Pharma? Everything’s looking Rose

What you can guarantee is that everyone has an opinion about the Lions awards, but what nobody can say about this year’s batch is that it doesn’t represent what we do every day.

It’s just that maybe we don’t all do award winning work every day.

Most of us strive and get really really close, and it’s that striving to push the boundaries of Pharma that keeps our clients on an upward creative trajectory. It improves their businesses and ours and more importantly helps patients too.

If you didn’t succeed this year, I’m sorry but Cannes is pretty bloody tough.

If it helps, you can feel comforted by the fact that actually it’s all just puffery and nonsense and it doesn’t really matter.

Unless you win of course.

Also, even as a judge this year I watched as my agency’s work was flashed on screen, heard some positive giggles from the room, raising my expectations momentarily, then caught out of the corner of my eye someone giving it a three and realised it would never be seen again. That was what we call disappointment in real time.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Being a small cog in the Lions, you quickly realise the whole judging experience at Cannes is about as well oiled as a machine can be.

You are scooped up from Nice airport and whisked Cannes-ward in air-conditioned luxury, deposited at what is a very nice hotel, handed, rather MI5 style I must say, a box complete with instructions, passes and lanyards and a Gold note book. This is stationary porn at it’s finest.

It bodes well.

A welcome drink on the Carlton beach follows. It’s a strange little soiree in so much that this is the week prior to the festival kicking off and the streets of Cannes are devoid of the heavyweight creative cognoscenti, it was just a few old codgers, some prostitutes and a few teenagers smoking on a bench.

It reminded me of the first couple of years of Lions health.

Time to mingle.

Hello, what jury are you on?

Oh Design? cool.

Me?….no pharma…no not farmer…pharma…..PHARMACEUTICALS.

Yes, that’s right, like pills and stuff.

Next morning at 8:30am we are met at the hotel by our Cannes ‘rep’ who, rather than telling us about local tourist attractions or the all-inclusive sunset barbeque, is tasked with rounding us up and escorting us to the main building within the Palais. She then facilitates the whole judging process.

This is not as straightforward as you might think.

I mean, we are ten creatives (full grown adults mind you) all trying to organise ourselves without the aid of a producer or account person, this is complicated stuff! Literally every morning someone was late, overslept or simply thought we were meeting an hour later.

Our group was an eclectic mix: a couple of white middle aged admen (guilty as charged) Brazilian superstars, Mexican rock stars, Indian gurus, Singaporean hotshots, American glitterati, German wunderkinds and a ‘fab one’ from Liverpool.

And so we are led in to a small meeting room with a lovely view of the azure sea and a coffee machine it takes at least six of us to figure out how to work. This is a step up, we are told, usually it’s a windowless dark room and air con cold enough to freeze all extremities.

The air-con remained.

The first day we are treated to an explanatory video which spells out the system and how the judging works. This was preceded by a visit from Terry Savage himself, the festival CEO. There is something to this nominative determinism lark, I thought to myself, as he cut an intimidating figure announcing in a gravelly Aussie accent “weer gowin to show you a veedeo bud if it carmes from me it hes more menice”.

We duly sat up straight and paid attention.

The first two days are basically this: See the work, judge from one to nine. 1-3 is not on the shortlist, 4-6 possibly a shortlist, 7-9 definitely a shortlist and possibly a medal.

Depending on the category some entries have a different method to judge them using the above criteria. A mix of percentages for idea, strategy, execution and results.

No discussion. Press the number on the tablet.

Next.

The reason for this is clear, and used by other awards shows too. Once you’ve got a shortlist you can then start talking about the work that needs talking about.

Interestingly this system is largely up to the current jury president to shape, this year we were led magnificently by the awesome Rich levy CCO of FCB Health who, having experienced a previous system where they talked about every piece of work right from the get-go, went with this no-chat approach. The problem with the ‘discuss everything’ method is that you can end up at 2am every night debating work you hate or don’t think should even be in the pharma category.

So, thanks to Rich we were able to get a reasonable day’s work in and were away early enough for some jury dinners in the old town.

Day three and the discussions begin. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Let’s get some heated debates going.

Our room was directly next to the Health and Wellness lot. All day we would hear sporadic bouts of hysterical laughing coming through the partition wall. Maybe they were just a funnier lot than us. Maybe the work was hilarious.

So, what’s up next? Yep more Cancer videos. Great.

Once we have a rudimentary shortlist, what you instantly realise is that some great work you definitely saw hasn’t been voted on to it. This is the point where we each get to bring something back.

What you hope is that someone will bring up that work your agency did, because you can’t.

Nope.

Oh well.

