08 September 2011
People think that to be a good creative director, you need to know what makes a good ad. Actually, there's something far more important you need to know: what makes a bad one.
The spectre of mediocrity awaits advertising at every turn. And the creative director is the person responsible for ensuring their agency's shit filter remains regularly serviced, in optimum working order and pointed in the right direction.
That's why every time we're presented with a concept, a million questions bloom in our heads. Is the ad on brief? Will it get noticed? Has it been done before? Will people like it? Will it add value to the brand? Do we have the budget to make it well? Might the client be able to remove the idea and still insist it gets made? Could research suggest some "improvements" that do anything but? Could lack of time knacker any chance of making it great? Etc, etc ...
The questions we ask and the quality of these answers is what dictates whether the world will be exposed to a beauty or a beast. What questions, I wonder, might have raced through the minds of those responsible for signing off this week's offerings on being presented with the work at its foetal stage?
The idea thought up for the cancer charity Skcin was to create a new product called Sunny3, a suncream claiming to treble the strength of the sun's rays, then use spoof PR stories to fool the public into wanting to buy it. Excitingly, for the presiding creative director, there would have been no worries here about having research groups or lawyers cut the balls off the concept. Perhaps just a tiny, weeny concern that sun-worshippers, whipped into a frenzy of excitement by the promise of a miracle product they'd all been waiting for, might be fucked off when they found out it didn't exist - and doubly so when they're then presented with information on how being the lovely colour they so desire will kill them.
Whoever was first exposed to the Ikea script must have been relieved that not only was it bang on strategy for where the brand is heading, but also that it answered their challenge of showing masses of product. Milliseconds later, they may well have asked themselves whether a couple play fighting with a load of bedroom paraphernalia will have the same emotional resonance - not to mention YouTube hit potential - as cats roaming round a store.
Times+ is a card that gives the publication's subscribers access to exclusive events, offers and other extras. When considering this concept, one of the thoughts coursing through the creative director's mind may have been: "Yes, testimonials are the best-used ad vehicle known to man, but they can be powerful. You just need interesting subjects with interesting stuff to say. If we're able to use famous or fascinating people rather than nonentities, we might just pull it off."
On being presented with the latest script for Lucozade, the creative director may well have thought that while the route of "pop promo for unsigned band" is a valid one, will the content produced truly be ownable by the brand?
Worries such as a lack of budget or time wouldn't have troubled whoever signed off the latest helping from The Natural Confectionery Company. What might have concerned them more was whether this new batch would produce anywhere near the same playground meme factor as last year's "trumpets".
After skimming the script for the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, the only question in Jeremy Craigen's mind was probably: "Should I go bow tie or open neck?" A beautiful idea for a client that recognises the value beautiful ideas can add to its brand. Even at that formative stage, it would have had "awards" sprayed all over it.
There's no end to the possible pitfalls waiting to shaft ideas as they move from inception to birth. Approving great ads is one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of the job. Stopping bad ones leaving the building is one of the toughest and most important.
I was told recently by one of my clients that it was important to see how passionate I was about the work. It was so true, and something we forget from time to time. If a client can see true emotion in our eyes, then they know that the ideas we care so much about will ultimately work for them. Smart guy, I say.
So, as I dig into this week's work, I cry out for some real passion and hope to salute those who bare their souls for their ideas. Bring it on!
First up is a film for Lucozade. An unsigned band plays one of its songs while cruising down a street on skateboards. The planner in me says tear this to shreds. It hasn't really got any clear rational take-out. But to hell with him. This film isn't afraid to show its love for life.
I enjoyed watching it and thought it was refreshingly carefree and delivers an asset that the client can use in so many ways. The film has also got a nice pop-promo feel and that only adds to the enjoyment.
Next is a campaign for Ikea that encourages the viewer to play at home. In this execution, we see a young couple having a pillow fight. I like the emotional feeling it gives you towards the home but, ultimately, it leaves me feeling a bit confused. I don't get a sense of that Swedish style and quirkiness. It also reminds me too much of the "play" campaign that Nike did.
Next up, the cancer charity Skcin has launched a hoax campaign to highlight the dangers of "binge tanning". It tries to sell us a fake-tan product with the promise of three times more tan. I hope this campaign has worked and I think it may. Creatively, it's a neat way of avoiding the usual charity stuff. It is also a great asset for the client through advertising and PR. Anyone who has ever worked for a charity knows that passion is essential.
Moving on, we have a TV spot for the return of the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet. The spot evokes childhood memories of having fun in open-top toy cars. I love a good VW spot, and this is a beautiful addition to a long line of wonderful VW ads. Once again, the brand sticks to celebrating life. I feel the passion flowing through this film and salute the agency for making sure it does. My only gripe is the overlong packshot at the end. There was a time when a logo and packshot would have been enough.
Next we have a campaign for Times+. Here, The Times is pushing its digital version. We are shown readers and their lives: my Times+. Creatively, it's a well-used idea, but it seems pretty relevant to the product in this case. Is it full of passion? Is The Times ever?
And on we go. A campaign for The Natural Confectionery Company features jelly sweets discussing the flavour combinations that they can create when mixed. Cadbury has raised the sweetie category to a new level and, sadly, this campaign is way behind that standard. By comparison, this one is not up there. Don't get me wrong - it's not terrible. I just don't feel that much excitement in it.
Therefore, I am pleased to say that passion has not been forgotten in most of the work this week. There are still people out there who think ideas are worth getting emotional about. Passion is all about the fear of losing something you really care about. It doesn't cost anything and it certainly doesn't hurt.