The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Just How Thick Is Adland?
January 17, 2011, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment

I am amazed at how stupid adland is becoming.

Yes, I know after a litany of madness I should know better, but they still can do things that makes me look on in amazement.

And despair.

In public, they talk an amazing game – professional, business focused, open to new ideas – and yet when you see the majority of their actions, you realise they are intent on fucking everything up, including their – and the industries – credibility and relevance.

There is a television show in Australia [and I believe it’s in other countries now as well] called ‘The Gruen Transfer’.

It’s basically a show about adland where a smug host and his panelists [featuring someone who I am not a very big fan of at all. Clue: It’s not Russell Howcroft] talk about ad campaigns – either criticising them, analysing them or celebrating them.

Now that bit is OK … the bit that shows how fucked adland is, is the bit where they ask agencies to come up with ideas to address a particular subject matter or issue.

And after watching them, the key out takes appear to be …

1/ Adland has about as much understanding of real life as the Queen.

2/ Pretty much anything can be developed and delivered in about 60 minutes.

3/ They can ‘magic up’ a solution to anything. As long as it’s an ad.

4/ Funny is more important than effective.

Or said another way, in their quest to appear – or encourage – a sense of self importance … or fame … or intelligence … or any other chip-on-the-shoulder attribute commonly found in the industry of the ego … they will publicly piss on all their talk of being commercially minded by showing how they believe the answer to almost any problem – regardless of audience, situation or circumstance – is an ad and that it can be churned out in less time than it takes the Australian cricket team to be beaten by the Poms.

Oh hang on, there’s something else they say to.

Yep, adland will do all this for you, for free.


[Which is handy, because the way they/we present themselves, no one would actually want to pay for it]

Now I know they say all publicity is good publicity but try telling that to Gary Glitter.

I know adland is in a bit of a state, but it’s not due to lack of awareness, it’s due to lack of relevance and responsibility [at least to business] and if I was a client watching this show, I wouldn’t come away thinking …

“Those adfolks are a clever bunch, I should talk to them because that would make a difference to my company”

… I’d be looking at their approach, attitude and ideas – ideas the ad industry likes to celebrate and pat themselves on the back for – and be asking …

“Why the fuck would I hire that bunch of one dimensional, deluded pricks?”

But hey, who the hell cares about the industries issues and situation when there’s fame and publicity to gain – even if its the sort of fame and publicity that ensures the masses [and the corporate world] think you’re a car salesmen who deserves a good kicking, rather than a slap on the back.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating adland should talk and act like they are bland business people, but for fucks sake, if we want to get back at the boardroom table, a demonstration that we can walk the fine line between corporate need and audience need & desire would help, but then the best way to do that would be to not appear on a show that has been set up to ridicule, rather than inform.

Note to people in adland.

The public – and the corporate world – aren’t laughing with us.

78 Comments so far
Leave a comment

OK, I can now forgive last weeks war=happiness post because this is epic.

Hope yesterday/today was OK for you.

Comment by DH


both fucking barrels. in the fucking face. from close fucking range. with no fucking warning.

absofuckinglutely spectacular campbell.

messy and yet elegant at the same fucking time.

im going to sit back and wait for all the fucking little media whores, groupies and wannabes explain why this post is wrong and then wait for you to blow their fucking stuck in the clouds heads off because i can tell there is pent up rage in this post and youre not in the mood to take any prisoners.

i havent been this excited about anything involving you since the “miami incident” so you fucking go girl and make sure youve got lots of fucking ammo.

Comment by andy@cynic

and your old man would be proud of this one campbell. hope it all went as ok as it fucking could. thinking of you an mrs c.

Comment by andy@cynic

just found out who the other panelist is.

fucking boom.

youre fucking back.

Comment by andy@cynic

Three series of this exist according to Wikipedia. Can that be true? A three minute clip on YouTube served to reinforce every cliche in the book and was more time than I would want to spend in the company of any of those experts. I imagine clients would feel the same, but then realised that they’d be attracted to the fame – just as people now think Trump and Sugar are great businessmen.

