Carving Out New Kingdoms

Richard Huntington, Planning Director at United London, has some interesting things to say about advertising’s capacity to hold truly big brand ideas.

It is not the global shortage of quality ideas that concerns me most. It is the role that advertising plays in serving those ideas. In short, while a brand idea can never be too big, it may well be too big for advertising.
Advertising has always liked to see itself as the window onto the brand’s world. That’s what we mean by brand advertising – here is the whole of the brand in forty seconds. And that is why advertising is usually seen as the lead discipline – it’s the one that most succinctly sums up what the brand is all about.
That was fine when ideas were modest and adcentric, but really potent brand thoughts are often short-changed when forced into the format of an ad. More than this, the desire to communicate the entire brand experience can compromise advertising’s ambition to sell.

Huntington argues that “digital may be one of the very few marketing disciplines that can cope with the enormous bandwidth of today’s ideas.” He also notes that “seeing advertising recast as the new below-the-line discipline is unlikely to be popular in Soho.”
No one in SoHo or Manhattan or elsewhere enjoys having their apple cart upturned. Especially when said apple cart has historically provided gobs of money and flirtations with fame. But protests from the makers of TV spots and print ads are meaningless and a bit sad. The best of the best–like Crispin–were quick to absorb so-called below-the-line practices. Therefore, they continue to dominate while the whiners whine.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.