Tuesday, November 30, 2004

:: adgruntie :: ads and creativity

+ The National Film and Television Archive (NFTVA), part of the British Film Institute, is embarking on the enormous task of cataloguing its extensive collection of between 70,000 and 80,000 adverts. "The project has been given a healthy kick-start with a six-figure sponsorship from Coca-Cola UK, which is also donating its entire 50-year-old archive of 1,200 British commercials to be restored and archived for public access.

Work has already begun on sifting through advertising gems dating back to the end of the 19th century. The earliest work discovered so far in the archive, which is based at Berkhamsted in Berkshire, is a black and white film from 1897 showing kilted Scots performing a somewhat abandoned Highland reel to promote Dewar's whisky to Americans. Filmed in the days before cinemas, it was designed to be projected on to the sides of big buildings."

+ Consumers are becoming more sceptical of TV advertising.
Additionally, the presence of a brand on TV can lead people to think it is large, competent and trustworthy, simply because the brand can afford to use TV advertising. Retailers are also likely to look more favourably on brands that advertise on TV and seeing a TV ad can motivate employees of the company.
As long as positive results can be demonstrated, there will be a role for TV advertising. But it is important to recognise that the threats to TV are real.
While much of the emphasis has been on the threats from new media, the real challenge for TV advertising comes from the consumer, especially a group of people who may be termed the “empowered cynics”. These people do not feel obliged to watch ads (most people do not feel obliged to watch them, even though they are the only reason free TV can exist), they are cynical, and can easily recite examples of deceptive advertising. They are also concerned about the excessively materialistic nature of modern society and the negative effects of rampant consumerism, such as obesity. They accept that advertising has a profound impact on other people’s behaviour, although they believe it does not affect them.
This cynicism is empowering and makes them feel less like passive victims. It also makes them sceptical and they refute the suggestion that the mere presence of a celebrity gives a brand credibility or that it does not matter that the sponsor of a TV program has no real connection with the content of the program.
This empowered cynicism is not restricted to TV advertising, but these people readily feel empowered about avoiding TV ads.
This attitude leads these people to demand that the brand takes real steps to understand them as individuals and that its ads are creative and relevant to them. Some even suggest that brands should be punished for boring, unsubtle ads.
Similarly, they will not be hoodwinked by unrealistic claims or utopian idealism; they want genuine, thoughtful brands.
The upshot of the empowered cynic (although there is no indication of how many people fit this description) and the threats from other media, is that TV advertising needs to be creative and to demonstrate it truly understands the people it is reaching out to. Yet, this clashes with increasing pressures on ad budgets and what many people lament as a decline in creativity in pursuit of the “acceptable to all” kind of ad.
And so it seems that client restraints (budgets, expectations, etc) along with some other aspects are to blame for the majority of stale and stagnant creativity we see on our airwaves.

Mark Wnek's column in the Independent this week touches on this subject as he discusses the separation between winning awards and being creative when it comes to real clients. Here's an excerpt:
Awards competitions are the last bastions against the intrusion of business, where creative people can lionise their "art" unconstrained by commercial considerations. Criteria for victory have now become eccentric if not esoteric, removed from the real world in which advertising is supposed to function and be commercially effective.

Advertising with tiny or absent product logos does well in awards competitions. Ads in which the product barely appears do well. Stuff which is cool and groovy and young does well. Work which is original for the sake of originality alone does well. Commercials directed by directors with Hollywood or underground cachet do well. Advertising which is antisocial or offensive does well. Work which is little more than a sponsored joke does well. Work which is wild and crazy and incomprehensible does well.

Nearly all of the above advertising has as its sine qua non a would-be avant-garde but in reality highly narrow-minded aesthetic of cool - narrow-minded because it's not designed for anyone above the age of 24. That's leaving out quite a lot of people with quite a lot of money to spend. Like the whole of Middle England (and Middle America) for instance.

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