Comment by John

so can we get this straight, youre agreeing with campbell. feels dirty doesnt it and yet the fucker is bang fucking on with this one.

Comment by andy@cynic

We can agree that he’s showing promise, but suspect that the nonsense will return all too soon.

Comment by John

I’m enjoying your discourse with your new friend.

Comment by John

Me too.

Comment by Evolution

is evolution said with a silent d?

Comment by andy@cynic

if campbell keeps this up for a fucking week im willing to consider being nice to him. for a day. no fucking worries of that then.

Comment by andy@cynic

Evolution is said with a silent “r” in my case. As I asked on the other post, albeit rhetorically: Projecting much?

Comment by Evolution

hahahaha. thats fucking gold. silent r. silent fucking arse more like. now run along to bed, you have school in the morning.

Comment by andy@cynic

We should try this again some time, young man, when the red mist around your head has come down and you might just remember how to communicate with relevance. Although, it seems someone has to teach you about this first. Hereby, I consider that done.

Comment by Evolution

this all fucking started because you said campbell was advocating fucking war and that he was lucky to get his family out. if you say shit you should expect it thrown back at you.

and theres no red mist around me. this is me in a good mood.

but its been fun. come back again.

Comment by andy@cynic

It appears it is all slightly different. If I do not say shit, I do get shit thrown at me. Nothing I couldn’t handle. You get used to it in this awesome world. Above all, I am awesome.
As for you, I suggest you go back to the start and have a look at it again. No need to apologize, BTW, because it has indeed been fun for me. Keeps me in training. The creative muscle, you know.

Comment by Evolution

I agree with everything everyone has said about this, but after checking out how many people in the advertising industry have appeared on it, I would say we may be in the minority, at least in Australia.

Yet again adland jumps into something with both feet, forgetting to stop before they leap because the lure of fame and self importance beats out the boring traits of credibility and wider industry relevance.

There was a chance for the industry to regain some credibility with this show, but the canny producers knew that if they stuck a camera in the face of the fame whores, they could get them behaving like muppets, literally and metaphorically.

Your last line sums it up perfectly Robert. Good post.

Comment by Pete

This is so true, especially everything you say about the Gruen. My last agency was involved in two attempts on The Pitch segment. The first time we went with a cracking strategy and more clever creative, but we lost to a gag about bongs. The next time, we won because we made sex gags.

Bongs and bonking… We’re a sophisticated bunch aren’t we?!

I’m glad you didn’t mean my new boss though, mate 🙂

Comment by Age

its fucking australia. what else do you need other than bongs and bonking to be culturally fucking relevant. except beer.

Comment by andy@cynic

and sheep.

Comment by andy@cynic

hang on. have you got a new fucking job age? didnt you just start a new fucking job? i like your dirty money grabbing style but if you tried that with me, id chop your fucking hands off.

Comment by andy@cynic

Your respect means everything to me, Andy 🙂

Yeah I did but it just wasn’t working out for me – they’re a qual research company and i missed being in a creative agency environment (despite this post!)

Comment by Age

“qual research company” should have been a big enough fucking insight to stay the fuck away. planners. cant live with them. cant kick them in the fucking head.

Comment by andy@cynic

Congrats Age. All official I take it.

Comment by Rob

Isn’t someone who speaks at the opening of a pair of curtains like appearing on this shitfest?


Comment by Billy Whizz

It’s the amateur hour version Billy.

Besides, if I appeared on the Gruen Transfer, any segment featuring me would be one long beep mainly because I’d spend the whole time telling one of the panelists he’s a fucking pathetic wanker and then demanding the names and numbers of anyone who has ever appeared on the show so I could call them up and shout abuse down the phone at them at how they have damaged the value and credibility of our industry, even though I previously thought it couldn’t get any lower than it already is.

Comment by Rob

it would fucking go off on pay per view.

Comment by andy@cynic

So this is what you say when people tell you “but my business is to sell media-based communications!”. Nice one Rob.

Comment by Rafik

I try to please. Well, people I like anyway.

Comment by Rob

rob, you know I love it when you rip advertising a new arsehole.

