Sometimes you just have to take time out to acknowledge the surprising levels of ‘no, really?’ in the world.
This year had so much to get excited about, planning-wise. And I’m lucky enough to get access to a bunch of smart, creative and challenging people all valiantly trying to do what we might presumptuously call ‘the right thing’.
But sometimes, well, you just come across stuff like this.
My favourite ‘so wrong it hurts’ quotes from meetings I’ve been in this year.
The lizard-brain zingers.
I don’t mean this to be anything other than a throat-clearing ahead of a brilliant 2013.
This isn’t a state-of-the-nation.
Just a sad, slow, incredulous shake-of-the-head as we see out the year.
No, really #1
“OK, it’s been an amazing few months. But what we really need people to do now is start watching Downton Abbey and The X Factor again.”
It was late September. The Olympic spirit was still around. But the man who uttered these words works for ITV (no, really), and as they left his mouth I felt them pierce the magical bubble we’d all lived in for two months.
Any hopes that something in our culture may have irrevocably shifted – for the better- thanks to the Olympics were dashed. Immediately I saw how fragile the whole thing had been, how much we’re governed by what media want the narrative to be.
Soon we’d have the most inconsequential football prattle outshouting awesome achievement in any other sport. We’d have the positive optimism replaced by, yes, X Factor.
And we’d have superhuman achievement assimilated into the celebrity branding machine.
No, really #2
“What we’re asking people to do, is to think.”
You’ve heard of the ‘bad account man ad’. Well this was the ‘bad account man planning task’.
One effortless comment, and the wealth of behavioural theory we’ve spent years understanding, distilling and applying to clients’ problems is reduced to being just one more justification for a TV ad designed to persuade people of something they already know.
It’s easy to think that the notion of behaviour preceding attitude is now common place. Especially if you work on government behaviour change briefs.
Well, not among certain ad agencies it isn’t. In some places A.I.D.A. still rules.
No, really #3
“We have a creative platform. We’re really excited.”
I was excited too. It was the biggest thing I would be working on all year, and our ad agency partners had something.
Something that would reflect the very 2012 way this brand needed to behave. We had collectively discussed fine principles of brand behaviour. We had zoomed in on openness, innovation, agility.
In short we had discussed the reinvention of everything we knew, and everything that people would expect. The sort of stuff inter-agency groups always talk about, only this time, because of the brief, and the client, in question, this stuff was really going to happen.
This meeting was going to be all kinds of awesome.
We sat down. And the creative started reading a script.
And then another one.
I was confused. I started asking questions about the idea behind the idea. As in, where was it? Where else could this ‘platform’ take us?
Incredibly, the central idea that was the basis of the script was a celebrity. This person wouldn’t translate onto, say, outdoor or press. Neither would they be around for too long in the TV.
I mean, we’d have to refresh the story, right?
So, here’s a ‘platform’ expressly designed for 2012 marketing – a world of innovation, productisation, addressability, service relationships, networked audiences and communities – that only works on telly and will become obsolete within months.