What is a truly great creative idea? In art? In music? In marketing?
It taps into something deep in a person. Makes them think, “yes, that’s it!” Essentially, the artist helps us better comprehend this innately complex experience we call life.
Sound too deep for you? Are you thinking, “hey, Dan, I’m just trying to sell some toasters” or “get some leads?”
Well, you’re doing much more than that. You’re trying to show the right person the value of taking an action that has a cost to them. And you’re trying to reach them while they’re trudging through a blizzard of information.
Science can help. But so can art and creativity. And to be that marketing artist, to help find and execute that truly great creative idea, takes work.
Tune in to the latest episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to get some insights and inspiration for the hard work of creativity. Listen now to hear what Carlo Cavallone, Global Chief Creative Officer and Partner, 72andSunny, has learned in a career full of wrestling with the creative process.
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“People don't buy from websites; people buy from people.”
That quote is from Flint McGlaughlin (in Website Wireframes: 8 psychological elements that impact marketing conversion rates).
And it’s true of your advertising and marketing as well. Which is what stuck out to me in the podcast guest application from our latest guest. He said, “if you don’t like it, nobody else will.”
I hear that as bringing humanity to your marketing, and not taking a “we’ll fool them” approach to your brand’s relationship with its customers. I hear it as, “If you don’t put some element of yourself in your work, nobody else will really engage with it on a human level.”
It got me thinking – musicians, novelists, comedians, and other artists pour themselves into their work. Why shouldn’t marketing and advertising creatives?
That is just one of the insights our guest latest guest sparked in me. Listen now and see what ideas he will spark in you. Carlo Cavallone is the Global Chief Creative Officer and Partner at 72andSunny, an agency owned by Stagwell. As part of the agency’s leadership team, Cavallone helps manage the agency’s global team of 400 employees.
You can listen using the embedded player below or click through to your preferred audio streaming service.
Some lessons from Cavallone that emerged from our discussion:
Never, ever, ever go on a shoot without a fully approved concept.
Cavallone shot a film that cost eight million pounds (in 2005) for a major telecom company when he worked at Wieden+Kennedy. It never saw the light of day. He called it, “the most incredible piece of trash…we were trying to make sense of things, but it made no sense.”
“Better is temporary.”
The wording for this lesson comes from the title of a book about Nike by Sam Grawe. Cavallone worked on the 2006 Work Cup campaign for Nike. Hundreds of ideas were killed, scripts were re-written 50 times. In a way, Cavallone feels that it was never really finished, and still today feels beautifully imperfect.
If your client is not as ambitious as you are, you’re not going to do anything great.
The CEO of Benetton, Alessandro Benetton, recruited Cavallone to get the brand to win a Gold Lion (from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity). He met with Benetton and Gianluca Pastore who told Cavallone they wanted to the brand to be relevant and disruptive again. The “Unhate” campaign that came out of their collaboration ending up winning the Grand Prix award in the Press Lion category at the ad festival.
Does it all make sense?
A commercial for a famous soda brand became the worst project Cavallone ever made because all the “great” elements in it (a famous pop singer, a great director, thousands of extras, an epic setting, an important brief) didn’t really come together in a cohesive way and resulted in a disaster. Nobody asked the question: does it all make sense?
Cavallone also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with:
Elio Bronzino, Executive Creative Director, Bozell Milan: If you don’t like it, nobody else will.
Bronzino helped Cavallone go from making boring ads for a sofa company to almost bringing to life an epic Bible-inspired blockbuster. Even though he wasn’t able to ultimately air the campaign, the experience showed Cavallone the possibility of bringing an artistic vision to your marketing creative.
Alvaro Sotomayor, Creative Director, Wieden + Kennedy: Finish what you started.
When building a submarine in the center of Milan for a Nike event with Sotomayor, Cavallone learned the importance of execution – its not enough to have a great creative idea, you have to be able to execute it.
Glenn Cole, Founder, 72andSunny: If it’s not great, it’s probably bad.
Cavallone had to write a CD/videogame script for Nike. He had to write it from scratch, without ever having written one before. He suffered through endless re-writes until it all came together. Cole told Cavallone, if he didn’t put everything he had into it and really make it great, there was no real middle ground – it would just be terrible.
Related content mentioned in this episode
Not Enough Lobster In The Ocean: Trusting their gut leads to 90,000% revenue growth at Mint Mobile (Podcast Episode #11)
This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.
Not ready for a listen just yet? Interested in searching the content? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our conversation.
Daniel Burstein: People don't buy from websites. People buy from people. That's a quote from Flint McLaughlin from session seven of our free digital marketing course. And it's true of your advertising and marketing as well, which is what attracted me to the application from our next guest. He said, If you don't like it, nobody else will. I love that because I hear that it's bringing humanity to your marketing. I've been in so many meetings where people are coming up with ideas and it's like, Wait a minute. The audience would never believe that. Potential customers would ever believe that. Like, would you really believe that?
So I hear that quote. If you don't like it, nobody else will. If you don't put yourself and your personal influences and your likes and dislikes in the work, nobody else is really going to engage with it. It got me thinking musicians, novelists, comedians, these other artists, they pour themselves into their work. Why shouldn't marketing and advertising creatives do the same? That's just one of the lessons we'll learn from our guest today. Carlo Cavallone, the Global Chief Creative Officer and a partner at 72 And Sunny, thanks for joining us today.
