Rewind to the 70’s. All is forgiven.

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Rewind to the 70’s. All is forgiven.

I don’t see a lot of great ads anymore. They rarely grab my attention. Rarely make me laugh or even smile. And I don’t even mean whole campaigns that are good, I couldn’t ask that much. But one ad doesn’t sound like a lot to ask, does it?

Would somebody please tip a drink over Joan Collins?

So where have they gone? Why have they gone? And who is responsible for their disappearance?

Well the answers are many and various but let’s start by saying it’s a sign of the times. It’s a catch-all generalisation but it quickly stops us from pointing the finger at the obvious targets. It’s too easy to blame the agencies. I wouldn’t give them a total waiver for ‘can-carried’ but they can’t shoulder too much of the burden. Life’s just not that simple.

We pulled ourselves out of the brown velour haze that was the 70’s and started to enjoy ourselves a bit in the 80’s. Going out a bit, more tailored clothes, bottled lager, Perrier, fuel injected boy-racers, Atari, ZX81, disposable income, home ownership. A little hedonistic. We let our hair down a bit. Literally.

That whole vibe drove us, windmilling into the ecstatic, heady 90’s where caution was thrown to the wind. What the hell…let’s party. We ran a bit of credit up and so did the bankers…the wheels were quickly coming off.

Enter technology. Tech for the masses. The internet, powerful user–friendly home computers, tiny PC’s, mobile phones. Everybody wanted it. Expected it. But it wasn’t cheap, and our wages had sat still for a few years while our mortgages had rocketed. And two of us were working to pay for a house that one of us used to pay for on our own.

Interest rates soared and a multitude of homeowners found they couldn’t own homes any more. Life got complex. Procurement departments looked into costs on a forensic level. Creative was hard to put a rational price against so the emphasis went on ancillary services. Production and media buying were commoditized. The relationships slipped. No longer partners, the industry became servile.

The game changed. Fear set in.

By the millennium digital technology meant some creative work was quicker to build and to some degree achievable by less experienced hands. Corners could be cut as costs fell and procurement houses made sure the savings were passed on to the clients. They had shareholders to account to.

But some of the magic was lost. Relationships were handed over to bean-counters, the nameless Napoleons. It became a numbers game. A tick-box exercise. Budgets got smaller and expectations got higher. Concepts gave way to prettily Photo-shopped pictures. Headlines demanded results instead of smiles. Creative got rationalized and to some degree marginalized.

Agency groups bought up exciting new players like so much plankton, efficiently snuffing them out in order to buy the profits. Indulgently short term.

And this coincided with new parameters. Digital parameters. The MTV attention span and data. Nineteen years after the millennium we’re accounting for ROI, SEO, UX, UI, meta-data, meta-tags and even shorter attention spans demanding functional adjectives and data driven headline lengths and body copy drafted with the sole ambition of being easy to scan rather than read. Because people don’t anymore…we’re told.

So, it’s been a journey but we’re here now. No need to hang on to the shirt-tails to keep up. Let’s take stock.

We can and do measure so much that we’ve ignored the importance of the immeasurable. We’ve forgotten how to be human. How to relate. How to truly engage. To charm. There’s very little soul. We rationalized it away.

But we all love a little soul. We all want to get down with James Brown. We all cry when Lassie comes home. When Rocky wins. We’ll all sing along to Oasis. We all like a little human spirit to shine through. It’s catchier than Seaman.

So maybe we should all take back responsibility to throw a little corporate responsibility to the wind and add a little charm in the pot for our audiences to enjoy. Let’s treat our consumers with intelligence. Like adults. As we’d like to be treated ourselves.

If you want to be a bit more CDP. And a lot more Leonard. Drop us a line. We like making people smile.

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