I hear the word “strategy” thrown on just about everything. Like rhinestones on a South-Texas-prom-queen’s dress, “strategy” is too often a cheap and easy bedazzle on everything from PowerPoint slides, to someone’s superfluous commentary in a meeting that is already running too long with too many attendees. Anymore, in my day-to-day, Strategy is quite the loose little buzzword.
Often, it is a noun, as in “brand strategy” or “I am a strategist." Sometimes it is an adjective, as in “strategic vision” or “strategic insights." Also, as an adverb, such as “strategically developed” or “strategically placed.” And let's not forget it as a verb, as in “strategize” (which for the record, makes me want to punch the speaker in the nose every time I hear it).
And that isn’t to say that I don’t use the word often myself. But I used to accept the word at what I believed was its face value — a sense of something great and purposeful. A sense that when I heard “strategy” — I knew we were talking about the key to winning whatever was at stake, the secret sauce critical to achieving the mission. I knew we’d be talking about something tangible, and most importantly — something actionable. (Strategy is, by definition, a military term that, in a nutshell, means using your brains and your guts to not only stack the odds in your favor, but empower you to make the right decisions when confronted with any obstacle.)
Now, given the bedazzling trend, I’ve made it my personal charge to pay much closer attention when the word “strategy” is presented. Analyzing it quietly in my head, from every angle. Challenging my own application of it constantly. Because the real disturbing trend, is not that the word gets overused, but rather that the very concept of strategy has become a crutch. A well disguised excuse NOT to act. An exercise in lengthy requirements-gathering to plan for problems and scenarios that don’t yet exist. A perceived need to create a long list of tasks for what should happen in the future, when instead we should be driving for real feedback via iterative launches in the present. I see terms like “strategic goals” and “strategic vision” plastered across PowerPoint slides, and the actual bullet points associated with most of these goals and visions, amount to little more than minute tactics positioned as passive options to explore. Presented in the context of “we are working on,” or “working toward,” or “think there is great opportunity within this area.”
And with that lack of conviction, certainty, drive — fucking nothing can be won. It’s all a lot of bling with very little bang.
So here is what I'm really driving at — let's all of us in the industry be more thoughtful with strategy. That when creating, executing, presenting or thinking about strategy in any context, let’s be critical of ourselves, of our interpretation of strategy and when/how/why it matters or is applied. As an example, do we sometimes create formality where it isn’t warranted — like laboring over a “social media strategy,” when maybe all we really need is to just be social? Or when our strategy feels like it is a moving target, and people struggle with how to articulate it — should we check our premises? Are there assumptions at play that have been driving a weak, obtuse strategy? And if the goals are ill-defined, then no amount of “strategic planning” is going to get us anywhere, even if we wrap that anemic goal in a shiny label called “strategic vision.”
Diamonds are a girl's best friend for a reason — because they have real value. The real, lasts-for-a-100-years-and-cut-glass kind of value. Fortunately, making sure your strategy has actual value is really pretty simple — just ask yourself, is your strategy something your team can:
• Articulate without a slide in front of them?
• Apply in any given situation?
• Execute against to deliver desired results?
• Feel empowered and confident in so doing?
Advertising is a pretty progressive industry. We like to think of ourselves as an enlightened bunch. Some of our best friends are gay. Hell – some people in advertising are actually gay. Seriously. And yet, we all seem reluctant or incapable of portraying same-sex lifestyles in our work.
There are gay creatives, planners, producers, directors, clients and actors. And yet in adland, it seems gays don’t need mortgages, don’t drive cars, brush their teeth, play bingo or use low-fat spreads as part of a calorie-controlled diet.
There’s no question we should include ethnic minorities in our advertising. Who would even dream of digging their heels in to preserve an all-Aryan cast? We’ll feature empowered women. Strong-willed kids. And moonwalking Shetlands. But where’s even the token homosexual? They can’t all be at G.A.Y. screaming for a Kylie encore – or in hiding, surreptitiously unpicking the very fabric of our society.
Did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s child-catcher change tack and start prowling the streets playing Barbara Streisand from a float pulled by French bulldogs, loaded with rainbows and glitterballs?
