Yes we sell sanitary protection, junk food, and thankfully, the mouthwash you need to remove the taste of it. The ideas with which we try to help the besuited (business types) shift container loads of the stuff, are, in-truth rather precious little sparks of grey-matter to us mere bejeaned (creative types).
Now, we’ll happily admit and concur with you that 90% of all advertising is utter crap, and that the porcelain stools we contemplate upon, where inspiration occasionally strikes, is where most ideas deserved to be flushed. But those of us that have sweated and toiled our way via uncountable all-nighters, crap briefs and bum-steers to finally reach the higher echelons of this game, know enough to know with the utmost certainty and conviction, that the 10%, is the stuff that’s worth fighting for.
Why I hear yee ponder? Well, because these rather rarer morsels of creative magic dust are the ones that can transform a million dollar business into a billion-dollar one, or equally save a ‘start-up’ from becoming an all-to-rather quickly ‘f**k-up’. I could list examples all day long of the brands that have been lucky enough to find the right agency, at the right time, and that had all-importantly, the right mix of smarts and thick-skinned passionate individuals within their agency walls (and the idea graveyards of the creative floors), but, since my word-count is limited, I’ll just give you just three off the top of my bald-bonce.
One: Snickers, which was until recently a mere runner-up in the chocolate confectionery game, but thanks to some bright sparks, that coined the utterly and annoying brilliant ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ they’ve been shifting more of the stuff than Charlie, and a thousand of his chocolate factories could have ever of kept apace with. Do your own research if you please, but trust me when I say that creativity (of the 10% variety) has turned around their fortunes and made them hundreds of millions more in the process, and that’s left KitKat wishing someone would give them a break (and wanting to give Snickers the finger probably).
Two: Spice, no not the chilli powdered stuff, or the ginger, posh or sporty pop variety either, nope, I’m talking ‘spice’ of the old crappy bottled surfing variety, the type which was only bought by fifty-year-old overweight American men who looked more like beached sea-lions than surfers. Yes, ‘Old Spice’ was transformed anew and saved from death’s door by a rather suave, shirtless, ridiculously well-cut dude atop a white stallion, on a beach, who uttered the now legendary adverting line “I’m on a horse”. Many more great pieces of content swiftly rolled in and broke across social media channels and made what was old, fresh, new and sexy again for a whole new generation that knew nothing of the brands surfing roots or predecessors.
Three: F.C.U.K. Profanity? No, this is campaign people, and as such I’m just highlighting a brilliant acronym. You see, French Connection U.K. was desperately trying to connect with a younger audience a decade or so back, but they had become rather unfashionable, which is obviously bad for biz in the fashion biz. But thanks to one of my old bosses; a clever, mercurial chap called Trevor Beattie and his team of creative midnight-shifting junk food eaters they simply dropped the ‘rench’ and the ‘onnection’ which, with hindsight looks so bloody simple, but isn’t that true of all great ideas. The result? Every little spotty teenage urchin in the U.K. (and I mean all of them) suddenly wanted a T-shirt, and everything else the brand sold. Which I presume, was some sort of rebellious statement and rebuff against parenthood, detentions or unfounded groundings. Once again brand fortunes were turned around overnight, and as such lots of shareholders got a much fatter share than they probably ever expected they would.
Bottom line, us brow-between bejeaned types (and I say this without even the slightest hint of a moan or gripe – we’ll never give up searching for the 10%). Know that great creativity, whilst it may be fleeting and rather rare in the region of ours, has the power not just to transform, but to transform any businesses’ fate utterly. So, the next time some scruffy, slightly disheveled, bloodshot eyed creative and his overly verbose brainiac of a planner comes in to present their hard-earned wares, keep your ears pricked and pencils sharpened. Because maybe he or she might have cracked something that really could be classified in that elusive 10% bracket. And if you are lucky enough to be sitting in the room when that happens, then my advice would be this – grab it and the muttering, bumbling, rather exhausted creative with both arms. Because one: Then they’ll happily work all night to craft it to within an inch of its short-lived life, and two: because maybe, just maybe it’ll transform your business and career in a way you never thought possible.
Alternatively, you could just choose to play it safe, and take the ‘umm, well, I’d better not risk challenging the status-quo’ approach (like so many do). Because, yes, that’ll may keep you in a job for a tinny-weeny bit longer, but it’ll certainly never build your brand (or career for that matter). So here are your two, very simple options in my humble opinion: Spend millions on drab advertising wallpaper if you like, or grab, beautiful, sublime, stunning creative thinking as the legal, yet wholly unfair competitive advantage that at its’ best, it can be. It’s how a smaller brand beats the bigger one, it’s how the ones with less money, outplay those with much deeper pockets. And that, my friends, colleagues, clients and fellow ad folk types, I promise you, feel’s so darn satisfying when you get it right. Come on, doesn’t it!?
Paul Banham, Regional Executive Creative Director, MullenLowe MENA