What makes a great creative idea? We ask creative luminaries to tell us their untold stories of creativity

Iconic moments in advertising are rare: we know them when we see them, but how do they get to be created?

Sometimes inspiration is born out of necessity; at others, years if not decades, pass before that initial spark ignites into a fully-formed campaign.

The Drum celebrates some of these untold stories of creativity in the ‘I Was There’ series – most recently in Cannes.

The session, in partnership with Adobe Stock, held at The Drum Arms during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity heralds the moments that matter for creative luminaries Piyush Pandey, Gabriel Schmitt, Rei Inamoto, Eduardo Maruri and Chris Duffey. The event, chaired by The Drum’s associate editor Sonoo Singh, demonstrated both the power of ideas and the importance of perseverance.

Creativity to solve the problems of the world

Today, Eduardo Maruri is chief executive of ad network Grey Europe – but he was very nearly president of Ecuador and spent eight months in the early 1990s in congress helping to write the country’s new constitution. “One of the most interesting copywriting briefs, right?” he asked the audience, explaining how he and his fellow 80+ writers wanted to produce a constitution that would reflect the planet’s “new realities”.

“We managed to say that nature, as humans do, have rights,” he said. “The constitution became famous the world over.”

Fast-forward to a few years ago and Maruri was disappointed that little had changed: the reality was that the big oil and mining corporations had the legal firepower to sidestep the rules. Now back in the ad world he wanted to help – and was convinced lawyers held the answer.

The result was Nature Represented, a campaign that urged lawyers to give their time free of charge to help fight the corporations and uphold the constitution. “This is how we created a new system that actually could become the solution for many of the problems of the planet,” he said.

Creative collaborations

It was a college encounter with experimental digital artist Joe Maeda that set IxCO’s founding partner Rei Inamoto on his particular advertising path, resulting in his part of the celebrated Nike+ and Nike Fuel campaigns. He is the former worldwide chief creative officer at AKQA.

As an art and design student in the mid-nineties he’d written to the artist who, surprisingly, agreed to meet him in Boston. A quick review of his portfolio later Inamoto was told his typography was “kind of shit”. He was also urged to learn programming and, taking both pieces of advice to heart, graduated with degrees in both art and design and science.

“The reason why I tell this story is that since that day to now it has been all about finding the magic in the marriage between art and technology,” he told the audience.

This is most memorably illustrated in his part in creating both the first Nike+ and Nike Fuel campaigns at agencies RGA and AKQA respectively.

“The opportunity that was in front of us was a collaboration between one of the best sports brands in the world, Nike, and one of the best tech companies, Apple. What could we do?” The result was Nike+ and the campaign that launched it won a Grand Prix in 2004. Yet, years later and ahead of the London 2010 Olympics, how could they move this pioneering idea on?

“The motivation we had was to create a new kind of sports for the digital age,” he said. “Somebody said that every step should count and that kind of formed the idea of Nike Fuel and somebody came up with the idea of Nike Fuel as a currency, which then led to that ad. Those were the two moments in my career, both of which were started 20 years ago in college by meeting Joe Maeda.”

The different stages to the creative process

Time, however, was of the absolute essence for Ogilvy’s global chief creative Piyush Pandey in creating the award-winning ‘Human Train’ campaign for Indian Railways – with a deadline of just days from conception to airing.

The story begins with a panicked call in 2010 from the railway board’s chairman. The rail company was a sponsor of that year’s Commonwealth Games held in Delhi but had failed to note that as a sponsor were entitled to 60,000 seconds of free airtime. Could Pandey and his team make a film in time?

Mindful of approvals processes Pandey says that he dictated a number of things that they couldn’t do – such as include film of the trains or the railways themselves.

The result was ‘The Human Train’, a simple and heart-warming TVC – the railway’s first – that hit the spot, reflecting the joy of the journey as one that brings a country together.

Creativity and technology collide

The audience also heard how Adobe’s strategic development manager Chris Duffey’s career has been shaped by stock photography. Tirelessly finding the right stock images had been instrumental in his early career, now reflected in Adobe’s new AI-powered image bank Rebus. “It [Rebus] is the opposite of the inefficiencies of the old days,” he said, demonstrating the importance of technology in today’s creative process.

Finally, FCB New York ECD Gabriel Schmitt told of the Whopper Detour campaign that sprung from the insight that, in the US, there were around 7,000 Burger King stores and some 40,000 McDonald’s. “To get to a Burger King you had to drive further,” he said. “We had an idea: let’s reward those people who pass by McDonald’s.”

This idea of the ‘extra mile Whopper’ became the ‘Detour’. They created a 1-cent Whopper that people could only order in the vicinity of a McDonald’s and through the BK app. The campaign generated 3.5 billion earned media impressions and a 37-to-1 return on investment.

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