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Technology has brought us many wonderful things: instant access to more information than anyone could process in a lifetime; your entire music collection in a box the size of a fag packet; George Foreman’s Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.
But it’s also given us a new-ish situation in the world of advertising.
With the colossal advances made by Photoshop, many art directors are now better at producing images via that software than they are with paper and pen. This has meant that scamps (black-and-white sketched rough versions of prospective ads) have been replaced by something much closer to the finished article.
‘Wonderful!’ I hear you cry. ‘Clients will now be able to see exactly what we’re trying to do, and can therefore approve it without fannying around wondering whether you want the jumper to be blue or green.’
But that’s actually the downside, too.
The gap between a black-and-white sketch and a finished photograph is so great that you can fit in the ideas that occur to you during the process. The end result won’t be exactly what the client approved (unless he wants a black-and-white sketch), but then he’s not expecting that, so a bit of a surprise is par for the course.
However, with Photoshop, he’ll be expecting something pretty much identical to the layout. Any deviation will be a cause for meltdown and he’ll be able to point to hard evidence of your flagrant disrespect for his authority.
In extreme cases, they can take a look at the photoshopped image and say, ‘Why can’t we just run that?’ Then you’re really fucked.
In addition, we have the wonderful world of reference, or ‘things that are a bit like some aspect of the ad you intend to make’. It might be the style of photography, the colour of the clothes or the type of music, but you are now obliged to provide anything that can bring the unmade ad to life. This makes complete sense, after all, it’s just an extension of the director’s showreel or the photographer’s book, but what if you’re trying to create something that’s never been done before? What reference would prepare you for this:
The holy grail of creative advertising is originality, so the need to provide an approximation of the finished work before you start could be something that reduces that originality.
The recent proliferation of work whose roots lie in a YouTube clip is testament to this phenomenon, however, if most of the public is unaware of the reference then as far as they are concerned the originality is intact and the ad works.
And it might be worth bearing in mind that clients can be nervous about the gap between the original idea and the finished article, so that YouTube clip might reduce the client’s fear factor and save a concept that might otherwise die.
Perhaps a reduction in originality is the price you pay for getting your ad made.
Whether or not you think that’s a price worth paying is between you and the part of you that worries about things like that.