Brave New Heights Reached On The Cannes Pinnacle of Excrement

I've been on a self-imposed semi-retirement from criticising creative awards on this this blog.

Not because I've changed my mind, but just because they seem to be getting worse and it appears nothing can stop the rot.

And to be honest, I've got better things to do.

As shit as all creative awards seem to have become, the pinnacle of excrement is the Cannes Lions festival. And still it seems there is little point in criticising even that, because I genuinely believe there is nothing on Earth that would shame the participants.

When you look at what is going on over there, from the work that gets 'awarded', to the incessant rivers of waffle and bullshit, the self-serving forums and back-slapping cronyism, it feels like if people aren't ashamed to be part of that, then nothing anyone could say would affect them in any way.

But then it sinks to such new depths that I feel compelled to briefly pop out of the aforementioned semi-retirement.

In previous years we've seen work (that shall remain nameless) that's clearly awards-glitter-scam win big gongs. But this year has beaten even that. I'm not going to put up the work here, I can't stand it, and I refuse to give it any more oxygen (I'm sure you've seen anyway. I'm sure).

But now two pieces of work, one a scam charity app, and another a piece of offensive, low-grade frat humour, have won awards over there. Just when you think it can't possibly get any worse, it proves you wrong.

I can't think of anything that more accurately represents how shit the ad industry has become than the Cannes Festival.

It is at once the worst of the industry, and its best representation.

If you're over there in any capacity, you're complicit in the utter shameless horror-show of it all.

You're part of the problem.


Do You Remember The Real World?

There are some folk in advertising and marketing who have developed a habit of expecting unrealistic behaviour from people in the real world.

Ask most marketing or advertising people if they themselves, outside of their professional life, have ever shared brand content, or used a brand hashtag, or got involved in making or editing or uploading their own experiences of a brand, or any of the other things that they often expect customers to do, the answer would be rarely, if at all.

Yet they regularly expect other people to do them.

Contrary to what appears to be popular belief inside agencies and marketing departments, most people do not want to ‘join the conversation’ or take part in any interactive, two-way dialogue with brands, even in relatively high-interest categories. 

We all need to remind ourselves to be normal people at work – make judgements based on what we, and other people, are really like.

Always resist the temptation to expect unrealistic behaviour from people. 

Agencies try really hard to make their offices unusual, creative, inspiring places.

But make sure your work is fit for the real world.

For more pithy challenging of received wisdom, our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

Prove Yourself Wrong

Opinion is good for creativity. Having an opinion on the subject/product/situation helps you to come up with an interesting approach, solution or new angle on something. My old advertising mentor would bellow "Get yourself an opinion" at anyone who couldn't express a point of view on whatever we were working on.

I reckon some of the malaise of current advertising is down to a lack of opinion. It seems creatives in most agencies aren't required to have opinions any more. They're just told to execute what it says on the brief. That inevitably leads to bland, mediocre, beige work.

Encouraging creatives to form opinions on the product/problem/situation they're working on, and encouraging them to use those opinions to help form creative ideas will help lead to stronger work, and work with more individuality and humanity.

But on top of this, I think we should always challenge ourselves to prove ourselves wrong. It's easy to form a view or opinion about something early in a project, and stick to it blindly, judging everything by it.

I think it's a lot more difficult and challenging, to constantly challenge our own opinions and views, to try to prove them wrong. I think that's what good clients should do, and good creative directors. Prepare to have your opinions proved wrong. Be prepared to modify or change your opinion.

In science, good scientific method is said to be working hard to prove your theories wrong. This is one of the criticisms of some recent neuroscience – that a scientist will come up with a a great-sounding theory, write their thesis, get a book deal and do the conference circuit – without every really trying to prove themselves wrong. But good science is trying very hard to prove yourself wrong, and encouraging others to do so to.

I think interesting creative ideas can come of out of this method too. You have an opinion on something? Or a view on what will work best? Why not try really hard to do the opposite and make it work? Why not challenge your own assumption and see where that leaves you?

Work hard to prove yourself wrong, and you might just come up with something that surprises you.
“In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

We're sorry, Harry Kane

A neat piece of creative opportunism from Licor Beirao that surfaced earlier this week. Worth a look.

Truth In Advertising

It seems we've offically reached the point where the ads in the movie Crazy People are better than the ads made by ad agencies. At least the ads in the film are based on some kind of truth, whilst the current output of agencies appears to be the product of delusion, self-importance and a fundamental and sometimes wilful misinterpretation of behavioural science and psychology. Anyway, enjoy the clips, they're still good value...

If you're interested in making advertising that's based in the truth of why people actually buy the products they buy, cast your eyes over our new book How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better - available exclusively at the Design Museum.

Or come in for chat sometime.

Do You Really Know Why People Buy?

Agencies and marketers need a sense check.

They need to ask themselves if they really know why people buy what they buy.

Usually the reality is that most people just want products that simply meet their needs and do what they’re meant to do (some economists call this ‘satisficing’ – when people choose, they don’t always search through the detail of every option available to find the perfect choice).

Most customers don’t need or want a brand to have a ‘higher purpose’ or to stand for something above and beyond the role that the product plays in their lives.

Of course it’s a positive thing for brand owners to feel that their products have a useful and worthwhile place in their customers’ lives.

But many brands are guilty of vastly overstating and overplaying their role in grand ‘brand purposes’.

Who wants to be told how to lead their life by a beer? Or moralised to by a soap manufacturer?

Certainly no one outside of marketing departments and deluded agencies.
“The worst thing about these hyperbolic brand visions is that they lead to equally fantastical and idiotic tactical work.” Mark Ritson, Associate Professor of Marketing, Melbourne Business School.
This kind of self-important approach leads to cynical, patronising advertising that has nothing to do with the real reasons we choose the products and services we use.

People aren’t fooled by it.

For more pithy challenging of received wisdom, our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.


Possibly the best footage of someone really enjoying listening to music whilst driving since Partridge lip-synced his way through Roachford's 'Cuddly Toy' in the opening credits of Alpha Papa.

Make sure you stay with it until 1'49 when the fun level gets dialled up a notch.

Thanks to our good friend Jimmer for bringing the wonderful Queenzflip to our attention.