Saatchis' Huntington rails against orthodoxy in fiery Thinkbox speech

Saatchis' Huntington rails against orthodoxy in fiery Thinkbox speech

The marketing industries must go to war against the "four horsemen of the marketing apocalypse" Saatchi & Saatchi's chairman and chief strategy officer Richard Huntington has said.

Speaking at Thinbox event Ad Fab in London, Huntington said that of all the challenges facing the industry at present, the most dangerous is orthodoxy. "Far more than cultural or technological change, it’s orthodoxy that is most likely to render what we do completely impotent," he said.

Huntington used his speech yesterday to outline what he called the "four horsemen of the marketing apocalypse": cliché, accepted wisdom, best practice, and dogma.

"Cliché: grey, lifeless, dull, stalks every corner of our industry," he said. "Mortgages for your dream home, investments for a rainy day, the family car that thinks it’s a sports car. It’s ghastly, we need to hunt it down and get rid of it.

"Accepted wisdom. It sort of hunts in packs and its advantage is that it’s literally camouflaged, and you don’t even know when you start spouting accepted wisdom bullshit.

"Best practice. We kind of like best practice, but it’s always a brake on innovation. The places we look most desperately for some sort of rules are always the areas of greatest innovation."

He gave the example of social, where there is a proliferation of tips on how to, for example, maximise Instagram followings, despite the short history of these platforms.

"Dogma: the most dangerous of them all," he continued. "This is a funny little beast: it starts out as a revolutionary idea. Then stealthily it becomes today’s accepted wisdom, and tomorrow’s dogma, stifling better ways of solving problems.

"It’s like a weaponised orthodoxy. It blinds us to a better path, and in it’s insistence that there can be no better path, it stops any form of new possibility emerging."

Huntington named famous campaigns for Mini, Stella Artois, Tango, Cadbury, Lurpak and the Paralympics as examples of thinking that had challenges orthodoxy and achieved huge impacts.

"These were all commercial triumphs and were fuelled by knowledge that what had gone before was never going to be a blueprint for success," he said.

"None of our clients are saying, you know I’d quite like a bit of iterative growth next year. Most are saying I need to resolve some pretty difficult and problematic challenges. We are all going to have to attempt things that have never been done before."

Extending his theme beyond campaigns, Huntington also sung the praises of the founders of Sipsmith gin, which kick-started the huge renaissance that gin has enjoyed in the UK in the last decade – despite the orthodoxy that the drink had no future, and manufacturers should focus on vodka.

"And just because a bunch of people said I’m not prepared to accept that this is the settled will of the market and I need to submit to it," he said.

"Because nothing is written. There is no sense in which the future of a brand is preordained, the future of a category set in stone. Every brand with enough imagination and audacity is capable of writing its own story."

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