On the final day of Cannes there was an inspirational speech from two creative heavyweights, Sir John Hegarty of BBH and Dan Wieden of Wieden & Kennedy.
The speech was a whistle-stop tour of some of their best campaigns from the last 30 years, including work for Levi’s, Xbox, Nike and Old Spice, to name a few.
Wieden went on to present his recent Old Spice campaign paying particular attention to the bit where the hero character reacts directly to messages via social media and creates personalised video responses. Hegarty stated that this was exactly the type of freedom that creatives need in their work: the ability to react without having to research their ideas.
It is clear that research – or “f*****g research” as it was referred to more than once on stage – is still perceived as the enemy of the creative industry.
We at Tuned In were at the festival to challenge this perception. We have worked directly with creative directors before, and to great effect – helping to co-create a Cannes-winning campaign with Proximity London for the RNLI.
The issue is, as researchers, we often find ourselves testing creative in a focus group scenario, which is very much out of context. No wonder creatives hate it. We believe that there are much better ways to have research feed into the creative process and – dare I say it – even inspire it.
During his speech Wieden showcased his new campaign for P&G to run during the Olympics, which celebrates the role of mums. It is well worth a look as it’s a highly emotive piece of creative that actually resulted in widespread, instantaneous applause around the auditorium. The ad shows the journey that mums go on with their children and depicts those special moments in their development, culminating in grown-up sons and daughters winning gold at the Olympics with proud mums looking on.
How could research have played a role in the development of this campaign? We could, for example, have challenged mums to recount the real-life stories of the pivotal moments in the development of their children. I would argue that this would best be done within a community environment, where the debate could evolve over time to find the most emotive scenarios. With relevance and authenticity so high on the agenda, this type of approach could add significantly to the impact of the creative.
Another way of aiding the process is to substitute the type of focus group testing that is so prevalent and look at other ways of gauging reactions to concepts. Some of the most powerful feedback that we have received is that ideas are fragile at their earliest stage and that they need space to grow, develop and evolve. Again, we find communities are the best way to aid this iterative process.
So rather than move straight into testing we can instead develop ‘creative experiments’ – ways to expose consumers to very early creative ideas. We can see how engaged they are with concepts based on the amount of additional content they create. We can see how they interact with ideas rather than just ask them questions. This allows us to provide insight at the earliest stages of development, which is where it is often most valuable.
What is clear, though, is that in order to be truly useful to the wider creative community, we researchers need to be working harder to find ways to aid the creative process, rather than kill it.