Often, when I tell people what I do, their eyes narrow into an expression that roughly communicates something along the lines of “You’re the prick responsible for ramming crap in the way of my Hollyoaks omnibus, and telling my girlfriend that she’s fat and needs a new toothpaste”. Then again, I could be lucky enough to encounter a Mad Men fan, in which case they look me up and down and mentally compare me to a fictional alcoholic from the ’50s. Neither of which being a particularly accurate profile of myself or your average creative chap.
So I tell them I’m a ‘Creative’, or slightly more specifically, an Art Director/Copywriter. I come up with ideas and concepts for ads. This of course usually requires further explanation. So I go for a brief explanation of a typical agency ‘creative process’…A brand has a ‘problem’ and they come to us to solve it. Usually it’s a new product they want to flog, or a new service they want people to buy into. So our account people take a brief from them to see exactly what it is they want to achieve. This brief then gets passed through a planner whose job it is to find a unique insight or the sell-able proposition of the brand/service/product. This will then hopefully spur us down in the creative department into creating something that will emotionally (and sometimes even rationally) persuade you that brand X is wonderful and can enrich your life in some way. And honestly? Sometimes it’s even true.
This is obviously a very simplified, idealistic and admittedly soulless way of looking at it, but it sums up my working life in a few lines which should suffice.
At this point they’ll usually reel off their favourite TV advert and begin telling me why it’s so good. In my head I’m stacking up reasons to oppose but usually give up, after conceding that for one thing or another: they remembered the ad. Because let’s get one thing clear here — advertising you forget, is shit advertising.
Now, I’d be the first person to defend the stance that annoying, repetitive advertising is actually detrimental to a brand, but when it comes down to it, even a beautiful and witty ad is useless if nobody remembers it. But that’s just advertising 101. The trick then, is you have to get them to remember it for all the right reasons. Either it stimulated your intelligence; understood your lifestyle; amused you, or even created some sort of emotional connection between you and the brand.
But alas, this is where most ads turn into that confused, two-headed devil’s-spawn-of-a-brand’s-desire to sell you something. A mixed-up set of requirements and goals to achieve, instead of a simple, single-minded proposition. So we end up with a giant logo; four headlines all competing for your attention; a contrived lifestyle photograph showing the product being used by an ideal demographic, and if you’re especially lucky, four different social media addresses. All the while ticking the boxes needed by the client, but not actually managing to create anything that anyone should rightfully want to pay any attention to.
It takes shared vision; shared creativity, and most importantly, shared understanding of a brand and its audience to come out with something that doesn’t feel invasive, but rather makes you feel like you’ve got an advertisement that people will enjoy, rather than resent.
Like I said, working in the advertising industry isn’t easy.
CJ is an Art Director / Copywriter at a large London agency, working on through-the-line campaigns for a variety of brands. You can follow him on Twitter for various other creative rants (when he can be bothered) here.
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