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

The State Of Advertising Is In A State …

I’m back.

Did you miss me?

No, didn’t think so …

Anyway, a friend of mine recently wrote an article in the UK edition of Campaign Magazine about the state of outdoor advertising.

He made many good points – from the fact it’s now been relegated to ‘out of home’ categorisation to so much of it ignoring the basic principles of static communication by shoving so many words on it, you get the impression it’s a print ad, just repurposed for outdoor.

But for me, his point was not just about outdoor, but advertising as a whole.

Have a look at this ad by BBH London.

Nice isn’t it.

It ran in 1997 [I think]

Now look at this ad.

Same product.

Same agency.

Even the same line.

Horrible isn’t it.

OK, it’s not horrible by todays standards, but when you compare it to the ad they made 20 years earlier, it is.

And what’s with that ‘beautifully designed’ copy?

As if a car manufacturer would choose to make an ‘ugly designed’ car.

In the last 20 years, the standard of creativity has been severely dented.

Oh sure, Cannes is out there celebrating winners left, right and centre but there’s 2 flaws in their praise:

1. So much of it is scam.

2. The rest of it is niche.

But here’s the thing, the quality inside ad agencies has not diminished – if anything, it has improved – and let’s not forget, both of these ads were done by BBH … one of the all time greats … so I can only assume the shift downwards is being caused by clients focused on satisfying their ego rather than intriguing their audience.

Which makes me question whether clients understand what advertising is and how it actually works … because it seems they are of the belief the masses are sat at home waiting for them to tell them what they should care about so they can run out at the earliest opportunity and make the purchase.

Of course I know that’s not true and of course, I know there are some amazing clients out there – because I’ve worked with them – but maybe this madness is because clients are more focused on the words/phrases played back in their post campaign research analysis [ie: beautifully designed] rather than aiming for society be intrigued, excited or hungry for their brand.

In other words, for all the research and data we have on audiences, there’s far too much emphasis on what brands want people to care about them rather than understanding – and connecting to them – on what they actually care about.

So to Audi, please get back to communicating driver to driver, because not only is this ‘brand to consumer’ approach not working, it’s making you look like every other bland car brand in the category and that kind of defeats the purpose of investing millions of dollars in marketing.

28 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Answer to your question on the first line. No. You’re welcome.

Comment by Billy Whizz

2nd line. Fuck.

Comment by Billy Whizz

The only reason you get away with the mistake is no one pays close attention to what Rob writes on here.

Comment by DH

To be fair, I did say that before you pointed it out Billy.

Comment by Rob

The other way of looking at this is independence vs being owned by a holding company.

Comment by DH

But that 2nd ad is still bad by holding company standards, forget BBH’s.

Comment by DH

thats fucking true. wieden wont sell so wiedens work wont ever suck as fucking much. when campbell goes back to suck the cash out of uncle dans wallet hell confirm it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Let’s see shall we …

Comment by Rob

Surely Dan wouldn’t make that mistake again?

Comment by Bazza

campbell proves he can make supposedly sane fuckers make stupid decisions time and time again.

Comment by andy@cynic

One advantage of being a new parent is you are awake early so you can read your new posts. I’m not sure if what you have written is great or sad. Not because of what you have said, which I agree with, but seeing how bland Audi and BBH have become.

Comment by Pete

Isn’t that what wives are for?

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by andy@cynic

dont worry pete, only fucking lasts 18 years.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great to hear from you matey … and congratulations, so happy for you all. And yes, it’s tragic to see that decline, especially as I’ve bought an Audi, hahaha.

Comment by Rob

that 1st ad is good but so fucking 90s british advertising. i should start a tv show called advertising antiques roadshow, id be a fucking brilliant host.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wouldn’t you just show your work?

Comment by DH

and whats your fucking point?

Comment by andy@cynic

Nothing. I’d watch it.

Comment by DH

you know it makes fucking sense.

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree with what you say. One thing that bemuses me about the advertising trade (and the marketing trade in general) is its apparent shortcomings in selling / marketing itself. The failure to persuade clients to take a certain view is like losing the game even before it’s begun.

Many other service trades such as lawyers, management consultants, etc. command hourly rates, even when you take them out for lunch and talk about their snotty spawns’ inane extracurricular activities. And they can do so because they are seen as someone in their respective fields that require specialist expertise and experience. How do advertising agencies charge? Not like them.

Whilst I believe the clients have some responsibility, I am not convinced that it is wholly their responsibility.

Comment by Chikashi

Absolutely true … but the fact this example involves BBH, I do have to think the role of the client has been amplified in this case. But overall, yes … the fact adland sold the value of creativity down the river is a disaster, the fact they are now viewing a ‘point of view’ as potentially dangerous for attracting clients just highlights why so many in business don’t value what we do. To be fair, how can they when so many in our industry appear not to either. Thank god not everyone is like this, but when the industry would cut their grandmothers throat for a $1, it’s going to be hard for the industry to unite against this ‘death by a 1000 compromises’.

Comment by Rob

I’ve noticed this for at least a decade. The annuals stink too. I no longer buy them.

I can’t get hired as a copywriter. I’m told my copy doesn’t have those magical keywords that their super-secret algorithms say make people hypnotically click through and make a sale. But wh n I ask what they are I get a lot of BS and stonewalling, or I’m told only computers can determine it.

Yet I too keep hearing that advertising sucks. You’d think when process doesn’t work they stop using it.
But then again doctors continued bloodletting for hundreds of years even though it never worked and they just wouldn’t admit it. People can be stubborn.

Comment by John Grabowski

Hi John, thanks for commenting. I don’t know if it’s stubbornness or the fact that if they acknowledge the truth, it highlights their own stupidity – let alone opens the door to their own irrelevence.

Comment by Rob

This is so accurate and relevant. It’s a continuous battle between real insights and “information” that brands Want to know. It’s hard to find the authenticity, harder still to cut out the inauthentic authenticity. Thank you for sharing 🙂

Comment by Nishita Tamuly

Excellent post Robert. I don’t know if I entirely agree the quality inside agencies has increased, but the quality of work has certainly declined. I have always been a big fan of 48 sheet poster sites, but I cannot think of anything that has captured my attention or imagination for a long, long time.

Comment by Lee Hill

[…] when you remember there’s so little good car ads about, it’s not that hard to ‘stand […]

Pingback by A Car Ad On Social Media That Doesn’t Totally Suck … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] I slagged BBH off recently for an Audi print campaign, it gives me great pleasure to say the piece of work I love is also by BBH and also for […]

Pingback by The Power Of A Point Of View … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Leave a Reply