The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Creativity Without Bruises And Scars Is Not Great Creativity …

A while back – when I was running The Kennedys – I told the guys about how hard it is to make great work.

Ironically, the issue was less about the expression of creativity – though there is always difficulties in that – but in actually getting your precious idea through all the gatekeepers/processes/people without it being impeded, diluted or impacted.

Now don’t get me wrong, being pushed to be better is always good, but it appears we now live in times where the goal of others seems to be the reverse.

Sanitization.

Blandness.

Ego/Career management.

Or as my dear friend George once said:

“Creativity today is a client going to the doctor, telling them their expertise is wrong and then prescribing their own medicine.”

Of course people are entitled to their opinion.

Of course ad industry creativity needs to be commercial creativity.

But right now, it appears many clients version of ‘commercial’ is to either communicate what they want people to care about [regardless if they care about it, or believe it] or to say things where absolutely no one can ever be offended because what they want to communicate makes beige look bold.

And because adland – or should I say some within adland – has sold the value of creativity down the river in favour of making fees from process and production, the entire industries ‘creativity’ is being called into question.

What has happened to wanting to make work that makes culture take notice?

What has happened to wanting to making work others wished they had made?

What has happened to wanting to make work that changes entire categories?

Yes, I know there are some that still fly the flag of great work – but not many and not always consistently – and what’s worse is that we, as an industry, have contributed to this situation but what really gets to me … what really pisses me off … is that I feel we are continuing to pander to the wishes and demands of the organisations we are supposed to help, the organisations who – for whatever reason – are undermining our industries value and long-term future.

I’m not saying we should be arrogant.

Or rude.

Or forget why clients hire us.

But come on, why be a doctor when we let the patient diagnose themselves, which is why I absolutely loved this piece by the phenomenal Dave Trott.

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about how I had taught The Kennedy’s that great creativity doesn’t come without bruises and scars … well, if we still want to stand a chance of making the work that shows how brilliant we can be, then we better be prepared to fight harder for it, because being the punching bag is hurting everyone … us, our clients, our audiences.

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Social Media That Is Actually Social …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with social media.

Actually I should rephrase that …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with people who claim social media is all that matters.

Part of it is because too many companies have approached it as free media.

Part of it is because too many agencies have approached it like it’s a magazine.

Part of it is because ultimately, everything can be social, not just things on certain platforms.

And that’s why, for all the hype it gets, the amount of social media campaigns that have actually been truly social [as in, gained traction and awareness beyond their core audience eco-system] is relatively small.

Please note I’ve said ‘campaigns’, not one-off tweets … which, apart from the fact the idea of a ‘campaign’ on social is kind of an oxymoron … makes it even smaller.

And then if you add ‘successful’ to that group of criteria, it gets even smaller … with arguably only Ice Bucket Challenge and #MeToo being worthy of acclaim, which, let’s not forget, were both causes dedicated to righting human wrongs.

Which is why I have fallen in love with this social media campaign from Doncaster County Council for naming their 2 new grit-spreading trucks.

Please read it.

Read all of it.

I know it’s super-long but I guarantee you will love it.

Every single line and suggestion.

For me, it’s single-handedly the best social media campaign of 2017.

No, seriously … because a conversation from Doncaster County Council about their Road Gritters achieved over seven million impressions in 48 hours.

Seven. Bloody. Million.

I love this campaign for so, so many reasons.

I love that they treated their audience with a brain.

“We would like your name suggestions for two of our new gritting vehicles, please. Keep em clean and be original – we’d prefer not to spend the next few days trawling through responses of Gritty McGritface and Gary Gritter. 🙄”

I love that the people running it were empowered to respond to negative comments with wit and focus rather than – as is the norm – to back down and beg for forgiveness when someone challenges them.

“For those who say the council shouldn’t be wasting their money on this, we say getting the community interested and engaged in how their town runs is a good thing”

I love there mischief and humor with lines including …

“When you look at your grandchildren, what side of history do you want to tell them you were on? #DoncasterGrittingWorldCup”

But most of all, I love that one of the winning names was …

Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney

… proving there is justice in the World.