Carlo Cavallone: Oh, hello. Thanks for having me today.
Daniel Burstein: Great. So let's talk about your background real quick. Just gone through your LinkedIn I love it. You started out as a translator and editor of DC Batman Comics in your very early days. It sounds like the coolest job. Then you went on to be a writer at Bozell/FCB, Leo Burnett, and Wieden and Kennedy. And for the past 12 years, you've been at 72 and Sunny, an agency owned by Stagg.
Well, now you are a partner. You're in the leadership team overseeing over 400 people in the whole agency, and you are the Global Chief Creative Officer so tell us, what does it mean to be the Global Chief Creative officer?
Carlo Cavallone: It means working with a lot of different time zones. It means setting very long days, but it also means like having a great overview of what happens in the world and looking at work from a lot of different regions and working with a lot of different people and cultures, which is what I have always done throughout the last 20 years of my career. So that's exciting.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. The stories you brought us today come from all over the world. So let's hop into some of those. So let's start the first half of the podcast. We always talk about the things our guest has made because we as marketers, as advertisers, that's kind of unique about our job. I've never been an actuary or podiatrist or any of those things, but I know that when we've made something that campaigns and brands we've made. It's exciting.
So let's talk about the first lesson that you had was actually, I guess it's from something you didn't make, right? Right. Never, ever, ever go on a shoot without a fully approved concept. So it sounds like there's a painful story behind that. Carlo, what happened there?
Carlo Cavallone: It's very painful. But, you know, sometimes I thought I would write a book about this story, and thanks for the opportunity of telling it. You know, this was for a big telecom company, global company. I won't name it, but maybe I'll guess which one is it in a little while. And, you know, we were supposed to, I was working in White and Kennedy, and we were working on this global platform and big launch, and we had the classic long creative development process.
And finally, you know, everything is approved. We go to L.A. to begin this shoot that was going to be like two weeks shoot. And I remember I was waiting for my car at the rental car place, and someone called me and told me, well, you know, the script wasn't really approved, approved, someone saw it and they had notes and I was like, Oh, no. Here we go.
And so that's how it started. I remember really being on the line for the car, and this phone call was like, this is going to end terribly because the script wasn't really, really, really, really approved. There was another stakeholder somewhere that had some notes. And so the first thing is like, you know, we get to the hotel and we get on a conference call and we realize that actually everything has been had been unapproved. And the only option was like write again. But we were supposed to start production the next day. And we were like, oh, how can we start production if we don't have a script? And the answer was like, well, we'll you know, we'll see as we go And, you know, at that time with hindsight, we should have said, okay, this is it. The project is not happening. Let's go back to Amsterdam and finish it here. We can be in re-brief and everything.
But no, we were like, Okay, we'll go for it. Let's start to rewrite. So what happened from then was that we basically would try to write these different vignettes for a big script every day. We would try to get them approved go through the approval process with the client. At the same time, we would talk with the production company and try to prepare for a shoot. Maybe a week later, And this process started, I don't know, in the beginning of August and ended at the end of September. So because we didn't have a really, really, really approved script at the start. So for two months we traveled between L.A. South America. You know, we were in Argentina and Brazil writing stuff and trying to produce it involving celebrities And we ended up spending £8 million and it was like 2005 so you can imagine, you can think about how much that is now. So we ended up spending £8 million to put together the most incredible piece of trash.
Daniel Burstein: And never saw the light of day.
Carlo Cavallone: Never saw the light of day. I remember we were editing as we went. We had an editor us in the process along the way. We were trying to make sense of things but it made no sense because again, every day things were approved and then maybe not approved. And then when we shot, you know, we really didn't know if they would work together. It's a crazy process of being part of.
Daniel Burstein: That sounds painful. And so, you know, if anyone listening is like feels like this is unique to the marketing industry because I started my career at an advertising agency and this is so painful when you're dealing with an indecisive client when you thought you had approval. So I then worked in the software industry, and I thought that, you know, software and tech projects, they're even worse if you think burning you know, £20 billion on nothing is a lot of sorry, £20 million on nothing is a lot of money. My gosh, you know, those big tech projects that never get anywhere, they can burn hundreds of millions of dollars and more getting nothing.
But let me ask you that. So I on the podcast recently, I interviewed the CMO of Mint Mobile, Aaron North, and he was giving us an example of they were going to shoot a commercial, I think it was later that day. And that day, Dave Foley, who is an actor on Newsradio, had tweeted, Hey, I'd love to be on a Mint mobile spot. And within like the 24 hours they had gotten him signed to a spot, they wrote a script and they shot him and they got him in the commercial and aired, you know, within a few days. And so something I've seen, I want to, you know, you're talking about a story from 20 years ago.
Have you seen the big brands get better about accelerating their pace? And, and kind of giving creatives more freedom and trying to kind of be a little more grassroots with, you know, some of the changes we've seen with social and digital and all those things.
Carlo Cavallone: What do you mean about like giving creates more freedom? You mean like more decision power? Is that what you mean?
Daniel Burstein: Well, so we've seen like, for example, Oreo during the Super Bowl, you know, don't dunk in the dark and, you know, some big brands seeing that, like, hey, we can't necessarily take this, you know, big, archaic, you know, long winded approach to everything. We kind of got to get a little quicker, a little real time kind of work more, engage with the creative.
