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The Aardvark In The Room - Masterstrokes And Dumb Luck

By Katy Burns, emea corporate communications associate, Inferno + Draftfcb
As an animation lover and ‘Wallace & Gromit’ fan I was extremely excited to hear Peter Lord, Creative Director of Aardman Animations, reflecting on the challenges he’s faced while negotiating the varied worlds of advertising, broadcast, music videos and feature films at this year's Eurobest Festival.
He shared wisdom from some of the brave decisions he has taken at Aardman.

Lesson 1: Adapt or die
Pete advised the crowd that if they found themselves at the bottom of a ladder, you should build a new ladder. Aardman Animations began in the 1970s and they quickly realised they could not compete on the same levels as Disney or Hanna-Barbera in the hand drawn arena. They kept trying different mediums until they stumbled upon the charms of stop-motion. They became the go-to company for this kind of animation and announced a turnover of £66.8 million in 2011.
It is agencies built on the most interesting propositions that succeed and we have to constantly innovate to stay relevant. A great example from our network is Draftfcb in Spain who were tired of the old new business process so invented the successfulIdea Auction for ideas that couldn’t wait for a brief.

Lesson 2: Keep your eyes, ears and mind open
Pete moved on to explaining that if you are receptive to ideas, you’ll eventually hit magic. He demonstrated his point by explaining how in the 1950s a couple recorded their children during imaginative play and illustrated a short story to accompany the record. The Aardman studio attempted an animated documentary using audio recorded at a homeless shelter but it never turned into a big production. It was not until collaborator Nick Park recorded a short film called ‘Creature Comforts’ that the idea had traction. 
Creature Comforts won an Academy Award and the format was turned into a two series TV show andwell-loved ads for a British utilities company. Aardman Animations recently revisited this idea for a project for DC Comics, turning all-American superheroes into British children. The result brings an endearing quality to the characters and shows that good ideas endure.

Lesson 3: Increase the gene pool
Speaking of Nick Park, Pete encouraged us as an agency to welcome new talent that takes us in different directions (hopefully forwards). They are best known for the ‘Morph’ and ‘Wallace and Gromit’ characters but have much more to offer because they have such diverse staff.

Lesson 4: Don’t listen to ‘no’
The session was wrapped up with Pete’s most important lesson; without ambition, you will fail. Having drive and passion is key in any industry but especially in creative businesses. As creativity is subjective, you have to be braver than most to be heard.