In our academic community, spring break is right around the corner. So instead of starting new material, we treated our students to a film.
Not just any film. We're not the type to simply put on Shark Tank or a popular movie just to shut them up.
No, our marketing and advertising kids watched Art & Copy, a delightful production that highlights the highs, lows, and the who-would-have-thought moments in famous advertising campaigns, told by the brains behind the campaigns. The film featured the late Hal Riney, George Lois, Wieden + Kennedy, and Goodby & Silverstein, just to name a few.
A common thread was that having a love/hate relationship with advertising isn't just common, but it seems to be almost natural. Indeed, one of the W+K partners mentioned that when he started out, he hated advertising so much that he would tell others he was a "designer" so he could avoid talking about what he did. Mary West, one of the minds behind Braniff Airlines, talked about all the trash and bad advertising that consumers have to sift through in order to see the good. Lee Clow nearly jumps out of his chair when he mentions how big companies are steered today (as well as back when he started) by straight-line following, MBA-holding executives who have no space for creativity and breathing life into a brand.
Yet they all love and hate advertising.
We agree with them. There is a lot of crap out there. Don't we all see a commercial sometimes and wonder, "How in the world did get that approved?"
With the amount of agencies worldwide and the number of marketing departments, one would imagine that there must be something systemically wrong if we all agree that there's bad advertising and yet bad advertising continues to be churned out.
Advertising and marketing professionals must be given the freedom to try what they want to try. If the creatives and AdPeople wholeheartedly believe in the product, why not let them see what kind of message, what kind of wacky tactic, can drive the point home? Fear, perhaps, is what stops them. Risk aversion. Surely not a distaste for creativity.
In order for good advertising to finally outweigh the bad, brands must start telling powerful stories again, and how their brand or product fits the narrative that is created.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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