The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Which Came First: The Dumbing Down Of Marketing Or Creativity?

Above is a point of sale sign from a local supermarket.

Look at it.

LOOK AT IT!!!

What a pile of utter shite.

Noticeable for it’s stupidity rather than it’s inspiration.

The sort of stuff you would expect from a 5 year old writing jokes for a Christmas Cracker, than a company with well paid staff, responsible for the commercial growth of an organisation.

So who is to blame?

Well there are many who should feel a sense of shame – from ad agencies to research companies to clients – however when I think of who started this horribleness to begin, I can’t help but feel it was at the hands of the marketing department.

Of course even they are not totally to blame.

The C-Suite, with their demands and expectations have a lot to answer for … almost as much as the investors, who say they want the companies they invest in to be good companies but they better make increasing profits every quarter.

But what I found fascinating coming back to Western markets from Asian – specifically China – was how little ambition there really was.

Oh companies would talk about it – wax lyrical about it – but when you delved a little deeper, you saw there wasn’t much there.

Instead the focus was far more about defending rather than growing, corporate convenience rather than customer understanding, explaining rather than communicating and short-term conformity rather than long term change.

But of course, ad agencies need to take their blame for this situation as well.

Too many doing whatever clients want rather than what they need.

Profiting from process over creativity.

Celebrating speed over substance.

What makes it worse is some think this leads to good work.

Effective work. Using ‘proof’ that ignores the myriad of small, separate elements that combine to drive success so they can place themselves on a self-appointed pedestal.

But there are some who have a bit more self-awareness.

Who know what they’re doing is not as good as it could be.

Or should be.

But rather than face their responsibility in all of this, they blame others for how this came about … turning to questionable research that is based on a few tweets, a couple of chats around the agency or claims every single person on the planet can have their attitudes and behaviours characterised by a singular colour or some other bollocks.

And from this, they will claim the public don’t care about smart stuff.

That they ‘don’t understand’ good ideas and writing.

They they’re simply not interested in creativity and ideas.

Bullshit.

Bullshit.

Bullshit.

I’ve got to tell you, I’m absolutely over it.

I’m over the focus on the lowest common denominator.

Let’s face it, life would be pretty horrible and boring if that is how we really operated … and contrary to popular belief, we don’t.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t elements of predictability in what we do, but to ignore the nuance … to suggest everything we aspire to is exactly the same, delivered via an identical approach … is just plain bullshit.

But here’s the kicker, because more clients and agencies seems to be adopting this approach.

White labelling, phoned-in solutions with a cool sounding names that actively destroys any sense of differentiation and distinctiveness of their brand from countless competitors while also directly insulting the intelligence of the customers they rely on to survive.

I get it’s less hassle to just agree with clients.

I get that having income coming in right now is very important.

I get that a single point-of-sale sign is not going to change the world.

But when we are willing to allow our standards to be determined by how quick we can make money, then all we’re doing is ensuring the long-term value of our industry – and the talented people in it or wanting to be in it – dies even more quickly.

And that’s why I am also over people being quick to piss on anyone trying to do something different.

Claiming it’s self indulgent.

Labelling it a failure before it’s even run.

Saying it won’t appeal to the audience … despite not knowing the brand, the brief, the audience or how people actually think or act outside of some hypothetical customer journey / strategic framework of convenience.

And yet, when you look at the brands, the work and the agencies who consistently resonate deeply and authentically with culture and drive long-term loyalty, growth and profit – it’s the usual suspects and a few newbies, like Nils and the fabulous folks at Uncommon.

Yes our job is to help our clients achieve more than they hoped. Yes our job is to attract rather than repel. But our job is also to help build the future for our clients … influencing, shaping and – sometimes – forcing dramatic change even before the masses are quite ready for it, which means doing work that challenges and provokes for all the right reasons … sometimes asking questions of the audience rather than boring them into beige submission.

And while I acknowledge there are risks in all of that, I personally believe it is far riskier to dumb everything down to it’s lowest common denominator, because every single thing we love, respect and covet has come from someone or something doing something different.

Whether that’s an idea, a product, a story or a new way of looking at the World … it has come from people who understood who we are but take us further than we imagined, pushing the journey and the story with every new chapter of what they create.

They could have taken the easy route.
They could have focused on optimising the rewards.
They could have spent their time ‘removing friction from the transactional process’.

But they didn’t. Or at least, they didn’t just focus on that.

They embraced the risk to create something bigger and more unexpectedly resonant.

Or should I say unexpectedly resonant by those judging them, because they knew exactly where they were going.

And this is why the people who are so quick to dismiss anyone trying to do something new need to understand their actions say far more about who they are and what they value than anything else. And in an industry that is fighting for its life, I put my faith in those using creativity to change the game rather than those who just talk about violation of some old rules.


35 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Who made you angry?

Comment by George

You are not wrong though.

Comment by George

No I’m not.

Just fed up of people talking about the future of the ad industry and in the main, all they show are frameworks rather than work. But then in their defence, in the main, they’ve never made work that has moved culture and brands forward so they wouldn’t know.

Comment by Rob

It is the difference between companies who say they are creative and those who are.

Comment by George

Just because you have the parts doesn’t mean you know how to make something out of them.

Comment by Pete

More people need to make Rob angry. It’s not even hard. ; )

Comment by DH

ive seen espresso filled 3 year olds stuffed with e numbers who are more fucking tolerant than campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Incredible comment Andrew.