What does happen is that if any agency in your group has work shortlisted it gets you some instant sun on the terrace while they talk about it.

The view from the terrace.

This year CDM New York won a Silver for Zac’s Play Day a beautiful and perfectly executed children’s book explaining to children and those around them what living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy can be like.

I was very proud, but I never heard a word discussed about it other than to see it keep popping up on the list. Then some handshakes when they’d decided the medal.

I took all the credit naturally.

Cannes are very hot on subterfuge, collusion and basic skullduggery. There’s an algorithm built in to the tablet voting system that recognises any anomalies. Different voting signs post-lunch with fellow jurors that might be reciprocal, or pre-planned tactical voting..everyone else thinks it’s a shortlist but you gave it a one? it all shows up.

Not that any skullduggery would reflect well on you or Cannes. The pressure at Cannes is to try and find and reward the best work for the category and the show as a whole. There is a mild paranoia about letting the side down for Pharma, so as a team we were determined to keep the standard up there for Cannes, not just Pharma. I think we did that.

Sunday, the last day, is medals day.

We all were rubbing our hands with the anticipation as well as trying to stay warm in the minus 6c temperature.

This was the day that felt most like the famous James Stewart movie, 12 angry men.

Apart from the fact we were ten not twelve, male and female and really quite even tempered.

What I never realised in previous years was that you are given a quota to guide you. 10 bronze, 7 silver and 5 Gold.

This may answer your question as to why one piece can’t win several golds in different categories. Or if it does it swamps everything like last year’s Immunity Charm.

This quota isn’t set in stone. But, like  a wish from a Genie, if you give a Gold you can’t downgrade it. If you give a bronze you can always return to it and vote again and upgrade it. This way you start off cautious and slowly build your big winners out of your medals shortlist.

Some entries began the day as a shortlist and ended up Gold, one stayed Gold all day. Some stayed where they were despite the best efforts of their champions.

You also have the ability to group two or three campaign entries as one, so long as they all are entered in the same category, thus awarding all the ideas and saving yourself some of your quota.

We each had our favourite, and I kinda relished the challenge of lobbying support for a piece of work I liked. The others groaned every time I brought it up. It ended up a Silver, which in the end I think might have been fair.

The thing is, as we kept saying, Silver at Cannes is fucking good. (And actually, so is a bronze and a shortlist.)

But also, and surprisingly to myself, I came round to some pieces championed by others that I had initially disliked. This is what the jury room can do to you. Some amazingly intelligent and talented and highly awarded people persuading you of the entries brilliance, I found myself in the unusual position of ‘client’ to someone’s passionate creative director role. Okay, I’ll buy your argument.

I guess that’s why we are all there. I learned a lot.

And so on Sunday night, you emerge in to the soft evening sunlight, bleary eyed and nursing a nice new summer cold thanks to the air con.

But this year no Grand Prix in Pharma.

Okay, a note on that.

I promise you, had you been on the jury you wouldn’t have awarded one either.

The Golds we did award were truly great but the one thing that got us all excited was ineligible. (Blink to speak) And there was nothing else to compare. So you can’t just go with something you don’t feel is up to it.

So, is pharma destined to be constantly the bridesmaid and never the bride?

I don’t think so. This year the category changes have made real pharma work come out of it’s shell, for once not fighting with Pro Bono or spurious health based activation projects.

The standard of craft is now hitting the mark, and now all it will take is one sublime idea. And there were fifteen of the top Pharma companies represented in the shortlist, so the groundwork is there.

This was truly, what we do every day. Or at least could have been.

Will it be from your agency next year? Now there’s no reason why not.

I believe the Holy Grail is still the Grand Prix for branded work. Maybe that is too much to hope for but we all need dreams.

I’ll leave you with the some final pleas/tips on behalf of next year’s jurors.

1. It’s not enough to win at Cannes just because you entered it. Ten to twenty category entries isn’t going to make it any better. Buddy, it’s still just a woman in a pool. In fact you lessen your chances with each entry. 4 max!

2. You need an idea. It can be small, but you still need an idea. Some stickers won this year.

3. Funny can win too. Check out the Wrestler.

4. That idea you really like but aren’t sure could win? enter it anyway. One of the jurors might spot it, love it and make it theirs.

5. Make sure your case film hits the nub of what makes it special. People in the case film saying it’s great doesn’t count.

6. Probably avoid putting the Art Director and writer in the case vid. (see point 5)

7. Some great results really help. Jurors will spot bullshit results. It doesn’t have to be global PR coverage but if you enter it a year early you may weaken your chances. There were a lot of ‘we’re hoping for big things!’ which is hard to put up against concrete figures. Wait till you’ve got the big things to talk about.

