Oliver McAteer
Dec 13, 2018

The state of advertising has never been better

Creativity and diversity-powered shops are leaving stifled and opaque agencies in their wake.

The state of advertising has never been better

How about all that doom and gloom casting an ugly shadow over adland?

The negativity is real. But don’t be fooled. The industry is not in any roller coaster-style plummet of turmoil. It’s all smoke and mirrors, propped up by those who can’t stand the heat of evolution and should most-definitely get out of the kitchen.

Advertising’s epic disruption is forcing those in the trenches to search for answers with the one weapon from which this business was born: creativity. And it’s working.

In fact, the state of this industry has never been better. Here’s why:

The asshole license has officially been revoked

Time’s up.

The marathon journey to greater equality, diversity and inclusion has finally started. And the momentum amps up every single day. Agencies employing better practices to fuel diversity know that it breeds enhanced creativity and proves mighty equitable.

There’s still a very long way to go. That much is obvious. We must remedy the ageism crisis besieging those of the vintage variety who are grappling with an industry wanting fresher, younger blood. Men must be part of the Me Too conversation. And more work needs to be done to understand the goliath impact of unconscious bias.

But let’s celebrate that we’ve finally revoked the license to be a massive asshole. Removing these people from positions of power today has cleared the road for a better blueprint tomorrow.

Silence is no longer optional. Accountability is king. In every sense.

Agencies are pushing brands to take risks

Bad: Brands are playing it safe right now. Good: Agencies are encouraging them to do the exact opposite. Amazing. There’s never been a more perfect time to lean into culture. Polarization pays, particularly if the brand’s bedrock values are crystallized in its DNA and the message is executed masterfully.

There’s equity in taking risks. It’s a shame companies are playing catch up. But agencies are steering them in the right direction. That, we can celebrate.

Creativity continues to change the world for the better

A small reminder that advertising has the power to cross borders and influence global culture on a scale governments have a hard time touching. That makes adland the planet’s most powerful catalyst for change—hence why Campaign US is launching the Power of Purpose Awards this month.

This year, David&Goliath’s non-profit stepped up when Washington DC wouldn’t. Today, I’m Brave raised half a million dollars to help rebuild 100 roofs in areas of Puerto Rico devastated by hurricanes, and the organization's work isn’t done.

Then there’s the Creative Alliance—an 80 company-strong group dedicated to donating time and resources to sculpt campaigns that fuel global progress.

It launched "#VoteTogether" in the lead up to the midterm election to create a new, more fun, celebratory culture of voting. In partnership with local organizations, the group hosted more than 2,000 non-partisan, family friendly, community-driven parties at polling places across 30 states.

And let’s talk about "The Talk." Procter & Gamble’s cultural tsunami will serve as a reminder of racial bias toward the black community for years to come. BBDO and P&G’s Marc Pritchard deserve all the praise they’ve received. And more.

Any campaign can be executed with the right amount of sass or jerk tears, but today’s creative leaders know how to craft genuine purpose-driven marketing that leaves a lasting impact on the world. It’s an art to be admired.

Big creativity will always win advertising

That’s not to say all creativity has to change the world. It doesn’t. But the byproduct of amazing work will always nudge the cultural needle—even if that takes the form of a conversation at the bar.

Recently, some of the UK’s major London Underground lines came to a grinding halt. A voice announced over an intercom that the trains were experiencing severe delays, before adding: "But enough about that—who’s seen the new John Lewis Christmas ad?"


Adam & Eve/DDB’s latest installment of Britain’s yearly-anticipated commercial has been viewed nearly 11 million times on YouTube since it dropped on November 14. "The Boy and The Piano" doesn’t feed the homeless or curb C02 emissions, but it’s made countless people across the globe smile. Celebration at its purest is just as important and transformative as any piece of purpose-driven marketing.

Our BS sensors have been seriously upgraded

Consumers can smell inauthenticity like that five-week-old milk in your fridge.

Sure, purpose-driven campaigns are all the rage these days, but jump on the bandwagon just to get noticed and prepare to be hung at dawn. Hijack that hashtag to poorly push your product and pick out a nice spot in the social media graveyard. Leave a team of old white men to devise an ad targeted at Gen X and start searching for a nice retirement condo in the Sunshine State.

Throwing out work into today’s world is like watching gladiators fight in a cyber coliseum—only the fittest will survive.

Independents are tearing up agency models, leaving stifled shops behind

Industry jugganauts are grinding to a steady halt. Yes, the WPPs of the world will dust themselves off after months of ass-kicking to top the new business leagues in quarters to come, as the account wins/losses churn continues. But what these shops will never be able to do is operate with the agility of hungry independents.

The nimblest of them have answered dwindling client rosters with new agency models. Decoded stepped into the unknown by launching its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) yoga equipment brand, 42 Birds, while Bullish uses an accelerator-based agency model.

Then there are the Giant Spoons, Joan Creatives and Mekanisms of the world, which are being invited to big brand pitches left and right on merits of powerful creativity and diversity. And you can’t turn a blind eye away from the young, modern holding companies popping up, like Plan A.

Advertising is not dead and it’s not dying. It’s evolving. And creativity is the phoenix on which it rises. There’s no room in 2019 for anyone who thinks the contrary.

Oliver McAteer is associate editor at Campaign US.

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