John Tylee’s column (Campaign, July 30) on the tyranny of youth in
advertising clearly struck a nerve with many readers. His observations
appear to have had an ’emperor’s new clothes’ quality about them: we
have read about the ageing demographic and the grey pound, we know
silver surfers and other ’mature’ people in our own lives who do not
have the old-fashioned attitudes once associated with their age, and
therefore we all know there is something wrong with the advertising
industry’s 18-34 obsession.
This week, I want to lance another boil: taste tyranny. Visit the houses
of 100 leading admen and you’ll find that perhaps 66 of them will be
decorated and furnished in a style that can best be described by
adjectives ranging from Conran-esque to minimalist - in case you’re
wondering, the other third contain children. The taste police have ruled
for years that clutter is not cool; that we should do as Ikea says, and
’chuck out the chintz’.
Minimalism is ubiquitous. Magnolia is the avocado of the 90s.
These personal tastes are evident in the advertising: the predilection
for black-and-white photography; the vogue for the subtle reveal; and,
most obviously, in the perennial, perverse obsession with keeping the
client’s logo as small as possible, preferably tucked away discreetly in
the bottom right-hand corner of a 48-sheet or a double-page spread.
Often, the strapline will run along the bottom of the page/poster too,
so as not to clutter the image on which it would otherwise be
Take a long car journey through London and I defy you to be able to read
half of the logos, let alone the lines, on posters. This is not about
posters that look like press ads with too many words on them - it’s
about posters and press ads that are somehow embarrassed by their
This is self-evident madness to anyone but art directors. There are
notable exceptions like fcuk and The Gap - campaigns that adhere to the
minimalist-obsessed industry’s style rules in every way but one: they
shout the brand names loud and proud. More typical is a current poster
campaign for some product in a tin that features huge, retro images of,
variously, a dominatrix and a body-builder. The shot of the tin itself
is so tiny you have no hope of knowing what the brand is.
No wonder marketing directors tear their hair out and become suspicious
about their agencies’ motives. They would be even more annoyed to
discover how some agencies try to shrink logos to enter special ’made
for awards’ versions into competitions.
You might argue consumers will be so intrigued they will strive to
discover what the brand is. Get real. Consumers aren’t as sad as you and
me, obsessing about ads. Many consumers happen to like clutter and
chintz. They might even be able to cope with big logos.
Now, there’s a radical thought.