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Digital's downfall is print's gain
Insight
17 . 06 . 21

Champion of creativity

Words by: Print Power
Former ECD of Ogilvy & Mather London and custodian of The Caples Awards, Patrick Collister talks about the creative prowess of print and ‘rewarding work that works.'
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At a time when there’s been a considerable drop in spend, you’d think there would be a dearth of innovation in advertising. But that beacon of creativity The Caples Awards 2021 proved otherwise – that innovation and effectiveness shine brightly despite challenging times. And with its versatility, print can more than own that creative space. We chew over the importance of creativity with Patrick Collister, who balances the running of the awards with editing Directory magazine, a showcase of innovative campaigns.

Why is creativity in advertising more important than ever? 

People hate advertising. And the reason for that is because there's too much of it. I used to work for a man called David Ogilvy. And he was an outspoken opponent of posters by the roadside in America because they were visual pollutants. And he was wise enough to understand that if it wasn't regulated, then people would come to detest all advertising. And probably as a result of digital, that's exactly what's happened.

The real truth of the matter is that people don't hate advertising. They just hate bad advertising. But the trouble is, an awful lot of advertising is bad in as much as it’s ill- considered and badly targeted. So for me, creativity is actually just about empathy. If you're going to intrude on people's space, then it behoves you to be polite. And being polite means being thoughtful, not shouting at people, being charming and being persuasive. That requires consideration. And that's why creativity is more important than ever.

…for me, creativity is actually just about empathy. If you're going to intrude on people's space, then it behoves you to be polite. And being polite means being thoughtful, not shouting at people, being charming and being persuasive
Patrick Collister
The Caples Awards

Peter Field demonstrated the crisis in creative effectiveness and the dangers of short-termism. Do you see any change at The Caples Awards?

One of the difficulties about the whole brand building thing is its long tail. Rory Sutherland’s view is that most brand marketers are still in spasm as a result of the 2008/9 financial crisis. What that did was impose left brain thinking on marketers. In other words, it was all about ROI, return on investment, ‘give me numbers’. As a result, ROI has now become predictive, so that young people sitting at computer screens in media agencies just engage with software programmes to find the likely ROI. But the likely ROI has now become the actual ROI. That is now the tail wagging the dog.

So you've got CFOs saying to their marketing directors, give me numbers, you're getting nothing until you pitch for it and tell us what the results are going to be. The result of all of that is human fear and when you're fearful as a marketer, you're not going to invest in creativity because it's too bold. It's all about immediate measurement and immediate sales. Short termism is eroding brand differentials.

However, our Best in Show award went to Thai Airways. When the COVID crisis bit, they ran advertising promoting stay at home air miles. You downloaded an app which knew if you moved more than 100 metres from your home. The longer you stayed inside, the more air miles you accrued. What is marvellous about this is, it was so optimistic at a time when most airlines were quivering with existential fear. This is an idea with a very long tail, because at the moment, airlines still haven't opened up for business fully. You can't measure it, or you can't measure it at the moment. Thai Airways got people to collect Air Miles at a time when no one was flying. For me, that's classic brand building.

There’s been an encouraging amount of research in favour of including print in the media mix. Have you seen agencies looking favourably on print?

If you're talking about direct mail, then there is substantial evidence of that from JICMAIL. During COVID, direct mail has been really successful. Not only in prompting an immediate response, but in driving people online. One of the interesting things about lockdown is, people were spending so much time on a screen every day that taking your eyes away onto something else like print became a relief.

One of my favourite pieces of communication during the pandemic came from Canada. In the middle of all of this, sales of jigsaw puzzles went up 350%. So Heinz Ketchup in Canada produced a 570-piece jigsaw comprised of just red pieces. People thought this was funny as well as challenging. It started as a little Instagram thing where you could post who you'd like to solve the puzzle with. They originally made 57 to give away as prizes, but demand was so overwhelming, they started making them and selling them, with proceeds going to emergency food kitchens.

How do you think The Caples Awards differ from other award ceremonies?

This year I made the decision that we would make it a free to enter show, and subsequently made the decision to stay free to enter in future.

