Thoughts 16.10.12

Is craft the secret to longevity?

After the advertising nostalgia that was triggered by D&AD’s 50th anniversary last month, Ryan Newey takes a look at the factors that can keep adverts being talked about decades after they’ve been produced.

Look back at some of the most heralded and celebrated adverts of all time and you’ll notice that the aspect of craft regularly prevails. If this year’s Cartier film L’Odyssée de Cartier taught us anything, it’s that more than 15m people are willing to watch a three-minute advert that doesn’t feature a single celebrity, gimmick or half-naked girl.

Why? Because it’s beautifully crafted from start to finish: more reminiscent of a short film than an ad. Consequently, it’s likely that in years to come, we’ll still be talking about ‘that Cartier advert with the leopard in it’. Guinness’s iconic Surfer ad is another fine example of an ad that is still held up as a benchmark of crafted advertising 13 years after it was made, and in the case of Apple’s 1984, which aired just twice on television, it’s still regarded as one of the best ads ever made, 28 years after its inception.

There’s little doubt that campaigns of this quality (and lets not forget, cost) become invaluable assets to a brand. When we think about the heritage timeline of Guinness, Surfer is now a part of its brand legacy. But is such crafted execution applicable to any brand and can it override brand status? Would the Cartier film have generated as much interest if it was for Claire’s Accessories? I think not. Arguably, craft is about telling a story that is inextricably linked to the attributes or values of a brand. Something that is put together with such precision, consideration and attention to detail that it’s a joy to experience and all the more memorable for it. And this doesn’t have to mean big-ticket advertising. A beautifully executed hand-drawn animation can have the same effect but has to go hand-in-hand with the inherent qualities of the brand for which it is made.

If we were to look harder at Guinness, both the ad and the line ‘Good things come to those who wait’ are embodied by the product itself. The concept of waiting is inherently built into Guinness’s fabric. Similarly, Apple’s 1984 was about launching a new computer that would make people think differently; a slogan that they adopted for five years and a value that they’ve kept running ever since. In a world that’s all about the next thing, the new thing, it’s interesting that two of the most hailed adverts of all time are linked to brand properties that not only still exist today but have remained crucially relevant throughout the passing years.

It would be difficult to talk about craft without referencing the importance of quality cinematography: all three ads I’ve cited are beautifully shot, exquisitely edited and accompanied by powerfully relevant soundtracks. However, in the case of Google’s recent Parisian Love ad – which features no actors, no film crew, no locations, only shots of pages within the Google website – perhaps it’s questionable as to whether the traditional tools of the trade are always necessary to produce a beautifully crafted ad.

We (both client and agency) spend much effort trying to convince consumers of the quality / craftmanship / know-how of a product / service. Why would we not want to give the same consideration to the advertising that we create to tell that story?

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