The First Cruyff Turn

The very first Cruyff turn by Johan Cruyff, who sadly passed away today.

From the BBC: Cruyff, who made his name as a forward with Ajax and Barcelona, won the Ballon d'Or three times. He won three consecutive European Cups with Ajax and went on to manage Barcelona to their first European Cup win in 1992. Cruyff helped his country reach the World Cup final in 1974, where they lost to West Germany. In February, Cruyff said he felt he was "2-0 up in a match" against lung cancer and he was "sure I will end up winning". Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Cruyff had double heart bypass surgery in 1991. Barcelona won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1990-91 to 1993-94 under his guidance.

Skills For Advertising: Maintaining Healthy Skepticism

Skepticism is not to be confused with cynicism. And healthy skepticism has nothing to do with optimism or pessimism. Healthy skepticism is a great quality in life, it means you don't take everything at face-value.

Same is true in advertising. Most of the very best people I've met in advertising have a healthy skepticism. The people who, when someone tells them some supposed fact or claim, say 'Really?' and then proceed to investigate further. This road often leads you towards new thinking, or at least uncovering the real problem behind something.

One of the most powerful forces in advertising and marketing over the last few years has been the influence of popular psychology. Famous scientists have published popular books particularly about human behaviour and the way our brains work.

This of course is extremely interesting and relevant to people working in advertising and marketing, given that we are competing day-by-day for a slice of someone's brain.

So any new revelation or theory is devoured and pored-over by ad folk and marketers for how it may help or influence what we do. This is all good so far.

The problems start when people adopt some of these findings wholesale, and base entire advertising and marketing approaches on them. You can see how it happens, because often these books or findings are telling the advertising people what they wanted to hear.

Highly ironically, they are suffering from confirmation bias.

Interestingly, what many observers have noted is that a lot of these finding and theories tally with what a lot of people in advertising have always kind of thought.

This shouldn't come a big surprise to us, as the best advertising people tend to have a strong grasp of 'what makes people tick' – just a basic, human instinct for understanding people.

It's always important for us in advertising and marketing to remember to not take the latest pop science best-seller or exciting study as absolute, dogmatic gospel. Don't just lift it wholesale and base everything on it, just because it might tally with your own desire to do a certain kind of advertising.

It's important because within the scientific community these theories and studies are constantly being questioned and peer-reviewed, and people are attempting to replicate the results (not always successfully).
"The true heroes of science are not the technicians who are able to run an experiment on 50 people and squeeze out statistical significance, a book contract, and a TED talk. Rather, they are the people who refuse to take Yes for an answer, who test out their theories on hard problems and are willing to admit failure." Andrew Gelman, Professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University.
Whilst scientists are rightly maintaining a healthy, balanced reaction to new findings, it's pretty bonkers that ad people are adopting them wholesale, and basing entire, multimillion pound advertising pushes on them.

It's like advertising people are taking morsels of science and forming religions out them.

So what's the answer? Well that's the interesting bit, isn't it? As Professor Brian Cox said recently (paraphrasing now) we never have 'the answer', we have a set of 'best theories at the moment'.

I reckon the best bet is to read everything you can, arm yourself with all available information, definitely read Byron Sharp's How Brands Grow, for some actual marketing science (if you haven't already), and on top of it all, maintain that healthy skepticism.

And don't forget your basic human understanding of what makes people tick.

This article in Wired by Professor Andrew Gelman, inspired this post, and is well worth a read.

Our book How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better – The Manifesto For A New Creative Revolution (alt. title The Most Grandly Named Book In Advertising) is out now, and available exclusively at the Design Museum. It is suitably chock-full of healthy skepticism. Bob Ad Contrarian Hoffman says "It might be just the reset button we all need."
Find out more here.

It's Time For Advertising To Start Showing The Customer More Respect

So you want to improve advertising? Let’s start with the customer.

Advertising agencies and marketers need to stop treating people as if they’re stupid, easily manipulated morons. Or empty-headed puppets who can be influenced by solely pulling on their emotional strings.

Much current advertising is created without even a passing thought for what the actual benefit to the customer might be. This shows very little respect for them – acting as if people can be brainwashed into their decision-making, or won over with brainless advertising that exists only for entertainment value.

People are not simply ‘consumers’ on a chart waiting eagerly to nod along with whatever we say or buy what we put in front of them.

They’re real people. They are you, your mum, your best friend.

They’re smart – certainly much more intelligent than most current advertising gives them credit for.

Given the choice, they would quite happily do without advertising altogether, but if they have to be faced with it, they don’t want to be patronised or treated like idiots.

