Advertising Week Reflections: Publicis' Nick Law Discusses Need For New Narrative Grammar
Nick Law, chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe and president of Publicis Communications
D&AD Impact Awards bestowed; insights into “She Can STEM” campaign; Will Smith addresses digital age
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Amidst the assorted events during the just wrapped Advertising Week in New York, SHOOT connected with Nick Law, chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe and president of Publicis Communications, in-between his two on-stage sessions. 

Law began the Publicis chapter in his career back in May after a lengthy creatively groundbreaking tenure at R/GA where he last served as VP and global CCO. SHOOT’s conversation with him centered on his contributions to a “15x15” presentation marking the 15th anniversary of Advertising Week in which 15 thought leaders each took a past calendar year, identifying significant work and developments then and reflecting on how they impacted the present and what they mean for the future.

Law took on the year 2008, noting that it was “tumultuous socially and economically.” For that year’s most significant work, he cited two pieces: Cadbury’s “Gorilla” from Fallon London, one of the earliest viral advertising hits of the YouTube age; and the California Milk Board’s online game, Get the Glass, which came from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.

Regarding “Gorilla,” Law observed, “Ten years ago, something happened that hit a nerve in the world of the Internet. It signaled a different sort of media behavior.”

However, there’s hasn’t been a commensurate ripple effect on the storytelling front, according to Law who said it’s remarkable “how little the grammar of narrative advertising has changed since then given how everything else has changed. Television drama today is much different now, for example, than it was 10 years ago. The grammar is different, much more complex. That’s not true of advertising despite the opportunity that the web has given us to try new things.”

As for Get the Glass, Law related that while it didn’t make much sense for people to go online and play a game about milk, the work was still important in that it was “the first time we had seen such high online production values. What Goodby and North Kingdom brought to the web at the time was beautiful production value. It reminds us that back then the web hadn’t become what it is now--where the best of everything is.” Law said that Get the Glass demonstrated “the value of deep craft.”

2008 was also the year the iPhone came out. Ten years ago, people spent an average of 20 minutes a day consuming media, noted Law. Now it’s around five hours per day. “Obviously the best version of the Internet is mobile for all sorts of reasons. But the industry hasn’t recognized that creatively,” contended Law. “It’s where we should start everything--mobile, in your pocket, in your hand. Imagine it there instead of imagining your work on a huge screen at the Palais in Cannes.”

Law affirmed that the future carries great promise that can only be fully realized if we change our thinking. “VR is a great example. Storytelling has been up until now about revealing the moment. At some point, though, storytelling will be about revealing the space, leaving the moment open ended--leaving it to where people spatially may go. New formats and technologies are forcing us to come up with new grammars--telling stories in VR, in AR with modular content, superimposing AR on the real world. I’m profoundly disappointed by the creative community which largely views all this as technology rather than being excited about the possibility of developing new grammars. Instead they retreat to maxims about ‘the big idea.”

Coming of age
Beyond the messages he was looking to impart during Advertising Week, Law was asked by SHOOT what messages from others resonated for him during the NYC proceedings. He referenced a session where people discussed age discrimination in the industry. Quipping that “I’m 52 and warming to the idea that discrimination is a problem,” Law noted that with all the talk of diversity, there isn’t much focus on the specific need for diversity in age.

“In the same way that diversity of backgrounds and skillsets is healthy in a creative environment, so to is diversity of age,” said Law. This difference in age and experience is what inherently leads to mentoring. And mentoring is a two-way street as industry vets can learn a lot from young people who have a natural fluency in media platforms, observed Law.

Talking points
Other highlights of Advertising Week included:

--A “She Can STEM” panel recapped the recently launched “She Can STEM” campaign put together by the Advertising Council, in collaboration with General Electric, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon. GE’s Linda Boff, IBM’s Ann Rubin, McCann’s Sean Bryan and Microsoft’s Kathleen Hall joined The Ad Council’s Michelle Hillman to discuss the awareness campaign encouraging girls ages 11 to 15 to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math. They spoke about new programs across local New York City and how they are working with polytechic schools for “new collar” programs that give folks four years of high school and two years of associate-degree programs. The campaign centerpiece consists of videos in which the seven women discuss with girls (actresses with an interest in STEM subjects) what they do professionally and what the opportunities are. The professionals are also featured on the campaign’s website,, and in individual profiles on Instagram and in more traditional media.

