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Trumpets & Super-guns

Posted on May 3, 2012 and read 3,290 times

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matthewcharlton Trumpets & Super gunsMatthew Charlton
BETC London

I sense that we are moving finally through the dullest, most boring and de-motivating phase in the history of marketing. A phase when advertising has been continuously derided for being irrelevant and digital was held up as the holy grail. Agencies became full of people that ten years ago would have been selling hi-fi equipment but now were ruling the roost as UX designers. Some of them bought Bathing Ape clothes to compensate for this. The future belonged to social media and technology development and people that could write code.

I sense we are now arriving at a place where everyone understands that it’s about co-existence, it’s not one or the other. But beyond this understanding value – according to clients – still lay with the “Crazy Ones.” People who were prepared to be courageous and inspiring with their brands when they often are hamstrung with reality.

I had a few beers recently with my friend Andy Wardlaw, who runs a consultancy called Congregation Partners. Andy and Matt Wells, who founded it, are born from the world of digital and tech-funded start-ups. They have never worked in an ad agency. Yet when I started talking about George Lois and the influence he has on both myself and Neil Dawson, my business partner, Andy put his hand in his bag and pulled out George’s book. This is what marketing of the future is all about. Common ground and admiring the same things.

In the film “Art & Copy,” Lois tells a brilliant story of being on a TV show in the States. A guy from JWT was there trying to explain advertising. After ten minutes of mumbo jumbo, the host looks at George – who is rolling his eyes and about to fall asleep – and asks what the matter is. George replies, “I don’t know what business this guy’s in but I am in the poison gas business. Advertising should make you choke, make your eyes water, make you feel sick.” That is as good an articulation as I have ever heard.  The clarity of his objective vs. what the other guy was talking about is both striking and brilliant.

We all sit around in the very same meetings everyday whilst a bunch of people that have no clarity and no insight submerge the agency. You have to be sooooo careful who you let in to your business because getting people to have as singular an objective as George takes years of work and courage every day to live it. Getting people to come in and submerge that with mumbo jumbo is not hard to do.

Social media has transformed my leisure time and I love it. But in business, it’s a mess. There are constant conversations about earned media yet the reality of it is, the most powerful earned media is people talking about stuff face to face. Which has gone on forever. Earned media is actually bought media, because the majority of online campaigns now require a huge investment to get the right level of views and “likes,” and usually run in online and offline media. It’s a game which is only sustained by its lack of transparency. It’s not earned; it is bought. Lets call it what it is. Social media gives everyone a trumpet to blow. Social media gives brands a trumpet to blow and, I guess, ears to listen to what’s coming back. Lovely. But what’s it worth?

George Lois didn’t give his clients a trumpet; he gave them a massive big fat super-gun. That is worth a lot. It really is worth an awful lot. Anyone who joins an ad agency of any repute needs to understand this, love it, enjoy it and champion it. Whatever department. Too many agencies are selling people trumpets. Useful for the last post, I suppose. It won’t make much of a crater but it will do a good job of annoying the neighbours.




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