imagination

Imagination: The Catalyst for Change

I’m not the biggest fan of spring in Winnipeg. It comes after about five months of sub-zero temperatures, and suddenly half the snow melts, then freezes, then melts again, leaving the streets covered with a mixture of ice and giant brown puddles (which make getting around gracefully rather difficult indeed). But then, toward the end of March, I’m reminded of the one thing that makes the season bearable: a trip to the art gallery to watch the screening of the previous years’ Cannes Lions Awards. If you’ve never been, make a note on your calendar to absolutely catch it next year. It’s shown internationally, and is comprised of the bronze, silver, and gold-awarded advertisements from across the globe. Thousands of ads from all around the world are entered (24,000 in 2010 alone), and culminate in a festival and prestigious award ceremony celebrating the best of creativity in idea and execution of brand communication. I’ve been going to the annual showing for at least half a decade, and it remains one of my favourite events of the year, purely for the fact that it’s such a testament to imagination. It might seem a little odd to mute and fast-forward ads all year and then pay for a ticket to sit through two hours of them, but it really is more than worthwhile. This year I laughed so hard I cried, was moved to tears and applause, got goosebumps, and was, in one case, eager to find the culprit behind one of the most outrageous ads I think has ever hit television screens! The screening began, surprisingly, with a Canadian winner – an ad for the Vancouver Film Festival, which left everyone laughing and set the tone for what was to be a great evening:

This ad, barely a minute long, entitled “Embrace Life“, was for seatbelt awareness – and the combination of creative ingenuity, effects, music and execution was enough to move me nearly to tears. I could feel my eyes prickling in the same way they do when watching a real feat of imagination – things like this generally just make me proud to be a member of the human race:

The following ad was one of three winners from the same campaign from Volkswagen, revolving around the idea of “The Fun Theory“.  The idea is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better, being for themselves, the environment, or whatever – the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. The first ad posed the question: if we could make taking the stairs fun, would people be more likely to do it?  It then showed sped-up footage of construction in a stairwell next to an escalator, resulting in a set of stairs that looked like a giant piano, which actually made music as people climbed. The results? A huge percentage of commuters began taking the stairs. The second ad asked a similar question: if recycling was fun, would more people do it? It showed a bottle bank transformed into an arcade-style game on the street, where people could get points for putting their items into the appropriate receptacles. Again, a huge number of people began recycling – over a hundred used the arcade-style bin one evening, with only two using the traditional bin down the street. The third, entitled “World’s Deepest Bin“, definitely made me laugh – and left me with food for thought – we try to make people change their behaviours all the time, so why aren’t our methods more fun?

If you liked those three, check out the Speed Camera Lottery here.

The following ad made me laugh out LOUD. With a title like “Axe Cleans Balls“, you knew it was going to be a good one:

I thought this anti-smoking ad, entitled “Chance” was excellent. I think it’s from France, but narrated in English – it basically has a cinematic voiceover talking about the one in a thousand/million/billion chance that the solar system came to be, that humans evolved the way they did, that dinosaurs became extinct etc., and ends with a statistic on smoking that really makes you think. Great stuff:

The following ad was incredibly clever: The Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands put together an interactive billboard in Amsterdam to challenge public apathy towards aggressive behaviour on the streets. Public service employees in the Netherlands, such as ambulance drivers, face aggression and violence on the streets more and more often. Onlookers unfortunately do not intervene often enough when they encounter a situation like this. The billboard uses technology to pick up the images of passersby and place them in a pre-recorded violent situation, so they literally look at themselves standing by and doing nothing at the scene of the crime. Very clever stuff:

There was another great series of ads challenging aggression from India with the national “Ring the Bell” campaign, depicted as neighbours in several situations within apartment buildings ringing their neighbour’s bell when hearing sounds of domestic violence. A brilliant campaign to encourage people to take action when they become aware of domestic violence in their neighbourhood.

The following ad was a fantastic idea – targeted to football fans, offering an ingenius solution to the problem of what happens when match day falls on Valentine’s day:

Now, I realise I mentioned an ad earlier that I found one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen sandwiched between two halves of a television programme – and I wasn’t going to just leave you hanging! If you’re curious, check out this French advertisement for AIDS awareness – just beware, VERY adult content – and it’s one of the most NSFW things you’ll have ever seen. 🙂

I also realise that multimedia posts are often a turn-off, but I encourage anyone who loves a bit of creativity to check some of these out. Here’s to the imagination of the human race!

