If it looks like an idea, it probably is one. – By @NJStanley94

By Nick Stanley


If it looks like an idea, it probably is one.


‘Where’s the idea?’ said Nils Leonard, quoting his early mentors on a podcast I listened to recently. He was remembering how the creative vanguard used to demand a clear and obvious idea in any work that came within their sphere of influence (or interference).

Our very own Pete Cain has had the same refrain ascribed to him as something of a catchphrase. I completely understand why. We are in the business of communicating, and what we communicate is usually an idea, thought or view on a product.

But what Nils went on to say was that sometimes the aesthetic is the idea. Relief. I needed to hear that from someone who I, and the industry, respect. Because I agree. And much of the work I admire follows that.

Nils clearly does too. OVO’s most recent ad – and Uncommon’s first – was very well received. It was a spectacle, it had energy (no pun intended) and it acted as a rousing call to arms for renewable, an otherwise worthy and bland sector. The aesthetic, the feel, served as the idea.

I am a disciple of the ‘aesthetic as idea’ church but it isn’t easily translatable to student work, unfortunately. It is the preserve of those with production budgets.

If we were to write out Cadbury’s Gorilla, Sony Balls or the recent OVO energy ad as a script in a portfolio it would likely not get more than a ‘hmm’. No one is going to see a description of those ads and have their mind blown. But that is the reaction of the viewer upon seeing the finished versions.

One of the best pieces of work I’ve seen this year was Adidas’ Original is Never Finished series. It was oozing with edge and style. It was disturbing at points and it built to an uncomfortable crescendo of cool. It was brilliant.

Maybe I’m under practiced but I couldn’t detect an idea behind the aesthetic. It lived entirely in the execution. And the endline didn’t do much for me either, but it didn’t need to.

Ads like that are what people want to watch. No one outside of our bubble is scrutinising our work for a proposition, nor are they interested in clever endlines, unless they entertain. The work just feels cool and thus portrays Adidas in the same light.

I started out writing this wanting to make the point that the idea can be the executional style. And that ads like that can often be the most effective and enjoyable for non- advertising folk. But that, in the same breath, we can’t hope to replicate such ads in a student portfolio.

But what I’ve actually ended up doing is convincing myself that I need to do more making. Stop whinging. If I’ve got an idea that can only be done justice when made, then go and make it.

Opportunity being now here and all that.

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