Ideas wear in, not out
A view from Andy Fowler

Ideas wear in, not out

We are always looking to kill last year's campaign and replace it with something new. But why aren't we following the examples set by films, TV series and podcasts?

Game of Thrones. 

Nine years. 

Eight series. 

Seventy-three episodes. 

4282 minutes. 

Almost three days of continuous non-stop viewing. 

That’s a whole heap of Game of Thrones.

If you’ve watched the lot, I contend it’s not just because you’re in love with Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen. 

Something much deeper is afoot.

The way we gobble our entertainment has evolved.

On the one hand social media is a fast-muscle-twitch cycle of attention deficit, dopamine loops. In reaction to that, we crave deeper connections, more meaningful and fully-formed worlds to escape into. 

Box sets have filled that void. And then some. 

They allow a level of depth movies could never match. They fuel the hunger of writers and directors to explore new levels of character development. They change the pace of storytelling. With video-on-demand services there is no need for a standard episode duration. They implicitly assume there’s no rush. If it’s good enough, no-one going anywhere. They are confident like that.

They laugh in the face of ad media’s risible "best practice" to get the viewer’s attention within two seconds. 

They get better with time. Like a pair of Levi 501s – the more you wear them, the more you go through highs and lows together, and they weave in and out of key moments in your life, your identities become intertwined, they become part of you, of who you are. They grow more comfortable. They wear in, they don’t wear out. 

It’s the same with podcasts. Desert Island Discs has been going since 1942, and it’s in the top three most popular podcasts chart every week. Famous, interesting people talking about their favourite records and what they mean to them. 

It’s a good, simple idea. 

You’d struggle to beat it.

As the great-grandkids of the original audience run around Hyde Park, iPhones strapped to their arms, listening to the newest episodes, I don’t sense any danger of wear out.

Then there are movies. Fourteen out of the 15 top grossing movies of 2016 were sequels, prequels or spin-offs – Harry Potter, Star Wars, the Marvel franchises. 

Familiarity isn’t breeding much contempt. Far from it. The anticipation around these properties is electric. It’s shared among fans, across generations and borders. There’s no question of wear out. The only questions are who’s directing the next one, which characters are the focus, what are the plot twists, how do they bring back themes or loose ends from previous episode? 

Now let’s get to the ad bit. 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but brands attempt to entertain and inform us through the same screens as all these killer entertainment properties.

The same phones, the same laptops, the same TVs, the same cinemas. 

And they target the same human beings, the same brains.

So why would the rules be any different? 

The advertising industry persists with our reinvention obsession.

For awards glory. 

We are always looking to kill last year’s campaign and replace it with something new because we think people are bored with it. Chances are it’s barely registered an ant-shake on their Richter scale. 

The truth is that the audience isn’t bored of it – we are bored of it.

If it’s a good idea, why the hell wouldn’t we develop it further? We’ve only explored it for 60 seconds. Let’s take it somewhere else, thicken the plot, flesh out the characters so they become loved. It takes time to get something into popular culture, to win hearts and minds, to become instinctive, and recalled. 

Have the confidence to wear it in. I bet it’s not worn out. My 501s aren’t. Neither are Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen.

Andy Fowler is the creative founder at Brothers and Sisters