Written by Dom Mellin, Senior Media Strategist at Hunterlodge.
I recently had the muted pleasure of reading an article on Campaign magazine, by Sue Unerman, Mediacom’s ‘Transformation Officer’, on Facing Down the Difficulties on the Horizon in 2018. Now, let me start this with the weasel-y, backtracking caveat that I do not have a vendetta against Sue Unerman. She’s written interesting articles and books that are very worthwhile introspectives on the industry, with a much longer and storied career than I have at this point.
This article, however – and I recommend you to read it before you read this one; it’s not that long – was not in keeping with that. It subscribed to something much seedier, in that the vague and faux-motivational premise of Unerman’s argument thoroughly debased the science and rigour that goes into our industry.
In short, as you’ll have read it by now, it proposes that the uncertainty across markets in 2018 can be bridged by simply utilising ‘creativity’.
Now, I can get over the one-line format of the article, even if it seems to change to that half-way through (almost as if written by two separate people), and I can just about stomach generalisations such as the two ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ camps. This isn’t actually Unerman’s, but Michael Hayman’s, idea, and it follows the same pre-audience-segmentation thinking of ‘them’ and ‘us’ that so failed to grasp how consumers might engage with brands before the audience-led revolution.
Now, one may think that I’m firmly planting myself in the ‘pessimist’ camp – or at least the ‘cynic’ commune – but we’re thoroughly past the point where we need to explain that tackling momentous political, social and economic upheaval can be as simple as opening our minds and maybe having a bit of a brainstorm in the second-floor meeting room on a Friday afternoon.
We work in a creative industry as standard, and there is a glut of talented people injecting inspired and inventive thinking into projects every day (and often every night). Creativity can be limited by so many things: sales pressures, conservative stakeholders, budget and brand image, to name a few, but it never stops anyone working in advertising from making the most imaginative work they are capable of.
The Difficulties (capital D) of 2018 are going to be tackled first with the aforementioned science and rigour, including in-depth research and analysis, and let nobody take that away from the Brains (capital B) in advertising.
To leave our planning to such an arbitrary concept is to fail to prepare. We need models, and forecasts, and reports, and all of this can be woven together to create a fair prediction of what 2018 might hold.
Unerman’s approach is the same as saying ‘believe in your heart’ instead of revising for an exam. It’s Ben Kenobi telling Luke Skywalker to turn off his targeting computer: it only works when you’ve got the Force and a metric ton of plot armour.
Frankly, it’s bad advice and it makes our industry seem wishy-washy; untargeted and unplanned.
In 2018, creativity is moot. Be smart, prepared, and scientific. All the tools are available to you.
I’ll leave you with a line from a particularly creepy YouTube viral video, called ‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’ [NSFW] (see below), that fits this scenario perfectly. In faux-children’s-education style, a dancing flip-pad intones:
What’s your favourite idea?
Mine is being creative!
How do I get that idea?
I just have to think creatively!