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  • Chas Bayfield

TikTok ads. They're alright.

I’m seeing a lot of posts on LinkedIn at the moment where people are either glorifying classic ads or mourning the demise of “the idea.” And I get it. Who doesn’t love a classic piece of print or TV? Well the answer is “a lot of people,” particularly those who have grown up this side of the Millennium. People who have grown up with the internet, whose TV shows aren’t interrupted by ads, who aren’t even on Facebook don’t mourn “great” ads because they live in an entirely different culture. It’s fine to have a full page spread of a tiny VW Beetle and “think small” as a headline in a national newspaper in 1959, or a big orange fella slapping a Tango drinker on TV in 1992. In the fifties and sixties, people read actual physical newspapers. In the 1990s, most people (at least in the UK) had just 4 channels of TV, only two of which carried advertising. It was much easier to make an impact. Potential consumers were easier to find, and many brands broadcast their products and services to a much wider audience than would possibly buy them, simply because they had no choice.

Broad brush strokes were essential pre internet unless you popped your ad in a niche “special interest” magazine. Now the advertising channels are almost infinite, as are the companies producing the advertising. Today, simply bombarding potential targets with information is seen as being as effective as an idea based ad. It’s neither right nor wrong, and it clearly works well enough to justify the billions thrown at Facebook and other digital channels. Channel 4 is never going to host an end of year show celebrating the nation’s favourite 100 digital activations or Facebook carousels, but it doesn’t mean that these aren’t hugely effective, especially for clients who don’t always have the kind of budgets that big agencies are used to.

It also becomes harder for creatives who grew up with three or four channel TV, radio, cinema, press and OOH to adapt to the new media landscape. Many got lost with the rise of social, and are now completely adrift with newer channels such as snapchat and TikTok. It can be hard to keep on top of everything, especially when the content is aimed at a much younger demographic, and the end result is that these briefs are handed to the digital natives who grew up with these channels – people who don’t know about Tango, or VW, or Guinness Surfers. And the result? My 15 year old thinks the ads on TikTok are “good enough.” She likes a lot of them, which is pretty much where I was at 15 watching TV and reding magazines. Whether any of this work will transcend its channel and endure is another question, but maybe it doesn’t need to.

Maybe we should look back at 20th century advertising as a moment in time, and see creative commercial film making and design as an art form that is cherished, but which is no longer needed. To know that this is the case, simply look at the number of average pieces of work that are being lauded with hundreds of likes, loves and messages of effusive praise on LinkedIn, while privately, the grumps from the last century are growling into their lattes. So in short, let’s applaud the great ideas from the past, acknowledge that they belonged to a particular time and place and be thankful that we can still contribute to this fabulous, ever evolving industry.

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