If you have been struggling you’re whole life to convince your mates that contemporary art is not just a game, we have terrible news: creativity really is a simple thing.
Cannes can prove us right, as while we are writing Lions of Creativity are being awarded to one of the best forms of contemporary art: advertising.
Each year world’s creative minds meet on the Croisette and fight to win an award that could open them the doors to eternal recognition amongst the Great Minds of Creativity. (here the whole list of 2016 winners).
Award-winning ideas immediately become inspiration to the whole world, especially to those whose daily income depends on the power of their creative ideas: we have watched some of the ads that managed to win over the jury at Cannes and us at Playground, and we have come out with two big truths about advertising, something we all need to put up with.
1 – Simple ideas are the best ideas
This is undoubtedly the hardest piece of advice to take, it makes sense to start from the hardest part.
Successful campaigns presented at Cannes managed to trigger feelings that range from deep excitement to slight frustration, because they show us that racking one’s brain to transform a brief into a record campaign is complete non-sense.
Looking for complicated answers or nonexistent problems is just not worth the effort: the most effective idea comes from a simple answer to a common problem anyone can relate to.
Let’s take REI’s #OptOutside campaign that got the Promo & Activation Grand Prix: how can America’s biggest outdoor gear retailer manage to sell more?
Answer: Encouraging consumers to embrace the outdoors! GENIUS.
REI’s campaign aimed at convincing consumers to abstain from Black Friday madness, so the retailer closed its doors, suspended e-commerce and even paid its 12,000 employees to take the day off. Black Friday is for Americans the biggest shopping day of the year (we are talking about 80 million people in the aisles and a spending of 50 billion dollars over the Black Friday weekend).
Is this idea too common sense to work? REI campaign bounced from TV to social media and the campaign hashtag #OptOutside got 2.5 billion impressions and other 150 activities joined REI against the Black Friday rush. REI activation campaign easily became a successful movement simply reminding us that a walk in the nature is something we could enjoy more than a queue out of a fitting room. Customer-inspired marketing is key to success, which leads us to another important remark.
2- Creative thinking is not originality at any cost
We won’t dare play down the creativity of campaigns that are standing out at Cannes, we rather admire the fact that some award-winning campaigns tend to meet expectations rather than strive for originality. After all advertising is not art for art’s sake.
We then take this chance to serve you another controversial topic much discussed when Mark Earls‘s Copy, Copy, Copy was published.
In his best-seller points out that sometimes the search for novel solution is useless and that we should use something that has worked well before as a reliable base to develop our own ideas. In other words. copying is not the end of the world, you just need to make sure the copy is better than the original.
To say it in the words of the author:
“If it’s good enough for Elvis, Newton, Shakespeare, The British Olympic Cycling Team and Great Ormond Street Hospital, isn’t it good enough for you?”
Earls’s theory is intentionally radical (and still backed by a great amount of evidence and case studies), but we can’t ignore the fact that with thousands of years of human evolution and 6 billion people living on Earth, we’d better come to terms with the fact that not all our brilliant ideas can be original and we are very likely to stumble upon an idea that was originally conceived in someone else’s mind.
So here’s a second example from Cannes that won the Creative Effectiveness Award, John Lewis’ 2014 Christmas campaign “Monty’s Christmas”.
Adam&Eve/DDB London conceived this campaign for John Lewis, the biggest dept. store in the UK.
Monty’s Christmas follows other previous festive adverts that had already melted the heart of millions of Brits. What the advert did very well was not letting them down.
The ad is a Christmas fairytale about a boy and his penguin pet brought to life by imagination that teaches us that “at Christmas we should show someone that we love them and give them what they want”. Is it something you have never heard before, or is it rather an incredibly appealing stereotype we hear every single year at Christmas?
There is nothing original in the concept, it’s rather cheesy. It works because it does what people expect and it does in the best of ways: perfect timing, choice of characters, a cover of John Lennon that explodes with emotional peaks. All this supported by a number of in-store promotions, including an augmented reality booth that animates real toys via digital trickery.
We are pretty sure that the owner of John Lewis was extremely moved by a campaign that contributed to revenue growth of 132 million pounds. A hand on the heart and the other on the wallet.