“The Work Behind the Work”: Why now is the time for creative bravery

Fiona Walford / November 2020

This year, we partnered with Advertising Council Australia and AWARD to host “The Work Behind the Work” webinar series, a virtual version of the highly-anticipated annual event. Over four weeks, we learned how some of the latest and greatest campaigns from Australia and New Zealand came to life. We learned what inspired them, how they were produced, and how client relationships made the ideas behind them even stronger.

I spoke with Matty Burton and Dave Bowman, Google Asia Pacific’s creative chiefs of partner innovation, who cohosted the series, to break down some of the key themes and learnings from the event. We discovered the most successful ads took real risks and differentiated themselves from the competition — an insight that feels more valuable now than ever. Let’s take a look at two ads from the series that embody creative bravery.

Be real

When other brands in the tourism category were largely producing ads that looked like picture-perfect postcards, Discover Tasmania decided to make one that simply looked real — even if that meant rain on a window obscuring the beautiful view of the Nut, a sheer-sided bluff in the historic village of Stanley.

While all the ads we saw throughout “The Work Behind the Work” series tapped into different ways of eliciting a feeling from the audience, the Discover Tasmania work did this in a big, unprecedented way. The ad expertly showed how exploring an extraordinary remote place is both challenging and rewarding.

Put passion over programming

Uber Eats took a calculated risk by blurring the lines between official programming and sponsorship. The brand captivated more than 13 million viewers by hijacking the broadcast of a live sport event to promote its service.

“The Uber Eats Australian Open Ambush” aimed to trick viewers into thinking they were returning to a live tennis match, only to have their favourite players turn to the camera and reveal their Uber Eats orders instead. The ad replicated the broadcast down to every last detail — from the broadcast crew, officials, players, and commentators to real event graphics and crowd shots from the tournament.

The ads generated buzz on social media and earned a lot of press coverage, showing that when brands capture the attention of a passionate audience, they’ll be rewarded.

Experimentation is key

2020 has been a challenging year for advertisers. Before the pandemic hit, we were on the precipice of something great, using data and signals to tell stories to specific audiences. But when the world went dark, we all started creating the same ads.

As marketers, creativity is our secret sauce. But many of the ads produced in reaction to the pandemic were sorely missing another crucial ingredient: experimentation. Some of the best ads we’ve seen, such as the incredible Discover Tasmania and Uber Eats campaigns, wouldn’t exist without having the guts to experiment, be brave, and break category conventions.

No brand wants to be perceived as clueless, tone deaf, or opportunist, but a recent study revealed more than 80% of effective ads made no reference to the COVID-19 crisis at all. These business-as-usual ads weren’t punished for showing ordinary life and regular behaviours when many other brands rushed to be relevant in the moment.

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With more data on the way, the path to real growth and recovery is better signals and a diversity of stories. That starts by opening creatively, not by narrowing. Now more than ever is the time for creative bravery.

What drives attention? Exploring the new front line of ad effectiveness