We need to save advertising creativity from a nose-dive into mediocrity

Resolutions in January, though ultimately pointless and unfulfilling, can at least provide a signpost for where we have gone wrong in the past, and provide us with a minor glimmer of hope and redemption for the year to come, explains Hardhat's Jonathan Heath.

What follows is three trends that, if avoided in 2019 and beyond, might hope to save advertising creativity from a seemingly unending nose-dive into mediocrity and endless repetition.

‘Technology is destroying human connections’

Remember the past? Remember when we were never distracted by things? That period in history where we never neglected each other for a second and hung on each other’s every word…

Then technology happened. Bloody technology. Specifically, the distraction oblongs. I could always get Mum to put down her book and pay attention to me in the past, but now with the screen – it’s just impossible.

In 2018 we were all a bunch of mindless slaves to our little black mirrors, and the only thing that could save us was [insert brand] reminding us to put them away so we could talk about stuff with our loved ones, or go outside, or do some kind of universally accepted wholesome activity.

Ikea poured scorn on the kids who could talk about the latest Snapchat filters but didn’t know about their grandparents’ childhood dreams. This is not a contemporary problem; my Dad certainly knew more about the 1965 Sheffield Wednesday lineup than his grandparents’ hopes and dreams.

Yes, the facts are clear – we are glued to our screens more than ever, and it’s making us sad and dependent. But what if instead of brands shaming us for moving forward with technology, we actually celebrated the best aspects of it and explored the benefits of balance?

‘The quirky dance of celebration’

After a quick and easy way to sign off an ad? Just have your protagonist flail around for a bit accompanied by some non-diegetic music. It’s like so totally random.

Because your brand is so quirky now… and people love quirky things. Imagine having a dance to celebrate something as mediocre as asking for two different kinds of salt?! What a weird and wonderful world we live in.

Unfortunately, as entertainment behemoth Fortnite continues to destroy everything in its wake we probably haven’t reached peak ‘flossing’ yet, so we’ll have to be subjected to more ‘unlikely’ people performing more ‘unlikely’ dance moves at more ‘unlikely’ moments.

Surrealism can be a wondrous, wondrous thing in comedy, and has permeated some of the greatest advertisements, but this particular corpse of a horse needs to be laid to rest.

‘The one-shot self-assured piece to camera that’s a bit weird’

The first Isaiah Mustafa Old Spice advert came out in 2010.

The first Dollar Shave Club video came out in 2012.

Is there a reason why brands are still turning to this format for selling their products? I suppose the formula is clear and simple, and creatives can have lots of fun with opportunities for sight gags and clever camera movement. Perhaps it’s a little too irresistible.

As above, the desire for something off-kilter or faux-edgy has taken the place of actual new ideas. The latest effort from Pizza Hut, which pulls in at a whopping 1:54 will have you screaming for the skip button.

It’s even got an ‘oh-look-at-us-we-know-we’re-in-an-advert’ meta bit near the end. Because it wouldn’t be 2018 without the inclusion of some postmodernism.

Yes, talking heads can be utterly dreadful, but please let’s stop repeating ourselves. Other options are available.

So, in conclusion.

Let’s stop blaming Apple and Samsung for ending the family dynamic, and give the teenagers a break – they’ve suffered enough.

Turn the lights on, the disco has ended. We don’t need to see random acts of quirky celebratory dance following the most pedestrian of achievements.

Old Spice is old news. Let’s find a new way to talk directly to the audience.

Jonathan Heath is a creative at Hardhat (and the most positive member of the team – seriously!)


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