It is a great honour to speak in Cannes on the subject of “Underdog”. More precisely: “How is it to be an underdog yet still survive”.
The topic rises certain questions. If “Underdog” is (accordingly to Google Online dictionary) “A competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest”, what is an “Overdog”, then? And does “Underdogs” have something “Overdogs” can learn from?
I don’t even know why I prepared so many slides. This one pretty much sums it all up.
In my world, being an Underdog is very close to what being a child means. Your potential is not yet released. Your competition sleeps. Your enemies are not aware of your talents yet and you don’t have an obligation to meet anyones’ expectations. Do you know how this state is called? It’s called “Freedom”.
Athletes and musicians know better. It is comparingly easy to win one gold. Or to release one great album. Or to write one brilliant book. Then expectations kick in and from this point on things get complicated.
Before first success you could screw things up, and no one blames you. And, what is more important – the way you screw things up sometimes appears to be a new and better way of doing those very things.
Underdogs can also can ask stupid questions.
As underest of dogs, I do ask the question to Cannes Lions and the industry: how come, this thing has turned from competition of ads into competition of films about ads? What Olympic Games would look like if it would be the case?
Case study film about Ussein Bolt?
Problem: we sucked at 100 meters distance
Solution: we decided to find Ussein Bolt
Results: we won Olympics, zero media budget spent, 2 billions in media coverage.
I am not saying its’a a worst thing that can happen, but I really miss times, when Wieden+Kennedy won Agency of year with 15 different ads, not with one film about one ad submitted in 25 categories.
As I said – underdogs ask stupid questions.
What you will see next is a weird project only a underdog agency in an underdog market of an underdog country would do. If you have watched Mulholland Drive, there are several parallel stories which end up in a common final. I tried to do a case study on this, but it was so complicated, no one was able to understand it.
Long story short:
Latvian state had a traffic speed-cameras installing project. In total, 160 of speed traps had to be installed to make Latvia a safest driving country, or most photographed, whatever. For some unknown (but guessed) reason project was given to a private company. So the business model behind it became quite the opposite – the faster you go the richer the company gets, so more speeding is better. Project failed and only 17 cameras were installed.
Cut, fade to black.
Meanwhile, at the same time Latvian Green Dot was about to run a campaign for asking people to utilise their old house appliances in an environmentally responsible way. In other words “not dumping your old fridge in forest”.
So, as an agency, we asked people to bring old fridges, grills, TV-sets and dishwashers to roadsides in school areas, and to spray-mark them to look like speed-traps. Because fridges look like fixed speed-traps and grills and TVs look like portable ones. Like this:
Latvian Green Dot would pick items up to utilise in 4 months period (from 1st of September till 20th of December)
Suddenly drivers started to slow down, because they didn’t know whether it is your old fridge or a speed trap. Families got rid of their garbage in a civilised way, forests got cleaner and every one who was involved had a certain amount of fun, although not in a 100% legal way. Well, not in a 10% legal way either. That’s what underdogs can do.
I cannot submit this project to Cannes. There is no client, it didn’t sell a thing and most likely it would be called a scam ad in any festival. However, it saved some lives, around 25 million Euros to Latvians state and served as a good practice to utilise electronic equipment instead of dumping it somewhere in the forest. Besides, it got rid Latvians from old grills and fridges, and made them buy new ones, which is always good for the economy.
Another short video. It’s not new, but it bears a certain amount of underdogness. We had to do a campaign for people to use more cards and less cash. So, Monday morning we came up with idea of filming real pickpockets who are currently in jail. They’re not dumb drug addicts. They are highly trained professionals, and if they chose me to be robbed, I shall be robbed. It took us like 48 hours to get approval from ministry of Internal Affairs and we were in jail, filming. I must say, female pickpockets were far more charming than men. I slightly fell in love with this gipsy lady.
But, to move towards the end.
Dear colleagues. Time of being an underdog is short. Enjoy it while you can. It is like being a talented junior creative in the agency. It is like spending time in a playground.
Good news – advertising is an underdog profession itself. You cannot kill anyone by it. It’s not a heart-surgery, man.
I’ve got a friend.
His name is Neil French.
Before he landed in advertising, he was a bouncer, a debt collector, death-metal band manager, bullfighter and producer (and even actor) of pornographic films. And every time I cuss about how difficult my life in advertising is, he says something like “you know, Eriks, I’ve got like thousand scars on my body. And not a single one of them is from advertising”.
I am not here to evangelize, and I know how sceptical and harsh advertising guys are towards any pathetic advice given from a stage. And still… If you could keep this underdog feeling alive no matter what scale your agency is… That will help a lot.
Thank you very much.
Ltd. “MOOZ!" has signed the 27.11.2013 contract No. L-ATA-13-1827 with the Latvian Investment and Development Agency for the realisation of the project “The participation of “MOOZ!” creative director E.Stendzenieks in the international advertising festival "Cannes Lions", which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
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