People will do anything to protect a legacy. And Belgium is taking that to the next level.
The country is extremely proud of its creative reputation. In four years, it has won 78 Cannes Lions, which is bananas for a country with a population of just 11.2 million. But young people are losing interest in advertising careers, which means there's a crisis coming.
"The number of students in creative fields has actually declined," says Greet Wachters, manager of Creative Belgium. "Those who opt for creative studies don't always end up looking for work in agencies."
In 10 or 20 years, there might not be a sufficient number of creatives to pick up the slack, adds managing partner Isabel Van den Broeck.
To resolve the problem, Creative Belgium partnered with the Centre for Reproductive Medicine of Brussels and ad agency Air to come up with something smart, creepy, and only vaguely eugenicist: "Ad Babies," an appeal to today's creatives to donate sperm—and eggs!—to ensure Belgium's creative future.
A few top creatives were asked to share their soldiers first, including Happiness Brussels chief creative officer Geoffrey Hantson, who's won 33 Lions; Air creative director Dieter De Ridder, with 10 Lions; and Naïm Baddich, Iwein Vandevyver, Dieter Vanhoof and Kwint De Meyer, who've won six Lions each. They appear in print ads (shown way below) that read, "Are you in the creative industry? Become a donor."
In the video, watch as each navigates the situation with humor (like when Baddich finishes monkey-spanking and tries high-fiving everyone) and awkwardness (Vandevyver's priceless silence) while maintaining a valiant sense of fealty, not unlike the Knights of the Round Table.
As Hantson puts it while passing a vial of his sperm across the table, "One small drop for me, one giant drop for Belgian creativity."
But if the whole thing seems like a joke, it isn't.
It's a pretty legitimate concern: In Western Europe, Belgium tends not to be taken all that seriously as a market. Big companies usually split their Belgian budgets with France and the Netherlands, which means Belgium often has little to no budget, and more to prove in terms of creativity. Bear in mind they're also straddling three, sometimes four languages, but none of the populations are large enough to compell big brands to target them all, and well. If Belgium's managed to survive as a unique ad culture, it's strictly because it's worked so hard to stand out.
It is weird watching an industry peer's sperm pass from hand to hand. But for those who doubt the feasibility of this master plan, science somewhat backs it up.
"A recent study on creative behavior among children indicates that creativity is indeed partially hereditary," says professor and doctor Maryse Bonduelle of the Centre for Medical Genetics. (Research also indicates that experiences and tendencies can slide down the gene pool—so if Daddy was a creative, maybe Junior will feel an affinity to the field.)
In the end, you can't guarantee a future generation of Lions winners, but you can boost the odds. "The more creative parents there are, the more chance of creative kids," says Van den Broeck, ever the pragmatist. Adds Wachters: "That's one of our ambitions—to guarantee a continuous inflow of creative talent."
Creative sperm is now available at Jette hospital for lucky Belgian ladies looking to raise a tortured—but well compensated—commercial artist. Both women and men are invited to become donors, or just members, of Creative Belgium. Every little bit helps.
And if you've won a Lion recently, keep an eye out at parties for shifty figures looking to swab you for DNA.