Advertising Is Ripe For Revolution II

I look at the advertising industry and I see something strange.

I look at agencies and the work they produce, and when I describe them to myself, I'm a little shocked by what I find.

It has regressed and stagnated in a way.

Back to a time before the creative revolution.

I find myself looking at what advertising must have looked like in the 1950s.

But the scary thing is, this is the industry now.

Dominated by a small number of very large companies that have been around for decades.

The output of these agencies has become stale and predictable.

It is over styled – style over content – largely to hide the fact that it is saying very little of interest, or of use or merit.

It relies on fancy art and effects, on technical wizzery.

The output of different brands in each category is painfully similar.

There is an accepted way of doing things, and woe betide those who dare to disagree.

The industry thinks of the customer as stupid, gullible, not in control of their own decision-making.

People in the business use science to back up this thinking – they think they're more clever than the consumer.

And so they treat the consumer as idiots, and serve up mindless, brainless fodder, cute characters and cuddly toy giveaways.

Advertising has become deceitful and disingenuous, it claims to represent precious human emotions it has no right or claim to, it presents its client's products as the route to happiness and joy.

Pompous, over-claiming, self-importance.

Awards schemes fuel the cycle as the industry rewards itself.

But people are no mugs. They see through the lies and deceit of advertising. It doesn't ring true.

That's why advertising is as disliked and distrusted possibly more than it has ever been, despite the so-called cleverness and science of its proponents.

This was advertising in the 1950s.

This is advertising now.

People have been talking about a revolution for a while now.

But ten years ago they said it would be a technological revolution.

The technology was going to change everything.

And while it constantly brings us new and interesting opportunities to get in touch and communicate with people.

Largely is has been beset by the same problems for advertisers as traditional media.

It wasn't the revolution we were promised.

And now, the talk is of data as the revolution. Big data, they say.

But you already see the cracks in that.

I think the industry is ripe for revolution.

It demands it, it fact, the very state of the industry will bring it about.

But it won't be the revolution everyone has been talking about.

I think it will be a second creative revolution.

The creative revolution in the 1960s wasn't 'creative' as people (mis)use the term in advertising now.

It wasn't about pretty pictures, technique and style.

It was about creative people taking the reins.

It was about advertising becoming about truth, honesty, charm, wit, intelligence.

It was about treating the consumer as an equal, about charming them and communicating with them, presenting them truths in new and interesting ways.

It was about simplicity, stripping out the unnecessary.

It was about daring to be different, daring to challenge category conventions, being self-effacing.

These were the things that the creative revolution brought about.

Advertising that people actually found interesting, entertaining, useful, honest.

And that will be the nature of the revolution that will hit advertising in the next few years.

It will start small, in few places.

You can see it already here and there.

The second creative revolution.

A new golden age of advertising.

Don't get caught wearing the regulation fedora.


  1. 'You can see it already here and there'

    You tease. Come on Sell Sell, tell us where it's happening.

  2. I can see the revolution in creatives/teams going freelance and cashing in big time. Seems like the only way to milk the agencies for all they're worth (which isn't in the work).

  3. I totally agree with you guys at Sell!Sell!
    Advertising can be pretty grim and uninspiring at times - technology/big data and the like have made no improvement upon how we talk to people.
    You only need to look at Weetabix's twitter feed or boring car ad tropes to see evidence of what you're saying.
    Although creative people should definitely take the reins, I don't think that this is the main problem we are fighting. I don't think its inside the agency or in Adland that's the problem.
    I think it's getting clients to buy into change. Clients are so risk adverse it makes me wonder how they manage to leave the house in the morning.

    Brilliant work on Fentimans.

  4. Thanks Viola.

    I disagree though. I think it's too easy to blame clients, although they aren't completely blameless in the mix. Isn't it the job of an ad agency and the people in it to foster the kind of working partnership with clients allows the creation of good, interesting work? I'd say that there have always been risk averse clients, maybe agencies are less willing to change them or work with them to move their opinions. I think largely agencies are not fit for purpose.

  5. You say the the customer isn't stupid and gullible.

    I'm less certain of that.

  6. But what if you are the customer, Mitch?

    1. I'm not the average customer.

      I have the scar tissue to prove it.

    2. You just exemplified the problem perfectly for S!S! there: you think you're smarter than the customer.

    3. If remembering that advertising is meant to sell stuff means I'm smarter, then yes.

  7. @Viola Clients have always needed a bit of persuasion to run more daring work. The story of George Lois threatening to jump out of a window or Ogilvy's way of selling an ad by tearing it in half in front of the client comes to mind.

    The problem is that making great ads that work isn't the priority of agencies anymore. It's to keep the shareholders happy. And they really don't give a damn if an ad is good or not. They want to see profits and the way to generate those are endless meetings, endless amends, and endless bullshit.

    There's more to it than just that, but in the end everyone suffers. The client, the agency, and ultimately the industry.

  8. Shouldn't the fact that a lot of agencies produce shit make it easier for you guys? Why would you want that other agencies make better advertising for their clients (who are competing with the brand of your clients)? Or is it because it takes a lot of convincing on your end to correct the impression your clients have what advertising is about?

  9. Anon has it. The money is in endless meetings not in creativity.

  10. You've started writing.
    Like Dave Trott.


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