Why Going Off-Script Can Lead To Marketing Gold

Why Going Off-Script Can Lead To Marketing Gold

Yellow Pages now famous line “Not happy, Jan” has entered the Australia lexicon, despite apparently being adlibbed by the actor at the shoot. Christian Finucane (lead image), creative partner at The Core Agency writes why going off-piste creatively can lead to marketing gold…

I recently saw a new commercial that referenced the famous “Not happy, Jan!” line from the Yellow Pages ad from the early 2000s. I think it was for an accounting software company, I couldn’t tell you which as the brand didn’t stick in my head.

Of course, “Not happy, Jan!” has now well and truly infiltrated Australian popular culture, often-quoted, adapted, borrowed and paid homage to.

One example that has stuck in my head was when it popped up at a protest rally against former Prime Minister, John Howard. I saw it on the tv news re-written as “Not happy, John!” on a protest sign. I remember thinking how chuffed the creatives would have been.

It’s probably the most famous line spawned from Australian advertising ever.

What you might not know is that those three immortal words weren’t scripted.

The dialogue, according to the ad’s director Paul Middleditch, was spontaneously adlibbed by the actor on the shoot. Though they didn’t know it then, they had created a golden moment that would be etched into Australian culture for years to come.

It all goes to prove, that in the creative process, you need to leave room for the magic.

That said, advertising is of course a commercially accountable industry where every client dollar spent needs to deliver a forecastable return.

More often than not rigour is great, though such a high degree of accountability often stifles spontaneity, randomness and ‘why not?’ Add into the mix lawyers, compliance, creative testing, dipstick research, the PC police and armies of woke warriors, and it’s easy to see why creative work often suffers through the process rather than get improved.

Every word is agonised over, and every image is pondered. Many a copywriter’s brow has been furrowed as ‘learnings’ from groups are taken as gospel in the pursuit of predicting the most effective creative communication to put into market.

More often than not, excessive analysis does lead to creative paralysis.

So how can risk-loving creatives, who are charged with ensuring the work stands out, protect the idea from the risk-averse who are more comfortable shaving off the interesting jaggy bits? How can we keep a bit of zing in the work?

That ingredient is space.

Great clients, writers, creators and directors understand this. Yet it takes confidence and experience to pull it off.

A parallel industry, Hollywood, which is arguably even more accountable than advertising, spends ginormous amounts on writing, research, producing and test screenings – yet leaves room for the magic.

Movies such as Casablanca (“Here’s looking at you kid”), Jaws (“You’re going to need a bigger boat”) and Titanic (“I’m the king of the world!”) have well known unscripted moments.

Whatever the creative industry, with the right process in place it can actually help create these opportunities for random inspiration. To use a commercial as an example: from the brief, to concept, to script, to presentation, the treatment, to the shoot, the edit, the post – and everything in between. Every stage brings the opportunity (yes, and the risk) of making the big idea bigger.

It takes a certain kind of client who is willing to leave room for the magic and of course their agency partner needs to have earned their trust.

With individual campaigns often staking millions of dollars in search of success, it’s understandable why going a little off-piste seems so risky. It can be a chancier path but so often proves to be far more rewarding and memorable.

So, here’s to the client team who helped create that famous Yellow Pages ad and set the bar for the power of leaving room for the magic.

 

 




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Christian Finucane the core agency

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