Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Are We Mad Enough?

Updated 09 Oct, 2023 05:12pm
A run-down of the MADsemble conference.

As a marketing professional, you often get to hear about how dismal our ads are, how mediocre local marketing efforts are compared to other countries such as India and other regions. At MADsemble organised by PAS, on September 20 and 21, Ali Rez, Chief Creative Officer MENAP Impact, BBDO Group, reminded us about how to break out of the rut. We were also given another perspective as we learnt how Coca Cola – a brand we all are inspired by – looks to upgrade and improve its marketing and impact. Talking about impact, Måns Tesch, Grey’s Chief Strategy Officer for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, at his talk challenged the way things are done by calling the industry back to take a leap of imagination.

Måns Tesch, Grey’s Chief Strategy Officer for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa at MADsemble

Are we mad enough as an industry? Are we hungry enough? Are we brave enough? These are the questions Muhammad Ammar Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Daraz Pakistan, bravely asked, challenging a lot of entrenched and adopted behaviours and received repeated applause. We all know where we are, but how do we get where we need to go? I think we need to remember a few key factors and shifts in how we do what we do as an industry.

What is creativity?
Alex Brunori, Head - Creative Works (MENA, TR, SSA), Google, in his talk about Generative AI shared a definition of creativity that is in line with what I have come to believe. He said that according to the French mathematician Henri Poincaré, creativity is the new connection created between two existing elements. The relationship might seem weak or shallow at the surface level but if you dig deeper, the bond is actually strong and powerful.

Research the problem and solve the problem
Tesch shared a quote that made an impact on me – that Albert Einstein once said that if he had an hour to save the world, he would spend 59 minutes on identifying the problem. We champion ideas but as Greg Satell says the same in his article on change makers’ mindsets, don’t look for a good idea, but for a problem to solve.

Unlearn conformity
After Tesch’s superb session I got the chance to ask him how he expects adults, who for their whole lives have been taught to conform and fit in, to break the mould? Education, as Sir Ken Robinson told the world, kills creativity and imagination. This is an idea or belief that was echoed by Antoine Saint-Exupéry in his novel The Little Prince. He spoke about how adults lack imagination because it has been smothered within them as the focus shifts to things of ‘more importance.’

Irreverence for the status quo
Ali Rez was clear about this in his talk. In order to create an impact, you need to disrupt the way or the process of how and why things are usually done. He gave the excellent example of Anhabar – a newspaper in Lebanon – in order to communicate that the newspaper is the protector of freedom, they printed articles from newspapers that had been censored.

Reduce your biases
On day 2, I almost missed hearing Ammar Hasan’s talk because I felt that it would be boring; a friend forced me to go back in the hall. Guess what, I loved what he was saying and kept applauding. My bias had almost cost me a great opportunity to learn (I heard the last 10-15 minutes of his talk) and if not learn, hear a brave marketer challenging the status quo and power. Your biases are your enemy as is your ego. Be aware.

Be open and surrender control
Faisal Rana of Nestlé asked a question which I was expecting: How do we get our brand teams to deliver a better brief? I did not get a chance to comment as time was short but the answer is simple. Be open and surrender control. What does this mean? If you are the marketing head, trust your marketing manager; if you are the marketing manager, trust your brand manager. If you are the brand manager, trust your agency. In the agency too, the hierarchy should be based on trust – that you believe that the person reporting to you is doing their best. The agency must learn the client’s business in order to identify the problem that needs to be solved. The agency too must trust the client.

Don’t aim to impress
I was talking to Alex Brunori after the event. I told him, the desire to be creative results in a lack of creativity. He corrected me, “No. the desire to impress results in lack of creativity.” I had to agree with his wisdom. Don’t aim to impress or prove yourself.

Be agnostic and observant
To create marketing that is effective, we need to empower everyone and be media agnostic, idea agnostic, channel agnostic, and as Butool Rizvi, Senior Regional Manager, The Coca-Cola Company, commented, remember creativity can come from anywhere. Nida Fatima Haider, Managing Director, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, quoted from Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees and stated that observation and imagination leads to creativity, and not only creativity but effective and impactful creativity.

Ask better questions, embrace responsibility and accountability
Ask better questions, was a takeaway from the Generative AI panel. In a world where everyone can come up with answers, you need to ask the right questions. For instance, circling back to the question asked by Faisal from Nestlé, how do we get our brand teams to deliver a better brief, the right question to be asking is, “How do I help my brand team to deliver a better brief?”.

Ultimately, it’s obvious we are not mad enough yet but if we respect the creative process and we work on our mindset and beliefs, as Musharraf Hai, Advisory Partner, August Leadership, instructed the enthralled audience, we can produce work that is not only creative but effective as well.