8. If Cannes recommend you put it in the H&W category not pharma but you insist you want the pharma jury to decide, then don’t be surprised if the jury doesn’t think it’s pharma either.

9. Craft counts.

10. Go big or go small. Don’t go medium.

 

If you have any gripes, or questions about why your work didn’t shortlist in Pharma or why certain work did, feel free to ask questions in the box below.

Because of the way WordPress works I have to approve the question before it shows on the site, but I will try and answer as best I can (and if I can remember it). If you really really are curious it might help, or maybe it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie

Up to you.

Until next time dear reader.

 

 

 

 

The three ways to do Cannes.

1. As a Creative client.

It was a few years ago now and it was my first visit to Cannes, and I swore I would never do it that way again. I had always been the senior guy who wasn’t quite senior enough to go but was senior enough to hold the fort while the bosses frolicked on the croisette.

So, yes when the invitation came – I accepted it gladly. This was my turn.

It was lovely and generous of my hosts but exhausting. 15 odd years ago production companies rented villas miles from the actual town (maybe they still do) and had potential creative clients come to stay. I never went near any Palais de Festival, in fact I am not sure I knew or cared where it was. There were a few people milling about with lanyards but I didn’t pay much attention.

It was a succession of production company parties and thumping music all night long as I tried to get some sleep. Even 15 years ago I was too middle aged and married with kids to really feel comfortable, especially as my fellow house mates won the Grand Prix that year. So they were intent on celebrating, as you might imagine.

Me? I had to get back to a school parents summer ball on the Saturday night and I arrived back a quivering, hungover imbecile after having nearly missed the only flight home that would get me back in time.

2. As a Delegate.

It was ten years later that I came to Lions health. A bit of a trade up, as we were able to get a room at the Carlton. This was when adland didn’t arrive till the Sunday and we had it all to ourselves.

Over the last few years since it’s been going for us pharmatypes, I’ve experienced the true value of Cannes, the talks and the awards and won some nice accolades (although no Grand Prix as yet) myself.

I’ve sat in the auditorium as the big winners win and held my breadth for our campaign to be read out.

I’ve stood on the stage after winning Healthcare Network of the year.

I still arrive back home a beaten man, after too many late nights at the gutter bar, but that is compensated by feeling inspired by the new wave of creativity sweeping the sector.

3. As a judge.

Finally, I get it.

Now, from inside the machine it makes sense. All the griping about the judges decisions, all the frustrations become clear when you turn gamekeeper.

You see the foolishness of so many agencies who don’t listen to the advice and greedily enter too many categories hoping something might stick or envisioning a truck load of Lions as a result.

You see the quality entries who pick and choose their categories.

Yes, sometimes you feel like scooping your own eyeballs out with a screwdriver if you have to sit through that case history again.

But then there’s the thrill when something pops up that is brilliant.

You are able to pick up the tiny ideas that are beautifully done and shepherd them towards an accolade.

And ultimately you get to talk about great ideas with world class talent.

This year, although it’s early days, the division between pharma and health and wellness categories has made a big difference to the time spent in the jury room. Hopefully this will be the first year that reflects the kind of work ‘we actually do’ every day.

That’s if you do brilliant work every day.

The gutter bar may still beckon, but this is so far my favourite way to do Cannes.

There is of course a fourth way to do Cannes and that’s as a holiday maker, which I did last summer. We were staying in the hills above Nice and we drove down just for a visit.

The place was quiet, clean and the gutter bar had returned from the hottest property in town to a normal cafe on a street corner just trying to please its customers.

Just as we all do for the other 51 weeks of the year.

 

 

Award show jury members are thickos.

So it’s been Pharma-awards season recently and we have a few on the horizon.

Did your agency enter work this year but not garner the adulation you expected?

We’ve all been there.

If so, there’s a reason for it and it isn’t necessarily because your work wasn’t good enough.

It’s because jurors are well….a bit thick.

I should know, I have often been one and I am thicker than Simon Cowell’s platform heels.

You may reasonably deduce that your work wasn’t good enough, but really…because of the general fuckwittery of us jurors it was probably more accurately – your entry wasn’t good enough.

Yes, in the midst of that excited preparation of entries for creative awards it’s easy to forget who your target market is.

Frustratingly, juries are made up in the most part, not from sciencey people, clients or account people who know the brief, the brand and the disease area but the kind of cool kids who would copy your homework at school and still somehow get less marks than you.

Otherwise known as other creatives.

I know. It seems unfair.

