You want good ideas? Then get out and look for them

You know what I see when I look at the advertising industry?  I see a few square miles in London, Itzu or Pret on every other street, women and men in their sharpest, coolest outfits bottomed off by the latest trainer as they rush to one of thousands of glass windowed offices.

The night before they’ll have either got pissed with their mates from the office, or got home knackered after yet another long day ended by a shitty commute.  They’re going to do it all again today.  In the same few square miles.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love these people; they are welcoming and warm and just the right side of hedonistic.  I love this industry.

But there’s something off.  Something wrong.  They’re all very, very similar to each other, living similar lives… the same few square miles.  Rarely do they have the time or the money to stick their heads up to see what it’s like to ‘be’ someone else somewhere else.  I realised it first at Cannes Lions.  I looked around one day and watched with delight the glamour, the brilliance, the dazzle, the excitement.  And it struck me that it was about as close to real life as Kim’s buttocks are to her original pair.  Why isn’t Cannes being held in Salford or Hull I thought.

I’m in London weekly and I feel it more and more every time.  When I go in I disappear into ad-land, and I lose my ability to ‘see’.  The brand director at Asda wants to know I’ve sat with mums in a soft play zone in Plymouth and listened to their anxiety about paying for food on their credit card.  The marketing team at Panadol want to know I’ve watched a teenage girl cry in disbelief as she realises with menstruation comes pain.  And the lot at Apple want to know how I’ve ridden with a self-employed plumber in Birmingham to see how he uses his phone to run his business as well as his affair.

Focus groups don’t cut it, you see.  To truly understand, to truly see the reality that is an audience’s life, you have to get out and go there.  You have to get down and dirty and be prepared to live their life, if only for a day or two.  You’ll be amazed at the zillions of mini-stories you see and how bloody different life is outside those few square miles called ad-land.  Your eyes will open, physically and metaphorically.  Your job satisfaction will sky-rocket.  And the ideas?  Well, you won’t be able to stop them coming…:)




Emmy Smith