It used to be the legal profession that was taken to task for using a language of its own: obfuscatory jargon that only a legal professional could guide you through.
Now, when you call on the services of a design or advertising agency you will meet with ‘creatives’ who will stress the importance of ‘content’ and ‘storytelling’ in your promotion, advise you to spice it up with ‘infographics’ and point out the advantages of being ‘media agnostic’.
Confused? Well hopefully you won’t be after you’ve browsed through this glossary, designed to shine a light into the darker corners of the Creative Mystique!
The fact that some advertising is more style than substance (especially on TV) may well have driven the demand for publicity with more ‘content’. Offline and, of course, for any kind of online promotion it is absolutely vital; but the overuse of this buzzword has, ironically, rendered it meaningless.
The ‘content’ of an advertisement (or blog or press release) is its message, which when you boil it right down could be summarised as ‘buy this, feel this way, take this action’.
If you think about it, it’s impossible to have a communication without content, and when someone asks me to produce an ad with content, I’m tempted to ask them if they want words and pictures with it too!
It’s really inflation and devaluation of the language that seems to have turned half the folk in the ad industry into ‘creatives’. (The other half are ‘suits’, just so you know). In the past we used to be known as art directors, graphic designers, copywriters, and typographers.
Creative directors alone had the honorific bestowed on them. Now, in the same way that dustmen have become ‘sanitary engineers’, we’ve all moved up a grade or, more accurately, dispensed with the hierarchy altogether. As the means of production has advanced light years beyond anything that we might have imagined 20 years ago, so the opportunity for anyone to get involved in the creative process has increased and not always for the better.
Creative can, of course, still be used as an adjective in the normal way. Most of what we do in ad and design agencies is creative. This used to be called ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘thinking out of the box’, but that’s so last millennium.
Infographics is the new term for the bar and pie charts, tables and diagrams so beloved of PowerPoint presentations. In our increasingly visually oriented culture these have now gone mainstream and form the content (see above) of many a website. The trendier examples look like the doodles bored executives make on their notepads during dull meetings.
Mind you, they can often express a complex idea simply. An infographic I saw recently explained the North-South divide with a felt tip outline of Britain and a line drawn across the Midlands labelled the Shandy line. Produced by a Northerner, naturally, where the men are men and the ale is real.
Like Max Bygraves, a lot of creatives nowadays ‘wanna tell you a story’. This comes out of a desire to ‘engage’ with and form a ‘relationship’ with customers that in the interactive age of social media, with its blogs and twitter trends, has come to take on new meaning.
Actually, the best advertising has always told its customers stories (and I don’t mean untruths). Remember the saga of Katie and Philip, the Oxo family, the romantic Cointreau couple and Maureen Lipmann’s famous (You’ve got an Ology?) commercials for BT? Great stories all, and at 30 seconds an episode better value than any soap.
You could be forgiven for thinking that a media agnostic is someone who has doubts about the effectiveness of his advertising, like John Wannamaker, who famously said that ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half’.
Actually a media agnostic is a committed believer in publicity; his reservations are about putting all his eggs in one basket and devoting his entire promotional budget to, say, TV advertising. He believes in targeting consumers through whichever media – from a tweet to a trade magazine, or bus back to an air balloon – is most likely to reach and appeal to them. This is where a multi-disciplined agency like ours, which spans traditional and digital media, comes into its own. Well, we would say that, wouldn’t we!