And what compounds the problem is that it’s usually us banana-brained flowery-shirted neanderthals who prepare the entries. It would be a vicious circle if the people involved on both sides were smart enough to be vicious.

You see, your entry may have made a few basic, not unreasonable assumptions.

These are that:

  1. Jurors would bother to find out what disease the brand was indicated for, if it wasn’t obvious.
  2. Jurors would bother to read the 5pt font that explained what the idea was because the concept page was printed on A4 but designed in A3.
  3. Jurors would instinctively know what the work was trying to achieve.
  4. A video of the app in use with no commentary and crudely shot on an iPhone would hold their attention beyond the first five seconds.
  5. A case history video rushed together on the morning of the deadline with no voice over and subtitles so quick that they could induce epilepsy was sufficient to fully capture the glory of the whole project.
  6. That in a case history video Jurors will be captivated by the five minute testimony of the client’s conference delegates, telling them how much ‘they loved the stand’ because your agency didn’t re-edit it for awards and just used the one you used for creds meetings.

If you made any of these assumptions without making allowances for we sludge-brained amoeba that sit on juries you might be hiding your light under the tinsiest of bushels.

From what I’ve seen, the work that does well in any awards show (certainly for any craft category) isn’t just a good idea…it’s well presented with the concept up front and personal, with some legible copy explaining the brief and why the solution is what it is.

Make it easy for a horses-arse like me, and just like your lovely work that needs to be recognised as such, keep it simple.

Then cross your fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asking the cows about farming.

I was recently sat in an awards jury, as you do, when a ‘medical person’ insisted that in one category all you really had to do, to launch a new drug, was to announce its arrival.

Drug X does Y.

No selling or creativity was required.

It was a curious, if not uncommon occurrence, to hear that opinion and she was adamant. After all, she had been in the business for many years and she knew what she was talking about.

The medical business, mind you.

No amount of creative advocacy would budge her.

The thing is, yes, she clearly did know her area of medical expertise and to an extent the usual protocols for launching a drug in that category. But (with as much due respect as I can muster) what worth was her opinion from a marketing standpoint?

Do you know anyone who will admit to being persuaded by advertising? yet somehow it works.

So is it fair to assume that because you are an expert in your own field, you also are wise to the clever tricks we adfolk can pull? Or that you know how to market to yourself and your cohorts in the most effective way, better than mere advertising people?

We all use toothpaste regularly. (If my son is reading this, that will seem a bit of a stretch I grant you, but nevertheless…) does that make us experts in oral hygiene marketing?

The amount of times I have heard consumer clients talk about their products, (mostly car clients)  in terms of ‘just put it on the poster and it will sell itself’. I wish it were that simple.

Sometimes, within the B2B world, we don’t have the perspective required from our positions inside the tent to really see the bigger picture.

Look at it from the reverse angle.

The medical world, I am sure, rolls its collective eyes when patients rock up at surgeries with their own ailments pre-diagnosed. (If my daughter is reading this, how is the Denghi fever this week?)

Experience tells them that a runny nose might not be Malaria.

As they say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

In a recent piece of research we had been carrying out for a new campaign the creative work was well received, as far as it went, but the doctors were not so keen on the strategy. Instead of them taking it at face value, we were told that other doctors would not believe it.

So what is the role of creative research when you get this reaction?

Do we listen to our experts in the field or do we rely on our knowledge that, actually, people sometimes react differently when they’re not being consulted for their opinion?

Do we trust in creativity?

Like a salesman pitching door to door do you just accept that if the customer initially says they aren’t looking for a new set of dusters you can’t sell them a new set of dusters?

We used to have a saying that research was like ‘asking the cows about farming’. The cows are right at the heart of the process, they live and breathe farming, they experience it everyday.

Just don’t ask them how to run the farm.

A good research company can sort the creative approval and understanding from the amateur strategic advice, but very often we take everything that spouts from a research participant’s gob as if it’s unquestionable pearls of wisdom.

And sometimes it just isn’t.

Sometimes they will tell us they like something because it sits within their comfort zone, not realizing that what is required is actually something outside of that dreaded zone.

Recently another doctor told us that even though he liked an idea we didn’t need the one visual thing that made it different. He didn’t know what it’s role was, so as far as he was concerned it was unnecessary.

Therefore our client felt that research told us we didn’t need it. But just because he didn’t know it’s role didn’t make it unnecessary. Without it, the ad was wallpaper.

The respondent was playing creative director and if anyone is going to be hideously wrong about stuff I insist it should be me.

Because if you need further proof that people, when consulted, often say one thing but do another and therefore can’t always be trusted, take a look at the recent election in the UK.

