Hydrogen versus Bernoulli

People often wonder where ideas come from.

I like to think that all ideas are just sitting there, waiting to be discovered rather than created out of thin air as one might suppose.

Creative people just spend more time looking for them.

We’re like those people who suddenly got obsessed with Pokemon-Go and were out walking round parks at 2am.

The thrill of finding one is addictive and you get better at it, the more you do it.

And by creative people I mean inventors, research scientists and entrepreneurs too.

Ideas tend to be the meshing of two seemingly disconnected concepts to make a third new one.

Shop mannequins and suicide. Ear inspecting devices and human trafficking, country citizenship and trash.

(And in the case of Pokemon, gaming and treasure hunting.)

When you see a really great idea, one that you’ve either done or wished you’d done, it’s partly a feeling of elation but also recognition that makes it so thrilling. Like, damn, of course, it had to be that idea.

Like that moment on Long lost family, when a daughter finally finds her mother who gave her up as an infant. It’s kind of instant and overwhelming.

In advertising our particular species of idea usually rely on a universal insight, which are similar in that we recognise something familiar in it. When a comedian remarks on something about your life in a way that you’d never considered before but had seen every day and a thousand times, its partly funny because you recognise it, but also because you hadn’t recognised it.

They didn’t invent it, they just found it by looking through a different lens to yours.

Which brings me to flying, boats and hydrogen.

When I was a child my parents great friends, David (RIP) and Carolyn Ezekiel, owned a yacht which they kept in Chichester.

They’d sail around the Solent, the stretch of water between Portsmouth and The Isle of White, most weekends and would take longer holidays in it down to the Mediterranean in the summer and when they eventually retired they would live in it six months of the year in warmer climbs.

My recollection of it was always on a cold, wet weekend in March.

My father loved being invited to spend weekends on it, my mother hated anything that floated apart from possibly the ice in her Bacardi and Coke, so Dad would often take me or my brother or sister.

I do like boats and the sea, but unfortunately they won’t tolerate me. I would usually be a queasy shade of green before we got out of the harbour.

But I remember one weekend when I was about twelve, sat in that small cabin moored up to all the other yachts somewhere in the Cowes marina, listening to the mast ropes clang in the wind, when David asked me if I knew how they discovered flight?

The Marina at Cowes, Isle of white

No, I replied.

Basically it’s sailing.

Wait, what?

The same principle that drives a boat forward, (Sails and keels, like airplane wings, exploit Bernoulli’s principle), is exactly the same principle that lifts a Jumbo jet in to the air, albeit with more thrust.

Don’t quiz me on details.

This was an idea that had been sitting there for thousands of years, obvious really, but nobody- not Columbus, the Vikings or the great British Naval fleet or De Vinci had figured it out.

Because they weren’t looking the right way at the problem. That is to say, the wrong way.

The scientists got to air-ships filled with Hydrogen, because hydrogen is lighter than air, then helium took over, before they got to the principle of a sail turned on its side.

They realised hot air was lighter than cool air and that could maybe get us round the world in 80 days. That was pretty clever.

But not so much flying like a bird as a weather balloon.

It took the invention of the combustion engine combined with Bernoulli’s principle to get man off the ground like a bird.

This revelation completely blew my mind.

How could we not have seen what was right in front of our eyes for centuries?

That’s how we need to think of creative solutions. People often say ‘look at it sideways’, in the case of flying that was literal.

The problem is we too often settle for hot air balloons, or huge inflammable zeppelins for our concepts. They’re not a bad solution to being in the air, but they don’t have that sublime simplicity of flying like a bird.

And clients can be wary of bird flight, they prefer the scientific certainty of a balloon filled with helium.

So the question is, is that idea sat on your desk going to get your brand to soar or tootle your way round the world in a top hat?

 

 

 

Why are creatives creative?

Does that seem like a daft question?

Why are footballers sporty? Why are politicians political?

In Campaign magazine dated 29th July 2016 there was a question put to Jeremy Bullmore in his on the campaign couch with JB column.

It read : Dear Jeremy A lot of creatives also write books. Why?

