Be careful what you wish for

You remember those first couple of years when Health and Wellness and Pharma were finally at Cannes?

Anyone who was anyone flew in and there was an air of optimism for the future.

And yet, how some of us lamented the fact that we seemed divorced from the main show, how we felt like second class citizens. Why were we on the preceding weekend and not part of the main week?

‘We want to be part of the main week’ they said.

Not me. I liked it that way.

(Not least because you could get a hotel room near Le Croisette and one that wasn’t something out of a tired nineteen seventies polyester nightmare.)

However, that first year I remember a lot of the talks were in the main Lumiere theatre, it really felt like this was pharma’s time.

The next year we were shunted round the back. What? not in the main theatre? oh right, round the back you say?

But that was okay, we got our own slightly ssmaller space, somewhere to see innovations and specific talks all in one arena.

In fact this was better in some ways, round the back, out of the way.

We even still got our own gala ball on the roof top. Yay!

But still, here we are on the weekend and we don’t feel like part of the adland gang, we moaned.

Last year we got included in the main week, no healthcare gala ball, but we go to go to the opening night party with everyone else.

Cool!

And we still had our own awards night! A lot of the work was celebrated and silver winners took to the stage to get their moment in the limelight they deserved.

The winning work was from healthcare agencies and actual pharma clients.

This year, we’re still round the back, no healthcare gala ball and the awards night consisted of our categories being squeezed in with a couple of other categories nobody gets excited about any more.

Like ‘print’.

No silver winners on stage and the whole thing, two whole categories mind you, is over in 30 mins.

Won a silver? well done, give yourself a round of applause.

Next category please.

Congratulations everyone, we’re part of the main show! We’ve arrived!

 

 

 

 

Forget about awards and the awards will come.

Do you see yourself as a creative person?

Try this test.

Take a brick and list three things you can do with it.

Some people will say 1. Build a house 2. Build a road 3. Build a bridge.

If your top three ideas were 1. Throw through a jeweller’s window, 2. Squash flies 3. Paint white and use as a creative award – you may be destined for a career in the creative industries.

So does something more fundamental separate creatives from people who might class themselves as ‘non-creative’?

My wife and I were watching one of those programmes, of the ‘Escape to’ variety.

Yes, it’s a high-octane life I lead.

This one was about a couple who have bought a château in France and are renovating it beautifully and creatively.

It might even be called ‘Escape to the Château’.

The wife, (his not mine) had bought a new light for one of the bedrooms – off the internet, as you do, and opened up the box upon receiving it with a squeal of delight.

It was a wonderfully decorative flower arrangement style set in brass.

Her husband, a practical man and extremely handy with a jigsaw and a plank of wood, looked on with a look of amused despair, and immediately pointed out that it was a candle holder with no electrical aspect whatsoever.

Not what they needed at all.

My wife ‘tutted’ and remarked ‘that’s such a creative person thing to do’.

(I couldn’t really argue as I had done something similar myself recently with a picture light.)

Because creative people’s brains do work differently to a degree.

But creative or non-creative, we all can tap in to a higher level of creativity if we put our minds to it.

Or rather if we don’t.

A study in the 1970’s at Stanford in California by an academic called Mark Lepper (now a professor of Psychology) took a group of children from the Bing Nursery school located on the Stanford campus, divided them in to three groups and gave all three a set of markers, crayons and paper.

The first group was told there would be a reward for the best picture. An award with their name on it, no less.

The second group was not told anything, but the best picture did receive an ‘unexpected reward’ once they had completed the task.

The third groups were neither promised nor received any award for their work.

The results were astounding. The first group’s work – the one with a clear reward – was considerably worse than the other two.

The findings, at least among these children, clearly showed that reward is not necessarily the best way to increase creativity.

A subsequent experiment divided children in to two groups and again asked them to create a collage – one with no promise of anything and the other with the promise of a prize: An Etcher-sketch!

They then asked judges to come in from the art department and randomly asked them to judge the work.

All of the work from the group with no intrinsic incentive was judged to be significantly poorer.

Weird huh?

So what is your approach to awards and how does this square with those agencies who clearly load the dice with work let’s say…..that is specifically designed to clean up at Cannes etc?

Well, it would at least seem to contradict Lepper’s work at Stanford.

But I suspect the creative motivation for those who produce those winning concepts is less about winning the awards and more about doing something cool.

