Where have all the campaigns gone?
When I were a lad all round here were campaigns: series of ads with common features and a common idea that continued to build a deep, long-lasting message for a brand.
There was Peter Kay’s No-Nonsense John Smiths ads, Good Things Come To Those Who Wait for Guinness, and the majestic years of Economist Red-On-White poster work, to name but three.
Happiness Is A Cigar Called Hamlet and Heineken Refreshes The Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach rubbed shoulders with Stella’s Reassuringly Expensive and Levi’s feature-based run of classics.
Now all of the above have disappeared (some temporarily resurrected then killed again), and as I look around I see very few actual campaigns where you know what structure the next one will follow and then the point it will make.
It seems we have campaigns that either manage but a few executions (Sony Bravia Balls, Paint and Bunnies; Cadbury Gorilla, Eyebrows, Airport) or campaigns that feel like a series of very tenuously connected one-offs (the current Ikea work, John Lewis, Old Spice). Obviously there are some examples of great work within those examples, so perhaps we don’t need campaigns as such, but I’m interested in why such a successful advertising form, one that built on years of affection and interest as each execution went by, has seemingly bitten the dust.
Is it because clients leave their jobs after a short time, only to have their successors look to make their own mark by starting from square one?
Is it because the talent is no longer strong enough to support years of quality?
Is it because clients are now happy that their brand is a simple word (‘progress’, ‘love’, ‘thrive’), from which executions can spin off in myriad directions?
For a good example, look at Lynx/Axe: it started off with a solid idea from which dozens of great ads can and did spring (spray this on yourself and become attractive to beautiful women). Then it went a bit odd:
A great ad, but now the idea is: keep up with a demanding girl.
Then even odder:
idea: you won’t get laid if your competition is an astronaut.
So bang goes the central idea, replaced by some other stuff.
But no one else seems to mind, or even seems to have noticed.
I just can’t help wondering if it’s another ingredient in the current ad malaise.
Crunchy Nut ‘The Trouble is they taste too good’ is one of the few left standing
One word: commitment. None of those twenty something marketing social-media-director-fun-police-people have an attention span that’s longer than 3.14 seconds.
Building a brand over several years with the same strategy is unthinkable for people following the latest trends and fads.
I have decided that this industry is almost entirely driven by the egos, ambitions and manoeuvrings of Marketing Directors.
About ten years ago they worked out that the quickest way to get a new job was to do a whopping great ATL campaign and get their face in the trade press. So, forget what has worked for a brand for years – or what is best for the brand long-term – and just spunk some cash on a shiny new ad that gets me my next job.
Following that we had the digital craze, which meant doing a good ATL campaign wasn’t enough to get you your new job/promotion any more. Heaven forbid that the ATL agency who actually know how to make ads that actually sell products and change perceptions should be left alone to do what they do best. No chance. Now we need to get the retail agency, the DM agency, the PR agency and the digital agency all in on the briefing process to work together on an INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN. The Marketing Director thinks “If I can talk about that in the trade press then the job offers are going to come flying in…”
Sadly, he/she was generally right. But what happened in the real world was some slightly disjointed TV ads, some digital work that no one ever saw, a weird ‘experiential event’ for some journalists and some shelf wobblers with ‘free’ written on them. Oh and then a clever video editor managed to pull it all together into an awards film and it got entered for ‘best campaign’.
So at this point I would argue that the ‘campaign’ definitely still existed in the minds of Marketing Directors – just not to the rest of us.
And in the more recent past, most Marketing Directors have just been trying to keep their jobs rather than find new ones, so the industry hasn’t developed or moved on at all. We seem to be stuck in the phase where it’s more important for a Marketing Director to be able to point to an ‘integrated campaign’ than it is to be able to point to some amazing advertising.
I have honestly seen clients make the advertising worse (or even ditch a successful ATL campaign) because it didn’t ‘integrate’. It’s the poo-splattered tail wagging the dog.
So, basically: another symptom of corporate structure?
It’s the difference between an idea and an execution (or what de bono would define as creatives versus stylists). Ever since work had to be pan European and we were in thrall to international awards, execution is king. Ofcourse you can have an idea beautifully executed (Guinness surfer) but ideas are hard and it’s easy to go to a creative director/ account team/ client with reference for an executional idea. But the flip argument for this is that audiences don’t like to think – they like pretty images, talking animals and singing mums. So whilst the death of strategy is definitely making our industry less creative, dumber and more easily disposable, that’s what target audiences seem to want. If we were artists we would rightly not give a shit about audiences. But we’re not.
should have gone to Specsavers
I agree with Sitting comfortably?
However, Planners, ever in need of self congratulation can’t possibly write a brief to someone else’s strategy. It’s the case in our place.
I’ve lost count of the times some twat has sat down and explained how ‘my’ idea works.
Most, not all, marketing directors now come from a sales background – broadly speaking they have forfeited building the brand for generating sales.
Sales results are instantly recognised. Branding is not.
On average, Marketing Directors stay in the same company for 18 – 24 months: just enough time for them to show an upturn in sales – not enough time to show brand re-evaluation.
In the glorious olden days when there were ‘long living campaigns’, marketing directors fluent in the benefits of building brands used to work for the same company for 15 -20 years.
campaigns were a good idea when media as predictable and consumed by, er, consumers in a predictable manner. now it’s more about just getting noticed every time out of the gate. it’s tiring!