Advertising Needs A Big Slap Across The Face With A Large, Wet Fish

This is adapted from a comment I left on Martin Weigel's brilliant blog in reply to another commenter...

Advertising needs a big slap across the face with a large, wet fish.

We have become confused about what 'craft' or creativity is in advertising.

Advertising creative craft at its best isn't merely styling, or thinking up a funny or entertaining thing with the product somehow involved – yes they are things that many amateurs or "kids in Australia" [reference to a Doritos ad] can do.

But that isn't good advertising creative craft, and probably that Doritos ad isn't really good advertising, it's just funny, or entertaining.

Proper, great, advertising creative craft is about searching for that thing in the product or service that will mean something to the consumer, it is about understanding what the consumer wants, what will motivate them, understand how people work, how they decide, and putting all this together in compelling ways that show the consumer what's in for them, in ways that are engaging, interesting, unexpected, relevant, intelligent and memorable, that are robust and enduring, that build companies and grow brands over time by getting more people to buy more product or service more often.

That is advertising creativity. It is only because we underestimate and misunderstand what real advertising creativity is, that we think "anyone can do it".

Proper advertising creativity isn't just creativity.

But the industry has downgraded a whole generation of creatives to merely being being stylists and producers of branded entertainment.

Advertising will not get itself out of the confusing fug it is in until we reverse that trend and remember what proper advertising creative craft is, and understand and re-engage with the value it can give to business, be proud and confident about it, and put that thing back in the centre of the business.


  1. Will that be a time when we don't get strange looks for saying about a strategy or proposition "But why does that make me want to buy / go to xxxx?"

  2. Frankly, I don't see it happening anytime soon. It'll be impossible for creative craft to regain its former glory with shareholders, planners, and "creative technologists" at the helm.

    Creatives aren't allowed to criticise briefs for being poorly thought up while their own work gets plucked to pieces with the precision of a surgical knife.

    They're underpaid, underappreciated, sitting in open plan offices, treated like cattle. They'll keep phoning it in and won't give a rats ass if a strategy makes no sense. They'll find other outlets to satisfy their creative drive.

    The ONLY way I think you can change this is to set up or join a creatively led independent shop.

    It has to get a lot worse before anything will change.

  3. In response to your response to my response... I somewhat agree, but to play devil's advocate things like the Cadbury gorilla are also a big slap across the face with a large, wet fish to anyone who claims advertising needs to have any meaning to work.
    I also think your stance is a little "easy" to take (not to execute of course): I don't know many who would disagree with this noble description you give, yet most people fail. What matters is not to declare advertising should be good and "engaging", but to precisely define what makes it so. And when it comes to this, I personally find evidence a little more sobering and humbling for the hordes of people who claim to be touching some sort of truth and deeper purpose through their "craft".

    But as I said, it's maybe more my way of playing devil's advocate, I honestly have more doubts that truths to share on the matter.


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