From outside the Pharma tent, you could be forgiven for thinking it all just looks like stock-shots and poor typography created by people not talented enough to make it in the big wide consumer world.
OK, controversial start.
But you and I both know that contrary to perception there is talent in them there hills.
And even clients, if asked, will say they want good creative. And some of them even actually do.
So maybe the problem is evaluating creative correctly. If you have people who don’t really understand the mechanics of communication working for the agency, then the battle is already lost.
So with that vast assumption, I give you my top three daft creative judging criteria that can kill good ideas and make me want to kill needlessly and indiscriminately with a blunt dagger.
“I know it’s an orange, but if people haven’t seen it’s an orange they might think it’s an apple”
I once worked with a female creative who had a rather annoying habit of accusing you of some slight at every turn, no matter how innocent the intent.
“Do you want another drink?”
“What are you trying to say? that I can’t buy my own drinks?”
Now somebody, somewhere, will always misinterpret something. But I tend to think that so long as 9 out of 10 interpret it as intended then a little collateral damage is sustainable.
Have you sat in a creative review like this?
” so..um…are bagels a bit negative?”
“How do you mean?”
“Because of New York”
“Is New York negative?”
“Well, I mean…as in 9/11”
“yeh, I think Mark is right..we don’t want people thinking about 9/11 in an ad for diabetes, it won’t reflect well on the brand”
“Plus a 9/11 is a car and we’re a drug”
“Good point Fran”
There is not a single ad that has ever run that you couldn’t find an obscure reason why it shouldn’t have. But if you are stretching to make negative associations you can bet your target market won’t bother making them.
The only question you should ask in this situation is:
If you were actually trying to make a statement about 9/11 would you start with a bagel?
THE UNSOLVABLE CREATIVE PROBLEM
But what if nobody reads the headline?
By and large, a good concept should be the perfect blend of headline and visual. (I’m sticking with print as it’s easier) If you can cover either one up and the ad still works then one of them is redundant.
The late David Abbott’s famous Economist ad ‘ I never read the Economist’ – Management trainee aged 42 – would not have been any better for seeing a tubby, balding man of 42.
And I’m pretty sure the famous Silk Cut campaign would not have been improved by a line saying ‘ the silkiest cut of them all’ or something. The visual did everything it needed to on its own.
Sometimes they face the world alone and sometimes they rely on each other to make sense. Just like the rest of us.
Meanwhile some people still think they have a serious point to make.
“But what if nobody reads the line…then it’s just a picture of a pig on a pogo stick”
“I think Gareth has a point…if I didn’t read the line I wouldn’t understand it”
That’s sort of like saying a French film was shit because you don”t speak French.
Very often, to my horror, I have found that even creative research (in pharma) seems to think the measure of a good idea is to judge it independently of a headline. And sometimes the reverse. Now, as I have said, not every idea needs both, but that shouldn’t be the only judgement. (The other thing that drives me nuts is the propensity for taking one successful line and shoving it on a totally different visual idea and assuming that is the perfect solution)
When faced with a creative problem that nobody can solve, very often there is no problem in the first place.
A NEGATIVE ISN’T ALWAYS A NEGATIVE
Can we change the line from ‘smoking causes cancer’ to ‘live life to your best potential’?
I know that everyone wants to portray a positive image especially when it’s connected to a brand. But a positive image isn’t only ever attained by being positive.
It’s not enough to employ a blanket ban when judging concepts. Like everything, there are exceptions. Sometimes showing you understand the real problem that patients face, or the new science that changes the understanding of a disease, involves communicating that carrying on prescribing the ‘old’ way is lagging behind.
I remember sitting next to a colleague at the PM awards while we watched as a certain Windsor based agency went up for the gazillionth time to collect an award for a campaign that intelligently portrayed ‘the problem’.
“I don’t get it…they’re just showing the problem…everyone has the same problem” and to a point he had a point, but if you can own that problem then you can own the solution too.
Revisiting that Economist ad, can you imagine what it would have looked like in the wrong hands?
“Yes, Dave…er…love love love the idea but it’s got a bit of a negative vibe, couldn’t we give it a bit of a switcheroo round to a positive? Like…and I’m not a creative but “I always read the Economist – Managing Director aged 16.”
Personally, I can never look at that Economist ad and not feel a twinge of guilt that I should be reading the magazine.
And isn’t that what the best ideas make us do? change our behaviour? Think? act? Negative or not.
So next time you’re wondering how to evaluate an idea remember it may be worth bearing in mind how not to judge it.
Or is that too negative?