Geoffrey Hantson believes in happiness. Even in 2019 when the world is going crazy and you don't see much of happiness on Facebook or on the faces of the people. Even so, happiness is much more needed, says Geoffrey, who is Chief Creative Officer of Happiness, an FCB Alliance.
Happiness is not just the name of the agency, but also its fuel, explained Geoffrey in his presentation at IAA Global Conference „Creativity4Better”. Geoffrey has won 38 Cannes Lions — 14 of which were Gold. And the work made by his agency shows that happiness can inspire serious campaigns, that it can make you cry. In a short break during the conference, we talked with Geoffrey about social responsability, purpose, happiness, school, kids, life and poetry.
My first thought is what any dad would answer. I have 3 kids, 18, 15 and 8. If they are happy, I am happy. I guess it's the most clisee answer that you cand possibly give. But it is a fact. My son has just begun studying in London and it is a very stange feeling to realise that you are in that stage of your life that your children start leaving home. Are we already there?
I am not a hard core creative and I never dreamt of working in advertising. That was not what I was going to do at all, I've never studied it.
I did 7 schools, I had been kicked out everywhere. I had quite a heavy youth, a difficult one. I hated school. Because they actually teach you to repeat what has been said, and the better you repeat what had been said, the better you are. And that is school. How cand you grow and change things if the only thing you need to do is repeat what other people say? That's not education. So I mostly got kicked out. I didn't study advertising, I got to it by accident.
It's a very long story. I lived in the South of Spain, I wanted to be a poet. I lived with the gitanos and I was writing poetry. But I didn't have money, so I had to make money. I was one of the guys selling stuff on the beach.
And there was a guy, sitting by the beach, around 2 pm, always with a little paper, writing. I thought he was a poet. One day I talked to him and I said: You must be a poet. And he said: No, I am a copywriter. I said: what's that? And he said: in the agency we invent ads and I do the writing part and I come by the beach, when I'm having my siesta, to write things down.
It seemed amazing. He makes money by writing stuff on the beach. And I thought: I am creative, I can do that, and he said: sit down, let's talk. And then we met everyday. That was 25 years ago. He is still a friend of mine.
Is the most underestimated thing in the world. Countries where the happiness of the people is high tend to do economically well. There is a big link between people who feel happy and productivity. Same thing with creativity. When creatives feel happy, they create better work. And the thing with creative people is that if they do better work, they are happy. And if they are happy, they do better work. It's a vicious fluffy circle. That was the first reason for our concept of Happiness.
The second one is that the world is changing rapidly into hate and polarization so that actually it becomes rebellious to be happy. When people react cynical to me, agressive, I always respond constructive to them and they are like What, are you crazy?
I believe that being polite is the most basic thing you cand do as a human being. I do believe that the large majority of humans are good. It's just a small minority that is not good and they take power and we vote for them. It's crazy.
Brands are giving more and more attention to purpose. They understand that if the only thing they want is sell, it's not going to work. They understand that they need to have meaning for people and in people's life.
A silly example. Once, I had to work for yoghurt and I asked: what is your purpose? What do you want to mean in people's lives? And he said: My purpose? My purpose is to sell over 2 millions boxes of yoghurt. That is not going to work. You need to have meaningful places in people lives. And some brands manage to do that. If you find meaningful place in people's hearts, then you can thrive and then sell more products.
The world is more polarized, but the brands are more meaningful. They understand that they have to do that. And we, as an agency, we should push them to do that.
I can't work for certain brands. I wouldn't work for tobacco, for example. I draw my personal, subjective line. I do work for alcoholic brands and fast food. But even then, when we communicate, I think we have a responsability.
How did advertising change
It made things more interesting. We live in a technological world where we have no limitations. The only limitation we have is our imagination. 20 years ago it was more difficult to be innovative. Now, if you have ideas, you will have solutions. Maybe in 6 months or in a year, but you will have solutions. Technology allows you to have it. It became way more interesting.