Start with the idea, not the shiny trinkets

Dear diary, this is my last year as a Young Gun, the award show that honours people under 30. To help ease the pain of becoming an old gun, I was invited to be on the Young Guns jury. Usually, they invite world-renowned creative directors but this year they decided to do it differently. And that’s how I ended up with eight other ‘up and comers’ from around the world, in a dark room for four days. 

Even with Bondi Beach just a few feet away, we’re still young enough to take this kind of thing seriously. So, we arrived fresh faced every morning, hangover free and ready to judge. I can only imagine that in award shows of days gone by, TV was the glory category. Now it’s got some competition. In a show that is all about awarding tomorrow’s brightest, it’s no surprise that maverick media, digital and ‘something else’ is where we found the most inspirational stuff (a tip for next year’s Young Guns: buck the trend, do a ground-breaking TV ad and you’ll clean up).

Maybe the reason for the shift is that newer media has opened up so many more doors and you can talk to people in such different ways. Now you don’t only need to be a good storyteller, you need to tell people at the right time and the right place. You can’t just send out a blanket message and hope it sticks. As a jury, there was not only a focus on whether it was the right idea or not, but whether it was the right channel. Now young creatives have to be cool AND media savvy.

The work goes through several rounds before we start handing out any metal. At first, shiny and sparkly technology innovations caught our eye. However, with a closer look, it became plainly obvious that a lot of that stuff was using the technology to hide the fact there was no real idea.

Without giving anything away, the best ideas didn’t need a fancy new trick to make them brilliant. The insights would have been good if they were expressed in TV, print or an app.

So, if I could enter to be a Young Gun next year (sob) I know what I’d remind myself. Start with the idea and then figure out what is the best way to express it. Don’t just trawl the internet for the latest gadget then stick a brand onto it.

Actually, I think I’ll remind myself of that, no matter how old I get.

Oh, and for those of you who are putting together their case studies as I speak, a word from someone who’s just watched hundreds of them. Having work featured on the Creativity blog (or whatever other ad blog PR’d your idea) does not mean that the work was an internet hit. Real results make sense, but a few screen shots and vague statistics will make the jury roll their eyes. 

Ah, feels better to get that off my chest.

  • Verity Dookia is the deputy creative director at Contagion. This article originally appeared on the Contagion blog. 

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