WHAT’S THE STORY?
Recently, a young creative guy wanted to interview me.
He started off by saying that advertising nowadays should all be about story telling.
I said hang on a minute.
I’ve heard that a lot lately, ‘story telling’, what is it?
He said it was, er, telling a story in. er, advertising and, er, any media really.
I said okay, so what’s good about that?
What’s new about it?
Where does it differ from what good advertising has been until now?
He said, well, er, it’s sort of, er, about telling a story.
I could see he was getting embarrassed so I let it drop.
But several things worry me.
How come we are using words and phrases and expressions that we don’t know the meaning of?
That we can’t explain to other people.
Isn’t this just learning the jargon in the hope that we’ll sound impressive?
Similar to dressing like a trendy creative person in the hope that people will think we’re creative.
Years back, when I was junior at BMP, we used to be able to spot the good creatives.
They didn’t dress like they were creative.
They didn’t talk like it either.
But when they opened their portfolio, wow.
All the creativity was in there, not on their body or in their speech.
John Webster, one of the best there’s ever been, dressed like a man going to the allotment.
He didn’t dress like a trendy creative.
Conversely, we’d get guys coming in wearing silver jackets, Elvis Costello glasses, long scarves, skinny jeans, pointy shoes, and calling everyone man.
Creatives straight out of central casting.
You knew their books were dull even before they opened them.
Because they had to dress and sound creative in the hope they could disguise what their work was like.
This is my feeling about jargon.
It’s there to disguise the fact that someone can’t do the job.
Our job should always be to simplify things, not complicate them.
The best people always keep things really simple.
Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to an 11 year old, you don’t really understand it.”
I think that’s where a lot of us are at nowadays.
We couldn’t explain what we do to an 11 year old.
We’ve gone back to the days of Mad Men, dull patronising advertising hiding behind jargon.
The jargon signifies you’re in the club.
Like a trendy pair of glasses.
It’s a shame.
The young man I was talking to thought that’s how you get into advertising.
Not through great work, but through learning all the jargon.
I asked him where he wanted to work.
He told me the name of a trendy agency.
I asked him why.
He said he liked their culture.
I said what about the work?
He said, it’s not so much the work it’s their culture.
I said, okay what’s their culture?
He said they’re, er, small, and they’re very, er, new and I just haven’t seen anywhere else like that.
At that point I gave up.
He couldn’t tell me what the words he was using meant.
He couldn’t tell me why he wanted to work at the agency he liked.
That’s what we’re teaching people about the business.
Bluff, jargon, and vacuity.
Just like the business was before Bernbach.
So called creatives who sound more like bad account man blag.
In fact we’ve regressed to the bad old days.
I’d hoped we’d moved on.