Posted: 30th April 2012
Business Today gets the inside track on some of TV’s finest recent adverts with Chris Hirst, CEO of Grey, the global advertising agency. Grey has just produced some great campaigns, including the British Heart Foundation ad on CPR ("hard and fast") featuring Vinnie Jones pumping to rhythm of the Bee Gees' Staying Alive, and the recent Lucozade ads featuring Olympian athletes Mo Farah, Louis Smith and Phillips Idowu.
It might sound obvious, but first and foremost, we need to look at what problem are we trying to solve. Then we must consider how we do all we can to create a solution that has real ambition, not one that just does a job. And finally, we must ensure we create an idea with tinder, one that catches fire in the public consciousness. We call this a Long Idea - an idea that creates fame and high levels of consumer involvement.
If you asked the creatives, they'd tell you it's all inspiration! I think it's an equal mix. Creating truly great work is very hard work from start to finish. Inspirational ideas require a very tight team and a high trust environment to bring them to life. Many great ideas die before they have a chance of life - others are slowly strangled!
How we organise ourselves is therefore paramount – for example, we believe the client must sit right at the heart of the process - no one of us is as smart as all of us. Never being satisfied is also of great importance. One question we should all ask when confronted with a great idea is, “How do I make it bigger and better?” Not what so often happens, which in reality is ... “How do I make it smaller and more familiar?”
The idea was one of a number we presented at concept stage in what we call an Open meeting at the agency in London’s Hatton Garden.
Ideas are stuck to the walls of the room and the client and agency team discuss the merits of each. In these meetings we encourage clients to pull work down, scribble on stuff, cross stuff out etc. It’s a democracy of ideas in which everybody has a voice. Ideas are whittled down and crafted from this stage on.
These days, more than ever, ideas have to entertain. One way to view TV advertising is the start of a conversation that with the right idea and the right planning can be extended and deepened through other channels: a Long Idea. We work very closely with our social media practise, The Social Partners, to bring this approach to as many of our clients as possible.
Of course, for this to work you have to create advertising that people want to talk about and get involved in. Boring ideas will always be boring no matter how multichannel your strategy is!
For SMEs with limited marketing budgets, how would you advise they make best use of their advertising spend? Firstly, ask what problem you are trying to solve with your campaign and understand clearly what you want people to do as a result of seeing it.
Secondly, ensure you have some tinder in your idea, and try to find ways to generate and extend consumer involvement. A little budget can go a long way if you engage people and let them spread the word for you. Which leads me to my third point - entertain!
What makes a good Creative and how, as an agency, do you formalise the process of spotting creative talent?
Creatives are different to the rest of us, and the best have an x-factor that is hard to define.
Great creatives are good at everything: they can listen and hear things in a brief others miss, they are instinctive strategists and of course they are very solution focussed. Beyond that, no two are the same and they tend to have very unconventional careers. At Grey, we are very focussed on young talent as the industry, media and popular culture are moving so fast now. However, like any team, balance is crucial and as important are the senior heads who can manage and develop this raw enthusiasm.
Open is our culture. In short, it is the opposite of the dependant culture which exists in most agencies and businesses. It is about small teams coming together around a client brief and finding their own way to get to best possible solution. They then own and are responsible for that solution. It makes us fast, more inventive, more creative, leads to happier clients and happier employees.
Long is how we believe ideas should work. It is about creating an idea with tinder (which could be an ad, a celeb, a promotion, an event, a TV show etc) and constructing, extending and deepening the consumer conversation and involvement around that tinder.
The X-Factor is a perfect example of a Long idea, as was our Lucozade Lite campaign last year, the soundtrack to which sold over 500,000 singles and this year's BHF ad with Vinnie Jones, which racked up 1 million You Tube hits in five days and is already saving lives. In just one week on one Scottish hospital ward they reported looking after three people who had survived out-ofhospital- cardiac-arrests. These patients were all resuscitated by people who had seen the campaign and had a go. They now have a new saying on the Coronary Care Unit ward round: "You've been Vinnie'd!"
Advertising is what economists like to call a leading indicator; we get hit first and, in theory, recover first. Whether it leads to better work is a moot point. There is always an opportunity in every category for a brand to create sudden high-impact change. The challenge is spotting it! I can't say we find this any easier or harder in a recession. The challenge is to maintain our confidence and belief that what we are doing is genuinely different to our competition and can and is making a material difference to our clients.
In good times and bad, we need to focus on making sure we are getting that message across!
Social is here to stay. At the moment, it is in its infancy and as such is treated as a vertical channel (as digital was five years ago). Digital is now integral and social will be very soon. The principles of social lie at the heart of Long ideas and we believe represent a massive opportunity. There is now a lot of evidence to support what intuitively feels right, that the combination of traditional advertising and social is like 1+1=3.
It's why we began building The Social Partners four years ago. Now they are one of the preeminent players in the UK and beyond. We believe together we provide our clients a template for how all campaigns will one day be constructed.
Lucozade. It embodies all the principles of Open and Long that we fundamentally believe are how we should work, of the relationships we should have with our clients and how brands should build relationships with consumers.
This article first appeared in Business Today, Issue 6. To read the entire publication, click the ebook.