Sir John at 2018 Cannes Festival of Creativity on, well, Creativity.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve been involved in the advertising and marketing industry for a long time. Mostly, I’ve enjoyed it. I love creating things. I love the creative process, creative problem solving. I love creativity.

Creativity is, in part, what this blog is all about. It’s also, me thinks, one of those words that is vastly overused, and when you ask several people what is meant by it, you’ll get several different responses. It’s difficult for most folks to equate creativity with, say, engineering. Frankly, I think it was damned creative when the design and engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge came about.

Creativity is always evolving. We, as creative practitioners, should be evolving right along with it. So, whenever I see an article on the subject or hear a renowned expert talk about it, I want to read and listen to what is said. Maybe I can pick up some tips.

That happened recently when reading an issue of AdAge. I thought I’d share some of what I read.

The expert: Sir John Hegarty.

Sir John Hegarty Cannes 2016

Sir John Hegarty attends The Cannes Lions 2016 on June 20, 2016 in Cannes, France.
(June 19, 2016 – Source: Christian Alminana/Getty Images Europe)

Sir John was attending the 2018 Cannes Festival of Creativity where he’s been coming since 1989. A founding shareholder in Saatchi & Saatchi and a co-founder of TBWA London before starting Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 1982, Sir John has himself been behind hall of fame work for Levi’s, Volkswagen and Audi. Never shy about his opinions, Hegarty took the opportunity of yet another Cannes Lions to share a few thoughts on the current state of creativity with Ad Age.

A few excerpts from the interview by . . .

You’ve bemoaned the increasing role data and tech have played in the creative process.

I was accused by Martin Sorrell of being a dinosaur because somebody said “Hegarty doesn’t believe in data,” which is not actually true. Data is fundamentally important. One of the greatest stories ever told, the Nativity, came out of data collection, didn’t it? You’ve got to remember a brand’s job is also to convert.  . . . Go out and throw your net wide. How do I know who’s going to like what I’m selling?

Meaning that with targeting, advertisers are preaching to the converted?

It’s not that. It’s a lazy way of marketing: “Look at the data, what does the data tell us? It’s an instruction manual!” No, it’s not an instruction manual. You’ve got to think about how you’re building the values of this brand. I know I’m boring and I say this all the time, but a brand is made not only by the people who buy it but also by the people who know about it.

“Those people” being the brand itself and also agents of the brand?

If I say to you “Rolls Royce,” you say, “Ooh!” You’re probably not going to buy one, but by talking to a broad audience who understands what your brand is about, you become part of culture. We are forgetting that part of advertising’s function of course is about effectiveness, but it’s also helping that brand become a part of culture.

Last year the talk was all about Fearless Girl. There doesn’t seem to be a corollary this year.

I’ll get provocative here again: Fearless Girl did what for the brand? I don’t know what brand it was associated with. We’ve lost connection. We’ve confused persuasion with promotion. Everybody got hugely excited about the Nike FuelBand 10 years ago. I thought it was a brilliant promotion. I used to be a runner. There was no way I would ever run in Nikes. New Balance, yes. I don’t care how many FuelBands you create, I won’t buy them. I don’t think you make a great running shoe. You have to persuade me.

What do you make of consultancies moving into the agency space?

Why shouldn’t these people get involved? Unless you understand how to convert that into a communications program that stands out in the marketplace, then what’s the point? The trouble is agencies are their own worst enemies and are not very good at establishing a trusted rapport with clients.

You mentioned the Nativity being the original data-informed creative. You look at the Ten Commandments, some of the most enduring “content” ever, and it was written on stone. The oldest medium there is.

Exactly. The greatest brand in the world is the Catholic Church. Best logo. Every lesson in marketing is there. The point is: Two thousand years, some problems, still going. Where will you be in 2,000 years?

Well, gee, Sir John, I don’t know where I’ll be in 2,000 years. I imagine I’ll most likely have been turned into a pile of dust somewhere or maybe I’ll have been recycled somehow. The key word here is imagine-ation. It’s the heart and soul of creativity. Each one of us has an unlimited imagination and boundless creativity — even when we think we don’t.

It’s when limitations are thrust upon us that our abilities are challenged. At times, our creativity is even called into question. As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It’s what we do with our knowledge that’s important.

How may we apply creativity and that imagination to do something constructive with that knowledge, to contribute to society, to help educate someone; heck, even to make someone laugh. We must keep on creating, keep on striving.

Does it take a mindset of creativity to be creative? Huh, imagine that!

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‘Unfairy Tales’ Wins Cannes Grand Prix

This animated spot is simply awesome. And touching. And serious. And gripping.

It sort of grips you by the throat as you’re reaching for the Kleenex.

UNICEF_UnfairyTalesMalakandtheBoat16

Every so often I see a commercial or piece of design work that intrigues me or, in this case, stops me in my tracks. The photo still alone does that but the spot goes on to do more damage to my soul.

According to Advertising Age’s “Creativity,” 180LA and UNICEF have earned the Cannes Grand Prix for Good for the “Unfairy Tales” campaign, a series of films that first seem to start out like sweet kids’ stories but then take dramatic and, at times, terrifying turns when you discover the children are fleeing for their lives from war-torn Syria.

Among the stories were the tale above, “Malak and the Boat,” which chronicled a seven-year-old girl’s harrowing journey on the seas, and, at the end of the trip, is the only survivor of a boat that had been once full of her fellow countrymen.

Kudos to the men and women who had the guts to go forth with this message and for the artful way in which it was created and produced. While the animation brings a potent emotional punch to the stories, the appearance of the real-life protoganists at the end of each short really drives the point home.

Visually stimulating animation and poignant storytelling.

A powerful combination. We’d be well served to see more of this.

The short films mark the debut of UNICEF’s #actofhumanity global initiative, designed to promote positive perception of the tens of millions of refugee children around the world.

The Grand Prix for Good is chosen from all the Gold Lion-winning work that was created for charities or not for profit, as well as those with public service messages, with the exception of those awarded in Pharma, Health/Wellness, Innovation and Film Craft. Such efforts are not eligible for Grand Prix in their respective categories. The Titanium/Integrated Grand Prix jury determines the winner.

Nicely done and well deserved!