. We have done a little bit of work for Tata. So this trip to India is sort of an exploratory trip for me because I want to see what is going on in the India advertising industry.
You mentioned that you started your journey by making TV commercials? Could you tell us how this journey has been for you?
It has been a great journey really because it is all coming from the same place. I went to the USC Film School and everything was about storytelling and that is what my whole training was about. Everything that I bring to my career today comes from that very strict education that taught me to always think of things from the point of view of the audience. So, in a way whether it is a 35 mm film or HD video or VR for me it is all the same thing. It is sort of a fascinating journey going from one technology to the next. I think the thing that keeps me going is that there are always different things to learn and different technologies to explore. There are just so many different ways out there to tell great stories.
Today, when people are being inundated with content, they are also finding ways to avoid what is not relevant to them. Will innovations also suffer the same fate if they can’t stay relevant to people despite their novelty?
Unless you have something that people want to experience, they will not experience it, they will find ways to avoid it and that is same thing with TV commercials. With TV you can change the channel, you can’t fast-forward the ads. What is key is finding something that people want to experience. You are constantly being inundated with content so you have create content that people will want to experience and that hasn’t really changed and that will never change. In the past, where you couldn’t avoid things, people could barrage you but that world has changed which I think is for the good and it makes what I do more challenging.