Crawford warns of dangers facing adland as he looks for new opportunities

One of Australia’s leading planners, outgoing Clemenger BBDO Sydney’s Al Crawford, has said the advertising industry is facing a correction, and “common sense” will need to prevail if it wants to continue to connect with audiences.


Clemenger’s executive planning director, who will be departing the agency after eight years in April, noted that while common sense was creeping back into adland, agencies need to go back to their roots in order to sell more to consumers.

“There is a danger in the industry, and it’s not just the creative output, it’s the strategic output, it’s not sufficiently connected,” he said.

Crawford noted that an announcement by Ogilvy in the UK in January 2017 – that planners were interacting with people as part of their primary research – was “noble”, but it was “no more and no less than what we should be doing and no more or no less than what we were doing”.

“It’s not an innovative reaction, it’s a reaction that says we’ve got to get back to our roots which is selling stuff to normal people. There was a strong sense at one stage that all the rules had changed and the industry loves that sense of seismic shift, and we like the dramatic.

“What we are realising now is that the future is a composite of the unchanging and the changing and I’m hopeful there is sort of a greater wisdom to the next 10 years or so, than the last 10 years.”

He said strategy over the past 10 years has been very much focused on digital technology and keeping up with change, but adland is now correcting itself.

“The biggest thing that’s happening at the moment, irrespective of the age of the industry is I just think common sense is creeping back into it at the moment,” Crawford said.

“When you get a moment in time, like the arrival of digital which suddenly adds a whole suite of options to the marketer’s armoury, there’s going to be a lot of people in that new frontier.

“I feel like the industry at the moment is going to a good kind of correction where common sense and data is prevailing,” he added.

Crawford hopes the move towards data and relying on facts and figures will enable advertisers to better connect and sell to audiences.

Referring to comments by outgoing BMF co-founder Warren Brown to Mumbrella this week that agencies and creatives needed to start making work that appealed to consumers rather than the industry, he said adland needed to think of who its audience is.

“Warren was quite interesting, in so far as I do think another one of the challenges for the industry, at a time when it’s being disrupted, is to turn outwards rather than inwards,” he said.

“In a weird kind of way this is a popularity contest, what you’re trying to do is do stuff that works well with consumers ultimately, they’re the ultimate arbiters of our work.”

Commenting on his biggest achievement with Clemenger BBDO Sydney, Crawford described it as “intangible”.

“I suppose I’m hoping that it’s a more intangible thing, which I suppose is a contribution to inventive, imagination and supportive culture,” he said.

“I hope there are at least a few people that say my biggest achievement was hopefully an ongoing one which is to try and contribute to a kind of culture where people would’ve been able to have done their best work and also enjoy themselves thoroughly.”

Crawford has said he is “taking a breather” and “reflecting” on where he’s headed next.

“As you can tell, I’m very interested in the industry, it’s just a question of finding some really difficult problems that need solving,” he told Mumbrella.

“The industry is more fluid than it used to be, in terms of how you can interact with this landscape. In what shape or form it takes, I don’t know, but if you are asking me ‘have we got rid of you for good?’ I suspect the answer is no.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.