Opposites attract

It seems to me that there are two equally important things happening in advertising at the moment that are more than a little contradictory.
On the one hand is the emerging popularity of what I call identitity rich advertising. In its current incarnation this appeared in the mid 90s with WCRS’s work for Orange and HHCL’s for the launch of the low cost airline Go. Interestingly the identity partners in both of these campaigns was Wolf Ollins.
At present this type of work finds its most ubiquitous expression in VCCP’s work for O2 and also in the Ipod campaign in which the principle focus of the communication is always the identity rather than a bigger thought about the brand. Indeed the potency of this approach seems to reside entirely in the aesthetic and the emotional, something that is slightly scary for someone schooled exclusively in a world of conceptual creativity – what we used to call an idea in the old days. Of course identity rich advertising need not be vaccuous and BBH’s campaign for Vodafone proves that this isn’t always the case – the power of now work is identity rich and intellectually satisfying.
If identity rich advertising is domniated by the aesthetic and emotional then Google’s adwords is presisely the opposite. Here is an advertising environment where not only are creativity and executional precision absent they are actively legislated against with every advertisement typographically and aesthetically identical. This is rational advertising at its most extreme where relevance is the key driver of communication success not creative standout or appeal.
Unfamliliar and challenging as these approaches may be they are by far the most dynamic developments in an industry searching for a new creative language. And in many ways the advertising world seems to be going back to the future, to the creative approaches present at the birth of the modern industry in the late nineteenth century – a big logo painted on the side of a house and text heavy press advertising, this time on search engines.