The best creativity to emerge from lockdown and how to produce it

The last few months have proven challenging for creative production, but brands and agencies have risen to the occasion. We asked some members of the Thinkbox Academy for their picks of the best work to have emerged from lockdown, and also to share some top tips on producing the best creative work now. Steal some pearls of creative wisdom and find out who's work they've been particularly enjoying here. 

What's the best advertising creativity you've seen since lockdown began?

Ben Middleton, Chief Creative Officer & Founder, Creature London

Ben MiddletonI really liked 'This doesn't need to end' by Cadbury. Ignoring all the cynicism around lockdown work, this work is beautifully crafted and feels legitimate for a brand that's positioning is rooted in generosity and people doing good stuff for each other.

Franki Goodwin, Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi

Franki GoodwinI particularly loved the Budweiser revival of ‘Whassup’. Not just for my own personal 90’s nostalgia-fest, but because they repurposed it to bring a brilliant and relevant message about isolation and mental health during lockdown.

Aidan McClure, Chief Creative Officer, Wonderhood

Aidan McLureCadbury’s ‘This Doesn’t Need to End’. For me, this captured a moment that we’ve all been experiencing so beautifully and poetically, it’s like a journal entry for the nation.  A beautiful piece of film with or without all the restrictions.

Chaka Sobhani, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett London

Chaka SobhaniI’ve really enjoyed the continuation of the Nationwide campaign - the creative idea was almost made for lockdown with intimate prose from all manner of people talking about their dreams, fears and loves. I feel as if the campaign has shifted from an advertising idea to almost an Alan Bennett-like marker of this time, and I particularly love the current iterations where people are talking as their future selves back to us right now.

Dave Henderson, Creative Partner, Atomic London

Dave HendersonThere were a number of TV ads that arrived in the first few weeks of lockdown that featured what I call the ‘Covid aesthetic’. You know the ones...empty streets, everything shot on iPhones or zoom. The only one that really grabbed me was the film from Facebook, as it was done with consummate style and made a great point about the role of the product, rather than just jumping on the bandwagon.

Jo Wallace, Creative Director, Wunderman Thompson 

Jo WallaceI have three… The first is a shameless plug for a piece of work me and a brilliant team worked on for the NCDV (National Centre for Domestic Violence) in response to the horrific reality that Domestic Abuse reports are up (at least) 49% since lockdown began. The thought is ‘Abusers always work from home’ and because the whole thing was done with zero budget, we’ve had to rely on generous media partners (and celebrities sharing on their social) to help us get it out there.

The second is Nike’s ‘For Once, Don’t Do It’, in response to the death of George Floyd and the on-going protests across America, and the world. So many brands have stayed silent or simply paid lip service which makes them look increasingly out of touch compared to brands such as Nike and Ben & Jerry’s who reacted without hesitation as part of an on-going, demonstrable track record in supporting positive change.

Finally, another brand who’s also helped shift perceptions around societal issues but with a lighter touch: Maltesers. Their recent work quickly jumped on the Zoom aesthetic (which became old fast) but you forgive it because the women interact in a way that feels like they’re on a genuine Zoom call with mates.

What's your top tip for producing the best creative work right now?

Ben: To be frank, production budgets and timings have been dwindling for some time now, so the current situation has really just been a more acute version of the broader picture for the past few years. That doesn't mean you have to drop the ambitions for ideas you make. If the client has got no money, or time, show them an idea that needs neither of those things to really shine.

Franki: I think limitations and adversity can force you to look at mediums and executions that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. The iconic Jaws theme music only came about because the mechanic shark didn’t work and wasn’t scary, so Spielberg built the fear and told the story with music instead of visuals. I’m especially enjoying the focus on the possibilities of using audio and animation.

Aidan: Top tip is make something that excites you because you’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen.

Chaka: Bring your collaborators in early! We can’t work like we did before and the difference it makes bringing in production companies, post houses and anyone else you’re working with at the beginning is the difference between making something alright, to making something really good. We need experts helping us solve problems, find even more creative answers, and to play with. This should always be the way to be honest but its hugely important right now to get us to the best work.

Dave: Keep it simple. We’re into production right now on two quite meaty TV campaigns. Luckily, the first one we’re shooting in a couple of weeks is quite contained, featuring a guy in a car and located within London. That simplicity has ensured we can proceed pretty much as normal. Same with the second campaign, slated for a shoot later this summer...although more ambitious in scale, a lot of it can be done in post and will feature just two cast members, so the key elements again are simple and quite contained.

Jo: Brilliant ideas are still as important as ever but now it’s even more important to have a really strong producer / production company who understand the limitations but are passionate to think laterally and pull out all the stops to make great work. For the NCDV (National Centre for Domestic Violence), we had no budget but a great idea that lots of people got behind. But without our fantastic agency producer and the excellence of the production company (Stink) plus the director Geej Ower it wouldn’t have been such a success. So, in a nutshell: work with brilliant producers and production companies.

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