Art Director Andronicus Wu and Senior Copywriter Jon Dawe of The Garden Agency, competed in the Global Young Lions Competition at the Cannes Lions Festival last month, where they shortlisted in the Digital Category.
How do you define creativity in the context of your industry, and how has that definition evolved over time?
To us, creativity has always been solving business problems in interesting and entertaining ways that people care about. Has it evolved? No, not really. But the scale and impact the work is after, has. Forget just using print, TV and radio. Now you can use AI, hack a video game or create an entire product from scratch just to help sell your original product. Creative work now aims to own a piece of conversation within culture, and often the best ones move culture itself. But at the end of the day, it’s always been insight, idea and then execution. And we don’t think that order should or will ever change.
How do you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying emerging trends and innovative ideas in your field?
Being one with social media is very much a part of every creative’s job. But remembering to scroll mindfully, not just mindlessly, even outside of work is key ‘cause it often leads to timely ideas you never expect. If people are talking about it, and it makes sense for your brand, you can then leverage that in meaningful ways that allow your clients to have an opportunity to speak up where they otherwise wouldn’t have. Equally important, is setting up a work profile or being completely open when it comes to what you give your attention to. Algorithms can work against you if you allow your own interests to pigeonhole your feed into specific areas only. And macro trends are no longer the be-all and end-all. If you broaden your horizons, you’ll begin to notice thousands of sub-cultures on platforms like TikTok that may lead to work that’s much more real, relevant and effective.
Can you share a specific example of a project or campaign where unconventional thinking led to remarkable creative outcomes?
During our time at John St., we had the pleasure of working on Tangerine’s Raptors sponsorship. The overarching strategy that informed every piece of work was a largely unique one. Because, unlike most sports sponsorships, Tangerine didn’t want to talk at the fans, they wanted to talk like them. With them. In fact, they were such firm believers in this that they decided their sponsorship shouldn’t just stop with the team – it should include the fans as well. This eventually led them to develop their current platform: Official bank of the Raptors and their fans. To us, this uncommon sponsorship angle showed up in the best light when we helped create the Bank Shot Account, an initiative that aimed to give back to die-hard Raps fans by rallying them behind the game’s most reliable shot. Every time the Raps sunk a bank shot in-game, $1K would be added to the account, and prize packs were unlocked at certain tiers. By the end of the last season, a sweet $125K and countless prizes were invested back into the basketball community. Seeing tangible results and positive hype from fans in response to this special positioning definitely made this one of the coolest pieces we’ve worked on together.
How do you balance the need for creativity with the practical considerations of budget, timelines, and client expectations?
TBH, we just try to use them to our advantage. Look at Canada as a whole. Agencies here are punching well above their weight for this exact reason. We have tighter boxes to play in. We don’t have the big, juicy U.S. or U.K. budgets. So at first, it’s okay (and normal) to think “ugh, this sucks” when you see the budget or timeline. But you must get that out of your system quick and lean into these so-called “restrictions” to figure out unconventional pairings and hacks around things. When you have less money, you have to be more innovative. So, these restrictions actually help you get to smarter, scrappier ideas, for way less money – which clients and agencies appreciate and need.
In your experience, what are some of the most effective strategies for fostering a culture of creativity within a team or organization?
Create an environment where there are no weird/silly/ridiculous/stupid ideas. Instead, be open to them and don’t hold back. Let your mind say “ah, that’s so dumb, I can’t share this” and then immediately ignore it and write it down anyways. So what if it gets killed? There’s also a good chance it could spark an idea that’s not-so-dumb after all. Plus, if you think about it…the internet loves weird. The internet shares weird. So get weird and stay weird, ya weirdo.
How do you measure the success of a creative campaign or project, and what metrics do you consider most important in evaluating its impact?
With thousands of ads being thrown at people every single day, we think the measure of success is quite simple: if any one of those individuals feel moved or seen in such a way that they would take a minute out of their day to willingly engage and share your idea with others, you’ve hit the jackpot. No one likes to be told to do something. Which is why so many brands get ignored. They’re interrupting people and telling them to do something they aren’t interested in. But if a brand can make you feel something, it’s then really hard to ignore and people will want to share it on their own terms.