Creative LIAisons Diary, Day 1 & 2 - The Power Of Unexpected
I'd been to Vegas before, so I knew what to expect. Bright neon lights, ticket-smackers on every corner promoting strip clubs, entourages of badly dressed people walking down the strip drinking yard glasses, and hearing the term "what happens in Vegas" used way too many times.
And coming to an advertising conference, predominantly consisting of Creative Directors speaking, I also knew what to expect. A bunch of case studies, and plenty of words like 'engagement, game changing, and disruption'. Or so I thought...
But after 2 days and 12 talks from the likes of Ted Royer, Taras Wayner, Malcolm Poynton, and advertising legend Bob Isherwood, I've been reminded of the power of the unexpected.
I didn't expect Bob Isherwood to play a didgeridoo on stage to make the point that you can put an idea into anything, even a dried out stick lying in the Australian outback.
I didn't expect Chris Smith (a Creative Director and Improv Comedian) to connect improv comedy to the creative process with a simple philosophy of saying, "Yes and..." instead of "No but..." (which resulted in three creatives from around the world who've never met, singing a song on stage one word at a time).
I didn't expect Ted Royer to be so honest, telling us "It's not advertising unless you get kicked in the balls 7 times a day", that "It's ok to lose your passion and take 6 months off", and that he doesn't have any gold bullet for coming up with ideas, except to "Make sure your truths are actually true".
And I didn't expect Malcolm Poynton to take us back 225 years to Iron Bridge and the first piece of primitive advertising, challenging the notion that our industry is in crisis right now, instead telling us that the responsibility to shape the future of our industry is up to us.
Besides being fascinating, entertaining, and mind-expanding, what all of these talks reminded me, is that when you're expecting one thing and you get another, that's what connects with people. It makes our systems spasm. It's in all great jokes. And it can be applied to any medium you're working on. It doesn't matter if it's VR or a flyer - it just has to connect with people in an unexpected way.
Oh yeah, there was a big party on the first night of the program, where people from all around the world got drunk, traded life stories, and woke up with terrible hangovers. I guess that was kinda expected...
Creative LIAisons Diary, Day 3 & 4
'Turd down for Watt'. If that doesn't immediately sound like a ground-breaking innovative business idea, it's because you weren't part of the Creative LIAisons 'Innervation Lab'.
After 2 days of passive listening, and aggressive note-taking, Day 3 was all about getting our hands dirty with a crash-course in creating entrepreneurial ideas. After being armed with the tools to think like an entrepreneur by Saras Sarasvathy, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia, we had to put this into practice and pitch a business idea to Daymond John (Founder & CEO of FUBU), and star of the US Reality TV Show 'Shark Tank'.
Splitting into teams of 5, we had one hour to crack an idea, which we then had to present live on stage to the Shark himself. Given we were using principles we'd barely learned 5 minutes ago and had never worked with each other before, the ideas generated were pretty damn good.
The ones I can still remember are a public toilet system that converts poo into power with the puntastic but incredibly hard to forget slogan 'Turd down for Watt' (thanks Lil' John), plus the added kicker of reciting their pitch from a roll of toilet paper, a mobile phone case for music festivals that charges your phone using sound-waves, and a business that allows you to return clothes bought online to charities using the free returns policy of most major online retailers. Clever buggers.
Unfortunately, our team's idea 'Likeminded', a platform that allowed people with new business ideas to raise capital through people donating their minds (advice, skills etc.) instead of money, didn't get off the ground. However, given this was an entrepreneurial work-shop and not a creative department, rather than sobbing in the corner, we were allowed to (metaphorically) buy into a new business. No points for guessing who I went with.
And now to Day 4 and the pointy end of the week. It was on this day that I had to pinch myself (multiple times). I got to sit in on the final award discussions of the LIA Non-Traditional jury, declared by jury chair Mark Tutssel as the standout category of the show. Although this was purely by luck, as I arrived late after getting lost in the labyrinth of pokie machines and bad carpet, and it just so happened to be the last jury of the day to kick off.
The jury included Josh Moore from Y&R NZ, Dimitri Guerrassimov from Marcel Paris, and Josefine Richards from INGO Stockholm. For those who don't know, these are some of the people responsible for campaigns like McWhopper, The Swedish Number, and the fantastic Intermache supermarket campaigns.
With a diverse set of accents and opinions from around the world, it made for an entertaining and enlightening day of fly-on-the-walling. After a solid 6 hours of whittling down to the work that represented the way forward for the industry, the jury re-convened in the afternoon to finalise their decisions. This was a chance for passionate pleas to vote work up or down, "so that it didn't haunt their collective consciences forever".
The work that did the best not only used technology brilliantly, but also expressed a brand's true purpose. Whenever this was flakey, it immediately dropped out of contention. Ideas that didn't have any conflict didn't do too well either, getting a general "yeah it's nice, but it didn't make me feel anything" from the jury.
To make us youngins' feel included we were allowed a dummy vote on the Grand Prix to see if we were thinking the same way as the jurors. Turns out we were. I would love to tell you who won, but this is one thing that will have to stay in Vegas (Oh crap, I just used that phrase).
Before I miss my plane back to Australia, and lose the privilege of writing this diary for good, I must say a big thank you to the people who sent me here. A massive thanks to Scott Nowell and Justin Drape from The Monkeys for nominating me. Thanks to Lynchy, Kim and the team at Campaign Brief for sponsoring the trip and allowing me to clog up the newsfeed between the ads with my ramblings. Thank you to Barbara and Laurissa Levy from LIA for running one of the most altruistic award shows on earth and giving myself and 75 other young creatives from around the world a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It truly was an honour to be here. And lastly, Vegas, thank you for every hangover, laugh, and friend you've helped me make over the last week. Believe it or not I think I'm actually going to miss you.
P.S. Ever wanted to know how many young creatives you can fit into a room on the 33rd floor of a pirate-ship themed hotel? About 63. But that's a story for a whole other blog post.