FCB Inferno’s Hackathon trio – Creative Director Becky McOwen-Banks, Social Director, Laura Visick and Copywriter, Sarah Lefkowith – are back in action after a week’s worth of geeking out in San Francisco. In addition to hacking a brief or two and topping up on vitamin D, we got the latest from Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Here’s just a bit of what we learned from the platforms and the hacking process.   

All the important stuff.

Facebook had the best catering, Google the best views and Twitter the most over-use of hashtags.

Everyone’s doing the same thing, and everyone’s doing it different.

Watching platforms present back to back made two things particularly clear. First, there’s a lot of overlap in the type of media that each platform is playing with, which is part down to what we now know works on mobile. Second, every platform’s got its own spin. So, for instance, while Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Shazam might all have AR offerings, they’re all handled slightly differently. This means creatives can equally think about technology or platform when developing ideas, whilst knowing that one doesn’t necessarily have to come before the other.  

Platforms are brands, too.

It’s easy to forget this, as we increasingly think of social media partly as a broadcast medium. But Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, Spotify – hell, any platform – is a brand in and of itself. They each want to stand for something, and engineer their platforms to that end. Understanding your own brand as well as the brand of your platform ensures that you’re producing work that works for all and that performs better, accordingly.

Change is good.

Change of scene. Change of team. Change of speed.

Change of any sort pops your brain out of the go-to thinking patterns we have built up. Embrace the opportunity to break these rotes. It allows a new tract of thought to be created and new muscles to be flexed. We all have time pressures which result in falling to reliable habits to get things done. It pays to refresh your brain - even if it’s as simple as changing seats for a bit. The thoughts and ideas that come back will take you somewhere new.

We have a pretty great network.

10 teams from FCB offices all over the world joined us in San Francisco for the second FCB Hackathon, with New Zealand taking the crown for the furthest travelled. FCB Health, Area 23, FCB Joburg and FCB Canada all also got involved, as did the three other big US offices: NYC, Chicago and, of course, San Francisco. Hearing how the different agencies work, what their skill sets are, how their clients are adapting to this digital age; it was fascinating and really proved the power of the network. It also means we now have friends in every corner of the globe.

Brands need to be ready for voice.

The consumer adoption curve of voice and smart speakers has, thus far, been faster than that of both the internet and mobile phones. Four in ten children in the UK aged 9-16 are already using voice recognition devices at home and it’s predicted that 40% of UK all households will own one before the end of the year. People are using assistants, from Amazon Alexa to Apple’s Siri, to listen to the news, to shop, to enjoy music and to control other devices. This frictionless emerging behaviour is one that brands cannot ignore, and could pose a huge opportunity to offer intimate, unique experiences in the comfort of consumers living rooms/ kitchens/ cars.

There are no rules.

Well, okay, there are rules, but they aren’t set in stone. Everyone wants a quick guide on how to win at XYZ platform. While there are certain tips and tricks that apply to different media and formats, the brilliance of seeing what works is realising that the best creative isn’t cookie cutter. There’s an old aphorism about having to know the rules before you can break them. When it comes to emerging media, perhaps embracing the fact that any rules aren’t gospel is just as valuable.