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Trick Shots

by Rory Hamilton, Executive Creative Director

When I was a kid, back in the 1980s, the Harlem Globetrotters came to Ireland. It was unbelievably exciting seeing the best basketball players in the world play in front of my eyes. I was yet to figure out that, hailing from County Wicklow, my chances at NBA stardom were slim (I will now begrudgingly admit that where I was from wasn’t what finally stood between me and NBA glory). So when the Harlem Globetrotters took to the court, I was mesmerised. These were men who could do somersault slam dunks! They could do no wrong. But then a niggling question arose. Why didn’t the Globetrotters win the NBA every year? Surely they were the best players — they had the best trick shots.

Why didn’t they play for The Bulls, The Heat, even The Knicks? It took me years to figure out that trick shots aren’t basketball. Trick shots are impressive, amazing even. But, like me, they have no place in the game. Trick shots are something else entirely.

I hadn’t thought about the Harlem Globetrotters in 30 years, but as I stood in the halls at Cannes looking at the amazing work on the walls I thought about little else. The campaigns on display are mind bogglingly clever, razor sharp insights married to perfect “why the hell didn’t I think of it?” creative ideas.

Judging by the work, marketing has had a hell of a year. I saw campaigns for brands designed to cure cancer, end homelessness, cure colour blindness, end abuse, clear our oceans of plastic, protect endangered species, rebuild our rain forests, fix the migrant crisis, end gender imbalance in business, help deaf people to hear, cure aids and prevent suicide. Not to mind three campaigns designed to help ALS sufferers to speak.

We also saw campaigns which brought Louis XIV, the painter Edvard Munch, JFK and the entire Chapecoense football team back from the dead, each using data to augment creativity. Each of these ideas were brilliant. Each tackled an issue that deserves more attention and requires brands to dig in and help out. Every one a slam dunk, or rather, a somersault slam dunk.

What was missing were the campaigns advertising a new mortgage rate, a new mobile phone price plan, a new model of car, a new product formulation or a new offer. Put simply, there was very little basketball on display.

If this seems like a criticism of Cannes, it isn’t meant to be. Cannes is where the best agencies, the best clients and the best brands gather. It is the standard. Instead this is meant as a lesson in what it takes to win.

As brands, we need to stop thinking of Cannes as a game that we know and accept that it is something else entirely. A game with completely different rules. It’s a game of trick shots, and trick shots take practice. Endless practice. Winning takes dedicating time and budget to this other game. We need to stop thinking like basketball players and start thinking like the Globetrotters.


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The importance of creating culturally potent work

by Avril Delaney, Copywriterr

Or see all our articles from Cannes Lions 2018