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Graham Fink to Asia’s creatives: Be uncompromising, be like Steve Jobs

Graham FinkOne of the region’s top creative directors has called on Asia’s creatives to “be brave” in a presentation that harked back to an era when advertising agencies had more influence over their clients.

Graham Fink, the chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather China, told delegates at ad festival Spikes Asia that being a great creative takes “balls”.

“If you are a great creative you should be able to say no,” he said, echoing the sentiment of Droga5 chief creative officer Ted Royer, who the day before at Spikes had said that agencies needed to push back more against their clients to earn respect.

“You need to be brave. You need to be tough. You have to be like Steve Jobs. You have to stop listening to all these people,” he said, referring to the outside influence that can smother a creative’s boldest ideas.

When other stakeholders are involved in the creative process, Fink called on adland to “Make them part of a team, not part of a committee,” before referring to the David Ogilvy quote: “Search all the parks in the world and you won’t find a statue of a committee.”

Fink presented a series of ads from the 1980s and 1990s that he said was “totally uncompromising” and were evidence of creatives with courage and “toughness” to fight for their ideas.

They included the famous ‘Cages save lives’ print ad for Volvo, that played on Volvo’s core brand value of safety with a diver in a cage being watched by a Great White Shark, and the ‘Labour isn’t working’ poster for Britain’s Conservative party that helped Margaret Thatcher sweep to power in 1979.

'Labour isn't working' poster from 1979

He presented a controversial ad for Benetton that featured an AIDS sufferer and his family, which was the most complained about ever in the UK when it launched. Fink said of the ad: “It challenged everyone.”

The Economist AIDS ad

Other work he showed included the “Management trainee, aged 42” ad for news and current affairs magazine, The Economist, which was part of a long-running campaign to position the title as a must-read for aspiring business leaders. “I love the fact that they stuck with the same idea for so long,” Fink said.

The Economist management trainee aged 42 ad

Fink had much praise for British cigarette brand Silk Cut and its seminal advertising that played on the word ‘cut’ with a series of visual metaphors.

Silk Cut ad

Fink himself created the following campaign for the brand during his time at Saatchi & Saatchi London, which was a play on the most famous shower curtain scene from Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho.

Silk Cut 'Hitchcock'

Fink also presented an ad he produced with student designer Jonathan Mak Long while in his current role at Ogilvy China, for Coca-Cola, which is the most awarded ad in the brand’s history. The campaign, which ran on bus shelters and on lifts in Shanghai, broke convention by not carrying a headline, QR code or web address, Fink explained.

Coke hands

Fink did not present any current campaigns, but referred to viral phenomenon the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as an idea that would win a Grand Prix at Cannes. “What have you done in your career that has had this effect?” he asked his audience.

Before joining Ogilvy China more than three years ago, Fink was executive creative director at M&C Saatchi in London. He also worked as a commercials director for the Paul Weiland Film Company.

In his earlier career, he had a stint working for one of Britain’s most influential creative agencies in history, Collett Dickenson Pearce, in the 1980s. While there as an art director, he won his first D&AD pencil for cigar brand Hamlet. The tactical ad featured English cricketer Ian Botham smoking a cigar on the same day he was banned from Test Cricket for smoking marijuana.

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