December 30, 2014 Jen Maltby

Anti-Ads, Change and the Human Heart: 3 Observations from Advertising in 2014

I am having one of those glorious and rare weeks where I open up my calendar and realize, OH SWEET HOLY MOTHER, I have 3 whole hours without a meeting! So what did I do with those hours you ask? No, I didn’t sneak out and get a mani-pedi. Instead, I started reading all those end-of-year, who-was-the-best-of-the-best-in-the-ad-industry articles that have been piling up on my desk. But, instead of adding to the noise and making more predictions, disputing predictions or going the anti-prediction route, I decided to keep it simple and just share my overall observations on what our industry calls “the best of the best” this year.

Observation #1: This year the “anti-ad” flourished. With work like Newcastle’s “If we made it” campaign or Samsung’s Oscars selfie, many brands actually poked fun at advertising itself – and won. Words and phrases, like “meta” and “industry self-awareness,” were used to describe a myriad of very successful ads. Some articles even said that agencies are using “inside jokes” and talking to each other with this kind of work, but I would say just the opposite. I think the joke is actually on advertising folks like me. Consumers caught onto the sometimes-over-the-top world of advertising a while ago, and we have just gotten around to making good use of that fact by including them in the conversation. The anti-ad proves it’s working.

Observation #2: Everyone, every year talks about how much the ad world has changed. And it has. Between Millennials, Big Data, the personalization of media and the ever-evolving world of marketing in the social sphere (things that, I should add, we have all been talking about for years anyway), the only constant in our world is change. It’s called progress, people. It’s what makes our jobs interesting, exciting, challenging and different every day. And it’s awesome.

Observation #3: After watching and re-watching the most acclaimed, awarded, spread, and talked-about ads from this year, the four or five that are consistently mentioned at the top (like American Greetings’ “World’s Toughest Job”) have one really simple thing in common: They brilliantly tap into and connect with authentic human emotions. Nearly all of them do it in a way that shoots directly to a core insight about the target audience. The quest to uncover insights (like presenting the realities of motherhood in a fresh, funny way while still capturing the heart of what makes it the toughest job in the world) is what got me to work at the crack of dawn every day this year. In my opinion, it’s what makes every year – not just 2014 – just plain great.

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