“This is the game that moves as you play.”

 

All the way from the very first inkling of an idea to the final touches of production, we’re making choices. About what kind of idea it should be and what the right tone of voice is. About who will see and interact with the idea and where and how. About headlines, photographers, directors, casting, styling, VO, music. And so on. It’s an almost infinite array of ongoing conceptual, practical, stylistic and logistical choices. Which need to be made at speed, in the moment, often under pressure. “This is the game that moves as you play”, as the seminal LA punk band X memorably/ominously sang in The Have Nots.

Perhaps ‘talent’ is the ability to navigate this forest of choices and come out at the other end in the right place. (The ‘right place’ being the best possible piece of creative work you were capable of on that particular brief.) Or perhaps that’s experience. Or maybe it’s both. Whatever the case, I’m sure most people reading this will have experienced the heart-breaking feeling of producing a piece of work whose finished execution didn’t live up to its potential as an idea. It’s happened to me a few times. On a couple of occasions, the reality hasn’t even come close to what I’d originally imagined. But I think possibly the saddest examples of this phenomenon of unachieved potential are when the work is almost there but not quite. Good but not great. Close but no Hamlet.

The ad above is a perfect example. The script would’ve have been amazing to read. It’s a brilliant idea with the potential to move and inspire. A thought-provoking concept with a bold, inherently anti-materialistic edge. And it uses an iconic sporting legend to bring it to life. The hairs on the back of your neck should be standing up as you watch it. And they are…but not fully. For me, there’s a few stylistic and narrative elements where I think it perhaps could’ve been done differently.

Of course, it’s easy for me to sit here in hindsight and pick holes in something that’s really good. I’d love to have this ad in my portfolio…but I do think it could’ve been better. The team clearly had huge ambitions for it. The VO is almost perfectly crafted; the casting and performances are mostly spot on; the use of Handel’s Sarabande is inspired. But I think the fact that it’s ended up as an 8.5 out of 10 when it could have been a 10 out of 10 says something about the difficulty –impossibility, maybe – of making the right choices all the way down the line.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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