Comment by lauren

rip and arsehole being the operative fucking words. this post gives them a shitter like a clowns fucking pocket. what a start to the week. except its fucking sunday.

Comment by andy@cynic

Well this is going swimmingly at the moment – how very exciting. I say ‘exciting’ because I’m going to speak at some ad conference in Oz next month and I think I might bring this subject up. So to adfolk in Sydney, get your tomatoes ready, I am confident I can make you want to use them.

And welcome to ‘Evolution’ …there’s no need for pseudonyms, we’re all friends here and I promise Andy doesn’t bite, not unless there’s food in front of him. Hahaha!

Comment by Rob

You know, I’m sorry that you didn’t allow comments on your last post, because it was a wonderful post and provided a link to you, the person, someone I’ve never met, maybe a lot of your respondents don’t know and what most posts maybe don’t want or are afraid of (but I don’t think yours).
My father died 40 years ago (by the way Andy, I’m 68). So I went home to Dublin from London to attend the funeral. In good Irish Catholic fashion my father’s body was laid out in the bedroom for “viewing’ in the new home, a new house on a new estate my parents had recently retired to. Friends,
relatives, and neighbors are coming to the house to pay their respects.
I’m out in the back garden trying to stay in control and I had this exchange with a two-doors-away neighbor of theirs:

He: We were just talking about your Dad, he’s the first one (person to die) on the estate.

Me: So why don’t you call the Guinness Fucking Book of Records!

I later sought him out and apologized, it is hard to know what to say, even when you work on it.


Comment by Ciaran McCabe

sixty fucking eight? surely youve got better things to do than come on this shit heap. still your reply to your dads neighbour was fucking grade a so youre one of us and welcome to come back whenever you want, dependent on your pension covering your internet time.

sixty fucking eight. fucking amazing.

and campbell is a good man. he hides it fucking well, but somewhere inside hes got a heart of gold. 6 carat. but still gold.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ll remind you of that.

Comment by Rob

i forgot to say youre gerald ratner gold and we all know how fucking long that stays in worthwhile nick.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hi Ciaran …

Thank you for your nice words. I didn’t allow comments because it was for/about my Dad and it just felt wrong – despite the fact I allow comments on a whole heap of things that I should keep well away from you lot.

I am quite surprised to hear you’re 68. I don’t know why, but I really like that you are. You’ve seen more than us lot put together so I am just grateful you don’t tell us all to shut up and get with the real World.

As for your reply to your Father’s neighbours comment – I can understand. Whilst that situation didn’t happen to me, something similar did and my response was equally as inappropriate … and yet in some ways, it was the most appropriate response I could ever have given.

Anyway, thanks for the words, I hope one day I can meet you for a diet coke [sorry, I don’t drink] and you can put me and my misguided views, right. Ha.

Comment by Rob

You don’t drink! You don’t drink! and I thought that the comments by your good friends – and you seem to have quite a few – in fact this whole blog was written under the influence (maybe I’ve just been judging the lot by Andy, and there’s no doubt that he’s constantly under sedation – I would imagine – nay, hope – under duress).

Anyway, to let you all know that I’m not some old bitter fuck living past glories with the help of the internet – and God knows I do that – I’ve just gotten the most challenging problem of my entire life (let’s be real here, from a business pov) and I think I’ve found a way to crack it – and the client is (kind of) agreeing. And it may mean avoiding the poorhouse.
I may need to call on your help.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

if you worked with campbell, youd need fucking drink and drugs too.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hi Ciaran, I would be happy to chat about anything, though I would ask you to not openly show your disappointment because I’m such a sensitive soul.

Comment by Rob

About time someone highlighted how these shows humiliate the advertising industry rather than celebrate it. Good post Robert.

Comment by Bazza

Great post, Rob.

The worst part of the show is how many folks who aren’t in ‘the industry’ fucking love it.

I’m so sick of it being the first thing people bring up when I mention that I work in adland.

Such a lost opportunity to uncover the funny and interesting stories that go into campaigns but which no-one ever hears about.

