Weekly Round-Up

What has been floating around the world of Sell! Towers this week? Well, dear reader, this stuff...

An ad we like. Two weeks into the year and something we actually like – believe that if you will. Well it's true, have a look for yourself...

It's simple, made us laugh, made us think about pancakes. Those damn Yankees eh? Always with the ads that make you laugh and think about the product. Proof that advertising can still be a simple business when it's done right. I'd take this over your overwrought, big budget award entry fodder any day of the week.

On this side of the Atlantic, this new ad for Cadbury has been getting some interest (from people in the business at least), I'd love to find out how this goes down in the real world...

Obviously this is a completely new direction for Cadbury, given its kooky and comedy approach in recent years, and I think it's the first work for them from VCCP. According to the PR blurb that goes with the ad, Cadbury (I still want to call them Cadbury's, sorry) have moved away from moments of joy to moments of kindness. If you're into reading that kind of thing there's an article on Marketing Week. It's noticeably more kitchen sink and down-to-earth in execution than Cadbury work of recent years - a bit like Black Mirror does a John Lewis ad - and nicely done. The unglossy and gritty realism in execution is in contrast to a high-falutin' and, dare we say fashionable, strategy.

It got us thinking about these Alan Parker-directed ads for Birds Eye from the early 70s which, at the time, were ground-breaking – a real departure for the normally glossy world of advertising, even featuring *gasp* regional accents...

Next up, the best thing we read this week is this superb piece, from the always excellent Martin Weigel. If you haven't already, do yourself a favour and read it...

A thought relating to Martin's piece: recently an ad industry publication ran a special issue about 'Mavericks' in advertising (I put the word in quotes because their definition of maverick seems very different to the accepted meaning of the word). Most who were featured were simply big agency lifers who had climbed their way to the top of the big, corporate ad agency ladder, who in turn, name-checked their big agency cronies. Hardly any real mavericks, by the real definition of the word, to be found amongst them. Hmmm. Are there any real mavericks in advertising anymore? (Possibly not, given the responses of twitter when I asked the question.) And what version of hell is this business in when these no doubt absolutely lovely but unremarkable people are considered mavericks? I do worry.

There are more great things going on in the world of the Ad Contrarian too. These two posts, Technology and Wisdom, and Sweethearts or Customers are both worth reading - the first in particular is very powerful...
In the world of marketing, the conflict between technology and wisdom has been no contest. All it takes is a quick stroll through the halls of any marketing or advertising enterprise and it becomes immediately apparent which side has won. In the US today, 42% of the adult population is over 50. But in the advertising industry only 6% of employees are over 50. 
The result is that the marketing industry is drowning in technology and starving for wisdom. Technology, left unbalanced by wisdom, is currently responsible for some of the most wasteful, idiotic, and ineffectual follies in the history of commerce. Or does $16 billion in ad fraud not shock us anymore? Does relentless surveillance not concern us? Does public disgust not bother us?
These last two points make me realise – I don't think the best writing and opinion on advertising is going on anywhere near the trade publications these days. They seem to be more and more just a PR vehicle for the top 30 agencies and their staff. It increasingly seems there are a lot more interesting and relevant things to be found on the personal blogs of talented and smart people.

One thing about the trade publications is that they have helped to spawn a kind of class of industry commentators - people in positions of influence in big agencies who are always tapped-up for their latest take or thoughts to fill space, and in return those people get their PR strokes and build their profiles. Unfortunately it seems, very rarely have these people actually been involved in any great work.

There is no shortage of industry commentators. But precious few people making work worth talking about. Has the ad industry become all mouth and no trousers?

What do you think?

Anyway, here are two good things to finish on...

The amazing Lumiere Festival is taking place in London this weekend - it's a wonderful way to light up what can be a gloomy month. Some of the installations look amazing...

Lastly, but very much not leastly, we're shortly going to release our book How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better as an eBook...

We're still planning to re-print a new run of the original, printed version, but its labour-intensive production means that will take time. But we still get quite a lot of people asking how they can get hold of it, and frankly, we'd like to get it into the hands of as many people as possible.

So watch this space...

Have great weekends everyone...

Happy New Year - Happy New Advertising

Hello there, I hope your Christmas break was everything you hoped it would be and that you got to spend lots of time with the people who matter to you (even if that's just yourself).

As I make the first office cuppa of the year thoughts inevitably turn to our hopes, dreams and ambitions for this brand new year that is laid-out untouched in front of us.

No don't worry, I'm not going to launch into some LinkedIn style 'you can do anything you want' self-help nonsense. There are plenty of people doing that, and I'd rather not be one of them.

Something that has caught my eye over the last few days is much talk of whether this will be the year we see change in ad agencies to adapt to the world and changing business around them.

