...or end up like Gavin.

After FCB’s 2nd clean sweep in 3 years at the ORCAs, Creative Director David Shirley reflects on what it takes to be original in a medium that’s been around for over 100 years.

It’s funny. Some say there are no new ideas. Everything’s derivative of something that came before it. Seems a little reductive though, doesn’t it? It’s like saying homo sapiens are just a rip-off of cavemen. You can hear the ad now: “Original CavemanTM brand humans. Don’t settle for anything less.” Of course, they have a point. We do share some similarities with those overly-foreheaded, wall-scribbling, mammoth-troublers from back in the day. But we’re not the same idea. We’re a whole new breed. And that’s the trick. You gotta evolve.

They didn’t have commercial radio back then. We’ll have to jump forward a bit – a little before the great depression (probably derivative of another depression that came before it), back when there’d only been one world war (we all know that one’s been copied). Let’s say 100 years ago. It’s a nice round number. In all that time from then to now, radio advertising has evolved and evolved and continues to… well, you get it. 

We’ve come a long way from simply talking our message into a microphone. We realised we could actually tell stories, use soundscapes, direct an entire play in the mind of the listener. And when we did, something powerful happened. The audience became our co-writers. They entertained our ideas and played hosts to our stories in their heads. This was our first big step. We’d invented the wheel. And look at that baby roll. In fact, it was such a good invention that it’s still a tool we use now. Because it drives emotion, and emotion is the great motivator. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them think of their first love. They’ll remember your message far better than if you shouted at them for thirty seconds about all the different brands of beds you stock. Yes, the Sleepinator 2000 is an impressive piece of hardware, Gavin. We get it.

Last week we were reminded of another great evolutionary leap – ads don’t have to live in ad breaks. The Grand ORCA winner was a campaign for PAK’nSAVE that delivered on the promise of doing anything to keep prices down by Stickman refusing to pay for his ads, instead opting to hijack the radio station. So on-brand. So funny. So save-y. This isn’t the only time creatives have dared to tread outside the three minute militarised zone that is the ad break. There was that time a callgirl set up shop across the road from a radio station to advertise a TV series, or that time a South American agency convinced a station to broadcast an inaudible frequency that turned portable radios into mosquito repellent. The point is, much like that wheel we invented, evolution rolls on. Forget the restrictions you think exist and never settle for 30 seconds of Gavin and his extravagantly shouty bed talk. Tell a story that evokes emotion, challenges how I think, surprises or even perplexes me. Do it in a scheduled ad break. Or don’t. There’s another evolutionary leap just around the corner. And that person (the one who says there are no new ideas), remember they’re only saying that because they recently restocked their shelves with CavemanTMbrand.