There seems to be a dearth of creativity – of lateral thinking – in advertising, across the last couple of years.
Ads (certainly the ones I’ve seen) appear to be literal, or just show the product right from the off – telling consumers how desirable said product is and that they must buy it.
Toothpaste ads show people brushing their teeth.
Car ads simply show the car (Suzuki, Fiat, Seat) and tell you that it’s good.
Ads for chips show people eating chips.
Insurance ads have become predictable – all character-based scenarios.
The ‘clever thinking’ bit seems to have been lost: the bit where the audience is rewarded by suddenly ‘getting’ the idea behind the ad.
But… in the last few weeks, I’ve seen signs of life: signs that the creative carcass is still breathing – albeit shallow breaths.
There are three ads doing the rounds that show some genuine lateral thinking, and make me smile.
The first one to mention is the new(ish) Ford advert – ‘The Beauty of Change’.
Yes, many will argue that it’s a visual metaphor, and therefore a bit twee,
but at least it’s something a bit different.
In no way – when I first saw the ad – did I see what was coming when the first butterfly emerged from its chrysalis.
The only thing I questioned was why the butterflies appeared to be robotic. For a moment, I thought it was a strange ad for a new David Attenborough series.
Then there’s the emotive score, reaching a crescendo when the butterflies finally settle and form the Ford Focus.
It’s a solid piece of creative work, which says ‘totally transformed car’ / ‘not just the same car with a 2018 number plate’: chrysalis, metamorphosis, butterfly, car… it works. And it’s nailed by the line ‘The Beauty of Change’.
It reminds me – in terms of the thinking behind it – of the Skoda ad, when the car was made out of cake ingredients to show that it was ‘full of lovely stuff’.
It’s a smart answer to a tricky brief about a middle-of-the-road car.
Next up: the John Lewis ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ ad.
It’s mad, silly, fun – and it made me smile. In fact, I didn’t even care what it was for: I just enjoyed it as a piece of creative work.
Here it is…
The ad takes the long way round to get to the line ‘when you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’, but it’s still neatly done, doesn’t just show happy staff wandering around stores, and it will resonate with a key target audience: parents who want nice stuff – in the fridge or around the home.
The only minor criticism I had was: does everyone know that all John Lewis/Waitrose staff have shares in the company (the ‘when you’re part of it’ bit)? If not, then the ad might be lost on some people.
Other than that, it’s a cracking idea: so OTT. Sheer, unbridled silliness, with a relevant point at the end i.e ‘our staff have a stake in the business, so they really put the effort in / you’ll be treated well’.
Aaaand finally, here’s a bold piece of creative from Save the Children – their ‘censored’ ad:
Firstly, it’s brave of Save the Children to run with something like this in light of recent scandals affecting them and international aid charities as a whole.
It’s also quite literal, in terms of showing a child in a war zone … but it’s the little touches that make it work: the ringing sound the child would have in his ears, the pixelated body parts, the fact that we – as an audience – are being spared from seeing everything the child sees.
And the whole ad is nailed by the line ‘children in war zones see things nobody should’.
It’s a subtle yet bold piece of lateral thinking.
So, that’s three strong, lateral ideas I’ve seen within the last month.
I wonder: is creativity making a comeback?