My cab driver was an older Jamaican gentleman and he was listening to
talk radio. The discussion on the radio was about wearing a weave and if
that made you a fake. It was just one more detail I strangely still
I leaned forward and asked him this question. What is
the difference between New York and Los Angeles? He looked into the
mirror and instantly responded.
New York is theatre. L.A is T.V. Yes, sir.
perfection and simplicity of the answer hit me between the eyes. 20
years later, I still think it might be one of the best answers I have
Since that day, I have always had conversations with
taxi drivers. Recently, I was in San Francisco and I wasn't
disappointed. The first guy, Ahmed, told me what it was like to be a
Muslim in America right now. How people are frightened of him and how he
sometimes pretends to be Mexican. The second was a Nigerian man who you
can see in the photo above. He told me about moving to America in 1979
and how there was a large Nigerian community in of all places Dallas.
When I asked why, he said because there was a direct flight from Lagos
to Dallas. It was the first city you reached, so people stayed there.
I mention these stories because in each one there are fragments and details that make them interesting, specific and very human.
Interesting. Specific. Human.
think about these words a lot at the moment. There are many articles
and discussions about data, personalisation and process at the moment.
We use the word insight in just about every presentation we ever make.
We talk about storytelling and its importance.
A lot of words. A lot of questions.
My feeling is that instead of all this making the work more interesting and specific, it is making it more generic.
it would seem other things are more important than quality right now.
Cost and the ability to make a lot of stuff very quickly. Fair enough.
But I can't help but wonder. Where does this go? Let's fast forward as
an industry 5 years into the future.
We make content cheaper; we
make more of it and we put it everywhere. This very process will make
what is made more generic and boring. Mark my words. There will be a
sameness that will grow into an epidemic. What will be made will become
less and less memorable. We are talking about a lot of work that nobody
will notice despite all the measurement saying otherwise. It will also
not sell anything to anybody. And when that happens, there will be three
questions that will have to be answered. Firstly, is making thousands
of things of average quality really the answer? Secondly, does
memorability and distinctiveness matter anymore? Thirdly, if it does,
what can be done to fix the situation?
It will be interesting to
see what the answers will be. Things are pretty uncertain in this
industry right now but if there is one thing I do know it is that
clients never just want parity with competitors.
So, the first
lever that can be pulled makes something cheaper. The second will make
more of it. The question is what happens when everybody can pull these
levers? The answer is you have to change the game. And creativity, is
always the answer to that question. You only have to look at history to
see this seemingly new paradigm has happened over and over.
Be distinctive. Be interesting. Be noticed. Have something to say. And say it well. Those things don't change.
A memorable Rastafarian taxi driver I will never forget taught me that 20 years ago.damonsbrain.com