Ads needs to be interesting, specific and human

by Nigel Hollis | July 19, 2017

Erik DuPlessis sent me a link to this post titled 'The Wisdom of Taxi Drivers'  by Damon Stapleton. Thank you, Erik, like you said, “very, very good”. Why? Because it reminds us that the power of stories lies in being interesting, specific and human. It reminds us that we need to keep people – the target audience if you must – at the heart of the creative development process.

Stapleton tells the story of a New York taxi driver who sums up the difference between New York and Los Angeles as,

“New York is theatre. LA is TV. Yes, sir.”

Succinct, readily appreciated and based in truth, the description is still memorable to Stapleton 20 years later (and I would argue still just as applicable). So if a taxi driver can come up with something this good, why are brands struggling to create advertising that resonates with their audience?


There has been a lot of news about ads created for major brands that have met with serious consumer backlash because the idea or presentation was out of synch with the audience’s mindset. As noted in this AdAge article many marketers seem to have forgotten that people’s BS detector is dialed up and on 24/7 these days and so end up broadcasting ads that are explicitly rejected, not just ignored.

Stapleton asks us to fast forward five years and asks what the future will be like. He suggests,

“We make content cheaper; we make more of it and we put it everywhere. This very process will make what is made more generic and boring.”

To which I would add, inauthentic, inappropriate and irrelevant. Stapleton proposes that the solution will be what it always has been,

“Be distinctive. Be interesting. Be noticed. Have something to say. And say it well. Those things don’t change.”

In the past I might have agreed, but when everyone can create content, good and bad, how will we make sure that content will be seen? Even the content that is remarkable, inspirational or useful will be lost in a sea of consumer-driven creativity. Sure search and algorithms might help make stuff be more discoverable but will people actually bother to seek it out? What do you think? And what do you think the future of advertising will bring? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Nigel, July 28, 2017

    Thanks for the comments.

    I cannot help feeling that this Dear John letter is related to the above but is the ad world in love with data or its clients?

  2. Neil Hopkins, July 24, 2017

    Absolutely agree - the era of broadcasting AT people is well and truly over, now we need to be creating a context that individuals wish to participate IN.

    Despite the sea of content slosh, I think that truly great work can still rise to the top through a mixture of well thought out placement/sharing and people-power around the water cooler.

    For people to seek something out, they need to get value back from it - brands/agencies would do well to really think about what this value is and understand how it can be encoded within the messages that they're sharing.  

    Work which has value will survive.  The other 99.998% of content will eventually disappear.

    (I hope)

  3. Diego Alonso, July 21, 2017

    "[...] the best will likely always be created by humans who are evolving faster than machines at pushing the envelope to ways that haven't been pre-programmed yet" - Ed C

    First, a comment. In order to determine what is best, we need address an objective goodness scale. Is is good an ad with lot of clicks but low engagement, the opposite or a combination of both? How do we include human emotions into this scale? Without defining a scale, it is not possible to determine what is better or worse.

    Second, a correction. AI by definition is not programmed, it is intelligent and learns, sometimes even faster than humans. This a huge opportunity if we are able to seize its potential.

  4. Kathleen Wolf, July 20, 2017
    Before ever creating an ad, companies must know why they do what they do - their higher order purpose. If they know their "why" they can differentiate themselves and create advertising that captivates those who are aligned with this purpose. Companies who take a stand for something other than purely profit are compelling and are less likely to get caught among the clutter.
  5. Ed C, July 19, 2017
    Survival of the fittest? The best creative + the best reach (to the right audience at the time of their best receptivity) = the best results? I've been in conversations debating whether AI will be able to create ads in the near future. I think the answer is a clear yes, though the best will likely always be created by humans who are evolving faster than machines at pushing the envelope to ways that haven't been pre-programmed yet.
  6. Serah Katusia , July 19, 2017
    So true! Content must now be more sticky, anchored on people, meaningful. We have to focus on quality not quantity 

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