Carlo Cavallone: Yes. Yes. Yeah, I've seen that happening. Not every brand. I think some brands are braver and some brands like are okay with going real time and trying things that I think Oreo is a great example of that. Other brands don't like that. Other brands are good at preparing spontaneous things. So the process behind the scenes is very long and sometimes convoluted.
But then, you know, they they're able to act fast when the day comes. I think a lot of brands that work with the Super Bowl at the Super Bowl now are good at that. But are big brands capable of being fast and spontaneous and letting other people decide? I don't see that. So much yet.
Daniel Burstein: Well, let's talk about another hard fought campaign you had where it did involve a lot of rewrites, but this time it saw the light of day maybe it was never done. You said, better is temporary and this was not from the Super Bowl, but it is from the World Cup. So tell us about this story.
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah, I think, you know, I work with Nike for a long, long time. I think they're an amazing marketer. I think that, you know, everything they do is based on, you know, trying things and going through a thousand concepts until they find the one that that works. And when we worked on the 2006 World Cup, it was no different.
The creative process was like a crazy marathon. I think it lasted like 18 months. And basically every six months there was a moment where we were like, Oh, we sold, we sold it. We're going to this is the campaign. And then we're like, Oh, not yet, we have time. So, I remember, you know, me and some other people just leaving this weird through this weird period of our lives. We would just, you know, wake up and write a new World Cup campaign, go to bed and go again. And like that again for like I would say, 12 months until it was you know, there was no time left.
And I remember us all going to Portland, to Nike headquarters being in a room. And literally the next day we would have to go and present the final idea. And I was with two or three other people. Then someone said, oh, what about you know, disrupting a football show? And we are like one of those pundit shows. And we were like, Okay, yeah, that's interesting. Let's write to that. And so, you know, after 12, 14 months of well-thought-out campaigns and everything, someone came out with something that seemed very promising and probably, you know, more interesting than a lot of other things we saw before and in 2 hours, I think we put together the campaign that we ended up producing.
And the campaign itself was another crazy journey because again, when you work in Nike, you have a lot of variables like, you know, the athletes you work with keep changing, the situations keep changing, scripts keep changing. But ultimately, unlike the telecom projects that I was talking about, we ended up making a very interesting campaign called Joga Bonito, which was kind of redefining how you communicated about football as soccer back then. And again, it was all like this relentless journey towards trying to beat the previous campaign, the previous trip that ended with this crazy brainstorm in Portland that then led to the campaign. So that was a big lesson. Working on Nike has been a big lesson in general because you learn resilience and you learn that you have to keep pushing until you get to something that you really, really like and excites you.
And so, yeah, that that was the journey. And I remember that then, you know, personal fact, my daughter was one year old back then, and we the post-production was almost as long as the pre-production and the concept of that campaign. And so I remember my daughter being with me in editing rooms you know, in the background as we went through hundred different cuts of our commercials.
Daniel Burstein: Well, let me ask you. So do you think that made the work better? So, you know, earlier on the podcast interview, the CMO of Saatva Joe McCambley, and he talked about early in his career, there were always 99 ideas that never saw the light of day for every one that, you know, actually became something. And so, you know, that's just what it takes with creativity. That's what it takes. You got to, you know, get through all that to get to the right idea. Do you think that long, arduous process at the end of the day, did that create a better campaign?
Carlo Cavallone: It did. I think it did. It definitely added more depth to everything we were doing. Because a lot of the initial ideas we had throughout those months were really good ideas, but probably were a little superficial when it comes to, you know, what are we saying about football? What are we saying about athletes? By the time we get to the idea, we had so much knowledge about the subject matter and what we were doing, that the campaign was definitely better, or at least it was more meaningful, had more gravitas which I think gets, you know, a lot of the Nike work I've been involved with. But also before me, after me. One thing that is really interesting is that there's always some kind of like, yeah, I would call it gravitas or, you know, different layers within the work that other brands don't get to.
And I think it's because you really, really have to swear to it. You really have to understand the sport, the athletes, the context, the you know, the cultural context. Everything is so sought out. I remember, you know, we wanted to have little jokes in every commercial and we had to re-write those, you know, 20 times until we got to something that people were like, okay, this could work. And, you know, other brands operate like that. But I think ultimately, yes, the short answer is yes. I think that process that makes the work better because it's very purposeful.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I know. I found that, too. I found that, you know, sometimes those first ideas or at least for me, like I think they're brilliant ideas, but they're actually pretty obvious. You know, it's just because you know, you're not used to that industry. You haven't spent a lot of time in there. And so externally, they seem so great, but they're obvious. And it takes kind of sweating through and grinding through those obvious ideas and really learning about and research and getting into that industry that you get the real gold. Yeah.
So let's talk about, you know, none of this work. So, yeah, none of this really good work can happen without good clients. You said if your client is not as ambitious as you are, you're not going to do anything great. So tell us the story. I think it was Benetton that. Yeah, it was a really ambitious client.
