Most advertising is terrible, says Unilever

Senior marketers from Unilever and Sport England have urged brands to take more risks and nurture creativity.

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Brands should “treasure” the genuine talent within their organisations because most creative work is “terrible”, according to a senior executive at Unilever.

Dan Izbicki, creative excellence director at the FMCG giant, warned against slipping standards in marketing during a discussion at the Effectiveness Week conference yesterday (2 November). He suggested that the explosion of digital media had lowered the bar for truly creative and effective work.

“There’s an assumption [in our industry] at the moment that just because everybody has got a camera and access to a YouTube channel, suddenly everybody is a creative director – that’s clearly not true,” he said.

“That’s why most advertising is terrible and most films are not very good. [Creativity] is a precious skill.”

He added that because Unilever’s products are “not high interest categories” for consumers, “we need great creativity and great work to cut through that”.

Izbicki was joined on stage by Sport England’s director of partnerships Tanya Joseph, who suggested that fear of taking risks within organisations is one of the biggest barriers to creativity.

Joseph oversaw last year’s hugely successful This Girl Can campaign, which she said was driven by the desire to be bold and impactful.

“The whole campaign is based on fantastic insight – that’s given us the platform to be creative,” she said.

“Far too often we [as an industry] get scared and go back to the easier thing to do because it’s not going to be terribly damaging – but we can do something bigger and better and braver.”



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  1. Jason Chastain 15 Feb 2017

    Also, many marketers confuse “attention grabbing” with “controversial.” You don’t have to be edgy, or political, or offensive to get noticed. It usually suffers at the brainstorming stage. People often come up with a few or a half dozen ideas, and then too quickly grab the one they like best. Back in my commercial illustration education, I was regularly forced to come up with 20 ideas/concepts at a time. Because concept is King. It was amazing how many times the 15th or 17th idea was the killer. I see advertisers spend huge budgets on campaigns with nothing better than “huge savings this weekend.” Literally the first thought out of their brain, and they ran with it.

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