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Opinion and Insight

Malcolm Poynton: We’re Living in a Golden Age

Cheil Worldwide, 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Cheil’s Global CCO tells the Creative LIAisons audience that the industry isn’t in crisis

Malcolm Poynton: We’re Living in a Golden Age

The advertising industry isn’t in crisis and the current transition period is as exciting and significant as the Industrial Revolution – that was the upbeat and positive message from Malcolm Poynton speaking at the London International Awards Creative LIAisons event in Las Vegas.

“The thing I would say about an industry in crisis, is that if it’s true that it is in crisis, that’s the most fricking interesting time to be in it and that’s true throughout history. On the flip side crisis is one way people choose to describe the situation and when you look at it from another point of view it’s completely opposite. This is an exciting moment of development, an exciting time for evolution in this industry,” Malcolm told the audience of 85 young creatives.

In order to understand how our definition of what constitutes ‘advertising’ today (and tomorrow), Malcolm took the audience on a journey through the history of brands and advertising, taking in a Pears Soap statue, a chaotic wild west Crunchie ad from 1975 and an eerily prescient AT&T campaign from the early 1990s. Today, however, agencies are embracing innovation and product design. While some industry insiders may be sceptical as to whether projects like Samsung’s smart swimming cap can truly be considered advertising, Malcolm argued that a broader, more flexible definition was the key to connecting with consumers.

Indeed product design, experimentation and the ambition to look beyond the narrow definitions are not necessarily new ideas. Take the 1884 sculpture ‘You Dirty Boy’ by Giovanni Focardi commissioned by Pears Soap. The statue of a fierce older lady scrubbing a filthy child was originally created for an art exhibition and later Pears began selling terracotta replicas to the public.


Malcolm also argued that the industry risked limiting itself by sticking to traditional definitions of what advertising is and what it can achieve.

“I still love creating huge campaigns for television but the reality is if we continue down that path we are limiting ourselves to a set of six crayons and that’s about it. But when you absolutely smash the rules and say, well, advertising is a much bigger thing than that, you end up with one of those massive mega colouring in sets where you have 55 colours in one pack and what you can do generally, is anything you can think of.”

Clients, he said, were also less reluctant to embrace technological innovation and he believed the biggest hurdle preventing the industry getting to where it needs to be was the lack of an effective business model for charging for this new style of work.

As for the young creatives, he told them that their generation will be the ones redefining advertising and bringing the industry forward over the next decade. Their vision will be the thing that will ensure the industry survives and thrives – and the key will be to rip up old preconceptions and ‘rules’.

“Absolutely what you have to do – and I hope you all do anyway – is forget the fricking rules. David Ogilvy once wrote rules about the fact that you should never ever have reversed out copy, white type on black, how insane is that? There are all these rules people used to follow – screw the rules. It doesn’t have to conform. I’d encourage you to think more about smashing the status quo.”

Genre: People , Strategy/Insight