AI, voice and second screens are three themes to emerge from this year’s WARC Awards’ Effective Innovation shortlist. WARC’s Lucy Aitken takes a closer look.

What constitutes effective innovation? For the jury in the 2019 WARC Awards, it’s about problem-solving and showcasing new ideas. The judges have been hotly debating the 21 shortlisted entries in the Effective Innovation category which span 14 countries, including the US, India, Argentina and Australia. The latter is traditionally a very strong performing country in these awards with work including 2017 Grand Prix winner Toyota LandCruiser Emergency Network and, from 2016, Rip Curl, Melbourne International Film Festival’s Emotional Trailer and the unforgettable Slurpee Xpandinator from retailer 7-Eleven.

Effective AI

Australia has also spawned some great ideas on this year’s Effective Innovation shortlist, and is creating some genuinely head-turning projects involving AI. An imaginative concept through Mindshare for Foxtel, for instance, achieved the seemingly impossible by making cricket interesting. Monty became the world’s first AI ‘predictive commentator’ for interminably long televised cricket games. Monty’s commentary was integrated into the Fox Cricket app and Google Home as a way of adding value to a monthly subscription to Foxtel. This ability to predict wickets made Monty, in Mindshare’s words ‘the unofficial twelfth man of Australian cricket.’ Howzzaaaat?

MediaCom Russia’s Theraflu case was an AI-influenced flu tracker to advertise the GSK-owned flu medicine when an epidemic was about to break out. Using AI and machine learning, the Theraflu Tracker provided a 95% accurate forecast for Russian cities up to 10 days ahead and helped the brand to earn its highest-ever market share.

Visionary uses of voice

This year’s shortlist also includes interesting uses of voice and chatbots. To drive leads and demonstrate the capability of its voice product Google Assistant, Google, via MullenLowe US, sent personalised Google Homes to 3,500 CTOs so they could ask as many questions as they wanted. Meanwhile, DDB Group New Zealand developed what it dubbed ‘The World’s Most Unhelpful Chatbot’ to promote cyber-safety through organisation Netsafe. This AI-powered chatbot imitated human victims, duping scammers into thinking they were conversing with actual people. The rationale? If scammers were talking to robots, they weren’t talking to real people. Talk about playing the scammers at their own game!

Block Wish for Finnish grocery store Alepa, through SOK Media, enabled customers to request their favourite products to be added to the shop’s shelves via Facebook Messenger. In an era of always-on e-commerce, this was a smart way to revitalise the relevance of the corner store, positioning it at the heart of the local community.

Deploying the second screen

Two entries on this year’s shortlist leveraged our behaviour of second-screening while watching TV. Fashion brand Missguided sponsored 2018 TV ratings smash Love Island, taking its partnership beyond the small screen. An ‘Island Style’ section on the Love Island app (downloaded by 3.5 million people) enabled viewers to browse the outfits they had seen on the show’s contestants and then purchase them straightaway. MediaCom UK estimates that Love Island looks accounted for 18% of Missguided’s total summer sales.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, KFC’s Golden Egg Crunch was a cheeky seasonal campaign where the fast food retailer served up 20 parody Chinese New Year commercials on Malaysian smartphones while their corresponding genuine ads were airing. Ensemble Worldwide states that this strategy contributed to a considerable sales spike for KFC’s salted egg yolk-infused chicken.

Not forgetting the analogue ideas…

While the shortlist boasts no shortage of clever tech ideas, judges clearly have a soft spot for smart analogue ideas too. Kwality Dairy, through McCann Worldgroup India, has been shortlisted for one such initiative. It aimed to address the Vitamin D deficiency among schoolchildren through one simple suggestion: moving the morning assembly in schools outdoors at midday, when the sunshine is at its strongest.

And Snickers’ Hunger-Free Airlines addressed Chinese New Year hunger pangs that occur when its core target market of 15 to 35-year olds are fighting their way through crowds at busy airports. By partnering China Eastern Airlines, the Mars-owned confectionery brand reinforced its long-term positioning as an instant hunger fix. At the same time, it generated earned media and enjoyed a considerable sales increase.

Congratulations to all of the shortlisted entrants, and our ongoing gratitude to a dedicated judging panel which continues to scrutinise the papers.

The Effective Innovation winners will be announced on 22 May.