Dropping the G-Bomb
Benetton have deliberately courted controversy over the years – some executions playing ‘agent provocateur’ with same-sex relationships as their political football. But why can’t gays feature in ads because they’re normal consumers who just happen not to be heterosexual?
Look, it wouldn’t take much to stand out a mile in the UK straight-acting ad-scene. Feature gays. Leading normal lives. Arguing over dog food, trying out sofas, comparing their car insurance, living out their later years with a private pension.
Ikea ran the first gay commercial ever aired on US television in 1994. It ran for a few weeks until there was a bomb threat at one of their stores and was subsequently pulled. Have we moved on since then?
It must seem alien for gays to see themselves represented in TV shows and films but have their very existence given the cold shoulder when the ad break arrives. The few examples I’ve seen just use homosexuality as the rug-pull, the reveal, the joke. “Oh I get it, she’s actually a lesbian.” Gag, packshot, endline. Cheap.
JC Penney vs One Million Moms
JC Penney in the US used Ellen deGeneres to front their campaign which led to a storm of protest spearheaded by a Christian group calling themselves One Million Moms. They wrote, “By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years.”
So far, so predictable. But two silver linings emerged:
1: One Million turned to be a tiny fraction of that figure.
2: The backlash spawned its own backlash. The #StandUpForEllen campaign gained 50,000 signatures almost overnight and helped prompt JC Penney to er… ‘come out’ and say Ellen was their perfect brand ambassador.
In that distant land called real life, gay marriage is here. The Prime Minister – a Tory – is pushing for more rights for gays. And who’s to say he’s wrong?
Guinness made an infamous commercial portraying a gay couple back in 1995. It was ready to run, word got out, people were up in arms, the world was clearly going to end and the client lost their nerve. And in so doing, they compounded the very problem they set out to address.
Is it time for another try?
Papas and Papas
One recent exception is a Mamas and Papas campaign in the UK for their Urbo buggies, featuring heterosexual mums and dads, single-parents and a genuine gay couple and their little boy, Blu.
The press release states, “How We Roll celebrates the diversity and individualism that forms the makeup of the modern family, for whom parenting has simply become a positive extension of their current lifestyle.”
There have been mixed reactions. On Netmums, some are highly supportive – “The world is changing and it’s about time all loving parents are catered for in adverts” – while others chime in with not wanting to have this sort of thing “shoved in my face.” Freud would have a field day.
Even the gay community was sceptical. Were they being used simply as a PR stunt? Were the ads really running? It seems there are pitfalls and suspicion whatever your intentions.
Creatives want to create. We want to invent brand new stuff, never before seen. And yet there’s this vast expanse of unexplored territory: overlooked at best, taboo at worst.
It’s a rich, emotive area, surely. Love against all odds. Unconventional is cool, right? Overcoming prejudice, defying conventions, being true to yourself. You could have this space all to yourself. Column inches galore and plaudits for being progressive and well… real.
It doesn’t have to be gratuitous. No need to shock. In a way, the most shocking thing is that one of the most enlightened industries in the land is lagging so far behind the real world.
We’ve all thought it: If only I worked at so-and-so, my genius would be recognized and I’d churn out award-winning work. But you don’t have to work at so-and-so. Here are some workarounds to getting your best ideas realized right where you are.
What can I say? I needed the money. My kids were small, my own agency had just ground to a halt, and I needed a job--tomorrow. The phone rang. A headhunter told me about a place that wanted me for a ton of money and I could start right away. The only catch: It was a dreadful, dreadful advertising agency. Walking into its reception was like entering a scene in a horror movie. It wasn’t blood on the walls that broke me out in a cold sweat; it was the ads.
If you work in the creative industries, or you’re trying to break into them, then you’ve probably watched some industry legend swagger onstage to dish out career advice. Their life story almost certainly went like this: They got their first job at the hottest shop in the world. They kept working there for years earning the square root of nothing. Then they took a creative director role somewhere amazing, before setting up their own world-dominating company. Well, not everybody can do that. By definition, half the companies in any industry are below average. And somebody has to work at them. For a while, one of those somebodies was me.
