NABS Fast Forward 2016 week 4: Alex Grieve on Ideas

Words by Dan Durling, Sales Director Yahoo, Inc. and Team Simmonds Mentor

With some disbelief the mentors met last night in Mark’s pre-session briefing and realized we were already over halfway through the course.  Everyone looked a little nervous.

If all the teams were following Jon Steel’s words of advice from week 1 we would already have the idea and be in the process of blowing it out by now!

As a new mentor this year I have been staggered at the quality of speakers NABS has organized.  Last night it was the turn of Alex Grieve, Executive Creative Director at AMV BBDO.  Alex didn’t disappoint.  His session focused on ‘Ideas’, and neatly built on the Insights and Strategy discussion with Loz Horner the week before.

Alex opened with the uncomfortable concept that he didn’t really know where good ideas come from.  I sensed the delegates were intrigued and little nervous of this.  Going to the loo and during sex were suggested as particularly inspirational moments.  Still a sense of nervousness.

Alex then went on to put the team at ease by articulately demonstrating a number of hints, tips and tricks gleaned from his 25 years of stellar work and awards.

Alex suggested the power of things that are put together that shouldn’t be with the celebrated Jeff Goldblum PC World Christmas ad.  Taking a negative and turning it into a positive with powerful examples from VW and Avis. Definitely food for thought with our Scope brief.  Keeping it simple has been a theme throughout the course and one that I will come back to in my own work. Alex showed the Levi’s Engineered Jeans ad to prove that point.  I loved the idea of being thrown three tennis balls and having to decide which one to catch.  Again a concept that we could apply to all our work.

The idea of mystery and making the audience do the work is a hugely powerful lever to pull.  Alex brought this to life with the now legendry Levis Swimming Pool TV spot and one of my all time favorite movies, Jaws.  How do you make a shark movie without a shark?  Spielberg took inspiration from Hitchcock and my nightmares as a 10 year old are testament to his genius.

Alex finished with some best practice tips from his many years of experience.  Keeping hold of an idea and not letting it get diluted as demonstrated by the devilishly clever and simple Economist Ads.  Finally how you take a concept and shape it into something huge.  Mog the cat, Judith Kerr and the success of Sainsbury’s Christmas had the floor nodding in approval.

My overriding sense from Alex’s talk was that creativity is tough, but when you get it right it is the best thing in the world.

So if there were three things for our teams to take out of week four…take a pen and paper to the loo, find out which famous actors have just got divorced and learn from the best, Alex did.


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