21 September 2015 by Richard Parsons

Have Some Respect: The US Creative Revolution

Revolution_1700x498In my last post, I argued that European advertising haled from artistic roots and was the better for it. But most commentators seem to agree that it was Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dale Bernbach who unleashed a new era of creativity in advertising in 1950s America.

“Let us blaze new trails”, he wrote. “Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, good writing can be good selling.”

He believed that hard sell, pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap advertising made for dullness and repetition. DDB introduced knowing humour and artistic sophistication from the pen of graphic designer Paul Rand. Consumers weren’t sheep to be brainwashed, but human beings to be engaged and entertained. Here was the beginning of treating your audience with a little respect – the days of con were gone.

DDB’s 1959 ‘Think small’ campaign for Volkswagen is now seen as a classic because it completely overturned the American aesthetic for extravagance and overstatement. These ads were self-deprecating, humorous and visually creative.

I believe, although Bernbach was a US citizen, his thinking was very European in origination.

My point, whether US or European born, is that B2B marketing should be like this, too. For far too long, we have been side-tracked by old-style pragmatic thinking. A mechanistic, risk-free approach to marketing leads to a cul-de-sac of dullness.

B2B marketing is not like Newtonian physics. You can’t just pull a lever, apply certain rules, then Bob’s your uncle, out pops the perfect B2B ad. It’s not like painting-by-numbers. Humans are complex, so there’s no reason why B2B marketing shouldn’t be complex.

Let’s start a B2B creative revolution!