James Hurman, founder, Previously Unavailable, emphasised the need for originality while speaking on the third and last day of Spikes Asia 2016.
He was delivering his address as president of the Creative Effectiveness jury at the festival, which culminated on 23 September.
Hurman kicked off with a campaign done by an agency based in Auckland, 'Words from Gods'.
"I thought this was the best creative campaign done. And then someone told me it's a copy of what was done in the USA," revealed Hurman. He termed the campaign from Auckland 'completely merit-less'.
He stated, "When you are talking about solutions for a client brief, if someone comes up with an idea, and someone then says, 'It has been done', the idea is completely killed and we move on."
He reasoned the importance of creativity and originality, while revealing a personal example of work done for Vodafone. He and his partner were accused of ripping it off.
Comments on the site where both films were put side-by-side were not pleasant. He noted, "Getting accused of plagiarism is horrible."
There was a time though, when inspired work was regarded highly, at least in the world of art, explained the speaker, "Back in Michelangelo's time it was all about copying. Michelangelo's 'David' was inspired by Praxiteles. Had we had blogging in that era, this wouldn't happen."
Implying that originality was born only recently, the president of the Creative Effectiveness jury quoted literary critic Thomas Mallon, who had said, "Originality, not just innocence of plagiarism but the making of something really and truly new, set itself down as a cardinal and literary virtue somewhere in the middle of the 18th century and has never since gotten up."
He then quoted Robert Henri, who in 1923. He had said, "We are not here to do what has already been done."
Hurman also spoke about Albert Einstein who was given the title of the 'Time Person of the Century' in 1999. He said, "The direct impact of what Einstein did with his theory of relativity is very little. There are others (in the top 100 list) who had more direct impact on our lives, but Einstein was a great original thinker."
He then quoted Mark Twain: "A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."
The speaker shifted focus to the entertainment industry, which according to him defied the theory of originality. He compared hits from The Backstreet Boys and from Radiohead. The Backstreet Boys, with the most 'formulated' pop acts got sales of 32 million copies. Radiohead's 'Ok Computer', which according to him had the most original lyrics, sold only four million copies.
Moving to Hollywood, he said, "Hollywood has tried hard to eradicate originality." Citing the example of Titanic, he added, "The biggest movies are remakes of books, an historical event or a sequel. So originality has nothing do do with entertainment." Making a case for advertising to be original, he said, "But advertising is not entertainment, yet."
Dove Real Beauty
Hurman then explained why Dove's long and on-going 'Real Beauty' campaign has been effective and how it came about.
"Sixty per cent strongly agree that society expects women to enhance their physical attractiveness. 68 per cent strongly agree that the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can't ever achieve. Nine per cent of women think themselves to be attractive," said Hurman has he explained the 'bedrock' of the campaign.
He added, "The agency knew it will be tricky to sell 'real beauty'. The marketing team for Dove at the time consisted mostly of men, who made money by promoting the brand with attractive women in advertising. The advertising team spoke to the marketing heads' wives and asked them to interview their daughters, without telling the husband about it. The team then played the recordings of what the daughters said to the marketing team and sold the 'real beauty' campaign idea to them. This was a great idea. This was so powerful because it was original. The original thought cut through and made it difficult to ignore. The first time an idea comes through, you don't know what to do with it and you consume it. The second time it comes up you are prepared and can stop the idea from coming into your body. We are much more likely to persuade people with a new argument than an old argument."
Hurman ended his session with another quote, this from Coco Chanel, "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different."