Getting good at doing bad ads

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As an industry are we getting worse at creating great ads? I feel we may be substituting gimmickry for ideas. Maybe it’s just the cycle of culture we’re in. Hollywood keeps coming out with movies that are remakes of TV shows. That’s the same thing as what we’re doing. Maybe we’ve just run out of creative juice. Maybe we’re just all a little tired. Or maybe we’re getting a little lazy. I don’t know. Deep down we all know we’re not as good as we used to be. But what disturbs me more is that we are calling work “great” that isn’t. The other day I took a look at a few ad annuals from the last few years and viewed them in reverse chronological order. I wanted to see if this concern was just my imagination. Viewing the past few years of our best work I feel I’m correct. The more insightful work was from over five years back. I don’t live in the past. I don’t reminisce about the “good ol’ days.” But I have to say, it doesn’t seem we’ve grown much. If anything we may have regressed. I stand alongside with the accused, and I know that this is not because we’re not trying. However, I am apprehensive that the feeling that we need to have creative breakthrough isn’t as prevalent as it needs to be.

We are in a business that can’t repeat itself and be effective. Like a stand-up comedian who sticks with the same material, the same joke wears out pretty quickly. So, how are we going to break some new ground? The most recent attempt has been to go to untraditional or non-paid media. Agencies have started to use the term “media neutral” to describe themselves. I think it gave us a shot in the arm creatively, but media neutrality isn’t enough to recover from a creativity recession. There are only so many publicity stunts that you can pull that will get the media coverage that in turn actually communicates to a large enough audience to have an impact on marketing objectives. We need to explore new ways to stimulate creativity.

With the cell phone becoming a media center there is an amazing opportunity for advertising to become something more intimate with each consumer. Imagine being able to talk to people one-on-one to sell a product. It’s salesmanship coming full circle. Willie Loman has risen from the grave. It’s both scary and exhilarating. However, if advertising becomes more and more personalized it offers fresh-tilled soil for the creative mind. This offers fresh opportunities for us little guys to become the next generation of leadership. But it won’t happen if we don’t keep our creative experimentation alive and kicking today. Creativity is a blade that must be kept sharp.

It took the Internet about 10 years to become practical for mainstream advertising. The next communication vehicles are going to progress much faster. Some of the pathways we will use will be evident, others we will create anew by using our imagination. Those who create these pathways are going to rule our industry. Those that keep their creative muscles toned have the chance to take us into a much more interesting place than it has been recently. As technology develops new ways to communicate with the consumer we should be doing a better job of creatively communicating with them today. I want my agency to help break a cycle of repetitive creative thinking that seems to be proliferating our industry. I’m preaching to myself because this is easier said than done. I’m not giving into the tried and true. I encourage others not to do so as well.
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