Rory Sutherland is a deep thinker with the ability to cut through the bullshit. It’s an uncommon trait, so let’s pay close attention to the man’s words.
When asked what is the biggest challenge for Ogilvy (where he works as Vice Chairman) in the next 10 years, Sutherland coolly replies: “Oh. I think that the whole advertising industry has totally lost the plot. It has become obsessed with that part of advertising which is a media targeting and optimization process. The creative agencies are essentially guilty of a kind of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to the media agencies where they think it’s all about optimization of something. I would argue something completely contrary, which is that efficiency and effectiveness in much marketing activity may be inversely correlated. ”
That claim stumped the interviewer, which prompted Sutherland to say, “The part of advertising that is wasted is the part that works.”
Sutherland, in an earlier interview, said this:
Deep down in their hearts, people in business know perfectly well that advertising creativity works. It’s simply that they do not feel comfortable with the fact that it does. It messes with the map of the world they hold in their heads. They would rather pretend that their success is attributable to efficiencies, economies of scale, cost-cutting or any MBA guff than to think that it might be due to psychological factors.
He speaks of the intangible and unmeasurable, which is a daring ledge to walk out onto today, and I appreciate his willingness to defy convention.
Sutherland is also famous for his rhetorical flourishes, but he brings it all home. He says when brands advertise they become famous, and when brands are famous, the opening is created for good things to happen.
“Everything good that ever happens to you, happens because someone’s heard of you. Okay?”
To recap, optimization of data may provide insights that feed the creative process, but that’s all it does. The brand manager’s job is to make her brand famous and to do that risks must be taken and comfort zones avoided.
Sutherland says that the mysterious power of creative messes with the client’s mind. What suits can’t control, they want to run away from, unless they’re brave enough to win. Winners embrace the mess of innovation and creation.
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