You will search in vain for that job on my LinkedIn profile; I don’t admit to ever having been there. But when I emerged six months later, I’d got some decent print work out the door and won them their first-ever major award. I’d also learned a lot about the differences between a good company and a bad one - they’re not what you might think.
1. WORK AS IF YOU LIVE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF A BETTER COMPANY
“Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” These words are carved in stone on the wall of the Scottish Parliament. They’re also pinned up above my desk as I’m writing this. If you’re working in a dump, you don’t have to work as if you’re in a dump. Form a startup in your own head. Write a manifesto. Keep showing up for work in the same building, but follow the ideals of your invisible hotshop.
Nancy Vonk is a partner at Swim, a coaching company for creative directors. She recommends creating your own “micro climate” within your company. “Another terrible brief? Find out the business problem. Pull together a group and brainstorm. Go for diversity--somebody who ‘isn’t creative’ from finance, an intern with fresh eyes and an inability to edit themselves. Even ‘terrible’ clients recognize and prize great ideas, in my experience. If going rogue means great work, forgiveness is usually a given."
You’re not the only frustrated talent in the place. There will be plenty of recruits to your startup-within-a-terrible-agency. Find a few and you will already be working in the early days of somewhere better.
2. GOOD COMPANIES AREN’T MORE TALENTED. THEY’RE MORE TENACIOUS
Today, James Bond is the best-known fictional character in the world. How could you go wrong making a James Bond movie? Simple. Give in to every suggested improvement. That’s what happened to the first attempt to make a Bond movie. I can imagine the meeting now:
“Bond is too English for our audience. Let’s make him American. ‘James’ is kinda stuck-up as a name. ‘Jimmy’ is more down-to-earth. The book character is a bit of a psycho. I know! Let’s make him smile all the time."
Nod. Scribble. Nod.
Watch this clip and see the difference a few helpful changes can make.
3. “THIS SH*T DOESN’T HAPPEN AT DRO5A”
There’s always somebody walking round every company saying something like this. They imagine a perfect office where folks just swan in off the street waving a checkbook and asking you to win awards on their behalf. Naturally, they have never worked at such a place, but their friend has. Don’t be that person.
One day you will work somewhere great. And there will still be people walking round saying, “This shit doesn’t happen at Dro5a.” One day you may work at Dro5a. And I expect that exactly the same snafus happen there. When they do, I bet that somebody will say, “This shit doesn’t happen at Wieden.”
The place where “this shit doesn’t happen” only exists in the minds of bitter people. If you must deal with them, then avoid thinking like them. It’s tempting early in your career to look cool and cynical. Nothing will turn you into a hack faster.
David Ogilvy moonlighted. Many of his most famous ads were done outside of his day job. Sometimes he was paid cash. He boasted that his ads for Holiday magazine earned him some “magnificent china lamps.” If Ogilvy, a tony pipe-smoking adman with his name above the door of one of the biggest networks on earth could still bang out cracking work on the weekends, then so can you. For many years, an informal team of creatives at Ogilvy ran a whole national gym account in their spare time. I was one of them. I think ol’ Dave would have approved.
5. YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY IS SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU
Co.Create recently published a list of clients that creative people most wanted to work on. From one angle, it was a disappointing list. Because it was a list of great brands. Where’s the challenge in working on a brand that somebody else has made great? When I started working on ads for IBM, technology advertising was a geek ghetto. The action was all in beer. It meant that there were no rules, few expectations, and if you did a decent piece of work, people sat up and took notice.
If you come out of the elevator this morning and think, “If only I had an Apple brief I could do something great,” then you may have a long wait coming.
Whatever you’re working on today, you have an opportunity to make it really stunning. And if you’re working on something that seems dull, then people should be all the more impressed when you nail it brilliantly. And if you’re being held back by the terrible place you work, then start up a new place in your mind.
Head to your desk this morning as if you work in the early days of a better company. And I promise, you will.
Collectively these videos may end up dwarfing Gangnam Style. At one stage last month new versions were being uploaded at a rate of 4000 per day. There’s every niche and sub-niche covered. You want walruses and sealions? You got ‘em.
