My hands feel kinda twitchy, as does my gut and, for that matter, my heart rate. I’ve stood up and sat down at least four times, unable to concentrate despite the looming deadline. Sugar rush – a symptom of the season. There’s been a head-sized white chocolate egg sitting on my desk for the past week (Cheers W+K London!); I’ve cracked and so has it.
The smell – and the slightly queasy feeling – takes me back to childhood. I may be a fully-grown adult but I’m yearning for a two-week school holiday, more chocolate and a drive up the hills to roll felt-tipped Easter eggs. It’s funny really, how the ebb and flow of the year is so embedded in our memories and physicality; the schedule of calm and frenzy that breaks up the year, the festivities that mark changing weather. It’s inescapable – we humans need to have something to look forward to. Ever since the beginning of civilisation we’ve chopped up the year with parties to mark the change of the seasons. With its combination of booze, banquets and human sacrifice, the ancient Roman Saturnalia doesn’t seem all that different from Christmas day in most families.
Start digging around and you start to find that, even today’s major festivals with wildly different roots end up falling suspiciously close to each other. In London we’re gearing up for the joys of a four-day Easter weekend; in India this week marks Holi, the festival of colour, a celebration that culminates in crowds gleefully throwing around coloured powder. However we choose to express it, the global hive mind is attuned to themes of rebirth and vibrancy (although apparently someone forgot to tell the weather).
Maybe it’s because we need to know that, even in the bleakest midwinter, there’s something fun to look forward to. Or maybe it’s just that we’re not the masters of our environment that we like to think we are. With all our fancypants central heating and iClouds and frozen horse meat lasagnes, we like to think we’re a bit above it all – but really, are we any more detached from the movement of the planet than the Punxsutawney Groundhog?
There is a point to all this I promise. Stay with me.
There’s been talk in adland and beyond about the end of the campaign – or at least a need for a shift away from campaign-centric thinking. There’s an idea that humans are always ‘on’, that brands need to be constantly engaged in conversation. And yes, consistency is important, as is responsiveness and evolution… but it all sounds a bit knackering, doesn’t it? I have a suspicion – and it is just that, a white chocolate-fuelled notion – that the reason campaigns work is because, well, that’s how people work. The peaks and troughs of media activity, the quiet contemplation and rush to deadline - the industry fluctuates around key events, seasonal and otherwise. Is a constantly 'on', levelly pitched brand really the best way to generate buzz? Because where I'm standing it sounds like tinnitus? The sun may never set on humanity as a species – there’s always a continent that’s awake and doing stuff – but as an individual I need my sleep! I need my down time, my family moments and my excuses to party. And these rhythms are biological (the pineal gland really is an amazing little brain nugget).
From Chinese New Year to Scotland’s Hogmanay, these ancient festivals serve as beacons around which families and friends can gather. We’re so busy and dispersed the rest of the year that we need these pre-agreed times to set aside and devote to each other. And I wonder if the advertising campaign serves a similar purpose as a temporal beacon for brands that fit in with the biological rhythm of the body and the orbit of the planet? While we’re all falling over ourselves to get our heads around ‘big data’ and integration and multi-screening, I wonder if the futurecasters might need to get back to nature?
Anyway, that’s enough for me – there’s a half-eaten chocolate egg on my desk that requires my attention.