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Charlie Coney, GOLIN: The most creative people in the world are children, and they laugh over 400 times a day

Charlie Coney

For the past 15 years, Charlie Coney,  Head of Creative, EMEA, at GOLIN, has developed and implemented creative campaigns for clients such as eBay, Cadbury, Johnnie Walker, Dove and npower. A passionate advocate of the power of creative communications to improve the world we live in, Charlie works closely with clients and agency teams to rally behind ideas which entertain, inform, educate and – most importantly – matter. He argues that anyone has the ability to be creative – it’s more of a mindset than anything else.

Charlie, tell us about the last creative idea you developed and implemented. What creative process did you go through?

The most recent campaign was one for Persil, to support their “Dirt is Good” proposition.  As we have done various iterations of this campaign, we wanted something different and fresh for 2015 – so needed something participatory, engaging and newsworthy.

One Sunday, I was with my extended family and noticed how all the kids spent most of the day on their iPads, sat on the sofa, rather than playing outdoors.  So I started to think about how you might use the technology they’re so fond of to drag them outside to play.  I then started to think about all the books I enjoyed as a kid – and came up with the idea of Smart Stories – interactive storybooks written by iconic authors who encouraged kids to go outside.  

We then approached the Roald Dahl estate and worked with them to create their first interactive story book – with characters from Matilda and James and the Giant appearing when kids photographed trees, played in the grass or made mud pies.  The idea was carried through the line – featuring on pack and across digital platforms – with 1.2m packs of Persil encouraging families to go outside and play.

PR agencies still struggle to prove their creative power as many clients think that agencies lack big ideas. Do you see here a gap in perceptions?

I think there’s a big opportunity for PR agencies to develop the big idea – and an increased appetite from clients for ideas which don’t revolve around a TV campaign.  We all work within integrated comms teams and I think this provides a fertile area for any agency to contribute to the big idea.

A lack of creativity can’t be fixed by investment alone. You can’t solve the creativity problem by internalize /outsource it to a creative director. How can we empower everyone in a PR agency to play a role in it?

Anyone has the ability to be creative – it’s more of a mindset than anything else. You need to encourage risk taking, getting things wrong, challenging the status quo and creating an environment where people feel free to be disruptive.  That comes down to leadership and a genuine faith in the power of great creative.

What kind of tools do you use to improve the creativity at GOLIN?

We use many different tools, but the most useful is the Bright Collective, which we built after realizing we needed a broad pool of creative talent to tap into if we were to create relevant, disruptive creative.  The Bright Collective is a co-creation platform where over 500 creative people from around the world come together to develop ideas.  We have architects, chefs, film producers, fashion designers and illustrators – to name just a few – from across the world who respond to client challenges and provide interesting insight and creative ideas which we then develop into fully fledged campaigns.

Do you think that the PR industry hire the right people needed in disruptive times?

I think we need to look outside of the traditional graduate space to find the most interesting people – having an agency where everyone is trained in PR will lead to a narrow offer.  Agencies should be hiring analysts, planners, and artists – looking to the world around us to ensure we have fresh, innovative and unusual recruits.

What are the most common myths of creativity?

That only creative people can come up with ideas.  They can come from anywhere, anyone and at any time – you just need to know what great ideas look like.

Is creativity without appropriate budgets like a tiger without teeth?

Not at all, working with a small budget requires even more creative ability.  Anyone can attach a global celebrity to a TV campaign – it’s making the small stuff work hard that’s the real challenge.

Too often in business we forget to enjoy what we do. Is this a barrier to creativity?

The most creative people in the world are children, and they laugh over 400 times a day.  Adults laugh about 4. The work you do should be fun.  If you can’t have fun when you work, how are you supposed to come up with something people will enjoy seeing, reading or taking part in?


Charlie Coney, Head of Creative, EMEA, GOLIN

For the past 15 years, Charlie has developed and implemented creative campaigns for clients such as eBay, Cadbury, Johnnie Walker, Dove and npower. A passionate advocate of the power of creative communications to improve the world we live in, Charlie works closely with clients and agency teams to rally behind ideas which entertain, inform, educate and – most importantly – matter.
He is at the same time Chair of the Global Creator council and in this position he is responsible for fostering a creative attitude in teams and offices around the world, and developing innovative creative products and tools to ensure the ideas, content and platforms we activate for clients work across multiple markets and diverse audiences.
His passion for ideas is only rivalled by his love of cheese, his record collection and his tendency to spend far too much time espousing the benefits of bicycles.


Interview by Dana Oancea, PR Romania. Copyright PR Romania

 

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