Wednesday 29 January 2020

AdLib: Education policy doesn't ad up

Three mobile and its agency Boys and Girls deserve bouquets for the excellent ‘Air’ ad;
Three mobile and its agency Boys and Girls deserve bouquets for the excellent ‘Air’ ad;

Michael Cullen

Improvements in creative standards in advertising should be made by starting with Ireland's education system, one of adland's top agency creative directors and a former teacher, says.

Chemistry's Emmet Wright, a judge at this year's Sharks international advertising festival, says Ireland's education system encourages and enforces a particular type of learning. Educators call it 'teaching to the test'. It's the 'sage on stage' instructor who lectures almost exclusively versus the 'guide on the side', who helps learners discover knowledge and steers them in ways that enrich them.

Wrights says as long as the points system dominates, creativity, imagination and emotional intelligence will remain less prized than the '3Rs'. "It's harmful and behind the times," Wright told AdLib, "and not just when it comes to producing advertising candidates".

The World Economic Forum claims the three most important career attributes for graduates in 2020 will be complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. All three are vital in adland. An education framework which encourages problem-solving, resourcefulness, imagination and creativity would boost advertising.

Wright believes it's even more pertinent now given the challenges the business faces from artificial intelligence (AI). It's vital adland promotes emotional intelligence and empathy, key elements in creativity. The adman, whose foremost talent is copywriting, but who also waited on tables in the Unicorn restaurant in Dublin for five years, says agencies must bear some responsibility.

Strong client relationships allow agencies to produce a lot of good work. But there's still a need to push, persuade and sometimes argue for creativity. It's facile to suggest clients are the main obstacle. It's rarely that a client, faced with an idea that answered the brief, rejected the concept because it was 'creative'.

"Production values in radio ads are conspicuously bad," Wright says, "especially when it comes to writing, casting and voice performance. Not all the responsibility lies with agencies, but it's symptomatic of an attitude in creative industries where they forget that if standards fall, it's a race to the bottom."

Agencies shouldn't present work to clients made from user-generated content and smartphones. Holding a mirror up to an audience might reflect what they do, or their interests, but should adland reduce its role to holding up a mirror? If agencies value creativity, they must argue for the value they add.

Piyush Pandey, creative boss at Ogilvy Asia Pacific, defines the role of creativity as "to make messages easier to understand, faster to impact and enjoyable enough to adopt". That's what agencies do, why clients employ them and what adland should value.


When it comes to rewards, Irish people are 'me feiners' with 69pc of adults preferring to reward themselves, with only 13pc saying they prefer to reward a friend. Just one in 20 are shy when it comes to treating themselves, admitting they don't always claim rewards. Some 73pc are members of reward programmes and regularly use their loyalty cards and reward apps.

The Empathy Research online survey for Three mobile pinpoints three personality types when it comes to rewards: savers, introverts and optimists. Ireland is a nation of savers as 64pc reward programme members claim the ability to save money is what they like about loyalty programmes.

Just 6pc are introverts. They like to get small tokens of appreciation but may not claim them unless it's easy to do so. One-in-three are in the optimist category - using programmes for the thrill of getting something for free.

Irish people appear to love their mammies, with 28pc revealing they would most like to share a reward with Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Brown. Pop singer Ed Sheeran scores 24pc and actress Amy Huberman is on 22pc. The study shows 68pc reward themselves as a 'pick-me-up'.


While Three mobile and its agency Boys and Girls deserve bouquets for the excellent 'Air' ad (pictured), every time its 'Rewards' ad comes on the telly with all those colourful balls, it strikes me as a poor relation of the Sony Bravia 'Balls' masterpiece.


MediaCom Ireland has made three additions to its senior management team, with Simon Kennett as chief client officer, Iuliana Stere as senior digital account director and Paul Monteath as digital strategy director. Kennett was Northern Europe business lead on GSK at MediaCom London since 2013 and worked on the Tesco account for over 12 years. CEO Peter McPartlin said there's a real battle to recruit talent with wide experience. "We've done exceptionally well to add three individuals with depth and multi-market experience," McPartlin added.

Michael Cullen is editor of;

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