eurobest President’s address reveals work that scared him rigid and why fear of other people’s laughter is the root cause of bland generic work
“There are generic people working in generic agencies around the world making adverts and they’re scared of sounding stupid and that their peers are going to laugh at them… and the result of that is you get generic adverts.”
Richard Brim, Chief Creative Officer at adam&eveDDB, has been spending the week rooting through piles of ‘ok’ work to uncover and reward the gems of brilliance. He’s been chairing the Film, Print & Publishing, Print & Outdoor Craft juries at eurobest 2017. And so in his President’s address, he wanted to talk about how to tackle the plague of bland ‘generic’ ads he sees clogging up the industry.
And we do that, he suggests, by embracing the feeling of ‘what the fuck?’. According to Richard, it’s been the ideas that might initially appear totally bamboozling and fly in the face of logic that have, creatively, led to the most interesting places. Campaigns like John Lewis’ ‘Buster the Boxer’, like Harvey Nichols’ ‘Shoplifter’ and Marmite’s discovery of the genetic profile that distinguishes lovers and haters have all arisen from seemingly daft statements that could have gone unsaid had people been too afraid of sounding stupid.
With Marmite, that ‘stupid’ question was a junior planner asking if the fact that people’s aversion or love of the iconic British spread was so strong meant that it was genetic. An easily dismissed ‘stupid’ question was, instead, leapt upon. The agency teamed up with leading geneticists to fund a genuine study that found, yes, there was something genetic at the root of one’s feelings toward Marmite. That generated media debate and headlines, led to the creation of a mail-order gene testing kit and, eventually, lastly, some amusing campaign collateral.
The campaign was so successful that it turned fortunes around for Marmite – a brand that was at threat of being ‘de-listed’ from a leading supermarket thanks to Brexit-related controversy.
Harvey Nichols’ award winning Shoplifter campaign came out of the idea of ‘what if we could use real CCTV footage to promote a rewards app’. And that idea Richard himself thought was ‘stupid’ – he thought the client would never release such footage to them. How wrong he was – the ad went on to win multiple awards, reduce shoplifting in the store by 53% and have an unexpected cameo in Trainspotting 2.
He went over to show a selection of the agency’s work that had really scared him and come from questions or thoughts that could be easily dismissed – and had gone on the create really interesting work. Why not take the rainbow from Skittles during Pride? Why not have some cute bunnies on a trampoline? What about creating a new move for FIFA 18 and getting it put in the game… when the client has specifically said not to mess with the mechanics or content of the game?
“The point I’m trying to make is: I’ve not shown you a lot of the stuff that we’ve done and I’m very proud of. I’ve shown you the stuff that we’ve done and that scared me rigid when we started out on the project, and scared me rigid all the way through and still scares me rigid in terms of the response and how it goes down.
“And they all started with somebody somewhere saying something stupid and saying something they weren’t afraid to say. Across the board, whatever walk of life you’re in professionally, you shouldn’t worry about being laughed at. Don’t’ ever be afraid of saying something stupid because nine times out of 10 it’s stupid, but that one time can get you to a really, really interesting place.”