We’ve seen the Norwegian Army get involved, Wieden’s in Portland, Channel 4 and even my in-laws were persuaded to bogle with traffic cones on their heads in a charity shop while the manager’s back was turned.
It all started in Queensland, Australia with 5 teenagers in morph suits. And it has blown up beyond all comprehension. They may get some fame – even some girls – but it’ll be interesting to see if they can monetize this monster. Could they ever repeat it? The odds say No.
Ironically it exploded at the same time another short-form video format launched – Vine. Unfortunately Vine seems too inflexible to carry this type of execution so it’s been bypassed. Shame – what a way to launch yourself – with a pop culture phenomenon that will no doubt feature in everyone’s end of year round-up of 2013.
The mutating meme
What’s interesting is that this meme is evolving. The rules are gradually changing and right now these are the ingredients one needs to make your own Harlem Shake:
one lone shaker with optional but preferred helmet on
several bystanders who look unaware or uninterested in the activities of the lone shaker
when the bass drops there’s a hard cut right on the beat and the locked off shot switches to the same same scene but with everyone in fancy dress going batshit crazy
optional: a lone person standing still in the midst of all the lunacy
the last second switches to slow motion to match the low time-stretched lion roar in the song
There’s even a site that will turn any other site into a living breathing Harlem Shake:
Inevitably the early-adopters are already disowning this phenomenon now the squares have caught onto it. And no doubt it’s jumped the shark when mainstream TV stations do their own versions.
Douglas Rushkoff, author of “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” says, “Something like this stands in for the centralized broadcast spectacle. It’s interactive, in that people actually *make* one of these things. And being in one, or knowing people who are in one, or even just knowing this phenomenon exists *when it’s happening* is a form of connection. In some ways, the brevity of the fad makes it all the more tempting to participate in. It’s going to be over so soon that you want to get in on it before it’s not cool any more.”
If you didn’t make your own within a fortnight of the first you missed the credibility boat – unless you bring an Earth-shattering twist to the format.
Goodby Silverstein + Partners have released their own gentle backlash video – a charming swipe at other agencies that jumped on the bandwagon. Their message: we’re in the business of creating cultural phenomena, not straight-up mimicry.
However, you have to wonder how it blew up so big so fast? And could a brand ever pull it off? Cadbury’s have perhaps come the closest with “Gorilla” and “Eyebrows”. Consumers are no mugs, which is why they’ll resist any prompting from us to spread overt brand messaging on our behalves.
5 factors that made Harlem Shake go BOOM!
Here’s the thing. It’s not even a great song. Released for free in the summer last year it’s highly repetitive and doesn’t really go anywhere. It does however work very well in this 15 + 15 second UGC format. The crescendo building to the bass drop just underlines that sense of anticipation, waiting for all hell to break loose.
It’s stupidly easy to make your own. People are uploading their own versions at an astonishing rate. And is it any wonder? You need a cameraphone, 2 shots, enough people willing to make idiots of themselves (seemingly no shortage) and the track. You can even put this together on YouTube when you upload it – no need for any editing software. I managed using my phone and nothing else.
The joy of it comes from the anticipation and the explosion of unfettered WTF anarchy when the bass drops. You could watch each one over and over and see something new to LOL at every time. There’s a man in a bra standing completely still, there’s the account guy for Nike on a trike, there’s my sister-in-law with a lampshade on her head.
With so many versions out there, it reaches a critical mass where mainstream media gets hold of it and adds more fuel to the fire, so even the luddites get to hear about it.
It’s funny and there’s a constant supply with something for everyone. Not in an intellectual or cerebral way. It’s an outlet for puerile, infantile stupidity that connects with our inner 10 year-old. A pleasure that gets more guilty as we get older.
Gay abandon finally found an acceptable outlet. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
So you can sing along at home, here are the lyrics in full:
"Agency Insider" is a series of articles about Chicago Agencies from the people that work in those agencies.
The windows that peer into the advertising agency’s new lobby/gallery space at its 36 East Grand Ave. office in the heavily foot-trafficked-yet-art-starved River North section of downtown bordered by State Street and Michigan Avenue have the potential to make it a bit of a local attraction. But the creative shop with a flair for digital design doesn’t merely project outwardly as a beacon of fun and culture; internally, it is a melting pot of form and function, thanks to a recent gutting.
