Grey global creative chief Per Pedersen: We never do work just to win awards



The global creative head at Grey has come to the defence of his agency’s work in Asia, some of which has been called out for taking advantage of serious social issues in developing countries to win awards.

Per Pederson, who chairs Grey’s creative council and leads the network’s global awards agenda, told Mumbrella that the agency never produces work for the sole purpose of winning metal and uses awards as a “testing ground” for ideas.

He also said that the agency “refuses to be slaves” to awards shows and uses them to build creative reputation and culture.

In recent weeks, Grey – which was a serious contender for network of the year at Cannes Lions last year – has unveiled a series of creative ideas from Asia in the lead up to the Cannes awards deadline, including a mosquito-killing umbrella in Malaysia, English-teaching candy sellers in India and, as press released yesterday, a way to reduce the temperature of rural Bangladeshi homes using a grid of plastic bottles.


Grey Dhaka’s Eco-Cooler

Pedersen said via email: “When we take on important subjects we try to find the solutions with the biggest impact. We do this because we believe that ideas can make a difference and because it’s an integrated part of our creative culture.

“We always try to make the footprint of our ideas as big as possible. Sometimes we plant a seed that needs a long term commitment to grow big – like the gun control effort out of Grey New York. Other times an idea takes off immediately,” said Pedersen, who uses the term “solvertising” to describe work that tackles social problems.

“We never do anything just for award shows, but use them as a launch pad and testing ground for ideas,” he said, referring to Grey London’s ‘Life Paint’ cyclist safety idea for Volvo, which he said “grew big” after winning Grand Prix at Cannes.

“Award shows play a positive role in pushing us to try out new things and I believe they help us step out from the everyday. We refuse to be slaves to awards shows, but try to use them when building our creative reputation and culture.”

Grey’s ideas have come in for criticism from industry commenters in social media, including on conservative business site LinkedIn as well as Mumbrella, with some questioning their viability and sustainability beyond an awards jury room.

Life saving Dot

‘Life saving dot’

In response to Mumbrella’s questions about the longevity of Grey’s work – including last year’s multiple award-winning Life Saving Dot idea – Pedersen commented: “All ideas can be criticised and discussed and I’m always open for that, but I never engage with comments from three or four trolls.”

He added: “All our ‘ideas for good’ are meant to make as big a difference as possible. They are based on local insights and collaborations with local organisations to be sustainable. This effort is a small but an important part of what we do. It inspires out of the box thinking and I think our industry needs that.”

Pedersen shared that a new video for social activist group iCONGOtv, which parodies case study videos by suggesting agencies use actors instead of real people in their films, was made by Grey India, the agency behind the Candy Class idea.

The film follows the year after iCONGOtv produced a film that wondered why advertising agencies seem to do work that solves social problems only once a year before the submissions deadline for Cannes.

Grey is not alone in raising eyebrows with work commentators suspect has been created only with awards in mind this year. Fellow WPP agency J. Walter Thompson has also drawn attention for its smart clothes peg from Australia, and a soba allergy checker from Japan.


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