Archive for May, 2008

I knew they wouldn’t disappoint

The story on everyone lips today, the Honda ‘live’ skydiving ad.

I can now say all the pre-hype for the Honda Skydiver was then justified.

And it all makes sense now.

Brilliant concept, let’s wait for next week to see if they deliver on the execution.

Categories: advertising campaign Tags: ,

Sid Lee, learning from the best

… One of the best agency in the world right now is Sid Lee in Montreal… at least to work for.

Besides the obvious cool office, restaurant (with a chef, you can download their recipes on their website) and bar…

(pics from the narrative space)

There are a number of things that make Sid Lee stand out from the crowd and should be looked at as an example, especially for UK advertising agencies and start-ups that could do with a bit more rock and roll in their attitude.

– For example, design is and has always been an integrale part of everything Sid Lee does. Designers are as important as creative, and they are put at the centre of everything the company does. They are not just there to make something pretty.

– They have their own concept called Commercial creativity. Which simply means applying their creativity to any commercial purposes. They have for example redesigned Boss stores and SAQ (the governemnet owned alcohol stores) in Quebec. And they look pretty amazing.

– They have done digital since 1999 and are one of the most acclaimed advertising agency in the digital workd in Canada.

– When we are still struggling with the last point in the UK, they are investigating potential opportunities to work with architect and industrial design companies, artists and music production. They are in the creativity business, not just the advertising business.

– PARTIES! Sid Lee parties are just simply the best in town. JF Bouchard is a massive party animal. He loves a party. Always first and last to leave it. I remember the bollywood theme party we had in 2000, where I about a thousand people showed up. Ha the good old days.

– Worklife. Sid Lee make a point of treating its employees with the utmost respect and is constantly voted as one of the best employers in Canada. On top of the parties, food, drinks… Sid Lee (at least used to) take all their employees for a ride once a year. Last time I was there we all went to Miami, the 100 of us. The year before it was NY. I don’t know if they are still doing it but it was solid fun.

– Sid Lee doesn’t say they are creative because they have a creative department. The whole agency is creative. You can really feel that when you work there and they encourage everyone to be more creative.

– On top of that, SID LEE encourages its 150 employees, or artisans as they call themselves, to maximize their own creative potential by proposing projects:

Through bursaries and other support, the company helps transform them into reality. “People can come to us with all kinds of projects [outside of their specialty] and we’ll give them a shot,” says Mr. Bouchard, a father of two who himself moonlights as a photographer.

This is what they did last year. I love the pillows…

And here’s what they are currently up to:

This is what JF Bouchard, the ‘chief of the direction to take’, is up to on his spare time. He went travelling the world as a photographer looking for secret societies.

The photographs of Jean-François Bouchard explore a new social phenomenon. In the past, tribes existed for the purpose of survival and grew out of geographical proximity; today, modern tribes are forming for radically different reasons.

The exhibit was presented at the prestigious Fonderie Darling gallery in Montreal in February, 2008, and attracted thousands of visitors. Pushing conventional boundaries with dim lighting and provocative images, the show created a truly immersive experience into the photographer’s unusual universe.

The most amazing thing of all is that Jean-Francois graduated as a lawyer and started Sid Lee without any experience in advertising.

In such a creative context, you would be forgiven for thinking strategy isn’t really important. And you’d be wrong. Bertrand Cesvet, strategy evangelist, has long been talking about Conversational Capital (check his blog) and is in the process of releasing a book about it.

But the work, I hear you say, what about the work?

I invite you to check by yourself.

But Sid Lee has never been only about big shiny ads like we would judge an advertising agency over here. They are about big ideas, executed to perfection. Look at the adidas stores they have designed. Bliss. But they did manage to win quite a few awards along the way.

They have also been the advertising / digital agency of the Cirque Du Soleil since 2000. Now I’m telling you, you’ve got to be pretty cool to keep working for the most creative business in the world.

They recently produced the Adidas / Diesel campaign

So why is Sid Lee not more famous?

