Owen Farrell’s smirk.
The English ‘Flying V’ in the face of the Haka.
The most polarising sporting moment of the year.
Some loved it.
Some hated it (including me).
Everyone spoke about it.
Nobody will forget it.
Consensus is a dangerous concept in the world of marketing communications.
We seek consensus all of the time.
Creative agencies seek to come to one around the creative work they present.
Clients seek to come to an agreement on an idea they all equally think is right.
Consumers are often asked if they all like and understand an idea in research.
My provocation is…
Can we really deliver outstanding creative work, if we all agree that it is outstanding?
In response to criticism of his remarks at the Golden Globe Awards, Ricky Gervais tweeted:
‘Just because you are offended, doesn’t mean you are right.’
My handwriting is terrible, so I often write notes, presentation outlines and even articles like this on my phone.
I often find words of (perceived) wisdom that I wrote to myself many months before.
This is a note to myself that I believe I wrote in a research debrief, sometime last year…
“Idea seen as too polarising – word misused.”
I don’t love US or British Politics right now.
But irrespective of my own or your views, the political strategists of the reigning parties have turned politics on its head.
Far from aiming to please everyone, they’ve firmly taken a side and refused to pander to the other.
They’ve understood that standing for something and taking sides cuts through and is often more likely to resonate with people (at the expense of it not resonating with everyone).
Unlike the recent Labour UK party election bid that failed to take a stance on Brexit.
By trying to appeal to everyone, they failed to appeal to anyone.
“What was Nike thinking?”
Trump’s tweet after seeing Colin Kaepernick, the civil rights activist and American Football Player’s Nike ad.
Nike won an Emmy, earned $163 million in PR, created a brand value increase of $6 billion, and had a 31% boost in sales.
I think that’s what they were thinking.
Coincidentally, the line – ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything’ – wasn’t actually just a line.
It summed up the polarising approach that Nike took, where the reward and risk were both high.
A common argument in my household is about Marmite.
Seeing it on the butter dish is my pet hate.
I reluctantly put it on toast for my daughter.
There’s not many things I could think of that I’d be more repulsed by eating.
BBH London recently ran a Twitter competition called the ‘World Cup of Endlines’.
There were some amazing contenders before being whittled down to two.
Specsavers (‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’) narrowly lost out to Marmite.
Because ‘Love it or Hate It’, even for someone like me, it’s hard to disagree that the decision to make a virtue of its polarising nature was a stroke of genius.
One of the outstanding creative achievements of the previous decade has been for the tampon brand Libresse (also known as Bodyform).
The brand purpose – ‘Live Fearless’ – has led to multiple award winning campaigns such as ‘Blood Normal’ and the outstanding ‘Viva La Vulva’.
The degree of difficulty to do outstanding creative work in a category like this is enough to be envious of it alone.
It’s a category filled with taboos and paralysed by archaic regulation and conservative advertising.
The team behind it were rightly awarded the coveted APG Grand Prix for Creative Strategy in the UK last year.
The APG paper itself charts the journey of how ‘Live Fearless’ became a rallying cry to women to live the life they want without letting periods hold them back.
And it wasn’t easy.
They polarised clients.
They polarised stakeholders.
They polarised viewers.
Watch the work and you will see why.
But in their words, it was worthwhile because:
“Sometimes, it’s worth pissing some people off –
if it’s making things right for so many more.”
There’s little argument that it’s becoming more difficult to command attention in advertising.
That requires a braver approach from us all.
I’d rather make work that genuinely makes some people feel something, than appease everyone with work that nobody will remember or pay attention to.
That’s what we are here to do.
If it means we all need to disagree from time to time, in pursuit of greater success for the brands we work on, so be it.
So my new year’s resolution is this.
I’m going to be a bit more easy going about the Marmite in the butter dish.
It feels like it’s time to save my polarising points of view for the strategies I develop, the creative reviews I sit in, the client presentations I give and most importantly, the work that I help to send out into the world.
But don’t worry, I promise to do it all without that Farrell-like smirk on my face.
Rory Gallery is the Head of Strategy at Special Group