Goafest 2012: "The more problems we have, the more creative we can be": Erik Vervroegen

Erik Vervroegen, international creative director, Publicis Worldwide, showcased some of his ads and how they overcomed certain challenges

Apr 21, 2012 11:51:00 PM | Article | Campaign India Team

In his session, Erik Vervroegen, international creative director, Publicis Worldwide, talked about how the mystical luck behind successful advertising is really the magic we create – by putting in relentless effort, even in times when people are challenged by constraints.

“A friend once told me that the best ideas are hundreds of hours of organisation. And a little bit of luck,” began Vervroegen. “Is this luck the magic the we create? Or is luck when the best photographer, director, etc is available?”

He said that the more the constraints, the more the magic that will happen. “The more problems we have, the more creative we can be,” he said. 

Usually these constraints are no time, no money, impossible briefs and tired creatives. “But most of my best work was born in these conditions,” said Vervroegen.

He showed some examples of successful campaigns, based on real results, but not just awards.

Problem 1: The Money


"Amnesty International wanted a TV ad that would reach millions of people  with no money," he explained. "A simple idea that was launched as a campaign got 50,000 signatures in one day."

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"It was the cheapest commercial campaign that went viral," he said. "In all theses cases, we refused to give up, refused to present something bad."

Problem 2: The Impossible Brief


“Use famous people. Create within two weeks, as we have free media space in a magazine,” was the brief. The EMI music piracy campaign won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2005. 

Problem 3: Burnt-out creatives


"Even at times when there are few constraints, burnt out creatives can get stuck. We should continue to push the idea," said the ad creative. For this campaign, Playstation wanted to visually describe feelings of playing a game. The feeling was that you may die in a game, but can always be re-born. The draft was a man coming out from an egg. The final ad pushed it to show man’s head coming out from a vagina. Vervroegen recognised the client’s bravery to go ahead with such a campaign.

“Magic does not come as accident. It comes as reward of hard work. We need to provoke magic. It will come to you only when you don't give up. Don’t take 'no' as an answer. Never give up. Never lose the beginner’s spirit. If you still have the ability to believe that your dreams will come true,” said Vervroegen. 

The Q&A session was moderated by Gayatri Yadav of Star Plus. She appreciated how good Vervroegen’s work looked and described it as "Art-vertising". To that, he said that advertising is not art. It is serious and not “a free flowing way to express myself.”

“Entertainment. That is what I try to do. Humour and emotions are amazing weapons and India is lovely place to use them,” he said. 

When asked the secret of his success, he said he didn’t really feel he was successful as he had lots of unfulfilled ambitions. “But I always want to meet cultures and people. We need to understand and listen to people, be open to criticism and to everything that surrounds you,” he said.

On a question from the crowd on whether great execution can lift an average idea, Vervroegen instantly replied, “Yes. And a bad execution can kill a good idea too.”

Finally she asked, “How do you know when magic happens?” He said, “I never know. It just happens. Like falling in love.”