24 Aug Why Is Creativity in Advertising a Lost Art and What Have We Lost as a Result?
Once upon a time, creative people ruled the world of advertising and marketing. Our business was selling ideas. It was a simpler time before there were more than 2 billion websites on the Internet, hundreds of cable channels and almost unlimited forms of streaming entertainment. It was also a time when most of us got along regardless of our politics.
If you lived during that era, you may remember standing around the office water cooler or coffee machine discussing a funny or provocative TV commercial you all had seen the night before. Maybe it was a jingle stuck in your brain. Whatever it was, by sharing it with your peers and friends, you remembered. You remembered not just the TV spot or radio jingle but the brand behind it.
People remembered this work because it engaged their emotions and their minds.
Think back to some of the Budweiser commercials that told stories of Clydesdales that made you cry. You weren’t thinking of their bland beer, were you? But you were loving their brand.
All of that is gone. The only thing that matters now is how many clicks you can garner. And even if you get a good CTR, what are people landing on? Often a website landing page that is little more than a pretty design with the requisite white space, the latest font and stock photos but NO memorable ideas. Nothing that engages you mentally or emotionally.
Why is this happening?
For starters, you can blame the digital analysts who have taken over our industry. Or the leaders of marketing firms and their clients who have reduced their marketing budgets and are so beaten down by the number crunchers they’re afraid to be different. Or the creatives who are forced to work in silos rather than in days-long creative brainstorms. In most cases, they are all simply producing wallpaper. After all, it’s safe. These days, safety doesn’t get you fired.
Or maybe it’s something even deeper, which brings me to an article published today in one of my favorite newsletters, the Thomas Industry Update (TIU). The story gives seven examples of great business successes that were built on failures, from Soichiro Honda to Thomas Edison. Too bad it left out Colonel Harland Sanders, who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken and paved the way for Chik-fil-A and other quality fast-food restaurants.
The point is that the great successes featured in the TIU article occurred only because the creators and their backers didn’t stop with their initial failures. Henry Ford succeeded only after his first financial backer was unwilling to endure the early failures and was replaced by one who stayed until they’d achieved success. The rest is history.
Today we live in an environment of fear – fear of being controversial, of not being being politically correct, of being canceled. Of course, there are free-thinking rebels out there, but they’re not in marketing!
I’m not criticizing the need for results. But when seekers are drawn to a website, are we giving them just another pretty website or engaging them intellectually or emotionally with a reason to return? Are we giving them a quick fix that does nothing to build the brand? And if they return, are we giving them a reason to remember, even if they aren’t ready to click through to the contact page or make a phone call?
If we aren’t building brands, we’re reinventing the wheel with every project.
Maybe instead we should be taking the time and resources to allow us to failand in the process go BIG. In the creative brainstorming process, we used to say there’s no such thing as a bad idea because bad ideas lead to better ideas, which lead to great ideas, which lead to memorable, engaging creative work which ultimately leads to great brands.
Here’s to the brave marketers, clients and creatives who dare to stand out!
Soichiro Honda said it best: “Success is 99% failure.”