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What's Old in Advertising

Advertising Agency
Kansas City, USA
INFLUENCER: What feels fresh today, can be irrelevant tomorrow, finds VML's Guto Monteiro

Have you ever worked on a project that took so long to be produced, that by the time it ran it felt outdated? I’ve seen it happen. And I feel it’s going to happen more and more over the next years. And it’s not because we are bad creatives, or we’re taking too much time to produce our ideas, it’s because our industry, our tools and our consumers are changing really fast.

What feels fresh today, can be irrelevant tomorrow. What is trending online now, will become old news by the time you finish this article.

The 65th edition of the Cannes Lions Festival came to show that ideas are ageing faster than we think. Cannes is a great place to set the bar and take ideas to the next level. And I saw a lot of things that feel ahead of their time. Like Blood Normal from Essity, that wants to make blood visible to end the Period taboo. Or the project Revoice that uses audio data to reconstruct the voices of ALS patients. These are things that we know will be relevant for years to come.

But what impressed me the most is that, a lot of ideas that won in the Festival, will be irrelevant soon. No one knows which ones exactly, but a lot of the new tech, the new ways of engaging customers and the new platforms will be outdated before the new iPhone comes out.

Think about Google Glass, for example. It was launched with the promise that it’d change our lives and the way we interact with each other. Today it feels far from reality. But Google Glass was launched only five years ago, in 2012. And if we go back to the Cannes Archive and look at the work that won five years ago, we’re going to see Nike+ FuelBand winning big time, with two Grand Prix. Today, no one uses FuelBand anymore. You can’t find the product on Nike’s website. And there’s a user called goodwill-maine selling one for 9.98 on eBay.

The thing is… ideas are ageing faster, so we need to think ahead. Instead of looking at the consumer behaviour today, we need to think how they will be behaving in the future. We have to find references that will remain fresh for years. We have to work with artists, musicians and directors that can survive the test of time.

How? Carl Sagan has a quote that gives us some idea of what to do: “You have to know the past to understand the present”. In other words, we have to understand how advertising has been evolving to be able to create something that will be relevant and original in the future. So instead of looking at the Cannes Archive just five years ago, take some time to look at the winners from 10 years ago. Or 15 years ago. Or even 65 years ago when the Festival started. Good ideas can age fast, but great ideas never get old.

I’m not saying we should stop looking for updates or looking toward the future. What I’m saying is, that sometimes, looking at the past can help us as well. Because, look. This is our industry. This is our work. There’s no denying that we are all immersed in the new tech, what’s fresh, what’s new or what’s trending. The challenge then becomes to remember to look back at what first broke the boundaries and changed categories, enough to be remembered however many years later. That is what helps us understand where we came from and where we want to go. 

I came back from Cannes with a lot of new perspectives and ideas, and one of those ideas was to look back at the old ones. Which gave me a different point of view of where I want to go. And I hope you are able to find that inspiration too.

Guto Monteiro is creative director at VML

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