What does great creative in 2022 look like?

What does great creative in 2022 look like?

We all want to foster extraordinary, meaningful and effective creativity in our industry.

To do that, we need to be relatable. What we do exists very much in the real world, not in a rarefied bubble.

That isn’t a negative. 

All it means is we need to acknowledge how the audiences we need to connect with truly feel about their lives and change our message to suit our them, rather than try to change our audiences to suit our message. 

Brands and creative teams have had the boon of go-to social and environmental activism ads over the past four or five few years. 2022 may demand a less-catch all response.

Environmental messages

It’s hard to find a major brand which didn’t include a ‘climate change’ message in their marketing over the past 12 months. A critical issue, but the ‘we’re all in it together’ vibe of many campaigns may warrant a rethink in the coming year.

Brands shouldn’t assume this means there’s a lack of concern about the planet. 

Every audience wants to do their bit, but some may likely become sick of being told to do so by brands because of the widening gap economic between the affluent and those who live closer to the breadline. We are all experiencing stratospheric rises in energy costs and fuel prices. For the less well-off, levies like the ULEZ charge and big utility bills decimate disposable income. Those most keenly feeling the financial pain of environmental policy may prove less than enamoured with messages nagging them to support it more by buying brands.

We will need to persuade them emotionally—through ideas rooted in benefit. 

And when you think about the ads and campaigns you most admire, most of them work exactly like that.

Of course, for the affluent, the polar opposite could prove true. They believe the responsibility of saving the planet falls to them. More and more, the rich, instead of thinking ‘I like it, I can afford it’ will be asking ‘I like it, but should I buy it?’. This month’s Vogue trumpets the rise of “resale, vintage and sustainable designers”. The subtext? Don’t buy any new clothes. Not a great news for fashion brands. And not great new for the affluent either—as we saw from the elites, private-jetting into COP 26, they don’t wish to sacrifice too much of the luxury and lifestyle they currently enjoy.

We will need to generate ever more creative initiatives and devices that hand the affluent inspiring excuses to buy the indulgences we sell.

Rise in value advertising

Inflation and other tax increases will see retail campaigns in 2022 increasingly speaking to consumers about value. 

Very few creative people automatically view value as a stunning creative opportunity.

But the good news is that invention has come on greatly since the Value to shout about days (although the underlying insight may still apply). We can build on the great jobs done by the likes of Aldi, Tesco’s F&F and TK Maxx in the noughties. They had ‘intelligent value’ strategies. 

By using wit, humour and style they pushed the message that you can get more for your pound without sacrificing quality.

All these guys forced the mid-market players to change tactics as consumers defected. This strategy is likely to become more common; expect more brands in categories like health & beauty, clothing and home décor competing for a significantly smaller pool of disposable income after years of relying on creative worlds built wholly on aspiration.

We will likely have more great advertising to look forward to making in ’22 by bringing laughter to glamour and emotion to value.

Education by category

In 2022, brands will invest more in campaigns that consumers want to watch, not merely because they’re entertaining, but because they’ll learn something valuable from them.

This trend stems from lockdown. Billions of us took to the internet to teach ourselves new skills. Partly out of boredom, partly to better ourselves, partly because we simply couldn’t get an expert over to fix it for us.

Looking up “how to…” films has become habitual. 

Courses like “Masterclass” have become addictive. Content showing us how to get more out of our interests, and more out of purchases have huge, ready and hungry audience. 

We may well see broadcast and billboard advertising that advertises not just brands but the online educational resources they offer. We need to think not of just ideas to make 6, 10, 20 or 30 seconds of compelling film, but ideas and techniques that will produce 30 compelling hours.

Christmas advertising

When Christmas planning begins this spring, there might be a rethink about what has been dubbed the ‘Super Bowl moment’ for UK advertising.

The mother and father of this trend of course is John Lewis. Somehow, for them, it’s begun to feel like an obligation that’s increasingly hard to fulfil. And given the current trajectory of the business, it is hard to make all that emotion look like a commercially credible strategy. 

Perhaps, like Glastonbury, it’s time for a year off. 

So many big advertisers now seem trapped in the making of an annual “short film for children” Perhaps, it’s time to start dramatising genuine difference, or advertising experiences that brands host. 

It certainly feels like time for something new.

2022 will be challenging. 

Our biggest challenge is how we tap into the dominant sentiments of the day in ways that truly stand out—and the best way that I know is to make sure creative teams are handed brilliant audience insight then given the space, time and the freedom to play. 

Let’s make that a priority for 2022.

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