Thursday, April 6, 2017

A rotten formula.

The big trouble in the agency world has nothing to do with broken business models or declining viewership or the vagaries of digital doohickies.

The big trouble in the agency world is this: In the long-running battle of creative versus science, science has won. And won resoundingly.

There’s no better evidence of this than the recent Pepsi debacle. A two-and-a-half minute “commercial” that was taken off the internet practically the moment it was put on the internet.

This film was the very apotheosis of formulaic. Take this trend, this demographic, this “moment in time,” this star, this clich├ęd casting, this music and you’re sure to have a success.

Formulaic—the very word we so often use to disparage a movie or a mini-series or a TV show—is exactly what we’re buying into when it comes to making advertising.

Make an ad that looks like other ads. Cast people who look like other people. Use the same, acceptable, hackneyed language everyone else uses.

So everything looks the same, feels the same, says the same. And works the same. Like shit.

Because we have followed the mandated formula. We’ve adhered to best practices.

In fact, programmatic advertising, that oh-so-courant mutation of creativity is, practically by definition formulaic.

It’s advertising based on if-then propositions.

If we cast a celebrity, if we buy a hit song, if we show beautiful millennials, then our creative will be successful. If we send this message to this person, then our click through rates will soar.

The sole reason for agencies to exist and to do creative for clients is because clients can often suffer from group-think. They know the party line, so they act in accordance to that party line.

Creativity is oppositional. You laugh at a joke because it surprises you. You admire a film because it shows you something real. You linger in front of a painting because it tells you something new.

The things you like to do, to eat, to hear, to date, to talk to, to kiss, to love are things that surprise you. Things that are unexpected. Things that don’t follow formulas.

I guess you could look at it this way.

Science is a brick.

Creativity is a wine glass.

When they bump up against each other, the brick always wins.

That said, you can’t drink wine out of a brick.

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