Top innovator PHD Media captures Australia's diversity with Google's Pixel 6 – The Australian Financial Review

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The AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies list, published on Friday, has revealed the top innovators in 10 categories — agriculture, mining and utility; banking, superannuation and financial services; government, education and not-for-profit; health industries; manufacturing and consumer goods; media & marketing; property, construction & transport; professional services; retail, hospitality, tourism & entertainment; and technology. Each category has a prize-winning innovator. Apart from these 10 category winners, there are six special innovation prizes for best product; best service; best marketing; best internal innovation; best innovation program; and best CSR innovation. The overall best innovator, the top prize, this year has been won by Nano Digital Home Loans.
These are the 2022 AFR BOSS top 10 innovative companies in the media and marketing category.
Innovation: In Our Image
Staff: 100-499
PHD Media’s In Our Image 
PHD in collaboration with Essence, Pedestrian Group, Refinery29, Getty Images and Nine created In Our Image, a library of 120 images that positively photographed people with darker skin tones using Google’s Pixel 6 Real Tone feature.
In Our Image made these images available for use in reporting across Australia’s largest media network and via Getty Images. PHD and its collaborators then took the issue of diverse representation in the media to Australia’s largest and most established print and digital publications.
Innovation: ‘Meddle in the New Zealand Election’
Staff: 20-99
Almost one million New Zealanders live overseas, with only one in 10 of that number voting in the 2017 New Zealand election. Special Group were tasked by client, Every Kiwi Vote Counts, with creating a campaign that would convert overseas non-voters into voters for the 2020 election.
Special managing partner Michael Redwood says with only three weeks until the election, and a minimal budget, they had to be innovative to create the desired campaign. Enter a provocative Russian spokesperson (i.e. meddler) named Viktor. Viktor infiltrated social networks as voting opened to urge overseas Kiwis to “meddle in the New Zealand election”. Being provocative worked. New Zealand saw a rise of 24 per cent in overseas enrolments and 50 per cent increase in uploaded votes for its 2020 election.
Innovation: Streamlight
Staff: 20-99
Streamlight, from independent research and insights agency, TRA, tracks how people feel about brands and their advertising to help marketers understand how their comms are working in real-time rather than months after the fact. Streamlight shifts the burden of data collection and curation to machines, creating more time for humans to illuminate opportunity in the data.
TRA’s Connon Bray. 
Connon Bray, a partner at TRA explains that in market research, tracking solutions are split between two extremes: full product and full service. “There are off the shelf platforms, with little to no client service or analysis, and bespoke, enterprise brand tracking, with little to no productisation efficiency. Streamlight is the only one, to our knowledge, that does both,” Bray says.
Innovation: Mammoth
Staff: 20-99
Creative agency whiteGREY developed Mammoth, a world-first data intelligence tool designed to shield the African elephant from extinction. The digital tool was created for the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a pioneering conservation organisation in East Africa.
With a vast area of Kenya to patrol, the Progressive Web App enables Sheldrick Wildlife Trust field forces to collect and submit data about wildlife sightings and incidents in real time. Mammoth works both online and offline, a necessity with the large area and lack of mobile data coverage.
Mammoth enables Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to plan their operations and deploy their limited resources to the locations needing them most.
Innovation: Honda HR-V: Harvey
Staff: 100-499
The ambition for HR-V was to connect with and attract a younger car buyer. However, Ilona Janashvili, head of strategy at Leo Burnett Australia says younger car buyers weren’t particularly enamoured with the car buying experience.
Leo Burnett’s Harvey. 
The goal was to alleviate some of the burden of the car research process and create a more human and joyful interaction that invites people to find out more about the HR-V. In response, Leo Burnett Australia developed Harvey, the talking Honda HR-V.
Harvey’s AI can answer over 350 questions and learns more answers every day, from models and grades, features, “how-to” content, service and warranty details as well as dating and life advice.
Innovation: TimbsTrails
Staff: 100-499
TimbsTrails is an immersive experience. 
TimbsTrails is an immersive web-based experience that invites Timberland’s current and future fans on a journey through the biggest moments in the iconic ’90s brand’s history, as well as providing a glimpse into their future.
Michael Titshall, managing director for R/GA in Australia says the primary goal was to drive brand affinity with Gen Z, however traditional digital marketing couldn’t be relied upon to reach this advertising-averse target market.
Visually inspired by ’90s first-person shooter games, the TimbsTrails is an explorable documentary filled with interviews, stories, hidden rooms, and recipes. A research sample of Gen Z customers by R/GA resulted in 41 per cent saying they were more likely to buy from Timberland as a result of playing TimbsTrails. An independent report from AdAge rating the “20 brands gaining Gen Z attention right now” rated Timberland at number 4.
