I was just reading this interview with recently-appointed VP of Apple, and 17-year R/GA veteran, Nick Law.
There’s a bunch of stuff in it that I’m not quite sure about, but I currently have four day jobs (at least one of which actually pays), so I’m going to concentrate on a single paragraph:
It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of more programmatic or digital advertising is bloodless. These platforms and technologies transform in the hands of creative people. Unless creative people are engaged and manipulating these things every day, they can’t create a new grammar. The grammar of Instagram Stories is not being created by agencies, it’s being created by kids. If people think technology right now is being used in a mechanical and uninteresting way, that’s because we haven’t figured out how to manipulate it. It’s all technology and we need to learn how to wield it and use its potential. When we do that, then the work will be vivid.
Programmatic advertising has existed for a couple decades now. Thousands of very smart people and billions of pounds have been cast in the direction of making it brilliant. ‘Creative people’ have been engaged with it, and have been trying to manipulate it, for about the same amount of time.
We don’t want to make shitty banner ads, but something powerful keeps dragging them down to that level. It might be lack of investment, it might be lack of interest from clients, and yes, by now it might be creative ennui. But the idea that creatives have just been picking their noses instead of trying to ‘engage’ or ‘manipulate’ seems to miss the point.
And yes, some of the ‘grammar of Instagram Stories’ is being created by kids, who have no brief other than to impress and interest their followers. Tell them to launch the new Sainsbury’s loyalty card and they might just find their grammar manipulation drying up.
Or, if they really are rocking the grammar manipulation, we could learn from them, couldn’t we? After all, advertising is rarely above a little bit of ‘borrowing’ from our betters. So are these kids really laying waste to the vagaries of Instagram Stories, or do 0.00000034 of them occasionally fluke a success?
And we’re not usually the remakers of media anyway. Was film stretched by Godard, Scorsese and Jarmusch, or DDB, BBDO and JWT? What about words? Much as I love Abbott and Bernbach they didn’t exactly compete with Amis, Vidal or Delillo. Comparing us to the people who have the whole vast canvas to play with is a little unfair, and makes the criticism less than constructive.
Beyond that, TV, press, radio and posters have been around for decades, and people still regularly fill them with crap, but then so does tech. By definition quality is rare, so the idea that we’re just waiting for a key of genius to unlock a magical box of wonder that we can all choose from is either fanciful or naive. It’s literally never happened (it partly happened once with Bernbach), so it’s not going to, no matter how well we learn to wield the potential of anything.
Good ‘voice’ ads await us, but so does a tidal wave of dull voice ads. ‘Twas ever thus, and no amount of guilting the ad industry into an alternative is going to bring one about.