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In an interview on the AME Awards blog, Alexander Schill and Alessandro Panella talk about creative and effective work at Serviceplan, finding innovative solutions, the importance of creative competitions and crazytivity.

We often ask our self the question, where do good ideas come from? and we seem to be sure that a great idea is born in a single incident, Eureka! .. like Newton’s apple.

Moreover, we think creative ideas come from the selected few, guys with turtleneck sweaters and rounded glasses, or it has to be written somewhere in their title, they also have to work in a special place, preferably with a lot of colors and bean bags .. and the occasional pool table.

The first truth is, ideas take time to be form, it’s usually the collection of everything we face in our lives, the problems, the challenges, the stuff we read online, a story our mom told us at a certain point, and although you may not know it, your brain files all these information for later use.

Ideas are created in our daily lives, in the cultures we live in, so if you are a creative person, an accountant, a photographer or a cook, you can find inspiration everywhere, and if you remember that ideas come from creative collaboration and the impact of and the role of users and consumers in creating your ideas are guaranteed to elevate to an upper level.

The second truth is, ideas are more likely to come from the combination of different thoughts that clash together, you see why workshops are important, for an idea to be born it needs a collision, a friction if you may, that challenges the single thought in a purpose of improving it or creating something completely new out of it.

Best examples of innovations around the world we created or only find its true purpose by customers, end-users, people who created beautiful things that would not have been created by big corporations because they couldn’t see the need, the opportunity: they didn’t have the incentive to innovate.

This is a huge challenge to the way we think creativity comes about. The traditional view still follows in much the way with think about creativity – in silos.

Ideas are problem-solving, seizing opportunities, creating a change but ultimately selling a product. And if an idea doesn’t deliver on any of those goals, then it’s a waste.

Sadly, you see a lot of “waste” around us, beautiful execution and products that cost a lot of money and the most expensive media touch points, but no results, no sales, no test drives, no interest.

We need to have a mindset that allows everyone to contribute, under one roof or many, from any department, client or agency, small business or big… trust me it makes a difference.

What does creative mean?
What a question.
Ideally, creative is something one just is, without any lengthy discussion.
However, if I must.
Here goes:

Creative is new, unpredictable, capricious.
A smartass take on this is that being creative is a paradox. It is the meaningful combination of things which do not belong together.
And then you suddenly just get it.

The word “meaningful” is important. Randomly combining thoughts, feelings and forms usually ends in confusion. Creative combinations on the other hand must make sense – but ideally not until they are in the mind of the consumer. If he or she completes the chain of thought, decodes the ultimate meaning of a film or a picture then, test institutes please take note, the effect is much stronger than when everything is pre-digested.

Actually, “consumer” is a word that I don’t really like to use. Yes, ultimately, advertising is concerned with selling, but the more messages rain down upon us “consumers” the more we only take heed of the relevant ones. That can be the much-quoted “right product at the right time in the right medium”. Programmatic is the key word here. However, the crucial factor is that the better a message is packaged, the stronger – again – the effect. I prefer to side with “Saint” Sir John Hegarty, and refer to “the public” rather than to “consumers”. We want to sell to consumers. We want to entertain the public. What is good is that a well-entertained public buys more than a well-informed public. After all, we speak of a “buying mood”.

What is good entertainment in a creative form? It’s more than just fun. It’s a new, stimulating thought, for example. A new perspective on life, giving rise to the observation, “Wow, I’ve never really looked at that in that way before”. That is what we remember, that’s what we like to tell other people about.

Good creation thrives on strong feelings. Being enthused, touched, unsettled, buoyed up, amused, everything that moves you. Tedious lists of information do not move me. I am moved by good stories which end with a surprise. Human stories which turn my prejudices and my neatly ordered thoughts inside out and upside down, which develop a dynamic of their own, never to serve their own purpose but that of the brand. This is easy to say, but damn difficult to realise every day.

Of course, creative also means unyielding, untiring and tough. Here’s a good thought: it is not ideas which set good creatives apart from bad ones but their refusal to give up.

P.S. I’m quite proud that I didn’t use the current buzzwords “disruptive”, “diversity” and “digital transformation” a single time in this text. But if you need to, my dear public, just add them mentally where appropriate and then you too will get it. 😉

This article was published in German at W&V.

Why creativity remains a human affair but can still benefit from programmatic advertising

The coming of the a. P. (after Programmatic) era has sparked a new debate on relevance: the consumer is becoming more critical and thus less susceptible to advertising messages: So instead of one message for all, target groups are now being addressed specifically: “Buy our product, it is exactly tailored to your needs. Yes, we mean you. No one else needs the product as much as you do.” On the other hand, companies paid five million US dollars for a 30-second advert during this year’s Super Bowl. Pure scattergun, one message for all. So who is it who produces relevance – intelligent machines or creative people? The answer is: both. In this debate, as so often, there is no either-or, because maximum relevance can only be achieved by technology bosses and creative directors jointly.

