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Boring Doesn’t Sell

Colin Hart outlines his views on creativity and why Boring Doesn’t Sell.

The now legendary stat that 94%* of advertising is invisible is a bit of an understatement in my opinion, even to those who care. How many ads do you remember from this magazine so far, apart from that great ‘bad tripadvisor review’ by The Public House Honestly.

The idea that brands continue to talk to people in a completely different way than people talk to people is genuinely confusing and has been all my career. I’ve been a creative for over 20 years now, working in agencies all over the world but what really frustrates me is that we’re still talking in that norm that we’ve created for ourselves of ‘Advertising Tone’ and frankly, it’s a snooze fest. All that time, effort and money being put in to try to cut through only to end up with all the personality of Andrew Marr. So how has advertising become so ‘Sunday Politics’? Cities much smaller and less culturally famous than Dublin are nailing it with creatively led agencies like my personal heroes ‘Mistress’ who don’t want the big accounts, just the ‘dirty bits’ on the side (their words not mine). This inbuilt agency edge is refreshing and smart, but it’s not just about being edgy. Edge is about being pointed.

It differs between categories − the work we do with Paddy Power would be a completely different tone to Jameson or 123.ie. We talk as an agency about being consistently inconsistent but edge is at the heart of this. Edge is the remedy for boring.

(Blatant promotional section – hey we bought the ad space). We set up The Public House with a genuine mission to talk to people in a way that they might talk to each other in pubs.

“We talk as an agency about being consistently inconsistent but edge is at the heart of this. Edge is the remedy for boring.”

Of our own independent mind, interested, interesting, witty, sometimes inappropriate, smart, sensitive, sometimes insensitive, current and topical. Our creative philosophy ‘Boring Doesn’t Sell’ is not just another hollow agency slogan but defines how we work with our clients and how we respond to briefs. We talk upfront to our clients about creative strategy and creative ambition. We talk to them about the category conventions and how to genuinely challenge them through whatever personality helps that brand cut through their category norm. Our senior management all come from large international agency experience but this is what we love and it’s what makes us sharpen our wacoms in the morning, getting us and our clients talked about. There is nothing boring about what we do.

Doing this out of Dublin is also important to our principle. We get to work with some of the most amazing talent the world has to offer (on and through our doorstep) illustrators, photographers, musicians, makers of all sorts but the key thing for me is the local edge they bring to it.

I can only reassure anyone thinking that the talent is better in the bigger markets that this is not the case and it should be nurtured. What a good cynical, satirical, Irish creative brings to the idea party is far better than most. I personally think that the pursuit of the ‘Big Agency’ standards of global creativity has completely alienated the unique tone of voice that we have here for brands. Think about comedy. We still sit at the forefront of amazing wit and personality, but there is nothing about Irish comedy that’s not brilliant (excluding Mrs Brown’s Boys). If brands just started simply comparing themselves to the comedy scene, rather than sofas, we’d make everyone’s lives a bit better and possibly sell a few more mortgages.

That’s the rant part over and here’s the hard sell. It’s not a debate, it’s fact. Almost all adverts are boring and the proof of the number of agencies like us growing and innovating based on a pure pursuit of unboring creative will tell you that it’s not the appetite of clients where the problem lies. We’re challenging the norm in this market and it’s working for us and for the brands we’re lucky enough to work with. *Not approved by media company.

Colin Hart is founder and creative director of The Public House.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ July/August 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660