Jason Wincuinas
Sep 29, 2014

Baozi, Baozi, Baozi: A call for bravery (?)

SPIKES ASIA - Graham Fink arrived on stage to deliver a battle cry, not a seminar. And it was simply inspiring.

Graham Fink
Graham Fink "Be brave. Be Baozi." Photo from Ogilvy

Please see all of our Spikes Asia 2014 coverage here

“You need to be brave to get great work though,” said the chief creative officer for Ogilvy & Mather China near the end of his talk, after showing example after example of simple, bold ads.

This is the kind of talk you expect from an event like Spikes Asia. It educates, calls to a mission and, most importantly, lets you walk away believing that you can go out and make things happen. It should have been the opening session to set the stage for the entire week.

While the focus was largely on advertising posters, Fink used the medium to cut through advertising’s challenges to get to a straightforward business solution: Simplicity sells.

“So many ads today that you see online or TV—there’s so much information in them," Fink said, referencing how difficult it can be to strip an idea down to its most basic execution. "The human brain cannot take in all of this stuff. Your client can because the client wants to put this in it, and that in it...and you’ve got to mention this. I think it’s up to certainly the creative people to be really, really tough. Keep saying no, no, no. It takes bravery. It takes boldness, but I think if you’re a great creative, you are tough and know how to say no.”

Fink also emphasised how important it is to get to that point of simplicity because that’s what makes people think. And great work lets people think.

A great idea (or even a not so great one), shared elegantly, is art. And Fink was our curator for half an hour, demonstrating how ideas can be communicated with seemingly little effort.

“Don’t’ they look simple? Don’t they look like you could do it? I wish I could do it.”

One example FInk showed, the #cokehands poster, was so simple it didn’t even need words and has become one of the most awarded outdoor campaigns of all time, he said.

“There’s no headline; there’s no QR code; there’s no web address, and yet you all know it’s for coke and it says share a coke.”

From there he extended his argument, demonstrating simplicity in writing, art and even architecture. “That’s Iconic” he exclaimed, showing a photo of the World Trade Center's old twin towers in New York.

“We need to be taking more risks; we need to be having more fun,” he said in his calm but cajoling manner at the close of the session. “If you get to be 80, 90 and you’re laying on your deathbed and you’ve got like three days to go, and everyone’s turning up weeping and saying good-bye and everything, and if [at that point] you regret and you haven’t done all these things, I think if there is such a thing as hell, you fucking deserve to go there. Now is the time to act. Don’t you want to do great work?”

As for "baozi", which means steamed bun in Chinese, Fink related that he was working on a poem about the treat for a Mandarin class when his secretary demanded he provide a title for his talk to the Spikes Asia organisers. At Spikes, he attempted to retroactively justify the title with some talk about stuffing creative work with brave ideas, but frankly it was a stretch.


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