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So I finally got round to watching ‘Art & Copy’ at the weekend and all in all, I enjoyed it.
To be honest I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
For me, it felt too much like it was preaching to the converted – I would have preferred to hear some more clients talking about the impact adland had on their business – but it was still enjoyable and I was very happy to see my 2 new bosses coming across as toptastic gents, but then even Pol Pot would look quite nice compared to the heads of the big 4 agency networks.
Saying that, one thing I did find incredibly interesting was being reminded just how brilliant some of the work from way back when, was.
Let’s face it, when people talk about the ‘old days of adland’ they tend to only talk about DDB’s “Beetle” ads or some terrible P&G soap spot that basically said if women weren’t married by 25, it’s probably their body odour.
Well you know what, there was a shitload of good work back then … work that would put many of today’s so-called hot agencies to shame,
One of the great protagonists was Mary Wells.
Not only was she the first female CEO to be listed on the NY Stock Exchange – quite a feat back in the uber-sexist 50’s – but she was also instrumental in the development of some breathtakingly creative campaigns.
She was the person who helped convince Braniff airlines they should paint their planes a multitude of colours to help differentiate from the competition [The End Of The Plain Plane] and she was also the person who helped create the iconic I Heart NY expression/logo to name but two.
Think about it … an ad person created possibly the most identifiable ‘tourism’ logo in the World … a logo that means more than all of Arnell’s ‘gravitational pull’ designs put together.
Now with the upmost respect to the Juan’s and Droga’s of the World … what have they done that is anywhere as big as that?
Don’t get me wrong, they’re great guys and have done some interesting and exciting stuff … but Mary Wells was living and selling ‘big ideas’ before either of these guys could even hold a pen, let alone log onto Youtube and find something weird/abstract that they could then be ‘inspired by’.
And this leads to the point of this post.
[Yes, there is one]
One of the guys in the doco said that whilst advertising had a role in business, it was still only advertising … it wasn’t art, it wasn’t literature, it wasn’t re-writing the future.
His exact words were – and I love this – that advertising reflects the future, it doesn’t affect the future … and you know what, he was right.
However I genuinely believe the opportunity to change that perspective is now.
Advertising does have the power to affect change rather than just reflect it … it does have the ability to create ideas that can positively affect the lives and environment of the wider community whilst still making our clients rich [ala my ‘Socialistic Capitalism’ paper] … it can be something that is seen as having intrinsic value to business and society but to do that, I believe more agencies have got to adopt the attitude of Mary Wells rather than David Ogilvy, because whilst he was a brilliant man, he made – for all intents and purposes – relatively traditional communication whereas she went out and created change rather than hoped to fuck her ads would make it happen.
As an industry we sit here, craving acceptance and applause from our peers, the business community and society as a whole … but if we are to stand any chance of achieving any of that, it requires us to do a number of things.
1/ Get back to selling, not telling.
2/ Get back to creating, not executing.
3/ Get back to really understanding society, not casually noticing it.
It’s not going to be easy … it might end in failure … but if we don’t try, then the things we can be sure of is our industry might never recover from its current downward spiral and that we’ll always have to live in the shadow of our brilliant elders and whilst I’m big on respecting them, I’d love to be part of people who re-write history and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – both interms of ego and approach.
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… so while everyone else in HK will be spending it lying in bed, watching telly and/or eating themselves stupid … I’ll be spent packing fucking boxes that the Chinese Government probably won’t let in on grounds of moral corruption.
And that’s just my collection of VIZ comics, what the hell are they going to say about my Arnie DVD’s?
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… oh, hang on, he is now …
Better wish him a very, very happy birthday then.
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Whatever your political allegence, the Guardian recently ran some photos of Gordon Brown’s last hours in office and I have to say there was one in particular that really touched me.
For me, there’s something quite wonderful that one of the most important people in the country – possibly the World – has his kids ‘paintings’ on his wall.
I know this is fairly common – but for some reason, I never imagined the PM would do that and I like it. I like it a lot.
I appreciate it’s highly unlikely, but I just love the idea that there were occasions where a head of state was sat opposite him and his kids scribblings were staring down on them.
In public, Gordon Brown appeared socially awkward.
I know that appearences are important – especially in this media focused World – but what I always found sad was that some people translated this behaviour into meaning he was incapable of his job.
Of course, some will say the current state of the UK shows that to be true – however I wonder how much people’s attitudes would have been changed if they saw the ‘family’ side of him .., or more specifically, the ‘human’ side of him.
Yes I know that shouldn’t be important but the reality is we are all influenced by things like that – even if amongst friends we play the role of clinical critic – but while this might sound a bit weird, I respect him even more for not really playing that card, when it was something I am sure he was encouraged to do time and time again.
I honestly believe if brands stood up for their values and principles to a greater extent, they’d make a more meaningful impression on the public.
Jumping on whatever bandwagon they think is the current trend might make economic sense, but in the longer term, I genuinely believe it starts to undermine the trust and value their core ‘fans’ put in the brand – and whilst this group of obsessives may not be enough to drive the ever-increasing need for ever-increasing profit, the fact is without them you are having to start from scratch pretty much each year and that sounds like even worse economical sense to me.
Of course it’s not just what you believe, but how you express it … which is why I worry Apple, a brand that was built on some fundamental values and principles, are in danger of sowing the seeds of their own misfortune … especially given they now think it is OK to get the police to [allegedly] raid a journalists house, force a comedian to apologise for a stupid sketch and threaten a little girl with legal action simply for writing a letter to Jobs.
As I said, values and principles are hugely important, but it’s important you remember how you express them is as important as what they are … which is why writing a brief, an ad or a presentation should always be crafted, never just churned out.
So I’ve had a few requests asking for a bit more time.
Given this means some people seem to be actually doing the assignment [which is a huge relief as I worried that might not happen] I will extend the submission date by a week … May 28th Midnight GMT.
After this, there will be no more extensions – mainly because I go away from the 4th June and then move to Shanghai so if I don’t get judging started in the week between submission date and my 40th birthday depravity, then who knows when it’ll happen and even then I’m still relying on my fellow judges to be available which may not be the case.
Regardless, you have another week so please get them done and have fun.