/ 14 September 2012

Telling stories to the masses

David Nobay
David Nobay

David Nobay, the Loeries 2012 Print Chairman, has many advertising awards to his name. Currently the creative chairman of Droga5, an agency based in Sydney, Australia, Nobay has also worked in London, Hong Kong and San Fransisco.

At this year's Loerie Awards Nobay will oversee the judging process and give guidance to the panel. The rest of the panel is made up of local leaders in their fields. Nobay will be the only one on the panel who sees the final scoring for the work and will, along with the Loeries CEO, sign off which work gets awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold. The chairman also gets to make the final call on whether a Grand Prix should be awarded in that category.

We spoke to him about this rapidly-changing industry.

How do advertisers approach their task these days?
In my experience, most clients would argue they’re understaffed. Fiscal pressures affect their departments just as much as our production budgets. On the upside, it means we’re being approached much more as a genuine partner in their business than simply a supplier of creative work, as in the old days. It means we get access to the big conversations that affect their business: everything from product design to distribution, which is great. On the downside, it means it’s invariably hard to get a serious conversation on a proactive idea onto their schedules, as they’re so stretched.

What does one look for when assessing the merit in various advertising media?
In its simplest form, all great advertising is simply about creating a place to have a decent conversation with people. The decision about media should simply be driven by where that conversation is going to really sink in best, and that’s all about who you’re talking to and what they’re doing through the day.  If they’re on the move, mobile makes sense. If they’re drinking tea in the front room with their feet up, perhaps TV? There’s still a lot of bullshit about new media reach. In the digital world, we call it “astro-turfing”; where eyeballs are reached simply by seeding your message on a bunch of sites that have nothing to do with your brand or message. We’ve seen stuff crop up on porn sites, for instance. As a result, we now have to monitor porn sites regularly!

Where does one find the line between “the message” and creative innovation?
I think the word you’re reaching for is “the idea”. That’s all that’s important. These days, too many ill-conceived ideas are trotted out because they involve some level of technical innovation.

And, related to this, is it ever frustrating?
We interview plenty of young (that’s under 30 to me!) people in the business, and when we look at their ideas, I’m often dismayed at how much stuff is in reality off-brief or derivative, and is merely in there because it involves some clever widget. It’s easy to overcomplicate what we do; which is really just storytelling, en masse.

With the potential for advertising to go viral on the internet, has this line shifted? Has the way “brand awareness” is approached changed because of this?
Any client that asks for “a viral” is revealing a lack of understanding about new media. “Viral” is an outcome, not a media execution.

How has the internet affected the way advertisers approach their task? Can you give me some examples?
At the expense of sounding rude, it’s kind of a dumb question. How has the internet affected your life? Your family’s? It didn’t happen yesterday. The internet is the channel through which the world talks, connects, lives. Any communication that ignores it is like serving a dish in a restaurant without cutlery.

What doesn't work in advertising?
Trying to make a viral. “Matching luggage” (trying to make every piece of the media mix look exactly the same). Looking backwards.

How have consumers changed over the years? In short, what “works” these days?
It’s a pretty far reaching question! This business isn’t an exact science (which is what your question suggests). If I knew what works, I’d be sunning myself on the deck of my yacht in the Med right now, rather than hammering out these answers on a Mac in Sydney.

In all seriousness, the biggest shift I’ve seen that affects what we do for brands is the massively heightened need for transparency. In its infancy, advertising was all about magic tricks. Smoke and mirrors, and a bit of truth. The Internet, and Google specifically, has created a world where it’s almost impossible to exaggerate a truth. Brands have had to become more honest, more open and more reactive to consumers on a daily basis. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it’s changed the way we have to operate on behalf of our clients.

David Nobay will be speaking at the Seminar at City Hall in Cape Town on Friday September 21. For more information go to the Creative Week Cape Town website.