Let's end the horror shows and start scaring ourselves
A view from Ben Middleton

Let's end the horror shows and start scaring ourselves

Cut the clich├ęs and start properly scaring yourself this Halloween.

Rotting corpses, bloody mouths and the shameless butchering of the English language. This isn’t just any old day in advertising, it’s Halloween. A time of year that sends shivers down the spine for all the wrong reasons, as we find our world awash with hearse-loads of puns, brain-dead thinking and more lazy clichés than you can shake a dismembered fist at.

It’s as if our industry becomes infected with a "shitvertising" virus that means it can’t stop projectile spewing crap, and it makes my blood run cold.

So is there anything good to be had out of this time of year? Sure, there's the chance of downing a cauldron of Dark 'n' Stormies, snogging a zombie and dressing up like Fred West, but I think there's a more visceral, primal opportunity available to us: the pursuit of fear.

Often mooted as a monster to confront, overcome and banish, fear is a misunderstood beast that, if channelled in the right direction, can help us conquer the lazy and apathetic armies of the undead who are trying to kill our industry.

As a semi-professional lobotomist and have-a-go neurosurgeon, I can tell you that a ton of fun physiological stuff happens when we’re scared; chemicals and hormones make our hearts thump in our ribcages, our breathing quicken, our arteries flood with adrenaline and our bumholes go all winky. 

And assuming you’re not a regular breakfast-time base jumper, one of the other places you’ll recognise these reactions from is when you're presenting your best ideas.

You know the ones.

The ones that are going to really rock the boat. Challenge everything. Really put the shits up people. Make people's lives difficult for a bit. The ones that are going to get bloody noticed, remembered and talked about – not just tolerated – by real people.

And, with a bit of passion, bags of energy and the odd nail-ridden baseball bat, these ideas are the ones that change everything.

Because the best ideas that our industry produces do feel dangerous, do feel frightening and do feel different. The second they see the light of day, we realise the only thing to be afraid of is not presenting them in the first place. After all, no-one (in advertising) died from someone not liking their ideas.

One of the things that differentiates us from the animal kingdom is that we can recognise fear, process it and use the fucker to leap forward.

As creative people, we should be trying our damndest to bring stuff into the world that has never been seen before, that looks weird, sounds odd and has the establishment running for the hills. And if we’re feeling scared presenting them, more often than not that means we’re trying to do something different, something new and something better.

An industry that's doing, saying and making nothing frightening fucking terrifies me.

So this Halloween, whether you’re on placement, climbing the ladder or running the gaff, I have a simple request: step away from the spooktacular puns and spend your day scaring yourself shitless by only presenting ideas that terrify you. Because the next day, when the sun comes up and they start to come alive, our industry will thank you for helping stop those ideas from evaporating into dust.

Ben Middleton is chief creative officer at Creature