The Editor's introduction

From the pulpit

Issue 61 | January 2022

In 2020, creativity was reported as being dying, if not dead.

In 2021 there were plenty of echoes.

Even Contagious magazine joined the chorus. "The pandemic has sent creativity into free fall."

I think what many people meant was that there are startlingly few TV commercials that are any good at the moment.

This year's batch of Christmas ads in the UK seem to bear that out with none making the same noise as Sainsbury's epic "1914" ad, which dramatised the Christmas morning in World War 1, when German and British troops left their trenches to play football.

Or, for that matter, having the same heart as John Lewis's first festive brand ad, "The Long Wait" of 2011, when a boy goes through agonies waiting for Christmas Day – when he can give his Mum and Dad the present he has bought for them.

'Good' is a fairly meaningless word. But one Les Binet and Peter Field have defined as meaning 'packs an emotional punch'.

If marketers want to drive future sales, they have said, they should be making brand ads that tell stories with warmth and empathy.

The trouble is, CFOs and CEOs are instructing their CMOs to make ads that sell their stuff NOW.

Short-termism rules.

It's a theme developed by Orlando Wood in his book 'Look Out' (reviewed on pages 6-9.)

Advertising, he argues, has become increasingly short on laughs.

Ads are staccato, with banging music and titles demanding attention about product features. They lack humanity.

This is because advertising is following society at large into a left-brained stasis.

I wonder if this isn't partly due to the fact that creative people have found the pandemic particularly hard.

Wood quotes research by Andrew Tenzer and Ian Murray that reveals advertising people to have been more depressed and sleep-deprived than the norm.

One creative director told me that he hasn't been working from home, he's been sleeping at work.

His workload is unrelenting.

And having family and animals in the house demanding care and attention at the same time has been emotionally draining.

In this context, it's hard to write comedy.

You can understand why, then, that there are plenty of people who might legitimately assume that creativity is, at the very least, unwell.

But is it true?

Looking back over the four issues of Directory published in 2021, there has been some truly inspiring work that pushes creativity into new realms.

"Donation Dollar" from Saatchi and Saatchi Melbourne in Issue 58.

"Long Live the Prince" from Engine London for the Kiyan Prince Foundation in Issue 59.

"HerShe 2021" from BETC Havas Brazil for Hershey's in Issue 60, not just a woke stunt but a proud declaration of inclusivity.

And in this issue here, "Bejby Blue" on pages 62-63, a brand persona created from scratch by agency This is Locco with more than a hint of the metaverse to come.

And what about laughter?

There's been lots of it. But not compressed into a 30-second playlet, performed by actors and played out on TV.

On pages 46-47, Innocean Australia launched No Ugly wellness tonics with lullabies written in response to anguished tweets.

"It's 3am and those fuc*ing backpackers are partying again...dancing to a (bleep) dubstep..."

Well, it made me chuckle.

And "The Foamy Haircut" on pages 86-87. C'mon, having your hair cut to give you a beer-head is funny.

Also, the old, fat Alt Black in the recording of Steinlager's "Alt Blacks vs South Africa" esports game. Ha!

If the 200 (or thereabouts) campaigns we've showcased in 2021 are anything to go by, creativity is alive and well.

It's just morphing into new forms as technology evolves. People are moving to new platforms and meeting in new places. And brands are following them.

2022 is already beginning to look very interesting indeed.

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