The art of advertising


Loeries 2009: Apocalypse Now? With Loeries 2009 looming Mandy de Waal speaks to Gareth Leck of Joe Public about how creativity is being sold down the river by marketers obsessed by advertising to sell.

Gareth LeckAs the recession bites deep and advertising spend is slashed, the temptation to trade creativity off for a quick sell is overwhelming.  MD of Joe Public, Gareth Leck says only brave brand builders are standing firm and not bowing to the pressure of going for the quick buck.

“The world needs more creativity and advertising is essentially creativity, but it goes without saying that it is creativity based on strategy, well thought through scientific principles and a sound business. I strongly believe if you don’t have creativity then advertising won’t work,” says Leck.

“The 80’s were the golden age of brand building in South Africa but now everyone is more concerned about selling and meeting quarterly targets than building brands. A lot of the work is pure sales generation.

The average tenure of a CEO or marketing director is nothing more than two to three years. When they come in these directors are under an unbelievable level of pressure from shareholders and the board, which effects advertising. The recession has worsened this and now only the bravest are doing good work. Generally marketers are cutting budgets and doing sales promotions. For the most part local advertising has become mediocre.”

This at a time when the rise and rise of social networks and pervasiveness of information together with advertising saturation is seeing consumers crave authenticity and real connections.

“Speaking authentically to your market is highly creative. It is all about creativity. Consumers want to consume authentic brands. They want to be communicated with in a real and authentic way, but for the most part all they’re getting is mediocre sales promotions. Brands aren’t cottoning on to the need for authenticity and connection, and in these tough times tend to stick to old formulas. This is exactly the time that brands need to understand consumers, meet their needs and become a whole lot more creative.

Marketers need to realize that consumers consume creative. That creativity is the product. It should be the only measure of advertising. People largely think the Loeries are a wank filled with drunken kids celebrating advertising. They’re missing the point. You need a driver of creativity in order to celebrate it. Great creative that is on strategy will always deliver to the business that it works on, but this is discounted. The alternative is to do mediocre work and currently there’s more than enough of that on the market.”

Part 3 of our special Loeries coverage. Check back daily for new stories.


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6 replies on “The art of advertising”

  1. Nice article. Seems like i’m always having the conversation about creative brand building vs sales with clients. In my opinion creative brand building = sales if you get it right. a crude short term focus on sales means you just get lost in the clutter of everyone else doing the same thing. Ultimately you have to spend more money with a short term approach as it weakens the brand which won’t be driving sales when your campaign finishes.

  2. I find the concept that we should value “creativity” for it’s own the sake outmoded and — frankly — ridiculous. This is a business transaction from start to finish – someone paying someone to help them sell something to someone else. The age of measurement brought on by digital washes away the self-indulgence in which advertisers have been basking for the past 50 years.

    The focus is now on results, and results alone. And I’m afraid everyone will find that creativity is not an essential ingredient in getting those results. Yes, people respond to inventiveness and originality. But they also respond to convenience, appropriateness, clarity, simplicity. And so forth. A clear, simple uncreative message delivered at the right time to the right device will outpace the most creative ideas every time.

    To lament the dearth of creativity in advertising is to lament the soft crackle of valve amplifiers playing LPs, or the clinking of milk bottles on the front door step. This is a new age. Be creative if you want, but don’t expect that to be the thing that people wave huge cheques around for much longer.

  3. I agree with you to an extent, Jarred, about the pervasiveness of digital and the measurability of it all.
    Yes you need to get results and it is about results. But its human nature to want to connect with something real and authentic and that comes down to the brand. Its all very well to drive sales and results have it measured, account for ROI etc. But at the end of the day if a consumer cannot connect with your product or service on a more personal level then just driving results is not going to succeed on its own long term.
    You need both and by sacrificing one over the other – you will ultimately achieve nothing in the end.

  4. It’s great to see my partner exposing his true beliefs in public forum, and of course my comment may be interpreted as biased. Be that as it may.

    Sure Ricardo, the best solution is to have both a brand and a retail component in the market. But we all know the depth of pocket you need to do that. So in absence of big, brave budgets to throw at the problem at hand, I’d hedge with big, brave ideas. Keep on planning for the first quarter century, rather than obsess about the first quarter. But good point made.

    As for Jarred, my friend, creativity is what moves this world forward. You need to just visit the Design Indaba to see what I mean. And if you think that I am now just talking creative blah, have a debate with Ravi Naidoo.

    Because I don’t believe that executing product with price adds any value to clients. In fact, that’s factory thinking. Creative thinking equates sound business thinking, and those who believe otherwise may have to think again. Oh, and while I have my soap box, maybe you should ask yourself why Levi’s can charge double for their jeans? Brand or product?

    Hats off to Gareth!

  5. n its early stages advertising was highly functional, make an advert that sells a product. I have huge book-bound collection of the Cape Times from 1928 – 1931 and it’s interesting seeing where advertising was then. Simple, sometimes dishonest – but it did the job.

    Then ad agencies really came into their own in the 1980s. Absurd prices for creative, which is essentially because they are a bunch of failed artists. I am also amused at how advertising agencies believe they build brands. They don’t. They maintain them and the job is to sell. It is always, at its core, about selling. Reputation, customer engagement etc are handled by slick companies and other types of consultants, PR being one aspect, but we can’t forget business marketing consultancies.

    In a recession, companies are simply no longer willing to spend millions on adverts that probably will not increase sales and instead, give the pony-tail brigade some money to create some “artwork” for. Have you not noticed how advertising, when it’s not working, just gets physically bigger? I mean, holy shit, we now have entire buildings wrapped in branding.

    Advertising agencies really need to be grounded again. Remember that their job is to sell products, not win creative awards. A consumer’s experience with a brand – the heart of the company or product – is in the company’s communication and any first hand experience. Let’s take MTN as an example. Great advertising (well, it’s big) but have you tried to ring a call centre recently? Advertising agencies really need to pull themselves towards themselves and focus on the job at hand.

    Personally, because I am in the industry, I am with Bill Gates who is famously known for having said: “If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR.”

    Cisco had made its first billion US$ before it spent a cent on advertising – a PR driven piece of business.

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