"Originality is being different from oneself, not others," Philip Larkin once wrote in a letter. He was commenting on an author having her novel turned down for lack of the "o" word.
A feeling many in agencies will be used to. Rejection, based on a so-called lack of originality. And this is not due to absence of effort. Creatives, planners and suits all strive for that original, never-been-done-before insight or execution.
Yet, perhaps it’s enough to learn something from Larkin’s comment. To move towards originality on your own terms, or those of the client and its specifics, rather than competing in some imaginary game of creative superiority.
To do better than what you did before should be the goal. Take Tesco’s latest ad from Wieden & Kennedy London. Not a classic, perhaps, but a big step forward in terms of creative, production and message. It’s original in the sense that Tesco hasn’t walked the food-quality line for more than a decade and doesn’t really suffer for being very similar, albeit with a twist, to some Marks & Spencer ads from a while back.
Another current Wieden & Kennedy campaign, Honda "hands", also trades on much of what has come before and, probably coincidentally, resembles an elongated version of some of the more cutting-edge short-form digital film that’s being developed.
If you like the "hands" stuff, then it’s worth checking out the work of Ian Padgham (@origiful), a video producer at Twitter who is exploiting the Vine medium to its full potential. Stitch several of his films together and you wouldn’t be far off an effect similar to that of the Honda online video (http:// tinyurl.com/nghnleu).
What W&K, and other good agencies, bring, though, is attention to detail and delivery against a client brief. Perhaps the best example of this in recent times is an unheralded campaign for the Fuller’s London Pride brand created by The Corner (with media planning and buying, a key aspect in this case, through UM London).
Fuller’s and its agencies eschewed the usual TV route for premium ale and invested in an outdoor campaign using the line: "Made of London." Within a week, the campaign had doubled purchasing intent and moved the brand from sixth to first in the purchase intent league of beers among Londoners.
The creative and media approach were by no means original in the wider scheme of things. But, for a London-based beer brand that previously relied on TV ads featuring a pot-bellied James May to sell its product, the campaign was original on its own terms. Clients should be asking for more of this and agencies should be proud of delivering it.