June 26, 2023

Advertising is Broken 

595 Words

Advertising is Broken. Campaigns today are characteristically cheap, ephemeral and lifeless almost to the point of fascination. Indeed, I have already indulged in the first of many generalizations, but it is one I am certain most consumers and creatives can agree with. I would argue that there are but three producers of non-sterile advertising: Apple, courtesy of TBWA/ MediaArts Lab, IKEA, and the luxury/fashion industry.

Consistent among them is their balance of playfulness, elegance, and aversion towards complacency. Boutique agencies in particular, namely MAYBE Paris founded by Kevin Tekinel and Charles Levai, and BeGood Studios founded by Lina Kutsovskaya, embody these essential qualities in the fashion sector.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, our beloved multinational conglomerates are seemingly contented so long as their media spend does not exceed their yearly budget — content has evidently become a distant afterthought.

I want to provide a blueprint for companies that wish to avoid contributing to the landfill of mediocrity that constitutes modern advertising; these are the principles of what I have deemed “Anti-Advertising”:

  1. Tell Stories, Not Facts
  2. Brand First, Product Second
  3. Make It Last

Tell Stories, Not Facts

None of us like to be lectured to, but we all want  to be part of a story. Coco Chanel created a world that continues to enthrall everyone who hears her name. Without ever explaining why No. 5 is “superior” to other perfumes, it has definitively become the world’s most famous fragrance. Her image is one of timeless Parisian elegance enrobed in an elusive androgynous appeal, making each customer feel as though they are never simply buying another purse or pair of shoes, but their own place in Chanel’s ever-alluring fantasy.

Surround your brand with a story that enriches its core values, and each product will be imbued with a wealth of meaning far more valuable than the product itself.

Brand First, Product Second

In 1999 Apple introduced a campaign that forever changed the image of their company. ‘Think Different.’ did not reveal any new Apple products. Instead, it featured people. People who inspire the human race. People who have dedicated their lives to improving the world for many generations beyond their own. There was no mention of megapixels or battery life or storage or speed. They simply changed the conversation. No longer was it “who sells the best phone?”, but “which company shares my values?”. Anyone who sees the campaign will know exactly what the brand stands for and what they aspire to become. And consider for a moment how you view someone after learning they own an android.

Make It Last

This principle is by far the most scarce in modern advertising. There are but a handful of campaigns from the last century that have endured beyond the week they aired, let alone a year, a decade, or longer. But those that have continue to resonate with us.

“Just Do It.” “Think Different.” “The Happiest Place On Earth.” It’s not easy to know what will last and what will die, but stress testing every idea against a 50 or 100 year period will give a reliable indication.

The main idea I want to leave you with is that advertising is not the problem; it is the companies who misuse it. If advertisers start telling honest, compelling stories that people want to be a part of, if they start showing their customers what they believe in rather than simply how their product is “unique”, and if they do so in a manner that outlives fleeting trends, we may have a chance at making humanity more humane.

Simon Archibald
Director of ANTI*