Havas Worldwide Chicago is quietly undergoing a creative cultural revolution in an industry that’s great at swapping perception for reality. Part of the Havas Worldwide Network and until recently known as Euro RSCG Chicago, the unit switched gears two years ago by hiring Chief Creative Officer Jason Peterson (Berlin Cameron, Translation nyc). Peterson is recharging the Midwest shop with ideas and sledgehammers. In 2011, the year following the more-open office redesign, Euro RSCG Chicago won or expanded 10 accounts, making it a record new business year for the agency.
Conceptually, the agency wanted to take the idea of transparency as far as it could go. To make sure smart creative minds were ingrained with media, digital and other disciplines, Peterson started “unifying” departments literally—by tearing down divisive office structures and transforming them into open spaces. On Floor 3, a once-gated elevator now opens to a conference room that Havas WW Chicago CEO, Ron Bess, refers to as “the brain of our operation.” Today, this “room” with no walls is where a multi-departmental team presents all agency pitches.
Gone are locked rooms where units secretly met to present briefs that rolled slowly through discrete departments. This process is archaic and clients don’t have the time or money for it. Now, people from each group meet at the table to talk about the problem from all angles. They go away, think on it and return to share ideas. Throughout the floor, work graces the walls. Anyone—from any department—is allowed to share a creative idea.
The architect of the now Havas office was Gensler (Santa Monica, CA). Built in 1998 by John Buck and Co. It's more than 90,000 sq ft.
Want to watch $275 Million get spent in 48 minutes? Just tune into CBS at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday to see one of America's greatest primetime displays of violence, debauchery and poor impulse control. And I'm not talking about the Super Bowl…
I'm talking about the Super Bowl ads.
In all seriousness, these days it's no surprise that independent research year after year continues to show that over half of U.S adult viewers plan to watch the Super Bowl as much, or more, for the ads than for the game itself. In fact, social listening measurement findings suggested that in 2012 64% of respondents said that half or more of their conversations online with respect to the Super Bowl were about the commercials themselves.
With the average investment of $4 Million on the line for a 30-second spot, it's no wonder why the CMOs of many of these advertisers are looking to squeeze their investment for every penny.
There are three standout trends that have continued to proliferate the Super Bowl ad space for the last several years (and by all accounts will continue even more in 2013).
01. Online Ad Preview and Teasers
Online Ad Previews and Teasers are becoming more of the norm. VW made the most famous splash last year with its Star Wars parodies that received over 56 Million hits after allwas said and done, largely in part to the pre-release of the spotson YouTube.
This year's early winner goes to the Kate Upton Mercedes spot, which in one week gained over 5 Million views (and counting).
Humbling news as, by this author's account, this is one of the more ridiculously off-brand spots I've ever seen. Given the fact that the CLA won't even be available for the next 7 months, the brand needs lasting impression and awareness. Regardless of the substance, it's clear that Mercedes knows the value of online traction and will do whatever it takes, no matter how low-brow, to get an early lead among its rivals.
Regarding the idea of Super Bowl teasers, the concept is simple,but the debate still rages on about whether or not the big reveal should be saved for the big game. While we don't promote a "one size fits all" approach to advertising, and I'm sure there are errors to the rule, it's hard to argue with the facts. Mashable reports, "According to YouTube's research, ads that ran online before the Super Bowl last year got 9 Million views, on average. Those that waited? 1.3 Million." With, on average, three times as many views online over broadcast, many could argue that the real winner in all of this is actually YouTube.
02. Ads for Social Democracy
Ads by social democracy are becoming more common in 2013. While Doritos pioneered the concept with their user-generated ads in the past few years, this year we are seeing a greater variety of the concept. For instance, one of the biggest brands in the world, Budweiser, has finally launched a Twitter account in itsname. The brand, which had a little more than 600 followers Monday morning, is using the account to promote its upcoming Super Bowl ad, which will feature a Clydesdale foal via their Twitter hashtag campaign. Pepsi is also using their site and Twitterto recruit some of their fans to strike a pose with their can before their half-time show.
