The Creative Review blog ran an interesting piece last week about a minor storm in a teacup. Grey advertising has produced a spray paint for Volvo, designed to be used on pushbikes. In the dark it reflects headlights, and so might save lives.
Of course, while this gained applause in some quarters, it lead to being pilloried elsewhere: Was the product original? Was it about saving lives or winning awards? Why is it getting more PR than actual distribution?
The projects creative director offered a balanced and well reasoned response, explaining that the project is intending to scale up distribution post testing, and that there are easier ways to win awards than spending a couple of years in R&D on an innovation project that doesn’t make the client any money.
You can form your own view, but personally this is her quote that snagged my eye: “To create meaningful, beneficial, globally famous cultural commodities – to push up against what we’re supposed to do – to use all the talents to hand in our brilliant creative industries and grow what modern ‘advertising’ is capable of? That’s not an awards play. That’s survival – and I think we all know where this industry is heading if we don’t adapt.”
It is clear that forward thinking agencies of all disciplines are using design as media and communication. Making things is becoming as much part of the communications mix as selling things. It’s great – design is becoming so much less passive in the ‘narrative of brands’ and it opens up real creative opportunities for everybody to use design in really inspiring ways. And if this spray paint wins a few awards whilst saving a few lives, is that really such a bad outcome?