Damon Stapleton: Advertising. Everything is going to change. And it won’t.

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Damon Stapleton: Advertising. Everything is going to change. And it won’t.

A blog by Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer, The Monkeys New Zealand.


“Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.” – Ed Catmull

In advertising, we love to write about where things are going and that shimmering, mystical place on the horizon. The future. Today, I am writing about something less glamorous. The process that goes with it and why it will always exist in advertising. That is unless humans are completely eradicated from the business. Which will have its own set of weird problems. But I digress.

Many of you will know the four P’s of marketing (I think there are 5 P’s or 7 P’s as well but I will go old school on this one). Today, I am going to introduce you to the lesser known three P’s of advertising.

Before I do, let me explain why with a little story.

When I just got started in this business I was working on one of my first real big jobs. The presentations and rounds of amends probably added up to about 6 months. There were late night global calls. Many, many suggestions all trying to be captured. Some made sense. Some didn’t. The pressure to get it right was enormous. A laundry list of considerations that changed each week. People losing perspective. All sorts of curveballs including the resignation of the person who had approved the job. In short, by the time we got to the finish line there was a sense of relief the process was over. Except it wasn’t.

We made the work. As you can imagine it wasn’t my finest hour. Nobody was happy and nobody touched the snacks in the edit suite. So, the process that we thought would ensure success was replaced by another one. Thirty rounds of un-fun edits. As I contemplated my future as a taxi driver (Uber wasn’t around yet) I painfully understood the 3 P’s of advertising. Pulling, pushing and people. The three ingredients of every job in advertising.

The reason this is important is because in our industry today there is a belief that in the future, ideas will be answers that get spat out instantly. And it is all done. The truth is, the more ideas there are, the more curation will be required. In fact, curation and prompts will become jobs all by themselves. It will be easy to have 100 ideas in the future but somebody will still need to believe in one of them. One of them will have to be backed. There is a process that goes with that. Either the pushing that happens before or the pulling that happens afterwards. Many think this will disappear but believe me, that will remain. For one simple reason. The third P. People.

Nick Law, the Creative Chairperson of Accenture Song, recently said mediocrity is now free. He is completely right. Because of technology, you can get to average work almost instantly. What that means is we will see a lot of the same type of work. We will be dealing with the problem of good enough. The question will be – if everybody has the same tools, what do you do then?

This is something I saw recently when I was judging. A lot of work using AI looked the same or had a very similar structure. The creatives had relied on AI without putting any of themselves into the work. I saw the same pattern of average you see whenever you are judging a large body of work. And then there were one or two pieces that didn’t look like anything else. You could see somebody pushed or pulled the work. You could see the brilliant idea had been protected and made better. You could see somebody cared.

Ideas are far more like babies than answers. They have to be protected and nurtured. Steve Jobs once said you can teach people anything except to care. So, as much as nobody is really sure what is about to happen, you can bet there will still be a lot of average ideas and a few really good ideas.

And you can bet there is one thing that will definitely not change.

Caring will still be under-valued and over-needed.