Erik Kessels, the founder of Kessels Kramer design agency in Amsterdam, had the audience bursting with laughter at iloveoffset.com.
He skipped through numerous campaigns that his agency has undertaken in the last decade but with an utterly unerring placidity. It made me question the idea that he even found any of his own work funny and whether the dutch as a culture happened to be so much more open, diverse and accepting that anthropological forces guided his work? Either way his work was simply inspiring, yes he used a lot of humour to deliver his messages but what justified all of this was incredible intelligence and understanding without producing the comedy rimshot that one often experiences with humour in design.
I will highlight 2 of his case studies delivered at iloveoffset.com:
Hans Brinker Budget Hotel
Erik Kessels was approached by a friend who owned a hotel in Amsterdam to help him promote his establishment as it was beginning to flounder somewhat. The first thing any good creative does is to visit the hotel, which is exactly what Erik did. Having left the meeting Erik panicked slightly, he realised that there was absolutely nothing he could say that was positive about the place. However, as designers we are there to solve those problems. He delivered this back to the studio and they began to think.
What followed was a series incredible advertising campaigns.
Erik clearly wanted to generate a cult status for the hotel and did so by being brutally honest.
- A lovely image of a hotel room, with a maid and lovely flowers amidst lots of other elements you'd expect in any hotel room. At the bottom is an asterisk highlighting 'not included'. The asterisk is subsequently placed on almost every element in the room.
- He chose to show a picture of a pretty girl before her stay at Hans Brinker next to a bedraggled picture of her as she checks out.
- A televisual advert shows a clearly drunken man stumbling his way down the corridor bumping into all walls and hotel room doors. As he reaches the end the line delivered is 'Our wake up calls aren't like most, but they still do the job'.
The approach to this campaign was incredible and the response fantastic, so much so that the owner wanted to produce a book called 'Worst Hotel in the World', which is beautifully printed and shows you all the 'fantastic' things you experience at the hotel. This book sold brilliantly and now Hans Brinker is world renowned and the cult status has been achieved with people travelling all over the world to spend one night in the infamous establishment.
Kessels Kramer have worked on the project for nearly 10 years now and below is another series of campaigns that have gone out each year:
'Green campaign' - during the 'Green wash' revolution they produced a tongue in cheek campaign about how eco-friendly Hans Brinker was with this series of stunning ads. If you can;t read the last one it highlights how because the neon sign outside saying HOTEL has only the L lit up it is 80% more efficient than other lit signed hotels.
'Cut out' - They wanted to emphasise how you don't get the usual mod cons in your room - soap / hair dryer / shampoo etc. So on check in you get a card to take to your room and cut out the objects to make you feel more like you are in a normal hotel room.
This was a great way of successfully turning advertising on it's head, obviously not right for everyone but highlights the importance of being creative in the right way to generate interest.
Vitra are a very high end furniture manufacturer and distributor, they are the sole distributors of Eames chairs for Europe and the Middle East. Kramer were approached by them to think of a campaign for an issue they were having. They were noticing sales were being reduced as people didn't quite know the size of their most popular product the Eames chair. Erik and the team devised the below beautiful campaign by placing hundreds of objects by the chairs so that any viewer can understand the size of the chair. It's so beautifully simple but more importantly so beautifully executed, and this was certainly the lesson learned from this case study, idea is king but execution is queen.
More of his work can be found at: www.kesselskramerpublishing.com with particualar attention to 'The Other Final' an incredible project where they managed to arrange the 2 lowest ranked teams in the world to play their own World Cup Final in Bhutan Vs Montserrat. This was entirely because The Netherlands did not qualify and being football fans they wanted to generate some excitement for themselves. what emerged was an absolutely outstanding and wholesome project that got the attention of the entire world!