June 28, 2016The myopia of the middle classes
I’m in my thirties.
By any normal standards I’m still pretty young. (Although, sadly, not young and pretty).
But in some of the places I’ve freelanced, I’m practically a dinosaur.
I felt my age recently when I was hit with a brief for 15 year olds. And I realised it was hard to remember what it was like back then.
But I was 15 once. I reckon the basics haven’t changed, even if these days it’s all happening on Snapchat, not AOL Instant Messenger.
Answer me this:
Could you write for a 15 year old if you had no idea what he cared about?
Could you write for him if you had no idea what he wanted? And didn’t care to find out?
“Ha ha, fifteen year olds. Bunch of losers. Idiots. Don’t know what’s good for them. Ruled by their emotions. Stupid. Can’t think for themselves. Need to be told what to do.”
If that was my attitude towards fifteen year olds, would you give me the brief?
What if you looked on Facebook and saw I’d spent the last month doing nothing but snarling about what a bunch of idiots all teenagers are?
As the client, would you give the agency the brief if you thought that all everyone at the agency thought the same way?
Can you guess where I’m going with this yet?
The always excellent Sell! Sell! blogged recently about how the advertising industry’s reaction to Brexit shows how out of touch the industry has become.
It’s a safe bet to say well over 90% of people I work with backed Remain. As did most of my friends.
But most advertising folk can’t even begin to understand why Remain lost.
And they don’t care to understand, either.
And therein lies the problem.
You don’t have to agree with someone. You don’t have to have lived their life.
But you do have to try to understand them.
For almost a decade the most highly anticipated UK advertising event of the year has been the unveiling of the new John Lewis ad.
John Lewis ferchrissakes. How much more middle class can you get?
We’re a long way away from the world of “The water in Majorca“.
There is nothing wrong with being middle class. There is nothing wrong with preferring guacamole to mushy peas.
But if you think everyone else out there likes what you like, talks how you talk, values what you value, then you’re a fool.
It is hard for many in the advertising industry to understand why Remain lost.
But if we intend on making ads that are relevant, we must.
It is easy for us to sneer at people, to call them racists or fools.
To do so ignores the underlying reasons behind Brexit.
A lot of people in advertising are angry about the result right now.
But in time that anger will subside. The 52% will remain.
And they will be the people we’re making ads for.
Not the racists. Not national front. Nor our right-on, middle-class chums.
Ordinary people. People who live outside of London. People who have views we don’t always agree with.
I wouldn’t trust somebody to sell something to a 15 year old if they thought 15 year olds were all idiots.
And as a client, I wouldn’t trust an agency that thinks half of my customers are fools.
As advertisers, we don’t need to agree with the result. But perhaps we should take more time to understand it.