Delivering Creativity Based on Human Truths

Read the original AdAge article here

The events of 2020 have been a catalyst for a focus on humanity over technology


One of the most impactful ideas of our time is wrapped up in three words: Black Lives Matter. There is nothing more powerful than this honest and emotional statement. We might not all understand what it feels like to be Black from firsthand experience, but we can all understand the value of human life. It’s a universal human truth.

Black Lives Matter, of course, is hardly an ad slogan or the basis for a marketing campaign. But understanding the value of a human life can help us deliver messaging that is also a force for positive change.

The global pandemic and the BLM movement have reordered society in dramatic ways. While the world is changing, human nature is one of the only constants. We have shared emotions and experiences with which we can all feel and empathize. Humans have a primitive need to connect socially, and the state of our world in 2020 has intensified that need. Seeing loved ones, going to restaurants and catching sporting events are things that give us security and social well-being.

Human nature has always been a timeless, grounding force in creativity. I love ideas that are based in human truths—something that’s so universally true, we can all agree on it.

As creative storytellers, the most enduring impact we can have is one of human truth. In the midst of the pandemic and BLM movement, we are craving more meaningful work that puts the human truth front and center.

It’s not just us industry folks; our audiences are craving it, too. Creative ideas born out of a human truth are needed now more than ever. Here are some reasons why:

  • Trust in the media, government and institutions is rapidly declining.
  • Younger generations question everything. They are more inclined to call bullshit on information rather than accept it at face value.
  • We long for what’s familiar and nostalgic. It’s a comforting presence in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes reliving the past brings us hope for the future.
  • Yet, it’s time to move forward. We are no longer willing to settle for the status quo. Complacency is a common enemy. Enough with the lip service—we want real, palpable change.
  • Community has taken on greater meaning. We are shifting away from hyper-individualism and reorienting our lives around the people we are rooting for.
  • We are taking another look at who we are and what we value. We are rediscovering a better version of ourselves and leaving some room for growth. We are also being mindful about living in the now, cherishing what we have right in front of us.


Advertising is ripe for change

The advertising industry has a tendency to focus on new, shiny objects. Over the last decade, our fixation with technology and data over big ideas has resulted in a lot of innovation, but it’s also been a distraction. We have defaulted to a tactically driven industry, as opposed to a big idea-driven industry. The net sum is content pollution that is meaningless noise.

Don’t get me wrong; technology and social media are not the enemy. Human truths and technology can work hand in hand. TikTok is a brilliant example of celebrating the human truth. Every day, thousands of videos make us laugh, cry and feel inspired. Some of them are also pretty awful. In any case, they spark a reaction. Human truths make you feel something, and that’s what matters to people, especially when times are tough.


Finding the human truth

Human truths are at the core of every great brand or idea. They are unapologetically simple and connect with something deep within all of us that’s undeniably, universally true.

A few examples from the world of advertising:

  • Love: We want love that lasts a lifetime. “A Diamond Is Forever” (De Beers)
  • Performance: We want to achieve greatness. “Just Do It” (Nike)
  • Strength: We want to be strong for our families. “Stay Strong” (Hefty, a Havas Chicago client)
  • Desires: We all know what our favorite foods are and have our go-to orders. “Famous Orders” (McDonald’s)
  • Connection: Whether we drink soda or not, we can still come together and share one. “Buy the World a Coke” (Coca-Cola)

So, in a world of distractions, how can we get in touch with humanity? The answer is empathy.


Em·pa·thy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Our industry conducts a lot of surveys and research to glean consumer insights. But what if we really practiced true empathy? As creatives, we have to genuinely walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to truly begin to understand what they have been through and where they are going.

Great ideas start with empathy, and the universal human truth is the key ingredient, the spark. The X factor is the craft and artistry that go into putting it together—the words, visuals and technology—to make a story that’s irresistible and unforgettable. Like I always say, if you want great things in life, do great things. For our creative industry, if we do great things, great work will come.

If you can tap into empathy and come up with an idea that’s based in a human truth, your message can also inspire your audience to reconsider the world around them.

We need to restore the humanity in our ideas because we have an opportunity to be a force for positive change.