I think they sometimes have the French Canadian syndrom (I know they won’t like that), which is to be pretty humble and modest. But they are hugely successful in Canada and are slowly building an excellent reputation in the US of A.

All these things make Sid Lee one of the most exciting place to work for in the world. They have proven that you don’t need to sacrifice the ‘fun’ bit of advertising to be commercially successful and do great work.

And that working in advertising should be a pleasure first. Something most people seem to have forgotten.

being a creative in the 21st century

John Hegarty has a great quote about advertising. He keeps on saying:

A good ad is 80% idea, 80% execution.

I love this quote. And it got me thinking what does it take to be a good creative in our digital world. It’s pretty intense when you think about it. And I sometimes have a feeling too much time is spent on crafting executions, not enough on the idea. Yet, a good ad needs to have both.

Anyway, let’s have a look at all the things a creative has to juggle with to be able to produce a good ad (it’s not an exhaustive list):

1/ In term of execution:

– Great skill in design, being constantly aware of how to make your work stand out. Looking for new sources of great design. Finding inspiration from many sources. Flicking through art books to find stunning new visuals.

– Looking at all the work that’s being produced and learning from it.

– In the know of what new directors are doing, and how to best translate their ideas into a wonderful video. Animation, CGI…

– Same with photographers, they have to constantly browse new photographers portfolio looking for that pearl. (not to mention a good taste in music…)

– Fonts are also important and need to be looked out.

– They need obviously to have great writing skills. It is harder and harder for a piece of copy to be seen, one has to work extra hard to stand out.

– They are constantly on the look-out for what new artists are doing, specially street culture

– They have to understand the technique of screen writing and the ability to tell stories and narratives , to make them stick, not just create nice visual metaphors.

– Know and have direct contact with the best production agencies

– Understand comedy and what make people laugh (harder than it seem)

– Being able to make people feel emotions through a 30s ad is probably not as easy as it sounds

2/ In term of idea

– They have to know what the exciting new trends are, before they become mainstream

– They have to be capable of empathy and understanding their consumers and what they are into, what they love. Understanding human nature is a mandatory

– Be on the look out for memes that are getting buzz on the Internet.

– How do ideas spread and how to make sure their execution is not just a one-off but that there is a big idea that will turn it into a powerful campaign

– They have to understand what new artists are trying to say beyond how they are saying it. Marcel Duchamp wasn’t just creating art work, he was more interested in what the piece was communicating. He almost stopped producing art to focus only on ideas. Looking at his work without understanding what he was trying to say is missing the big picture.

– They have to be modern philosophers or at least being capable of having a new and fresh point of view on a boring topic.

On top of that, you have to be able to sell your ideas and be pretty convincing…

Now, if that wasn’t enough, the Internet has added much complexity to the above list. A modern creative also has to:

– Understand how to be helpful to their audience to be able to produce great branded utilities

– Think outside of the TV box, the centre of the campaign can be anything…

– Understand all the possible creative outputs: games, banners, episodic content, virals, mobile applications, social networking… Each output commanding its own set of problems / opportunities and execution styles.

– Have a perfect understanding of technology and have a realistic vision of what can be done, how to use it to its advantage and what’s just plain impossible.

– Writing and directing for the web is totally different too

– And a major point, they have to stop thinking; would that make a great ad? But would this content be sought after by my audience?

It’s a heck of a lot when you think about it. And I probaly omitted a few things. And although they do get a bit of help from planners and producers, the new media landscape has made it almost impossible for one person, even for a creative team, to be able to do perfectly all of the above.

So when I was saying ideas are the new executions, my point was that we should nurture ideas as much as we nurture executions. And that coming with ideas should be a full-time job in itself. Not just one of the many tasks a creative already has to think about.

I think coming up with great ideas and executions have become so hard and complex that they should almost be separated. We should have specialists in term of executions, as well as having idea people whose jobs it is to come up with fresh campaign ideas.

Some agencies mix planners and creative people but I think coming up with campaign ideas should almost be a job in its own right. Because it seems harder to come up with a good idea than a great execution.

When you think about it, a creative team composed of one ‘idea’ person and one ‘execution’ person would make more sense than one copywriter and one art director.

