Magic doesn’t happen by magic

  • Voices
  • February 7, 2017
  • Michael Goldthorpe
Magic doesn’t happen by magic

Why did Friends take over the world, while hundreds of similar shows fizzled out? Why is Carpool Karaoke a must-view, while millions of hours of YouTube are unwatched? Why is a low budget 80s-throw-back-sci-fi the superstar standout of the $5 billion invested in Netflix content? I think the answer is magic. But what is magic? How does it happen? And how can we make magic in this strange old game we call advertising?

Spoiler alert: I don’t have the answer. But I do have some ideas on how to clear the field, erect a tall pole and dance a frantic rain dance in the hope that magical lightning strikes.

Magic doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

“It’s my idea”. Possibly the most oxymoronic sentence in advertising. Or just standard moronic. It doesn’t work like that. I tried. When I first left agency land, I thought I could beat them at their own game. Having spent four years helping deliver some of the best advertising campaigns in the country, I thought I had the recipe nailed on my own. I was wrong. One person does not make magic. It’s the collision of different ideas from different people that forces the magic out. “It’s our idea”.  Magic only happens in a team.

Magic doesn’t happen by committee.

The challenge of collaboration is that too many cooks spoil the broth. My favourite line from the first set text at ad school was “pecked to death by ducks”. None of the ducks are predators. None of them want to break the idea. But magic will never withstand an onslaught of valuable opinions from multiple stakeholders who can very quickly and well-meaningly quack an idea into obscurity. Every idea needs a champion. Magic only happens in a team with strong leadership.

Magic doesn’t happen out of balance.

Advertising isn’t art, it’s science. It’s not even science, it’s business. More specifically, advertising is a strange industry headquartered on the intersection of all of the above. It’s a precarious location. Everyone is right. Everyone is wrong. And there’s plenty of cash at stake in all directions. But too much focus on art and ads don’t say anything. Too much focus on business and they don’t engage. Too much focus on the science and everyone falls asleep. It’s keeping that balance, throughout the industry and through different roles in agencies that really makes things work. Magic only happens in a balanced team with strong leadership.

Magic doesn’t happen without trust.

It sounds obvious, but it’s worth remembering. Real trust doesn’t build over days or weeks. It develops over years. Some mates of mine once won a Lion for some work they did for a bank. Still jealous. But I also claim it. The previous year we’d cajoled our client to push out the boat and do something risky. And they did. And it worked. And that helped build the trust that paved the way for a braver, wackier (okay, more brilliant) idea that really was magic. But it never would have flown without the trust we all built as a team. Magic only happens in a balanced team of trusted peers with strong leadership.

Magic doesn’t happen in a fog.

If there’s one thing that connects all of the most brilliant advertising ideas you’ve ever seen, it’s a clear, single-minded proposition born of a pure customer insight. The word 'and' in a brief is like Kryptonite to magic. Of all the time spent thinking and crafting, debating and selling, the most valuable time of all is spent crafting the brief. When you start on a tightrope balancing business, science and art, throwing in a juggling act will more likely mean show stop than show-stopper. Magic only happens in a balanced team of trusted peers with strong leadership and a clear, single-minded goal.

Magic doesn’t happen by magic.

There are plenty of things that kill magic. The list could go on. Magic doesn’t happen overnight – it’s crafted, considered, rethought and refined over time. And magic definitely doesn’t strike twice. Ten years ago the brief du jour was “Like the Yellow Treehouse only…” today it’s a reference to Carpool Karaoke or “We’re thinking it’s like Uber for washing powder”. Neither is the recipe for success. The magic of magic is that you can’t predict it.

Sometimes that lightning strikes and sometimes it just gets stormy and a tree falls over. But there are things we can do to give it the best shot. Be open. Be clear. Go with the flow, trust your gut, trust the team. Be pragmatic about picking your battles and dogmatic about fighting the ones that matter.

But more important than any of those, be passionate about the potential of magic. It doesn’t happen every day. Or every year. In over a decade in the industry, I’ve made magic twice. And I’ll never forget either campaign. Nor will any of the trusted team I worked with or the customers who enjoyed the work, felt the magic and made the tills ring. But for me, magic is always the goal. It’s rare, fragile, unpredictable and often unattainable… but you’ll never make magic if you don’t try. And for me, even the smallest chance of making magic happen is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

Michael Goldthorpe is the owner of creative agency Hunch. 

