Clownvertising, Terrorism, and Candy Cane Briefs

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I‘ve always been interested in economics, because economics is a great way to model, measure and understand human behavior. In a TED-talk I watched over a bowl of indian curry (I got stuck alone in the office over lunch), Loretta Napoleoni explains the economics of terrorism and how it relates to the economics of the rest of us. One thing that caught my interest was what she refers to as rogue economics, where politics looses control of the economy, and the economy becomes a rogue force. Rogue economics “always lurks in the background” as she puts it, and “comes back in times of change…such as globalization”. This is not surprising. Politics is a system, and systems always take time to adjust to disturbances. In the meantime, the disturbance affects those affected by the system.

This talk made me think – could this be exactly what is happening in our industry right now? That the system that controlled and demanded relevance and results from marketing spend looses control when the world of communications changes rapidly? Could it be that clownvertising is the rogue economics of the advertising industry?
I sat down with a couple of our industry’s most respected names the other day at Le Rouge and discussed this topic. What they said resonated with my hypothesis. They, like me, also saw campaigns like “The Fun Theory” as irrelevant clownvertising where the client is blinded by the blizzard of change, where the strategists are seduced by the “how can we make it viral”-love potion, and where the creatives watch in astonishment as they receive the most delicious candy cane of a brief they’ve ever seen (“just make it fun, ok?”). I haven’t been in the industry as long, but according to my discussion company at Le Rouge, the blizzard of change that came along with the introduction of television advertising spurred similar epidemics of clownvertising in television. “The Fun Theory” is by no means the only famous clownvertising example. To me, the Cadbury’s gorilla falls into the same category, even though “pointless but fun” is perhaps more relevant to a chocolate bar than a $20 000 vehicle. A smaller but more recent example is “The Wall of Sound” for Brothers.

But anyway, back to the question of rogue economics. Because what we DO know about rogue economics is that the system stabilizes over time. This means that pretty soon, it will no longer be accepted to just “go viral” with irrelevant humor, and that a much more difficult task will be put on the plate of advertising agencies. In this new stabilized system, you will have to be attractive (in the literal sense of the word), sticky (in the Gladwell sense of the word), re-shareable, and effective in terms of what you want to achieve (which at the very least requires relevance). This is not easy. It will place enormous demands on the shoulders of advertising creatives and it will – and this is what I love about this change – place less crap in the lap of the consumer. It’s time to step up the game.

[Edit: Consequently misspelled rogue. Sorry about that. Le Rouge probably threw me off. 🙂 Thanks Matthieu for noticing.]
About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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