As someone at a company set-up a good time ago to change the way creative agencies work and get the best out of their people, this frustrates me no end.

So I suppose that is one of my hopes for 2018.

Not that the ad industry or ad agencies will change or evolve.

But that more people will realise change had happened already and is happening currently in this industry.

It's just not in the places that industry commentators are looking.

You wont find it in the 'top 50 agencies' (ranked by size obviously), no matter how long you stare.

Smart clients have realised this already, maybe it's time for the trades and intermediaries to catch up?

Have a great year!

Pipe Down - Advertising Needs to Embrace its Talented Introverts

Loudmouths. You know the type. People who can't stop themselves piping up, most often about themselves and their ideas.

They seem to have taken over the advertising business, don't they?

The people at the top of companies seem to be those most willing to pipe-up on anything and everything. The most well-known creatives in the business at the moment seem to be those who are in the trade press most often, mouthing-off about the latest fad or this week's opinion.

We've even heard some that prominent creative directors are paying PR people to do their personal PR. What a crazy business this is.

Time was, a creative, or anyone in the business, would be known for their work. Not their mug or opinion splashed across industry papers or websites day-in, day-out.

I don't remember the great ad people I looked up to when I came into this business spouting on, week-in, week-out in the trade mags. They let their work do the talking.

If your work doesn't speak for you, maybe you need to look at your work, not hire a PR?

I've met plenty of extremely talented and clever people in this business who are also quiet in character, who don't chase publicity for themselves. But too often these people are overlooked in favour of the loudmouths, even if their work is far stronger.

One argument is that these talented people should become better at promoting themselves.

But I don't see why self-promotion should beat talent and hard work in a creative business. Not if you care about quality, at least.

If we want advertising to be a business full of loudmouth self-promotionalists, we can let things carry on as they are.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the PR-hungry loudmouths have risen to the top of advertising at the same time that there's a dearth of great work coming out of the business?

But then again, maybe it's time we realised that the loudest people don't always have the best ideas, or are the best people to run a department, or a company. Or indeed, not the best spokespeople and figureheads for our business.

Just a thought.

Advertising Needs More People Who Give a Shit

Advertising needs more art directors who will fight for the great layout, the killer image, for the best photographer or artist, or to keep something simple.

Advertising needs more copywriters who will write the 800 headlines needed to get the four great ones. And then fight for the great ones.

Advertising needs more creative directors who will sweat every detail, fight for the time their people need to do a great job, support their people when it gets tough, and not let any crap out of the door.

Advertising needs more planners who will fight to simplify the brief, who will resist multiple propositions, who will support great work.

Advertising needs more typographers and designers who live and breathe the detail of type and design, who give a shit whether every word is kerned properly.

Advertising needs more account people who know that the best work comes out of a strong, honest relationship with the client, who will say no when the time is right, and fight for the best work.

Advertising needs more agency execs who give a shit about the work they're doing for their clients, who will stand up to the holding company or the financial guys to make sure things are done properly, people are paid properly and have the time to do a good job.

Advertising needs more media people who wont just rehash last year's plan on autopilot, or recommend something just because the agency makes the biggest cut off it, or stands by while dodgy media is being sold-in.

Basically, advertising needs more people who really give a shit.

If you're involved in mediocre or crap work, and you're blaming someone else, maybe take a minute to take a hard look at yourself and ask if you really fight for great work.

Do you give a shit?

Ice Cream and the Infinite Mystery of Advertising

I've always thought it must be a nightmare for people trying to get into the ad industry, and for people who buy ads, that ad agency people themselves can't even agree on what makes for a good ad.

An ad currently dividing opinion is this US commercial for ice cream...

Have a watch and see what you think before you read any further.

I've seen people praise this as brilliant, in fact someone called it 'the best ad they've seen this year'.

And I've seen people criticise it, Suzanne Pope of adteachings went as far as to say "Rest assured, even if you crash and burn in advertising, you will never make anything as terrible as this."

It's one of the interesting and infuriating things about this business that we can't seem to agree on what makes for good advertising.

Can we expect clients, especially the non-marketing execs, to take us seriously when this is the case?

Someone pointed out that if the ad above wins a creative award, everyone will retrospectively agree it's good. There's some truth in that isn't there? That's part of the reason I don't rate creative awards. Even though they're judged by panels of supposed experts in the field of advertising, often they don't even agree on whether an ad is worthy of an award or not. And I see way too many things that I don't think are good pieces of advertising win awards.

Then again - we have the very robust school of thought that if an ad is successful (ie. it 'works') then it's a good ad. Hard to argue with that isn't it? We have effectiveness awards in advertising, so do we need any other kind of awards at all, ones judged on opinion?