But, the big pre-game winners in 2013 seem to be the "choose your own adventure" style ads from Audi and Coke. In what Audi says is a Super Bowl first, they recorded separate endings for their "Prom Night"commercial, and are compiling social votes where the audience chooses the ending. Coke created cokechase.comto tease their spots by highlighting three different sets of teams who are all racing to win a giant coke in the desert. The team with the most votes online will get their spot aired right after the game.
03. Second Screen
This year, more viewers than ever will be watching on a second screen. Now in real-time, technology allows brands to engage with the viewing public on their mobile phone or tablet during the event. For instance, Yahoo's Into_Now pioneered app technology that augments the second screen experience by using the unique audio digital signature in a television show topickup, and serve up, content directly related to that show. CBS estimates ad revenue alone from their second screen engagement to be between $10-$12 Million. Being able to interact with stats,player bios, team formations, highlights and social aspects is an essential part of any second screen approach for the sports enthusiast.
Regardless of all of the hype, a few certainties remain. The Super Bowl represents one of the highest risk: reward ratios in advertising. Because of this, marketers are getting smarter by using not only the right tools, but also the right content to get the consumer's attention. Disintermediation is taking effect and the consumer is finally starting to see large-scale control of and connection with their favorite brands. As our society gets more social and mobile, so does the advertising.
Needless to say, as an advertiser, I am thankful for the Super Bowl. If not for any other time during the year - the Super Bowl gives us an annual magnified window into the progress of advertising. With so much attention to the commercials, it almost makes me feel sorry for the guys on the field.
"Agency Insider" is a series of articles about Chicago Agencies from the people that work in those agencies.
Two by Four Chicago is housed on Dearborn Street in the heart of Chicago’s loop in the former ballroom levels of a Chicago social club popular over the 20s through 80s. Called the Covenant Club, renowned guests included President Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maria Callas and Al Capone—or so it’s rumored. Before we moved in, the space was leased by a bank. We were fortunate to work with design and architecture firm Gensler to help restore the space to its former glory—tearing up the carpet, taking down ceiling fixtures and highlighting the original crown moldings, while modernizing it and adapting it to our work style. We specifically sought out a unique environment that would be a major contributor to our culture post-renovation.
Here, ideas can’t hide—good and bad ones. We have large-scale modular metal walls throughout where we are constantly putting up work with magnets for creative review. Other walls are covered top to bottom with IdeaPaint to promote frequent brainstorming. We’ve created several comfortable couch and work areas for people to get away from their desks to think and relax.
We have a lodge room, which features an antler chandelier, fireplace and wall-to-wall wood—because it’s awesome to have a lodge. And we represent several clients in the Western industry, so it’s kind of fitting.
The two-story ballroom rotunda is lovely to look at, but it’s also great for fun and games. Every summer we hold a whiffle ball home-run derby where we battle another local agency for fabulous prizes and a championship trophy. The goal is to hit the ball from the 9th floor up over the railings of the 10th floor. Prizes include all expense paid trips, free days off, gift certificates and more. Last year we bested DraftFCB in a closely contended match. Who wants to take us on next year? We’ve held paper airplane contests, created an open air helium balloon fishtank, as well as piñata parties, taking advantage of the added height.
Every December, we transform the office back to its ballroom roots—creating a massive dance floor over the cubicles, where party chaos ensues. The 2012 theme was White Christmas, where guests dressed in head to toe white.
A few other factoids:
We have a wall-to-ceiling chalkboard on the other side of our 800-pound entrance door, which allows us to take weekly staff polls. In order to get the door up here, it had to be made and installed in three equal sections.
Founder and Executive Creative Director David Stevenson created the conference room table himself out of two by fours, of course.
Two by Four Chicago has approximately 35 employees. Office address is 10 N. Dearborn, Suite 1000.
Inspired by zeitgeist-surfing success of Improv Everywhere and the subsequent copying and rehashing by less talented and unimaginative groups and brands, Improv Nowhere regularly organises stunts where no one turns up, passers-by remain undisturbed and toes remain uncurled.
