An afternoon with his six-year-old nephew has Rattling Stick director Austen Humphries pondering adland and more
I was hanging out with my nephews last week (Half Term Best Uncle in the World duties) and the youngest one of six, the one with slightly psychotic tendencies, kept asking me “why?”
Why had his brother tripped him up? (Because he was being annoying.) Why couldn’t we play more foosball? (My bad back.) Why couldn’t he have some more chocolate? (Me and my sister had eaten it on the sly.) Why was Hitler a bad bloke? (… thanks Imperial War Museum.) It went on and on.
All his repetitive chatter got me thinking: “Why?” really is the best response to anything I do. Takes a six-year-old…
In a 25-year near-constant personal search to find out what’s good (who knows?), what’s on trend (who the hell knows!) and what’s cool (who the fuck cares?), the why part to these questions seems a whole lot easier to explain away.
Why is it good? Why is it on trend? And why is it cool? All seem to be far more logical questions to give logical answers to. I can’t answer “what is good?”… It’s too subjective. But I can tell you why I think something is.
Do other people get asked, “why are we making this?” and they don’t know the answer? Or do they not know why? And if they don’t, why are they working in this industry?
I miss advertising and filmmaking that was about people walking into lampposts, falling down holes, telling a good joke that made you laugh hard, and then remembering the brands because it was so funny it made you shit your pants. Why? Because it was well thought through. If it made you laugh, it was enough. Why are we now neck deep in seriousness that seems to care more about winning awards for worthy than funny? All relevant and important points, but have we lost track of what used to make this Orange-Cinema-watching, Supernoodle-eating, EMAP-reading, Tango-drinking, Hamlet-smoking world of ours such fun?
Ask yourself why and you’ll find reasons to everything. Why am I doing this, why do I find this funny/appropriate/highly inappropriate (the list is endless, delete as appropriate) and you’ll soon find out why. And the best bit is, the reasons will all be personal and they’ll all mean something to you and your ideas. Then you can make fun stuff that you like and every time some killjoy asks you why (even though it’s a great question) you’ll have already thought of the answer, and they can piss off, that’s why (but you keep that one to yourself). Why gets you from front to back and through all the roads in between.
It’s an easy challenge, and one I was telling the new class of ADCAN students about a couple weeks ago. A seriously bright bunch; smart, driven and talented. I told them to keep asking themselves why, and you’ll keep pushing yourself for better work. They seemed genuinely surprised. Think it through, find the right reasons - good or bad - find out why and you’re there. Maybe it is a bit simplistic, but you know what, why shouldn’t it be?
Sometimes, dear nephew, "why?" is just because, mate. Now, put that squirrel down and come over here.
Austen Humphries is a director at Rattling Stick