Gideon Amichay | Essays

Cannes Dispatch: The Triumph Of Epic Storytelling

Still from the Volvo Trucks Live Test Series

Editor's Note: Gideon Amichay is an advertising executive, marketer and author. He is the founder and chief creative officer of NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, YES, a creative boutique in New York. He also teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York city. The winner of 19 Cannes Lions for his advertising campaigns, Amichay is currently in Cannes where he will be is sending in regular award dispatches.

As a young Creative Director, I can recall how astonished I was once when the creative team sitting in front of me complained that the brief we were looking at was boring.

I actually assumed they were joking. This particular team held a lot of promise and had a great sense of humor. But they weren’t joking.

“It’s a dry category,” they insisted. “There is no way to be creative.”

I was unconvinced.

I thought about this last night when The Volvo Trucks Live Test Series and its Epic Split / Van Damme video by Forsman & Bodenfors / Gothenburg won 3 Gold Lions (in the categories of Promo, Direct Advertising and PR) at the Cannes Lions Award Festival. This represents a key moment for advertising because it's a reminder that the big idea — not big data — is still king, and that great storytelling remains the most effective tool for brands.

With the explosion of digital technologies and social networks one could argue big ideas and great story telling belong to the past, but this is not the case. Epic Split / Van Damme’s award-winning work demonstrates that the opposite is, in fact, true — that digital power simply enables big ideas to spread faster and to succeed at a quicker pace.

Today, a "big idea" can be anything and can work everywhere. The Volvo Trucks campaign works outdoors, on TV, in print, across digital and social media, as branded content, in PR, on mobile technology platforms and beyond. The ad itself stems from a brilliant idea and is meticulously delivered (with an unbelievably difficult execution) that perfectly dramatizatizes the product’s benefit — which is, after all, the heart of advertising. The result is spectacular.

When I recall that long-ago meeting with the creative team (who didn't, as it happened, survive in advertising for very long) I know it was a pivotal moment for me that strengthened my convictions.

And here they are.

1. There in no such thing as a boring brief — there’s just a lazy team.
2. There is no such thing as a scary Chief Marketing Officer — but there is a loser Chief Creative Officer.
3. There is no such thing as a bad client — but there is such a thing as a tired agency.

In theory, a brief for a convertible sports car would seem to be more attractive than, say, a brief for a truck, b ut there’s actually no proof for this. Arguably, the most ordinary car (some might say ugliest) — the Volkswagen Beetle — was the subject of the best print ad ever: the ‘ Think Small’ ad from 1959, created by Helmut Krone with the copy written by Julian Koenig at DDB.

The Epic Split feat / Van Damme project might just be in the same category. It comes from an ad agency in Sweden that avoids buzzwords and focuses instead on creating a breakthrough campaign that shows that great advertising is really all about ideas and storytelling. And it's a reminder, once again, that there really is no such thing as a boring brief.

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