Why so dull?

4th September 2020

Why so dull?

During one of many of my COVID Clean Ups I came across this gem of a book, Cutting Edge Advertising, first published in 1999. After a quick flick through some classic old-school print ads the question came to mind – has the industry lost its edge? At the risk of sounding like a whinging old fart, has business become too safe when now, more than ever, advertising needs to be brave.

As technology itself becomes edgier, has the content in advertising become safer? Of course we see lots of cool, edgy and weird stuff on the web, that’s a given. But where is the edgy, thought-provoking and controversial creative? And I don’t  just mean provocative for the sake of it. I mean genuine, smart provocative stuff you just can’t ignore.

When was the last time you saw work with this much attitude appearing in mainstream media? In fact, most of it wouldn’t be allowed on Facebook because of the nipples and fleshy bits. Ironically, you’re only ever a click or two away from any type of pornography that takes your fancy.

Maybe all of this perceived online liberty is fooling us all into thinking our advertising is pretty edgy too. Sure, our business is pretty good at creating warm and fuzzy work. And I’m certainly not saying it’s not clever, but what about the provocative? Should advertising reflect the real world? The world’s a pretty shocking place. But you wouldn’t think so with the avalanche of conservative creative out there.

This wouldn’t even make it out of the creative department today. Far too politically incorrect and insensitive to those with learning disabilities and council line-marking workers. I bet those guys thought it was hilarious.

And as for this piece that Nick (yes that Nick and I created for the Queensland Department of Transport in the late 90s, that would cause conniptions right up to the Premier’s office these days. To be fair, it did then too and was hastily recalled.

As I said before, it’s not about using shock tactics as a cheap trick or being offensive or disrespectful. It’s about being relevant and pushing the thought or insight as far as you can for it to get noticed, remembered and even change behaviour.

We all talk about being disruptive and cutting through the clutter, but are we brave enough to do it?

– Jeff Smith, Senior Creative