In fact for anyone who produces great work, it’s never about the awards as a starting point. Not really.

Maybe it just happens that if your approach is to go for cool and interesting first, rather than be fixated on what will win at an awards show, the awards start flowing.

So that brief that’s sitting on your desk? what could you do to give yourself the most fun on a job that you’ve ever had?

What would you like to spend the next three months producing, assuming it works for the brand?

Do that, not that thing you think might delight the judges.

You never know, you might win a brick all of your own.

 

 

*With special thanks to the freakonomics.com podcast for the inspiration for this blog.

 

 

 

Pharma’s invisibility cloak.

In the Harry Potter books, why we ‘muggles’ don’t see all the weird magical stuff happening around us is explained in one simple line.

‘Muggles see what they want to see.’

A similar myopia seems to pervade consumer advertising and Healthcare advertising.

Maybe I’m being sensitive.

Apparently, there were actually two whole categories at Cannes that happened the same week as the rest of Cannes, had work exhibited in the same basement as the rest of Cannes and actual agencies won golds and silvers and agency of the year awards and……noooooobody noticed.

You had to go through a door in an invisible wall to a strange alleyway, apparently.

How do I know this?

Well, in this month’s Campaign – the leading advertising publication in the UK – an article by the ‘Global editor-in-chief’, no less, Claire Beale, in a piece supposed to soothe our bruised English national pride after the world cup, and get us all fired up about the creative talent on our shores, pretty much confirmed it.

In the article she rightfully championed every achievement by our consumer cousins at Cannes. (It is comforting to know we were still good at something even if the football didn’t work out how we thought.) heaping praise on the awesome achievements of Adam&Eve DDB among other notable agencies.

But somehow we had our invisibility cloaks in full working order and there wasn’t a mention of any successes in the Health and Wellness or Pharma categories for some reason.

I think I’m definitely being sensitive.

But it’s not like she didn’t have her chance at inclusion:

“And UK agencies are strong across the whole bench, not just scoring in the traditional positions, such as Film, but taking gold (and above) Lions in Glass, Sustainable Development Goals, Titanium, Creative Data, Direct, Media, PR, Social and Influencer, Film Craft, Creative Ecommerce and Entertainment.”

Um…not quite the whole bench there Claire is it.

An English agency, Havas Lynx, won Healthcare agency of the year, you might not have noticed.

They even handed out a statue and everything

 

I’m almost certain that I am probably just being a touch sensitive.

It’s weird because a lot of the big agency networks are scrambling to get involved in the healthcare space. It’s where a lot of the exciting work is happening. They even won in some of these categories.

But in some quarters our presence at Cannes is still like we have just been let in the back door to a teenage house party because our older sister was in with the cool older boys and said we could gatecrash if we stayed in the kitchen and didn’t talk to anyone and only drank cider.

We’re the fucking Inbetweeners.

But it’s not just the journos at Campaign. During the Cannes judging I bumped in to a well known advertising Creative Director, with whom I had a passing and tenuous association with, via an old friend, and we work in the same building. She has been in the business a good thirty years.

“Oh, what jury are you on?” she inquired after I introduced myself.

“Pharma”

“Oh? What’s that?” she said.

It wasn’t meant in a mean or derogatory way, I could tell she just had literally no idea. All she heard was “Spells and Potions”.

I am aware this just all sounds like chippy, a little whiny and a little bitchy. Why do I care what Campaign thinks, I ask myself?

I don’t really know, to be honest. It’s this damn over-sensitivity I guess.

But for too long we have been meek and mild about what we do, embarrassed even. Our history of regulations, small budgets and lack of creativity takes a long time to fade and as we know, perception always trails reality.

We are so busy flying around on broomsticks and casting spells on people and talking in backward snakey-talk that the rest of the world is quite happy not being involved.

They see what they want to see.

So whatever Campaign thinks or doesn’t think, it’s time to start being proud of the work, the craft, the ingenuity that we have in Pharmaland and to ditch the sensitivity. Or as Claire puts it “ditch the negativity and self-flagellation…UK Healthcare agencies are creative world champions”.

Ok, I added the healthcare part.

It may be that they just don’t ‘get’ our world, so it’s easier to put us in the cupboard under the stairs and tell us to keep quiet.

Perhaps we should invite them to a big school in a castle in Scotland?

You never know, they might be surprised at what a little magic can do.