How do we really change things?

The other day I became the lucky recipient of this book:


It’s Sell! Sell!’s ‘manifesto for a new creative revolution’ and it’s full of excellent advice on how to improve the current, somewhat underwhelming state of advertising.

That places it alongside the many brilliantly provocative points and suggestions of both The Ad Contrarian and Dave Trott (and perhaps even the lower-quality musings of this very blog). All four of us have spent years pointing out things that might not be as workable as they could be, or putting forward ideas that might help the industry regain whatever used to make it attractive to talented creative brains.

Has it worked? Maybe. Perhaps things would be even worse without our suggestions, but let’s face it: with each passing day advertising seems to get more disappointing. Whether it’s once-great agencies trading TV advertising for sports marketing or advertising’s love affair with data and technology relegating creativity to a footnote or the mistaken belief that individual targeting is the way forward, the industry seems to be heading to places that serve neither it nor the consumer.

Why is that? Well, the problem with human beings is that knowledge is not enough. How many of us know how to lose weight? Over a billion, I’d guess. And how many of us want to lose weight but just can’t seem to? Just under a billion. Knowing things doesn’t make the difference.

So what does? Alas, the answer to that is different for everyone: fear, indolence, stupidity, comfort, ignorance, boredom, fatigue… Then we need the real reason, or the reason behind the reason: why are people happy with the status quo? Why do they think they can’t improve things? What is holding them back? Again, this is different for each person, and it is so damn hard to unpick that stuff. Even if people wanted to make the changes they would take years of therapy, or a weekend at the Landmark Forum.

As much as I hate to suggest it, I think we’re going to continue on this downward spiral (with some delightful and sporadic exceptions) until  enough of us are motivated to make the changes that can turn the ship around.

So the question is, which of us really cares?