Important Stuff From Bob Hoffman

“We’ve got to stop bullshitting ourselves and come to terms with reality.
If we want there to be an audience for advertising, if we want people to be engaged with what we do, we have to do a lot better. We have to make advertising beautiful, and interesting, and entertaining. And I have bad news… algorithms, and data, and metrics can’t do that. Only people can do that.”
It's doubtful you'll read something about advertising this year that's more important than Bob Hoffman's latest piece.

Please go here now and read it.

Are You Really Okay With The Idea Of Creativity?

Ansel Adams shooting in Yosemite, 1942. By Cedric Wright
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” Ansel Adams
What do we mean when we talk about creativity?

Sometimes it’s just a new way of presenting familiar things, but in a way that makes you reappraise them or see them differently. Sometimes it’s an extremely simple solution to a problem, but no one ever thought of it before.

It’s things that connect with people on a human level. Things that surprise people, catch them unawares, that move and motivate people.

Great creative makes things get noticed and stick in the memory, or it makes things familiar to us – so we when we see them we’re drawn to them.

I can remember advertising lines from thirty years ago, but can’t remember my own pin number sometimes.

The value of great creativity to brands has always been very hard to quantify, but what we do know, is that when it’s done well it’s extremely powerful. And it’s helped to grow most of the brands we take for granted now as market leaders.

But there’s a mystery to creativity isn’t there?

Because it’s still impossible to pin it down more than that.

Even though people are always trying to define it, to put it into neat boxes.

So unfortunately we work in a business where the most valuable thing is almost impossible to fully define.

That’s hard for many people in advertising and for clients to accept.

When you're running multi-million and multi-billion pound operations, it must be terrifying to think your most valuable commodity is so nebulous and hard to control.

So the non-creatives in the business – the people who buy or sell creativity, but don't do it themselves – are always trying to find a way to control it, trying to systemise it – the same way that people have systemised the building of a car, or a television.

They put processes in place. And rules, guidelines, structures, criteria, systems.

But we aren’t dealing with machines are we?

We’re dealing with people.

That’s where ideas come from isn't it? People’s brains, people’s imaginations.

And people are messy, they have bad days, they swear, they sleep in, and they’re unpredictable.

But business people hate the idea of unpredictability.

That’s why the big advertising networks and the people who run them, and the marketing clients at large companies, love things like big data, and programmatic advertising, and adtech - things that are neat and controllable and easy to systemise.

But with all that technology, data and programmatic buying, what do we have?

As far as I can see, hundred of millions of individually targeted shite.

Ads that people are increasingly trying to block.

And the production line processes and system of these big network agencies don't lead to great creativity.

They've become these huge, complicated and bureaucratic organisations.

They’ve tried to force creative thinking into a production line process, it’s been industrialised.

And that’s a real problem.

Industrial processes don’t produce individual pieces of brilliance.

Production lines are designed to churn out identical products.

Exactly the same, every time.

And they're very good at that.

So they create production line work - the same, the same, more of the same.

Whatever the client, whatever the problem, whatever the product.

More of the same.

But that’s the opposite of creativity.

Creative solutions by their very nature, are different to what was right last time.

And none of it is as powerful as that thing you see that stops you in your tracks, that sticks in your brain, that makes you think about something differently.

Messy, unpredictable, real creativity.

The most powerful, valuable thing that we can provide to our clients.

And, unfortunately, if you want the best, most powerful creativity, you have to learn to be okay with the idea that you can’t define it.

Or even necessarily control it.

How To Get Better Advertising For Your Business Or Brand – Get Your Hands Dirty And Work Directly

More client CEOs and business owners need to get their hands dirty and play an active role in the process of selecting agencies and developing advertising.

Whoever the ultimate decision-maker is, they need to be involved fully, from beginning to end.

This will help to get a better end result for two reasons.

First, when it comes to agency selection, it will force agencies to focus their attention on how their work will help tackle the client’s business challenges, not just brand or marketing issues, bringing advertising closer to the needs of the business as a whole.

Second, hands-on CEO or owner involvement helps to remove the dreaded fear of getting it wrong.

This fear is perfectly understandable given increasing expectations and pressures on marketing budgets.

But it can sometimes affect the decision-making of some clients, leading them to play it too safe in how they judge the recommendations and work of their agency.

With the senior client in the room, good honest conversations can be had, and decisions made with confidence and without fear.

More direct, active senior client involvement is one of the simplest routes to increasing your chances of making more successful advertising.

And you need a direct working relationship between the senior client decision-maker and the senior creatives who are hands-on on the business.

No middle men keeping them apart - a direct working relationship where they can talk, discuss make decisions together.

If you look at the best creative work throughout the years, it tends to come from this kind of relationship... Bill Bernbach of DDB and Bob Townsend of Avis, George Lois and Tommy Hilfiger, Lee Clow and Steve Jobs, just to name a few.

It’s not a coincidence you know, this is how great things get done.

But increasingly meetings about advertising are between people who haven't done the work, and people who aren't the actual decision-maker.

It's lunacy.

Yes, it requires an investment in time from busy and expensive individuals. But it pays back many times over for clients in the quality of advertising they get.

Keep the middle-men and middle management out of the process, you're far more likely to end up with advertising that's much better than middling.