That’s Entertainment

At the end of every year, I like to make a visit to a little site called Blurb.com. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a place where you can upload, print and publish professional-looking books. They can be a variety of styles, sizes, hardcover or soft – and at the end of each year, I like to print a copy of my year in blogging. I’ve only been seriously blogging since the latter part of 2009, so the books I have to date may not be the most substantial, but I think 2010 is going to be one I’m excited to add to the shelf. It’ll be a record of an absolute rollercoaster of a year, of new experiences, of firsts, of hopes, dreams, goals, challenges, reflections and observations – but I also want to make note not just of thoughts, but of the day-to-day. Things that filled my days, music I was passionate about, TV that rocked my world, books that changed my life, things that made me laugh so hard my face hurt, words that touched my heart, and moments I want to hold onto forever. Moments that made me feel lucky to be alive. That which inspires passion is important to chronicle. So, some of the things that blew me away this year include:

Creative genius

I’m not a big movie-goer. The thought of going to the cinema fills me more with panic than excitement, and sitting through two hours of having my chair kicked, being distracted by the glare from other people’s phones, and leaving with my wallet $25 lighter isn’t generally my idea of a good time. When it comes to visual entertainment, I’m more a stay-at-home kind of girl. This year has been full of incredibly imaginative movies and TV that have just made me feel proud to be a human being, including the epically intelligent Ashes to Ashes, a series following a gun shot, present-day police officer waking up in the mid-eighties, trying to figure out if she’s gone mad, dead or alive, in a coma, or literally back in time, the finale to which was probably the most intelligent piece of screenwriting I’ve ever witnessed and kept me mesmerised, and firmly on the edge of my seat. Movie-wise, it was the year of special effects and 3D glasses, and the detail in films like Toy Story 3 and Legend of the Guardians was simply breathtaking.

Literary brilliance

Almost a year ago, I made New Year’s Resolutions, and one of them was to get back into reading. I seem to have gone from reading books every day to reading blogs every day, and though I still make time for brain food (I have an entire shelf dedicated to back issues of Psychology Today and Discover magazine), I want to get back into the habit of Real Books. At the beginning of the year, I read Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up to The Time Traveller’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry, and though wildly different, I loved every part of it. Ghost stories amongst a backdrop of my favourite city, Doctor Who references, two parts imagination, one part wonderfully creepy, this novel had me thoroughly captivated from the start. Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked was an enjoyable, lighter read following dysfunctional relationships and a lifelong quest fuelled by musical passion, I finally got on the Lovely Bones bandwagon, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth completely changed my life, and currently, I’m savouring the final Harry Potter book so I can finally see it on the big screen!

Spine-tinglingly talented musicians

I loved Mumford and Sons the moment I first heard them, and seeing them perform an intimate venue halfway across the country, playing songs that stirred my soul, while proclaiming how humbled and honoured they were to have sold out in a country they hadn’t released any music to yet. Knowing that every person in that space had discovered this incredible music through word of mouth, and became so passionate about it they queued out in the cold and bought so many tickets they had to move venues was just refreshing, and the atmosphere of being a part of something so amazing was just electric.

2010 was also the year of the ‘nu-folk’ movement in the UK, with bands like this taking centre stage, coupled with banjos, mandolins and accordions. Suddenly, countryfolk were as popular as the Black Eyed Peas, and the masses were exposed to real musicianship and literary lyricism. A girl of 20 by the name of Laura Marling exploded onto the world stage with the album I Speak Because I Can – a stunning collection of heart-wrenching, poetic songs tales that delve into haunting stories filled with beautiful words and melody; sounds ranging from the frenzied, supernatural, old-world gypsy-esque “Devil’s Spoke” (with the fabulously determined “all of this can be broken, take your devil by his spoke and spin him to the ground“) to the beautiful “Rambling Man” (“beaten, battered and cold, my children will live just to grow old, but if I sit here and weep, I’ll be blown over by the slightest of breeze”) reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. The epic “Hope in the Air” is pure, chilling, sumptuous storytelling at its absolute finest, and continues to give me goosebumps with every listen (“our hearts are small and ever thinning, there is no hope ever of winning, so why fear death? Be scared of living“). Not all is high drama – if you’re looking for something to play your sweetheart one cold winter’s night, try “Rest in the Bed“, and allow beautiful words to express a sentiment of love (“there lies a man of my heart, a fine and complete work of art, here, I his woman, his home, and his heart, and proud to be playing that part“).  If you’re hooked by haunting melodies, exquisite lyrics and truly intelligent musicianship, don’t hesitate another second before adding this to your collection.

Entertainment this year was pretty fantastic, I must say, and 2010 was filled with great, clever imagination from all sides. Here’s hoping next year’s just as stimulating, inspiring, and impressive – full of things that make you proud to be a member the human race.

What were some highlights of the entertainment world for you in 2010?