JB’s answers are usually insightful, witty and even occassionally scything, but it appeared that even he was unsure.

He replied: What a funny question. Why does anyone write a book? Fame, self-importance, immortality, irresistible urge…I think that’s about it…..(and then he continues to write about the lack of good copywriters due to the decline of long copy ads and the rise of ‘content’ etc)

In the same edition was a huge double page spread featuring an interview with Sir Ken Robinson talking about Creative cultures, the state of education and why adland should drop the ‘creative’ label.

Mostly the peice was about the lack of Education’s investment in the creative arts, and it finished with a claim about how creatives shouldn’t be called creatives any more and the whole agency should be creative, as labelling some people ‘creative’ inhibits other department’s creativity.

(If you have a few minutes to spare, while pretending to work, check out Sir Ken’s famous TED talk, now with upwards of 40 million views. It’s truly inspirational and touches on a lot of insights regarding the nature of creativity and how we stifle it in an attempt to prepare everyone for a ‘real job’.)

Now these two articles, related only by the subject of creativity, touched some deep irony nerve in my lower intestine and forced their way up to my larynx and popped out of my gob as a rather limp ‘hmmm’.

On one hand we have someone who doesn’t get why creative people need to create stuff beyond their job description and on the other we have a well respected guru who wants to end the label of ‘creatives’ within agencies. Because everyone is creative really.

Somewhere there’s a disconnect. And some confusion as to what distinguishes, if distinguishing is necessary, the rest of the agency from their ‘creative’ brothers and sisters.

It must be more than tattoos and pink hair.

JB’s first instinct was to suppose it was ‘fame and fortune’ that drives people to be creative.

He almost throws away the notion of ‘irresistable urge’ as a joke.

I mean, an urge? an urge is what you have when you want to climb a mountain, have a chocolate binge or play Fifa on the Playstation – isn’t it?

It’s a passing phase.

But to my mind he was closer with the ‘urge’ theory than the others.

Ask any creative in your agency why they are creative and they won’t really be able to tell you, well not definitively. But they will probably tell you they have always been that way, maybe not artistically in the traditional sense of painting or writing… maybe they made model airplanes, maybe they wrote songs or poems, or built contraptions or arranged flowers. Maybe they built tree houses or constructed Lego or cooked, I dunno.

Because creativity is an urge…

And the main reason people do it is rarely fame and fortune.

Yes, these are pleasant bi-products of the ‘urge’ but its not the prime motivator. If you already have a job underwriting Insurance and feel the need to paint in the evening, you my friend are a creative. You just don’t know it.

It doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at painting mind you, but you’re still compelled to create none the less.

Creativity is a lot like sex drive in that regard.

You create something, are momentarily at peace and then the drive builds again.

For some people it works for them to combine that drive with making a living, and like salmon swimming upstream to their spawning grounds they find themselves in the creative department of an ad agency.

So the answer to JB’s questioner, why do a lot of creatives write books?

It’s because they can’t help themselves.

Maybe, to Sir Ken’s point, your agency creatives are just the ones who didn’t have it educated out of them.

And it’s also the reason why they sometimes can be more childlike, more head in the clouds. More eccentric even.

We do all have the creative gene and the propensity to create.

But do we all have the urge?

 

Haute couture on the Cotes d’azure

Arriving last weekend at Cannes Lions I was struck by the level of new technology and interactivity on show.

In real time, you can interact with 3-dimensional people and experience what looks like an actual talker talking on a stage about social media, while you yourself can actually be on social media.

#amazing!

I know I was waving my arms around like an idiot trying to touch things that were in front of my face before Phil told me that they actually were in front of my face.

VR can be confusing.

On Saturday morning most of the London creative fraternity were busy experiencing a virtual reality ‘hangover’ that accurately represented the clawing fug and pain of ‘going large’ on the first night.

It’s amazing what can be done these days.

Meanwhile the awards were the talking point around most of the ‘interactivity pods’ conveniently located in nearby restaurants.

The usual concerns of the work being ‘nothing like what we actually do day to day’ seemed to be a recurring theme again this year.

