Over the weekend Meat & Livestock Australia launched a contender for best ad of the year. Simon Canning fears it may be as good as it gets.
If 2016 is anything like 2015, then just two weeks in we have already seen the best ad of the year. Creativity in Australia it would seem, is ready for the last rites.
On Australia Day last year The Monkeys created a wonderful, whimsical piece of work for Meat & Livestock Australia. Richie Benaud inviting a few mates around for a chop or two. It should have been the harbinger of a creative renaissance in Australia, but instead it stood as a forlorn high point in a year that failed to deliver water cooler work.
Over the weekend we saw again an Australia Day ad worthy of an office conversation, a social media share, even, perhaps, a second look.
Now what? Will the creative industry stand up and deliver more work of equal measure, or like last year, will it collectively hang its head in shame and slink quietly away to produce a year’s worth of wallpaper?
Over the past 12 months there has been little in the marketing world that has truly seized the attention of consumers and demand it be celebrated.
There has, of course, been work that was good – some of it very good such as the inspiring University of Western Sydney campaign telling the story of a child soldier turned lawyer, Captain Risky leaping an abyss for Budget Direct or Ricky Gervais simply taking the piss out of Optus while relieving them of a considerable amount of cash.
On the whole, however, the majority were average at best – has anyone been tempted to “Demand a Commander” by these ads? – and there doesn’t appear to be any signs of things changing soon.
Andrew Howie, marketing director for MLA, has earned the right to a view on the issue with the performance of the recent Lamb work, and he laments the dying of the light of creative thought in Australia – laying the cause at the feet of Australia’s marketers.
“My view is it’s really black and white – you have a creativity led marketer or you have a more data led marketer,” said Howie.
He said that in general those being led by data were more of fearful of failure, a mindset that translated into safer work.
At the same time, a culture of blame shifting is also limiting the potential of brands to break from the creative shackles.
“In a brave company everyone shares the blame,” he said.
The boldness of thought is what is missing in the market, replaced by fear on multiple levels. Fear by brands of offending consumers and unleashing a social media storm. Fear by marketers of damaging their chances of grabbing that next rung on the career ladder by approving the idea that went too far. Fear by agencies and creatives of pushing a client out of their comfort zone.
Fear does not allow ideas like the Big Ad or Warren to flourish. It drives them back into the creative’s portfolio, perhaps to be lost forever.
It’s time for brands to step up, trade fear for boldness and allow the big ideas through their safety filters and out into the world of consumers.
So who will sieze the mantle and create something that makes us laugh, makes us cry, makes us buy?
Let 2016 not be the year creativity died.
Simon Canning is marketing & advertising editor of Mumbrella.