Every seat in the house [and some] were taken at LBi for last week’s CS Presents. We weren’t expecting anything less for a line-up that included some of the industry’s most respected heads. The night was called ‘You Lucky B****rds – Why we’d love to be starting out right now’, and as Daniele finished the introductions a wave of anticipation filled a room full of eager ears ready to absorb the insights of some of advertising’s superstars.
First up was Patrick Collister, the man who had been given the task of curating the night. He explained that a brand is a symbol of trust and of consistency. He illustrated the point by giving us a little background about his own upbringing in Africa. Back then there had been a huge problem with cooking oil being sold mixed with axle oil, which had led to many deaths. It wasn’t until Unilever started to export cooking oil in drums that the problem subsided. When they saw the Unilever logo on the drum, they knew it was safe. It was a mark of constancy and trust. However, he went on to discuss how some brands today are letting us down. It was certainly eye opening to find out that Cadbury’s had been accused of a salmonella outbreak just a few months before the famous Gorilla ad went out, nice bit of PR deflection that. Patrick laid the blame at the door of the brand owners who have lost sight of who they are what they should stand for.
He moved on to talk about our relationship with brands today. After playing us the clip where Bill Hicks gives his views on advertising, Patrick told us ‘People hate advertising, but they love brands’. With 76% of people on Facebook ‘friends’ with a brand page it’s hard to argue. ‘The way we communicate has to change because we are in the business of making brands people’s friends’ he added.
Patrick finished up some with really positive insights into why people starting out today have the chance to make a real change through what they do. He talked about the ability we have to reach out to the world through digital media and tools. He talked about the opportunities available today to create real products like the Graham Douglas Blood Test kit and the Hippo Roller. Patrick has a wicked sense of humour and left us with a taste of it ‘It’s no longer dishonourable to work in advertising, when I was younger it was a different story. My brother worked as an arms dealer and I’m the one they disowned’.
Next up on stage was a man who needed no introduction. Sir John Hegerty kicked off with some wise words for all the students in the audience ‘The golden age of advertising is bullshit; every generation makes its own golden age’. He explained when he had started the industry was very structured with a set ladder every budding CD must climb, however in today’s fast moving world ideas can allow you to move quickly to where you want to go.
‘You have to have a point of view or a philosophy, something that you want to do or change’ Hegerty told us. He talked about the importance of believing in what you are doing through expression of self, explaining that the best way to find this is through the work you produce. ‘For me it was irreverence’ he told us, ‘out of that came a way of working that had a truth in it, and the greatest strategy you can ever employ is the truth’.
Hegerty talked about his theory that most creative people have ‘10 years when they do their best work’. In most professions the artist can then go on repeating what was done during that time. However advertising doesn’t quite work like that, we need new ideas every day. He offered up a few tips to keep them coming:
- Cynicism kills creativity
- Surround yourself with great people
- Don’t cut yourself off. Listen, observe and open yourself up to as much as possible.
Hegerty ended his talk with the same passion and positivity that had run throughout. He talked about how creativity has changed around the world because creative people have taken control; people with passion and belief have gone out and done it. ‘Put something out there and watch it catch fire.’ seriously wise words from a living legend.
The final speaker of the night was a man who D&AD recently ranked in the top 10 copyrighters in the world, Steve Henry. Right from the start Steve focused on why now was the perfect time to start an agency: ‘Advertising doesn’t work’ he told us, following it up with a quote from Raymond Chandler; ‘every day thousands of great ideas are killed’. He went on to describe how a lot of agencies are run by people who are focussed on money rather than creativity, and how research and approval processes mean the focus often turns to ‘what’s wrong with the idea’, instead of highlighting positives.
Steve talked about how important the first 4 years of a creative’s career can be, and how the belief and optimism is often squeezed out of them during this time. ‘Advertising is where business and creativity overlaps’ he told us. Steve showed some great examples of how an immoral strategy can lead to great results included campaigns for Love Jozi, Pink Tuna, BMW motorbikes, League Against Cancer, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty and Hyundai’s insurance scheme.
Steve discussed how creativity is equal to taking risks. He challenged us to ask our family [and not the ones who know we work in advertising] to try and remember a campaign from last year. His thinking is that the average person might remember one a year. ‘It’s a continued triumph of hope over experience’ he added. For the clients that pay for the work it’s a scary thought, with the estimated ROI 56p of every £1 it’s no wonder they are scared. Steve’s advice – the worst thing you can do is play it safe. As Frank Lowe said ‘Good is the enemy of the great.’ Steve told us ‘be wrong in the right way, break the rules to stand out and do it in a way that connects with people emotionally’.
Steve ended with a few key points for making it in today’s industry, illustrated with some great quotes and stories.
‘A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money’ – Bill Bernbach
Make things happen, don’t wait for permission.
‘A kid prayed for a bike but it never came, so the kid went out and stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness.’
Understand the most powerful tool of the moment.
‘When I started out Dave Trott took me on my first shoot and I learnt about how TV ads were made. Learn about the internet, learn to code.
Another super inspiring night at CS Presents, take a look at some more pictures here. A massive thank you to our sponsors Source, our hosts LBi and of course the wonderful speakers. Next event will be in December, keep your eyes on here for more details. Check out some more write ups of the event from YCC here, and from @bbrassett here.
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