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Why hasn’t digital technology led to better ads?

The access to information, ideas and inspiration that advertising creatives have today is mind-boggling. Yet it hasn’t necessarily made ads better. Ben Kay examines the reasons why

The advent of the digital age has been nothing short of a miracle. Those of you under 40 won’t have much of an idea of what life was like before the internet became a daily part of our lives, but as a regular eyewitness I can tell you that it was a comparative desert.

Instead of looking up literally anything on Google and Wikipedia, ad agencies had information departments, who could find things in these bound collections of paper called books. Were these books out of date? Unavoidably. Were they limited? Try to imagine what a search engine would look like as a vast physical library. The two information departments I experienced early in my career consisted of maybe ten bookshelves.

And what about inspiration and reference? Many excellent creatives kept scrapbooks of their favourite typography, photography, illustration and layouts. Some kept snippets of news articles, cartoons, and other things that might lead to an idea sometime in the future. I don’t think anyone had more than ten of these books, so maybe it would be like having a 50mb hard drive. Compared to the opportunity to flick through endless pages of Dribbble, Behance or Abduzeedo.