By: Justin Oswald, Freelance Creative Director · Freelancer
When I describe what I do, and why I love it, I explain that advertising is a constant conveyor belt of new, discrete problems.
And my job is to solve them in the most interesting way possible. I’m very proud of my short film, Street Surfers, but it is, effectively, still just the solution to a problem that client presented us.
Corona wanted to highlight the problem of ocean plastic but their single largest market in South Africa was in Joburg. How do you get people hundreds of miles from the sea to care about ocean plastic? If you’ll forgive the phrasing, the problem was that we couldn’t crack the problem. Over and over, we banged our heads against the wall but couldn’t find a worthwhile solution.
Now, when I talk with my junior creatives; I often say that if they can’t crack the problem then they are asking the wrong question. Because the right question will almost always give you solution to itself. So we asked ourselves instead, what connects the ocean and the city?
This might seem like it’s not too different from “how do we get people from the city to care about the ocean,” but even small changes in perspective can open up major avenues. As it happened, one of the other writers spotted some waste pickers riding their trolleys along the side of the road and had the flash of inspiration that they were, in fact, surfers. That gave us the potent metaphor we needed to talk about the city and ocean plastic.
Of course, this solution came with its own selection of problems. For one thing, not a lot of people in Jozi happened to like the recyclers and their trolleys. But those problems had an effect on our solution; they made our film an underdog story of heroes that are saving the environment and don’t even know the effect they are having. And they gave our film an emotional basis we needed to get our message across.
Now I know there’s not a lot of cross over between financial planning and advertising. They’re almost on opposite sides of the quant versus qualia spectrum. But both industries rely on solving problems. So my advice to you is the same that I give my juniors and the same I eventually followed myself.
If you find yourself unable to solve a problem; try asking a different question.