There were beautiful flowery turds, a range of moderately offensive slogans and even a picture of a woman smoking a baby in a pipe. But only one idea could take home the $125,000 prize on offer at Adshel's inaugural Creative Challenge last night and, in the end, it was Publicis Mojo's campaign 'Leave with more questions than answers' for the Auckland Fringe festival that was chosen as the best.
Around 70 creatives from 14 agencies munched on pizza, supped on some creative fuel and put their thinking caps on in an amazing setting on stage at the Civic Theatre in Auckland. And, after a couple of entertaining performances from Morgana O'Reilly and Gareth Williams (whose unique show is based on being trapped in his own head with the voice of a very funny John Farnham), a thorough explanation of the Fringe brand by festival director Sally Barnett, and a brief hints, tips and rules session from chief judge Oliver Maisey, the bell was rung and the teams had just one hour to come up with the goods.
Much like the vibe at the 48 Hour Film Festival, there was definitely a competitive buzz in the air and an impressive focusing of creative minds on the task at hand. Of course, it's not just about serious competition, it was also intended to be fun, and there seemed to be a fair amount of hilarity at some of the tables as presumably controversial ideas were thrown around in an effort to capture the spirit of the event.
As well as capturing the spirit of the Fringe, the event was also about capturing the spirit of advertising: coming up with a good creative idea to go on a static poster while under pressure. And despite a clear brief about the various restrictions, a number of the campaigns came up with clever ways to use the outdoor medium (see through panels, peepholes, day/night panels, participative panels that could could be drawn on etc), which, sadly, were unable to be considered due to cost, logistics and other factors.
For some of the competitors, it was strange to have an event that aims to showcase creative talent and inspire creativity in the outdoor medium with limits placed on creativity. But at its heart, the outdoor medium is a simple one, generally using static images and words to create awareness among the masses.
Adshel and a few other outdoor companies have been trumpeting their advancements and innovations of late, with Bluetooth this and LED that, but Adshel marketing executive Rochelle Weaver says the event was about getting back to basics and ensuring that those basics are done well. And, as Oliver Maisey said, when outdoor is creative enough to spark awareness from all the people going about their daily business, it shows exactly what advertising is meant to do.
After the hour was up the pens went down and the judges departed for their lair to stroke their chins, laugh maniacally and choose a winner. As one of the four ruthless, heartless judges, it was an impressive display of creativity, especially considering the ideas were all developed in just 60 minutes. It also took about an hour to get through them all and make the final decision (the judges were given a hurry up as the creative natives became increasingly restless and a few low-level pizza fights kicked off).
In the end, it was a pretty tough call between the top three, Publicis Mojo, DDB and Barnes Catmur & Friends (it would've been great to combine specific elements from each of these campaigns into one super campaign, but that's another story). But the judges eventually decided that the 'Leave with more questions than answers' idea was the best and was likely to pique some interest about the Fringe among ticket-buyers. Of course, there's still some work required on the imagery front, but the line summed up the ethos behind what is a very diverse arts festival best.
The Fringe has a reputation as being edgy, brave and usually a bit weird, so it was a perfect 'client' for a unique event like this. And, as Adshel's sales director Pauline Hanton says, the festival organisers and particularly its director Sally Barnett, who was also a judge, are to be commended for "the fearless decision to drop many of the usual mandatories of campaign development and to entrust [the participants] with their marvellous brand" .
The Creative Challenge has been held in Sydney (with Cate Blanchett's Sydney Theatre Company) and 120 people turned up. So getting 70 creatives for the Auckland edition is a pretty good result.
And with Publicis Mojo getting a chance to show off their work (both with the Fringe campaign next year and the additional 130 panel Adshel campaign they win for one of their clients), Auckland Fringe getting a great campaign and the rest of the contenders getting their fill of M&Ms, Toto's pizza, free booze from Stoneleigh and NZ Pure, it was, as expected, a bit of a win-win-win.
The Publicis Mojo team summed it up best in a email this morning: "When we're stuck in our day-to-day workload, it's exactly that sort of thing we need to remind us of why we became creatives in the first place. And having a brief that allows us to go a bit crazy always helps too."
- Photos by Sharlene Ferguson from Focal Point photography.
Here's the Adshow's Simon Pound with his take on the event.