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Follow the money, part four: Where New Zealand's news media is finding pots of funding gold
features

Follow the money, part four: Where New Zealand's news media is finding pots of funding gold

Follow the money. It’s an axiom that journalists have believed in for years and a guiding light when it comes to holding the powerful to account. But that phrase is increasingly pertinent to those who run media businesses. As advertising money flows away from traditional channels towards large tech firms, the old business model of selling space around the news is creaking. And that has led to a range of experiments from publishers and broadcasters hoping to keep the lights on – and to keep shining those lights into dark places. Erin McKenzie dives into the local news media feed and finds plenty of experiments, but no simple answer to the funding conundrum.

Ogilvy's senior line up changes with chief creative officer and executive creative directors

  • Advertising
  • September 20, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Ogilvy's senior line up changes with chief creative officer and executive creative directors

Ogilvy has announced a number of senior moves, with Regan Grafton promoted to the role of chief creative officer while Lisa Fedyszyn and Jonathan McMahon become joint executive creative directors.

Read more

Radio survey: total audience tuning into radio waves remains stable

  • Media
  • September 20, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Radio survey: total audience tuning into radio waves remains stable

Its radio survey time again and in the third round for 2018, 3.66 million New Zealanders have been found to listen to radio each week, with The Edge seeing the biggest audience.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and StopPress have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

topics
Follow The Money
Follow The Money
Follow the money. It’s an axiom that journalists have believed in for years and a ...
Regional Rundown
Regional Rundown
StopPress takes a trip down the country to see who the audiences and agencies are ...
Beyond the Page 2018
Beyond the Page 2018
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Insight Creative
Insight Creative
Insight Creative specialises in shaping business stories out the core insights that often lie under ...
Beneath the Surface
Beneath the Surface
In this series, brought to you by Microsoft, we talk to a conceptual photographer, illustrator ...
20/20 (tele)vision
20/20 (tele)vision
Media consumption is changing. But by how much?
The Hot List
The Hot List
Our rundown of the hottest shows, brands and creators in New Zealand media. 1. magazine ...
Cannes Lions 2017
Cannes Lions 2017
All the winners, the shortlists and the drama from this year's edition of advertising biggest ...
Merger Mania
Merger Mania
All our stories on the nation's two failed mergers in one place
Bauer Beyond the Page
Bauer Beyond the Page
When it comes to creating branded content, there are few better in the Kiwi market ...
The Indies
The Indies
Over the course of this series of articles, we look at how always-nimble indy agencies ...
AdRoll on automation
AdRoll on automation
Marketing automation is tipped to eventually become the only way advertising is traded in the ...
Game Changers
Game Changers
It’s all about PEOPLE. Join us as we discuss global insights, ideas and innovations from ...
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
Celebrating all the winners of the 2015 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.
Future Tense
Future Tense
In a new series, StopPress talks to a range of newsmakers currently trying to shine ...
Beyond the Page
Beyond the Page
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Up Country
Up Country
In conjunction with News Works, the Up Country series talks with some of New Zealand's ...
Sounding off
Sounding off
As part of a content partnership with MediaWorks, we've asked a few of the company's ...
StopPress Podcasts
StopPress Podcasts
We sit down for a chat with industry leaders to find out what they're up ...

Colleen Ryan: from wolf whistles to Ritson and Sharp

  • Voices
  • September 20, 2018
  • Colleen Ryan
Colleen Ryan: from wolf whistles to Ritson and Sharp

TRA partner Colleen Ryan takes a final look at the Byron Sharp versus Mark Ritson debate, looking at the power of remembering a well-marketed brand.

Read more
The art of story finding
Sponsored content

The art of story finding

There’s some often cited research that says we’re 22 times more likely to recall a story than we are a fact. But when you’re dealing in branded content, perhaps a more useful way to consider this information is that we’re 22 times more likely to recall a fact when it’s wrapped in a story. In this episode, we’re looking at how to put your audience at the centre of your story and letting them experience your brand for themselves.

voices

My Food Bag cooks up August's Ad Impact Award winner

  • Advertising
  • September 20, 2018
  • StopPress Team
My Food Bag cooks up August's Ad Impact Award winner

With a change of season upon us, August saw a new range of TVCs being tested. While there were plenty on show, it was My Food Bag with its 'Dinner Makes Families' TVC by Saatchi & Saatchi that picked up the Colmar Brunton Ad Impact Award.

