From the pulpit
The Guest Editor’s introduction
Issue 40 | September 2016
I wish there was a word that described the sound of creatives having fun. Something onomatopoeic would be good. Any suggestions welcome. I'd happily pay a royalty to use it.
Anyway, whatever this word might be, I've been hearing it while I've been reviewing the work in this, the 40th issue of the Directory and therefore its 10th anniversary issue. Hooray. Let's have many more years.
In fact, talking to Patrick about The Directory, I can tell he and his team have had a lot of fun over the last decade. The fun shows in the way The Directory is put together, the way it looks, its perspective about the work, and how it writes about it. The fun jumps off the page.
Fun matters, in life generally, but especially in creative work.
Of course all creative work has a serious purpose – to drive sales, market share, brand sentiment or, in the case of the charities or NGOs, awareness and action – and the teams will experience blood, sweat and tears along the way.
But that doesn't mean there can't be an underlying sense of fun in the process of putting it together and getting it out of the door.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer, exposed every day to hundreds of commercial messages. Those underpinned by fun stand out. They radiate confidence and drive. They know what they are doing. They are carried along by vivacity and élan.
You can sniff it in the work here. As a long-time observer of the industry, I'm often told by creatives and senior executives that for a variety of reasons – cost and time pressures, risk-averse clients, fearful agencies – there's no fun anymore in the business.
I understand. But judging from the work in this issue, there are plenty of creatives – and clients too – still prepared to have fun. (That means it's a lot of fun to write about too.)
Let’s take a few examples. Colenso BBDO had a brief from New Zealand dairy brands owner Fonterra to promote calcium-rich milk. Not a promising start, but it turned it into something fun by recruiting children with broken arms to show off their x-rays.
Parents spend a ton of money on strollers and buggies for their babies, without having the first idea of what it’s actually like to be in one. For Kolcraft, FCB Chicago built an adult-size buggy for parents to ‘test-drive’.
Nas Grunt, a chain of health food stores in the Czech Republic wanted to find a way to show consumers how much sugar was hidden in ordinary food. How, apart from piling up teaspoons of the stuff beside the guilty product, can you do that in a fresh way? With bees, that’s how. McCann Prague mashed up hamburgers, instant soup and other processed products, and got bees to turn them into honey.
For Beiersdorf, manufacturers of Nivea, Happiness built a sniff sensor into a smartphone. Men (who have a poorer sense of smell than women) just had to rub the smartphone under their armpits to see if they were a bit whiffy. Brilliant. Social confidence restored – and a few more cans of deodorant sold too, no doubt.
Nor is this sense of fun necessarily restricted to commercially-driven activations. Sometimes you can sense it in work for a charity, NGO or where the brand is backing a wider social purpose.
Brazilian football broadcaster Bandsports wanted to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against a potentially deadly outbreak of the H1N1 virus in Sao Paolo. With Ogilvy, it built a special clinic, and kitted out the staff in the colours of the various Sao Paolo football teams. As well as being inoculated against H1N1, they could also be ‘immunised from ever supporting the ‘wrong’ team.
Deutsche Telekom teamed up with Saatchi and Saatchi to create a mobile device game for victims of dementia. The game requires navigational and spatial skills, the rst things dementia takes away from sufferers. More importantly, it collects mass data that scientists can use for research.
The rise of tech
I'm old enough to remember the rst issue of The Directory. It was pre-Facebook, let alone newer platforms like Snapchat, Instagram or Vine. Back then, tech wasn't featured in much work.
Since then, tech-linked or tech-centred activations have exploded. But of course much of it was tech for tech's sake, with creatives chucking in a bit of Facebook here, YouTube there and so on; it was the syndrome known as shiny new toys.
I understand the role of experimentation, but one of the qualities that characterises the tech-focused work in this issue is the sense that the tech is slave to the idea, not the other way round. You can see this speci cally in the way work references the speci c features of each tech platform.
Thus Goodby Silverstein's work for the Sonic drive-in fast-food chain makes Instagram's square shape the key feature of a promotion for exotic milkshakes.
Similarly, BBDO NY's work for DIY goods giant Lowe's uses features speci c to Instagram and Snapchat.
You can also see this in the way work takes a platform's virtual tech and translates it into the real world. Take a look at DM9DDB's efforts for Brazilian homeware store Tok&Stok, putting physical Pinterest buttons in-store that linked directly to the consumer's virtual board.
One of the things I noticed about this particular selection of work is that most of it is promotional in nature. In other words, it's very much focused on the short term, often linked to a redemption mechanic or some money-off offer.
There's little that sets out to push the longer-term brand health measures. Ogilvy Cape Town's work for VW's Amarok utility vehicle – test drive it in real conditions and deliver much-needed supplies to remote communities at the same time – is a good example. Even Clemenger BBDO's brilliant 'the internet is angry' work for Snickers has a coupon mechanic at its heart.
I understand, of course, how this is. The Directory sets out to look at new and innovative ideas, and risk-reward factors mean much of that is by nature promotional. After all, if you're trying something new, it makes sense to contain the experiment to a tight area.
And perhaps that sense of experimentation permits the creatives to have more fun. But it would be lovely – and so rewarding for all involved – to see this work develop into more brand-focused, long-term propositions.
That's it from me. Let me salute all the creatives and clients pushing the boundaries. Just don't forget to keep having fun.