Campaign India Team
Jul 04, 2013

‘Creativity is not craft’: Amir Kassaei

‘Don’t confuse the advertising world with the real world’, said the CCO of DDB, in an inspiring Master Class at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Excerpts:

‘Creativity is not craft’: Amir Kassaei

"The one thing I.’d like to tell youngsters in advertising is this: get it wrong. Do stuff that’s so crazy that everyone thinks you’re completely mad.

Don’t grow up. Stay curious. One of the biggest mistakes people in advertising are making is that they are losing this ‘childish way’, the innocence. Live everyday like it was your first day, like small children. That’s what makes you so creative. Children are always so curious about everything.

In the 90’s, I got the chance to go to Germany.

I was a junior copywriter on the Mercedes Benz account. One day, we got a brief for a big brand campaign. I came up with an idea. The creative director told me it was a piece of s#!+. I showed it to the chief creative officer. He also told me it’s a piece of s#!+. So I decided to take it to the client. I was 26 years old then. I was married, with one child. I went to the bank, took a loan, and flew to the headquarters of Mercedes in Stuttgart.

I went up to them and said I wanted to speak to the chief marketing officer; that I am from the agency, and that I have an idea. I was told he had no time. So I ended up meeting the assistant who thought I was crazy. I spent the whole day in front of his office. He went in and out. At the very end of the day, I got 10 minutes.  I showed him the idea. He called the CCO of the agency and told him, there is this guy from your agency, who is so passionate about the brand, and he has shown me this idea.

You have to fight for your ideas. Being talented is okay. Fighting for ideas is what makes the difference. Don’t forget to believe in your own ideas.

I am not really talented. I was a German copywriter. At the age of 15, my teacher told me my German was a piece of s#!+. A lot of talented people did not make it in advertising. Talent is nice. But persistence is a lot more important than that. You have to look at a problem in an intelligent way, and come up with an idea to solve that problem.

If you believe greatly in your idea, don’t ask for permission. Just do it. That’s how I did it.

I have four kids, with three women. And it is not something I am proud of.

After a last-day-at-the-agency party, I remember only two things. One is I got completely drunk. The other is I woke up completely naked. Three months later, she gave me a call. She said maybe I am going to become a father. At the time, we thought the child was with her boyfriend. The boyfriend was a Swede and had blue eyes and was blonde. Six months later when the baby was born, she called me over to the hospital. The baby looked nothing like him.

And when I went to the hospital and saw this baby, it changed my mindset completely. She - my daughter - is 19 years old now and studying. I told her not to get into advertising, because I would criticise her all the time.

Being responsible for what you are doing can change your life. If you be respectful of everyone, they will be respectful of you.

I believe the most important goal in life is being truthful. Everyone will constantly try to change you. Being truthful to yourself is the biggest achievement in life – and it is the hardest goal to achieve.

Winning awards mean only one thing – that you are great in winning awards. No one even on the croisette outside cares. If you solve the client’s problem in an intelligent way, people will recognise that you are bringing in substance. Young people think if they have a portfolio and are winning awards, they are good creatives. Bull s#!+.

‘Think small’ was the most amazing piece of advertising in history. It never won an award. Its creators are no more. But they changed the world. Don’t confuse the world of advertising with the real world.

I don’t have a driving licence. I live in New York. And I take the subway. Being in a subway is an amazing social experience. It’s the real world, with real people. You have to do everything relevant to those people. And they will take care of you. Be real. Be outside. Have friends outside of advertising. They give you a real perspective.

I am living in a plane all the time. I am waking up at 5 am every morning, completely jet lagged, sleeping three and a half hours a day. Because I love what I do.

If you love what you do, everyone will feel it. If you don’t love an idea or believe in it, why should a client?

The world’s crisis is much more than a financial crisis. One generation did a lot of mistakes. The young generation’s responsibility should be to build a world from scratch. That’s an amazing opportunity.

Creativity is not craft. Anyone can be creative. You can also redefine (in an agency) who is creative – it need not be the creative department. I am seeing a lot of creative people who are asking what the real problem is - whether it is advertising, or if it is something else.

You can change the world. You can bring walls down. If you believe in yourself.

So take risks. Do crazy stuff. And enjoy it."

(Excerpted from a Master Class by Amir Kassaei, CCO, DDB Worldwide, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2013.)

Campaign India

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