Daredevils wanted

27 Jun

Philippe Petit walking between the Twin Towers

A few days ago I wrote a post about the perception by people who work in advertising that it’s no longer a particularly creative industry to work in.

SP Lee, the MD/ECD of Dentsu Malaysia, got in touch with me and suggested that advertising hasn’t been all that creative for years. He listed off all the industries that, in his opinion, have outpaced the ad biz: film, music, product design, publishing, television, architecture and fashion.

He’s probably right. And I would throw telecommunications in there too.

Advertising has recently started to re-invent itself, but only because it’s been forced to. The digital shift backed traditional agency thinking into a corner. We stared back out at this unrecognizable new beast called the social consumer and realized we had better come out fighting or be decimated.

Honestly, advertising has never been an industry hell-bent on relentless innovation.

We’ve spent 50 years crafting our print, radio and TV ads and going to award shows to congratulate ourselves, then back to our “war rooms” to plan the next campaign. The Mac came along and we left typographers behind. Digital came along and we got digital departments. But this wasn’t change we sought.

Sometimes it seems that the biggest self-directed shifts within the form over the past 25 years have been the visual story-telling ad replacing the long body copy ad, and the ease with which previously off-limits human effluents like shit and vomit and snot have made it into our work.

Meanwhile, innovative thinkers have been revolutionizing animation and 3D in films, pushing the boundaries of human imagination and engineering achievement in architecture, driving the need for sustainable practices in industry, creating game-changers like the tablet and the smartphone.

Advertising has had no trouble producing larger than life thinkers with big personalities. But for the most part, they have done what other people did, only better. Now we need innovators, not just creators. Innovators change the game. We need people who think like daredevils.

Otherwise those revolutionary young minds we want to attract are going to continue heading for Google and Apple and Pixar.

Thanks for getting me thinking SP.

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