Programmatic advertising is one way to create relevance. But programmatic advertising is no substitute for creative excellence. Even personalised advertising needs the structure of a central message, for example in the form of a slogan that is taken up again and again over a lengthy period and several campaigns: “You’re not you when you’re hungry” – the Snickers slogan remains memorable because all target groups can identify with it on a basic level. If someone in your circle of acquaintances acts like a diva, what immediately comes to mind is the slogan from the advert – that is relevance. A fitting testimonial can also be the starting point for a successful campaign. When George Clooney looks casually into the camera and gives – even more casually – his best “What else?” it is probably also relevant to tea drinkers. The message in this example is less bold but no less effective. The coffee capsules represent savoir-vivre, confidence and coolness.

When the general story-telling is cut and dried, programmatic creation of the campaign can provide a strong stimulus for the second phase. Depending on the target group, the slogan “You’re not you when you’re hungry” could be re-enacted with different testimonials and contexts: sports fans see a Snickers spot on sports news pages or on TV during Wimbledon, when John McEnroe smashes his tennis racket to bits after an umpire’s decision – then, after one bite from the chocolate bar, he becomes Roger Federer and is on his best behaviour. George Clooney no longer just drinks his coffee in plush hotels but also in the office, at the hairdresser’s or in the theatre. What is important is that core ideas and personalised variations are in accordance with each other, both stylistically as well as regards content: the core message should always remain unchanged.

In addition to the big consumer brands, brands with specialised target groups and products benefit particularly from programmatic advertising, because it enables them to avoid high scatter loss. Even B2B enterprises use the personalised approach. Here too, however: An algorithm cannot replace creative input. Without a good central idea I believe there is absolutely no point in varying a couple of text components and pictures in a banner. Boring advertising, even personalised, is still boring.

Relevance has many facets. It can be produced by people and machines – the best solution is for creative people to do the preliminary work and for intelligent machines to go the extra mile. It only starts getting really exciting when ideas people and advertisers with enthusiasm for technology sit down at the table together. Experience shows that things don’t always go smoothly straight away and, particularly, that the whole can only work when both sides show mutual respect and understanding for the other’s work. The results which arise from this, however, are worth it every time!

In an interview with MarketingDirecto.com Luis Piquer Trujillo, CEO Publips Serviceplan Spain, talks about Paella Today and branded content.

In an interview with Advertiser.it Sara Baroni, Managing Director Plan.Net Italia, talks about creativity and innovation and gives insights into the daily work life of the Italian agency.

Joana Stolz talks about her job as Cultural Strategist at the Serviceplan Group and gives insights into her “every day work”.

First published in Red Bulletin Innovator.
Interview: Christoph Kristandl

Creativity is elusive. Only too well we know of situations where it abandons us. If we need an idea, if we brood over the solution to a problem – simply nothing comes to mind. It happens. But what if creativity is your occupation? If you have to drive yourself to peak creative performance every day in order to create something new, something as spectacular as possible, and to convey a message as well. And what if it’s a message that nobody wants to see? – Advertising. A conversation with the multiple award-winning Matthias Harbeck.

The Red Bulletin Innovator: You were honoured with more than 600 national and international awards, including 22 Lions in Cannes. Do such honours mean something to you?

Matthias Harbeck: Naturally. If you win a Golden Lion, that’s a feather in your cap. There are people who say that Cannes is something like a parallel society. The true needs of the client would not count for anything there, and it’s a vanity exhibition of creatives who celebrate themselves there. There is even a grain of truth in that. But apart from the fact that quite excellent work from day-to-day business is also honoured in Cannes, you have to view it as similar to prototypes at an auto show or the haute couture of the great fashion shows. What you see there you will never encounter on the street.

Why produce it then?

What’s extremely successful moves the industry forward. Sometimes the idea is so extraordinary, often the technology too. It works with media innovations that can set trends for everyday life.

With what, for example, have you been successful in that regard?

With real-time advertising, for example. With Serviceplan we were able to score a coup with that a few years ago: over 90 minutes of the Champion’s League Match of Arsenal against FC Bayern we switched six 60-second live spots directly into commercial blocks of Free-TV channels. You’re watching normal advertising, for example, on PRO 7, when suddenly an announcement comes, the game is seen live for 40 seconds, and at the end, the Sky-Order Hotline appears, so that in the future you can see such games completely live. The response was huge. Also because, of all things, in one of the slots Lukas Podalski scored the goal which left Arsenal only one down at 1:2!  The idea was relatively simple, but the technical implementation was complex. But that’s the sort of thing we’re attempting: something extraordinary, which makes the industry sit up and take notice and which can then take a pioneering role, too.