All the polls said the Tories and Labour were neck and neck and yet somehow we have a Tory Majority government.

Moooooo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PMs Question time.

Here in London the PM awards are almost upon us and people are frantically dry-cleaning their shiny suits and their not-too-glam-for-lunchtime-frocks and preparing to cut short, by a day, Dry January.

Now:

This won’t come as that much of a shock but these annual awards have rather a low level of credibility within the creative cognoscenti, but like all creative shows they maintain a distinct brand and that, if nothing else, is important to acknowledge.

Charlize Theron

A guest arriving at the PM Society awards luncheon at the Grosvenor house

A few months back a group of Creative Directors from every county of Pharmaland were all invited to the IPA to discuss, over some wine and good food, how the Best of Health awards could maintain it’s integrity and raison d’etre now that Cannes had loomed in to frame as the benchmark for excellence and international debauchery.

Did the Best of Health still have a role?

This displayed at least an understanding of the fragile credibility that all award shows have.

Almost unanimously the feeling was that it did still have a place, but that the dynamic had to change a little. The end result of much Merlot fueled (by the end of the evening) debating was several good ideas, (some terrible ones too) one of which was to move the date of the event so as not to compete with Cannes head on.

While we were chewing over the general status of the awards spectrum the subject turned to our old friend the PMs.

1387655421_Mad-Friday-Binge-drinking_2

The same guest four hours later

As I said, within the creative community they are almost universally regarded with a degree of disdain. (creatives are such tarts)

But there it is.

Creatives generally prefer a system whereby if the standard of work isn’t good enough, no award is given. This has to be coupled with judges that have credibility too, otherwise all is lost. Together this makes an award all the more coveted and it has worked well for D&AD and the other top shows.

Because if you have to vote a winner then potentially you have to pick the best of a bad bunch. But the PMs are alone in standing by the ethos of awarding the best of what was entered that year and having a mix of client and creatives as judges.

And you must award a gold, silver and bronze for each category. Because people pay a lot of money to enter and there’s nothing worse than an awards ceremony with no winners. From an awards show point of view I have some sympathy with that, I must say.

Imagine if you showed up to the Oscars and they just agreed that no one made the mark that year. Rather stuffs the after show parties doesn’t it?

And there you have it. To me, the PM’s focus is almost entirely around the event itself. You could pretty much have a luncheon at the Grosvenor House and have no awards at all and a couple of comics with much the same result, albeit with less of a budget for the organisers and not as much gnashing of teeth from the disgruntelcenti.

The point is not whether the PMs serve creative director egos or reward creativity but whether they have a business value or not.

And undeniably, for most agencies, and especially the ones aiming to get a foothold, they do. They still get you noticed within our overall client base.

Creatively excellent or not.

So, like it or not, most agencies still want to win one. With some notable exceptions.

By now it is no secret that Langland have withdrawn from entering this year.

There are several, understandable, possible reasons.

1. It could be that the PMs have just become too small and that their individual worth to the most awarded Healthcare agency in the world just isn’t worth enough. Cannes is now quite a glittering bauble and by comparison the PMs are like a parochial non league football trophy.

2. It could also be because if you are the most awarded healthcare agency in the world that takes a lot of cash to spend every year entering every show going and sometimes you have to prioritize.

Fair enough.

3. They’re simply letting someone else have a go.

But whatever the reason, the PM awards are poorer for Langland’s absence.

And they’re not alone, Frontera also choose to exclude themselves from the PMs.

Only the awards themselves will prove whether the standard has slipped dramatically with the top teams absent.

So the PMs tread a fine line.

On one hand they need an element of creative credibility, to keep the entries coming. On the other hand, they need to not be so up themselves that smaller less creative agencies and bigger less creative clients think it’s still worth entering work and showing up for the lunch.

But the question remains: No matter how good your work, who wants to win Wimbledon in the year that Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal didn’t bother entering?

So, will Langland continue it’s success without the PMs? undoubtedly.

The bigger question might be what is the PMs without Langland, Frontera et al?

Back at the IPA dinner we all agreed on one thing.

The PMs don’t care about newcomers like Cannes, they’ll carry on regardless because what they offer is popular and has a clear role within the business – and like those comb-over comics from the 70’s, doing gags about mother-in-laws, they couldn’t give a flying fuck what the trendy alternative comics are up to in that there London.

And we all know what happened to them.

See you all on Friday. Chin Chin!

 

 

 

The 3 worst ways to judge creative

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.

WILLFUL MISINTERPRETATION

or

“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

Or

But what if nobody reads the headline?

management-trainee_48 copy

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

Or

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.

No, really.

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?