In reflecting on my first year as editor of StopPress and NZ Marketing, I’ve come to realise that taking over from a wiley media juggernaut like Ben Fahy is a lot like giving every reader a new pair of shoes.
The initial steps always feel a little unfamiliar. The comfy heel grooves shaped over years aren’t there anymore, there’s no breezy toe hole providing mobile air conditioning, and, hell, there might even be a few blisters along the way.
But step by step (or post by post), new grooves are formed, blisters harden into calluses and things become a little more comfortable as we progress.
So, in writing this, I’d like to thank the readers who gritted through awkward initial steps and continued reading StopPress even though it wasn’t exactly the same as what came before.
To take this slightly obscure metaphor a little bit further, it also has a parallel with the creative industry—and it’s particularly pertinent when looking back on 2016.
Over the past year, we’ve seen several brands launch campaigns and then pull them in response to customer outrage on social media. The moment there’s even slight discomfort, the new shoes are thrown out and replaced by something safer (quite often something that’s been tried before).
The problem with this is that truly creative work is always going to make people feel uncomfortable. By its very nature, creativity demands a shift away from the well-formed grooves that people normally operate in. By design, it makes people feel uncertain, sometimes even uncomfortable. God only knows what people thought of the Rocky Horror Picture Show when it was first released, but today we have a statue of Richard O’Brien in Hamilton.
If initial discomfort is used as a gauge for whether something should be discarded, then we wouldn’t have Toyota’s iconic ‘Bugger’ ad, which received no less than 120 official complaints.
In the age of measuring everything, we can only hypothesise on how many Facebook comments a single ASA complaint equates to, but the number wouldn’t be insignificant.
Despite this, Toyota backed its idea, stuck through the early blisters and the ad has gone down as one of the most celebrated in Kiwi history.
This is not to say that we should ever accept anything that does harm for the sake of attention. But if brands believe in an idea—even one as subversive as an alien drag queen trying to build a man—they might want to stick with it.
Adopting short-term thinking – and reacting to the clicks and comments of the audience – is, in many instances, proving harmful to the very creativity our industry defines itself by.
A recent study by the Gunn Report showed creatively awarded campaigns are six times as effective as non-awarded ones. That doesn’t sound too bad. But, as pointed out by FCB’s David Thomason in a recent StopPress feature, the problem is that they were 12 times as effective only four years ago.
And we can only hope that this leads to a bit more edgy work that digs into the Achilles and leaves a blister or two in 2017.
- The StopPress gang will be switching off the mainframe from today and will be back on deck on Jan 16. But, in an effort to harvest a few festive clicks, our content-loading robots will be publishing our annual Year in Review responses over the break.