Advertising is meant to sell stuff, not win awards
Like it or not, the industry is there to serve the needs of its clients
DVERTISING is not a grown-up profession. It’s an immature industry that tries to hide its weaknesses by being condescending, dressed in Converse Sneakers and a suit.
It gets worse each year. Scam work wins awards and the fibre of professionalism crumbles. We are almost immune by now to cheats and their alluring cheat-advertising. Creative work only appreciated by those who created it. And fashion victims.
A good distribution plan can sell more product than a R3 million TV advert. Agencies try to convince clients what they need is an “epic campaign”, inspired by overseas work, that will win awards. The agency will tell the client this is good for their brand. Award- winning brands are better. Right? When really it’s about burnishing the lustre of the agency. It’s unscrupulous and vainglorious and it’s killing the industry.
Award-winning advertising can fail. There I said it. The market may shrug at it. More often than not, it does. Similar results would have been achieved with a strategy that cost less than a third of the “fully
Aintegrated campaign that changed the way consumers interact with advertising”. This happens often. Not everything needs to be designed by Rem Koolhaas. Clients are waking up. They know creative advertising isn’t all advertising needs to be. When they insist, the agency skulks away, badmouthing the clients: “If they would just listen, they would have the most amazing campaign ever.”
So it begrudgingly makes something that ticks all the client’s boxes in an uninspired mope and it bores everyone. No gold Loerie. No expanded market share. Bad advertising all round.
The Loeries? Well done, guys. “We’re no longer an advertising award, we’re a creativity award.”
You may as well admit that industry standards have all but collapsed so you’ve widened the scope of the awards to dilute the failure. You are encouraging fakery. In some categories the work needn’t have run or even exist. A way to save agencies the money they used to spend flighting bad work at 1am on e.tv after the soft porn. Which is really the best place for it.
What will happen next is destruc- tion from within. Termites. Fake work will win. We will chase our own tails. Scam work begets more scam work. Work that needlessly, egotistically, wastes a lot of money when simpler, better solutions exist is work that has no advertising merit.
And for those “in the field”, as it were, try to remember: we are advertisers. Not short movie makers. Not struggling artists. Not Michel Gondry or Bjork. Why aren’t we doing our jobs? As advertisers we promote and sell brands and their products. With all the cocaine and vintage T-shirts stripped away, that’s what we do. We advertise. On behalf of clients who pay us. We should be trying to find the best possible solution for them. We ought to be positioning clients better, situating them in their markets, deepening their appeal, strengthening their share, winning them the hearts and minds of their markets. Striving to have a piece of work in our portfolio that would make poets cry should be the least of our objectives. Unless, of course, having poets cry will definitely sell more Omo according to undeniable and extensive research.
Not that we should be the client’s bitch. Clients are often worthy of the loathing we secretly vent on them. Shortsighted country mice unwilling to notice that consumers are actually people and not the sum total of their spending habits.
It just means we need to be better, more professional, more successful at delivering what they need. We should be guiding them to riches. Concepts, art direction and copywriting are not all there is to advertising.
Growing market share is advertising. We should advertise as advertising should be done. With clarity, elegance and usefulness. We should take the profession seriously and ourselves far less so. It’s about the work that will work best for the client. Case by case. Job by job. Day by day.
If you want to spend your life making pretty pictures, become an artist.
This is an edited version of a piece which first appeared in the ezine Mahala. For more thought-provoking observations on life, culture and music, go to www.mahala.co.za