Comment by Felix

I personally would love to see you appear on the show, for all the foul mouthed, insult throwing reasons you mention in one of your comments.

But your post is bang on, as is Pete’s comment regarding ego overshadowing a reality check.

Comment by George

you just know hed show that leo burnett video where they all mime to that fucking pointer sisters song and look fucking twats, and guess what, australian ad media has voted the ceo and cd the best in australia, shows they know fucking nothing except how to reward agencies who entereveryfuckingawardshowgoing.

god i want campbell to appear on it now. pity he has a face for fucking radio.

Comment by andy@cynic

It is so sad, there are a number, not that many, Leo Burnett ads, down the ages (and you all know now what a stretch that covers) that I really admire but that totally gobshite “Humankind” is totally un-fucking-believable.
How do you fucking explain this shite to your children, how do you explain it to anyone?
My God, I sometimes have a problem explaining why I help sell stuff that people don’t really NEED, but actually like, to try to camoflauge it with this bollocks is appalling.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

I’ve not heard of the show. I’ve now watched the odd clip on youtube. It’s rubbish television.

Comment by Marcus

Woulldn’t it be funny if they got some social media gurus on it?
By the way, I know your trying to make a point, but I doubt anyone really thinks it’s supposed to represent real advertising (despite the fact it does) anymore than the Apprentice represents real corporate shenanigins or Stictly represents real ballroon dancing (if every dance hall contained the likes of Ola and co in those outfits I’d be there quicker than you could say foxtrot)

Comment by northern

My point exactly NP. It’s rubbish television.

Comment by Marcus

You’re right NP, but the reason I think so man in adland like it is because it makes them fall in love with the industry they wished they worked in … which is interesting, because when I watched it, it it basically made me thank god that I don’t work in such a one-dimensional, sponsored jokes advertising production line.

But then I’m weird obviously.

Comment by Rob

Oh yes they do NP.

Comment by John

Oh no the don’t

Comment by northern

Yet again, your spelling pulls the rug from underneath you … though Doddsy would pedantically point out it’s your typing that’s the problem.

Comment by Rob

Dodgy keyboard

Comment by northern

sticky fucking keyboard more like. youporning again groper?

Comment by andy@cynic

You know me so well

Comment by northern

so does the sex pest police.

Comment by andy@cynic

They made a UK pilot I heard, but nothing has been seen of it since.

I think there is something positive in the idea of getting people to understand advertising, that we can use this to push away from hard sell into engaging ideas.

However, we need to show that there is thought and work behind our ideas. We have sold ourselves short as an industry for far too long.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

why is it good for people to understand how advertising works? isnt the point it shouldnt need explainatuon, it should just make people do shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Never assume people are dumb. Some might well turn out to be. But advertising and communication is no rocket science. Everyone could know that. And this TV format goes to show it. “The consumer ins’t a moron. She’s your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.”

Comment by Evolution

yet again youre missing the fucking point. you really must learn to read, itll help you become an adult.

Comment by andy@cynic

Please help me, young man, what is the point you think I’m missing? I might just be able to decipher your words and find a meaning in them.

Comment by Evolution

who is assuming any fucker is dumb? no fucker here is and youre very fucking old school if you think ads are just about making an ad with a fucking slogan. believe it or fucking not were saying the same fucking thing in a twisted way but that show teaches no one about advertising, except make parents think they should never let their kids do it because its all hair gel and bad fucking joke writing.

Comment by andy@cynic

“why is it good for people to understand how advertising works? isnt the point it shouldnt need explainatuon, it should just make people do shit.” You.
If you read my comment again, you might notice that the quote I used states a contrary to what you suggest I think. Interesting what you are saying “in a twisted way”. The hair gel days are gone, BTW. Of course, parents should never let their kids do it. Smoke and mirrors and bad jokes. And projecting.

Comment by Evolution

I hope to fuck you never go in it because you can understand context or subtext. or make a decent argument. bye bye little child.

