As the 4A’s celebrates 100 years, it is honoring the agencies and people who make advertising great. A handful of those people were on the stage at Advertising Week in New York to discuss creativity and the work they did that has made a positive difference.
The panel included Joe Alexander, chief creative officer at the Martin Agency; Tali Gumbiner and Lizzie Wilson, associate creative directors at McCann New York; Madonna Badger, founder and chief creative officer at Badger & Winters; and Rodrigo Butori, vice president, executive creative director at The Community/La Comunidad.
Before they presented the work that got them recognized by the 4A’s, they discussed creativity and the process of producing great work. All agreed that, even with the somewhat volatile climate in the country and the world, it’s still a great time to be a creative. Not only are we on the cusp of change, agencies can be braver than ever when producing work that stokes innovation and uses its power for good.
“A key role for a CCO is to guide our clients to something that’s going to break through…My role is to encourage that bravery,” said Alexander.
“With our agency, we really work with empathy as a guiding star,” added Badger.
For Butori, bravery means stepping outside what you think is right, understanding your audience, and make a connection.
Connecting with an audience was something all thought was a creative pressure, especially when doing work that not only moves the needle but also seeks to do good. But that connection comes through user generated content, at the expense of traditional formats, which many saw as at their respective ends.
“Every idea feels done,” said Gumbiner, meaning that the old way of doing traditional advertising has given way to opening up new avenues for creatives.
The discussion gave context to the campaigns the panelists produced that were recognized as those that took chances and put them on the 4A’s honoree list.
Gumbiner and Wilson are the rising stars who were the creative duo behind the Fearless Girl project that upended the way people view female leadership, especially in the financial world. The project, a recent winner of a D&AD Black Pencil, “came from a phenomenal brief…and a brave client,” said Gumbiner.
Wilson added that the viral impact the project had surprised them. “We expected a conversation, but not for everyone to be talking about it…The stars aligned on this one.”
The duo added that clients are now expecting that #FearlessGirl buzz for campaigns, but Gumbiner said that it “gets a bit more challenging because if the client doesn’t walk the walk, then we can’t put out work like this for them.”
Alexander presented the Martin Agency’s “World’s Biggest Asshole,” an edgy campaign for nonprofit Donate Life that shows Coleman F. Sweeney, who in life was a horrible human, but in death somehow managed to redeem his awfulness by being an organ donor and saving lives. Alexander said that the target audience of young men signed up more to be organ donors after viewing the campaign.
For Badger, her agency’s #WomenNotObjects went viral and sparked change. The movement was to get the objectification of women out of advertising, and the video produced made international headlines with its frank language.
“We made a commitment to never objectify women ever again,” said Badger. The campaign started after the agency interviewed women about wearing red lipstick. This led to them doing more research and finding that a preponderance of ads objectified women. Badger said that they then asked Cannes Lions to stop giving awards to ads that objectify women, and they agreed. “Many ads that were shortlisted were tossed out,” she said.
Butori’s campaign for Converse talked about Sao Paulo, Brazil, and how it got called the “Gray City,” after much of the vibrant street art that had adorned the city was being erased and covered in gray paint. Converse knew it had to do something, so instead of featuring the new Chuck Taylor All-Star shoes, it used color and shadows. People were encouraged to donate their shadows to street artists, who would then use bright colors to make the street art that had been missing from the city.
All campaigns took risks and reaped rewards for their respective makers, agencies and clients, which is why the 4A’s is recognizing them as part of their 100 People Who Make Advertising Great.
The Drum has collaborated with the 4A's for a project called Beyond the Brief, celebrating the organization's 100th anniversary and 4A's member agency talent throughout the US.