Then again, there are sometimes other factors that mean an ad doesn't meet the targets set, aren't there? And if an ad works, is it really automatically good? What about the notion that advertising shouldn't vulgarise our world? Is a well-made, enjoyable ad that works superior to one that works equally well but is awful to see or hear?

Byron Sharp's simple recipe for effective advertising includes using clear brand links by including the brand's distinctive assets, mentioning the brand verbally and/or visually, showing the product, showing the product in use, and refreshing and building memory structures to make a brand more likely to come to mind and be easier to notice. That still leaves quite a lot of wiggle room for interpretation doesn't it?

Byron points out that although it's commonly assumed that persuasion-oriented advertising must be more sales effective, this is not true, citing decades of research that show that most sales come from people who had no intention of buying.

Then again maybe you don't agree with Professor Sharp? I know a lot of people don't. This is difficult territory because Prof Sharp always points out, his points are based on scientific research. Personally I have a lot of time for the scientific method, as I'm sure do most people.

It's sometimes difficult to reconcile when you have giants of the industry like Bill Bernbach saying things like “The purpose of advertising is to sell. That is what the client is paying for and if that goal does not permeate every idea you get, every word you write, every picture you take, you are a phony and you ought to get out of the business.” or “However much we would like advertising to be a science - because life would be simpler that way - the fact is that it is not. It is a subtle, ever-changing art, defying formularization, flowering on freshness and withering on imitation; where what was effective one day, for that very reason, will not be effective the next, because it has lost the maximum impact of originality.”

As discoveries are made in the field of neuroscience and behavioural science about how we make decisions, some in advertising advocate that advertising needs to be emotional or evoke an emotional response to be successful. Then again, it's not completely clear that emotional stimulus equals emotional decision. Nevertheless, quite a lot of ad people now argue that ads only need to be entertaining or moving in some way.

Then again Amil Gargano, one of the great admen, says "All other explanations aside, the simple, obvious, and mostly ignored purpose of advertising is to get people to buy what your clients sell. To develop advertising that does that is not an embarrassment. But to develop advertising that solely amuses or entertains, is."

Of course these days some people counter the advice of people like Bernbach and Gargano by saying that they did great work, but it didn't work the way they thought it worked.

And on top of all this, you have what I call the Talkability Jonnies. These are the people who say on twitter, or on the blog, or at a pub "Well you're talking about it, so it must be working". They don't seem to realise that it's our job to be constantly looking at, interrogating and trying to understand the work that's out there and why it does or doesn't work. Whether good or bad. Getting a bunch of ad people talking about your ad is no measure of success.

So where does this all leave us? Back at the beginning I suppose. Looking at a commercial and trying to work out whether you think it's a good piece of advertising?

What do you think?

Eight Things That Help Us...

If you're visiting the blog and wondering why the lack of updates, it's because we're guest editing the APG website this month, so our posts are going up there. This week's piece is about eight things that help us develop ideas. Have a look here...

And thanks for stopping by, normal service will be resumed next week.

APG Guest Editors This Month - Us!

Hello there fine reader. Something strange has happened. For over ten years (9 on this blog) we've been calling bullshit on the ad industry and it's weird and counterproductive practices from the periphery of the business.

But this month, the rather lovely people at the APG have invited us to be guest editors of their website, specifically to help unpick the way that planning and creative work together (or don’t) in ad agencies. And suggest a better way of working.

We are on the inside, people.

The APG describe themselves as a membership organisation that promotes smarter thinking. That sounds good to us. More of that is needed.

Anyway, head on over the to the site here http://www.apg.org.uk/guesteditor-andy-and-vic to read the introduction. Check back over the next four weeks as we'll be posting up articles that are intended to challenge the current way agencies work with clients and develop ideas.

If you have landed here from the APG website and are new to the karayzee world of Sell! Sell!, hello and thanks for stopping by. Stay a while and have a root around, here's a few posts to give you a flavour...

From 2008: Strategy Is Not a Department http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/strategy-is-not-department.html

2009: Three Chords and the Truth: http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/three-chords-and-truth-how-advertising.html

2010: Is Advertising More Stupider Than it Thinks? http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/is-modern-advertising-more-stupider.html

2010: The Centre for Common Fucking Sense in Marketing:  http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/centre-for-common-fucking-sense-in.html

2010: An Open Letter (The 'Brian Letter'): http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/open-letter-to-all-of-advertising-and.html

2010: The Truth About Advertising Blog Readers: http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/this-is-truth-about-advertising-blog.html

2016: Are You Really Okay with the Idea of Creativity? http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/are-you-okay-with-idea-of-creativity.html

And don't forget our book (although it's currently sold out, new run hopefully coming soon) you can read about it here: http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-make-better-advertising-and.html