Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Day Advertising Died

Yesterday I had mentioned 'craft' in the same sentence that I had mentioned 'advertising.'

To some of you, particularly if you were born after 1985, that may seem incongruous. But to a 44 year old like myself it's just plain sad. Because while personal computers and the Internet have given us unfettered access and the ability to crank out ideas at breakneck speed, they've also robbed us of the thing we used to call craft.

Take the example above.

It's one in a series of ads, produced by a friend and colleague Christopher Gyorgy, and it has stuck with me since the day I first laid eyes on it.

Granted, I'm unusually obsessed with the Holocaust and the lessons it has given to mankind (up until the campaign of Donald Trump, that is.) But my admiration goes far beyond the subject matter.

For one thing, the print ad features long copy. Pound for pound, still the best way to engage and persuade people. But Rich, people don't read long copy ads. You're right, they don't. Because ad agencies don't employ writers who can do long copy ads anymore.

If it doesn't fit on a Post It Note, or a bullet in a Powerpoint deck, or if it has 141 characters, it's as useless as an Apple Watch.

I also love that the ad employs a blind headline. It doesn't spoon feed. If you want to know what the ad is about you have to read it. The breadcrumbs are all there. But the reader/viewer must actively put two and two together. As a result the message is more impactful. (I apologize for the poor resolution, this was the only digital copy I could locate.)

The only thing I love more than blind headline is outstanding art direction. Look at the beautiful texture on this. It has dimension. Each piece has been placed on the page with the type of care and precision of a swiss watchmaker. That is not by accident.

It takes a great eye.

And more importantly it takes TIME.

Know why great advertising like this isn't made today? Because work like this doesn't spring from any 5X5 nonsense (5 ideas by 5 o'clock). Or, "here's the brief, let's see where you're at in 3 hours." Or, "I like it, but the Assistant Assistant Planner thinks it's negative."

I could give you a million more reasons, but then I'd run the risk of coming off as bitter and cynical.

I wouldn't want that to happen.


Eric Walker said...

Actually, as a "44-year-old" you would be born into the lack of craft trend, not predate it, which is weird because you helped teach me so much about the craft. ;)

Nate Davis said...

You sound like a cranky old guy--but I agree with you, because I'm one too. Back in the Pleistocene era when I was in ad school, we always did sharpie on paper first; don't think we got into computer layouts until partway through the program. But that was a different era, years before the iPhone. Since then, I think Mcluhan would argue that the ubiquity of the web has made us expect everything to happen that fast (Uber and Amazon are great examples), and the advertising creative and production process, like many other areas of life, has been prey to that.

The one hopeful counterpoint I would make is that many people--from our generation and younger--are feeling that there is a void in their ephemeral, mostly digital lives, and so they are hungry for things with a sense of history, heft, and place. Hence the popularity of craft beers, small-batch spirits, artisanal foods, selvedge denim, and so forth. (And of course, the attendant abuse of those terms in marketing.) On a related note, both Facebook and IDEO, leaders in the digital culture, have some sort of analog research labs for protoyping, screen printing, and so forth. But that sort of ad creative process? That's never coming back unless you have a time machine. ;-)