[ photo (c) CaptureInfinityPhotos ]
Last week was Internet Week Europe and it was a pretty full-on week of various events and talks, lots of brain fodder and food for thought. One of the events was the Creative Social’s The Future of Advertising, featuring several members of Creative Social musing on their vision of the future of advertising.
The very talented Flo Heiss discussed how he was getting fed up of the relentless focus on participation and that actually he wanted to get back to making beautiful stuff.
I’m all for beauty. Beauty is great. But whilst making beautiful stuff is the purpose of art, I’m not sure that’s what the purpose of advertising is supposed to be (or what I actually think everyone really meant when they talked about ‘advertising’, ‘brand communication’ – which is I think much bigger than the world of advertising.) I think when it’s done well, making something beautiful can be a very desirable and wonderful by-product. But surely it shouldn’t be the goal. Making something that solves the client’s problem should be the goal, surely?.
I’m sure that this was intended to be absolutely implicit in what Flo was saying, and the reason he didn’t spell it out was that he took it as read, because he’s a smart fella. But form over function, and style over substance, is something we see all too often in brand communication, and I’m not sure that the industry is set up to value work that works over work that’s beautiful.
Whilst winning an IPA Effectiveness Award rightfully carries massive kudos, it still doesn’t seem to have the same prestige within the industry as a Cannes Lion or D&AD pencil. Effectiveness isn’t yet as sexy as creativity. At least, that’s my take on how they appear to be perceived by the industry as a whole (although I’m sure amongst clients and planners it’s unsurprisingly valued the other way around).
Creativity is the lifeblood of our industry. Great ideas that excite and engage are what it’s all about. And it’s right to reward that.
But making something beautiful shouldn’t be the end goal. And if it’s beautiful but doesn’t actually work towards achieving a given brand or business objective, if the work doesn’t actually work, I don’t think it’s right to fetishise it. And yet the industry does.
Take Cadbury’s Gorilla, which cleaned up at the awards. It was the industry’s obsession of 2008. You couldn’t move for plaudits lauding the work. It’s reported that it did a great job in driving brand engagement. And it apparently helped to sell more chocolate bars in the immediate period following the campaign. But ultimately, brand perceptions are only really valuable insofar as they ultimately make a difference to the business and the bottom line. And Cadbury’s Dairy Milk lost market share to Galaxy. I don’t know the full details but from what I can tell from the details published, Gorilla was fantastically fun, a great piece of creative work, but the work didn’t ultimately work as well as Galaxy’s. It might have Gorilla might have got the creative community wetting themselves, but it didn’t translate into business success.
I’m all for making beautiful things, and I want our industry to be a hive of creativity and brilliant ideas. But if these ideas aren’t helping to solve the given problem, whilst they might be absolutely stunning examples of artistic and creative expression, they’re fundamentally not doing their job as a means of brand communication.
I hope the future of brand communication is chock full of beautiful work. But I’m much more interested in really effective work that happens to be beautiful – and personally I’m much more excited by elegant and beautifully designed services and products that DO rather than beautiful ads that simply SAY.