On being presented with a piece of work, clients, suits and planners are inordinately fond of asking us to "demonstrate that it's a big idea."

For this we have to prepare multiple executions, in multiple media... and above all, "show us how it would work in year 2, year 3 and year 5."

But in reality, Year 2 never comes.

When I was a young copywriter, nearly every brand seemed to have a long-running campaign. Just off the top of my head there was 'Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach', 'Australians couldn't give a XXXX for any other lager', 'No nonsense' for John Smith's, 'Good things come to those who wait' for Guinness... and that's just in the beer category.

Cars, department stores, food products...they all had proper campaigns.

But today, very few brands do. There are one or two exceptions, such as Snickers' 'You're not you when you're hungry', but the vast majority of brands just do a series of one-offs.

Snickers - last of the great campaigns?

Even some series that people think are campaigns, and cite as campaigns, really aren't. For example, the excellent John Lewis ads are all really one-offs, held together by a tone of voice. So are the Skittles ads, all Volkswagen ads, and BMW ads. 

So why the change?

Maybe agencies have less patience nowadays. Maybe it's to do with marketing directors moving around faster than the wurlitzer rides in a funfair. To be honest, I don't know.

But I actually don't care. I just wish everyone would accept that this is the case, and let us get on with making a series of cool one-offs. As long as they're all on-brand and on-tone, what does it matter?

Nike have almost never had campaigns. Nor have Apple.

So I suggest we all stop spuriously worrying about whether an idea will have longevity, and concentrate on the far more important question of whether it will have impact. 

10 Comments