180 Kingsday

Why trouble is sometimes good...

...and it's the best catalyst for inspiring the kind of work that transcends physical borders and ad-blockers alike says Kalle Hellzen, executive creative director at 180 Kingsday

Hellzen: “Tried and tested can easily become tired and accepted. We need to… throw some sand into the machine”
Hellzen: “Tried and tested can easily become tired and accepted. We need to… throw some sand into the machine”

There’s trouble ahead and we can’t wait. Brands – the big, medium and small, the old and new, the beautiful and not-so-beautiful – are trying to find their voice and role in a world where it’s harder than ever to be heard. Our industry faces trouble of its own. Confidence is shaken and our value is being questioned in the face of consultancies and tech brands. It’s a troubling time – but who said that’s a bad thing?

On 1 March 1976, Francis Ford Coppola entered the Philippine jungle, where he lived, through guerrilla uprisings and typhoons, for 238 days. He was there to make Apocalypse Now. During the tumultuous shoot his lead actor, Martin Sheen, suffered a heart attack.

In the midst of these infamous events, Coppola uttered words that inspired not only our name, but also how we think and do. And with all this trouble ahead, we believe they are more important than ever:

Whenever you get into trouble, keep going. Now isn’t the time to pull back, lose our nerve, or doubt ourselves or the power of creativity. When we find a great piece of trouble worth solving, the sort people care about (not simply the ones that keep the brief happy), we need to step up. We have to keep crafting, removing the bad friction and adding the good. It’s as simple and as hard as that. Sure, we’ll stare at the blank page for a bit, but now’s the time to keep on keeping on. To get around the table with great clients and partners to do the simple things well, the important things brilliantly and the difficult things unflinchingly.

Do a 180° turn. No force is more powerful than a new perspective. To see the world not as it is, but as it could be. It’s time to rally around the awkward bastards and pains in the ass. This industry, at its best, is a testament to the power of diverse thought. Our office in Amsterdam houses about 20 nationalities. They have some quirks – some even speak Dutch – but they’re our weirdos and we love them. This industry needs them and people like them – who aren’t afraid to pick a fight with the charlatans. We owe it to clients and ourselves to be the place where the weird and wonderful turn the situation around and ask: "What if we looked at it like this?"

Don’t look for the secure solution. Tried and tested can easily become tired and accepted. We need to be brave enough to throw sand in the machine. Brands with big objectives won’t get there by making the logo a bit bigger. Instead, we need to be prepared to grab with both hands the cultural and technological opportunities we are afforded that can make our clients’ brands more human and more relevant. We need to look for the type of ideas we see during the Festival – ideas that are anything but more of the same (and you wish you came up with).

Don’t pull back from the passion. There’s no other formula for doing great work than to be utterly, unequivocally in it. We have to give a shit. It’s the only way to make things that cut through and matter to people. The work that transcends ad-blockers, borders and culture goes further and deeper. Every brief, every challenge, every trouble we run into is a chance to create something that never existed before, to create real value. We’re lucky to be able to do that. And we must never forget it.

Turn it on full force. We can’t shuffle into the next – wander with heads bowed or intent wavering. To make work that gets the world talking, we can’t leave our best at the door. We have to burst in believing.

So, when we reflect on what happened during Cannes – the winners, the losers, the predictions and maybe even the pessimism – let’s not forget we’re responsible for what happens next. And we have to turn it on full force.

There’s trouble ahead and we can’t wait.

Cannes Bites

Since Cannes last year, I’ve been enjoying throwing sand into ‘efficient’ marketing machines together with a rowdy bunch of wonderful weirdos in pursuit of something special that gives us a warm feeling in our bellies and a reason to get up and at it in the morning. That, and practising a healthy disrespect for proper sentence structure.