Carlo Cavallone: I mean, this lesson for me is the most important lesson of them all. Like that I found to be true 100% of the times. Because you can sweat through work and the work might not be good. But you know, ultimately, you know, in advertising, marketing. If your counterpart is not as ambitious, as driven as you know, if they don't look for opportunities as much as you do. It’s never going to happen. And I think you know, I don't believe in the idea that creative alone or agency alone can come up with incredible work and sell it. It's always like two way thing.
So, Benetton was really interesting because you know, they had been a very relevant disruptive brand in the eighties and nineties. And so in 2010, I received this phone call while I was already working with 72 and Sunny by the Chairman of Benetton, Alessandro Benetton. And, they wanted to meet. And so I went to see them and I met Alessandro and the head of marketing back then called Gianluca Pasteur and they were like, you know, we want to go back to be relevant. And we want to do something disruptive and we want to do something people talk about. And I was like, Okay, but you know, if you remember the old Benetton work, most of it was so shocking and, and provocative that, you know, it might be difficult to do something exactly like that today.
So my first reaction was like, how, how, how disruptive. I was shocking how you want to be, and they were like a lot. We want to end up in trouble. And I was like, okay, trouble good good grief. And I was like, we can do trouble. Like, let's try. And so we started working with the Fabrica Council, which is the internal agency at Benetton. It was a collaboration between 72 and Sunny and Fabrica. And we came out with this campaign called Un-Hate, which is you know, is based on the idea of tolerance was a big message of tolerance. And the brand promoting not so much love, but idea that at least you can tolerate each other.
And the most interesting expression of it was these pictures, you know, Photoshop comps of world leaders kissing each other And we started working on that campaign and a few other campaigns and then went back to Alessandro Benetton and said, you know, this is a campaign that is going to shock people, and these are other campaigns that you could do. What do you want to do? And he said, I want to get sued So we went for that one. We went for Un-Hate. We went for these crazy images of world leaders kissing. And, you know, we had Obama kissing Chavez, we had the South Korean and North Korean president kissing, we had the pope kissing the imam of the mosque in Cairo, so a Muslim leader.
So some of these images and the campaign itself was mega provocative and controversial. And then we launched it. There was a whole PR play and we launched it globally. And we had an event and I was really afraid. I was like, what's going to happen here? So I remember switching off my phone on that day and not wanting to know anything. And then someone reached me and said, no, you have to you have to look at stuff. The campaign is exploding. It's the number one trending topic on Twitter. It's all over the place. It's on The Huffington Post. It's on CNN. They're interviewing Alessandro, Benetton and CNN. And this thing exploded. And I remember then calling the head of marketing and he was like, you know, we are so happy. We are so happy because, you know, everybody is so angry with us.
So, you know, that's an extreme example because Benetton is a very specific brand. But that campaign for me is the ultimate you know, is the epitome of a client who wants to be brave. The client wants to, you know, get to something that is very disruptive and you have the perfect ally and partner to get there. And I've seen that happening so many times. When your client is ambitious, when they want to do something great, that's really when you get to do something great. And yeah. And for the record, they got sued.
Daniel Burstein: Oh, my God. Well, for everyone listening, I mean, we have a lot of people on the brand side, on the marketing side here. I mean, I think that's a great lesson in being supportive of your advertising creative agencies and not that everyone is out for the same thing that Benetton was. But I think one key thing too that the marketers can support with, or the brand side can support with, is helping identify the value proposition.
Carlo Cavallone: Oh, yeah, of course.
Daniel Burstein: So for Benetton, I guess the value proposition was edgy, right? So what they were going for, they were trying to build a value proposition on that. If I'm wearing a Benetton shirt, people will know hey, I'm the guy that likes that Un-Hate campaign it’s edgy, right?
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's exactly every time I present that campaign and our creds or I present a campaign to anyone. Like the premise is always this is Benetton that this works for them. So I'm not trying to say that this is that kind of work everybody should do. That for me is just an example of the brand just going full in with their purpose, with their identity, with their tone of voice and deciding to do something really bold. But that doesn't work at all for other brands. And that's not a recipe for success for other brands. It’s just the premise that I think is really important. If you if you are so sure that your brand stands for something and can speak in a certain way, you get behind it, that's when I think you can get to something really unique.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So that was a great example of, you know, that was the value proposition for Benetton, right? Maybe it's not obviously for anyone. That's the value proposition for Benetton, but at least I would say they had a value proposition there was a clear value proposition. There was something they wanted to create with the ad.
I love your next example because I don't think there was a value proposition. It was just a big budget, right. So you said, does it all makes sense? And you had this massive budget, but it doesn't seem like it came together in a clear value proposition. You want to tell us that story?
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah, that was for a big international. So the brand that sponsors the Olympics, and that's another project where you have all the ingredients in theory, but they don't come together because there is no clear purpose or value proposition. It was a project for the Olympics a few years ago for the Winter Olympics. And I remember, you know, the whole conversation was like, we have this amazing performing artist, he’s going to make a soundtrack. We have to shoot in Rome because the Olympics were in Italy. It is an amazing scenario. We want this actor, this athlete, and everything. And we're like, okay, um let's do it.
And I think, you know, again, we went and wrote a lot of different ideas for the campaign and different scripts. But, I think ultimately the problem was that there was no core idea. And nobody really had a strong point of view. I mean, we tried. But from the client side, there was no strong point of view on what this project should do, what it should be about. It was just like, yeah, it's the sponsorship. And then every time we try to, you know, express a sharper point of view, maybe it was too provocative, or maybe it wasn’t exactly in line with the what the Olympic Committee would allow.
