CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Why advertising’s dinosaurs need to get out more often

Campaign’s ongoing series of interviews with the Kings of Madison Avenue has been received with much enthusiasm and many animated discussions, but, so far, no fisticuffs. The only question that stumps them as a breed is ’what’s your favourite ad?’, while the one phrase they never use is ’things ain’t what they used to be’. This is because, whether British or American, they have filed talk of ’the glory days’ under ’agency truths that are no longer true’. So why do certain London creatives - let’s call them Dinosaur Daves - bang on about the glory days? And what do they mean by it?

Campaign’s ongoing series of interviews with the Kings of Madison

Avenue has been received with much enthusiasm and many animated

discussions, but, so far, no fisticuffs. The only question that stumps

them as a breed is ’what’s your favourite ad?’, while the one phrase

they never use is ’things ain’t what they used to be’. This is because,

whether British or American, they have filed talk of ’the glory days’

under ’agency truths that are no longer true’. So why do certain London

creatives - let’s call them Dinosaur Daves - bang on about the glory

days? And what do they mean by it?



For these erstwhile Grosvenor House creative legends, the glory days

began in the late 60s/early 70s when the Brits overtook their US

counterparts thanks to the flowering of CDP and the birth of BMP, and

continued through the emergence of Saatchis, Lowes, GGT, WCRS, AMV and

BBH until the late 80s. B&H, Fiat, Hovis, the pregnant man, the Heineken

poster, Audi beating the Germans to the pool, Gertcha, Hamlet’s photo

booth, Paul Hogan at the ballet, the dambusters, Castlemaine, ’Labour

isn’t working’ - no-one would deny that these were classic ads produced

in a corporate climate that encouraged exciting work.



Since then, according to Dinosaur Dave, advertising has been in terminal

decline. Raw, untamed instinct has met cold, irrefutable business logic

and the work has gone to the dogs. The evidence for this is the rise of

multinational corporations and global advertising networks to service

them. Add suits taking over the business, philistine planners and

restrictive research, the emergence of digital communications and media

- all are enemies on the long road to getting a precious idea on air or

to publication.



The contrast to the Dinosaur Daves are John - Smash - Webster and,

though he is now retired, Alan - Iguana - Waldie. Cocooned away during

long careers at BMP and Lowes, both are lauded as heroes by the Dinosaur

Daves. They’re a bit special, not only for the great work they’ve done

or engendered, but for the essential decency they embody. But the irony

is that both have always been fascinated by the young, the future and

contemporary stuff in general. They never lived in the past (Webster’s

brilliant new campaign for Compaq bears witness to this), but Dinosaur

Daves do.



I have never been able to figure out why it is that when it comes to

helping clients rise to greatness, Dinosaur Daves would give their lives

to overturn the conventions of the category. But when they turn the

mirror around, they never see what’s staring back at them; they never

think to break the conventions of their own category. When they do,

advertising will surely be more appreciated by the people who pay for

it.





caroline.marshall@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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