Approximately 10,000 students from all over China vie to be selected for The One Club of Greater China Youth Creative Workshop every year. In 2017, more than 400 were accepted, working under the guidance of professional mentors to create an entire advertising campaign for Chevrolet China (last year’s workshop client) in five days.
Fast forward six months, and Chevrolet has actually adopted and executed on the winning idea in a campaign that launched on Children's Day (1 June). This marks the first time a brand has used student work commercially. The winning team, made up of seven 22-year-old students calling themselves 'Booooooom!', got 'inspired' by a group of 'creatives' even younger than them.
A bunch of 6-year-olds in a Guangxi kindergarten.
"I remember that we went through a lot of ideas with our mentor," recalled Cyrus Cao, representative of the Booooooom team, now a product design intern at Tencent. "He was always talking to us about ideas, ideas, and ideas. So what is considered a good idea? According to our mentor, an idea is like a tree trunk. All the resultant work must be conducted around this tree trunk."
Chevrolet’s brief was to reverse the giggle-inducing associations of its logo, which adults in China likened to a red cross symbol, a crucifix or a sanitary napkin. The starting point almost every student team had at the One Show workshop was to stand in the shoes of an adult consumer and then work from there.
"At that time, I thought of Bruce Lee's words: 'Be water, my friends'," Cao said. "So adapting from this, we finally came up with the 'Be a child' idea. Our mentor acquiesced to it as time was running out for us [in the workshop]."
As soon as the idea was confirmed, the team began to formulate a plan to contact kindergartens around Shanghai to film children interpreting the Chevy logo on their own terms.
As it seems to be with all situations involving kids, it was a bit of a snafu at first.
"We couldn't get through to many kindergartens by cold-calling," Cao said. "And even when we did, we were mistaken for scammers. It was not easy to communicate the idea to kindergarten principals. Moreover, all the kindergartens of the whole Shanghai city were tied up with inspections from the education ministry."
The mother of one member of the Booooooom team happened to be a primary school teacher, but a few hours away in Guangxi. That didn't stop them. The mother-teacher arranged for several lower-grade curricula in her school to be temporarily changed into 'art classes' the very next day. How handy!
These colourful doodles, or what the team joked to be graffiti of the Detroit-based car brand, were "truly amazing", Cao gushed. "All of which we hadn’t thought of before. Under the children's innocent brushes, Chevrolet’s logo becomes a rocket that allows astronauts to navigate the universe. It becomes a colourful castle where the princess lives in a fairy tale. It becomes a mysterious submarine sneaking underwater on the seabed. The children’s ideas are varied and give the Chevrolet logo so many wonderful meanings. On the other hand, we adults have been so limited in our thinking."
For Children's Day this year, Chevrolet took the 'be a child' idea and ran with it with real-life media placements, encouraging car buyers to look at the world (and its brand) with a perspective as wondrous as the artistic kindergarteners. It was unsure if the kids were credited individually, but variations of the adapted artwork below were exhibited in the subways of Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Wuhan and Zhengzhou. One may not only remember Chevy's logo, but also remember what it may have transformed into, Cao summarised.
Is creativity only in the domain of the young ones?
Does this Chevy case prove that creativity is in the domain of the youth, with ECDs and CCOs perhaps 'over the hill' when they pass a certain age? The youths Campaign China interviewed, all award winners at last year's One Show workshop, stripped that perception of ageism apart. (Maybe they will answer differently when they get much... older?)
Cyrus Cao (曹舒楠)
Intern at Tencent
Personality is more important when it comes to creativity. Age seems to be the most insignificant thing. Every creative person who wants to go further on the road of creativity has a personality that learns continuously and adapts to this ever-changing world. So age is really not important.
Maintaining a good attitude, knowing what the world is like now and what it may be in the future, and 'catching' inspiration in real time are the skills that creative people need to have, in order to keep their minds young.
Jin Wuqi (金吴骐)
Art director at Grey Shanghai
I personally believe that creativity should be 51% talent and 49% accumulation of life experiences, so it is related to age. I like to chat with my peers to churn out creative ideas. A lot of inspiration will come out in between chats when joking around and lightly arguing. But when I talk about creativity with seniors or bosses, I prefer to respectfully listen to their ideas and suggestions first, and then I will communicate my views. I will not deny their ideas directly, but will ask them to thoroughly explain their thoughts.
Older creatives live in a world that feels bigger, more macro, and where there are fewer borders, but at the same time that world is more realistic and more responsible than the world I'm in. I haven't seen the whole world yet. I think I have a lot to explore. I live my life differently every day to come into contact with new things every day. I play with food, and I dabble in magic. I belong to the kind of rebellious, and particularly extroverted, type of person, so there are many things I will not do in accordance with the rules.
In school, to tell the truth, the curriculum is partly derailed from the skills you need in real work-life. Most of the teaching at art school is conducted by older art teachers who can only teach us about basic design techniques like colour, composition, ratio and the like, though those are still important.
Zhu Genle (朱根乐)
Student at Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts
Age, personality or talent? Which trumps in creativity? Hmmm... These three things are all relatively objective factors and fait accompli that cannot be changed. Both age and personality are laws of nature, and talent depends largely on... possession of talent.
Old age is difficult to reverse, but the innocence of youth can be retained (this should be the necessary skill of all creatives). Personality can determine your fate, but there are also many people who can change their personalities the day after.
My humble opinion is that compared to the other two factors, talent is more crucial when it comes to creativity. Although hard work can compensate for having no talent, there will always be people who are as diligent as you but more talented than you in existence.
If I do decide to pursue a commercial creative career for the rest of my life, I will be most worried about the difficulty of maintaining the enthusiasm level to keep on creating. As a saying goes: "If you keep touching a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot preserve its sharpness." This describes creative work precisely. A senior member of the advertising industry once told me: "To be creative is like running a marathon." There must always be new breakthroughs in a career of creativity, as you cannot rely on past achievements. So, creativity is a very stressful business.