--The Gun Safety Alliance took to the stage to discuss its “End Family Fire” campaign, which is its solution to the “silent national crisis” of gun safety. Eight children a day die from guns inside the home. After the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, The GSA, Droga5, and The Ad Council decided to partner together to change behavior and culture. Their stance was not about taking away guns but rather a commonly agreed on position of saving lives with safe gun practices. Similarly to how the Ad Council established the phrase “designated driver” in the common vernacular, the panelists hope to get “family fire” to become a household name. The campaign strives to increase awareness on gun safety, let it be locking up your firearms in a biometric safe or creating more dialogue between parents about safe practices. David Droga of Droga5 hopes the campaign does not have a political partisan stance but rather discusses the issues of “logic and safety” that will benefit society as a whole.

--Will Smith spoke at Advertising Week NY with Adam Stewart, a VP at Google, about being authentic and fearless in the digital age. Smith, who recently started his own YouTube channel, stressed the importance of avoiding looking at “the numbers” and getting out of one’s comfort zone by saying “nothing is more valuable than your gut.” He affirmed, “Confront fear to maintain creativity.” Smith kept the crowd laughing by dancing to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and with his re-enactment of his epic heli-jump celebration of his 50th birthday. In response to being dared to jump, Smith said, “Oh, you want to challenge me, I’m from Philly son!” For the stunt, he purposely did not do any test jumps to create more authentic content. Smith also touched on his upcoming films being released next year, including the live-action Aladdin film in which he plays the Genie character. Smith revealed that the film will be full of “singing, dancing, special effects, action, has everything.” He also teased Ang Lee’s Gemini Man, a film in which he plays a CIA assassin running from a 25-year-old clone of himself.

--In a “News on Mobile: Formats that Work” session, Snapchat VP of international business solutions Claire Valoti spoke with Peter Hamby of Good Luck America, and Savannah Sellers and Gadi Schwartz of NBC, about how people, mostly millennials and Gen Z, are obtaining news via mobile. The spoke about how it’s false that these generations do not care about political issues, especially with their collective interest in gun control, environment, healthcare, and other issues. For example, Stay Tuned had its higher viewership the day after the tragedy at Parkland--the team saw an increase from an average from 5 million views to around 11 million-12 million views. The group spoke about being successful on Snapchat, and how crucial it is to ensure the presentation looks native on the platform, all the while maintaining authenticity in a quick 20-30 second time frame. They also spoke about how communication and interaction with Snapchat is key, as the platform provides analytical data and what users want. Millennials and Gen Z are getting the news, they’re just watching it differently, through platforms such as Snapchat on their mobiles.

D&AD Impact Awards
Leading figures from the worlds of business, advertising, design and philanthropy gathered on Wednesday night (10/3) at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 in NYC to find out--and honor--the winners of the third annual D&AD Impact Awards. 

D&AD Impact recognizes the best in creative work that has a real social impact, celebrating ideas that contribute towards a better and more sustainable future. During the New York ceremony, shortlisted entrants found out if they won a coveted D&AD Impact Pencil, as well as which entrant was awarded the inaugural $20,000 prize fund. 

In total, 76 D&AD Impact Pencils were awarded to campaigns, projects and products addressing some of the most pressing issues in the world today.

This year, entries demonstrated a focus on issues of environmental sustainability and inclusion--reflected in the lineup of projects that took home the top awards. Two Black Pencils, which are reserved for truly groundbreaking work, were awarded to the following projects:

  • “Black Supermarket” by Marcel Paris for Carrefour 
  • “Palau Pledge” by Host/Havas for Palau Legacy Project.

White Pencils, one of the highest accolades for world-changing creativity, were bestowed upon:

  • AMV BBDO for Essity Libresse/Bodyform’s “Blood Normal.”
  • AMV BBDO for LADBible/The Plastic Ocean Foundation’s “Trash Isles.”
  • BBDO NY for Procter & Gamble’s “The Talk.”
  • FCB Inferno for Change Please’s “Change Please.”
  • FCB/SIX for PFLAG Canada’s “Destination Pride.”
  • J. Walter Thompson Paris for Freedom Voices Network’s “Forbidden Stories.”
  • Maruri Grey for Sambito’s “Nature Represented.”
  • McCann NY for March For Our Lives’ “Price For Our Lives.”

In addition to the two Black Pencils and eight White Pencils, there were 17 Graphite Pencils and 49 Wood Pencils awarded. (12 of the Wood Pencils were for beta products and programs by businesses looking to scale their initiatives, like Dot Mini, the first smart device for the visually impaired created by Serviceplan and the Dot corporation, and ProxyAddress by Hildrey Studio, which helps those facing homelessness maintain access to support even after they have lost an address.) 

New to D&AD Impact in 2018 was a $20,000 prize for prototypes, products and projects from a range of categories. The cash prize was awarded to DDB Mudra Group and the organization Prerana Anti-Trafficking for their Project Free Period initiative. Developed with feminine hygiene brand Stayfree India/Johnson & Johnson, the project supports women in the sex trade to build vocational skills to allow them to sustain themselves in new lines of work. 


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