But does it matter?

Not for me.

There are plenty of awards systems around the world that honour the work we do every day, but what Cannes offers, much like Paris in the Spring and Autumn, is a glimpse of the unattainable.

Think of the work we celebrate on the Croisette like the Haute Couture shows of Paris, Milan, London and New York that parade the ludicrous, the outrageous, the frocks that look like biscuits and the shorts made of concrete – in the name of fashion.

These are not clothes for anyone to actually wear.

Nobody goes around in a pair of trousers that look like two wet fish, but what happens slowly over the course of the year is that fishscale styling appears, biscuit emblems on T-shirts emerge and concrete looking fabric creeps in to the high street.

Cannes is about inspiration. And that’s to be applauded. Who cares if it’s all a bit dodgy?

One CD from Brasil that I was chatting to said he knew of a winning campaign that the agency devised two weeks before the closing date, found a client and got it to run. (does any work actual ‘run’ anymore?)

What he really meant was they got some people to try it out, filmed them using it, put it on twitter and got some PR around it. That’s ‘running’ these days.

So be it. Maybe we all need to play the game. Ideas have transcended traditional media across the advertising landscape. If you are still doing old fashioned branded ad campaigns you are effectively ruling yourself out of the gongs.

My advice to you is get some cool technology and find a way to link it with your brand. Rembrandt and Banking, its an obvious connection. Rembrandt was a painter and the banks now own all his work.

Okay that’s the positive.

What about the less than positive. ( 5 years in healthcare and the word negative has been beaten out of me)

It’s the weasling notion of the ‘healthification of everything.’

I know it sounds cool and inclusive, but hold on a bloody buggering moment.

I don’t care about consumer agencies muscling in, let them come, but what constitutes a health care or wellness campaign these days?

Surely it should be about the target market?

One excellent campaign was for a paint brand that linked colour to colour-blindness. They made a set of glasses that ‘cured’ people’s affliction. (more accurately – ‘appropriated’)

Fair enough you may think, that’s healthcare.

But if they are targeting the colour-blind as a target market in its own right it seems a rather small market for a paint manufacturer.

Like a pill sold by Stella Artois that reproduces the effects of a hangover for the tee-total, so they can feel as shit as the rest of us on a Sunday morning. They’re still not buying any pints.

(In fact I may pitch that to them)

What is more likely, and even admirable from an advertising point of view, is that they are using the glasses to be inspiring about colour. But let’s be honest here, in so doing they are….well, just flogging paint.

And fair play to them, but fuck off and do it in the consumer categories!

Surely a healthcare campaign, be it from a consumer agency or not should be defined by its attempt to target a patient or HCP market?

The healthification of everything could, by a more cynical blogger than myself, become just a backdoor entry to the Lions Health awards by any old product that can find a quasi-medical angle.

Cars with auto-parking: save lives. Bottles of water: cure dehydration. The lawnmower: reduces hayfever. The Bluetooth speakers: Reduce wire based accidents in the home.

Nevertheless, this is all mere trifles.

I continue to find Cannes inspiring, infuriating and challenging in equal measures.

So what is still the real challenge of lions health?

A Grand Prix from a branded pharma campaign. Or is that just insane?

If so, I could probably enter the entry in some category for mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A typical day in pharmaland (part 2)

The trouble with satire is that it can be a rather blunt tool.

So I think it is worth writing a short postscript to what has been a rather successful edition, if judged by visitors alone, of my last blog. (thanks for visiting)

It just shows that controversial works. Some people thought it rather harsh, which wasn’t actually my intention. (Well, maybe a little…just for the mischief of it)

And it wouldn’t be the first time an idea of mine has been taken the wrong way.

So I feel it’s worth stating that I categorically love lions health. I think it is inspirational and prestigious and a shot in the arm for our sometimes forgotten corner of advertising.

I am not backtracking.

My point, such as it was, is still valid.

And that point, for those who thought the acidity was somewhat obfuscating, was that the work that won was (by and large) remarkably removed from what we all do day to day.

I know you all know this but you know, some people may not have.