Yet again, we see a campaign from an organisation that doesn’t have ‘social media experts’ dictating their approach being more successful than the output of an entire industry who claim to be the most informed people in their field.

Why?

Well, as much as I have met some truly brilliant social media strategists in my time, the fact is the vast majority fail because they forget the importance of understanding one key element in creating a social media campaign.

People.

Look, it’s not just the social media industry that is making this mistake, everyone in communication is … preferring to rely on data than some good, old-fashioned, get-in-the-weeds exploration and discovery.

This is not some anti-data rant, it’s just in our quest to drive speed and efficiencies, we are walking away from understanding the texture that makes any data worthwhile … the stuff that helps you develop ideas that feels it comes from the culture rather than an observer of it.

The Doncaster County Council campaign should serve as a reminder everyone about how to make great comms.

In these days where it seems the emphasis is on the platform, the reality is we’re all still trying to connect with humans so spending time to really understand how they think and do stuff is still the key to making ideas that makes a difference.

Not purely in terms of optimizating effectiveness, but in terms of how people feel, think and act.

You know, the stuff that makes sustainable differences to companies rather than this short-termism we have all fallen victims to because to quote John Le Carre, a desk is a dangerous place to view the World..



Not Everyone Gets It …

I’ve written a lot about the state of tourism advertising.

To be honest, there’s very few categories that do it worse.

A mass of generic vignettes that shows every possible activity you can do with a bad line stuck at the end that generally tends to be some over-promising superlative placed before the name of country the ad is about.

There have been a few exceptions.

The original ‘100% Pure’ New Zealand campaign is one, but there’s not been many more.

Which is why I loved this poster that appeared in Helsinki …

OK, so they are preaching to the converted – given anyone who saw it happened to be there anyway – but it’s just a great way to make someone feel special and welcomed.

I love it.

I love it for so many reasons.

I love how they celebrate their visitors while also acknowledging they’re bloody nutcase.

I can imagine a tourist seeing that, agreeing it was a mental thing to do and then walking away smiling … feeling better about their decision and themselves.

That’s pretty impressive. Especially for a poster.

Which all goes to show that brands that are self aware can connect to culture better than brands that are bland egomaniacs.



Creativity Can Find A Way …

One of the things that bothers me about my industry is how they always talk about creativity when most of what they create is advertising.Of course advertising has creativity within it – sometimes, incredibly creativity – but often, the approach is to communicate the problem rather than solve the problem.

OK, so there are occasions when the biggest problem is a lack of awareness, but that is most definitely the exception rather than the rule.

I’ve written and talked about this so much over the years.

From my PSFK talk back in 2009 to my distain of Cannes scam to my adoration of designers and an absolute shedload in-between … and yet I continue to see briefs where the goal was obviously to ‘make an ad’ rather than ‘create a difference’.

This is not purely the agencies fault, in many cases it comes from the client.

Sometimes it’s because they need to support the retailers.

Sometimes it’s because their KPI’s are based on executional delivery.

Sometimes it’s because it would affect their remuneration structure with their agencies.

Sometimes it’s because they are not empowered to do anything different.

Sometimes it’s because they don’t actually care about solving, just producing.

And yet even in some of those approaches, there’s an opportunity to create a solution rather than make some noise if only they’d asked the right questions.

A while back, I had a client that briefed us on an ad campaign.

Got to admit, as much as I love them, it kind-of annoyed the hell out of me.

For me, that was like going to the doctor and diagnosing your own illness and solution.

So we asked why they wanted the campaign and they said they needed parents to let their kids do sport which was hard as they were worried their precious [only] child may get hurt.

And so we said, “If we can find a way to get parents to feel good about letting their kids do sport, are you open to it?”And when they said ‘yes’, it gave us the right to create bandaids that worked as badges of honor and comic books celebrating the power of sport.

Don’t get me wrong, if we had done a TV campaign it would have been a brilliant TV campaign.

But by asking a simple question, it allowed creativity rather than advertising to be the solution.

Or said another way, it opened possibilities rather than closed them off.

The reason for all this is that I recently saw a brilliant creative solution to slowing traffic down.

This is something that has been done in many ways over the years, including the brilliant Speed Dial by Colenso [video here] … but this was something even simpler.

This.

