Why is Most Advertising so Utterly Unenjoyable?

I ask this because in most creative endeavours, at least some of it is palatable – if not decent.

Yet it is an accepted fact that nearly all advertising is terrible. For good or ill, advertising is an accepted part of mainstream society. When a good advertisement appears, we are overwhelmingly impressed. More so than we should be.

MeerkatConsider the Meerkat campaign, developed in good confidence under the influence of vodka. It’s good, and I liked it – in a real sense, not an ‘I’ll click that’ sense. An erudite meerkat complaining about word play. It’s funny, and smart. That excruciatingly handsome Old Spice guy is similar. It’s actually just good words, but executed fantastically.

I suspect that the death of genuinely innovative campaigns has come about because really talented people are getting drunk and high, writing terrible movies and novels… and getting rejected. Creativity is an adventurous endeavour, not helped by agonising over booklets enforcing rules and guidelines. This is why we are subjected to ‘humour’ that absolutely nobody could ever find offensive – but as a direct side effect, nobody finds it funny, either. That’s why we give gigantic praise to anything that even gives us a smirk.

John West SalmonMy favourite advert to this day is a ridiculous specimen for John West Salmon where some guy ruthlessly assaults a bear, something that, if envisioned today, would be rejected by a committee because it may offend those who enjoy bears. As a result, we are repeatedly subjected to the “safe options” of terrible nonsense, and this is the best we can expect. We all need to be Russell Howard: by all counts a god awful writer and comedian for his sheer blandness alone. Even Michael McIntyre is better and it gave me heartburn to even lend him that compliment.

The advent of the internet has led to legitimately good and honest advertising, like the highly commendable Dollar Shave Club videos. Again, successful only because the story is, “Hey look at us, we’re not talking shit.” I couldn’t write something as brilliant as that, but I can arrogantly say it’s likely that I’ve been conditioned not to. Honesty is appealing, and yet we are told at every turn that it is a horrible curse to be avoided at all costs. Use buzzwords. Look smarter with stupid jargon. Appeal to some imaginary audience we have developed in our internal meetings with a sample size of six. Let’s not talk like real people; that degenerates us to a point where we are at their level.

I don’t mind arrogance, but you need to earn it. Apple have. Google have, too. Have some respect for your audience and stop talking to them with the polite contempt that so many do at present.

We have yet to find a realistic solutions to this first world problem; I myself can only offer mere scorn and amusing cynicism. However, when considering talking to an audience, think of how you talk with your best friends. We are all likely to have diverse senses of humour, but we all make each other laugh. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of life. Why are we encouraged to pretend the awful things we say in private are funny and make us feel good, for the sake of a “safe option?” Why is stand up comedy one of the most beautiful and intellectually simulating art forms on the planet, yet advertising is impotent and embarrassing? We know we can write beautiful witticisms, but for some reason, we choose not to.

I guess this is part of the reason we started Render Positive. Someone has to raise the bar and take some chances.

Photo by: dlanham

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2 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Nicely put. I find advertising fascinating, but can’t sit through an Ad break without wishing I had my own nuclear arsenal. Maybe the time of Smash robots and Tango surreal-ness is almost over? Maybe you just need to establish brand “values” in some beige, hackneyed form, ensure sufficient machine-gun coverage of your target demographic and it’s “meeting over, let’s get arseholed”. I imagine. Interesting stuff.

    • Posted March 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Laziness is surely part of the problem. As well as a lack of talent. Or maybe it just works and we are stuck with it.

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