The surest way for advertising to miss the future is to hold on to the present, or worse yet, the past. When we ignore the values of youth, we start missing where our planet is heading. What we see happening around us today can be traced to the corridors of a not so distant past where agencies who once spearheaded Bill Bernbach’s Creative Revolution of the 60’s have yet to change the true, tried and tested upholstery that furnishes much of their advertising today.
Maybe the reason why so many agencies are still clinging to the truisms of the ’60’s and 70’s is because there isn’t much innovation today, creatively. One might suggest the opposite. Maybe there isn’t much innovation today because too many of us are looking back to the past for ideas; holding back, and turning our backs to the remarkable creative opportunities each new brief provides.
Creative bashing has become popular among veterans in the business who endear themselves to the sentiments of risk-averse client types by dissociating themselves from the ‘creative excess’ of today’s ’boutique’ creatives. Our veterans seem to wallow in a pool of sterility espousing the ideology of a time ‘when advertising tried harder’ — to quote the title of a book that romanticized the great era of 30 years ago. Veterans in their 40s, 50s and 60s in the ad business will remember how unhip their father was when they were growing up: well, today, they are older than their father was back then. One of the great twists to this whole ‘creative excess’ bashing is that a lot of people who are criticizing the experimenters of today, and who ‘don’t get’ what these new kids on the block are trying to do, conveniently forget that 30 years ago they were the experimenters the establishment ‘didn’t get’.
Worse still, is the affiliate hangover where top agencies adopt the manifesto of great advertising Hall of Famers as the raison d’etre for great advertising in Pakistan. Wrong move. Bill Bernbach is dead. Leo Burnett is dead. David Ogilvy is almost dead. Anyone quoting the rantings of the old man who lives in his château in France is only showing his age. The leaders of yesteryear were great for their time. And while their methods may still work (in a revamped, contemporary context), they, sadly, will not score. It’s a different world. And it’s dangerous to pretend otherwise. Because that’s where the consumer’s head is at. And that’s where ours should be.
Yes, the old days could teach us a lot. But it’s not the old days any more. If we hold on to the past too tightly, we’re going to miss the bus. We live in a different world where everything from technology to MTV has made us different. Not in terms of human nature — that hasn’t changed for the last ten million years and it’s not changing for the next ten million — but in terms of fresh, original and interesting appeals we garner to inspire choice for the brands we labour over
Fortunately, for those of us who are supporters and forgers of change, advertising has an admirable dislike for tranquillity. It is perhaps the only business in the world where breaking the rules merits multiple rewards. Because you simply can’t achieve any kind of greatness in the ad business unless you change the business, or add something to the business, or redirect the business, or re-invent the business or simply break the rules of the business. Because it is through this carefully planned deconstruction of organizational values that real creativity can be tapped and where it inherently lies. And that’s the one, certain way the creative community in Pakistan will make advertising history — by not repeating it.