[Or if you’re too lazy to click on the link, the picture at the top of this post serves as a clue]

Now I know you might argue that once you know it’s not ‘real’ people won’t slow down, but I’d challenge that given the way the brain works.

But regardless, I will be interested to see what the data says after it has been in operation a while, but compared to a multi-million dollar ad campaign, or even the prices of stationing a copper there with a speed gun, I’m guessing it will be more effective.

And that is why our industry has to truly embrace creativity rather than just want to make ads.



When Brands Are Fucking Delusional …

OK, full disclosure, this is old.

OK, I know ALL my posts are old, but this is old even by my old standards.

I found this photo from an Australian supermarket in my emails and I still can’t quite believe a company would do this and not think people would find it insulting.

No, your eyes do not deceive you, Woolworths Australia thought it was a good idea to print point-of-sale material that laughed at the madness of spending $10 on a BBQ chicken, when theirs are only $9.88.

A saving of 12 cents.

A saving of 1.2%.

Look, I know they say ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ but come on …

Do they honestly think someone who wasn’t going to buy a BBQ chicken will suddenly want one because they are saving 12 cents on it?

Or do they think someone who shops at another supermarket and wants a BBQ chicken will make a special trip to Woolies to save that 12 cents?

I literally don’t understand this.

And then there’s the fact that the cost of producing and distributing that point-of-sale probably added about 12 cents to the cost of those BBQ chickens, so all this means is Woolworths aren’t actually the fresh food people, but the foolish food people.



The Power Of A Point Of View …

So I know yesterday I basically slagged off big ad campaigns by highlighting the cheeky brilliance of the Narcos ambient campaign, but every now and then there’s a big ad campaign that reminds you who brilliant it can be.

Given I slagged BBH off recently for an Audi print campaign, it gives me great pleasure to say the piece of work I love is also by BBH and also for Audi.


Have a look, it’s brilliant.

Love it.

But here’s the thing, if you strip it back, the strategy isn’t that unique.

I’m guessing it would be something like, ‘Road safety is ultimately defined by how you react to how the drivers around you. The progressive and adaptive safety features inside modern Audi’s are designed to help drivers react and respond to the unexpected actions of those around them’.

I bet that sort of thing has been written a bunch of times for a bunch of cars.

But if, as I imagine it, the brief was summed up with something like …

[Audi designs their safety features in the knowledge … ] ‘The roads are full of clowns’.

… then it’s pretty obvious to see how they ended up with work that elevates itself above the usual car safety feature ads.

Of course maybe it had nothing to do with the brief, maybe it was all down to a great creative team, but BBH have always been brilliant at finding great strategic ways to elevate work so I’m hopeful this is a sign that the BBH I have always loved is back to being the BBH that made them so fucking good.



You Know How Boring Adland Is Becoming When A Leaflet Is The Best Thing I’ve Seen In Ages …

If you’re wondering what the photo above is, it’s an insert that was placed in the X-Ray machine trays that you place your electronic items in at airports.

In other words, it’s a paper insert in a plastic tray.

And yet it’s the most fun piece of advertising I’ve seen in ages.

OK, so part of the reason I like it so much is because the standard of advertising right now is pretty poor, but the other part is that whoever was behind it, understood what the brand – in this case, Narcos – was all about.

The cheekiness of advertising a TV show about drug smuggling at the very place in an airport that is designed to stop them, is brilliant.

Yes, you may say it’s obvious … but there’s many obvious things that don’t get made because ‘ambient media’ doesn’t have the reach of mainstream broadcast or the targeting of digital.

And yet this paper insert in a plastic tray made me smile.

Made me take a photograph of it.

Made me write about it.

And while the reach of this blog is about 5 people, that’s still better than 99% of campaigns churned out in the mainstream world.

I admit I’ve always been a sucker for good ambient media stuff.

Sure, it got a bit mad there for a while … where it was less about extending the spirit and purpose of the brand in interesting and relevant places and more about just putting ads wherever you could get away with … but when it’s done right, well thought out ‘brand experiences’ can have an impact that is bigger and better than many multi million dollar ad campaigns.

So to whoever did it, thank you … you reminded me that creativity is more than just what you do, but where you do it.