All advertising is, in a certain sense, the cultivation of cliché. Agencies first determine – with whatever artifice their planning departments can provide – suitable socio-economic stereotypes which their creative departments then bombard relentlessly with the most seductive messages they can contrive.
Success and consistency in this trade leads to agency work acquiring a highly recognisable hallmark. ‘Branding,’ if you like; ‘generic cliché’ if you don’t. For example, Boase Massimi Pollitt became widely known for its attachment to furry animals, Allen Brady & Marsh for its mastery of the jingle and Bartle Bogle Hegarty for its creative reinvention of pop culture.
I was reminded of this insight when reviewing Adam & Eve’s first work for Google+, the search giant’s overarching response to Facebook and Twitter. Here it is.
Notice anything about it? Yes, it is another fine piece of work from a hotshop coming of age. Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch has missed out the Seventh Age of Man in ‘All the World’s a Stage.’ But since it’s all about second childhood, “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything,” and this is a piece of consumer advertising, the agency can be forgiven for the omission. Something else?
Yes. The ‘Journey Through Life’ theme, which A+E (not to be accidentally confused with A&E) has made its own. Particularly in a suburban, middle-class context. Here, just to remind you is some John Lewis advertising by the same agency:
It’s a theme that the James Murphy, David Golding and Ben Priest team seem to have imported from Rainey Kelly Campbell Rolfe/Y&R – from which they spectacularly broke away in 2007. Judging, at least, by this early Lloyds Bank ‘For the Journey’ commercial from the self-same:
I have my own modest contribution to the ‘Life’s journey’ genre. It’s taken from John Dryden:
Like pilgrims to the appointed place we tend; the world’s an inn, and death the journey’s end.
No takers in advertising, I suspect. But it was the inspiration of a famous play.