Read more
A New Zealand Original: Streaming services embrace in-house content
features

A New Zealand Original: Streaming services embrace in-house content

As online streaming services slowly replace broadcast television as the preferred way to watch TV, the ways in which content is developed are also changing. Streaming services are boasting ‘original’ content, with the banner, ‘Netflix Original’, becoming synonymous with edgy or ground-breaking content, created free from the bounds of traditional broadcast media. Now, slowly but surely, Lightbox is getting in the game.

#suffrage125: How media and brands are celebrating New Zealand's historic move – UPDATED

  • Advertising
  • September 19, 2018
  • StopPress Team
#suffrage125: How media and brands are celebrating New Zealand's historic move – UPDATED

Today is a proud day for New Zealand as we celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. StopPress looked around to see what media and brands in Aotearoa did to mark the occasion.

Read more

Changing faces of women in advertising

  • Voices
  • September 19, 2018
  • Georgia Middleton
Changing faces of women in advertising

It’s 2018. That’s 125 years since women in New Zealand have been recognised as equals in the eyes of democracy. But what’s the story of equality in advertising? It doesn’t take much research to find articles about the changing faces of women in advertising – and yes, things are changing. But the casual sexism, the call-outs and the cover-ups have sparked a different kind of debate. Is misogynistic advertising a thing of the past, or do seeds of it still exist? To answer that, I’ve looked at different portrayals of women to see how things were then…and now.

Read more

Sharks and lightning: expect the unexpected in LifeDirect's new campaign

  • Advertising
  • September 18, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Sharks and lightning: expect the unexpected in LifeDirect's new campaign

Following the sad demise of mascot Simon the sloth, LifeDirect by Trade Me has gone for the humourously unexpected in its newest brand campaign by Y&R.

Read more

What's your mark of progress? ASB showcases its customers' stories

  • Advertising
  • September 18, 2018
  • StopPress Team
What's your mark of progress? ASB showcases its customers' stories

ASB has launched another round of its business banking campaign with True, and this time it's put the spotlight on its customers, with Pic’s Peanut Butter, Burger Burger, Farmlands and others sharing their business progress.

Read more

Ads of the week: 18 September

  • TVC of the week
  • September 18, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Ads of the week: 18 September

ASB, LifeDirect and Phloe show us how it's done.

Read more

Social enterprise shows how VR can save New Zealand's endangered birds

  • Technology
  • September 18, 2018
  • Elly Strang
Social enterprise shows how VR can save New Zealand's endangered birds

For Conservation Week this week, social enterprise Squawk Squad and virtual reality studio M Theory have joined forces to go into the classroom and get children excited about saving New Zealand’s native birds through VR technology. The experience takes the viewer through a forest journey alongside a robin bird, who encountering friends and predators along the way.

Read more
Follow the money, part three: Where New Zealand's news media is finding pots of funding gold
features

Follow the money, part three: Where New Zealand's news media is finding pots of funding gold

Follow the money. It’s an axiom that journalists have believed in for years and a guiding light when it comes to holding the powerful to account. But that phrase is increasingly pertinent to those who run media businesses. As advertising money flows away from traditional channels towards large tech firms, the old business model of selling space around the news is creaking. And that has led to a range of experiments from publishers and broadcasters hoping to keep the lights on – and to keep shining those lights into dark places. Erin McKenzie dives into the local news media feed and finds plenty of experiments, but no simple answer to the funding conundrum.

NZME secures eight News Media Awards in Australia: News Corp leads winners

  • Awards
  • September 17, 2018
  • StopPress Team
NZME secures eight News Media Awards in Australia: News Corp leads winners

NZME was the most successful New Zealand brand at the News Media Awards in Sydney last week, with News Corp topping the honours taking home 2018 News Brand of the Year.

Read more
Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About

StopPress provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2018 ICG Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise

Contact Vernene Medcalf at +64 21 628 200 to advertise in StopPress.

View Media Kit