James Hurman: “The human mind reacts to ideas like a virus” 

By Matthijs Koele

Originality is an important aspect of a good ad campaign. At the Cannes Lions festival, original work is celebrated and discussed, but what makes a work truly original? The young talents from RA*W got the opportunity to attend some Young Lions Academy programs, which revolve around the different disciplines within the advertising industry. James Hurman, founder of Previously Unavailable and dean of the young planners academy, taught us some things about the concept of originality from a planner’s perspective. His point: “Were more likely to persuade with a new argument than with an old argument.” Which is to say that a more original ad is more effective. And effectiveness is a planner’s job.

So how do we decide if a work is original? Hurman shared a campaign he created some years ago for Vodafone, which was not very well received by its audience. This was due to the fact that it featured dance moves that actually mimicked the dance in an older music video. “People reacted negatively when they discovered the comparison to this music video.” It was not seen as original, while strangely enough artists have always built on each other’s work.

Why then are we so obsessed with originality? It’s all about impact. “The human mind reacts to ideas like a virus,” says James. “When a new idea is introduced we are shaken by it, it disrupts our way of thinking.” This can make a campaign effective. When you use the same idea again, the impact is gone. It’s as if your body produces antibodies to fight against a virus. Wherever you take your inspiration from, try to be original with where you take it to. This way you can not just create a great campaign, but also actually influence behaviour.