And I think that happens a lot working with large organizations that whatever message you want to or point of view we want to bring forward, it gets diluted or it cannot be fully expressed. So I remember you know, shooting this project, recording the music track you know, doing the whole thing. And then the first day we went into the editing room I was like, this doesn't make any sense. This can be, you know, 60 seconds of a logo or a can. And it would be better just use the music track and your logo. I don't know, like it was like, this is not this is not a story, this is not saying anything about the Olympics or the athletes or anyone.
And so, you know, we were all responsible for that. But the thing is like, again, there was no clear value proposition. There was no real purpose. There was just like a brand saying hey, we are here. And that never works of course. But I am always amazed by how many resources sometimes go into these projects.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I mean, I've found too sponsorships can be the worst because there is not always a strategy behind there other than a personal preference. So earlier in my career, like I said I worked with software companies. One of the software companies was sponsoring a formula one racing team, it was the Ray Hall Letterman racing team, and it was a good team. At that point they had the Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick was on that team and just starting off. But, you know, there was really no concept behind or value behind why they were sponsoring it.
It was just like, hey, we're sponsoring this. And so then when I got involved, I got to work on it and I saw that there was actually a value proposition. Like they were a software and technology company and the things they were doing with servers and with, you know, whatever, you know, at the enterprise level, Formula One racing is actually pretty technical. And obviously it takes a lot of engineering and takes a lot of the same types of things that they were doing in a in a kind of a boring corporate level. And so it kind of once they tie those two together in the campaign, it was actually very successful. And then they got a lot more leads.
And so I think that's really a great lesson for anyone listening. You know, one of the biggest complaints we always get from marketers is I don't have enough big enough budget. I don't have a big enough budget. Doesn't matter how big the budget is if you don't have a value proposition. Yeah, like when I interviewed the CMO Mint Mobile. I mentioned I was mentioning we interviewed him on the podcast. And he was going up against some of the biggest media budgets in the world, when you look at cell phone companies. And he's like, the only way we're going to beat them is by having tight commercials. I have a clear value proposition that we're going to hit over and over and that people will understand that value we deliver.
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah sorry and you know, just as you said, I think sports sponsorships and sponsorships in general are some of the most difficult clients. And what I always tell clients is like, what really what is your role here? Like, whatever the sport, whatever the event is like, the first question to answer is that like if you don't have a role, and role doesn't mean that your sports brand, a lot of known sports brands for example do really great sports work. But just because they have a clear role. And whether they're, you know, in the stands or on the court, it doesn't matter. You need to have it all. You need to say something. And that has nothing to do with money. I think some sports sponsorships work really well without massive budgets because they are very clear. They're just very, very clear.
Daniel Burstein: And I think that ties into what is the value proposition of the company, you know, what do they stand for, what value do they deliver in the world? And then understanding how everything that company does, whether it's sponsorships or it's the products they are making, the ads they are making. How does that tie into and communicate that value? Or else you just kind of get this muddy message in the world. Like you said, it doesn't really say anything, you know. Right. Or that any other company could just slap their logo on there, right. I mean, any company could just slap on and say we sponsor the Olympics, you know. Why does it actually, you know, tie in? How does it actually make sense there?
Well, the first half we talked about some of the things you made, that something we get to do as marketers and advertisers. We make things, those campaigns and then second, how we talk about people we collaborate with. Collaboration is so important in our industry. And so the first person we want to talk about and my Italian is not so great. So feel free to correct me if I pronounce it wrong because, Elio Bronzino. Elio Bronzino, is that it?
Carlo Cavallone: No, perfect that’s great!
Daniel Burstein: He was the Executive Creative Director at Bozell Milan. And he said, if you don't like it, nobody else will. Well, how did you learn this lesson from him?
Carlo Cavallone: And this is, again, this is another golden rule or lesson. Like, I think it's one of the things I always say to create is it's stuck with me. It's so important for this industry and working in it. Like you need to be here because you want to saw something, express a point of view, or just bring your likes and dislikes and influences to the table. And so that's one of the things that is crucially important.
Yeah, when I started working, Elio was my first mentor. He was an incredible Creative Director, a really funny guy. You know, he had been one of the big copywriters in Italian advertising for many years. And he was writing really fun comedy stuff. And he was famous because of a campaign where a pig was used as a tester for different mayo brands. Anyways, like that was his claim to fame. But yeah, so I started to work with him and he was always telling me, you need to you need to like it. You're writing it for yourself first, and if you like it, then other people would like it. So don't worry about it. The kind of thing you want to bring to the table.
And so, you know, I was working on a sofa company at the time. Divani, which is a big global brand. They sell, it’s call Natuzzi, the owner. They sell sofas everywhere in the world. And we had that account we had an opportunity to make a commercial, and a bigger commercial than usual. And he was like, Okay, go, what do you want to do? And it was like, Okay, what do I like? And at the time, I was very much into Monty Python, you know, the comedy as, as anyone back then.
