Opinion

A change in perspective can change everything

Skinheads and The Guardian, Dolmio and Muppet-style puppets. The Core Agency's creative partner, Christian Finucane, argues why changing things up can pay marketing dividends.

When I was studying art and design in the UK, I was shown a TV commercial so simple and powerful that it changed my perspective on creativity. Its impact single-handedly reinforced my desire to get into advertising. It was a spot for The Guardian newspaper.

The gritty black and white film opens up on a fierce looking young skinhead on a city pavement running towards camera, you get the sense that someone is about to attacked.

Over that footage we hear a voiceover, “An event seen from one point of view gives one impression.”

Then, shot from another point of view, we see the skinhead is running towards a businessman who looks terrified as he braces himself for what appears to be an immanent aggressive mugging.

The voiceover continues, “Seen from another point of view it gives quite a different impression.” Then, shot from a third perspective, we see a falling pallet of bricks is about to crush the businessman. It’s revealed the skinhead is actually racing to push the businessman out of harm’s way to save his life.

The voiceover concludes with inarguable simplicity, “And it’s only when you see the whole picture you can fully understand what’s going on.” The masthead for The Guardian fades up and its point was well and truly made.

More than just a brilliant commercial for a newspaper, it’s also a great reminder of why having a fresh perspective is vital for everything we do. It’s why clients engage external agencies. It’s why creatives work in teams. It’s why ideas are developed with creative directors, strategists and film directors etc. Working in an echo chamber rarely leads to ideas that deliver a fresh perspective.

This proved to be the case later in my career when my copywriter and I were briefed to create a new brand campaign for Dolmio.

Had we worked on pasta sauces before? No.

Were we Italian? No.

Had we worked on any FMCG before? No.

Were we busy parents with kids to feed? No.

But could we bring a fresh perspective to the brand? Yes. Absolutely.

We presented the idea of recreating their loved but ageing Dolmio family as Muppet-style puppets, to punch out of the category and engage younger buyers.

Christian Finucane

There was resistance from some on the client side because they had been making the usual live action advertising for past 20 years. But the brand manager was new, smart and ambitious, and he loved it. He instantly saw the cut through, the campaignablilty, and the long term brand assets we could build.

We had a fresh perspective. He fought hard for the campaign. The brand won.

The Dolmio campaign ran for over 25 years in 20 countries. It became Mars Inc’s only global campaign other than its iconic M&Ms characters. It broke category conventions, brought in a new generation of Dolmio customers and made a truck load of money for Mars Inc.

A fresh perspective and a lack of specific category experience helped, not hindered. And deservedly, the brand manager who backed the campaign ultimately went on to become Mars Inc’s Global head of marketing.

Of course, there are plenty of categories where marketers feel they need an agency with specific category experience. Commonly it’s for brands in the pharma space or alcohol category. The rationale being that specialists will get to a solution quicker as they’re more familiar with the category conventions, brand language, and compliance hurdles etc.

But isn’t there an opportunity cost that comes with that familiarity? You could be missing out on genuinely punching out of your category, or even creating a lasting legacy.

Creating fresh perspectives within the existing agency team is vital too. It’s why we continually remix our talent across different brands and use external consultants to maintain the focus on what the brand could do, not what it is usually does.

So, next time you’re looking for a creative agency to help solve a gnarly problem, you best option could be one with no specific category experience. Because, just like with the skinhead in The Guardian ad, having a fresh perspective is everything.

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