14. March 2012
Today’s guest speaker at cmw’s #workingbreakfast was advertising legend, Steve Henry.
If you don’t know who he is, stop right here and have a read of this:
Up to speed? Good. Let’s return to the main event.
Steve has been described as ‘one of the 40 most influential people in British advertising over the last 50 years’, so that put us firmly in the company of Adland Royalty this morning.
And he didn’t disappoint. His 45-minutes were truly inspiring and as a fellow creative, his words genuinely resonated with me.
The thrust of his presentation went something like this:
In an industry where most budgets are wasted on a scale that would shame the banking industry, Steve’s point is that if you want your money to work for you, you must produce work that gets noticed. And to get noticed you must do what your competitors aren’t.
Common sense right?
In the risk adverse world of marketing and brands, most work is very similar. Think about it - most car manufacturers produce almost identical advertising.
So what stands out?
Only brands brave enough to take risks, like Mini, are rewarded with our attention. I’m paraphrasing, but the key point to be taken was that the only advertising that truly succeeds is the advertising that is looking to challenge the norm or ‘be different’ (you may have heard that before).
And so to be different, you must think creatively – and break the rules.
So this presentation was about the power – the necessity – of taking creative risks.
He talked about the fact that disruptive ideas are difficult to embrace but stressed these ideas aren’t just flights of fancy or an indulgence; they’re critical to a brand’s success - a principle he also applied when founding HHCL 20+ years ago.
Isn’t it funny how the clearest of thoughts don’t age? It still sounds like good advice for any start up in 2012 and probably will in 20+ years too.
Steve then went on to talk about how easy it is to kill an idea and how, at every turn, there is someone armed with a reason for something not to happen.
He gave an example of Apple’s famous ‘1984’ ad for the launch of Macintosh. There are countless reasons why it shouldn’t have run (‘Hey, where’s my product shot?’ ‘Why doesn’t it mention our computers?’). But run it did, and since its first appearance it’s been applauded and hailed as one of the most celebrated – and successful – ads of all time.
Doing something different takes courage. And it takes bravery. But ‘different’ will always reward that initial leap of faith.
To quote another Apple ad: “...because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
The lasting impression of Steve’s (Henry, not Jobs) words is that ‘good is the enemy of great’.
That what we do is hard.
It’s bloody difficult.
But that’s what gets us out of bed every everyday, right?
I left the room buzzing with excitement, anxious to get back to the pitch I’m currently working on. It would be GREAT to win this one.