Creative Rewards Can Be Worth the Risk

LAS VEGAS Convincing clients to explore new creative paths can be hard work, but shops making the effort can reap some serious rewards if they’re willing to take some risks and think big, instead of small.

That was a common theme during panel discussions at Adweek‘s 31st Creative Seminar here on Thursday.

One roundtable focused on the effort it takes to convince clients a “lightly branded” entertainment product might be beneficial to their brand. Jon Kamen, co-founder of, and Bill Davenport, entertainment director at Wieden + Kennedy, discussed projects they had done for Nike, such as Battlegrounds, a show on MTV that rarely mentions the Nike Battleground shoe by name.

While that project was a success, it’s a rare story in the branded entertainment realm. Agencies often undervalue their product, because they are used to coming up for ideas for free, and clients are used to owning any idea their agency originates, said Cindy Gallop, former chairman of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and co-chairman of the Branded Entertainment Marketing Association.

She discussed a commercial campaign BBH developed for Lipton Sizzle & Stir that showed a dysfunctional family made up of B-list celebrities. While BBH thought there was a sitcom idea in the campaign, they were frustrated when the WB debuted a program with a similar concept, resulting in the show The Surreal Life.

Agencies, in the future, should think big enough to come up with these ideas first, Gallop said.

Earlier on Thursday, Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, and Billy Vasiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners in Las Vegas, discussed the wildly successful “What happens here, stays here” campaign they created to promote Las Vegas.

That initiative sprung from the insight that gambling was only one draw that Las Vegas had, and it was quickly being co-opted by other locales in the U.S., including tribal reservations, where gaming is also legal.

R&R Partners developed a campaign that focused on the permissive attitude about social behavior that exists in Las Vegas. Ads show, for example, a group of girls laughing about an unspecified event that occurred during a party, and a man who wants his hotel wakeup call to go to his cell phone because he’s not certain where he will be in the morning.

While Vasiliadis admitted he wasn’t sure at first if the campaign would be successful, he approved it after the agency tested it, and the result is a catch phrase that has undeniably made its way into popular culture.

Sally Hogshead, co-host of the conference, freelance creative director and author of Radical Careering, urged creatives to make sure they are fulfilled in their jobs. She discussed a number of “radical truths” taken from her book designed to inspire creatives to work at the highest common denominator level, rather than the lowest. A career worth loving, she said, is one that leaves you “powerful, valuable and fulfilled.” While it’s not easy to create a job like that for oneself, it’s necessary and not a luxury, she said. “Being in a crap job isn’t your fault, but staying in one is,” she said.

Creatives from TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York and The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., discussed the strangest ideas they made into campaigns, and how they managed to sell them to the client.

Scott Vitrone and Ian Reichenthal, group creative directors at TBWA\C\D, discussed how they sold the Skittles campaign to Masterfoods.

The brand had already enjoyed a long-running successful campaign that focused on mysticism, but TBWA\C\D, which inherited the campaign from BBDO, thought it was time to update the candy’s image.

While the ads they conceived, which showed an office worker who was followed by a cascade of Skittles and an adult man in a nest fed Skittles by a giant bird, weren’t embraced by the client at first, after the creatives went to a mall in Cincinnati and filmed teens saying Skittles would benefit from an updated tone in their ads, the client was convinced.

Stephen Bassett, a creative director on Geico, discussed how he sold the quirky ads in his shop’s Geico campaign—featuring disgruntled cavemen and a couple on a pseudo-reality show who live in a tiny house—to the client. The key, he said, was having a long-lasting relationship with a client that trusts you. The Martin Agency has had Geico for a client for 11 years.