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Cannes 2013

What Agency Creatives Can Learn From Dickens, Hemingway and Michelangelo

BBDO connects the dots

Andrew Robertson

CANNES, France—If you're going to have role models, you might as well aim high.

At a seminar here today, BBDO's David Lubars and Andrew Robertson suggested that Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway and Michelangelo were, in essence, the perfect admen—or at least, possessed many of the skills that suit advertising creatives well. It was a fanciful conceit—Hemingway, for one, would have scoffed at it—but rooted in enough examples from modern-day ads that the audience embraced it.

The idea was: Hemingway, with his crisp, minimal prose, was like a planner in his ability to boil ideas down to their simplest forms. Dickens was the ultimate copywriter, brimming with indelible characters and plots. And Michelangelo was not just a great artist (aka, art director) but actually a creative director, who approached his sculpture of David with a fresh perspective no one had ever had—and then, as Robertson said, "crafted the living daylights out of it." (He also had some tough clients in the Medicis.)

What kind of ads would the agency of Hemingway Dickens & Michaelangelo make? Lubars and Robertson suggested they would be full of the four great tenets of storytelling—unforgettable characters, compelling plots, populist entertainment and social commentary. (They would presumably win plenty of Cannes Lions, too.) They showed the ads below during the seminar—all examples, they said, of work made by people who harnessed some of the same skills as those three masters.

1) Google Chrome, "Dear Sophie." Much like Dickens, in David Copperfield, makes you feel what it's like to be a child, this BBH commercial makes you feel what it's like to a father.

2) Nike, "Jogger." This spot's copy is Hemingway-esque.

3) ING, "The Night Watch." A Rembrandt painting comes alive in this shopping-mall stunt, whose plot is like a Dickens narrative.

4) Volkswagen, "Not Available in Real Life." Again, a line out of Hemingway.

5) Smart Car, "Offroad." Great social commentary.

6) Carlton Draught, "Beer Chase." Populist entertainment at its best.

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