Matt Eastwood, worldwide CCO at J. Walter Thompson, who headed the Film, Print, Print & Poster Craft and Integrated juries, was first up. He began with a simple question for the audience.
“Curiosity is a fundamental human trait and in my experience, the best way to spark creativity," he said. "It is also the best way to start your day and approach the world. So why does curiosity stop when we get older? Why do we not have the same level of curiosity as when we were children?”
Eastwood said that main thing stopping people from expressing curiosity, and crucially, asking questions, was fear.
“Many people think that by asking questions, you’re showing vulnerability and admitting that you don't know," he said. "That’s why at work people sit on their hands, don’t question, because they’re too afraid to show weakness.”
But being unafraid to ask questions can result in some extraordinary experiences. Eastwood pointed to Andrew Zuckerman, an American photographer and filmmaker and his portrait series Wisdom. Released in 2008, the dynamic portrait series incorporates voice, physical presence and written word.
Before this project, Zuckerman had never interviewed anyone. He was best known as a wildlife photographer. His first interview was with Sir Michael Parkinson, a world-renowned broadcaster and interviewer.
“Zuckerman could have just pretended to have known what he was doing but he didn’t," Eastwood related. "He was honest and told Sir Parkinson about his inexperience, and got a great piece of advice: ‘The key to a great interview is to throw out the questions and have a conversation.’”
Eastwood also highlighted a campaign by JWT for Lux as an illustration. In 2014, Bhavesh Patel, a photographer who was born blind, shot Bollywood superstar Katrina Kaif for a brand campaign, guided by her scent.
The concept came about as a response to the central question: “how does a blind man see?”, according to Eastwood. “And the answer was beautiful.”
According to Eastwood, most companies expect employees and leaders to know everything, and promote those who show no doubt.
“As a result leadership is filled with those who don’t question," he said. "Those willing to doubt and question are skipped over, which I think is a tragic mistake. With the pace of change these days, how can one person know everything?”
Eastwood admitted that curiosity is not easy, but it begins with being comfortable about being dumb.
“It takes courage to be stupid," he said. "It’s okay to be the dumbest person in the room, to be ignorant because knowledge begins with ignorance. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, because that’s how people learn and grow the most,” he said.
It’s not just a pencil
While curiosity opens the doorway to inspiration, for Nils Andersson, president and chief creative officer at TBWA Greater China, who served as president of the Direct and Promo & Activation Juries, pencilling it down and then taking it beyond the page is what differentiates a truly great campaign.
“It all starts with a pencil," he said, brandishing an example of the humble writing device throughout his talk. "The simplest start point, with the right thinking, can lead to great execution.”
Above all, Andersson said that agencies and brands must remember that idea and execution are not two separate things. That the idea, in tandem with the best possible means of execution, done consistently over time, is what truly elevates a brand.
To illustrate, he showcased the launch campaign for Gap’s debut in China back in 2010, a large-scale integrated effort that came from a simple two-point scribble.
The idea? A vision of a liberated world. The execution? Showcasing America and China hanging out.
Andersson noted that Asia has long had issues with creativity, and is a region used to following or adapting the ideas of others.
“But as the centre of marketing shifts to this part of the world, it has to be used to being the originators," he said, adding that the region is a hub of talent, accounting for a significant number of global talents.
“It’s also about finishing things with quality, to not be okay with it just being okay," he said. "It should not always be about expense but often is because great people cost money. But you’ll find that the long-term returns far outweigh any short-term losses.”