But there’s too many people in our industry spending too much time worrying about appearing unique, innovative, and disruptive to their peers. Instead of focussing on making things that are actually great, and might one day be seen by a actual real people.”
from our own Iain Tait.
I’ve never met anyone who has seen a vending machine reward them for laughing, I’ve never walked through a door marked ugly, got a Coke from a drone, or been offered a crisp packet with my face on. I’ve never had a friend share their personalised film, I’ve not seen outdoor ads that are also street furniture or had an ATM give me a funny receipt. I’ve not received a magazine with a near field communication thing and I’ve not had a virtual reality experience outside advertising conferences. I’ve not once seen a member of the public 3D print anything. The one thing that binds together the more than 200 Cannes winners I’ve seen, is that they are ads only advertising people have a good chance of seeing. I’m not sure that’s what the industry should be about.”
from Tom Goodwin at Havas Media.
I wonder if it isn’t time to put Cannes in its place — as a source of inspiration and provocation, rather than a celebration of the best work the industry has done for clients in the year gone by. I’d liken it to a fashion show. No normal people buy the haute couture designs but they nonetheless set trends and influence high street fashion. Isn’t it best to see the Cannes winners in the same light? To set them on a pedestal and challenge the industry to do more work like this, or which takes inspiration from this, with mainstream budgets in the real world. This would be a useful filter for judges too — and might lead to the weeding out of “clever-clever” ideas that aren’t scalable.”
from John Owen at Dare.
In other words, it’s a celebration of innovation in creativity, not (with the notable exception of the Effectiveness Lions) brand building.
There is a role for recognising and celebrating that.
But we forget the distinction at our peril.
Proof that the best insight and wisdom often comes from those outside the system, rather than from those toiling within it, the following is an extract from Kevin Spacey’s much-lauded 2013 McTaggart Lecture. The annotations are mine:
We get what audiences want – they want quality [serve the audience].
We get what the talent wants – artistic freedom. And the only way to protect talent and the quality of our work is for us to be innovative [provide talent with opportunity].
And we also get what the corporations want, what the studios want, what the networks want – they want to make money and we need them to be profitable so they can continue to fund high quality production.
They want the highest possible audiences with the greatest impact. We all get it [remember that it’s a business].
The challenge is can we create an environment where executives, those who live in data and numbers, are emboldened and empowered to support our mission; to have an environment with leadership that is willing to take risks, experiment, be prepared to fail by aiming higher rather than playing it safe.
It’s like Steve Jobs. Why did he continually cite Henry Ford as an inspiration? Because Ford anticipated that people didn’t know they needed and wanted a car until he invented one. And we didn’t know we needed and wanted all that Apple has brought to our lives until Steve Jobs put it in our laps and hands [embolden the client].
We need to be that innovative. In some ways we need to be better than the audience. We need to surprise, break boundaries and take viewers to new places. We need to give them better quality [over-serve the audience].
We might not disrupt the status quo overnight, but we can mould structures at the center of our businesses; because if we really put talent at the heart of everything we do, we might just be able to have greater highs across a broader spectrum of the industry. That’s what I believe [put talent at the heart of everything you do].”
It might be old by internet standards, but Spacey’s lecture is worth watching (and watching again) in its entirety for all the gems of wisdom it contains.
When so many of us in little adland are caught in a vortex of existential professional angst, tying ourselves into knots as to how to organize ourselves, and having sleepless nights over what the business model is (and indeed what business we are actually in), these are words to navigate by.
For without recognizing our duty to the audience, and the primacy of talent, the rest is, well, just a house of cards.
The truth is, the transformed media landscape has made incremental cost efficiencies much less compelling to clients than the value of a huge idea and a highly creative communication strategy. To an enlightened client, the scale of your resources pales in significance to the power of your ideas.”
– Carl Johnson, CEO , Anomaly
Creative intensity means stepping back from the limitless matrix of touchpoint permutation and finding a brand’s high-value communication opportunities. Why do people work from the assumption that their core idea is incapable of holding a scalable audience? What does it say about the quality of ideas in the industry today?”
– Giles Hedger, CSO, Leo Burnett
The objective of this industry, once clearly stated as the creation of value through the building of brands through the power of ideas, has been reset. We are now, apparently, in the business of adjusting to and coping with the change that we are facing. It is a heroic agenda but, ultimately, parochial and low value. Our achievements are now measured against a yardstick of change management, whereas we used to be hailed as a cultural force – one that created the change that others would manage.”
Source: Giles Hedger, ‘The fallacy of our time‘, Campaign, 23 April 2015
Campaign recently published The A-list, its annual “Who’s who in advertising, media and creative.”
Amidst all the quips from adland’s VIPs, I did find two gems, both from former bosses of mine.
To Lawrence Green: What will be the biggest change in adland in five years?
I am betting on a return to upstream, idea-led and fairly remunerated agency engagement. Is that too much to ask?”
To Giles Hedger: Learnt anything new lately?
I have learnt that nobody really has the answers to any of the plaguing questions. It helps, but only in that slightly disappointing way, like when you’re playing Mornington Crescent and you finally cotton on to the vacuity of parlour games.”
They’ve got a point.