A Fight for the Streets

Creative genius is magic, and I’ve just watched two magicians dazzle their audiences. JR, a recent TED Prize winner, is a French street artist whose giant outdoor photo installations are startling and provocative. Jeff Goodby, the co-chairman of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, is an adman whose brilliant and compelling campaigns include Häagen-Dazs’ “Save the Honey Bees” (a PR Lion winner to which Ketchum contributed.)

Both men have guts, have fun and brought down the house.

JR uses pictures, paper and glue to provoke powerful reactions. With one image of a guy holding his camera like a gun, pasted on the scene of the Paris riots, he made his mark as a creative catalyst. To sell the idea of peace in the Middle East, he pasted enormous side-by-side images of rabbis and priests up along the hillsides in Israel, sparking conversations about which face was which, and how similar we all ultimately are. In Kenya, he posted beautiful, haunting faces of the local people on their rooftops, so, as one Kenyan told him, “God can see us.” His “Women are Heroes” series positions pictures on walls, up stairs and above train tracks that celebrate the faces of women in ways no advertiser here in Cannes seems to do. And his biggest effort, which he calls the “Inside Out Project,” put photography in the hands of native peoples to tell their own stories. Native Americans sent him images to paste to remind the world they’re still alive.

JR is a ball of kinetic energy. He’s funny, he’s bold, he’s exciting, and he’s clearly having fun. He doesn’t test his messages; he doesn’t even mount his installations legally. He enters war-torn areas to get up close to people, see their humanity, and turn human understanding into art. He gives human hope to inhuman surroundings. His art moves people.

Jeff Goodby doesn’t stop smiling and the crowd he plays to can’t stop laughing. The reel he shows is downright hilarious. To punctuate Hyundai’s (client) “Car of the Year” designation, an ad shows an Asian and a German shouting the brand’s name, cut to voiceover: “Win one little award and suddenly everyone gets your name right.” An ad for “Got Milk” is a funny game show where contestants get stumped naming all the ingredients in “imitation milk.” Talking horses, mules and lizards for Budweiser are laugh-out-loud funny. His work to rechristen Sprint the “now network” and launch the Chevy Sonic digitally using the music of OK Go remains crisp and compelling as it grows more interactive and less about TV.

Everyone in the audience clearly wants to work for Jeff Goodby. He sells brave ideas. He advocates being naughty, maintaining a sense of play and only doing work you think will be funny and effective. How does he do it? “Show stuff that’s scary. Clients are bored. Don’t stop ideas internally before they get to the client! And for the love of God, make presenting to the boss your number one goal if you want to sell great stuff.” Goodby doesn’t chicken out. He has conviction about exciting ideas and usually pitches only his best idea. His “art” moves people.

If you want to dazzle, you’ve got to be dazzling. Interestingly, JR told a crowd of advertising people that artists and advertisers are competitors. “We fight for the streets,” he said. He got a standing ovation!