Once the ‘idea’ and the ‘execution’ creative team has agreed on the campaign, they would then get all the right people to produce the different outputs… artists, designers, producers, techies…

I know that’s quite provocative and not really there yet, but hey, it would be a step in the right direction.

Clever campaign from Work Club

May 23, 2008 1 comment

A nice campaign from the clever chaps at Work-Club, for premium baby food Plum.

I do think creating baby superfood is a no-brainer and the products will sell incredibly well, taken how parents are becoming increasingly worried at what they give to their children.

Nonetheless, the positioning for the campaign, ‘a taste of things to come’ is excellent.

This might not win shiny awards (actually it might just as well) but willsurely be well received by the mum community.

They’ve created a lot of baby-friendly movies (for babies aged 10 to 18 months). Mums are encouraged to interact with their babies by describing what’s on screen.

What I do really like is how they’ve gone to produce the films.

They partnered with a baby psychologist to:

Follow patterns of repetition, bright visible colours, sequences of anticipation and cause and effect that encourage interaction between parent and baby.

And were scored by Bafta award-winnning composer Laura-Forrest Hay.

So it’s not just a creative team sitting on their arse thinking what content babies would like, but they’ve actually got experts in to help them on a subject they just couldn’t have cracked on their own. Then, worked on what was the most creative way to communicate it.

Whether the whole thing works, I can only take their word for it, it’s too close to the Teletubbies to watch for more than 20 seconds without losing your sanity, but I’m sure mums will love it.

Well done chaps.

Also, knowing that Work-club does not have a production department but outsources it, the web experience works pretty well indeed, so it’s another point in favour of outsourcing production to people who do it best.

Check the website Plum Vision.

Visit Work-Club ‘s blog.

Found via the reel newsletter


This week my blog got its 10,000th visit.

Which is quite a lot when I think about it and I must admit this is a pleasant surprise.

Especially since you consider the content of my blog requires a bit of reading and thinking, is not just a collection of cool stuff, and is not, I’m the first to admit, very well written!

When I started this blog 6 months ago, it was just a little experiment for myself.

I wanted to see what would happen if I started writing a blog without promoting it whatsoever.

Would the things I write about interest anyone and get picked up on?

It kind of did, specially since Scamp put me on the map, after reading my post on viral in the knitwareblog.

Since then I’ve enjoyed a steady traffic.

In isolation, some stats are flattering. I’ve been delicioused 21 times, got a technorati authority of 27 and people have taken on their personal time to write about 200 comments responding to my posts. Which seems quite good.

Although I started this blog on a purely selfish act, I just wanted to force myself into writing down my thoughts, it is only the interest you’ve shown in the blog that kept me going at it.

I’ve probably upset a lot of people, inspired a few, and bored many!

It is proving challenging to keep on updating my blog with the kind of quality post I want, as it is quite time consuming.

Posts to come will talk about: the death of the consumer insight, collaboration is over-hyped, why your ad agency should refuse to feature in an episode of the Apprentice, we all are creative, we shouldn’t have departments in agency but specialists, how to get to better ideas #3 learnings from Marcel Duchamps, how to get perfect abs in 5 minutes, speak spanish fluently with Michel Thomas and many more ramblings…

Thanks to you all, the fonz is happy.

Categories: random

What’s your family dirty secret?

The Old Bailey archive have been available online for a while now. I wish I had an English name just to see what relatives have been up to since the year 1674.

There is also something interesting about seeing the punishments for criminial acts a couple of centuries ago. You didn’t want to mess with the law at that time, that’s for sure.

You can search by crimes and type of punishments. Which is a bit macabre but strangely addictive. Like ‘drawn and quartered” or the classic pillory.

Have a bit of fun and type your name in.

L********e can be funny

Struggling for time at the moment, but this is very very good and low budget.

Better if you don’t know what’s it for before watching it.

Which has been more than inspired by that one:

But I enjoyed it nevertheless. I’d be interested to see how many views it racks on Youtube.

Thanks Rick for that.