Laurence Green: time to write a new creative roadmap?

This is Laurence Green’s first monthly column for MAA. Green is executive partner at MullenLowe, the agency behind the UK’s massive NHS campaign. One of global adland’s most distinguished planners, he began his career at Lowe Howard-Spink, was a co-founder and chairman of Fallon UK and co-founder of 101, now part of MullenLowe.

So the vaccines are rolling out, the Queen is leaning in and spring appears to have sprung. There’s optimism in the air. Even the working from home tide seems to be turning. Perhaps people have finally had enough of “Now That’s What I Call Lockdown!” classics such as “You’re on mute”, and even some of the newer material like “Can everyone see my Trello board?”

As advertising folk giddily hatch their plans to reconvene, we can assume that at least some of the energy that we’ve spent adjusting to virtual working – and talking about it, endlessly – will find its way back to our core business: the origination and distribution of effective ideas.

A further hope is for some kind of creative renaissance: in whatever channels and whatever form we might find it. The industry needs it: creative agency margins are in decline, and famously effective work fires a more general client appetite for the same.

“We want a Levi’s/Gorilla/John Lewis,” they once chimed. What’s next? Who’s next? (I’m normally tempted to say Marmite, but their latest poster has thrown me: it’s all heat, and not enough love it or hate it. Surely a Marmite chilli variant is a copywriter’s gift..even lovers might hate it?)

More generally, better creative can also help turn the wheels of trust in advertising. It’s easy to mistake the collective trust initiative from the Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA as a (digital) media charter designed to remedy problems like bombardment and excessive frequency. But ISBA’s five-point client ‘advertising MOT’ actually starts here: make your advertising welcome in people’s lives. And this is surely as much a matter of creative content as media context?

“Making advertising welcome in people’s lives” sounds easy but isn’t, of course. In these pages you’ll find plenty of work that passes that test; in the real world, you’ll find much, much more that doesn’t. (I’m serious. Just turn your radio on.)

So as the serendipity of the office, the café and the pub beckon us afresh, perhaps it’s time to re-commit to a creative agenda: whether that’s at an industry, agency or account level..or all of the above.

“Be useful or be entertaining” is the off-the-shelf roadmap, and it’s given further credence for me this month by IKEA’s genuinely useful disassembly instructions and Yolt’s unforgettable lizard brain. But in short: let’s make advertising welcome again.

Now..can everyone see my Trello board?

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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