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by Jacques Burger (@1jacquesburger) This year marks the 20th anniversary of my working in the ad industry.

While I’m not one for standing still — or, even worse, looking back — milestones like these, combined with a midlife crisis (just buy a new car, I’m told; it’s cheaper and less disruptive than a new career or a new spouse), have led me to taking time out on a recent long haul from Sydney to reflect on the highs and the lows to date (which, of course, are of no interest to any reader), and the bits that are juicy and worth a read can definitely not be published. What’s relevant, though, is sharing my view on the extent to which our industry has changed — or perhaps hasn’t.

Speed of culture

A colleague of mine in Australia talks about the need for brands to move at the speed of culture in order to thrive or, at least, survive; I’m sure the same applies to other businesses and industries. Are we moving at this pace as the advertising industry? Consider some of the creative industries adjacent to adland, perhaps, as a measure of how well we are doing.

A brilliant creative director in our UK office tells me that Gucci now launches a new collection every 12 weeks: 90 new looks every 12 weeks. In addition, it has also been opening double-digit new stores globally this year, commissioning 200 renaissance-style paintings depicting the brand, doing colabs with various artists and even launched a real ‘fake’ Gucci range as a tongue-in-cheek response to the whole counterfeit problem — a range that’s now in such high demand that the real fake shirt sells for more than the real real one!

The point is, the brand is moving at lighting pace — more ideas, more activity, more diversity — more creativity, more expressions of it, more freedom and all of it delivered much, much faster.

Are we too precious?

In comparison, our world starts to feel very slow. Are we too precious? Are we too controlling to allow consumers or even the creatives working on these brands a little freedom to give the brands some of their flavours? (Consider how the personal style and approach of a designer like Tom Ford influenced Gucci during his time there.) Are we too protective of the brands that we manage with our clients, are we too scared, do we have too many tools and brand keys/pyramids/ladders and committees holding us back from delivering at the pace that we need to, or are we just too painfully old-fashioned?

My sense is that, when you do only one thing, you end up putting tremendous pressure on just that one thing to shoot the lights out. So you overthink it, you stall, you hold back, you take so long to finally make it happen that, by the time you do, your new idea is already an old idea.

What if we didn’t do one 2019 brand ad? What if we did 20? I can hear the pessimists: where would we find the time? Perhaps if we spent less time worrying and workshopping and reverting and we just ran with stuff, more freely, we could do a lot more, a whole lot quicker. Where would we find the money? Who says it needs to cost more? Let’s invest more behind more ideas and less behind more introspection and interrogation.

Staggering growth

Madness? Not if you look at the staggering growth a business such as Gucci is experiencing at the moment; the till is certainly ringing.

Twenty years in an industry can make one feel old; I don’t want to feel like that. I don’t want to be old-fashioned; I want to be new-fashioned; I want to be more Gucci and have 90 exciting new looks and ideas by the end of this quarter for every one of our clients. Who cares that 10 of them might not work? We’ve got another 80 which are going to work gangbusters, that our customers are going to lap up and make our competitors feel stuck, staid, stodgy. And, because we have 80 brilliant ones, nobody will care about the 10 that missed the mark.

Now this feels like a solution to a midlife crisis worthy of pursuit — who’s with me?

(PS Still buying the car.)

 

Jacques BurgerJacques Burger (@1jacquesburger) is a founding partner of the M&C Saatchi Group in South Africa. He has 20 years’ experience, both locally and internationally, leading agency groups in SA and Australia, and was previously voted one of the 40 most-impressive marketers and comms experts under the age of 40 in Australia.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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