Every conversation I had with agency people in Cannes seemed to revolve around this one point. Great work, but people saw no reflection of the work that they do, day in and day out for Pharma clients.

Now, does that mean we should all feel dejected and give up entering actual product work and only go for the pro-bono cool stuff?

Quite the opposite.

And do I feel the juries at Cannes should reward mediocre work just because that’s what most clients want and that’s what we mostly do all week?

Not at all.

I guess what I was trying to say was that the real challenge is in the mundane. How do we make those detail aids sing? How do we create HCP portals that transcend the ordinary? How can that next banner ad be the next Gold?

Is that even possible?

By all means if that brief to empower women lands on your desk, go for it. By all means if that extraordinarily worthwhile task of helping the health of Mexican communities lands on your desk, grasp it with both hands. There’s your chance to win big, don’t cock it up.

But let’s not forget the real test of whether pharma agencies deserve to sit at the same table as our swanky consumer cousins is whether we can elevate the everyday, the mundane, the boring.

Make that extraordinary and you will inspire an entire industry to improve.

 

(Maybe I should have just written this version instead)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a typical day in Pharmaland

I don’t know about you but the reason I come in to work every day in my Healthcare agency of choice is mostly to help small Mexican villages improve their language skills. It can be monotonous but it also can be more rewarding than it looks.

When I see their little faces light up with new words for their private parts it makes everything seem worth it.

Other days I can be found designing and manufacturing electronic limbs, which is all new to me but once you get the hang of the mechanics it all makes sense and there is quite a bit of creativity attached – if a little noisy.

But the other day, as we were trying to figure out how to improve the diet of a small jungle community by making aquatic creatures from wrought iron, an account guy came in the department with a tentative face, followed by our apologetic looking traffic manager.

“Olly” he said, “I have an urgent brief and the studio are all busy making UV reactive dolls”

“Okay” I said “let me take a look at it”

He was so grateful “You really saved my life” he spluttered “The client wants to empower women..and he needs an idea by monday…massive budget, posters TV, online, social”

“That’s the third empowering women brief we’ve had this month…you’d think they were all fully empowered by now” I said

A revolutionary veterinary product design to help vets empathise with pet owners

A revolutionary veterinary product design to help vets empathise with pet owners

“I know” he said with an expression that said but what you gonna do?

“But apparently” he continued  “there are parts of Gloucestershire where they’re still feeling a tiny bit timid.”

Then he actually said “But what you gonna do?” which seemed appropriate.

“Okay, I’ll take a look at it…but you owe me one” I said. You see, when you are a CD you have to take the dull briefs too and these bread and butter ‘women empowerment’ type clients make the real creative opportunities possible.

So there I was trying to sift through my bottom drawer of concepts (This girl can, This girl wants to, What women want etc) and my office door slid open. It was our MD Phil with a huge grin on his face. To be fair, he often has a grin on his face but this time I sensed something different in the air.

“Olly” he said, hardly containing his excitement.

“This is the big one”

“What is?” I half-whispered…(to increase the general sense of excitement)

“Phamaland Inc wants us to launch a fourth to market generic drug”

I clench my fist and punched the air.

“iPad detail aids, leave-pieces, objection handlers…the bloody lot”

What was the likelihood of a brief like that coming in to a healthcare agency in 2015?

I immediately marched in to the creative department. (A full three steps)

“Guys and girls stop all that 3D printing malarkey…this is serious”

The 3D printer drew to a halt.

“Once in a lifetime we get a brief like this”

Phil cut in excitedly “Pharmaland Inc want us to do a new detail aid for a fourth to market drug”

There was a collective gasp and a palpable licking of lips at the prospect.

“And an updated leave piece” I added “and if we play our cards right, the internal launch meeting materials”.

The smiles swept across their faces, everyone knew the implications.

Holding the brief aloft I said…”This is a our Lions Health Cannes Grand Prix next year guys….they literally won’t have seen anything like it!”

“Good luck” said Phil over his shoulder as he returned to writing a brief for some boring old wearable technology product “sometimes these kinds of briefs aren’t as easy as they look”.

Noooo shit.