Adland is struggling. Why *are* ads so vanilla today?


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Talk to people in advertising and they'll tell you Adland is struggling. Why are ads so vanilla these days?

This commercial actually ran. On TV. A lot. I remember. (u/Marmatus / Reddit)

TALK TO PEOPLE in advertising and they'll tell you Adland is struggling.

  • I had a chat with a well-known commercials director today.

  • He told me what you also might be recognizing.

  • Creative advertising seems super vanilla.

  • When presenting ideas to agencies and brands, the “safe choice" seems to be the only choice.

THE SITUATION BEGS an interesting question, especially since advertising used to push creative limits.

  • Why are ads so vanilla these days?


  • The world doesn't need ads to be weird anymore.

  • Unlike the 1980s, 90s, and early 2000s —ie., before YouTube— there are plenty of other avenues these days for unexpected creative output.

ZOOM OUT: MAINSTREAM ads used to share really weird thoughts in even weirder ways.

  • Google "Where's the Beef" or "Quizno's We love the subs."

  • It's hard to believe that Quizno’s one was a real, actual commercial campaign, that really, actually aired. A lot!

  • But today, there's no need for ads to do stuff like this.


  • You have the entirety of human creative ingenuity in the palm of your hand.

  • It’s not just TikTok.

  • YouTube is an infinite, unexplored goldmine of weird, across every genre imaginable.

  • Even your Netflix has quirky stuff, buried far below the Top 10, that would never had made it to network television.

  • And we haven't even touched on the comedic geniuses on Twitter, Reddit, Discord, and beyond.

  • For most of advertising's history, none of these creative avenues existed.

BUT. IT'S NOT just that people don't "need" ads to be as quirky or funny as they once were because they have other sources for humour (a demand side shift).

  • It is also a supply side shift.

  • What that means is, if you're funny, and capable of generating quirky humor, you don't need an ad agency or a brand to help you bring it to the world.

SO, IS THIS the end of creative advertising?

  • No.

  • There is hope for Adland.

THE GOOD WAY of looking at this new landscape:

  • Brands and agencies should realize that the higher creative bar set by millions of talented creators means that they can go higher too.

AND THE MARKET does have an appetite for this kind of creative.

  • Liquid Death (Tagline: Murder Your Thirst; valuation: US$700m).

  • Oatly (Feast your brain on the irreverent copy in this press release; valuation: US$1.3b. Reminder: This is an oat milk company).

  • Duolingo (the language learning app has a compelling, popular, and funny TikTok presence that is largely the brainchild of SMM all star Zaria Parvez)

  • Steak-umm (the US-based thin sliced frozen steaks company went viral over the pandemic thanks to its frank, existential Twitter presence, thanks to creative director Nathan Allebach)

  • These are just four examples of brands pushing quirky, original creative expressions that really work in the creator economy era.

OK, SO WHAT'S the point here?

  • Good advertising has a simple job: to make people happy.

  • If unexpectedly weird creative makes your target happy, they will like it, and by extension you.

  • But. If the rest of the media landscape is weird enough, and people actually just want the brands they like to reassure them, that's cool too.

ADVICE TO AD people:

  • Read the room.

  • And if it's not buying the kind of work you want to make, go on and make it yourself.

  • There has never been a better time to have any sort of creative impulse.

  • Guaranteed there is an audience out there for your taste and voice.


Liquid Death Water Startup Valued at US$700m »» 🔐 

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Polarizing Tweets Pay Off for Steak-umm »»

Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply.

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