Time to Think: The Bare, Naked Truth About Advertising

March 25, 2014 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Are computers the best thing to happen to the advertising industry, or the worst?

If I were to write a book on advertising, this would likely be the title of the first chapter. And if you were lucky enough to be one of the tens of people to actually read that chapter, you would find my answer to this question is a resounding … ”YES!”

The Conundrum with Computers

There is no question the utility offered by today’s powerful computers and the accompanying design and editing software has revolutionized the way we conduct our business. The upgrade in equipment at our disposal over the last decade has provided a quantum leap forward in terms of the speed and cost-efficiency we can offer our clients in the production of their campaigns. Specifically, the computer has been a game changer in terms of making us better at conveying and explaining our concepts to clients. (Note to younger readers: Agencies used to employ armies of real artists to draw storyboards and layouts by hand so the client could understand the concept …can you imagine?)

The fact is, we have amazing tools that make it possible for us to deliver an ad or even a whole campaign that looks mostly wonderful in less than a tenth of the time it might have taken just twenty years ago—and with a quarter of the staff.

That’s got to be a great thing, right?

The Truth About Advertising

Advances in computer technology aside, effective advertising is exactly the same now as it has ever been with equal parts insight, creativity and artistic expression, in that order. And while computers may have exponentially sped up our ability to produce outstanding work, the amount of time it takes to conceive and massage great ideas hasn’t changed one iota since David Ogilvy’s heyday in the 50s and before.

It’s human nature to want something quickly when we know we can get it—patience is not a part of business DNA. Today, agencies understand most clients’ expectations are for them to deliver creative solutions on computer-quick timelines, or the client will find someone who can. The thing is, when the conceptual process gets compressed, the result is often a campaign that looks great but does very little to move the needle. The net result is the commoditization of agency creativity that we hear so much about today.

Obviously there is no way to do our jobs without a computer and the speed and efficiency it provides. But when it comes to the thinking side of our business, there are more than a few of us who can’t help but wonder how much better our work might be if we still had old-fashioned tools and timelines.

Carl Thompson is Chief Strategist at The Loomis Agency in Dallas.

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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