Comment by George

why the fuck do you make it sound like youre surprised?

Comment by andy@cynic

Amazing that the people who challenge the agencies making progressive work tend to be working in agencies that are making the work that is holding the industry back.

Comment by George

Haters going to hate.

What is interesting is that many of them have little to show as an alternative to what great, modern work is. Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton wrong with adland, but I know if we don’t allow creativity to be pragmatic rather than practical, as many people seem to think ‘modern communication’ should be … then we are going to be screwed deeper and faster.

Comment by Rob

Agencies stand more chance having a decent future with creativity than client complicity and cost cutting. That does not mean ignoring client needs, but then the best agencies never have. They just have solved them in more interesting ways.

Comment by George

Fight night.

Comment by Bazza

This sums up what many agencies think modern marketing is.

“White labelling, phoned-in solutions with a cool sounding names that actively destroys any sense of differentiation and distinctiveness of their brand from countless competitors while also directly insulting the intelligence of the customers they rely on to survive.“

Comment by Pete

That’s not even the best bit, though I’m torn if its
“Despite not knowing the brand, the brief, the audience or how people actually think or act outside of some hypothetical customer journey / strategic framework of convenience.”

or this
“But rather than face their responsibility in all of this, they blame others for how this came about … turning to questionable research that is based on a few tweets, a couple of chats around the agency or claims every single person on the planet can have their attitudes and behaviours characterised by a singular colour or some other bollocks.“

Comment by DH

Wow. I’m so glad you have no filter. Wherever you’re going next they’ll be lucky to have you

Comment by Northern

Good isn’t it.

Comment by Bazza

“And from this, they will claim the public don’t care about smart stuff. That they ‘don’t understand’ good ideas and writing.
They they’re simply not interested in creativity and ideas.”

Absolutely right. I’m the biggest critic of the lack of thinking displayed by the majority of the public, but that doesn’t mean they’re not inherently human and have the innate ability to respond to smart stuff and creativity. Anybody who thinks otherwise is a moron. A lazy moron.

Comment by John

What did David Ogilvy once say, “the consumer isn’t a moron, she’s your wife”.

Sure, I wish he hadn’t said consumer or wife, but it’s a good point forgotten by too many.

Another less is by the great Howard Gossage who said, “people read what interests them and sometimes it’s an ad”.

Comment by Rob

Whenever people claim smart stuff doesn’t scale I mention the Dark Knight

Comment by Northern

And Harry Potter.

Comment by Rob

fucking children.

Comment by andy@cynic

I see on Twitter that this is not your local supermarket, but one in New Zealand and that the signage is apparently playing with their sense of humour. That’s very worrying.

Comment by John

Apparently.

And I do see how it could represent the sarcastic sense of humour that exists in NZ … but apart from the fact I still think it’s lazy and more playing into a stereotype rather than a truth, I also have seen a bunch of this sort of work all over the place without any of the supposed tongue-in-cheek someone on twitter claims it has.

That said, NZ is one of the only few markets that has consistently does amazing work so I’m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt, despite my reservations on people confusing stereotypes with truth.

Comment by Rob

If that’s their idea of sarcastic humour – it’s more worrying than I thought. And I agree it doesn’t challenge your argument.

Comment by John

those kiwi fucks are the only ones who aim for great every fucking time, every agency, every fucking time. i know theyre 20 years behind and only have to appeal to sheep, but they never phone the fucker in and the work is years ahead of most of the shit that gets celebrated. must be payback for being at the arse end of the fucking world.

Comment by andy@cynic

well well well, campbells only gone fucking rogue again. i almost like you when youre like this. like is a bit much, tolerate is a better fucking expression.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m guessing Rob’s next job isn’t with WPP or Omnicom..

Comment by Northern

frankly no fucker should be hiring campbell but i know they fucking will. the prick has more clients now he is unemployed than most agencies have in good times. and i bet to fuck theyre paying him a fucking fortune. jammy jammy fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m going to his Metallica drive-in gig tomorrow. Waiting for it to actually be the launch of his Metallicamobile.

Comment by DH

Gold

Comment by Northern

Well I only really have a problem with one of those networks [the other has some genuine creative agencies in their mix and they have left them to do their brilliance for 20+years] but that aside, I still worked for them twice over the years, ha.

Doubt they would make that mistake again.

Though they did try … a few years back, ha.

Comment by Rob

You will not be seeing the Metallica-mobile.

Mainly because it’s called ‘The Thrasher’.

Ahem.

Comment by Rob

twat.

Comment by andy@cynic

Found this in the Guardian.

It’s worth a read as it sums up what this post is about.

In this case, it was the clients superiors who wanted to oppress the potential of creativity in favour of market traditions (though in the same breath, they probably also wanted a huge sales lift) but you can almost hear what the adland twitterati were saying (and would still say) … it’s indulgent … bollocks … superficial … not going to be understood by the audience (before saying you don’t know who it’s trying to appeal to) despite the fact it became iconic and three times as effective in sales as their normal levels of ad ROI.

Seriously, it’s like some people who are paid for creating brand distinction and differentiation don’t believe in brand differentiation and distinction.

Worse, it seems they have no idea of what culture really thinks or believe what they think is what culture thinks. Which is, ironically, what they accuse people trying to push boundaries for all the right reasons, do.

https://tinyurl.com/y5sygexg

Comment by Rob




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