No, You´re Not Creating Culture
We hear the word ‘culture’ a lot in advertising, probably now more than ever.
But I believe most of what we see in advertising is miles away from creating culture.
Culture is in every creative brief, it´s discussed in meetings, talked about inside the agency, debated about with clients, it´s all over our social media feeds and industry events; it’s EVERYWHERE.
But so is fear. So is political correctness. So is trying to please everyone. So is inauthenticity.
And creating culture is incompatible with all of the above.
In this industry we love the buzzword, but we’re scared shitless of doing what it takes to walk the walk.
Let’s just take a look at the definition of culture: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
So, creating culture, by definition, has to do with change. Changing customs, changing ideas, and changing social behaviour. Tagging along, on the other hand, well that’s just tantamount to doing nothing.
Culture sounds great when it comes out of one´s mouth in a conference… or in a meeting. But culture isn’t the true ambition. Opportunism is. What we fail to see is that the reward in driving change is much bigger than the reward for doing what everybody else does. It also takes a bigger set of balls, or ovaries.
World pride has just been held in my hometown. Nothing new. Lots of rainbow flags, and lots of brands playing along. Not changing much of anything, because that change is already way underway in Europe. You might hate me for saying this, but supporting equal rights is a majority sentiment in the Western world and has been for years. It already is a part of our culture. I can’t recall a single LGBT+ related idea done by a brand over the past 10 days because they’ve all done something. They’re all late to the party, and they all went unnoticed.
I bet they all believe they’re cultural pioneers though.
And #worldpride is just one of many examples of tagging along vs. culture creation.
Maybe we should force ourselves to change the word culture for counterculture. It has a lot more of the culture-creating intentions I see everywhere in our industry for sure. I mean it’s in BBH’s tagline! (Whether they live up to it or not.) Zigging when the world is zagging is what we should be aiming for.
Maybe by just changing that word, everyone in the room will know exactly in what direction we should avoid pushing our brand and society.
Maybe by using that word, we will start realising the magnitude of the possibilities that lie ahead.
Maybe by using that word, we can start acknowledging that our work has to be focused on imagining a different future, not on finding a comfortable seat here, in the present.
Because you see, the chances of the counterculture of today becoming the culture of tomorrow, are far greater than the culture of today remaining as the culture of tomorrow. Especially at the pace things are changing nowadays.
And I hate to break the news to you, but the world doesn't need brands to drive that change. Change will happen with or without us. So maybe, it’s a good idea for us to be there before change happens, and not after.
Give it a try. Start talking counterculture instead of culture. See if the work holds up, see if the work improves, see if the work matches your speeches and is up to par with your LinkedIn status.
If it’s too scary, if it’s too pushy, if it’s too soon…
…well then you can always go back to tagging along. But maybe, from then on, be honest with yourself about what you’re really doing.
I’m leaving this picture here as a reference. It is the picture that changed the face of AIDS. The picture that actually did something for the LGBT+ community when no one was ready for it. And yeah, it’s more than 25 years old.