Over the last couple of weeks, there has been an incredible amount of debate about the new ‘Skittles’ campaign. The general consensus is that it is a total rip off but it certainly got me thinking about a few things… I think that you can definitely tell most people who are writing about communications on blogs are planners because I, as an account handler, have quite a different perspective from a lot of what has been written.
In order to communicate my thought process, I’ve decided to look at sport. In sport and in football in particular, success is governed by the finest margins. Sportsmen are continually looking to economise their performances or seek legal advantages to bolster their teams chances. One would think that after 100 years of playing, there would not be anything left to learn, but there is. Some attempts to innovate are effective once or twice before opposition teams learn to snuff them out, whilst other attempts live for longer and even become entrenched in the game. Here are a couple of such examples:
Johan Cruyff was one of footballs great innovators. As well as being one of the finest readers and passers of the game, he also perfected a move now known as the ‘Cruyff Turn‘. To perform this move, Cruyff would look to pass or cross the ball. However, instead of kicking it, he would drag the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his other foot and turn through 180 degrees and accelerate away outside a defender. This move had never been used before but is now used in pretty much every game you might see in any division of football around the world. It allows a player who has sufficient skill to pull it off, the chance to accelerate away from the opposition.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a very different player to Johan Cruyff. He was also Dutch but that was where the similarities ended. A penalty box player, his game was all about finishing…applying the final flourish to a move or simply capitalising on a mistake. It wasn’t just capitalising on mistakes that he was good at though. Van Nistelrooy also capitalised on the uncertainty around the off side rule with regard to what was considered being ‘active’ in play. He changed the way strikers played by standing in off side positions throughout a pattern of play before coming back onside and scoring goal after goal. He was the first player to do this…and this is now a common occurrence amongst strikers.
So…two types of innovation that have been replicated on countless occasions by individuals other than by whom they were created by. Indeed, these are two types of innovation that afforded an individual an advantage over another person, and, one could argue, have probably been used at the expense of Cruyff himself or against Van Nistlerooy’s team. So, what is the reaction of those who understand football best – the pundits, the ex players, the managers – the people who are akin to the planners in advertising? Their reaction is that the execution is what matters – not who came up with the original idea.
In the Skittles instance, the original concept was fantastic but this was applied to an agency website not a brand. It takes bravery on the part of the client and pragmatism on the part of the agency to go ahead with such a campaign. By using the technique, there is a tacit acknowledgment of it’s worth… and a nod in the direction of the creator. It’s easy to see that Modernista! Have done very well out of this campaign!
So, imitation remains the most sincere form of flattery…
One of the most concerning things for me reading peoples reaction was how much mutual back-slapping there seemed to be and how little breadth of opinion there was from such a wide range of people – particularly people who are supposed to be so open minded and creative. There seemed to be a desire for ideas to be kept to those who invented them rather than those who can execute them effectively…The Modernista! Site was innovative, exciting and different…but the Skittles campaign was the bridge between niche and mainstream allowing more people to see and enjoy this special thought… It’s important not to judge everything on where the thought has come from – but more importantly where it is going…