Over the last year or so, Improv Nowhere has left public spaces like railway concourses and shopping centres free of flash-mobs, fake arguments and synchronised embarrassment.
Often, members of Improv nowhere will turn up in individually, blending in with the unsuspecting public. Then they'll spontaneously continue to go about their business just as though they had a genuine reason for being there instead of being driven by a desperate desire for attention in life.
Only last month in the run-up to Christmas, Improv Nowhere organised a no-show at Bluewater, the UK's busiest shopping mall.
Improv Nowhere's audacious Bluewater no-show
One shopper remarked, "I was just trying to find a shirt for my dad when all of a sudden a group of hitherto hidden drama students and semi-employed decided not to burst into a tired song and dance routine, while not being filmed on a handful of Canon 5D's, some not capturing the tired incredulity of onlookers. It was really refreshing actually. I was half-expecting random strangers to start walking around with no trousers on - it would have been hilarious. 3 or 4 years ago."
Improv Nowhere spokesperson Jenny Wilson said, "As soon as I saw the flashmob sequence on the BBC's "Young Apprentice", I knew it was something I'd always wanted to avoid. It's definitely an idea whose time had come. And then gone quite swiftly afterwards."
Improv Nowhere (not pictured)
“Logistically it's a challenge trying to prevent over-eager students and people old enough to know better from emerging into a half-arsed dance number that's been done to death already."
"Spontaneity is key. We practice practice practice until we have our spontaneity down pat. Then it's simply a case of seeing what every other ambient campaign has done and organising everyone to not turn up or do anything.”
More non-events are planned. Jenny adds, "Not doing the whole of Gangnam Style dressed as the clergy is a real favourite. We're thinking of not flash-mobbing the Tube as 80's videogame characters and not making people cringe in public spaces all over the UK."
Yesterday a reader asked us "how do you get into advertising?", our knee jerk reaction was to ship them off to the nearest ad school for a year or so.
Then they told us more about their experiences to date and what a fascinating life they had lived. And as all of us forget from time to time, education is just a base foundation, life is what moulds you into an interesting creative person, ultimately making you more employable than the next guy or gal.
This trending video from Mondo Endruo below seemed an appropriate fit for this editorial.
Is creativity merely an algorithm? Can a machine do that thing that not even strategists can realistically explain with a set formulaic definition? I've actually seen it defined with whimsical hand movements placed mid-sentence.
BETC Euro RSCG Worldwide, creators of the Creative Artificial Intelligence (CAI) technology, determined the software is only so clever. It's built with existing creative connections. Thankfully, enlightened humans are still superior. CAI was an experiment to demonstrate just that.
...But don't let your guard down quite yet. That's rule number one in advertising survival.
1. The moment you get comfortable and complacent is the moment you become obsolete. Think about it. If your "character" is not contributing to the main plot, you are potential prey. (Especially if you go off on your own, mock someone on the team, or live in Maine.)
2. The junior creatives are always right behind you. Always. They're hungry and they don't sleep. (Encourage them and let them inspire you. Seriously, you really don't want them turning on you.)
3. Anything you think you know about advertising you probably don't. The rules are always changing. Go with it. Arm yourself with current knowledge and collaborate with other creatives. (Whatever you do, do not take that shortcut you heard about from one of the locals. It never ends well.)
4. If an idea is dead, don't assume it's going to stay dead. An ambitious idea always has one last shot at reality. Theoretically, it could resurface at any time – with more power. Ideas love to avenge their own deaths. And, idea sequels are always in the works. (If the idea has access to a hockey mask get the hell out of there.)
5. Do not try to unmask creativity. It shows up where it wants, when it wants. It's everywhere and nowhere. It laughs maniacally and probably hangs out in a sweet lair during it's downtime. Whatever it is, it's certainly not a single software program. (Sooner or later, in a shocking orchestra-crescendoed plot twist, you'll realize it was actually you all along.)
Advertising enthusiast, idea-driven creative, relentless pursuer of insight Jennifer Hohn is a Senior Art Director at Vladimir Jones in Denver. This piece is cross-posted from Jennifer's blog.