'I Was There' - a window to the minds behind four iconic ads

'I Was There' panel at The Drum Arms

Behind every iconic moment in advertising, lies an interesting back story – one that the public rarely gets to see. But at this year's Advertising Week, The Drum's 'I Was There' panel offered a window to the minds behind ads that stand the test of time.

The Drum's associate editor, Sonoo Singh, asked the creative luminaries Harsh Kapadia, Simon Poett, Angus MacKinnon and Nanda Marth to delve into the process of creativity behind one particular campaign close to their hearts.

Civilians are #NotATarget - Harsh Kapadia, executive creative director at VMLY&R

VMLY&R’s executive creative director, Harsh Kapadia outlines what went on behind the scenes of the ‘Civilians are #NotATarget’ campaign, which the agency created to raise awareness to the work done by the United Nations (UN).

While some news coverage can often overlook the impact war has on civilians, #NotATarget aimed to tell the story of people living in conflict areas and educate a global millennial audience to push for change.

VML's challenge? After winning the pitch the team had just 45 days to bring it to market so that it coincided with World Humanitarian Day.

“We drove the agency crazy,” Kapadia remembers. “Everyone who worked on it didn’t take no for an answer.”

Although he wouldn't use it as a 'blueprint' for future campaigns, Kapadia found it remarkable how the agency came together as "one team" to get the job done.

T.O by Lipton - Simon Poett, The Brooklyn Brothers

The Brooklyn Brothers’ executive creative director Simon Poett chose a T.O by Lipton campaign that featured Cirque De Soleil dancers, an underwater tank and an unwelcome court order.

The brief from Lipton was to showcase the different ways it could capture the "spirit of tea leaves brewing".

Poett wanted to bring to life the display of colour that escapes a tea bag in hot water and enlisted the Cirque de Soleil group to create an underwater visual drama that mimicked the blend of three different teas.

Somewhat surprisingly, Poett admitted the team wrote “48 different versions” of the script before they trekked over to Montreal to meet the dancers. Then it was up to the dancers, who had made bespoke costumes and choreographed a dance for the different flavours of tea.

The team then hurled four custom made tanks, which were five inches thick, from Chicago to Bucharest to shoot the dancers underwater.

"It was a wild imaginative cake, and every layer felt amazing," Poett said. "Until after we edited it, a competitor in France said 'it's the same as the ad we made 18 months ago.'"

If it wasn't for the power of owner Unilever and it's defense team, the vision could have been lost, but as Poett said - "no one can own making ads underwater."

EE Wembley Cup - Angus Mackinnon, Poke

The EE Wembley Cup is an annual football competition played by male YouTube football stars, and ex-professional 'legends', which was developed by Poke in 2015 to engage a younger generation of EE users. In a seven-part YouTube series, the influencer driven platform sees the stars battle it out for a live final at Wembley stadium.

Since 2015, the series has received 148 million views, and with 22 content creators on board, this gives EE access to over 10 million subscribers between them.

Poke’s group creative director, Angus Mackinnon lauded the cup's ability to repeat itself year after year, with only a little bit of fine-tuning.

Although, as a blueprint, the EE Wembley Cup is an extraordinary piece of IP - the memory of 22 competitive content creators battling it out was a nightmare for MacKinnon.

"They all work in a Black Mirror-style dystopian," said MacKinnon. "When you get this quantity of influencers together and put them in a competitive environment, the sparks start to really fly because the politics is insane."

Hypoglycaemia - Nanda Marth, WPP Health and Wellness UK

Nanda Marth, executive creative director at WPP Health and Wellness UK chose an ad that was not aimed at consumers, but doctors.

Hypoglycaemia is a serious condition caused by a very low level of blood sugar, that a lot of people know little about.

"The symptoms are often confused with everyday life symptoms, like headaches, dizziness and sweats," explains Marth. "And it's difficult for doctors to diagnose."

The work was for Novo Nordisk - the Danish pharmaceutical company which represents its challenges. One: "craft is important, as in healthcare you can have the best medicine, but you can't say it's the best."

On top of this, talking about a human condition in adverts "is a challenge, because you have to reference back with scientific references," Marth explained.

The reality for hypoglycaemia sufferers is the illness can be fatal. To raise awareness of the illness, Marth's team created a sensorial film, that placed the viewer behind the eyes of someone with the disease.

"You have different volumes of music, so you hear what she hears, and see what she sees," Marth detailed.

"And you feel her confusion and vulnerability. The craft was to push the message to get people to empathise," she said.

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