February 16, 2010

The Age of the Complicator, Part 3

Today we continue with Part 3 of a 4-part series called "The Age of the Complicator."

One of the reasons advertising has become so complicated is that we have lost confidence in the creative process.

Nobody trusts creative directors any more. They used to lead, now they need to be led.

We used to trust that they understood business. We used to trust that they understood what motivated people. We used to trust that they knew how to sell someone something.

Then a complication arose. Advertising stopped being about selling, and became about "branding." We no longer sell products. We build brands.

Nobody really understands what branding means, other than it requires lots of sweaty athletes and very few product shots.

Nobody really understands why "building a brand" is different from selling stuff.

The role of creative directors has changed. They no longer need to understand business, or what motivates people, or how to sell something. Instead, they need to be sociologists. They need to be able to interpret cultural phenomena and foresee trends. They need to understand where a brand fits and what it means in the lives of consumers.

Others have been brought in to help them figure out what they should be doing. Yes, they are still allowed to make the ad, but they aren't trustworthy enough to figure out what the ad should be about. They need people to figure that out for them. (Don't get me wrong. It's not like a lot of them don't deserve what they got. It's not like there aren't plenty of frauds, popinjays, and deadbeats...)

Once the ad runs, success and failure are hard to define.

The ad may sell stuff, but it may not do a good job of "branding."  If the ad fails to sell, well, no worries, mate. It wasn't intended to. It's a "branding" ad.

Advertising has become so complicated, and we are so confused, we don't even know what we're trying to do anymore.

Next, the final part of this series. How do we un-complicate advertising?

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