That old fomo has got me in its grip.
The old fear of missing out. In a networked world, that feeling is worse than ever. Why does Rory Sutherland have such a good time ? He’s always updating his status from one glamorous airport (or even aeroplane) to another, like some business class Phileas Fogg on Foggbook.
And with the BBC transmitting every single event from the Olympics, I feel that while I’m glued to my seat watching the beach volleyball (yes, crowd-source your own gags), I’m missing a fiercely-disputed penalty in the handball.
A friend told me the other day he’d witnessed a fully-fledged pile-up goal celebration in the women’s football and I was inconsolable for two days.
Skype doesn’t help. Looking at my screen tells me which of my contacts is online. Who are they talking to ? Why aren’t they talking to me ?
Anyway, I got the same thing while reading this year’s batch of IPA Excellence Diploma essays.
When I first started marking these essays, back in 2009, about 10 of the 19 essays were so brilliant, they astounded me.
But this year the jury was split in 2 and we got half the essays each.
After reading 3 of them, I thought I must have been given the bad 50%.
In other words – I was missing the Bradley Wiggins moments and instead was watching South Korea deliberately losing the early rounds of the dressage to avoid Qatar in the quarter-final.
But then I read Candidate XXX. (Numerals have been changed to protect the innocent.)
And I wanted to start a new agency with them.
The author threw out about 60 fascinating thoughts, but let’s pick just one of them.
They started on the track of saying that instead of logical messaging, advertising needs to concentrate on emotional signalling.
This point has been made before – by Binet and Field among others – but it hasn’t changed any of the agency or client processes a jot, as far as I’ve seen, so it’s worth making again.
And then the essayist gave examples of one way that signalling works, by being extravagant or “costly” – i.e. hard to do.
They gave examples from nature and then from the commercial world.
In nature a gazelle, when it sees a predator, will leap up and down in the air. This is hard to do, because every sense must be screaming - run away from this lethal predator.
But the leaping is the gazelle saying - look, I’m gonna out-run you, so save your puff grandad.
In another part of the forest, some female toads judge the male’s suitability by the depth of his croak. But the male toad can only emit a deep croak if he holds the female toad lightly – if he clings on too strongly, his croak goes higher in pitch.
So the male toad has to take a more laissez-faire attitude towards the sex he’s getting.
A counter-intuitive technique I would recommend only with caution to my human readers.
Let’s turn to the business world. If you ask staff at Waitrose a question, they are trained to ask “Can I help you with anything else ?” afterwards. This is counter-intuitive to the accountants’ mindset because you don’t want your staff running around all day helping grannies find the frozen peas – but it works.
Because it looks like they care more about my desire to find the white chocolate and raspberry ice cream than they do about stacking high the baked beans I’m not interested in.
Rather more literally “costly”, the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas spent 40 million dollars on a few fountains. They could have had very nice fountains for a decimal point fraction of that – but those fountains appear on half the Facebook pages of people who’ve visited Las Vegas …
(I made that last statistic up – but it sounds reasonable enough and I chuck it out there because it might help Mark Zuckerberg figure out how to monetise his amazing creation.)
The point is, we all work in a medium called “word-of-mouth”. And what’s the currency in conversation ?
Create the weird stuff – the “wrong” stuff, the counter-intuitive stuff, the extravagant stuff – and people will talk about it.
But, as the essayist put it, creativity is seen as some sort of luxury in our industry, over and above the functional aspects of the commercial message.
That’s what makes me believe in the power of creativity, even in a world where it is increasingly being analysed out of existence by people with small, logical minds.
Because in our industry it’s exactly what’s required.
Which raises the question.
If we don’t celebrate creativity in the creative industries, what are we really missing out on ?