Graham Fink: creativity in 2021 – don’t make ads, make TikToks

What a difference a year makes.

This time 12 months ago it was all lockdowns and bubbles and social distancing and now it’s…oh.

So what was the best work from Adland in 2021?

Is it just me, or was it another ‘not a vintage year’?

In these stressful times, with businesses going bust and our country’s leader lurching from crisis to crises to cheese and wine parties, I think we could have done with a bit more humour in the ads.

We used to be the best in the world at writing the funny stuff. But it seems the funniest creators are no longer working in advertising but are at home generating mini films for TikTok. I try to spend a couple of minutes each day checking out the latest content, but it’s usually a good 30 mins or so before I can put my phone down. Sure, I’m not the target audience for most of it, but it still cheers me up. Some of the ideas are brilliant, and although most could have been better made, better edited and better directed, it’s amazing to see what can be done for just a few quid. And if I were a client, that’s where I’d be looking.

One example is a guy, Nathan Apodaca, whose car broke down, so he decided to ride his skateboard to work instead, whilst slurping a large bottle of his favourite Ocean Spray Cranberry juice and miming to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”.

The film went viral with millions of views, and sales of Ocean Spray rocketed. Not only that but there was a spike in Fleetwood Mac download streams too, and then Mick Fleetwood himself decided to get in on the cranberry guzzling craze.


@420doggface208 had it right. Dreams and Cranberry just hits different. #Dreams #CranberryDreams #FleetwoodMac

? Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

All this enabled Nathan to become an overnight star. Interviewed on countless TV networks and then signed up to appear with Snoop Dogg in a TV spot for Vivint Smart Security systems. Why Snoop Dogg? Well Nathan’s TikTok account happens to be Doggface208. The opening line of the film? “Today, these two dogs are gonna show you how to install a Vivint smart security system…”

More rocketing of sales. – But a curious side knock-on effect was the sales of the chairs they are sitting in. This is a viral within a viral within a viral and has made Nathan a very bankable product.

It’s this kind of snowball effect that all clients would kill for.

Sure, you can dismiss TikTok as just a platform for pranking and dancing, but type in something as random as ‘sink videos’ and you’ll see thousands of people cleaning their kitchen sinks with a variety of cleaning products in enterprising ways. Some are hilarious. Whether these are worthy of a D&AD pencil is debatable, but some have been watched millions of times and shared widely. Which is more than can be said for some big award-winners.

So do you have someone in your creative department who has the ability to create such content? If not, perhaps you should start looking. Tony Cullingham is probably already setting this challenge at The Barn. Because as viewing habits change, so should creative habits.

Finally, one of my favourite TikToks of recent times was the guy who took the initiative to make a topical piece on the petrol crisis. Admittedly, it’s not for a brand, but if I had a brief for The Carrot Marketing Board, I might have signed him up.


Queuing for Petrol I’m on a horse

? original sound – Gus Lee-Dolphin ?

So don’t make ads, make TikToks.

Graham Fink has played a pivotal role at a number of high-profile advertising agencies, including CDP, GGT, and M&C Saatchi. Most recently he was Ogilvy & Mather CCO for China for six years. During his long career Fink has played a vital part in the creation of some of the industry’s most iconic campaigns including the classic ‘Face’ commercial for British Airways and the ‘Coke Hands’ poster (the most awarded ad in Coca-Cola’s history.)

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