The 2018 WARC Awards Grand Prix for Innovation went to 7-Second Resumes, a solution that reframed how job-hunters appeal to recruiters. Here, Lucy Aitken, Managing Editor – Case Studies, WARC, shares lessons from that initiative that can help other brands create fresh value.

As with any industry buzzword, there are several different ways to define innovation. However, the one that continues to resonate with me is from Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove’s 2016 book What we mean when we talk about innovation. They describe it simply as “the creation of fresh value [which] is focused on new ways to do things.” There’s no mention of tech, which sometimes appears to stand in the way of innovation, making solutions overly complex as opposed to galvanising change.

A fair hearing

The Grand Prix winner at the 2018 Effective Innovation Awards was very much in keeping with Crainer and Dearlove’s idea of fresh value creation. The objective was to give a fair hearing to US job candidates who might have otherwise wound up at the bottom of a heap of CVs because they didn’t have either a college education or official work experience to sell their particular skills.

Working with the agency team at 22squared, they found themselves with a precious seven-second video slot to sell themselves to prospective employers through an initiative called 7-Second Resumes. This was part of an initiative called Grads of Life run by the Ad Council and was a disruptive idea aimed to get past the fatigue of hiring managers who, incidentally, spend an average of just seven seconds scanning a CV.

It encouraged these millennial job-hunters to share their own stories as a talking head to camera, and shared details of how overcoming adversity prepared them for the workforce.

Grads of Life was contacted by an average of 45 businesses a month, up from the pre-campaign average of two. Each 7-Second Resume was viewed an average of 344 times. Site visits to increased by 68%. And the 7-Second Resume innovation was so successful that it was adopted by other opportunity youth training programmes, and appeared in publications like Forbes and Fast Company. Most of all, though, it helped to challenge and change perceptions of recruiters and found a way to disrupt hiring behaviours in a sector that is renowned for its conservatism.

Speaking the same language

The chair of the Innovation jury, Chris Yu, Head of Integrated Marketing Strategy, Innovation, & Technology, US Bank, pointed out that the choice of mobile video as a medium for this group was key to its success. In an Opinion piece for WARC entitled Why targeting millennials is actually effective, he commented: “We take for granted that younger adults are the leading consumers of emerging forms of social content, for example attributing the rise of mobile video largely to their viewing preferences. Does their enthusiasm for new experiences, however, necessarily make these formats the best ways for millennials to communicate with non-millennials? This was the question that US agency 22squared sought to answer for the Ad Council.”

This is a really important point. How can millennials – particularly those who are on the back foot because they haven’t got the traditional benefits of the right education or experience – shine within the confines of a traditional CV? So give them a medium – video – where they feel comfortable selling themselves and help their personality come across loud and clear.

This initiative could so easily have looked very different, had the Ad Council taken a more well-trodden ‘advertising’ route as opposed to innovating. As one of the judges on the Innovation jury, Howard Pull, Strategic Development Director at MullenLowe Profero, pointed out in our Effective Innovation Report, published in September 2018: “An easy route for the Ad Council could have been an awareness campaign that talked about the issue. Its masterstroke was to ask a better question: could its campaign be part of the solution to the problem it was highlighting? Could its campaign directly prevent its audience from being overlooked?”

Pull added: “Putting its marketing weight behind a job hunter’s seven-second resume delivered stunning results. Through turning career fairs across the country into seven-second film sets, it built a valuable service for its audience, which also happened to be successful advertising. It created utility that helps job hunters to stand out and recruiters to find them. It also created something which has the potential to disrupt behaviours around recruitment.”

What Pull writes about – building a valuable service which also happens to be successful advertising – is a recurrent theme among successful innovative work entered into our four annual case study competitions. Just look at the brilliant work by The Womb for Indian music company Sargema and its retro-chic music box Carvaan that took a silver in the 2018 Innovation Awards as well as netting the Grand Prix at the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy.

This focused on innovating for an older audience but, crucially as The Womb’s Planner and Founding Partner, Kawal Shoor, pointed out in our Asian Strategy Report, published in November 2018: “We were not trying to innovate. We were just trying to solve a problem, and an innovation happened.”

Like creativity, innovation isn’t something that can be summoned at will. What our 2018 winners show us is that asking the right questions and not straining to fit solutions into a neat little box called ‘advertising campaign’ is crucial for any brand that is serious about creating fresh value.

The 2019 Innovation jury will be led by Dan Burdett, Chief Marketing Innovation Officer at eBay EMEA and he will be joined by Apple’s Hannah Mirza, Uber India’s Sanjay Gupta and Jem Fawcus from Firefish, among many others. Entry is free and there’s a $10K prize fund. Please submit your entries by 19 February 2019. Find more details here