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Advertising was never supposed to be a generic medicine

The first thing advertising has to do is be noticed. It would seem right now many are forgetting this. If an ad isn't noticed the rest doesn't matter, does it?
The new logo for Leeds United.

Making an impact is the job. Which is why I have always thought it odd that creatives will take a hit if they do something that is deemed strange. However, if a piece work is vanilla, boring and unnoticed, there are often very few consequences.

I am often asked why so much advertising is so sh!t. This tends to happen at barbecues where I smile sheepishly, shrug my shoulders and have some more lamb. However, when I saw the new Leeds logo and the new Diet Coke work I started to think about it a bit more. If you think about how much time and process is involved in advertising, why is the output often so banal?

The first reason I would put out there, is that many brands have literally no clear or unique perspective and vision. With brands like this, there is often a fear of emotion and new ideas, and a reliance on generic information that is singlehandedly supposed to create impact. When this happens, the internal processes can often be an obsessive attempt at making sure the information is correct rather than interesting. This happens a lot and there are certain brands that have made the same ineffective ad over and over for the last 20 years. And just to be clear, I didn’t say the same idea, I said the same ad.

The second reason I would put out there is that many of these processes are about mitigation of risk as opposed to magnification of impact. Once again, this is about being correct rather than being interesting. And, when you look at what is happening in advertising right now, most advances are all about being correct rather than impactful.

No risk, no magic, no point of view

All this can often lead to the strategy becoming the actual work as is the case in the new Diet Coke work. It is work without any leap. No risk, no magic, no point of view, just platitudes and generalities that mean nothing and have very little impact. Ask any creative if a manifesto in a pitch has ended up becoming the ad and you will see them sadly nod their heads. The reason this happens is:
Information very rarely causes trouble internally. What always causes trouble is emotion, execution and ideas because they cannot be measured empirically. The moment somebody says that’s ‘not how I pictured it’, you have problems inside a company.
This is why there are so many vignette ads that show every demographic doing all sorts of lifestyle-type things with a stirring voiceover. There is no risk in this approach, apart from nobody remembering the work.

There are a couple of other reasons I think work can be poor. They are the usual suspects, but worth mentioning: Time and money. You get what you pay for. Many people in our industry don’t believe this. They think talent is a myth. And craft makes no difference to the bottom line.

This line of thinking is one of the easiest ways to absolutely guarantee your brand looks and sounds just like your competitors. The Leeds logo is a great example of this. The work looks like something you would see in a stock library if you searched for football badge. It is generic, corporate, cold and has no meaning. It the antithesis of what a badge over your heart should be.

This is something 50,000 fans made very clear to management the day after the logo was released, by signing a petition. The management responded by saying they consulted 10,000 people. For me, this proves there is not much wisdom or vision in crowds. What crowds do is make things safe, inoffensive and generic. They find the middle, not the edge.

Ideas, emotion and execution

As I said, what causes all the trouble is not information but ideas, emotion and execution.
Ideas, emotion and execution are dangerous things. It is understandable for some to try to steer clear of them and just stick to the certainty of information.
The problem with that is, we live in an age of information. All we are surrounded with is information.

Doing that is like pouring salt water into the sea. It doesn’t make much difference.

Advertising has always been about breaking through. To make a huge impact. To be f*cking noticed. When they zig, we zag. Emotion, ideas and execution are our medicine and we should never stop taking it.

Otherwise, the patient might become very boring.

“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” – Pablo Picasso.
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About Damon Stapleton

Damon went to New Zealand to work with his old partner Shane Bradnick and make some secret creative sauce. Before that he was ECD at Saatchi and Saatchi Australia, before that, Group ECD of TBWA Hunt Lascaris and Global ECD of Standard Bank. He's the only ECD in Africa to win a D&AD Black Pencil and the annual Directory Big Won Rankings lists him as one of the most successful ECDs of 2016, based on international award wins...
nicole glickman
Damon you truly are amazing. Wish I had the opportunity to work with you.
Posted on 8 Feb 2018 14:02