What advertising trends can we expect in the coming years?

Consider the films in our newsfeeds on Facebook, where you only hear the sound when you intentionally click. That’s not a trend that comes from advertising, but it changes the thinking of the creatives. You have to succeed in being so good in the first two, three seconds that people click on that video. That also means that the sources of inspiration change. You focus on silent film, for example, and why Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin were so good at it. Perhaps we’ll soon also produce moving images in 15 different versions in order to optimally satisfy users’ differing expectation profiles and to be able to address them digitally in individual ways. And then there are hardly any campaigns that are originally made for the mobile phone screen. That is a big issue.

“Advertising must be so good that, ideally, people even actively search it out.”

How do you deal with the fact that nobody wants to see advertising?

It is a step forward that increasingly we can provide people with customised content. In the past that was not possible technologically. But that does not make good ideas superfluous, on the contrary. More than ever, we have to surprise and involve people through a new kind of staging. The trouble is that we’re in a permanent competition with thousands of advertising messages, indeed, messages of every sort. On top of that is the public’s practised avoidance of advertising. Therefore, the good idea, the great story, the fascinating staging is more important than ever. Advertising must be so good that people don’t want to just see it and share it, but rather, ideally, they even actively search it out because people are talking about it.

With all the staging, doesn’t the product sometimes get left behind?

That is the great challenge. On the one hand, communication has to become ever more entertaining. On the other hand, there are clients who pay for it and say, “Now where is my product that I want to sell?” Just to say that a screw costs 2.99 Euros is not communication, that’s information. You have to do a balancing act: to maintain contact with the brand and at the same time deliver a certain factor of desire.

Advertising has changed in recent years towards more responsible communication. Even in competitions like the one in Cannes there were many awards for works with a higher purpose aspect. Why are these predestined for a lion?

For a few years, there have been complaints about the fact that more and more Cannes winners have less to do with the advertisement of the good old product advantage, but put “social” issues to the foreground. I think the excitement about it is outdated and amiss. Cannes merely reflects the social prevailing mood, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, and that simply goes in the direction of social and sustainability issues. Even ten years ago, environmental protection was a marginal issue in the US, now VW is being pilloried. To stay with the example of cars: today it is not longer a question of how fast a car accelerates from 0 to 100, but how it helps to cope with the mobility and environmental challenges of tomorrow.
Generally, people today are rather discussing issues like the environment, refugees, terrorism, equality or integration than the question of how a particular product characteristic gives them a more comfortable life. Cannes takes up this mood pointedly. And therefore works with a higher purpose have high odds of winning. Undoubtedly some juries exaggerate by also distinguishing work, that in fact has a higher purpose, but does not really show an unusual idea, a really fascinating implementation. But that will settle in.

How useful do you think the festival is?
One can accuse Cannes of a lot. A parallel world of colourful extra ideas that have nothing to do with our hard daily business. A tremendous money-making machine that only makes the organizers rich. A party of vain self-congratulation rather than humble work in the service of the customer. All correct. And all wrong. Cannes is the most important platform for new ideas that truly advance our industry. After all, even the most conservative client asks at some point: Is that all you have to offer me? Then: Cannes is not only a huge money-making machine, but also a huge inspiration machine. Nowhere in the world will you be so bombarded within a week with so many ideas, so many lectures, so many conversations. You can feed of it for a whole year. And the topic of parties and prizes? Both are, beside all the tam-tam, the best motivation for employees that one can imagine.

In 2016, the category Digital Craft is new, amongst others. To what extent do the Cannes Lions of digital development in advertising accommodate the new category?
I am excited about the new category. Because what we are talking about when we talk about digitization? Which terms do we use? Clicks, shares, likes. Websites, moving image, banner. Targeting, conversion rate, ROI. Primarily technical terms that describe certain categories, functions and modes of action. We talk too little about beauty. Too little about how technically well something is made. And yet it is precisely this quality, especially with regard to the impact, that is an enormous factor. Especially against the background of limited spaces with a lot of information, with which one is often confronted digitally. The introduction of the Digital Craft category is setting a positive sign here.

Which creative factor can win a prize in Cannes (for example, humour, higher purpose)?
The most important is still the idea. How surprising, how new will something be sold to me? How surprising, how new is the Insight? Is it simple and understandable enough for the often-quoted Indian on the jury, who has no idea of the German market conditions? Very important: Does it move me? Especially us Germans indeed still have our fears in dealing with emotions. Higher Purpose? Helps. And humour? Can not hurt.