Something resembling the truth

The rise of Geek Gods

02nd Jul 2021

Why are we here? It’s a big question. But I’m not talking philosophically or theologically here. That’s way too big a question for a humble creative! Perhaps it’s better phrased as: what do we do? I worked with an Account Director who when asked this question would reply, “we make people’s dreams come true”. Glib it may be but it’s not actually so far from the truth. Our role as creatives and marketeers is to persuade people that what we are selling will make their dreams come true. We should excite them, convince them, entertain them but overall, we should seduce them. And that is the ‘art’ of advertising, or it was.

Sometime in the 1990s it was the marketeers that got seduced. They were seduced by power. The power of big data, algorithms, analytics, SERP, CTR, SSL, CMS, PPC, CPC, BR, CRO, GSC, RTD and a thousand other acronyms. We had the rise, decline and sometimes data breach scandals of social media, we got AI, chatbots, video marketing, programmatic advertising and AI in programmatic advertising. The fragmentation of media made it much harder to navigate the media minefield. This saw the media agencies crawl out of the side-lines and, for a while at least, take their place in the sun.  Concerns over media transparency have seen some large brands setting up their own in-house creative teams. The landscape changed; in fact, it became a LUMAscape.

Suddenly we could track our customers from dawn to dusk, we knew more about them than ever before. The customer journey became an obsession. Personally, I recall sitting in meetings where the euphoria over the tracking possibilities bordered on hysteria. Where once we profiled people to better understand them to talk to them as human beings, in a meaningful way, now it was all about their data. When I asked if we had customer profiles, I got handed a sheet of paper with more numbers on it than my credit card bill. The Data Geeks had become the new Gods of advertising. Mercifully Geeks being Geeks, the power did not generally corrupt them.

It was, and still is, an exciting time because the possibilities are boundless. Clients and marketeers alike are often dazzled by these new pretenders. So dazzled by all this rational thinking that they sometimes fail to see another type of thinking has gone missing. The creative thinking, the idea, the piece that does the seduction. We can stalk our customers anywhere on the planet but that will not win them over. The gentle art of seduction is what makes all that geeky rigour worthwhile. Big creative and engaging ideas that win over hearts and minds. That’s what we do.

The future isn’t a return to the past. Us creatives need to embrace the possibilities of the new without losing sight of why we are here. We will take centre stage again but this time it will be with our evil twin the Geek. Already in the private sector there is evidence of this happening. Whilst highly creative digital advertising is still the exception, not the rule, it’s getting there. The HE and FE sectors? I fear they are still just a little bit dazzled!

If you’d like a creative idea, just remember that’s what we do.

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