For more pithy challenging of received wisdom, our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

Some Relationship Advice.... The Obsession With 'The Client Relationship'

The ‘relationship’ is a fashionable topic in advertising at the moment.

When people talk about 'the relationship' in advertising they mean the client/agency relationship.

And they're talking about it for good reason, as the the average tenure rate of agencies is at an all-time low.

In the 1980's the average tenure rate of ad agencies was over 7 years, now it's somewhere between 2 and 3 years.

So something's not right somewhere, I think we can safely say?

The trouble is, they’re trying to solve the symptoms and not attacking the real problem.

The client-agency relationship is about a lot more than just ‘getting along’, having round-table love-ins, or bonding at corporate hospitality events.

That's what these daft 'chemistry meetings' are designed to try to improve.

You need to start with the fundamentals of why the agency and client are working together in the first place.

Ideas, creativity, advertising.

There needs to be a shared, explicit understanding between agency and senior clients of how advertising, and the agency, can best help the client’s business.

That's where all the problems really start, not with personalities.

But it is true that client-agency relationships have been eroded by poor behaviour and bad practices over the years.

But start with the fundamental - the ideas.

Let's remember that the best ideas tend to be created in a working relationship of mutual trust and respect between agency and client.

So it's important to create a platform of stability by working out a financial relationship that can work long-term for both parties.

And make it known that both parties are in it for long-term success, and that you won’t let short-term issues derail the working relationship.

Always stick to promises, provide support and be honest and transparent. Allow each other the space to perform their specialism, respect each other’s opinion and listen to their recommendations.

As a client, it’s likely that you will get much better advertising from your agency if you have a long-term, stable relationship built on mutual trust and respect.

Client and agency don't have to be best buddies, in constant state of happy delirium, and its foolish to try to measure a professional relationship, where debate and disagreement is important, on those kinds of touchy-feely grounds.

They only have to work together enough to get great work, and sometimes it's okay if there are disagreements and debates.

And in the end, well, you'll find that when brilliant work is being done, and it's being successful – everyone tends to get along okay, regardless of personality type.

And that's my relationship advice.

For more pithy challenging of received wisdom, our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

8 And Rising - A good Way To Start Saving Ad Agencies

I read a good piece today by Indy Selvarajah on the Drum website. Have a read here. He's talking about how to get more people of colour (his words) into advertising agencies. I think this is a great subject.

This is kind of intertwined with something that we've being going on about for ages on this blog and in our book – which is that advertising has become far too populated for its own good by the same kind of polite middle-class people with university degrees.

These issues are intertwined because they all link back to the kind of people who are ending up in advertising. The same goes for the people who are calling for a more fair representation of women in the business, especially creative departments, especially at the top. There are other dynamics at play for certain, but part of it is definitely to do with the people who are trying to get into the business in the first place.

I think advertising would hugely benefit from being more representative of the world outside its glass staircases and foosball tables. More people of colour, as Indy says, more women in creative departments and in senior positions, more people from working class and lower middle class backgrounds, and more people who aren't graduates.

We've talked before about the demise of the Post Room as a way for people from different backgrounds to find their way into the industry.

I think Indy has a good take on what would help, and it's pretty simple...
I have set up an initiative called 8 (currently only 8 per cent of senior positions in ad land are held by those from minority backgrounds) and I invite all creatives, creative directors and executive creative directors to give up an hour of your time, twice a year to visit a school or college and talk about what you do. Show the ads you’ve made. Talk about a shoot. Where you’ve travelled to. The amazing, and not so amazing, directors you’ve worked with. If you’re over 50 tell them about the long lunches and short working hours you used to enjoy. And if you’re feeling brave, answer some of their questions. That’s it. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’m certain this is the most effective starting point in creating a more balanced, diverse, interesting and fun industry.
I think this is spot-on. I grew up in a normal, working-class family, and had no idea that advertising was something I could do as a job. I got (very) lucky because I somehow got myself into art school after a series of failed other directions and just happened to see that there were people doing advertising there – bloody hell, you can get paid for doing that kind of thing!

I think if we want to improve the business (and the output of the the business) we have to start here - attracting a wider range of people into the business in the first place. And of course (as if we need to say it) all jobs should be absolutely on merit, but if the pool of people better represents the population, we have a much better chance of getting both great talent and a diverse range of people in agencies.

This is the website for Indy's initiative:

Is it Time for a New Creative Revolution? Sell! Sell! Speaking at Zee Melt 2016...

This weekend Vic will be in New Delhi, India, speaking at the Zee Melt Festival, India's biggest festival of creativity and innovation in marketing and communications.

As you might know, we're not usually big on these kind of festivals, but these guys seem like a smart bunch and have asked us to speak on a subject we feel strongly about - how to refocus this business properly back on to creativity.

And also there are some people speaking there we're interesting in seeing, including Dave Trott and Forsman & Bodenfors.

Vic will be covering some of the points we talk about in our book How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better –The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution. Hope to see you there if you're going, and come and say hello.

There's more info at or follow @kyoorius or us @wearesellsell on the Twitter...

Goodby Silverstein Anti-Trump Mount Rushmore Commercial

Every now and again it's good to remind ourselves just how powerful commercials can be.

Strong work...