“Fail spectacularly; don’t fail safe.”
Bruce McColl’s was a bold and powerful message to the audience as he opened this year’s AANA Conference. The emotion in the room was palpable as McColl, Global CMO of Mars, recounted some of his company’s top advertising wins in recent years – sharing anecdotes and videos to drive home the message.
“The key to any great campaign is to consider culture as an integral part of the development process,” said Graham Fink, chief creative officer for Ogilvy + Mather China. Reframing can be a powerful tool for culture forming, Fink added.
I can’t help but broadcast what I gleaned from international industry experts who showcased some of the most innovative, provoking and emotive pieces of advertising I’ve ever seen. Prepare for it to disrupt your approach and reset your outlook…
The gorilla effect
The Cadbury gorilla ad remains one of the most referenced pieces of advertising in history. Fink recalled being inundated with requests to replicate its impact as the ad shot to instant near-cult status. “Everyone wanted a Cadbury gorilla,” he said.
According to The Guardian, which recently dubbed this the greatest ad of all time, “the 2007 ad went down so well that it helped Cadbury bounce back from the salmonella scare of the year before, boosting sales by 9%.” Created by award-winning agency Fallon, in London, the 90 second clip changed the face of advertising because it didn’t mention the product until the very end.
According to another article in The Guardian, published just after the ad was released, it also led to a revival of interest in other ads featuring gorillas.
1. Perfect your craft
McColl referred to a four-step process that he calls ‘creating conditions for creative excellence’. Step one, he said, is to perfect your craft – something he said Mars have worked hard to do when it comes to advertising Snickers bars over the past decade.
The following examples illustrate the shift in creative process, as creative teams worked first to develop and then to build on the idea that “you’re not you when you’re hungry”. The first ad, featuring former Golden Girls actress Betty White, was such a success that it shifted gears for the brand after it was first aired during a Super Bowl game in 2010. According to one study, this ad was “the most entertaining, most unique, best liked and most talked about Super Bowl ad of 2010”. The study also found that, “the ad also had wide appeal and was equally liked and found to be entertaining by both men and women, and by older and younger target groups alike.”
The Snickers Brady Bunch ad of the same ilk, which aired during the 2015 Super Bowl, was even more popular among viewers. The teaser accumulated more than 2.7 million YouTube views alone according to AdAge.
2. Let dissatisfaction drive you
The outcome of McColl’s second step – to let dissatisfaction drive you – is perfectly illustrated in this recent campaign for Extra Chewing Gum. “How do you sell a product like chewing gum?” McColl asked. There’s no doubt that, even when put to a room of the industry’s finest, this was a tough question.
McColl recounted the difficulty of breaking the mould, of how hard it is to make people stand up and take notice of a product like chewing gum through marketing. “You need to understand how things work,” he said. “What’s the role of emotion? How do you drive it forward?”.
Extra’s latest campaign, which garnered over 12 million views online within its first four weeks, is certainly driving the category forward. The Daily Mail even wrote that:
While many people may not be entirely aware of the apparently-romantic lure of chewing gum, popular brand Extra is doing its best to bring the chewable treat’s emotional side to light in a heart-wrenching new commercial – which is proving so poignant that it is actually reducing grown men to tears.
Launched alongside a social media campaign with the hashtag #giveextragetextra, this commercial made headlines around the world and across just about every social media channel when it debuted in early October 2015. Take a look for yourself (hint: skip forward to 1:15 if you want to see what we’re talking about)…
3. Be curious and collaborative
Collaboration breeds innovation. After all, two heads are better than one and five heads are better than two. McColl attributed the success of the Pedigree Adoption Drive to a joint collaboration between Mars and creative technology company, Finch, to produce an incredible piece of 3D storytelling unlike any other.
The campaign, to raise money and awareness for Pedigree’s Adoption Drive, was delivered as a two part story on a split screen in a cinema. On their way into the film, cinemagoers were given the option to make a donation and receive a pair of yellow glasses, or give nothing and get a pair of red glasses. Each pair of glasses had been modified to show only one side of the screen pertaining to the story the viewer had chosen: Yellow glasses showed what happens when you donate; Red glasses showed what happens when you don’t.
The ad itself followed the story of Buzz, a dog who was rescued through the Pedigree Adoption Drive, and his journey from being found to finding a new home. The result was incredible, McColl recalled, as cinemagoers ran out of the cinema during the middle of the commercial to make a donation so they too could have a pair of yellow glasses and watch the story of Buzz’s rescue.
“The freedom of choice bears the heavy weight of accountability—a divergent path leading to separate outcomes unknown based on original decisions,” KC Ifeanyi wrote. “Novel applications of existing technologies has allowed the Pedigree Adoption Drive to reach consumers with their message on familiar turf but with a fresh angle.”
There’s simply too many creative, dynamic and unique players in the marketing and advertising space for me to share every one of my learnings here. But I hope I have been able to illustrate just how awesome an industry this is – how many people are pushing the envelope; how many unique and exciting ideas are floating around; and how it’s always better to fail spectacularly than to have fallen by the wayside. After all, if you never try, then you’ll never really know for sure!
Bruce McColl’s four steps for creating conditions of creative excellence:
Perfect your craft
Let dissatisfaction drive you
Be curious and collaborative
Fail spectacularly; don’t fail safe