It has long been debated whether advertising, branding and design creatives are really in tune with the audiences that receive their work. “It seems to be always an obsession and a fear not to be in touch with the real world, which is a healthy fear to have, to make sure we stay grounded in reality,” says Damien Le Castrec, Droga5’s newly appointed head of strategy.
This fear is not unfounded. “When you switch on the TV and look at the ads, you’re like, do these things really get people? 95% of it doesn’t,” he says. “The best work always understands people and human beings,” he adds, pointing to wider cultural output such as Michaela Coel’s lauded BBC series I May Destroy You as an example of this.
Back in adland, “we read research but we don’t understand human beings, and we can’t talk to them. We know labels and big data points, we know ‘everything’s changing’, and new platforms, but we don’t understand the people behind those words. That’s always been the case – the people who got that did the right work. The people who didn’t get it did the shit work. And it’s truer now because it’s more difficult – you can get it wrong so much more than you could have done before.”
Most people working in the ad and design industries will be familiar with the usual debates that surround the work that wins the top industry awards. The typical argument is that creatives create work that might earn respect or applause from their peers, but that achieves little beyond their own circles.