Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Now That’s an Idea!

Updated 03 Dec, 2020 02:55pm
From 'The Candy Jar: Good Ideas to Chew On' – a new online series.

As much as I love a dazzling execution, nothing excites or inspires me more than the idea behind it. The kind of thought that starts as a mere suggestion yet fills your eyes with child-like wonder, makes your heart skip a beat and prompts you to ask ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Let’s face it: every astounding ad, invention or movement we know of today began as a sparking synapse in someone’s imagination. And the most exciting part? It doesn’t take a mad genius or creative guru to come up with great ideas.

You often hear about children and people from less fortunate backgrounds coming up with Nobel prize-worthy ideas for their communities. All it usually takes is a problem and the will to find a solution. That alone could inspire anyone, anywhere and at any time to come up with the next innovative, earth-shattering, game-changing idea. Anyone. Even me. Even you.

Logos are one of my favourite forms of communication because they challenge you to tell a story in a very limited amount of space and that too, in a static medium. This brilliant logo for organ donation (unknown designer) is one of my all-time favourites. It tells you everything you need to know without the use of fancy graphics, colours or a single written word. Your organs are the gift of life for someone else. Simply amazing.

Like Shakespeare once wrote, brevity is the soul of wit. To me, great copy says more by saying less. It forces us to read, re-read and question what we thought we knew.

We are taught by our parents and teachers to throw our trash “away”. Yet, the truth is that our waste just ends up going somewhere else. We have to think about the waste we produce, where it is going and what impact it eventually has on all of us. There is no ‘away’. There never was. What a thought.

A captivating visual often changes the way we see the things we see every day. Look at this ad by the Indian Association for Adoption & Child Welfare. The copy reads Adopt. You will receive more than you can ever give. Beautifully heart-warming.

Creatives are natural problem-solvers. It is why we are the way we are. We see problems with no obvious solutions and are motivated to create unconventional ways to solve them. A few years ago I stumbled on a filtration technology called Lifestraw, a hand-held device that instantly converts toxic/polluted water into clean drinking water with no energy or resources required. Just a filter. As amazing as this was, the technology had a major drawback. It could not filter salt water. So a few creative scientists decided to further this filtration technology by creating a Graphene Sieve. Stay with me. A graphene sieve is a membrane that effectively removes salt from salt water, without using any energy. That means making sea water drinkable, for all of humanity, for eternity. Potable water will go from being one of our scarcest of resources to one of the most abundant on the planet. Think about it for a minute.

I have always been passionate about the environment and developments in renewable energy. Technologies like solar, wind and hydro-electric power never cease to fascinate me. So imagine my head exploding when I heard about MIT creating bioluminescent street lights to power cities. Just listen to this. There is a natural enzyme called luciferase (the same stuff that causes fireflies glow). Scientists take it and inject nano-particles of it into plants. The result is plants that glow in the dark, potentially producing enough light to illuminate a room or street. This means more trees, less street lights, less energy consumption and more light for all. Talk about a light bulb going off.

A good ad makes you look. A great ad makes you look again and keep looking. A lot of people miss this one. Zoom in if you can. That’s not a football. It’s a dog. The ad is about animal abuse.

Growing up in the nineties, I used to listen to a lot of grunge and alternative music (I still do). There was a band called Ugly Kid Joe which did a great cover of the song Cats in the Cradle (originally written by Harry Chapin). In addition to being a great song, Chapin’s lyrics detail the life story of a father and his estranged son in less than four minutes (that too with an instrumental intro and repeating choruses). I have no idea how someone could tell such an intimate story so coherently in such a short amount of time. It is one of the most moving and tragically truthful songs I have ever heard and in my opinion, probably one of the greatest songs ever written. If you haven’t heard it, please do. The lyrics may change your life.

We have all heard of revolving doors, but have you ever heard about a revolving door that generates energy? Think about it. A revolving door is basically a turbine powered by human energy that spins a few hundred times a day. Normally that energy goes nowhere. But some creative minds in the Netherlands decided to hook up a dynamo to harvest that wasted energy. I heard the Chinese are also applying this technology to regular swinging doors. Imagine how many people use doors throughout the city every hour. In slightly similar vein, some Western countries are exploring the possibility of harvesting energy from passing cars on roadways through the use of magnets and pressure-generators. Every kilometre driven produces free energy that goes into the grid. That’s smart thinking.

I have used this example in hundreds of brand presentations because it is the perfect example of what happens when good strategy meets effective creativity. Long story short, Tesco opened in South Korea but with far fewer stores than the market leader E-Mart. They couldn’t compete with the giant on ground, so they came up with a revolutionary digital solution.

Research revealed that Koreans are one of the busiest people in the world and rarely get time to do chores like grocery shopping. So to fill the gap, Tesco installed virtual stores in places where people had moments of downtime (for example on train platforms where they waited for the train). Customers found their grocery items on the screen and used their phone to scan and pay for them in seconds. The groceries would then be delivered to their home a few hours later. This is what real innovative digital marketing looks like.

I often show people the first few seconds of this ad and ask them what they think it is about. Most people have no idea but you are about to find out spoiler alert. The ad is an analogy for global warming. We are outgrowing our home and soon we will have no place to live (like many of the species that are already impacted by climate change). Watch until the end and see how it makes you feel. Great idea + simple execution = chills.

Once in awhile I see an execution that stops me in my tracks. This ad for World Food Day was one of them. Makes me want to shake the hand of the person who came up with it.

In advertising, if your communication is a bullet, your insight is the gunpowder. It is what resonates with audiences when they see your communication. This ad is not only insightful but good in so many ways. Tide got this one right. No animated demos. No tough stain tests. Just one incredibly disruptive stain. Spot-on idea.

I saw a print ad many years ago that was nothing more than about a 500 words in tiny font written across a page. I saw it and thought ‘who the hell is going to read this?’ Curious, I began to read it myself. The text didn’t seem to go anywhere but I couldn’t help but read on. Nothing made sense… until I reached the end. The last line read “For those who love to read”. The ad was promoting a library association. Moral of the story: if you know your audience, you will know how to get their attention. Everyone else may glance over your ad. That’s okay. You weren’t talking to them anyway.

Taimur Tajik is Creative Head, Interwood.