Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:35:50 GMT
Ever since 2016 and the slap in the face of Brexit - followed by the double-slap of Trump - it feels like we’re living in an alternate reality… one where anyone who isn’t a nationalist, supremacist or misogynist, frankly isn’t welcome. Pragmatically, the world is just as wonderful and as scary as it was before - but now we have a bunch of drunkards without a driving licence behind the wheel. So it is a lot scarier than before. Like celebrities in an insect infested jungle, ‘Let me the **** out of here’, cry the people.
No wonder there’s been a huge resurgence at the cinema of sci-fi thrillers that involve doing exactly that… getting the hell off this messed up planet. The other resurgence is in horrors of course… for all the poor schmucks left behind to be able to scream safely in public.
So what has this got to do with advertising? Well, we’re on this planet too for the foreseeable future. And as the dark art stuck in a dark time it all feels, well, a bit dark, even for adland. We’re the ones who tell beautiful lies to shift product. But that’s okay. Because we do so with tongue firmly in cheek. We can champion shoplifters to sell more designer handbags. And we can pretend Elton John was gifted his first ever piano by John Lewis. We can be creative with the truth. Except someone has stolen our powers and is using them for evil. Fake news has stolen our thunder, and without the glamour of a '70s soundtrack.
Let's stick with John Lewis, as this is the benchmark ad of the year, the litmus paper that measures the acidity of advertising for the year gone and the one to come. It’s the one even my mum will call me about to discuss (she prefers the penguin too by the way, Waitrose). And this year of course it is skipping a glamorous, nostalgic trip down the memory lane of one of the UK's most beloved celebrities. Yawn. It was safe and predictable. Like a star is born, it gave us a re-make of something familiar and a shelter for a cathartic tear, though not a proper sob. It just didn’t quite turn the tap on those emotions for me, and a lot of people. The same with Sainsbury's. Except for the plug.
And then there was that viral hit ‘Love is a Gift’. The one that had 6million hits in 48hrs! The £50 ad made by a young indie filmmaker, Phil Beastall from Gloucestershire, is sincere and genuine, honest and real. And people loved it. And people cried. A lot.
So, I predict more of this… which we’ve already seen a growing trend in; real people, telling real stories that don’t feel fake. And more tears. More connection.
I am down with that. It feels like something we need.
But, I’m frankly quite worn out with all the crying. What I hope to also see is more risk-taking and fire-starting. The amazing thing about advertising is that our roots are in storytelling and our ability to shake it the hell up. And that isn’t fake. It’s a much needed human requirement for us to both connect and importantly for advertising, the darker more interesting relative in the family, to rebel.
So my hope for adland in 2019 is a revolution in risk both creatively and in the fabric of the advertising industry itself. My hope is that we get to see some riskier creative making a come-back. Some honest to god creative, balls-out emotion that’s got some edge to it. But also, to really see some bigger, genuine risks taken in the people making those ads.
Our future, like the US mid-terms, needs new voices. I hope we will see more women, more ethnically diverse, but essentially just new (younger but also new-to-advertising) talent, start to both create and direct some riskier spots. And the realisation by brands that people don’t want to just be spoon-fed the safe and saccharine ‘in-between’ anymore. Mediocre and disingenuous is for politics, not advertising.
So, it’s also the risk we saw with not having Dougal (even if we do prefer the penguin and love Dougal) Wilson directing this year’s John Lewis ad. OK, this isn’t David Lynch does John Lewis, but it’s a start and hopefully it is setting a trend that will carry on looking forward and see something more hopeful and optimistic break-through. Because at the moment we’re all stuck on this planet together for a while yet. So let’s try to fight back and make it a better AND more interesting one.
So next year… we’ll either see a John Lewis documentary with real stories and more heart directed by Phil Beastall (the people’s £50 choice) or, my favourite, a sci-fi comedy horror starring Donald Trump, directed by Toby Haynes.
Louise Gagen is executive producer at Feel Films