When did technology replace the creative idea?

Over the past couple of years I have started noticing a recurring trend when I’m being briefed, it’s happening across all types of agencies from pure play digital, experiential, PR and the big ATL agencies. This trend isn't written on any brief or openly discussed in the kick-off meetings, instead it is casually mentioned after the briefing session comes to a close ‘Oh, by the way some new tech or innovation sort of thing would be great!’... As the work begins and initial ideas are being presented I start noticing that the concepts are beginning to be graded on their technological potential - and the direction of the creativity is moving more and more away from the initial brief.

So what’s happening in adland?

My first thought is that it’s easier to sell technological innovation instead of ideas to clients. Ideas can be scary, you don’t know if they will work and there is always a leap of faith between the agency, client services and the client. And presenting tech to a packed room of bored clients has it’s advantages ‘Look at this sparkly demo, doesn't it look cool!’. Why try explaining something new when you can show something old (and something that another agency has already done)?

Secondly innovation grabs headlines and every modern campaign needs a good social propellant to reach its optimum audience. Writing about a new idea is hard, it’s so much easier to write a Facebook post or a Tweet about some new technology, easy days, then it’s off for lunch.

So what’s the problem? I believe the fetishism of tech trends in advertising is destroying both true innovation and creative thinking. Why do something original when you can simply repurpose some existing idea and change the design slightly? It’s also making the advertising arena bland as agencies are consistently copy trends and therefore each other.

So how do I approach this conundrum? I’m happy to present technological innovation but only as part of a larger creative platform and I always spend time with client services helping to explain and articulate these ideas to their clients. Why? Because all of the best work I have seen has an amazing idea at it’s heart, something new, something thought provoking that gets people talking and these ideas are always more powerful than a gimmick or a technological trend. Don't believe me? Then take another look at the amazing #LikeAGirl campaign and tell me that the client should have gone with another tech based idea instead.

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Does working in advertising make you a more empathetic person?

I have always been taught that the best way of answering a creative brief is to put yourself into the mindset of your audience. In doing this I have imagined that I have wanted to own an electric car, my laundry whiter than white and even help in getting rid of dandruff. But does doing this thought process hundreds, if not thousands of times make you a more empathetic person or do you end up seeing people simply as different demographics?

An online guide to using empathy more effectively has the following help - ‘try and see things from other people's point of view, validate other people's perspective, listen and ask yourself what the other person would do’. Good advice, but even if you do all of the above is it offset by trying to sell things to people? (especially if you’re motive to better understand them is driven by profit).

Based on my personal experience I believe that the 60,000 thousand people who work in the UK advertising industry are overwhelmingly good people, that really do care about both local and global issues and social injustice. And if this is true then why do so many modern advertising campaigns trigger angst and unease in the public? Because it’s easy, or should I say lazy. Because it doesn't matter how emphatic you are when there’s a deadline looming fear sells and it’s easy to forget your morals, even if it’s just this once.

So yes I do believe working in the advertising industry does make you a more empathetic person and as a result a better creative, but not necessarily a better person. Which is a shame as the industry I love has amazing opportunities to be a force for good, an instigator of moral and social responsibility.


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Talking emoji, a passing fad or a golden advertising opportunity?

Emojis are ubiquitous in the modern digital world and they are increasingly being used in our everyday conversations instead of traditional words and phrases. The rise of the emoji is truly staggering, according to the UK’s Guardian website they are the world’s fastest growing language. And in the ever expanding multicultural world in which we all live in they benefit from surpassing language, nationality and culture.

So how long will it be before the advertising world jumps onto this global #trending bandwagon? The cost benefits alone of only producing campaigns in ‘one language’ across the globalised world would save millions of pounds on production costs, both digital and traditional. Proof reading? Nope we don’t need that skill anymore, translator’s? Obscure role of the past. And let’s not forget the all consuming obsession for brands to appeal to an ever increasing younger and younger audience. Yet more importantly as the array of emoji grows which brand could resist not only owning this latest phenomenon generation Z are buying into but the actual language that they use?

The race is one, not only for brands to lead the charge but for them to own this new brave frontier. New and improved, well that’s obviously a unicorn with sunglasses. 50% less sugar? That’s easy, a dancing sunflower. And the the adorable panda flexing its abs obviously means buy one get one free to any Snapchat obsessed millennial.

So will we be seeing emojis promoting our favourite brands as the advertising industry chases the constant lure of modernity, or will it play it safe with tried and tested SEO keywords, eloquently scripted puns and product metaphors? I for one look forward to seeing a laughing turtle in my online ad’s because who doesn’t love a 50% summer sale.


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