In My Opinion: Mark Gorman: Advertising’s capacity to thrill

I USED to be an ad man. Now, I no longer have to hide my shameful past; telling my mother that I play piano in a whorehouse, as it’s socially more acceptable. Because now I do other things. But, you know what.? You can take the man out of advertising, but you can’t take advertising out of the man.

Advertising is under the cosh. Everywhere you look the talk is digital this, digital that. Advertising has seemingly gone to sleep, weeping and cowering as blow after blow is rained on the industry, and as accusations of complacency are lumped on it.

But advertising has always been the butt of negativity: for being the hidden persuader making us buy things we don’t want., for making our parents drink too much and making our children fat. And why all that criticis? Simple. Jealousy. People love ads. They still create cooler talk. They still make us laugh, sometimes more than the comedy programmes they flank.

And those that can’t do it are jealous. So they criticise and take cheap shots. But we ad men know that it is still the high water mark in marketing. What greater thing than to see you brand snuggling into the bosom of Rita Fairclough at 7.45 on a Monday night?

And advertising maintains the capacity to thrill. Take the new Honda TV campaign. In my opinion, Honda has been the most consistently brilliant British TV advertiser of the last five years. But the latest took my breath away.

Screened live on Channel 4 it was a masterstroke. Ads used to be screened live in the 1950’s but the risk of that got too much and gradually they moved into recorded formats with glossier and glossier production values. But this four-minute ad was full of crackles, pops and glitches that you’d expect filming a phalanx of skydivers jumping out of a plane in central Spain and, in formation, spelling out the word Honda, letter by letter.

No time for re-shoots, second takes or retouching. It all had to go off first time.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful.

I doff my cap to Mr Honda. This is why advertising does indeed remain vital, energising, exciting, thought-provoking and, above all, full to the point of bursting with creative potential.

Difficult is indeed worth doing.

Mark Gorman has over 20 years’ experience in the Scottish advertising scene, having started out at Hall Advertising in 1985 before moving to The Leith Agency and establishing his own agency, 1576 in 1994. Over the last five years, he has focussed more on the delivery of strategic advice on marketing for a range of private clients in a consultancy role. He is a past chair of the Scottish division of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and is a fellow of the IPA.