The Crowd Sings Back: The Best Ideas Shaping Culture Are Shaped By Culture: Advertising Week

By Kelsey Whitaker, Partner, Associate Director, Content+, Mindshare NA

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What makes the best ideas? In a sentence, this session was about how the best ideas that are now shaping culture are themselves being shaped by culture.

…as said in meme culture:

And yeah, it sounds pretty meta. But the constructs are simple. The problem is, the simplest things can be the hardest to adhere to. So let me unpack this by breaking down some key tenets on what builds great ideas, and what it means for us, with three of the most impactful things I took away.


…are built with a deep understanding of people.

Start with a human truth.

Sounds simple. There’s a lot of talk about being consumer-first. But do we truly think that way in practice every day?

Before this session began, a live word cloud was beamed onto the IMAX screen with top Advertising Week themes. The biggest word? DATA. Followed by STORYTELLING. When it comes to the combo, there’s been a positive shift; I had just come from sessions on data-driven storytelling, witness to panels where traditional creatives, infamously known as those who don’t “do” data, are now embracing the value of the right data to drive deeper insights that lead to greater ideas. This, when done right, drives great work, and we put this to practice in strategies at Mindshare.

But sometimes, in this age of data overload, marketers can lose full sight. The ‘data’ – talking about information in its simplest form – too often forgotten is data overlay on the basic level of human truths. Marketers too often forget that we’re people too.

With our ideas, it’s important to think as people, not what we as marketers want to get across, not even what our brands want to get across, but why would the intended audience give a shit about it?

This gets us to ideas that matter. And those are the ones that land, connect, and make impact.

When it comes to things that matter, this hits back to other macro themes of Advertising Week around Purpose, Diversity, Inclusion. The way this comes to life may manifest in different ways.

  • For a brand like GAP, per CMO Craig Brommers, this is about focus on emotional truths, always laddering up to decades of purpose-driven messages.
  • For a brand like Nike, per W+K Pres Colleen DeCourcy (and a brand MS knows well!), this is about authenticity in representation of and for a younger generation with the “Nothing Beats a Londoner” campaign (a program that Mindshare was proud to partner on as well!).
  • For a brand like Bud Light, looking at what its target wants, that human truth doesn’t always have to be “worthy” and weighty. (Two words: Dilly Dilly).


…aren’t measured just with what marketers put into the world, but what people build around it.

Transfer some ownership to the people.

Technology has democratized creativity. Some of the most awarded, standout creative work, have a commonality: the idea was built around a human truth (see above) and transferred ownership to the people.

This is about brands accepting some potential RISK (another macro theme of the week) in order to see payoff. For brands to survive, they need to adapt their creativity to recognize that audiences make, shape, and curate content at their discretion, not the brand’s discretion.

We should continue to help our brands in building a system that recognizes and plans strategically for it.  Facilitate the creation of something out of a community.


…react and adapt with culture.

So brands must react with value in this new era.

Part of the core of our belief at Mindshare, is moving at the speed of culture. Fueling the circle, brands must react, credibly contributing to the conversations they have a right to be in, in ways that add value.

Brands that play in culture in authentic ways grow brand power. Brands that contribute to culture – through great, impactful work that matters – will succeed and survive.

When asked about the future of advertising, DeCourcy mentioned in this ever-changing landscape, there are some timeless truths that are all the more relevant today. Advertising should be like an uninvited dinner guest – earn its place at the table.

With that, here’s to reminding ourselves and each other to think like the people we are in order to drive true consumer-first work and great ideas. This is work we should all strive for – marketing for people. Contribution to culture in a positive way. When done right, it drives true impact for culture, consumers and brands alike.