News & Views

Opinion / What Adland Can Learn From Other Creative Industries

by Contagious Contributor

Michelle Gilson, planning director at adam&eveDDB, shares five commandments for coming up with creative ideas from the worlds of art, film, fashion and startups



While I was working on this article the harrowing news broke that the imitable artist Prince had passed. The world suddenly seems like a less vibrant and visionary place. News feeds fill up with personal tributes, and it's clear just how valued creativity really is.

In work terms, we know that creatively awarded campaigns are more effective for clients’ business, so how do we protect and improve creativity? The assemblage of artful examples below, have drawn out five commandments.

See creative as a force for good

American composer David Amram says those who love art, music, life and each other are ‘in the lifeboats’, but we have a responsibility to leave something of beauty in the world. Lest we forget that we got into advertising to leave a legacy and create ideas that become part of culture. Our impact can be just as powerful as the wave of poets’ euphoria after WW2; Shakespeare in the park; Agent Provocateur’s anti-war window displays, or Queen B’s Super Bowl performance.


In practice: Always Like a Girl continues to haul in the trophies, and so it should


Seek out power collaborators

Why does all the real collaboration start at production stage? Once the idea is formed? Eclecticism brings together one style with another at design stage and is welcomed in architecture as a sign of cultural distillation.

Hollywood delves into history while fashion turns to politics for inspiration. Havana look-book anyone?


Iris Apfel, a creative genius in interior design said, ‘Everything is interrelated. Politics, economics and science and fashion are all one of the same’. She’s 91, she’s a visual dream, she knows best



In practice: Chambord worked with a Parisian trends agency to unlock the essence of the brand’s wonderfully French take on life. ‘BOF!


Abandon the cult of ‘new’

We chastise ourselves but sometimes it’s OK to better something that’s been gone before. Story goes Jeff Koons ‘hacked’ balloon animals to tell his son post-divorce that everything would be ok, through his modern art. When I was there nobody stood tutting in the MOMA calling it hackneyed.


Apparently in creative writing there are only seven possible plots in existence. Well get over it pal, and tell the stories differently.



In practice: Sainsbury’s Christmas advert could have been coined a ‘hack’ of Paul McCartney’s 1983’s Pipes of Peace video. In truth it was, but executed miles better


Worship at the altar of craft

There’s something to be said for other creative industries’ perfectionism. Adele taking six months to perfect he chorus of Hello didn’t turn out badly. There’s a great quote from the Daft Punk duo, ‘We’re so used to crappy products.’ Key to Daft Punk’s success was never producing crappy products, which meant taking time over their work: their music, their image, or their pyrotechnics. Yet the ad industry still works to three-month timeframes from start to finish. Sigh.


In practice: We worked almost a year in advance on Harvey Nichols’ Freebies campaign. It made the ITV News at ten


Embrace a start-up attitude

In some respects this contradicts the last point, but ‘agility underpins creativity’. So let’s be more like tech start ups who adapt and learn. Uber is always evolving and always feels alive with ideas whether it’s free kittens or paying tribute to lives taken in acts of terror.



In practice: Three mobile threw away the rule book and said ‘no more roaming charges abroad’ for customers