Tears in Rain
I have seen the towers of Trebizon ablaze after an attack by a pirate fleet and I have thought – why is 95% of advertising garbage which doesn’t work ?
I have seen a thunderstorm revive dying elephants by the Tannhauser Gate and I have wondered – surely it’s got to be easier than this.
I’ve carried dead soldiers over the deserts of Ulan Bator – oh get on with it, Steve. This is supposed to be about advertising. Not the end of f*cking Blade Runner.
Well, I’ve decided this week that the biggest problem in advertising isn’t client approval processes or a lack of new talent in agencies or terrible research processes or a failure of confidence in the industry as a whole or the fact that the media world has turned upside down like a pet cat who’s started cooking its own dinner, although all of these have some truth in them.
The biggest problem is creativity itself.
Because creativity is actually a pain in the arse.
I don’t know how you define creativity (I asked some very bright people on the IPA Excellence Diploma last week, and got some interesting answers back) but I define it as the tricky stuff.
It’s awkward, difficult, deliberately perverse.
Let’s look at one simple expression of this.
Very few creative people would list Michael McIntyre as their favourite comedian.
Because he is middle of the road, safe, etc.
Most stadium owners and promoters, however, would put him right at the top of their list. Because he’s an absolutely proven success.
Most creatives hate him; most business people love him.
Most creatives would prefer Neil Hamburger or Nick Helm. The latter comes on stage with the greeting “Good Evening c*cksuckers … and gentlemen”.
And a typical Hamburger joke might go like this :
What do you call it when a sexual pervert out in the park at midnight in a public toilet gets beaten up by a homeless wino ?
A Wham reunion.
Creative people like this sort of stuff.
They like the difficult stuff.
That is what makes them creative. A desire to break barriers down. A naughtiness.
But the really screwed-up thing about creativity is this.
In the world of “pure” creativity, being ground-breaking doesn’t always work as well as being safe.
Hamburger will fill a 200-seater in Soho. But McIntyre will sell out the O2 twelve nights in a row.
However, the irony is that in advertising - an applied or commercial form of creativity – you absolutely need it.
Because real people aren’t the slightest bit interested in advertising and unless you do something rule-breaking to stand out, the work will be invisible and it will be a total waste of money.
The most provocative bit of work I was ever associated with was probably Tango “Slap”. It got pulled off air within two weeks, and it provoked the front page of the Sun to demand that the brand be banned for encouraging schoolyard violence.
We weren’t, as it happens, because I’m not personally a huge fan of schoolyard violence.
(I’m more a “world peace and solve global warming” sort of person.)
But it was also the most immediately successful piece of work I’ve ever been associated with.
Sales of Tango went from 1 million cans a day to 1.3 million cans a day, in two weeks.
(With no changes other than the advertising.)
So the awkward stuff is … the necessary stuff.
Which, for some people, is a f*cking drag.
Of course they can decide to ignore this.
They can decide to carry on as they are, and continue to find creativity a bit annoying, in an industry where brands move agency every three years, where marketing directors last on average two years, and where Google has estimated the return on investment to be 49p in the pound.
(Which incidentally makes the marketing industry more of a financial scandal than the banking world.)
Doubtless these people enjoy the meetings where nothing interesting ever gets sold.
Speaking for myself, I’ve felt ice freeze my buttocks together on the far side of the Neptune Parabola, and seen an entire industry burn like a match and disappear.
Believe me, it wasn’t a pretty sight.