And I was like, Oh, I loved the Life of Brian, which was again a pretty controversial scene. If you have never watched it, watch it. It's really funny. It's the life of someone who's who was born the same day as Jesus Christ. And he has a parallel existence, and it's a really funny comedy. So I was like, Oh, maybe doing something with Jesus would be fun. I’d love to do this. And so I wrote this commercial that was about Jesus performing a miracle and multiplying instead of water and loaves, which is one of the famous miracles in the Bible. He was multiplying sofas and seats. It was it was the dumbest commercial. But, you know, it was what I wanted to do. And Elio was like , this is funny. This could work.
It's like, yeah, it's all about, you know, Jesus comes and sofa’s go from small to big because he multiplied the seats, perfect. And so we started writing it and it was like a blockbuster thing. And we brought it to the clients and they were like, Oh, this is funny. We could do this. And it went all the way to the owner, the company. And he was like, Yeah, I think this could be cool. And we spoke to directors, looked for locations. And they were like, well, let us do one last thing. We submit it to the Vatican to see if they think it's going to be okay to run on Italian television. You know, the Vatican has no power over Italian television, but, you know, just to just get an opinion. And you know, we were in pre-production and the Vatican came back saying, no way no, no, no, Jesus, no, no. You cannot do a commercial about Jesus multiplying sofa’s. So we did something else.
But, you know, I was very young back then and just starting in advertising. And that for me was super inspiring because we you know, the commercial was done, but it was on point. I think it could have been a really good fun campaign. And I was so proud that I got to write something that was inspired by Monty Python, and I was almost getting away with it. And there's nothing better than that, you know.
Daniel Burstein: But it took the Vatican itself to quash the idea. I mean, I've heard of clients killing ideas, but I've never heard of the Vatican killing one. That’s impressive.
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah.
Daniel Burstein: They have so I like that. Yeah, I like that story because.
Carlo Cavallone: No, no. I mean, they are quite powerful like that. You know, they have the whole communications center that, you know, gives opinions on TV shows and stuff. So, yeah, we shouldn't but.
Daniel Burstein: Sounds like Benetton didn’t run it by them. But you know, I really like that because one thing we have talked about on the podcast is something you have to be careful for as you are not your customer, right? So that's on the one hand, it's like you're not your customer and they might not like the same things you do.
And as I have given an example before of, you know, when I started as a copywriter fresh out of college and I wrote a campaign for Vail in Bachelor Gulch Village and, you know, very expensive third, fourth ski in ski out homes for, you know, very wealthy people in Vail, which was a very luxurious resort. And my campaign was something along the lines of Oh sleeping and then enjoy skiing or something. And, you know, my boss told me the campaign never left the agency because it's like these are the titans of industry. He’s like they're not sleeping in. He's like they're up at four or 5 a.m. to see the markets all over the world. And, you know, which blew my mind because you know, why be rich, you know at that age, I think why be rich if you can't sleep in? I just got out of college. I never took a class before noon.
And so in that sense, you know, I was not the customer and that didn't fit and that didn't work. But on the flip side of it is, like you said, this is a creative endeavor in pouring your creative self into it. And so because I think there are also deeper truths which are deeper human truths. So what you're talking about wasn't necessarily, hey, how does a couch work, or is a couch comfortable for someone of this age or this demographic you're talking about a deeper human truth there.
And one of the things that really struck me, I think a corollary to that is, you know, if you don't believe it, no one else, well, that's what you need to kind of put that real belief in it. Because I remember I was reading this article once on North Korean propaganda, right. And some of the things they had talked about, they were talking about the leader there. He once made a hand grenade from a pinecone to blow up an American tank or something, you know. And it got me thinking of there's writers behind that North Korean propaganda, just like in an ad agency or anywhere.
Yeah. And, you know, I've definitely been, you know, with agencies or with clients where they've come up with some ideas. And I'm like, who would believe that? That's so ridiculous. And I'm thinking, you know, obviously in that situation, the writers can't kind of speak truth to power and say to their client and say, wait a minute, I don't know if people are going to believe you really made a hand grenade out of a pine cone.
But I think as writers ourselves, we have that chance. You, like you said, you know, we have to you know, if you don't like it, nobody else will. If you don't believe it, nobody else will. And so I would also encourage you know, writers, creatives, everyone listening as you're putting yourself into your work. You also have to keep that in mind. We're not going to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. Carlo example is a great example because he tied into a deep human truth. But you also have to realize when kind of the agency or the marketing department comes up or the CMO comes up with something ridiculous, you’ve got to speak up against them. I mean, have you ever been in a situation where, you know, it's kind of the opposite of the CMO or the marketing department, they've got some ridiculous idea and it's not necessarily that it's not a good creative idea. It's just that it's not very believable in the marketplace.
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah. Yeah. I call those situations the Emperor's New Clothes, you know, it's exactly that. And sometimes they're in situations where you go through rounds of work and conversations and then you're in a room and think, why is nobody saying anything? This doesn't make any sense, like shall we a? And usually I think as a company, we are quite good at that because we are we try to have those kind of conversations, hard conversations of the start, the strategy literally never gets too creative.
But yes, you experience that and, and you're very right when you talk about belief, because ultimately, you know, our work is all about beliefs. It's a combination of beliefs, personal taste, and ownership and ownership can only come from beliefs. Another problem with the project that was talking about the Olympics project that was mentioning before is that nobody was really owning it. And everybody was good at bringing new elements to it and things that had to happen. But nobody was like saying, not the CMO, none of our side was saying, Okay, this is what I really want to do. This is what I believe in. And if you don't have that, good things are not going to happen.
