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.

NZME goes all in on election coverage

  • Media
  • September 22, 2017
  • StopPress Team
NZME goes all in on election coverage

NZME is promising five hours of uninterrupted election coverage across the NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB and iHeartRadio as it counts down to the final election result. This sees the company take on a media space, which until now has been dominated by the broadcast television providers.

Read more
topics
Beneath the Surface
Beneath the Surface
In this series, brought to you by Microsoft, we talk to a conceptual photographer, illustrator ...
Insight Creative
Insight Creative
Insight Creative specialises in shaping business stories out the core insights that often lie under ...
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 ...

More than a week: Google set to start updating pronunciation of 8,900 New Zealand place names pinned on 'Say it Tika' app

  • Advertising
  • September 22, 2017
  • Georgina Harris
More than a week: Google set to start updating pronunciation of 8,900 New Zealand place names pinned on 'Say it Tika' app

Vodafone, Google and FCB are taking their Māori Language Week campaign beyond seven measly days by making a commitment to start updating the pronunciation of New Zealand place names on Google Maps. The process has already kicked off and we can expect to start hearing the updated pronunciation by the end of the year.

Read more
news

Account stalwart Scott Wallace bids farewell to DDB after 17 years

In an industry known for staff churn, there aren't many operators quite as loyal as DDB account director Scott Wallace. But even the longest runs ...

voices
Sponsored content

The voice of a nation: TV's central role in covering the election

With election hype sweeping the nation’s attention, television is once again playing a central role in keeping New Zealanders interested and informed. The medium has ...

Acquire Online celebrates five years of programmatic jostling

  • Media
  • September 21, 2017
  • StopPress Team
Acquire Online celebrates five years of programmatic jostling

This week, Acquire Online blew out five candles on its birthday cake – which is no small feat in the rapidly moving tech space. We caught up with directors Chris Schultz, Simon Healy and Anthony Ord to find out how they got this far and where they plan on going next.

Read more

Moving on from a 'glorified PDF': Goodfolk on reshaping the digital face of Fidelity Life

  • Brand
  • September 21, 2017
  • Erin McKenzie
Moving on from a 'glorified PDF': Goodfolk on reshaping the digital face of Fidelity Life

With a 44-year legacy in the insurance industry but a fast-moving digital environment surrounding it, Fidelity Life needed future-proofing. It called on Goodfolk and Phosphor to create a new website with its staff front and centre and as Goodfolk general manager Benn Winlove explains, the execution is a result of the client's willingness to listen to its agencies and the agencies' willingness to understand their client.

Read more

September 21 2012: The day the social media dream died

  • Voices
  • September 21, 2017
  • Paul Catmur
September 21 2012: The day the social media dream died
Facebook

September 21 marks the five-year anniversary of the day when Facebook turned social media into just plain ‘media’. This date is probably worth noting, if not necessarily celebrating, as it marks the end of the dream of brands having unlimited conversations with their fans for free.

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!

©2009–2015 Tangible 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