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In Defense of Time

Posted on February 14, 2013 and read 3,370 times

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REMIBABINET In Defense of TimeRémi Babinet
Chairman and Global Creative Director

Marketing and advertising today are dominated by a culture of obsolescence.  This may be a lever for consumption, but it is potentially counterproductive for brands (apart from other problems – environmental, for example).  For the digital environment is merciless and brands have no other choice than to be zapped or clicked: it is a race for novelty played out on social media in a matter of hours.  And in this race, brands often forget their long-term vision and don’t have – or take – the time necessary to construct, craft and deploy a unique brand style.

For advertisers are authors.  They sign a work and in a matter of seconds a poster, a film, an application or an event will shape the consumer’s lasting perception of the brand.   And in general, spectators deluged by ads quickly sort good from bad.  They prefer advertisers who are the best authors, who amuse or intrigue them or whose style impresses them.  The word ‘style’ has its origins in the ancient Greek word stízo, meaning ‘to mark with a pointed instrument.’  Beyond aesthetics, style encompasses voice, behaviour and personality.  It enables conversation. In our business, this question of style is generally considered to be secondary. However, style is essential:  it is a decisive and committed act by a brand, given that anything that is neither decisive nor committed is ineffectual in advertising.

To the non-French observer, this emphasis on style may seem disproportionate, a typically French obsession. Excusez-nous. Yet style is useful: it differentiates, its voice speaks louder through the ambient noise and it builds an identity over time.  A brand’s first priority is to find its style, otherwise what exactly does a brand stand for?  And since behind every brand there is a business, these questions of style should matter a great deal to an advertising agency. The construction of a brand style is therefore the very minimum contract between an agency and an advertiser.

Yet, every year our industry produces a torrent of horrible, incoherent or insignificant things. Then, luckily, there are the nuggets, like the Old Spice man, which have the potential to transform our profession.  For not only is there a new and fantastic idea – but excellent writing, perfect execution and a flair for orchestration, combined with freshness and apparent simplicity.  In short: exceptional craftsmanship.  Only with this unique and crafted style will brands break through, connect and construct a lasting identity. The payback from consumers is enthusiasm, surprise and adherence. What more could an advertiser dream of?

In the battle for content, we are facing stiff competition from two very different sources; the powerful entertainment industry, and the very nimble guy on the street with a smartphone. But in advertising, we have a major advantage over both of them:  we know how to make things that are simple, short, crafted and true.  We know how to make a brand stand out and generate previously unimaginable numbers of consumer contacts.  Such as the Evian ad, which entered the Guinness World Records for the most viewed ad online.

So the ground is permanently shifting under our feet but in the battle for content and connection, the search for brand style and the big idea has not changed one bit.  In fact it’s even more relevant amid the cacophony and complexity of today’s media.  We must avoid getting sucked into the race for novelty, and instead take time to focus on the quality and craftsmanship that are essential for the long-term vitality of brands and for our industry as a whole.




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