Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

Merlee Jayme on Why Creativity Is the Currency of the Future

Associations, Award Shows and Festivals
New York, USA
dentsu International APAC’s chief creative officer speaks to LBB’s Natasha Patel about using award shows to find creative ideas, effectiveness as a measure of connecting with consumers and not falling into the trap of mediocrity
AME Awards, the effectiveness focused award show from New York Festivals, has partnered with Little Black Book to sponsor the Awards & Events channel. This channel is a place for general news about award wins and any events being held, but it's also a place to discuss the trends impacting and changing award shows, such a prevalent part of our industry.

As part of this partnership, we'll be interviewing some of the advertising industry's brightest minds and most revered leaders on the meaning of effectiveness in 2021, the advertising awards landscape of the future, and just about anything and everything that might come up along the way. Here, we speak to Merlee Jayme, chief creative officer at dentsu International APAC. 

LBB> You're on the AME advisory council this year - how do you plan to use this platform to change the way awards are viewed?

Merlee> Awards are for us creatives to measure how great our ideas are. How we push ourselves away from the usual, far away from the safe and tried and tested, always in a lookout for problems we can solve and never falling into that trap of mediocrity. 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic year, when clients conservatively reassessed their budgets, I saw how creativity persevered. Even flourished. Usually, challenges like these are like blank canvasses for us. Even more I've come to admire my fellow creatives who have pushed the envelope, bravely creating amazing work while facing limitations or constraints beyond the imaginable.

This platform will continue to inspire creativity. This is what keeps us going. We must keep on creating ideas for our brands, that will make them more relevant when humanity need them the most. With authenticity and genuine empathy, brands provide entertainment at the height of loneliness, laughter, and fun to overcome sadness and love when people feel more disjointed as ever. Awards will let the world celebrate these and encourage more brands and creativity to thrive.

LBB> What does "effectiveness" in advertising mean to you? 

Merlee> Effectiveness is way past media impressions, and reach. Effectiveness is how brilliantly the idea connected to the consumers. How the idea effectively solved the problem. And, how it has made a medium or a product open the possibilities for the future.

LBB> How do you feel the measure and meaning of effectiveness has changed over the years? 

Merlee> It goes beyond the usual ways of measuring. Authenticity in brands is something consumers looked for.  An innovative product for cystic fibrosis for example, doesn't need millions of impressions, nor sales figures. But it gives relief to sick kids, using music, to ease away the pain. This paves the way to the future of health. 

LBB> Looking back over the years, what campaign has stood out to you for its effectiveness and great strategy? 

Merlee> My favourite example is Dove's Real Beauty. From a strategic point of view, it tells one consistent brand story. Regardless of cultural insight, women's diverse backgrounds, age, race, it celebrated beauty that is natural and real.

The proof of its effectiveness is the longevity of the campaign. Remember Dove "evolution", "sketches", the Oscar-winning short film "Hair Love" and the recent "Courage is beautiful" series? All these campaigns made women love themselves, building their self-esteem.

The brand even committed to using real women instead of models in their ads, portraying them unposed, in their real-life setting, with zero distortion, and helped girls build their self-confidence through the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

LBB> What do you think the lasting impact of advertising during Covid will be and do you feel that it has taught us anything?

Merlee> Creativity always finds a way to help, to solve, to thrive despite these trying times. The pandemic has made us more compassionate, resourceful, sincere, generous, and simple. This emotional shift reflects in the work.

Some creativity has pushed for positivity to lighten up the heaviness of the past year and gave fun and joy to people. 
But to be honest, it hasn't been easy for most creative people who suffered from mental health during this past year. The feelings of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty took its toll on some of them. While remote working was welcomed, some still yearned for that mind-blowing chaos of a real, great brainstorming in one room.

LBB> With that in mind, the awards landscape has changed dramatically over the past year. What are your thoughts on the future of awards?

Merlee> For me, the reality is there are too many award shows. And the budgets for these is getting smaller. In a year like this, we are trying our very best to help our clients with brands that got affected by the crisis. Entering the shows has become the least of priorities.

While awards are important to keep us on our toes and coming up with great work, I really hope these are more strategic in their importance and relevance. Too many redundant shows cause award fatigue, budget cuts and trivialise the real value to our industry. 

Creativity is a business. Ideas need to sell the brands- whether this is insight, purpose or data-driven, innovative, tech-enabled, these should connect with the consumer in the most powerful and meaningful ways.

LBB> What advice do you have for creatives looking to create award-winning work of the future?

Merlee> Make your life creatively difficult. Doubt anything that's too easy to think of or execute. Solve the business problem in a way that's never been done before. Research. Create as many possibilities as you can. Look for the bravest idea that makes you feel nervous and gives you butterflies in your stomach. Work with the best partner, with the same passion for perfection, to make this idea come to life. Fight for it. 

It's a tough journey but worth it. 

LBB> Any parting thoughts?

Merlee> With what is happening to the world, I truly believe that creativity is the currency of the future.

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