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One of the most profound exchanges in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is to be found when a computer named Deep Thought is built to calculate The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything:

Deep Thought rightly points out that even though the answer is 42, a greater computer is required to calculate the question to which the answer is 42.

It is the same in the creative business.

Creative teams can only come up brilliant answers if the question itself is even more brilliant.

For a profound insight into brilliant creative questions (briefs), I direct you to this fantastic post by Rob Campbell: The Need to Dumb up, not Dumb Down.

Apparently there is some book doing the rounds amongst marketing executives.

Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow”.

It is hailed as some sort of masterpiece on the science of advertising.

This kind of phraseology should already have anyone who has a bit of understanding of advertising be worried.

Without indefinable magic, there can be no great work that really touch the hearts and minds of people.

In this piece, MEC’s James Hier does a good job of pointing that out. And more.

Well worth a read.

In my first week in advertising:

  • Apple Computers were flat and beige
  • We used Freehand, and it was owned by Aldus, before it became part of Macromedia who became part of Adobe.
  • There was only dial-up internet.
  • People smoked in the agency. A lot.
  • Media-planners and buyers were our colleagues.
  • Multi-media meant TV, Print, Radio and Outdoor.
  • Research was a luxury.

This month I start my 18th year in advertising.

In 17 years everything has changed. Perhaps the only other business that has been transformed as much as advertising is the tech industry itself – which is the business that spurred the changes in mine.

Douglas Adams (who would have been 60 years old this week), famously said about the effect of technology on media that:

It’d be like a bunch of rivers, the Amazon and the Mississippi and the Congo asking how the Atlantic Ocean might affect them… and the answer is of course is that they won’t be rivers anymore, just currents in the ocean.

TV, print, radio, outdoor, they have all just become part of the ocean. No longer rivers, but currents. And imagine that, the channels are no longer one-way.

The one thing that has not changed is this.

People are attracted by ideas that are charming, heart-warming and above all – awesome.

And as long as human nature stays the same, advertising, or whatever this business is evolving into, will stay the same at its core. Now. And in a 1000 years from now.