Innovation: VB Solar Exchange
Staff: 100-499
Following its announcement in 2020 that all Victoria Bitter would be brewed using 100 per cent offset solar electricity, VB presented Clemenger BBDO with a brief to contemporise the brand by making its commitment to renewable energy relevant and engaging to everyday Australians.
Jim Curtis of Clemenger BBDO 
Clemenger BBDO’s national chief creative officer, Jim Curtis, says the VB Solar Exchange is the world’s first energy program that allows the public to exchange their solar energy for beer.
Rather than selling their excess solar energy back to the grid for a fixed price, people can now send it to VB and get a better price for their energy paid in beer.
Every $30 worth of solar credits can be exchanged for a slab of VB. The VB Solar Exchange was opened to 500 households at launch with the capacity to add over 2 million kWh to Australia’s energy grid in exchange for 360,000 beers. In 2022, VB expanded the program with the program able to exchange up to 1 million beers before the end of 2023.
Innovation: Snowstorm
Staff: 100-499
M&C Saatchi developed Uber Snowstorm, a digital innovation platform and thought-starting machine where thousands of combinations of “Collision Cards” help kick-start new ideas and solutions.
At the heart of the Snowstorm experience, the Collision Cards, are created from three elements; things that Uber does (Foundations), category trends (Frames), and social trends (Forces) that shape society. Users can shuffle or sort the cards to shake up their thinking and explore new opportunities.
Innovation: Bid Talk
Staff: 20-99
Aurora Marketing has developed Bid Talk, a box of tactile, engaging cards with a series of questions encouraging bid teams to think more deeply about their bid or tender response.
Aurora Marketing’s Bid Talk challenges corporate-speak. 
Bid Talk cards are used to pose many tough questions to stimulate discussion, unleash big ideas and help teams prepare their best and most competitive bids.
Leann Webb, founder and managing director of Aurora Marketing, says that tendering is a high-stakes, dynamic process where losing a tender can mean losing staff and jeopardising the growth and sustainability of a business. The cards help bid teams change the way they approach their tenders, and challenge corporate-speak.
Innovation: Samsung Performance Enhancing Music
Staff: 100-499
Samsung signed on as an official sponsor of the Australian Olympic team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. CHEP Network’s chief creative officer, Gavin McLeod says they saw this as an opportunity to shift perceptions of Samsung, from being cold and techy, to being a true supporter of Australians.
CHEP Network time trial test 
“The inspiration for the project came from a thought-provoking quote by Professor Frank Millward BA MA PhD, who posited that ‘music is the legal drug for athletes’,” McLeod says.
Samsung, CHEP Network, audio branding specialist Resonance, music specialist Song Zu and seven elite athletes were instrumental in developing the world’s first Performance Enhancing Music personalised to each athletes’ needs and disciplines.
This approach was then replicated with Olympians, Poppy Starr Olsen (skateboarder), Steph Catley (footballer), Mack Horton (swimmer) and Nic Beveridge (Paralympic triathlete).
The athletes then used their tracks to prepare and compete in Tokyo as the world listened along on Spotify. Of the four athletes, three went onto record personal bests at the Olympics.
Coinciding with the launch of Google’s Pixel 6 in October last year, Google Australia created a new stock photo library that showcases darker skin tones, to help media better reflect the diversity of Australia.
First, it’s important to understand how the Pixel 6 camera is different. Google partnered with a range of image makers who are celebrated for their beautiful and accurate depictions of communities of colour to significantly increase the number of portraits of people of colour in the image datasets that train their camera models. Their feedback also helped with key improvements across face detection, camera and editing products.
With the help of Pixel 6’s equitable camera technology, the new image library will help improve representation of all skin tones across some of Australia’s biggest, including Nine and Pedestrian Group. The images have also been included in Refinery29 Australia’s “We Are Many” Image Collection, in partnership with Getty Images.
Aisling Finch, senior director of marketing, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council chair for Google Australia and New Zealand said at the time of launch that the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones were designed around individual nuances, and specifically to better photograph diverse skin tones.
“To bring this to life, it made sense to collaborate with Nine and Pedestrian Group to equip journalists with a new image library with greater representation of Australia’s rich diversity, beautifully photographed on Pixel,” Finch said.
The story behind the images and the partnership is brought to life through print wraps, native articles, a digital immersive experience and a suite of behind-the-scenes videos. Media, marketers and designers can purchase images via the “We are Many” collection on Getty Images.
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