Dave Trott: "advertising has lost its creativity"

26 Mar 2015  |  David Pidgeon 
Dave Trott: "advertising has lost its creativity"

Dave Trott, the man behind some of the most iconic ads of the last 30 years, has said advertising has lost its creativity and the industry is wasting billions of pounds creating ads that have no impact.

"Doing good advertising is hard, and has got a lot harder," Trott told an audience at Ad Week on Thursday.

"The problem, as I see it, is it isn't creative anymore because creatives don't know what they're doing."

Trott said the problem is a case of advertising becoming needlessly complicated - "like a horse pulling an overloaded cart" - before listing every type of ad strategy and buzzword going, from "native" and "big data", to "neuro-linguistics", "hyper-local targeting" and "behavioural economics", to name just a few.

"The only letters missing are probably 'WTF?!'" he added. "We need to unpack the cart; creatives are confused."

With £18.3bn spent each year on all forms of advertising in the UK, but with only 4% positively remembered, 7% negatively remembered and a staggering 89% not remembered at all, Trott argued that £17bn is being "pissed away by so-called experts".

The answer, Trott said, lies in finding the simplicity found in the advertising of yesteryear - as well as learning to take risks.

"The problem is, creatively, no one will stick their head above the parapet," he said, adding that to consumers, most ads have become "wallpaper".

The former executive creative director of The Gate London, famous for his copywriting skills, also said that too much time is now spent on just one part of effective advertising - persuasion - whilst 'impact' and 'communication' have taken a back seat.

"People must notice the advertising," he said, lamenting that that is a sentence always missing from a new brief. "It's as if punters are being left out of the loop."

Doing it right in 2015

Trott went on to argue that advertising must be aimed at the world's "opinion formers", rather than "opinion followers" - from the "chatty bloke in the pub", to the editor of a newspaper. Influencing opinion formers, he said, allows an ad's message to "trickle down" to everyone else - for free.

Referring to Moneysupermarket.com's latest 'Epic Strut' ad, below, as an example, Trott noted that the campaign's creative idea was used to make a joke about the budget on the front page of the Sun newspaper. It was subsequently a talking point on breakfast television and BBC Radio 2.

"They must have gotten about ten million quid's worth of free media by going through opinion formers," Trott said.

"Opinion formers don't pick up the same dull advertising as everyone else. They need something fresh and new...and that's why it's worth taking the risk."

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Bob Roberts, finance director, confidential on 5 May 2015
“trickle down might well work for money supermarket but when half the population switch channels as soon as Dave does his stuff, every other advertiser loses any hope of having an impact. So, do we support one client with the risk of alienating many others”