“How do you carve an elephant. You chip away anything that doesn’t look like an elephant and what’s left is an elephant”. Theodore W. Khell


We’ve heard the simplest route is often the best when it comes to advertising. A little like Occum’s razor, the best communication is founded in the simplest insights.

The same rule applies to design where recently information was leaked from the Apple University. In it, Picasso’s Bull was drawn upon as a visual demonstration of how to extrapolate objects until they are simplified into its clearest and simplest graphical elements.


The thing is: in both these cases the rhetoric works as we aesthetically can judge graphically if something looks pleasing in its most simplistic form.

Where it doesn’t work is when the approach is implemented in decision making across media channels. By this I mean: the ad campaign that originally consisted of billboards, online, press and radio, ends up being shaved gradually down after meeting on top of meeting until it’s… a brochure.

The distressing thing is that this is not done from step one but is slowly shaved away as the creative process unfolds. Rather than value adding to campaigns by building on them, ad agencies in the big cities are quick to self immolate their own campaigns in order to keep the deliverables down to the minimum.

And that’s just it, more and more, anything that is ‘too hard to do’ or goes outside of the jurisdiction is cut away from the equation.

The best and most creative work comes from those agencies that understand media channels are irrelevant and can be added to or subtracted depending on the scope of the creative.

This isn’t a problem that solely lies with the media buying companies (which ad agencies have no real contact with in the big cities – one of my personal gripes) but the fact that account managers are minimising the pain and late nights they’ll have to go through in order to deliver the project.


That’s where smaller markets have it right.

In contrast, from my experience in New Zealand, projects are often built on. By this I mean a project that calls for a billboard would be extended until it becomes a billboard that feeds through to a website, carry online content or would entail some sort of special build at the very least.

In the United Kingdom, the opposite is true. The billboard rather than expanding into something with engaging content and running across a variety of media instead gets whittled down in meeting after meeting into something a lot smaller. That billboard campaign you were working on that could be a gateway to an APP launch instead ends up being a sampling pack for 50,000 people in Stoke.

It’s not that I’m condemning the UK ad community at large, but I find that imploding campaigns until they’re nothing is creatively destructive and contravenes the guiding principles of selling more product: that engaging work shouldn’t be limited by what’s easiest to deliver.


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