There is a prevailing belief at the moment. It is that we can turn advertising into a mathematical equation.
This way of thinking pushes forward this idea that the best way to reach people is to create millions of perfect frames and then simply fill them with the cheapest pictures we can find and call it an exhibition.
Another way of expressing this way of thinking is that if you are a restaurant you just need thousands of great, very fast waiters and you won’t really need a chef of any ability. I don’t believe that. And, if you go and look at what advertising consumers really loved watching this year you will see most pieces were between 2 and 3 minutes long and had the strong smell of quality about them.
Something doesn’t add up. What we’re being sold is not what we should be selling.
But I digress.
The reason I mentioned Science is because there seems to be a view that we can remove human error from marketing and advertising. My view on this is when this happens you begin to also lose the power to surprise and delight. Relevance and accuracy are very important. But not as important as the experience itself.
To use my restaurant analogy again, a waiter needs to get your order exactly right. But, if you already know what’s on the menu the best a restaurant can do is meet your expectations. Why do great restaurants change their menu fairly often? Because they want to exceed your expectations. They want to give you an experience you didn’t know you could have. This is advertising’s greatest dilemma because this way of thinking comes with risk.
And risk is ultimately solved with belief.
And for belief, you need people.
One of things I find so strange about our business is how little is written about the people in it. And why they matter.
I have been in this business for 20 years. In my time, I have met many types of people. From the great and the good to the mad, bad and dangerous to know.
I have met full blown psychopaths. They have done things like make me record 36 radio spots in 12 hours and deliver it to their house at 5 in the morning for no reason at all. I also once had a meeting with a client who I am fairly convinced had an erection when he told us some pretty bad news. He got off on our pain.
There were many sad cases too. Early in my career I had a meeting with a client who walked into a meeting and opened his brief case and 9 bottles of St. John’s wort rolled across the table. 8 of the bottles were empty.
I have also met Creative Directors that are bat-shit crazy. I have had Creative Directors who have set my lay outs on fire with a Zippo lighter. I had one who used to practice looking casual and relaxed. In the mirror. He would practice because he was the most OCD person I have ever met. But he didn’t want anyone to know. Everyone knew.
I have also met some of the nicest, kindest and smartest people in the world. People that have had ideas that made everybody in the room take a breath. People that have changed my life. People that have sacrificed so much and have pushed and surpassed themselves simply because they want something to be great. People who have helped strangers for no other reason than the fact that they are good people.
The good, the bad and the ugly. Apart from those first two examples I love them all. These are the people that believe and fight for ideas. And more importantly, it is the combination and chemistry of these people that get ideas across the line. It is the unique DNA strand that these people make together that creates trust which in turn creates possibility where none existed.
Or to put it another way, sometimes a Saint needs a sinner to create a bit of magic. This just is how creativity works.
We need these strange fantastic people for one simple reason. They care when others don’t. Data doesn’t care about ideas, people do. They are the ones that are brave and crazy enough to try something new. And, when you have the right ones in the room, they can create impossible things.
Advertising people get a bad rap. They are an easy target. I think as an industry we have lost a bit of our confidence. I think it’s time we lifted our heads up again and remembered how special the people in our business are.
People on the outside may believe they can be replaced with a clean, pristine process that will use words like efficient, cost effective and accurate. It’s strange they never use words like creative, surprising and human do they? So let me ask you, what would you rather look at, a cost effective and accurate process or a human and surprising idea?
I believe this type of chemistry can never be a science.