POV Indie Amsterdam's Lode Schaeffer: Safe is Unsafe

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Yet again, Cannes came and went in a blurry haze and now, as we resume normal service, reflection is the order of the day. As everyone sat along the boulevard in Cannes, asking where advertising is heading, the straight answer came from an unlikely source: a former pop singer. Bob Geldof changed the entire tone of the discussion. [Speaking at the festival on Friday, June 26 during the "Act Responsible" seminar ] the more obvious figure of Kofi Annan explained to us how vital it is for the world's leaders to take drastic measures at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen on December 7th (rather than, yet again, putting economic self-interest before environmental concerns). David Jones, CEO of Havas Worldwide, followed Annan, presenting an arsenal of advertising armaments for battling away at the decision-makers of Copenhagen. A campaign theme: TCK, TCK, TCK. Chain necklaces we can wear (chrome-plated, by the way, absolutely not environmentally friendly), pop songs we can download, and logos in various colours for all the participating brands to use.

And then Sir Bob came on and the fun and games came to an abrupt halt. Rattling off cold, hard facts, he showed everyone that the world is seriously sick. That CO2 emissions have to be reduced by at least 50% by 2050. That there will be no room for compromise in Copenhagen. And we, the advertising experts, truly think that we are going to sit here and fight it out with our little coloured logos, online films and baubles? Hell no! Get out there and use your creativity to really make it happen, to get through to the world leaders and set some substantial change in motion, because anything less than 50% reduction in CO2 by 2050 will be disastrous – for the world and for mankind.

Blunt, perhaps, but also an inescapable reality. No matter how creative these advertising initiatives may be, realistically they don't have the huge potential to change anything (with all due respect for the enthusiasm expressed by Mr Jones). This is not just about saving the world; it holds equally true for less crucial, but still highly relevant issues like growing brands, boosting sales and seeing products succeed. The times when ad agencies could stay within the boundaries of advertising have passed. Creative talents who are going to make a difference are the ones that pursue creative ENTERPRISE.

Using ourselves as an example (well, why not), at Indie Amsterdam, we aren't trying to invest our energy in the greatest concept for a print ad or TV commercial. Instead, we're looking for ideas that set people in motion, change how people think.No singular discipline dictates what to do - the discipline that produces the strongest concept takes priority... ATL? BTL? We say FTL: Fuck The Line.

Even if we are often pleased with ourselves, we understand that the essential truth doesn't always lie in our field - in advertising. We have the courage to collaborate with groundbreaking new thinkers from outside our realm of experience. Industrial designers, pastry chefs, stand-up comedians and children's authors are invited to contribute; we could just as easily work with psychologists or with economists (such as Noreena Hertz, a leading expert on economic globalization, who we recently collaborated with) to find the most effective solutions. We are not afraid to invite these independent thinkers in and link them to our clients.

Advertisers are inspired by this kind of action. And what could be better than sending your client home, beaming with excitement about everything he just saw and heard? Our own internal advertising talent also has much more room to flourish in a broader climate. Outside perspectives keep us on our toes and revitalise our thinking and ultimately, our work.

Independent thinking is sometimes inhibited by fear – fear of the unknown, fear of letting go, fear of new ideas, fear of losing clients. But we know all too well: SAFE IS UNSAFE. If we let ourselves stay in the rut of our advertising routines, we no longer accomplish anything for our clients. When that happens, we have truly lost. And what could be more fun than creating Nike placemats for the training camp of the Dutch national football team, hiring stand-up comedians to play the role of the creative director for a brand of cookies, or creating new sports that can only be sponsored by our clients?

You see the same trend unfolding in Cannes. Awards rain down on enterprising ideas like the street bands for Oasis, the best job in the world for Queensland Tourism, and the treehouse restaurant for the Yellow Pages. I believe that innovation and change is a win-win situation, with nothing to lose. Let us embrace the new like a Great White shark embraces a baby seal.
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