Lessons from Creative LIAisons 2018

Today creative education is more accessible than ever - with advertising schools, universities, masterclasses, workshops and even a Facebook chat bot. So what makes the Las Vegas based Creative LIAisons event different? (Other than being held in one of most fun cities in the world?)

I would love to share three key insights I have learned over the last five days at Creative LIAisons 2018. Getting into the heads of the world’s creative leaders is a wonderful way to understand what it takes to win an award. I was lucky enough to spectate the judging process of the “non-traditional advertising” category and no, I won’t tell you who won the grand prix ;) So, here we go:

1. Grand Prix for Good.

Should we give Grand Prix to passion projects?

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Some jury member said yes, we should. Because we, creatives, have the power, tools and knowledge of mass media to make a difference. Because these causes are important. Think about it - we can make the world a little bit better. Great work is even stronger when it’s made with a great cause in mind. An hour-long speech by Matt Eastwood also helped to reinforce this opinion. He noted an article stating that the vast majority of millennials prefer brands that support a cause and are socially responsible.

But there were others who said no. The Grand Prix award should go to the work created for a client. Why? Because charity work is simply more likable. A social good campaign gives an unfair advantage since we are prone to judge not only the idea itself, but also the cause it supports. How can you compare Fearless Girl to a Tide ad? According to judges, it’s impossible to compare these two types of submissions - they are just too different, worlds apart. Are we hiding mediocre ideas behind great causes?


The juries took over an hour to discuss this topic and the room split in half. On one hand - awarding a social good Grand Prix encourages agencies to solve the world’s problems. But awarding a commercial Grand Prix encourages agencies to make better work for real clients. So what do I think? I really believe in using our skill sets and tools to make a positive change. However, I also believe you can’t judge commercial and cause-related creativity together. They’re just too different. So why don’t we give two Grand Prix awards - for commercial and for good?


2. Categorise it.

Another interesting (but way less polarizing) insight I found was the award ‘sub-category’ uncertainty.

Take this example - an agency submits their ideas to a multiple categories and it’s totally fine. But sometimes branded content videos end up in the product category. Press ads suddenly become non-traditional media. Guerilla ideas are in user experience list. It’s confusing for everyone. Many jury members don’t even agree on the definition of some sub-categories. Should the “product” category be judged based on the product the ad was made for or should it evaluate the new physical product that was created as a part of the campaign? An interesting observation I noticed was the amount of times jury members rolled their eyes when a campaign was submitted into multiple categories. It just may seem greedy for an agency to submit their work into a category that has nothing to do with the creative medium of the idea. My key learning from this discussion - make sure your case study works for the category you choose. It may do more harm than a waste of submission fee. And speaking of case study videos…

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3. All about that case, ‘bout that case.

No treble. Yes, case video is still the king. Why? Cases are attention-grabbing and easy to follow. When you have a room of people looking at 300 ideas, no one wants to read a five page document.

Case video is our main weapon and having a bad one is like a going to war with a banana. Some ideas and insights were so obviously over-exaggerated that it put the entire idea under scrutiny. That being said, I still see agencies around the world writing case videos as an afterthought, believing the idea will sell itself. We don’t need to spend thousands on fancy production and animation but we should do as much as we can to sell the submission. It’s all about selling in this industry, right?


And when the need for great case video is obvious for big agencies, I wanted to mention interesting observation from the last day’s Gorilla Doctors young creatives competition judging. Something for us, young creatives to think about when entering various youngster competitions: 62% of video case studies vs 22% of boards or slides - this is how many ideas made it from pre-selection to the shortlist stage of the competition based on their presentation format. The difference is just way too high to be a coincidence, and even though the board-based presentation won the gold, case videos had much more success taking the work to the shortlist. Think about it - there’s a reason why all agencies, 100% of them have a case study created for their works at the main LIA categories.

In the end of the day, Creative LIAisons was an extraordinary event and a fantastic learning opportunity. You may or may not agree with the jury - even they didn’t seem to agree with each other. But what we can’t deny is the fact that advertising is moving forward with the speed of light and we just can’t afford stop learning. I am extremely thankful to JWT Sydney for the opportunity to experience Creative LIAisons this year and will do my very best to use what I learned last week to create something outstanding. Now back to work, the next LIA deadline is in just a year!


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Kostia Liakhov