Ten things I learnt at ADFEST
Chris Flack, the Design Director of Strategy Creative’s Christchurch studio, was part of the judging panel for the design and print craft category for ADFEST 18 in Thailand last month. We asked him what were ten things he learnt from the experience.
1. Keep it simple
One of the first talks was by Rafael Guida (Head of Creative Shop at Facebook) where he explained that attention spans are getting shorter; the average person now has a 8 second attention span. Rafael suggested that Facebook was the best place to tell these stories as it is what everybody is checking in those small gaps they have throughout the day. He encouraged us to think about what and how we can tell engaging short stories.
2. Take ideas that already exist and make them new
Some of the most interesting projects I saw it at ADFEST used insights and views that can only be gained by being part of that sub-culture. They took something that was already there and repurposed it into a new, and sometimes, life-changing idea. The Immunity Charm bracelet did this in a powerful, simple and so obvious (after the fact) way. This idea made use of something that is already in use (the bracelet), but take it to the next level by connecting the dots that no one else has managed to do (by showcasing the bracelet to highlight the immunity).
3. Know your culture
A piece of work that really stood out for me was a series of dark and moody adverts for McDonalds by TBWA Thailand, which didn’t have a traditional logo in the corner. This showed great trust by the client (McDonalds is a family restaurant) and how cultural differences can be used to elevate a piece of communication.
4. Combine great storytelling with technology
Brands of all sizes are embracing technology and using it as a way to tell authentic stories. A standout example of this is Lockheed Martin’s ‘The Field Trip To Mars’ project. For this project Lockheed Martin transformed a normal school bus ride into a trip to Mars. They took VR to the next level and made it a ‘seamless and magical’ experience for the kids.
5. Sometimes the story is the story
The “Frozen Storybook” by Penguin captivated me as soon as I saw it. The fact that it had to be taken out of the freezer so we could judge it - blew me away. Unofficially, it is the first frozen book ever made. I loved how it took the story telling to another level and made the subject of the book into a physical object. The book is frozen, and as the book defrosts, the ink fades away. So you can only read it when its cold. It really allowed for deeper engagement. Beautifully made and conceived. Can’t wait to put this book into the freezer and then take it out again.
6. Know your medium (& use it well)
A piece that really resonated with me was Emergency collectibles. It was amazing how a full page newspaper advert could be used to help people prepare for earthquakes in Japan. It was a great response to a disaster and a cost effective way to educate everyone about how to be prepared for emergencies. This perfect use of a medium which encouraged positive change.
7. Form vs function
Idea vs craft was a constant debate at ADFEST 18. For a piece of work to do really well it had to have both... and then some. The overriding theme this year at ADFEST was work that can transform the way we live. As in, not just another piece of design or advertising! For the Grande Award we selected a piece of work that pushed the boundaries of both design and traditional advertising — the ‘Cogy Wheelchair’. This piece gave us a glimpse into what the future could hold for us and the industry. This type of work changes what is expected and more importantly what creativity and ideas can do. It was a combination of technology, innovation and craft.
8. The future is bright
We spent a lot of time discussing societally relevant issues including sustainability, culture and purpose. It is critically important that we as an industry continue to drive these issues into the spotlight to connect with the world we live in. A lot of the work that big brands focus on is how to bring purpose into what they do. The #BeFearless campaign by Samsung really sums that up. They used VR to help people overcome their fears. These included the fear of public speaking and of heights. As vast social movements such as #metoo and the gun marches in America have shown there is no better time than now to change, and it just takes one person to start it.
9. New Zealand and Australia are leading the way
New Zealand has a global reputation as an innovative leader. Whether it's our size or scale or our location in the world, innovation and creativity continues to pour out of our country, and it does well. From the Americas Cup, to the shoes our triathletes wear at the Commonwealth Games, we have a different way of looking at the world. A stand out piece for this was Colenso BBDO’s response to a brief of wanting to sell more dog food. When your kid moves out of home or goes on their OE, what do you do? Replace them with dogs, of course. They used the idea of companionship and an empty nest and took it to the next level.
10. Are awards worth it?
This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I turned up to ADFEST kind of expecting lots of egos and big personalities to be on display. What i found was that the reality was quite different. ADFEST is like a big family. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and I felt like I had walked into a family reunion. The judging and talks were during the day which meant you had the evenings to discuss ideas and thoughts from that day. This led to some very interesting and insightful conversations. I felt deeply privileged to have been a judge at ADFEST. As for awards in general, they are still relevant as they provide a bar against which to measure ourselves against. However, work should never be done to enter awards, awards should be a natural byproduct of work that has been successful for our clients.