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

Putting The Con In Icon …

I’ve talked a lot about how the industry loves to talk about innovation when what they actually mean is evolution.

Hell, sometimes it’s not even that … sometimes it’s just a new name for an old thought process or discipline that was expressed as part of what people always did rather than split out in an attempt to make more money or gain more influence.

I once said to the wonderful Martin Weigel that I am pretty certain marketing is the only industry that would make a paper plane and claim they invented flight.

Now that doesn’t mean people aren’t adding to what is being done … or bringing new thinking and craft to it … or finding new ways to incorporate it into work … but it does mean they’re trying to maybe ‘own’ too much of the narrative of the discipline. Suggesting they’re inventors when they’re actually craftspeople. Valuing ‘theory’ rather than actually making something truly interesting with it.

Now there’s many possible reasons for this.

+ We’re in marketing and so they’re marketing themselves.

+ Being a craftsperson has lost the value it deserves.

+ It’s cheaper to badge than to actually create.

+ People don’t know their history.

Now I’m sure I’m going to be accused of being a prick … an old, condescending prick. And maybe I am. But I am also not claiming I’ve invented anything and I’m just pointing out neither has many of the people who do.

And there’s nothing wrong with not inventing something … because doing your job really well is something worth celebrating, especially when you see what passes for ‘good’ in so much of what is put out these days.

But it appears the allure of pioneer is infectious these days.

Case in point is the talk around eco-systems, flywheels, multi-platform DTC/e-comm and the like. Yes, it’s amazing. Yes, it driving new ways for brands to behave and earn. Yes, technology has allowed this to be done in more powerful and profound ways. But in many cases, it’s not revolution, it’s not really even innovation … it’s evolution.

And why do I say that? Have a look at this.

That is from 1957.


It’s Walt Disney’s ecosystem/flywheel/multi-platform DTC, e-comm [without the e] for the Disney corporation.

The blueprint for how he would use creativity to fuel his business in ways where every division is helping another division.

And while modern expressions of this have evolved and added more nuance, it’s not miles off, which is why whether you like/hate/respect/loathe him or the Disney Company, that’s pretty progressive thinking.

Or it was in 1957. in 2021 maybe not so much.

[Though, being honest, it probably is – which is even more worrying]

And yet we read so much from people acting like Walt Disney … except they’re not building their own brand, they’re selling their concept to build your own brand.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Fuck, there’s a lot of value and money in that.

It’s genuinely exciting when you see someone identify opportunities in old approaches and habits that millions have missed. And for that, you should absolutely be using it to build a platform for your future success, growth and change.

I am literally cheering from the sidelines. All I ask is you please don’t act like you have invented flight when you’ve actually made a more efficient and effective paper plane. Not because I’m a bitter bastard – OK, let’s not go there – but because the future of this industry requires bigger leaps not better wrapping paper and the more we manage up our abilities, the more we lower the reality of our potential.

Christ, that’s a heavy post for a Monday isn’t it.

Given I know what the rest of the week has in store, it gets worse. Eek.

16 Comments so far
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I’ve not seen another industry who spends so much energy trying to look like they are progressive than actually be progressive. There are others who come close, but advertising is in a league of its own.

Comment by Pete

Oh there’s definitely more than adland who excel in this, but I’m with you … I still think we’re the World Champs.

Comment by Rob


Comment by DH

You should hear some of the pitches going on in Silicon Valley. They leave advertising in the dust for an ability to hype average..

Comment by Bazza

Your final paragraph is spot on Robert. Anyone who is trying to push a discipline forward is to be applauded. But to do it well, they need to approach what they are doing with open eyes, not selective context.

Comment by George

Yep …

But then, given the shit anyone gets for even attempting to make something better – rather than revolutionary – I get why they just think, “fuck it, I’m going to big it up” because it’s still more than many of the vocal pricks slagging it off have ever done.

Comment by Rob

Funny how the people who are the most vocal are the people who have never done anything of note.

Comment by DH

By all accounts Walt Disney was a complicated character, but he was a visionary in terms of commercialising the creative and entertainment industries.

Comment by Lee Hill

Imagine how pissed he’ll be when they defrost him.

Comment by DH

This made me laugh out loud.

Comment by Bazza

hell end up as fucking president. and still be younger than the most recent bunch of pricks.

Comment by andy@cynic

I make the best paper planes.

Comment by DH

Not the best answer for someone paid as a designer.

Comment by Bazza

not the best designer.

Comment by andy@cynic

dont cry dave. youre pretty fucking good.

Comment by andy@cynic

There’s more innovation on pornhub than advertising.

Comment by Billy Whizz

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