For years, there were ads for furniture repair shops. Dance studios. Tattoo parlors. These “fake clients” helped line the awards shelves of many creatives. But personally, I blame the gerbils. Yes, the gerbils.
|You can just sense the evil, can't you?|
Back in the late 1990s, a business called Outpost.com led the dot-com advertising frenzy with an incredibly memorable campaign whose sole purpose was to get people to remember the company name. The most memorable spot of the mix showed gerbils being fired from a cannon into the “O” in Outpost.
Cut to two years of crazy dot-com madness followed by a big dot-com crash. Part of the fallout? Clients stopped trusting ad agencies. Suddenly, we were all the creators of the gerbil cannon spot that became, somewhat unfairly, the “poster child” for irresponsible creative.
But that was then. These days, clients are starting to see great creative as a competitive advantage, something that helps their hard-fought-for marketing dollars go farther. And agencies are answering the call. Of course, we’ve had brief stops along the way with trends like “let’s make a viral video” (which is a bit of a stumbler, since one can make a video, but it takes the public—or a savvy seeding service—to get the hits required for it to be considered a viral success). Or the mad race to “do something” in the social space. Yes, Facebook is awesome. But for a brand to make sense there, it needs a relevant purpose, not just a page. That’s where creative (and smart strategy) comes in. It’s something that helps brands get noticed. And of course, something that helps meet sales objectives. Clients like Mondēlez are finding new ways to get the strongest creative out of agencies with some pretty groundbreaking ideas that include bucking the giant network trend and turning instead to smaller specialty shops with tighter teams.
The results speak for themselves. Sure, creatives are still lining their awards shelves. But the days of spec creative are fading. (The One Show in particular has extremely strict rules and penalties for fake ads.) The work that wins at Cannes, The One Show, and D&AD is, in many cases, the same work that’s winning Effie Awards for advertising effectiveness. In fact, the 2014 Cannes Lions Network of the Year Award winner, Ogilvy & Mather, was also named the Global Network of the Year at this year’s One Show. And, most telling, O&M was named Effie’s Most Effective Agency Network in both 2012 and 2013.
|Thanks for the screen shot, AdAge.|
As a creative lucky enough to be in the judging room this year at The One Show, as well as the venerable Hatch Awards in Boston, I can assure you that creative for the sake of creative has gone the way of the DVD. There’s just too much smart work being done for even smarter clients for a judge to settle on fake ads or gratuitous messages from the last century. Case in point: my “judge’s choice” for The One Show was an interactive outdoor board called “The magic of flight” for British Airways by OgilvyOne. It used real-time flight information to call out BA flights as they prepared to land at London Heathrow Airport. The same idea received five gold medals as well as the Direct Response Grand Prix at Cannes, a category known for celebrating effectiveness.
In short, great creative begets great results. And in an ever-crowded, oh-so-competitive marketplace, that’s a foot in the door your brand deserves.