The case for radical popularism in advertising

The advertising industry turns its nose up at popular creative approaches such as jingles or celebrities in favour of ‘brave originality’. But, asks Ben Kay, is it shooting itself in the foot?

The most popular musician of recent times is Ed Sheeran. The most watched comedy in Britain is Mrs Brown’s Boys. The biggest film of the year so far is Fast and Furious 9.

What do all of the above have in common? Yes, they’re crap. Don’t take my word for it; have a read of their reviews: one described Mr. Sheeran’s latest work as “an album defined mostly by banality”. A Guardian article asked of Mrs Brown’s Boys: “How did the worst show on TV become a festive must-watch?” And F9 is apparently “as soulless and disingenuous a movie as you will find in this or any year”. Ouch.

So why are people spending their valuable time and hard-earned money on experiencing such dross? Why are they choosing to endure ersatz emotions, tired tropes and piss-poor plots? The simple answer is that, for some strange reason, they do not think Ed, MBB and F9 are crap at all. In fact, millions of people love all three, enjoy them multiple times, and gladly come back for more.

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted a degree of disconnection between this supposedly poor quality and the attendant colossal popularity. So maybe it’s worth exploring why ‘bad’ things do well, and whether or not we should acknowledge that if we can’t beat ’em, maybe we should join ’em.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes