Creative Showcases Are Good But Original Work Rules

I've just sat through a presentation by Cannes Lions to Unilever making the case for creative work. And as I sat there listening to the Q&A afterwards I was struck again by the way people mistake Cannes Lions as a creative target rather than as a showcase of creativity. To make sure I'm clear: Cannes is a showcase of great work from the previous year, it is not the purpose of the work itself.

Be original, make something you care about and Lions will follow. And if they don't, whatever, awards juries can be as bad as research at picking original ideas.



Four weeks ago I started a new chapter at adam&eveDDB. They're an agency going through a remarkably creative period and I'm very happy to have been asked to join their team and add to their amazing momentum. 

At the same time I've left a company that I worked with for 11 years in 3 countries. I'm incredibly proud of what we achieved together and I wish Ogilvy & Mather nothing but the best. 

Take Something Boring and Make It Beautiful

My favourite ideas involve products or tools that no sane creative person would bother with. You know the sort; high fibre cereal, wall paint, dog food, the stuff that surrounds us but has no coolness attached to it at all. No one has ever seen a good idea involving these woeful waifs and they don’t expect that to ever change. Until someone does exactly that, and we never forget those ideas.

Many years ago a VW Beetle was turned into a Lemon.

A few years ago we turned a boring “Square Shreddie” into a perfectly lovely “Diamond Shreddie”. An idea so ludicrous it’s found it’s way into TED talks, textbooks, economics and behavioural books, and more than a few speeches by people who’ve never even eaten a Shreddie.

Not so long ago TBWA/Chiat/Day turned Pedigree dog food into a call to arms for our hairy pets with, “We’re For Dogs”. It sounds so obvious now.

Last month we turned the media planners domain of “keyword targeting” into a consumer friendly self-esteem tool with the Dove Ad Makeover. An idea so radical that it’s attracted the kind of scrutiny that gets people into trouble.

All of these ideas have done a fine job of selling more product, improving brand love and being famous among connoisseurs of advertising. But most importantly they’ve taken the dull, dreary and boring and given it new life.

Which brings me to something that desperately needs a great idea. It’s something that nearly a billion people theoretically see on a regular basis. They’re a throwback to the classifieds ads of newsprint and they’re without doubt dull, dreary and boring. I’m talking about the small space, 90 character, 110px image, Facebook ad.

They need some love. Everybody (even you) has given up on them as ever being truly memorable. Even if they are “liked by a friend”, “sponsored” and “in your timeline”, it all feels like a last gasp attempt at polishing a turd.

Therein lies greatness. If only some brave soul would rise to the seemingly impossible challenge and do something good with these pixels.

Just remember that you could be the subject of a TED talk, quoted in books, name dropped at conferences and loved by the advertising fraternity for breathing life into the unloved Facebook ad.

The boring can be beautiful if you’re creative enough.

First published on the OgilvyOne blog:

November & Matisse

Matisse - from the Metropolitan Museum site

It's coming up for only 2 years in London yet it feels like a lifetime ago that I left Canada to do some work on this side of the pond. Ogilvy London is a very different place from when I started, so progress is being made. The conversations are quite different even though frustration abounds. That's advertising. The system is built from, and in, chaos. Which is lovely.

Recently I've been thinking about brand restarts, staffing up and art. Not always in that order, and sometimes not at all. Visit The Met and Art Tattler, they're a welcome breath of fresh air and brain food. And I'm very keen on the Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate.

The world is being shaken this year. I might as well shake with it.

Inspiration for Truth & Spectacle

Truth & Spectacle comes from an interview I saw with Tony Kaye, the director, talking about Stanley Kubrick. He describes Kubrick’s films as being filled with spectacle and truth. “Spectacle and truth are the two most important things in film making. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the story, or how implausible the scene, if it has truth and it has a special look, it will infiltrate into your audience.” Sounds like good advertising.