Advertising in the 70s vs now – published 2009

 In advertising

I read a really interesting article on the weekend in the Financial Times on the demise of the famous advertising agency Collett Dickenson Pearce,  CDP to the headline writers, “Colletts” to its friends and rivals.  This was on the back of a TV show I caught late on Saturday night called 100 greatest TV ads, on channel 4.  Being an Australian, I had a bit of catching up to do on some of these famous British TV ads – but I’m with the program now, and have also seen some great ads.

At the bottom of the CDP story was a breakout piece from Laurence Green, chairman of Fallon, the ad agency famous for its Cadbury’s “drumming gorilla” campaign. In the article, he predicts how his creatives would get on if transported, Life on Mars-style, back to the CDP of the 1970s.

Life in bars: Laurence Green on the different ages of advertising

● He/she would think he/she had died and gone to advertising heaven (she arguably less so).

● They would be in the office hours before their new colleagues and stay a couple of hours later until they realised everyone else was down the pub.

● They’d be amazed at the characters in the creative department, a motley crew quite unlike their fellow ad school/art school graduates from 2008.

● They’d be thrilled to be briefed on the hoof rather than given an over-engineered strategy document.

● They’d be energised by having to come up with something genuinely original rather than derivative.

● They’d get a lot of work rejected for being too thoughtful, too subconsciously client-pleasing.

● They’d be amazed that the work gets bought by the client, first time out, with no mention of research.

The 1970s creatives would also gain from the experience:

● They might learn that advertising pays back by building brands (rather than in short-term sales).

● They’d find that a clear sense of your audience and proposition can make the work better.

● They’d learn that the client might usefully get involved at the beginning, not just the end.

● They’d discover that sometimes, though not very often, research helps.

The article got me thinking also about how the creatives of today would view a very different world of the 70s – no internet, no mobiles and none of the tools we take for granted.  They may however rejoice in the narrow choice for delivery (only one commercial TV station in the UK, and a handful of radio stations), no digital or pay-TV to fragment the audience, and none of this silly “social media”.

How different the world of today seems compared to that of the 1970s.

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