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Point the gun in the other direction!

By Arnaud Verchère and Vincent Raffray

At first we thought we’d ignore Communicate’s critique of Tonic’s latest Bafco office furniture print campaign, featuring suicidal furniture (see “Killing Joke,” September 2006). The campaign is doing very well for our client, so there was no reason for alarm.
But the more we thought about it, the more we wondered: What planet we are still living in? Is it possible that in 2006, a journalist who is supposed to be a communications professional is still telling us that creativity is only good for the agency’s sake?

At Tonic we believe that if it’s not creative, it’s not effective. Creativity sells. Full stop.
It is easy to hammer consumers with mind-numbing advertising. We could have just published a page from the product catalogue, as so many do. Instead, we decided to do our job professionally, making it worth the consumers’ time, making them laugh, cry, scream, think and ultimately talk about the ads. This is far more effective than tapping into the lowest common denominator and becoming invisible.
Creativity is not about conjuring up the craziest idea you can think of and putting it down on paper. It’s about connecting with your target audience strategically. Creativity and breakthrough advertising ideas are the reason brands like Nike, Virgin, Honda, The Economist or Apple are household names today.
Some people say that we’ve crossed the line. Some, like Communicate, will say that we created Bafco’s suicidal furniture campaign simply to win advertising awards.
We respond by asking them what they think of prospects calling Bafco and ordering 200 office chairs, saying their current furniture is looking very depressed. And what do they think of a campaign so exciting that an entire company is feeling a new sense of pride and energy?
If anybody in the marketing scene is stealing from their company and insulting their consumers, it is the agencies that are not being creative and the marketing managers who are still buying “safe” campaigns.
It is much easier, much faster and much safer to go with middle-of-the-road, wallpaper, safe, invisible and boring advertising. And who is the most offensive? We think it is the presumptuous marketer who believes consumers willingly interrupt their read or their show to look at advertising that insults their intelligence.
We prefer to make a mistake from time to time rather than play safe. At least we try to serve our clients while respecting the consumer. If we end up being recognized as a creative agency, that’s an added bonus.
Creativity is part of what and who we are, and it is the reason that our ideas will continue to grab attention, stir emotions, move consumers to action and deliver results. Combined with more hard-selling vehicles like PR and direct marketing, creative advertising plays an essential role in improving our client’s businesses.
It is high time that more clients do like the management at Bafco: Grow a backbone and start considering creativity as a necessary tool to ensure communication strategies are properly implemented.

– Arnaud Verchère and Vincent Raffray are partners in Tonic Communications,
an independent agency based in Dubai