Comment by andy@cynic

If one understands context and subtext and can make a decent argument one should not be in advertising? I see. Hello! Being able to do all that is fun, at least for me. See you around young man. I have to run. School in the morning, you know. Don’t miss me too much. I would give you a handkerchief (silent “k”) now, if it were possible.

Rob, I have to run now, as said above. School in the morning and it is almost 8. What no one has said or not is in the eye of the beholder. As is what I allegedly might think. The young man would agree, I am sure.
Maybe, you can just give some examples of what adland has done to make a difference. Not as a charity show and peace-of-mind project, but together with clients. If we talk about making a difference that does mean making a difference in society, a positive one.

It is not about reinterpreting what adland is, it is about reinterpreting what clients are. That is the little probelm if one is not seen as a partner.

I have no problem with the show. The show is one more bad TV infotainment format. Nothing I like to watch. I doubt the show undermines the people or agencies who do more than the usual. It is a chance for them to stand out with their work, because it exposes the bad. If the sponsored jokes or pithy television ads are not what the good do, then I do not see why such a show would be a problem.

Comment by Evolution

While sadly there are not as many examples of what adland has done to help society as I’d like them to be, I’d say there are still plenty but then that is dependent on what ‘helping society’ means from your perspective because it could be argued that simply helping economies turn, which helps people be employed is one of them. Even though I don’t necessarily subscribe to that point of view.

The reason I have a problem with that show is that it doesn’t show what adland can do – or the process it takes to do it – it ultimately reflects the cliches/negative images that many [esp. business] have in their mind and that further reinforces the devaluation of what we can do when we have the right people, client and brief.

Of course, this happened well before the television show happened, but adland have failed to embrace it with the goal of changing perceptions and increasing value, but basically making a name for themselves in the mindless entertainment category.

It seems you have a lot of questions/thoughts which I’d be happy to hear and discuss with you if you want to write to me directly.

Thanks for the comments though.


Comment by Rob

My point was essentially:

1. That if people see the creativity of adland they might start wondering why they are fed hard sell bullshit

2.If people see how ads are made they might start to demand better. That helps us when dealing with clients that don’t want real creativity.

Don’t think TGT is doing that though…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Then there’s the worry that if they see how ads are made [ala The Gruen Transfer] they’ll wonder why we charge so much or worse, why don’t they do it themselves. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I’m confused.

No one has said the audience is dumb and if you read this blog for a while, you’d know that is one aspect of advertsisings attitude, that I – and everyone else on here – hates.

Without wishing to speak for Andy [he can do that himself] I also think you have totally missed the point if you think he/me/we are advocating advertising is all about a pithy line on a TV spot. Of course people want to know more about what they’re buying – or some do – and of course, with technology, you have to ensure that bit is covered for both peace-of-mind purposes as well as to stop any negative rumours … but our view is advertising is much more than that and capable of much more and so my issue with the show is that is presents the lowest-denominator of what we do … and whilst there is no science in it, there are some sciences in it … however the major point for me is that if the industry presents itself to the wider world as it does on the Gruen Transfer, it undermines the people and agencies who do do more than sponsored jokes or pithy television ads and that is a tragedy because adland can make a difference and in the modern day, that means reinterpreting what adland is, even if the majority of the industry are steadfast in holding on to what they know.

Comment by Rob

Well, thank you Rob. Actually, I do not have any questions at the moment. As for thoughts, I will just share and discuss them on here or anywhere.

Comment by Evolution

I initially wanted to post this anonymous but you know, spine and all that. I may get kicked in the ass for it at any given point by either Rob or someone else but my honest opinion (not having watched the show) is that with some people, despite their best intentions, the higher up they are in the hierarchy, the less they are willing to get their hands dirty and go out, see the world, talk to people and all that.

The higher up you get and the more money you earn doesn’t change the fact that you’re human so we all retreat in these really comfy cosy lives away from plebs, in taxis, in cars, in expensive bars, in airport lounges – because we’ve all worked so hard not to be like them, right? In The King’s Speech, Bertie played by Firth says that the only glimpse he has into the common person’s life is when he’s taxied around the streets of London to one place or the other and they stare at him through the window. I’d be shocked if it was any different for people high up in adland too (whom I don’t know, but can only assume from what I’ve seen so far).

