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Why Adland Needs Creative Heroes


Chief creative officer at PIRATE, Farrokh Madon shares some of the work that has lifted his spirits and inspired him over the years

Why Adland Needs Creative Heroes

You joined advertising to create work like Volvo’s Epic Split. But the closest you got to Van Damme, was the day you shouted ‘Damn’ 13 times in 60 seconds. Tick tock. Time has ticked away mercilessly. And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, you’ve been given a ‘juicy TikTok brief’ in which you must show the logo five times in 15 secs. 

Clearly, you need therapy. Or at least, a Hero. 

Foo Fighters, John Lennon and Bonnie Tyler eulogised them in songs. Heroes are the stuff of legends. They tower over mere mortals with their Herculean feats. We recall their bravery in our darkest hours to inspire us to reach the brightest lights. Stories of their resilience add steel to our spines when we are surrounded by invertebrates. Memories of their brilliance add a spring to our step and make us believe we are modern day Freddie Mercurys at Live Aid.

Luckily, adland has its share of Creative Heroes whose deeds transcend time. One must note that it takes a lot more than a Writer, Art Director and Creative Director to produce great work. You need great film directors, photographers, artists, producers, pre/post-production crews, strategy planners, account teams, media folk and scores of others to play their role in ensuring work is great and not merely good. It is impossible to name every individual who contributed to the great work featured here. So, I have listed the name of the ad agency. But I take my hat off to every single one who played a part in making amazing creative work see the light of day. Every one of you is a Creative Hero to me.

So, without further ado, I want to share with you work that has lifted my spirits over the years. It has inspired me in different ways. I hope it inspires you too.

Be Brave.

Burger King ‘Moldy Whopper’ (INGO Stockholm, David Miami and Publicis Groupe Romania and Spain)

"Make the food look delicious,” crooned my creative director. “Food advertising should make you want to eat the food.” It is hard to refute the sanity of his point of view. So as a fledgling creative, I had imbibed this ageless wisdom with unreserved reverence. It was my cornerstone for food advertising. Until I saw this ad. 

It isn’t often that you can use the words ‘brilliant’ and ‘gross’ in the same sentence. This ad makes the food desirable by being disgusting. Sensational? Yes. Frivolous? Let’s just say I went to Burger King and ate a Whopper after eons. 

Heroes go where others don’t. Full marks for bravery to everyone on the team. Especially the clients. It is brave to think of an irreverent idea and present it. But it is even braver for a client to stick one’s neck out and go with it. (Yes, clients can be heroes too.)

Be Crazy.

Skittles ‘Cat Lick’ (BBDO Toronto)

Advertising was said to be the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Yet many so-called creative agencies create environments that are more restrictive than a sumo boa constrictor. When you are being pushed to be more literal, than lateral, remember that heroes go against the flow. Free your mind by looking at work that’s c-r-a-z-y. And it doesn’t get crazier than Skittles. This is my favourite absurd spot from Skittles. Crazy. Crazy good.

Be Insightful.

Always 'Like a Girl' (Leo Burnett, Chicago)

Heroes have clarity of vision. The best work is simple and insightful. You don’t have to do a reverse two and half somersaults in creative gymnastics to produce impactful work. I absolutely love the Like A Girl campaign. It never fails to inspire me to find simple and honest solutions.

Be Resilient.

Palau 'Palau Pledge' (Havas, Sydney)

When you brief an ad agency, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect them to come back with an ad. After all, that’s the specialist skill the creative teams are supposed to possess. Ad agencies also have the production support to make ads. But when you have an idea that transcends an ad, you are in uncharted territory.

You have to pitch the idea to a country’s tourism board. Persuade their Government to support it. Convince their Immigration Dept. to alter its procedures, so every visitor can put pen to passport page and sign the pledge. 

It is easy to not present such ideas at all. Or at least drop off somewhere during the odyssey of interminable meetings, and end up doing just another tourism ad. But this team didn’t. They persevered. Heroes don’t give up.

Be the Best Damn Craftsman You Can Be.

Nike ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ (Wieden & Kennedy, Portland)

Heroes go where mere mortals don’t. We have seen so many print and film executions where two images/videos are combined to form a new seamless image/video. But this execution from Nike was flawless. The creative team took an approach taken by many but did it better than any of them. Respect.

While creative heroes inspire us with great work, they don’t always have to scale Creative Mt. Everest. Each one of us can be a creative hero to younger teams through small acts that make a big difference. 

Reject bad briefs that lack any insight and resort to lazy word play. 

Don’t let analysis-paralysis kill great ideas within the agency. 

Don’t let glib talkers overshadow the intelligent, but introverted thinkers.

Inspire young teams by arranging talks by artists, musicians and film directors. 

Open up projects with good creative potential to even the youngest kid on the block.

Every one of us can be a Creative Hero. Sometimes, through our own creative output. At other times, by setting the stage for someone else to step under the spotlight. 

As the Foo Fighters sang in My Hero, “There goes my Hero. He’s ordinary.”

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PIRATE, Fri, 27 Aug 2021 11:42:18 GMT