THE TECHNOLOGY CART BEFORE THE IDEA HORSE

A tall, confident, handsome, muscular, good-looking man goes into a tailor.
He says “I’d like a suit.”
The tailor says “Certainly sir, I’ve got the very thing.”
He gets the man to put it on.
The man says “The arms are too long.”
The tailor says “Just bend your elbows and crook your fingers.”
The man does it.
The tailor says “There, the sleeves look perfect.”
The man says “But the shoulders are baggy.”
The tailor says “Just hunch your shoulders together and bend your head down.’
The man does it.
The tailor says “There, the shoulders look perfect.”
The man says “But the trousers are too long.”
The tailor says “Just bend your knees and squat down.”
The man does it.
The tailor says “There, the trousers look perfect.”
So the man pays for the suit and hobbles out of the shop.
And he limps down the street looking like Richard III.
Bent over, hunch-backed, dragging his feet,
Two men are watching him from across the road.
One says to the other “Look at that poor bloke, don’t you feel sorry for him?”
The other man says “Yeah but what a great tailor. Look how well that suit fits him.”
I think that joke sums up our business at present.
The original idea was to get a suit to make the man look good.
But in the end, the man was contorted to make the suit look good.
We do a lot of that.
We get our criteria wrong.
In America, they have an expression for this.
“If the only tool you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
Which is (IMHO) how it currently is with technology.
We all know we must beat the competition.
We must have fresher, more powerful, newer ideas.
The problem is, not everyone hears that as fresher and newer IDEAS.
They just hear the ‘fresher and newer’ part.
So fresher and newer ‘anything’ becomes what everyone is searching for.
Which defaults to fresher and newer technology.
Which just means the latest thing.
We must have it.
And we must have it first.
What we forget is, if it’s just technology, we won’t have it exclusively.
Everyone else will have it too.
And, at best, we have a nano-second before everyone else catches up.
Then we’re not first or new anymore.
And everyone else is doing the same.
They’re not looking for ideas, either.
They’re just chasing the technology to be first, too.
And so just being first with technology becomes the sole idea.
For us and everyone else.
Then we’ve all got the newest technology, at roughly the same time, and we’re all doing the same thing in it.
No wonder we all look the same.
And the consumers can’t tell which product or brand ran which ad.
And we’re not fresher or newer at all.
Because all the ideas are bent and twisted and contorted to fit the technology.

But hey, never mind how bad the ideas look.
Look how great the technology looks.

  • http://

    This article rings true with regards students too. Too often we are told that there will be an app at the heart of their creative strategy – unfortunately, no-one seems to know what the app is or what it will do! Actually, I’m being unfair, most students will elaborate on this, but we still see technology directing a creative strategy. Hopefully, this is an issue that we are addressing on ad courses, so maybe the new blood entering industry will not fall foul of this approach.

  • http://

    Clients love the idea of technology. Or at least they love what they’ve been told about it. It’s cheap.

  • http://

    Too true Dave and the situation is made worse by the fact that It’s no longer the client chairman’s wife who decides if an ad / idea will run, it’s his kids – as they are the only ones in the family who can open the app the ad will run on!

  • http://

    “People are the operating system”.
    So says Facebook’s global ad director.

  • http://

    Hi Dave,
    Many thanks for the story.
    I have noticed some advertising types
    walking around awkwardly in London recently.
    I do a nice line in wheelchairs.
    Mmmmmmmm.
    I worked with a Creative Director called Peter Nash at Grey who used to do the analogy of a Car Ad for clients to explain what an IDEA is. He’d start by drawing the outline of the car, not very appealing, then he’d invite the client to add what they wanted to the car: Wing Mirrors, Engine, Doors, Steering Wheel, Go-Faster Stripes, Sat Nav, Radio, Digital TV, Spoilers, Petrol Cap.
    Then he’d say:
    “It looks great doesn’t it. Now do an ad for all of that.”
    They would look at him completely stumped, because it was a visual reflection of every kitchen sink brief any client had ever done.
    Then he’d stick a VW logo on it and it suddenly became an ad because VW are historically known for great advertising created with SIMPLE IDEAS.
    The trouble is,
    SIMPLE aint easy.
    SIMPLE aint lazy.
    SIMPLE needs quality thinking.
    And there ‘anit many people around who know what it is
    let alone how to do it.

  • http://

    Kevin – many bright people think complication is a way 2 safeguard their specialists tag + justify their fat fees. When u state that complicated is easy u r on the money, again – ‘Simples’ should b the refrain of all, not ‘Complicateds’.

  • http://

    I once sat through a 45 min lecture/heap of bollocks from one the creative director of one of the ‘leading’ digital gobals. He was asked a simple question. “How does a page appear when people ask for it.” I watched and listened as he deliberately confused and refused information because he was protecting his manor. His mystique…his worth. What a twat. At the end of his ‘explanation’ I could see that all 5 clients present were no clearer. So I gave them a picture. “it’s like painting by numbers.” Everyone got it. I explainedt real for them. They couldn’t. They were fired soo after.

  • http://

    Ok. Now I’m going to repost when I’m not trying to do 10 things at the same time.

    I once sat through a 45 min lecture/heap of bollocks from the creative director of one of the ‘leading’ digital globals. He was asked a simple question. “How does a page appear when people ask for it.” I watched and listened as he deliberately confused and refused information because he was protecting his manor. His mystique…his worth. What a twat. At the end of his ‘explanation’ I could see that all 5 clients present were no clearer. So I gave them a picture. “It’s like painting by numbers.” Everyone got it. I explained it in real terms for them. They couldn’t. They were fired soon after. There’s a lot of it about.

  • http://

    Sue – the woman/multi-tasking thing is a myth, isn’t it?

  • http://

    You know, Grilla, I think it is. 1. I can hardly look after myself let alone a hubby + brood. 2. Yesterday, while taking a call, I put my iPod in the fridge. I then spent 30 mins trying to find it, including emptying the rubbish (wearing marigolds, natch) and then, realising that I’m losing it big-time, I looked in the fridge. And there it was, looking very happy between a quiche and a Bakewell Tart. It can only get worse.

  • Ben Millar

    Toothpaste, the breakfast of champions.