They want, and deserve, to be treated as reasoning, intelligent beings.

If we want to improve the quality and effectiveness of advertising, we need to start here.

With marketers and ad agencies treating the customer with more respect.

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.

How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better... Available Now At The Design Museum

Something is rotten in the state of advertising. CEOs and marketers tell us that working with agencies is painful and laborious. Agency people tell us they feel undervalued, overworked and stifled by poor processes. And the poor old punter is left faced with advertising that is at best forgettable, and at worst insulting to the intelligence.

Surely there’s a better way?

Yes, fine readers, the day you may or may not have been waiting for is here. Our book is out in the world available to buy.

It has a rather grand title, matched only by it's shamelessly bold subtitle The Manifesto For A New Creative Revolution, and is available exclusively at the Design Museum in London, or online on their shop - here.

We could go on about why you should buy it, but rather than that, we'll let some other people do it for us...
“The ad industry is in an unprecedented state of confusion. While the assertions and pomposity grow majestically, the advertising itself diminishes rapidly. Sadly there is no button we can push that will erase all the arrogance and self-delusion. Fortunately we have this book. It might be just the reset button we all need.” Bob Hoffman 
“Vic and Andy have come up with a foolproof way to help you discover if you are a good agency. Ask yourself: ‘Dare I give this book to all my clients?’” Steve Harrison 
“This book is full of common sense. Which is rare, so it’s actually full of uncommon sense.” Dave Trott  
“Just the sort of book you would expect from these guys. If you want advertising with cut-through, that is challenging and with a bit of irreverence thrown in, this is for you.” Chris Jessop CEO Expert24

Revisited: Advertising Needs Good People To Do Something

I've written before about how advertising people have to take their share of the responsibility for the current poor state of the advertising business.

This has upset quite a few people, I know.

They prefer to lay the blame squarely at the feet of clients or holding companies.

The thing is, I agree with them.

I'm not saying that poor clients (not all clients, but an increasing, poor, majority) and the giant holding companies are not to blame.

My point is simply that as advertising people, we have two clear choices; we can go along with it, or we can fight it.

And going along with it is the same as accepting it.

And accepting it is the same as endorsing it.

And if you're endorsing it, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Because no one else is going to change it for us.

Do you think that suddenly, the holding company board and shareholders are going to go "Oh, okay you're right, this is terrible. We're going to to make all of our companies independent again and put our money elsewhere"?

No, they are not. Not while they can still squeeze a buck out of you they're not, anyway.

And do you think those legions of poor quality clients are going to suddenly say "Goshdarnit, my marketing qualification wasn't worth shit, I should really stop imposing a culture of fear and monetary pressure on my agency, whilst simultaneously listening to their recommendations more and not try to do their jobs for them"?

No. It's not going to happen.

So you are left with those choices above. Either fight and push and bite and scratch for what you think is right.

Or just go along with it.

But, I know, I am realistic. I don't expect everyone in advertising to fight.

There are hundreds of people in advertising who are just happy to be in the room.

People stealing a living from advertising. They have neither talent, nor energy, nor principles. They are happy to just be working in advertising.

I'm not interested in those people, they're lucky to get the entry keycard, and they know it. They're not going to rock the boat.

Change is in the hands of the good people. Smart people, talented people, energetic people, principled people.

These are the people who we need to fight back. To start their own companies, with principles, with standards, and who stand up for the right way to do things.

Creatively-led companies.

So that we hold the best work, the best talent, the best people to ransom.

Accessible only to those clients willing to pay reasonable fees, allow proper amounts of development time and who want to build respectful relationships.

Only then will we see things really start to change.

Because, as Edmund Burke famously said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

First published on this blog 06.11.2013

Revisited: Do You Only Know How To Make Ads?

The things that make a print advert work are the same things that make an editorial layout, or piece of printed art strong. The things that make a TV commercial great are the same things that make a TV programme, film or piece of video art great. The crucial difference being that, obviously, the ultimate job of the commercial work is to meet its brief; sell a product, change your opinion about something, etc. But still, the things that make it work in the end are the same craft skills that make other things strong in that media.

The problem comes when you forget this, and you think about making adverts. People tend to do things to adverts that they wouldn't do to an editorial piece of design, or to a film. But unfortunately ads don't get processed differently by people. Either it's good or it isn't good. There are no excuses just because it's an ad. But still, people try to cram in way too much information, over-the-top branding, social media logos, and other guff, because it's an ad

Sometimes it makes you think that people, clients and agency alike, have forgotten how to make interesting things that also happen to be great ads, and they only know how to make things that look and sound like adverts.

First Published on this blog 04.09.12