Wednesday, March 21, 2007


It's not surprising that the ad-blogosphere is full of folks posting great ads. After all most of us eat, sleep and breathe the things, and it's only natural that we're interested in seeing and learning from the best in show.

But I wonder if, in obsessing over ads, we run the risk of forgetting one of the central truths of the endeavour: our real competition isn't other ads - it's anything else that might compete for the consumer's interest.

That means, if you're in a magazine or newspaper, you have to try and be at least as interesting as the articles. If you're a TVC, you have to try and be at least as interesting as the surrounding programs.

I say "at least" because there are countless distractions outside of the TV, the paper or the computer. You have to try and out-interesting getting a cup of tea, a chat with your mate, or simply staring out the window as well.

I know there's nothing new in this observation. I just don't think it can be repeated too many times.

I also think it suggests a couple of things, one orthodox, another less so.

The first is that ads ought to be creative. We need as many arguments for that as we can muster, so here it goes again: the new, the fresh and the surprising are almost guaranteed to create interest.

But the other is that it suggests that creativity isn't always the answer.

The two qualities (creativity and interestingness) aren't synonymous; the creative may be a large subset of the interesting, but it doesn't exhaust the category.

In fact, people are constantly willing to give their attention to things that aren't creative in the slightest. If you turn up to a Bruce Willis movie, you know exactly what you're going to get. It may be entertaining, but it's not creative. Same when you flick on a quiz show, or flip to your favourite columnist in the paper for a reliably sympathetic take on a new issue. Celeb gossip mags seem to be undergoing a massive surge in popularity, but their content is almost farcically predictable.

In each of these things, people must find some pleasure other than creativity.

I think we all know that intuitively. It's easy to think examples of mediocre TVCs that have been rendered fascinating by beautiful song choice, or average print concepts ennobled by great photography.

Nothing will ever beat a truly brilliant new thought or a genuinely fresh juxtaposition of old ideas. But, for a variety of reasons (time, budget, client), that's not always achievable in the real world, so maybe sometimes we need to look for other ways to engage the consumer.

Perhaps, if we keep the vast array of reasons people enjoy things other than creativity at the front of our minds, we can at the very least broaden our palettes.

1 comment:

writer said...

We get hung up on creativity. Well, I do. Other markets think differently. Some of the Asian markets often use beautiful music or strange compelling images in their ads which western ad people think is weird, but it's not, it's just different.

And actually a lot easier to take than most of the shit that appears on our screens.