Hey, brands. You don't have to be 'always on'

Photography courtesy of Dan Tobin Smith "The first law of Kipple"
Photography courtesy of Dan Tobin Smith "The first law of Kipple"

The proliferation of images in the world makes finding the right one for your campaign even more important.

Cannes 2017 was the first year that I’ve attended the festival and managed to get more sleep than I do at home.

No, I’ve not suddenly become a massive party pooper. It’s just that the Thomson household has been transformed into a near 24/7 hive of activity since the arrival of our beautiful daughter, Reine, in April.

And like any excited new parent, I have filled my phone with thousands of pictures – first bath, first smile, first gurgle, second bath, 13th smile, 54th gurgle. Then there are the 225 x angelic sleeping pics, 18 x straining-for-a-poo faces, shots of her in every single adorable little outfit she wears, and with every family friend or relative she meets.

Virtually nothing goes undocumented. Yes, kids of this generation will not be short of baby photos to look back on, that’s for sure.

In fact, in her 52 days of delightful existence I have taken almost 2,000 photographs. Which, according to my art director arithmetic, is approximately one image for every 37 minutes of her life.

Hey, brands – just because you are capable of being "always on" really doesn’t mean you have to be, you know.

Crikey, there must be at least one good one in there. What's the standout image? The one I should upload to Instagram? (All right, I’ve just checked my Insta feed, and I’ve posted five baby pics, which is still pretty good self-editing from 2,000 images).

It’s a practice I advocate at work, too. Just as the annoying people who upload all 2,000 of their baby photographs to their social media feeds tend to get ignored or unfollowed (you know who you are), so too do brands who bombard us with their visual flotsam.

Hey, brands – just because you are capable of being "always on" really doesn’t mean you have to be, you know. In fact, as our ability to create content increases, there’s actually a greater need to reduce and simplify our output for it to have a hope of achieving anything approaching cut-through.

If advertisers don’t properly consider everything they create and publish, if it isn’t a fresh and succinct projection of what they want to achieve, how they feel, or think, then all they’re doing is adding to the ever-expanding wallpaper of detritus that exists in the world. Or "kipple" as author Phillip K Dick so brilliantly described it in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

With so much kipple in the world, the key image is now a vital component of every standout piece of comms.

Wider culture seems to have a way of boiling things down to one image, or one phrase. We started noticing it with TV show titles about ten years ago. Wife Swap, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, "The Man With The Baby’s Arm", that type of thing.

So, at the agency, we try to apply reductionism to our thinking as much as possible. Constantly asking ourselves, what is a campaign’s key visual? What’s the one image that can sum up the whole body of work?

With so much kipple in the world, the key image is now a vital component of every standout piece of comms.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of work produced and entered at Cannes the best of the advertising industry in 2017 can arguably be boiled down to a couple of images.

"Fearless girl" by McCann New York

"Meet Graham" by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

Interestingly, the very worst work produced by our industry in 2017 can also be summed up with a key visual.

"Live for now" by Pepsi's in-house agency, the Creators League Studio

One could argue that the Pepsi commercial took bad marketing practice to such an absurd level that, even though the deafening PR noise it created was universally negative, it still had a positive impact on sales.

So, you never know, it could conceivably end up being an award-winning campaign, as the poor misguided creators of this monster originally hoped – for effectiveness.

Yes, if you’re going to throw in a bad, make sure it’s a bad of epic proportions. But pray that the sales figures come in before you get fired. And if you do get fired, then sod it. It’s better to go down in a blaze of ingloriousness, than drown in a sea of kipple.

Laurence Thomson is the co-president and chief creative officer at McCann London. Top image photography courtesy of Dan Tobin Smith.

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