There's no accounting for taste.

So it's time you starting trusting yours again.

Almost every great musician, director, screenwriter etc out there will tell you that their magnum opus was rejected umpteen times or ‘failed in research’ before someone finally made a gut call on it. And the story is often the same. People were interested, but it didn’t fit the spreadsheet.

So, maybe we need to screw the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is wrong. The spreadsheet isn’t even real. The spreadsheet doesn’t open its wallet and buy anything. People do.

Think of a time you heard or saw something that left an impression on you. A film, an album, a piece of art, an ad. Can you rationally explain why, or was it just a feeling or a sensation? Did you sit there going ‘this piece of content was very engaging for me as the target audience’ or did the hairs on your arm just stand on end?

I still remember the moment Izzy Evans & Ana Pareja Calvo presented me this idea. It felt like a lightning bolt shot through my body. (Thankfully) The client had no budget to research it and no time to fuck around. We just had to go and make it and see what happened. What happened was a 90% increase in leads and the most awarded piece of work in the agency.

Many people will tell you that advertising isn’t ‘art’, and anyone that thinks so is kidding themselves. There seems to be a modern view that what we do is a cold, calculated, rational science.

First, I guess it depends on your definition of ‘art’. Generally speaking, I would say that creating something out of nothing that evokes an emotional response is enough to be in the discussion. And that’s what we’re in the business of. Second, I don’t think you understand human beings if you believe how we behave is at all rational. Take a look at the world around you. I mean, seriously. It’s a mad house.

People act on emotion and rationalise it after the fact. We’ve known this for an eternity. Yet we still pretend they walk around conducting science experiments before buying a toaster.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve presented an idea that had people burst out laughing, or well up with tears, only to be followed by a 27-point e-mail about why all the bits that made them feel that way need to be stripped out. 

Every year, we spend MILLIONS of dollars overanalysing great ideas to death.

I’m not saying we should abandon any form of external rigour. I’m not even saying that research is a bad thing. But serious questions need to be asked around why we’re choosing to no longer trust ourselves in the moment.

The ‘old world’ of advertising had a lot of problems. But the one thing it seemed to be better at was decision making. Generally, it was just a handful of senior people on agency and client side. No committees. No everyone on the team gets to make a change. No seven rounds of feedback. No endless research. No every Product Manager gets to add a feature.

Experienced, senior people reacting to the work and making gut calls. (Sure, from all accounts, some of these gut calls were made at 2am at a dive bar, but maybe that’s still better than deferring to an online survey where faceless people punch random buttons for $50…)

Some might say this is reckless, but this is how people react to advertising outside of boardrooms. The work flashes by them, and then if we’re lucky, somewhere down the line they make an impulse purchase. And because we’re front of mind, it’s with us. We do the same thing. I’ve never sat around with a committee pulling apart a radio script before deciding on whether to buy a television.

That initial reaction in the room is closer to how the work will be seen in the real world. The ad appears, people see it, and they either feel something or nothing. If you’ve got a something, then it should be cherished and nurtured, not sent to the abattoir.

If you work in advertising or marketing, you consume more commercial creativity than the average person. Your mental archive and points of reference are deep. The world is a gallery, billboards and tram wraps and point of sale setups all on display. You read the industry press, you read the award annuals, you live and breathe it. (And if you don’t, well what are you doing here?)

Our natural filters are as strong as anyones. Trust your own taste. Stop looking for reasons to discredit how you naturally respond to something.

I don’t believe the future of our business is more data and analytics and charts and graphs and focus groups and quant/qual and whatever other ass covering exercise comes next.

It’s a handful of experienced, devoted, senior people on agency and client side working closely together. Feeling what we feel, speaking our minds, and not being precious about it. Getting on the same page, riding the same waves, and sharing in the same triumphs and tragedies. (Let’s hope for mostly triumphs…)

And as we wade into the oncoming torrent of artificial intelligence, we need to make sure to hold on to the parts of our business and ourselves that aren’t.

The relationships. The connection. The teamwork. The gut feel. The fun.

That’s where we need to get back to, in order to move forward.


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