We've made the wrong things mandatory.

And now we're paying for it.

Making things people like. (Or need.)

I mean, this is really the core tenet of any business, right?

Except maybe advertising.

We seem to be increasingly fascinated by making things that people don’t like. As long as all the ‘mandatories’ on the brief are met, all the features and logos and CTAs are there, and it fits the prescribed media plan, and the dictated ‘best practices’ are met, if those boxes are checked then whether people actually like it or not seems to be largely irrelevant.

The shopfronts in which our product is displayed now come with a ‘skip button' because people are that desperate to avoid it. People download and install adblockers to get away from it. In any other business, this would be code red alarm bells.

‘If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ is an old proverb that we appear to have learnt nothing from. In short, if no one is paying attention to your ad, it matters not what boxes are ticked. It just won’t make a sound.

We have the incredibly rare opportunity to spend massive amounts of money to make something out of nothing and release it into the world for millions of people to see. Yet, we take it for granted. We spend more time talking about jamming a logo in before that skip button instead of making something that people don’t want to skip in the first place.

If you’re a CMO or brand manager, or a planner, preparing your next brief, why isn’t the first ‘mandatory’ something like - Make something worth watching/looking at, or make something people will want to share, or make something that entertains, not interrupts. Instead of 7 product features, logos, tight framing, a ‘learn more’ button, or a myriad of other things that the average person couldn’t care less about?

We’re making the wrong things ‘mandatory’. All that stuff should be optional in service of the idea. The mandatory should be an absolutely cracking idea. Every time.

Don’t get me wrong, all that other stuff, the ‘best practices’ and the targeting and the data, all that stuff can absolutely amplify an idea. But it isn’t THE idea.

If you have a great idea, that other stuff can help send it to the moon.

But if you have a shit idea, then you’re just strapping a GPS device to a turd. Sure, you can track it, and report on it, but it’s still a piece of shit at the end of the day.

"Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them; and sometimes it's an ad."

Howard Gossage said this in the 60s. Incredibly, it’s even more relevant now than it was then.

People keep talking about how advertising is dying, but I kinda see the opposite. The amount of wasted talent in creative departments could fuel a second sun. The potential is astronomical.

We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with streaming, and film, and YouTube, and Netflix, and Disney, and TikTok, and gaming, for people’s attention.

And we need to start acting like it. Because if we do, another golden era beckons.

We have the talent. And we have the means.

So take a second look at that brief in front of you and ask yourself what should really be ‘mandatory’.

And if it’s ‘making something awesome’, flick me a message.


or to participate.