Cool Hand Luke: “I can eat fifty eggs.”
Dragline: “Nobody can eat fifty eggs.”
From the film Cool Hand Luke
In 1992, Cannes only had two categories. Film and print. Today, Cannes has over 30 categories.
In the 30 years between 1992 and today there has been a theme that pops up every year. Advertising is dying. It’s over. It’s just a matter of time. Bob Hoffman wrote a brilliant piece about this.
This is normally fuelled by what the new way will be. I remember being at a talk with Sheryl Sandberg where she predicted that in the future, all ads will be seven seconds long. The following year Nike broadcast a man trying to break the world marathon record for two hours on Facebook Live. I will let you do the maths on that one.
If you look at Cannes today there are roughly 30 categories. So 30 years ago, two categories and today 30. Almost one new category a year. And we say advertising is dying. Perhaps what advertising was might be. And that’s still a very big maybe.
The reality is, advertising is growing and it has now reached a point where it is literally everything.
It has now grown to a point that our own definition of it has become ridiculous. Our own boundaries and lines in the sand have become irrelevant. Think about it, 30 categories. The real challenge now is to understand that the number of categories is not actually large. What is large is navigating the spaces between them. In the future this is going to be vast and potentially treacherous.
While, year after year, we as an industry have tried to deal with our collective self-loathing by eradicating mosquitoes or helping the planet with world first drone ads, we seemed to have missed the fact that our own definitions of our business may no longer be accurate or relevant to our core purpose. And that is to sell things. I know, for some, this may come as a shock.
We have been looking at the wallpaper while the building has been changing.
Ryan Reynolds gave a talk at Cannes this year. At one point he said when he makes an ad he starts with the product and tries to have fun with it. People clapped like they had just discovered what advertising was. Of course he is right, but for some reason such an obvious thought seemed like a revolutionary one. It made me think that we might have got a little lost amongst the stars.
As we go forward I think we need to remember two things. What we actually do, and that just because we can do anything and everything, it doesn’t mean we should.
You only have to go to Cannes to see this. Entertainment, technology, gaming, data, media all are a part of the advertising universe. It’s all there. Advertising has become everything.
So, perhaps in the future instead of saying what are we going to do? We should say what are we not going to do.
At least we know where somewhere is.
On the other hand, everywhere is a hard place to visit.
And just to be clear, fifty eggs is a lot of eggs.