Friday, December 19, 2014

IT’S THE END OF ADVERTISING CREATIVITY AS WE KNOW IT (and you should not feel fine).

(portion of a 2008 ad for ad school The Creative Circus)

This year’s advertising was shit. Digital, social, native, mobile—shit. Even the “traditional” advertising, created by supposedly trained creative pros, was mostly shit. And, it wasn’t just shit-ineffective, it was shit-garbage: unentertaining, uninteresting, unfunny, unstimulating, un-authentic (bear with me), unfocused, un-selling. Uncreative.

Of course, Facebook and Twitter have had a lot to do with fostering this new-age GIF/meme creative witlessness. But they are only platforms. People make ads. And more and more, the people making the advertising “content” are untrained, inexperienced but “tech-savvy” people: People who don’t know what a campaign is, don’t know how to dramatically communicate a product benefit, don’t know how to consistently image-brand, don’t even know what the fuck branding is.

This is #sad.

The overuse and near meaninglessness of “Creativity”—the “C” word—has been a long-running joke, both inside and outside the industry. Seriously: What the actual fuck is a “Creative” Director” (cool white bro)? But, the new digital/social/native agencies popping up like lowermybills ads are trying to eliminate the “old-school” creative element of advertising. They’re trying to make it artificially complicated, trying to turn it into a technology. Advertising is not technology. It is communication. And good advertising is persuasive communication. Which means it is an “art”, not a science. Sorry, all you Silicon Valley disrupters with Peaky Blinders haircuts.

2014 has seen the continued growth of: StuntVertising, ShockVertising, PrankVertising, EventVertising, CelebVertising, CrowdsourcedVertising, EmpowermentVertising, FemVertising (pathetic), StorytellingVertising, ContentVertising, Appvertising, and CatVertising. Everything but IdeaVertising. Ad people know what I mean when I say IdeaVertising, but for you others, what it means is: a consistent ad concept, across all media (What Millennial nitwits now call “seamless storytelling”). But we’re seeing less and less of this because coming up with a GREAT, BIG idea that sells the bejesus out of a brand is hard work. Really hard work. It takes time, and a lot of meetings between client and agency(s).

It takes experience, something that’s becoming less important this generation by the second. “Pfft. I can learn what you know, in a day on the internet, pops.” No, you can’t, child. Just like you can’t learn a great hockey wrist shot in a day, you can’t learn how to make great creative advertising in a day. It takes practice. Take 100,000 wrist shots, and you’ll get yourself a better wrist shot. It is inevitable, I learned.

(2010 ad for South Africa's Eagle awards. Billions of bunnies bit it this year.)

I’m not going to link to any specific 2014 examples of what big-time media bloggers who’ve never created an ad in their lives called “great” ads—ads that at best, were mediocre. But I will say that many of those bloggers lauded those ads without believing their own words, glowingly posting them strictly for pageviews. That’s not just #sad. That’s #unethical.

Why should you believe this pessimistic assessment of my industry? Because I’ve been obsessively following advertising creativity for 25 years now, via this copyranter blog (started in 2005) and as a New York City copywriter/creative director. Very few—if any, I would confidently wager—ad creatives/critics in the world have looked at/sat through as many ads as I have during this period. I’m not really bragging; I’m mentally damaged from browsing the same 50+ shitty websites day-in, day-out, seven days a week.

I’ve watched the quality of creativity decline steadily over the last 10 years, and even more so in the last two years. This trend is indisputable.

And I see no renaissance coming.


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