Here’s a nettle. grab it.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done ?
I don’t mean in your personal life, which probably involves bungee jumping or telling your partner there’s a pitch rehearsal on the evening of their birthday.
Either of which, in my view, shows that you’ve got your priorities completely wrong.
I mean in a business sense.
It’s long been my belief that advertising is full of very bright people and very nice people – and also very good-looking people – but not enough brave or radical people.
One way of describing the current malaise in advertising would be to say that ad agencies completely failed to get to grips with digital matters back in the 90s. As a result client companies lost confidence in their agencies, split their accounts between various suppliers, and also started doing more and more in-house.
I can remember countless conversations back then along the lines of “We don’t have to worry about all this”.
Now, you could construe this as just rather attractive nonchalance.
But actually I think it’s something more serious.
I think it’s about an unwillingness to confront difficult topics.
You’ll have your own opinion of course, but in my view the best bit of thinking ever to come out of an ad agency was DDB’s “We’re number 2, we try harder” for Avis.
That came out of them looking fearlessly at the problem facing Avis. Hertz was number one, they were 4 times bigger – why wouldn’t you go there ?
That ability to grab the most uncomfortable nettle is incredibly rare in our business, where difficult stuff is usually brushed under the carpet.
Although why you’ve got nettles in your living room is, frankly, beyond me.
But – how many times do you sit down with clients and say – what’s really keeping you awake at night ?
What’s the elephant in the room ?
(Or if that’s too difficult, try talking about the elephant stuck in traffic but hoping to join the meeting half an hour later.)
In my view, most advertising doesn’t work very well – and one reason is that it’s often not really engaged with the core problem.
You have to go to where it feels difficult.
Any psychologist will tell you this.
Grab the nettle.
We did this at HHCL a lot – an obvious example would be Pot Noodle, when we did the “slag of all snacks” campaign.
And talking of sex, a psychologist will tell you that the biggest problem for all men is the Oedipus complex – but apparently there is a tribe in Brazil which confronts THAT issue head on.
The young males in the tribe go through an initiation ceremony at puberty where they make love to their own mothers.
Whether this cures them of the Oedipus complex, or reinforces it even more deeply, is open to conjecture.
And probably depends on how good a shag your Mum is.
Anyway, I just wanted to say in closing that I love the Jamal Edwards TV ad for Chrome. I know the lovely Tess Alps despairs of me ever saying nice things about TV advertising – but I do genuinely think there are some stunning TV ads out there.
I’m just usually more interested in looking at new ways of doing things.
And the key thing for me is that the ad feels spiky – it’s not a smooth little story that assumes a passive audience is there.
But that’s it in a nutshell for me – if you want to stand out in our business, an element of discomfort is essential.