I don’t know about life experience but it sounds like your money and position become catalysts for doing interesting things to do with yourself, but not necessarily with the job. Cindy Gallop is my favourite example because of all the shoes she’s amassed – and for what? I wouldn’t imagine her going out and looking at what common people are doing; she’s become a name/face for something that other people likely do on her behalf.

The moment you lose someone to a more senior position that takes them away from the “old stuff” they were doing, you’ll rarely see them as excited by the essence of their work: curiosity, bloody curiosity. A general curiosity about the world around really. Their time will be lost in meetings, as the agency-client interface or other things like that.

That’s what saddens me most when I see someone so out of touch with the real world (“Doesn’t everyone have an iPad these days?”) so that’s how I imagine this show to be…then again I may be wrong but just wanted to get that off my chest.

If you like someone’s work…just don’t bloody promote them please.


* inhales… exhales *

Comment by andrea

So much for spine. I agree with the young man, in general, not just when it comes to advertising. He might have forgotten to add that one should preferably not be a woman. Especially not a woman who buys a lot of shoes.

What money and position make easy is to tap into the hubris-trap. We only need to have a look at any economically developed nation and the banking system before the shakeup in 2008, for example.

Comment by Evolution

fair fucking point andrea, not every fucker is like that but a lot are and for some its because of the comfortable fucking seats on the gravy train and for others the way the agency is set up they remove your chance to do any shit other than manage people and fucking problems. it doesnt have to be that fucking way but it is for a fuckload of the time which is why i think some fuckers dont get paid huge pissing amounts because theyre good but because its to make up for not being able to do the shit i love. never happened to me at cynic though. those planning partner fucks of mine paid me peanuts and made me do all the fucking work.

Comment by andy@cynic

I totally get this Andrea – infact going back in as an employee, one of the things I was scared about was that I’d never do work, just manage … but like Andy said, even though companies have an influence in how this manifests itself, at its heart it’s down to you so you can get promoted and still get your hands dirty so stop holding yourself back now and show your best side so you can get the bigger projects and the bigger pay. 🙂

Comment by Rob

It’s one of the fundamental issues with planning, the better you get the less time you have to spend understanding people.

The danger is not promotion in itself, but the mindset that says you can stop learning and listening once you move up.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Rob, I find myself 85% agreeing with you. Though for me, The Gruen Transfer is proof of what happens when you give an agency no budget, time or metrics by which you plan to judge their output other than popularity.
In my aforementioned ‘brief’ the only answer is a couple of creatives bandying some ideas together and producing exactly what the brief asked them to produce – entertainment.

Having worked for 2 agencies now that were involved in The Pitch thats basically how it rolled.

And for me, proves the reason why clients pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for our time, insights and understanding. Not just gags from the creative department. Fantastic I say.

That being said, it wasn’t all bad, this ad for the Greens was excellent.

Comment by hayley

Hi Hayley and thanks for popping by.

I find myself 85% agreeing with you too [Ha!] but the issue I have is that adland jumped in without seemingly ever considering the perception they would be handing out to the wider World.

Sure it might say we’re an entertaining bunch and occasionally can do interesting and relevant things [like the Greens spot – even if it is just ad – though it’s by a mate of mines agency so I have to be a bit nice, ha] the overall image we’re putting out is basically every negative perception people and industry have of us and that does put questions into peoples heads about what we do and what we can do to move things forward and that’s a very bad state of affairs.

The show had the potential to show us in a good light – we could have shown how much we know about people and how we can come up with solutions rather than ads – but as much as the producers of the show put in place circumstances to make that harder to do, the sad part is the ad industry were all too keen to throw what little cred we have left out the window, for a chance to mug mindlessly at a camera and pretend we’re important and famous.

I’m not blaming the Gruen Transfer, I’m blaming adlands continued ability to grab defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Comment by Rob

Whoa! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a entirely different
subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and
design. Wonderful choice of colors!

Comment by creative agency di jakarta

Leave a Reply