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Communications Silicon Valley

Advertisers need to start communicating better, it's what we do

By Martyn Gooding, Creative Director

Gravity Thinking


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February 19, 2016 | 4 min read

What do you tell your hairdresser you do for a living? Social Media? A web designer? Marketing? That sounds a little old. A little small. A bit naff.

Martyn Gooding, creative director, Gravity Thinking

How about advertising? People get that. Sounds grand. But we don't do that. We don't make TV ads any more. Or large outdoor posters. Whatever grand language we choose it's unlikely to translate to your average punter and that's a problem.

I have a theory, that the more complicated your job title - the less you do. Take Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the internet. The actual internet. He says he's a web developer. Not a Global Executive Technology Officer. And I believe this is a symptom of what's wrong with our industry.

We appear to have reached a point of saturation, where if we're honest, no-one has anything new to say. It's an easy trap we all fall into, we use big words in the absence of an idea, words such as engagement, amplification and activation. But what do we actually mean when we procrastinate these official sounding words? I believe this evasiveness comes from bigging ourselves up a bit too much, to make the fundamentally simple thing that we do - make people want to buy a product - sound grander and more important.This is of course a deeply ironic thing to do for an industry that's all about communications.

This is why I don't like most industry conferences. We've forgotten the language of the customer and we talk using our own made up vocabulary. It's an Advertising Esperanto.

I took our creative team to Silicon Beach last week. The creative and digital festival that's just moved from Brighton to London. The most notable talk was at the end of the day from MT Rainey. The R in RKCR and one of the people involved in the 1984 Apple ad.

She just told stories, with no slides. Only playing the films she referenced. As a result the room - and twitter - fell silent, as we were listening. No tweetable buzzwords. Or pseudo-psychological analysis of the work, or audiences. She did what we all say we do for a living: communicated, simple and clear.

Earlier in the day Lauren Currie, of Design studio Snook, invited a group of young women on stage to experience what it's like being a speaker to help grow their confidence as thought-leaders in the industry. Many of them did what they believed was the thing to do on stage at an advertising conference: They volunteered up some tweetable wisdom about advertising.

But then a 16 year old, Leila Willingham, won the day by calling out the B*llsh*t that we all speak - in this case about gender equality. She told us to grow up and sort it out. Stop over-analysing. Meat and potatoes communicating.

And this, if anything, is what we do for a living.

Martyn Gooding is creative director at Gravity Thinking.

Communications Silicon Valley

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