Picture the scene: a branding agency huddles around a brief, mulling over a new client campaign that needs to be made.
In the blue corner, you’ve got the new breed: data scientists glued to their PCs, running Google Analytics and crunching the numbers. They’re convinced they can analyse the market and shape the content of the campaign. Not just shape it, either. But track it when it’s in the wild. They want to take the lead because they’ve got all the answers.
In the red corner, you’ve got the creative cowboys on their Macs. Turns out they also want to shape what’s produced. But their methods are rather more of the brick and mortar variety. They favour creativity, a dose of energy and no small amount of intuition.
Marketing is a small world, and there’s a split right down the middle.
The red corner are not just cowboys, they’re dinosaurs. They’re on the outskirts, swept aside by presentations groaning under the weight of data, facts, statistics. But they’re invaluable. Name all the tech you like, but people haven’t changed, and the best brands still play on our emotions.
Take “The Jogger”, a simple 30-second spot that depicts a man running up a lonely road. A soothing voiceover tells us that we all put greatness on a pedestal; we leave it for the superstars, the famous. As the man gets closer, we see it’s not a man at all but a young overweight boy drenched in sweat. There’s greatness in us all, we hear, as the familiar Nike logo appears on a screen that fades to black.
A great ad makes an audience go silent in self-reflection.
If you’re not making people think, you’re giving the audience an excuse to criticise. Pepsi’s infamous Kendall Jenner ad might have made sense on paper, but it lacked creative oversight.
Steve Jobs believed in his intuition. Were Jobs only interested in the data, he would never have taken giants leaps of faith, reinventing the phone, the music player, the physical shopping experience. In fact, Jobs wasn’t interested in data at all because he believed in making technological leaps forward intuitive.
Yes, he was a product man, not so much an advertiser. But really he was a marketer in every sense of the word. His passion, his drive, his creativity spilled into the products that bore his company’s name.
Whether you’re using social media or you’re directing a 30-second spot like “The Jogger”, you’re always better off drawing on the common humanity that unites us. We shouldn’t give that up in favour of more spreadsheets.
The campaigns we love were born from ideas that came out of nowhere, and they’re nurtured thanks to intuition. Science can play a role later on, as you track the campaign and make educated adjustments on-the-fly. But creative thinking should come first, Big Data second.
Ads we love
Everlast: “Boxing Makes You Bigger”
Boxing is a dangerous sport. It makes you tough, strong, willing to act. But Everlast were keen to stress that it does something more: it makes you a better person. In this moving spot, a young boxer is confronted by a street thug. Instead of using his skills to put the thug to sleep, he hands over his money. His young brother asks him why. “He is hungry,” the boy answers with powerful command over the situation.
Apple: “Think Different”
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in a square holes. The ones who see things differently.” So begins the iconic 1997 ad that ushered Apple back into the spotlight and brought with it one of the greatest advertising slogans of all time.
Jobs had returned to the company only weeks earlier and worked with Lee Clow at Chiat Day to create an ad that would get tongues wagging. “The way to [bring Apple back] is not to talk about speeds and fees,” he said. “The dairy industry tried for twenty years to convince people that milk is good for you. Then they tried Got Milk.”
Think Different isn’t about speeds, price, or how Apple is better than Windows. It’s about the power of passion, and its enduring ability to shape the world. “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,” the ad ends, “are the ones who do.”
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