NextMEDIA 2015: Tumblr’s David Hayes on the power of creativity in marketing

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When Tumblr wanted to land marketing campaigns, it could have chosen generic photos and stale copy. Instead, it embraced members of its own community to create truly memorable, “collectible” campaigns.

In the closing keynote of the first day of Toronto’s nextMEDIA conference, David Hayes, head of creative strategy for Tumblr, explained how the popular social network gives power to its own users.

He began by introducing Cindy Suen, who caught Hayes’ eye with her hypnotic and beautiful GIFs. Before long, Tumblr had hired her for some marketing campaign work in its newly created in-house ad agency, Creatrs Network.

The site’s first campaign was for the movie Ouija — which featured Suen’s creative GIFs surrounding stills and scenes from the movie — and has since gone on to do work for TRESemmé, Converse and more.

Hayes had three main tips for how to engage with the creative class as a brand (and note these tips can work for B2B firms too):

Who makes your art matters

More or less since the dawn of advertising audiences are exposed to colourful illustrations or beautifully shot video, but the person behind them is never front and centre. That’s why crediting artists is such an integral move. Don’t pigeonhole someone into a certain kind of art, Hayes noteD. Increasingly, artists experiment with all kinds of mediums, from illustration to photography to animated GIFs.

Open yourself to interpretation

Tumblr has never been shy about embracing remix culture — the site has always been a hotbed for culture jamming. Hayes used the example of car ads. You could see an artful photograph of a new vehicle, or on Tumblr, you can see the car made out of ice or yarn. When Gap released its black jeans, Tumblr promoted them with literal animations featuring just the jeans. Imagine how a social media suite via a B2B firm can animate its offering by doing some culture jamming of its own, and mixing in popular social media influencers into a sticky ad.

Nothing collects, outlasts and transforms like art

Hayes stressed the idea of art being “collectible.” An ad can be a full-page spread detailing why it’s so great, or it can be, in the case of Converse, a number of “shoe portraits” drawn by a variety of artists. The idea is to make the ad campaign memorable.

Above all: pay artists well and one time, and give them credit.

This article originally appeared on Digital Journal by Michael Thomas. Copyright 2015

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Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is a staff editor at Digital Journal Inc. He is a graduate from Ryerson University's School of Journalism in Toronto. He also founded Grayowl Point, a Canadian music blog that's been online since 2009.