Views & Opinions

The Driving Seat

THE first of a series of interviews with people driving the communications industry forward. We ask Brendan O’Flaherty, Executive Creative Director of Brando, to share his views on the present, the past and the future.

Brendan O'Flaherty, Executive Creative Director, Brando

IS the 30 second TV ad dead?

Okay, I love this question. It’s the one everyone asks digital creatives. And my answer is pretty much the same every time.

The boring TV ad is dead. But it has always been dead. A great TV ad is still going to perform wonders for a brand. No doubt about that.


If that idea is rooted in digital. If it works online. If I can get involved. If I can share or participate. If I can add to the brand story.

Then we not only have a great campaign. We have the core of a community of brand champions. We have an opportunity to converse to listen to improve and to develop our brand and our products. We have brand champions.

Hard to get that through a TV ad.

And if one day our broadband is of sufficient quality to have a sevice like Hulu on these shores then that will certainly put the TV ad under pressure.

But for now I’ll still curl up on a Saturday with Mrs Bren and watch the Xfactor and yep, I’ll still pop out and put on the kettle during the adbreak.

Unless I’m stopped in my tracks.

How does Irish advertising now compare with Irish advertising 10 years ago?

10 years shouldn’t feel like that long ago.

September 11.  Still haunts me. But when you think of some things…  It feels like a lifetime.

I remember lusting after a colourdey iMac…  I remember the Buses were green. I remember wondering what an iPod was. Was Jade Goody a minger? Yep.

And films? Now that’s interesting. I’ve just had a look at the films released in 2001 – Just to give me a reference point. Here’s a few…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Lord of the Rings. Monsters Inc. Shrek. Ocean’s Eleven. Pearl Harbor. The Mummy Returns. Jurassic Park III. Planet of The Apes and Hannibal.

They somehow seem more current than a blueberry iMac. Maybe it’s because they’re on TV. All of the feckin time!

Maybe it’s because some of these films are classic and tell stories that resonate.

And then perhaps other things like, iPods and PCs have a built-in obsolecence. A best before date.

Commercials? Aren’t they are perishable too? Obsolete after a time?

There are some classics. We see these on TV shows usually presented by Chris Tarrant.

I remember the Bank of Ireland work for GAA – ‘Ask not what your County can do… ‘  Was Guinness ‘Anticipation’ 2001? It was around then anyhow.

I’ll be totally honest and say I can’t remember a single campaign I worked on from those days.

So how can I compare? I guess I can view things from where I am now to where I was then as a freelancer.

I’m not sure things have moved on significantly in Ireland.

Sure there’s lots of new online toys.  And yep there’s a social media goldrush.

But the country and many brands have been enjoying a couple of fat  boom years. I feel a majority of these brands have just been rocking along. Holding their own. Incrementally increasing their market share by fractions… Basically they didn’t need to stand out. Didn’t need to offer a good service or anwer the phone. They were making money standing still.

The same thinking will not work in this climate. One of my favourite quotes is by Albert Einstein.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

I think we need to have some ‘Punk’ thinking. I see it like this.

Advertising people are great story-tellers. Inspirational. Engaging. Funny. And at times, life-changing. And Digital people are great innovators. Challenging, exploring, skillful, nimble and contemporary.

And both of these disciplines are crucial to a new wave. Agencies and brands will require a mash up of both these disciplines.

This is happening. RG&A. Fallon. DDB. There are all integrated agencies doing phenomenal work.

Now all we need to do is take a few risks. Make a difference. Compete. Stand out. We need to scare ourselves.

Brands and advertising agencies need to be brave. We need to be in The One Show. We need to be in Cannes. We need to be at the Clios.

We need to be on TV with Chris Tarrant and the best Ads in The World.

How do you think the Irish advertising landscape will look in 2020?

I’m not going to predict the future. I can’t. I could have a stab at trends I could get a load of stats together on consumer behaviors etc. But then that would take the ‘you’ out of the question above.

I think that the Advertising does this a lot… It takes out the individual. Lumps them in with whatever socio-economic box fits.

We see a ‘them’ – consumers, outsiders – (I’ve even heard ‘them’ referred to as civilians in one agency.) Then there’s ‘us’ -The insiders, specialists, the deciders, the ones who know best.

In September 2006 Mark Zuckerberg changed this. By opening Facebook to anyone over the age of 13, he inadvertently gave consumers something they never had before – a network – A channel without media interference. And now there are more networks. And these networks will continue to develop.

These networks are made up of friends – Real people with the pretty much same values as you. These are people with responsibilities, people who have ideals and a sense of humour. They have kids. They have problems. They have with ideas.

Real people, with real hopes and dreams. Real personalities.

And these networks will share. They will tell each other if a product is poor – If they had a bad experience with a plumber or if they thought the service was crap in a restaurant or that their cable TV company won’t pick up the phone. They can even sway votes.

Networks have fractured the media landscape.

And marketers are killing themselves trying to access them. Social media strategies abound. ‘Like’ buttons are applied like logos. Follow us. Like us.

I can see where this is going. So many brands are seeing these as media channels. It’s still a broadcast mentality. Are we reaching out? Or are we making noise?

Unless we as an industry start to respect the consumers of our products and services – start to listen to them and start to realize that that the modern consumer is without doubt the largest single constituent of our economy… then we cannot change or adapt.

We will be still using the same old thinking to unlock a whole new market.

Rather than studying consumer behaviour, maybe we should be revising our own.

Yes, we may need social media strategies. But more than that, the industry needs to be more social. And our clients need to be more social.

Businesses and brands need a Social Business Strategy.

The tools are there. Brands can use them to make better, more ethical products and to supply better services.

Now, it’s not just a case of how we use them to engage with people, it’s about how we can use these tools to re-shape corporations, faceless organizations and brands into networks of people with the same values as the very people who they depend on. Customers… People.

The future of our industry should not be about technology – Digital, Mobile or Traditional.

It should be about the industry’s relationship with real people, just like you and me.

The Irish Advertising Landscape could be a healthy place. If we let it grow. If we let it be tended to by people who want to see some new things growing.

But that’s just my opinion.

Brendan O’Flaherty is Executive Creative Director at Brando.

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