In Orbit With... Danny Edwards

TMU: What’s the best part of your job?

 DE: Well, firstly, it’s meeting people. Regardless of what your thoughts and opinions are about the advertising industry in general, the people who populate it are some of the most interesting, inspiring and innovative people you could hope to meet. Whether they’re focusing those qualities on creating ideas and work for their company and their company’s clients, or on some interesting personal project, finding out more about those people is what makes the job great. Secondly, it’s meeting those same people over a decent lunch. 

TMU: What are the best ads (any medium) you’ve seen in the last year?

 DE: There are loads of ads I think are really good but some that stand out are AMV BBDO’s Christmas campaign for Currys PC World; the casting of Jeff Goldblum, and his performance, is genius.

DE: I loved the German campaign for Exit Deutschland called Nazis Against Nazis, which turned a right-wing march into a fund-raising event for an anti-Nazi organisation.

DE: Geico’s Unskippable YouTube pre-roll spots were also brilliant, especially the one called Family; really hard to make those videos (which everyone skips) not only tolerable, but actively watchable.

DE: One of my favourite campaigns is the branded content one for The Times/ The Sunday Times, called The Unquiet Film Series; a series of short documentaries about areas of the newspaper which are beautifully made and extremely interesting.

TMU: What makes a great visual Director?

DE: I think that the directors who have made - and who continue to make - an impact on the industry are those who continually surprise and who seem to stick to their creative guns. The great directors whom I’ve met always seem to believe wholeheartedly that their vision is the right one and fight for it.  Also, they all seem to be extremely well-versed in art, film, photography, design... they reference so many creative sources. While they’re also immersed in advertising, it’s definitely in addition to rather than at the expense of other creative outlets. 

TMU: We all know the classic Ad Agency model is totally ripe for disruption – how do you see this unfolding?

 DE: The lines are continually blurring and I suppose the truest answer I can give is that I really don’t know where it will lead. At the moment it seems to be a state of experimentation and evaluation. The current, or you might now say old, linear narrative of client/agency/production/ post is being tested and it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Any one company seems willing, and in many cases, able, to take on a variety of roles and the continual demand for ‘content’ (whatever you define that as. In this case, I think most people define it as ‘stuff not on TV’) means that agencies are now creating so much more in-house. Personally, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

TMU: We’re seeing a big blur between advertising, content and entertainment – what does your crystal ball tell you?

 DE: I guess, fundamentally, it comes down to whether brands can create interesting, engaging work, for whatever platform, that also reflects the brand. There are a lot of people in this industry who can create very good ads; there are a lot of people who could create very good content. Tying the two up coherently seems harder to do. Red Bull is an obvious, great example of a company melding those three things you mention successfully, with events, content and people jumping from outer space. The aforementioned Unquiet Series is also, I think, a great combination of those three things that stays true to the brand. It helps, of course, if you have an interesting and attractive brand proposition from the outset. It can be done though, even with a product like bleach. 

TMU: shots is at the forefront of creative thinking. What is creativity? How do you measure it?

 DE: Blimey, you don’t muck about with your questions, do you? Well, the obvious/contentious/ flippant answer at the moment is that you measure it by awards. In terms of ‘what is creativity’, as far as advertising goes, it’s a great idea married to great execution.Of course, as with any type of critical appraisal there’s an element of subjectivity to it; what you love I might hate, etc but ultimately it’s, for me, something that surprises, excites and sometimes inspires. 

TMU: Where’s the line between inspiration and plagiarism?

DE: Hmm, I don’t know, really. Personally, I find it annoying when people point fingers at advertising campaigns and reference old art films, or arcane paintings as the obvious inspiration for that piece of work. So what? Unless you’re actually breaching copyright law then no one outside of the industry cares, especially if it’s a well-executed copy. If an ad blatantly emulates another ad then I find that, not upsetting per se, more just lazy. There’s so much great stuff in the world, in culture, that you could reference and be inspired by, why choose another commercial? 

TMU: If creative ads can inspire consumers to buy, does amping up the creativity level drive even more purchases?

 DE: I think creativity is extremely important in creating a brand, more so than ever in the world we now live. It’s so easy not to watch commercials now – and most of them, on whatever platform, are essentially invisible to consumers – that standing out is essential. A study done five years ago found that award-winning, creative commercials were 12 times more effective than other, less creative campaigns. But creativity is hard, right? Coming up with ideas, selling ideas, making those ideas and, ultimately, believing in them takes courage and conviction and those things are not always in ready supply. 

TMU: Will data science ultimately kill creativity?

DE: Data is a great tool and can give very helpful insight - though I do find it odd that, back when data was simply called ‘research’, it seemed to get a far rougher ride. But data can only kill creativity if people let it. It might be able to tell you one thing, or another, and you may agree with the results, or not, but ultimately the vision and bravery of a client or an agency can trump data at any point. 

TMU: What, apart from the shots Cannes beach party, is going to make us go wow this year?

DE: The hangovers the following day! 

TMU: What’s the best thing about Essex?

DE: Well, where do I start? Alison Moyet; Rik Mayall; Blur; Billy Brag; Dudley Moore; Jamie Oliver; Dr Feelgood; Southend Pier; countless tattoo sleeves; the abandonment of the letter ‘h’; vertigo-inducing stiletto ‘eels and, ultimately, great transport links to get into London.

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