Same old ideas, exceptional execution: Cannes and the seven creative territories

  • Opinion
  • June 26, 2012
  • Michael Goldthorpe
Same old ideas, exceptional execution: Cannes and the seven creative territories

“But I had that idea.” Spend any time in an agency creative department and you’ll hear that a lot. It’s usually true. In fact, if I think back a decade to adschool (and communications theory before that) there’s a well-founded, pointy-headed theory that there are only seven creative territories. And, just like the seven musical notes, true creativity is about the song you choose to write. So what better place to explore that theory than through the winners of this year’s Film Lions? I spotted six of the seven core thoughts—same old ideas, incredible craft. Or, to mis-quote Edison, one percent inspiration, 99 percent execution.

1. Product Demonstration

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The oldest technique in the book is showing people how your product works. You don’t see many product demonstrations in award annuals. This one deserves its place.

2. Slice of life

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The Toyota school of advertising: create a gorgeous story and weave in your product where you can. This one’s a little odd (and it’s essentially an engagement promo). But it’s beautifully shot and makes you want to play.

3. Borrowed Interest

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The art of borrowing from popular culture to help people connect with your product. With all those mix-ups and mashups and virals and whatnot, you see this a lot. But rarely is it executed as beautifully as this.

4. Absurdity

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Being completely random is a great way to get attention. It certainly worked for the Cadbury Gorilla. But making it work with your product is the genius. This bear is also a genius, apparently.

5. Hyperbole

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Up there with absurdity, there’s always fun to be had by making your product the centre of the universe in an unbelievably believable way. Use Lynx, get laid. Or in this case, sign up for DirecTV or else.

6. Life without.

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When it’s too painful to tell stories about the benefits of your product, you can always paint a picture of life without it. This campaign certainly paints that picture.

7. Spokesperson

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Another popular angle is the 2degrees, Goldstein technique of using a spokesperson to talk about your stuff. I didn’t really spot one of these. So here’s something different. It’s a sponsorship ad showing the heroes behind the heroes of the Olympics. I love it.

Or any combination of the above.

While those are the core territories, the best ideas combine a few. The Guardian spot works because of the absurdity of the characters and borrowed interest from everyone’s childhood. But I think the most exciting thing about this observation is that just about anyone can have those ideas. The challenge is selling them—and finding the best talent in the world to bring them to life.

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

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