I love bad films. Especially when they turn out to be actually, somewhat, ever so slightly, quite… very good. 

Last year, I watched a film called Rent-A-Pal for the first time. It’s about a lonely guy named David who picks up a strange VHS tape, in which he finds companionship in the form of its host Andy, played by Wil Wheaton. I won’t give away too much, just in case you’re also a fan of good-bad films and plan on adding it to your watchlist.

I came across it again a few weeks ago and wanted to see if my initial judgement of the film was just seriously flawed. 

So, I watched it again. And honestly, I think it got even better. The cinematography, the grading, the exploration of crippling loneliness and manipulation, the human desire to be genuinely heard, and the alternative but still relevant representation of incels. Even people’s dependency on media to fill the gap where human interaction is lacked, which is so clearly communicated despite the film being set in the early 90s. 

It’s disturbing, provocative, and all so very true.  

I’d give it a good 7/10, would recommend (but points taken off for the disappointingly rushed/expected ending).

Anyways, there was a point to this blog post. One of our mentors gave me the great advice the other day, which was to “look for opportunities to change human behaviour”. Of course, I’m sure he wasn’t saying we should brainwash the masses and manipulate them into purchasing a truck-load of things they definitely don’t need. But as creatives working in adland, it’s a fairly accurate summary of what we do, or are at least expected to do.

And that’s why it’s so important to drive your idea with an insight. The why. And then the why behind the why. I’ll admit though, I don’t always use the insight-first approach. Sometimes, I do just come across the insight that happens to fit the idea. But it always, always makes the idea stronger and more believable. 

And I’ve also found that it’s not only important to find insights into your audience’s behaviour, but also to understand your own behaviour as a creative making work that influences culture. To understand why you want to make that work, what biases you might have when creating that work and how those biases might have impacted your perspective on it. And this goes beyond the ideation phase.

One of the things I took from Alex Taylor’s masterclass the other day is that, every art direction decision we make must be justified. The semiotics. The positioning of the copy. The pathway you want the audience’s eyes to travel in when they look at your ad. 

So even if you’re just making ‘funny’ ads, like the famous Tango ‘Slap’ ad, there’s always a reason, an insight, into why it’ll work. 

Just never stop asking ‘why?’.

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