Simon Labbett, founder and creative director, Hometown London
Simon Labbett, founder and creative director, Hometown London
A view from Simon Labbett

Think BR: To be smart, you need to be simple

The simple ideas are still the best ones, writes Simon Labbett, founder and creative director, Hometown London.

Whenever I've reviewed work from my teams, I've always had one test that the work must pass: the pub test. It’s simple - could you explain this idea to your mates in a busy pub after a few pints?

Some might refer to this as an elevator pitch, but the pub does a far better job of representing the crazy, congested and noisy environment in which we all live; one which is also populated by people who have very little interest in what we do.

It's the perfect way to road test the excitement and simplicity of any idea, and a very useful strategy to have in the back of your mind.

I know that simplicity in the world of advertising is nothing new. It’s a case in point that I’m currently staring at a long shelf of D&AD annuals going back 20 years, and it's the one thing that bonds all the winners together.

The difference between now and twenty years ago is that the plethora of digital media and technology now available has made the world a far more complicated place.

It's for this reason that simplicity is becoming more and more important to create cut-through.

In fact, i'd go as far as to say it should be the single most important consideration in any communications strategy: "how can we simplify this so everyone gets it?".

With that in mind, the challenge is not to be afraid of looking simple. As the world around us gets more connected and complex, don’t feel compelled to look clever in front of your clients or peers by throwing around buzz words, or shroud crappy ideas in complicated tech.

The smart one is the one who manages to keep things at a level that everyone gets. Look at the iPad; it's a testament to the fact that on the surface of all this amazing technology, its simple interface is so intuitive a two year old can use it.

If Apple had said at the time of launching the iPad they'd used a focus group of five year olds, I bet we'd have all thought they were ridiculous. But who are the clever ones?

The same can be said for Google, Instagram or WeTransfer. Their homepage interfaces could be a whole lot more complicated than they are, especially when you take into account the totality of what they offer, but they all understand the power of simplicity in a complicated world.

So, the next time you’re faced with a blank sheet of paper and a tough marketing problem, don't solve 'difficult' with 'complicated', because the man and woman in the street don't have time for complicated.

Treat your audience to an idea so blissfully simple, you could tell a five year old or your drunk friend in the pub. Do that and you alienate no one.

I'm going to end on a quote from someone who was born in 1922 and died in 1979 - consider it a retweet - Charles Mingus: "Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity." How beautifully put, and more relevant today than it ever was back then.

Simon Labbett, founder and creative director, Hometown London