Daniel Burstein: And I think that's where you need to bring the humanity to marketing. Because you have to realize what a big brand or company or organization is at the end of the day. It's this kind of false fabrication of an interaction with what should actually be a human being, right? Like we as humans, if we ever really thought it through, we wouldn't want to be dealing with these megalithic corporations, right? We're actually kind of like I said in the beginning, like the quote from Flint McLaughlin, our CEO, people don't buy from websites, people buy from marketing, people buy from people, right. At the end of the day, there's some person on the other side of that that they feel connected to.
I think a great example of that, you know, you talk about putting yourself in your work. I know he's controversial, but when you look at Elon Musk, you know, I mean, think about any other car company out there. And, you know, most people probably don't know who's behind it making cars the CEO or whatever. But when people are buying Teslas, I mean, they're kind of buying the brand for sure. They're buying Elon Musk, right? Either believe in him or they don't, you know? And I think every other brand is trying to do that on some level, kind of bring that humanity that somehow he's naturally been able to bring to that brand.
So the next lesson you talk about, Alvaro Sotomayor, Creative Director at Wieden and Kennedy, and from him, you learn to finish what you started and somehow this had to do with building a submarine in the center of Milan. What was going on there?
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah, I mean, again, the lesson is bigger than the story, and the lesson is another lesson that I think it's really important for our industry and ourselves working in it, like, which is, you know, I always think that you know, advertising and people working in it are a bit like, you know, it's like the same thing happens with screenwriters in Hollywood. Like everybody as a as a film idea, but the ones that get made are the ones that get written at some point.
Same with advertising. It's all about ownership and seeing your project through. Same with marketing. You know, a lot of companies have ideas and things they want to do and things that maybe could happen. But the things that happen are really, again, the things that have clear ownership and someone that believes in them and someone that wants to push them through. Working with Alvaro was great because, you know, like from the beginning, we were on a mission to make. We promised each other every we start, we would finish it.
And you know, one of the first projects was like, again for Nike. There was this entire, again, work up campaign that was based on a boat. And our idea was like, well, the entire campaign is on the boat. Then when we have local experiential activations, we can have parts of the boat. And then they were like, well, maybe we make a submarine we'll make a Nike submarine a football submarine, which is like the wackiest idea ever. And we presented it and they were like, it's kind of interesting about a submarine. Like, how do you how do you go about building a submarine? And we were like, Alvaro especially was like, I want to build the submarine. We can build a submarine.
So we went on a full on research and really studied submarines and how they were built. And we had a product designer that had built boats before helping us, creating a blueprint. And then we spoke to people that made, you know, because it had to be transported in the center of the city, like we spoke with fiberglass experts and everything. So it was all a journey until, you know, when we finally had the submarine placed in the middle of Milan. It was a submarine you could watch videos inside and play football on the outside. One of the sides of the submarine was like a goalpost. And I remember being there and looking at the thing and saying, hey, we need a submarine in the end.
And again, that's just like a symbolic way of saying that, you know, like, you know, I always tell people, you should try to build your submarine. And for me, that means like when you believe in an idea and you want to make it see the light. You have to go through the hoops and you have to go to whatever it takes to make it happen. It's not easy. You know, everybody can have ideas, but finishing them is a whole different sport.
Daniel Burstein: Oh, it's so true. Like, great things don't happen or these great products don't come out. Great campaigns that happen just because someone had a great idea. It's like there's so many people can come up with great ideas. Fewer can execute. I remember there was a meme a while ago, I'll probably mess it up, but it was basically like a chart. And at first it showed like the excitement of the idea, it like goes through the roof and, then it goes to like the banality of execution. Just drops down to nothing.
So I think there's the fortitude to be able to stick through the idea. And I think the other thing is the guts to bring it to the world, you know? So we talked about Elon Musk. GM had an electric vehicle before then. They just didn't really have the guts to make it happen. I mean, very famous Apple iPhone. Nokia invented the first you. You know, Nokia just didn't have the guts to go all in on it. And so it's funny when you look at the really true great ideas, the products, the marketing campaigns, it's not just the idea, like you said, it's the ability to actually get it made to make it happen.
Let's talk about one final lesson here. This is from Glenn Cole, the founder of 72 and Sunny, who you are still working with today. He said, if it's not great, it's probably bad. And this was in relation to a campaign for a Cd video subscription.
Carlo Cavallone: Yeah. I mean, that's the thing that Glenn got from someone else working at Weiden before him. And I don't remember the name of the person. But yes, you know, it's again, you know, connected to what we were talking about before. There's a fine line between saying you're a success in advertising. And you know, great ideas might be great on paper. But then when it gets to it, if you don’t put yourself into it, if you don't work on them, if everybody involved, you know, in your team on the client side believing that they're not going to happen.
And, you know, when I started working with Glenn he gave me this project that it was like, know it was like a video game again for Nike. The thing entailed I don't know, writing 100 pages of dialog for different athletes. And I never done that before. And he was like, you can get there. You just, you know, you just remember it just needs to be really good and, and to be really good, you really have to, you know, put everything into it.