We're also different in that The Caples is run by creative people. I'm a creative director and trustee Duncan Gray was the worldwide creative director of Proximity. Our motivation is to recognise and reward work that’s not only creative, but that works and is effective, because as a creative person, I can’t tell you how bloody difficult it is. Our primary purpose is to recognise and reward our peers for doing stuff that we know is really not easy.  

It wouldn't have been the same thing if it was a tweet. When you put it into a printed newspaper, you're really nailing your colours to a mast. The physicality of it means that it's a declaration and a demonstration.
Patrick Collister
The Caples Awards

What was the mood on awards night? Did you feel a sense of optimism?

I got CEO of WPP Mark Read to do our opening talk. In terms of supporting creativity and creative people, the fact that WPP sponsored The Caples this year was sending out a really big signal that the biggest media conglomerate in the world values talent and will continue to invest in talent.

What do you think is necessary for print to sustain?

The Caples Awards featured some things that I thought were really good in terms of innovation. And one of the things I've shouted at the print industry is to bloody innovate! Don't expect to just push out the same old b****cks that you were pushing out 10 years ago.

One of the most interesting pieces of brand communication during COVID was a print ad for Burger King and the headline said ‘We'd like you to go and buy a burger at McDonald's or any fast-food outlet because our jobs are being cut and we want to keep the industry open. It ended up getting a billion media impressions around the world. That's amazing. It wouldn't have been the same thing if it was a tweet. When you put it into a printed newspaper, you're really nailing your colours to a mast. The physicality of it means that it's a declaration and a demonstration.

What you need are ideas. One of my favourite ideas ever, at the time when everyone says newspapers are dying was in the Sri Lankan newspaper Mawbima. They were experiencing a mosquito-borne Dengue fever epidemic and the paper was printed in ink mixed with citronella that acts as a deterrent to mosquitos. Isn't that amazing? The paper sold out by 10am, sales went up by 30 per cent and even though it was a one off, they stayed up. That's innovation. 

How do you think print can secure its future?

In 1995, Nicholas Negroponte predicted the end of print. To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated. That said, print needs to continue to evolve in a world that demands innovation. But where the print industry has focused on improving its machinery, I would urge attention to the medium itself. There are already inks that conduct electricity, ‘paper’ that absorbs C02, books and cards that play sound and vision - but we need more ideas that more people will want to engage with. 

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Print winners from The Caples Awards

Unicef ‘Trash Babies’ (Wunderman Thompson Casablanca), Best Not For Profit, bronze
Despite important reforms to Morocco's Family Code in 2004, the law provides little protection to single mothers who can still face criminal prosecution for having had sex outside of marriage. Women feel that if they keep the child - and the father doesn't recognise it - people will point fingers at her. Those who choose to keep their babies can be ostracized by family and friends, resulting in over 6,000 babies being abandoned each year – a taboo subject in Morocco. This was the first time anyone had ever created awareness about it publicly. Unicef identified and shot the actual sites where children had been left, juxtaposing the grim reality of the refuse bins with celebratory decorations in print ads and on billboards – a stark and moving image.

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Mars ‘Take a baby step into parenting’ (Colenso BBDO New Zealand), Best Integrated, silver

With over 200 million stray dogs in the world today, Pedigree is on a mission to end global dog homelessness. This campaign’s aim was to match homes without dogs to dogs without homes, targeting millennials who aren’t ready to be parents yet. They called this new life stage between adulthood and parenthood ‘pre-parenting’, and hijacked it for homeless dogs. The print ads showed new-born portraiture-style images, but replace babies with puppies, selling the idea of taking baby steps into parenting by becoming doggy parents first. And a URL took you online to adopt a shelter dog. The results? Searches for Pedigree rose by 1,141 per cent, 20 humans were matched to every adoptable dog, 96 per cent of matches went on to enquire about taking that dog home, and sales grew by five per cent.

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Westpac Bank Post-Fire cards (DDB Sydney), Direct Mail category, silver 

Westpac Bank Australia produced ‘Post-Fire’ postcards, so called because large parts of Australia were destroyed by a bushfire and the village communities were trying to rebuild themselves. They sent postcards to a selected customer base, and tacked onto the front of the postcards was a prepaid debit card with $150 on it. The card was geo-fenced, so the $150 could only be spent in the place on the postcard to help with regeneration. At a time when brands are talking about brand purpose, this is brand actually demonstrating purpose and demonstrating care for people and for communities.