Craft: not cool, but crucial

This month the OMA announced the quarter two winners of Creative Collection, a competition that celebrates creative and innovative Out of Home (OOH) campaigns in Australia. Over the years, our judges have often discussed the role craft plays in developing successful campaigns. As technology transforms OOH, what affect will this have on creativity? How can creatives and advertisers make the most out of OOH’s shiny new features?

To answer these questions we invited Alison Tilling, Head of Planning at BMF, and a Creative Collection judge, to share her opinion on the crucial role craft plays in the success of campaigns.

Craft beer. Artisan bread. Pickles… there are so many areas where craft is king. Yet the dominant narrative in media land is speed, agility and hustle. ‘Craft’ for agencies has become a synonym for polishing something up, often going at warp speed on what should be a considered process.

While craft in advertising may not be considered cool, it’s become more crucial than ever. It’s crucial to effectiveness, creativity and realising the full potential of an idea. In order to get the best out of OOH, we need to reposition craft.

We know that at its best, OOH works on many levels, from instant brand recognition to creating environmental and cultural associations. It’s one of the few media channels that can instantly broadcast messages or let your campaign message stand tall for a fortnight or more – that’s aeons in a communications landscape where so much is a fleeting glimpse in a feed.

The ‘great outdoors’ requires campaigns to be memorable, have high impact and be engaging with consumers – for this to be achieved craft must be prioritised by everyone. We shouldn’t view craft as perfectionism, we should be understanding that true crafting is when there is constant questioning.It can mean completely reformulating what you’re doing, adapting to hyper local environments, and even adjusting to the time of day.

The recent Nike ‘no turning back’ campaign won best creative execution in the Creative Collection competition because it’s a great example of how OOH is a contextually relevant media channel. The campaign was motivational, inviting the inner west to go for a run on a winter’s evening, challenging commuters during evening rush hours to ‘just do it’ and run home, rather than taking the less energetic option of driving.

Crafting can also be reductionist, taking things away rather than trying to polish them to infinity – and this can make the constituent parts more powerful. We awarded the best use of traditional OOH to Hungry Jacks for its ‘$1 Coffee’ campaign for this reason – there was temptation to add more information but they resisted it well. The outcome? A clear message communicated directly to the target audience.

No longer can craft be the sole province of the finished artist and art director – it’s key along the whole journey from problem to solution.John Hegarty*, the ‘H’ of ad agency BBH said, “Don’t hire famous directors, hire directors and make them famous.” That’s a great way of thinking because it makes craft everyone’s responsibility. Craft isn’t something that should be left for the crafters to do at the end to try make everything work, but an essential element for everyone to consider along the way, with OOH being the ultimate litmus test.

*Cited by Rebecca Stewart, The Drum