And so I remember writing a first draft going back to him and going what do you think, is this great? And he was like, oh, it's great. 10% of it and that was the start. And I think, you know, what I learned from him is that, again, if you want to go from bad to good, you can do it. And I think, you know, a lot of I would say, you know, more than 50% probably even more of what you see in advertising. I would say 80% probably is it's from bad to good. And it is just going from good to great that requires that extra extra push and I think that the lesson for me was that you know, like if you let anything slip or if you don’t dedicate yourself to the thing completely, you can easily drop from great to bad. You can quickly drop from great to bad in a matter of seconds.
So you know, it's impossible to have the same level of intensity and the same level of dedication with each project now because things move a lot faster than they used to move 20 years ago. That's the fact. But one thing that is important for me, and I think it should be important for marketers in general, is sometimes the side that you want to get to great and maybe prioritize certain things that require more of your attention and try to push them to be as good as they can be. They cannot be everything, but sometimes you, you need to get to great. Because if it's not great, it's, it's often bad.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. You know, it kind of reminds me of I was just talking about Tesla before, I had an electric car and you talk about like electric car charging times and it’s however long 24 hours or whatever. But really it charges to 80% pretty darn quickly. It's getting from that 80% to 100% where it's slow. And that kind of reminds me of what all we've been talking about.
What you just said, what we have been talking about. It’s getting through all those ideas, getting past the 80% to like that truly great. So remember you know in college, it's funny I took a class about comic book writing of all things, which I loved your comic book background. And one of the things I learned about was the group of artists that used to make the looney Tunes shows. The Looney Tunes actually used to be these little short clips before movies and they had, you know, a certain amount of time and budget for each. And what they did was they would kind of shorten a few of the other ones. Like, you know, instead of it, they had a full week budget, they would just do them in three days to save up that time to make one, like you said, that was truly great. Because that's what it takes, it takes that extra focus, it takes that extra commitment and takes all the things you talked about, seeing it through to the end and having a client and being able to work with a client, and kind of training a client and training people on the marketing side to really want to do something great, something visionary and something at the end of the day, I think that serves the customer because it ties into some true gold, right?
I mean, when we really get that great idea, I think that is some reflection of humanity, this whole human condition. We've really tapped into some true understanding of what it means to be human and just that product's role in that. So, I mean, that's my opinion. I think that's what good advertising is as. That was the famous the truth well told, I forgot who said that now. But the truth well, I think that is the perfect description.
Carlo Cavallone: I think it's McCann, McCann and Erickson motto.
Daniel Burstein: McCann Erickson. Yeah. I mean, that's essentially what we're trying to do when you talk about all the diving in you were doing with that World Cup campaign, for example. You were trying to dig to get to that essential truth that when everyone sees it, that's what every artist does, right? When you hear a great joke or when you read a great book or when you see a great movie, I don't think that's necessarily some new idea that's new the world. It's tapping into something deep in you that you always really understood, but you couldn’t put into words.
You know, when I when I hear a great song, I mean, I'm a big Pearl Jam fan. I love Eddie Vedder's lyrics. And when I hear him talk about it, it's not like, oh, I didn't know those things about life. It's like, wow, I never thought of it that way. I never thought to put it that way. And I think that's really true when you see when that ideal customer for that brand, you know, obviously use Benetton as an example. They're also trying to tell some people you're not the ideal customer, right? So when it's for that ideal customer, for that brand and you see that, wow, you know, you've tapped into something in them, right? So that and that's what I love about the creative process personally.
Well, let's end with we talked about a lot of different stories, a lot of different lessons you've learned about, you know, sticking to it, about finding the great idea. What does it take to do this? What are the key qualities of an effective marketer?
Carlo Cavallone: I think I mean, it would be easy to say resilience or work hard. I think that's how you do it. I think for me, it has always been being able to listen. I think, you know, because it's a collaborative process and because you always need input and insights. I think listening is the most important thing. And that's been crucial in my own career, you know, and never being very outspoken as a marketer. And never the first one to speak. But I think listening is the most important thing because, you know, you're listening to culture, you're listening to what brands need, you're listening to what's going on and what people like.
So I feel like if you're a good listener, you probably end up being a good marketer or creative because you are able to interiorize the thing that creates those human connections that you're talking about. That's very true. When you can connect with people via a truth, that's when the magic happens. And I think you can get to that truth by listening.
And then, you know, once you have the information you need and the point of view you need, then it's all about hard work. And, you know, we spoke about a lot in that today. But then, yeah, resilience and sticking with things and finishing what you started and you know, that's all you need to bring to life, your beliefs and your point of view that you formulated.
But without listening, without having a capacity of understanding what happens around you or what people need or want. I think it's impossible. It makes me think now that I say it of that terrible movie about advertising What Women Want with Mel Gibson. But it's kind of true. Like, I hate that movie, but I think what he does in the film is he listens, like he all of a sudden listens. So I think that's very much like, yeah, probably requirement number one.
Daniel Burstein: Well, thank you, Carlo, grazie. It's been great listening to you. I've learned.
Carlo Cavallone: A lot. Thank you for having me.
Daniel Burstein: And thank you to all of you who are listening to us. I hope you've got at least one golden nugget of wisdom that helps you improve your marketing and advertising.
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