Upstream thinking | Dave Trott | TEDxCanaryWharf

By | November 21, 2019

Translator: Ellen Maloney
Reviewer: Denise RQ British creativity in advertising
used to be the best in the world; now it isn’t. What went wrong? I think, what went wrong is people
got hypnotized by complexity. Pretty much what’s going wrong
with all creativity at the moment; people are hypnotized by complexity. In fact, everybody’s
so hypnotized by complexity, they’ve lost their ability to even think. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I read a story in a New Zealand
newspaper last year, November, 2014. A couple had just bought the most modern
car they could find; a Mazda key-less car. Key-less; it all worked on a card. It didn’t have a key,
this card did everything. It let you in the car, as soon as you got in, it adjusted
the temperature, the air conditioning. It worked the GPS,
the self-parking, the rain sensors. The most modern car
you could possible get; things you couldn’t even think of,
all worked off this card. The man and his wife get in the car, November 5th, they get in the car, and he goes to start it and he says,
“I’ve left the card in the kitchen.” The wife says, “Well,
How are you going to get it? You can’t get out the car;
you haven’t got the card.” (Laughter) And he says, “Christ, you’re right.” He starts pressing buttons,
nothings works. He starts beeping the horn
to attract someone’s attention, but because it’s November 5th,
Guy Fawkes night, all the fireworks are going off
and nobody pays any attention. They all think it’s part
of the celebration. He’s there for hours pressing
the horn, all through the night. Eventually, about eight hours later,
there’s a lack of air in the car. The wife’s passed out, he’s leaned over the back seat
to get the jack out the back seat to try to break the windows
to get out the car. He can’t break the windows. Now it’s morning, and it’s 12 hours later, and he manages to weakly wave
as one of his neighbors is passing by, attract the neighbor. The neighbor calls the police, the police call the ambulance,
they get him out the car. 13 hours they’ve been in the car. They take him and his wife to hospital;
they’ve been in there 13 hours. They said they were half an hour
from asphyxiation, because they couldn’t get out the car. What never occurred to the bloke
was to try the door handle. (Laughter) That’s kind of what I mean
by the “hypnosis of complexity”. Everything’s wonderful,
and we’ve forgotten how to use our brains. (Laughter) Stupid people think
complicated is clever; smart people know you have to go beyond
complicated to get to simple. Creative people are really confused
about what their job is. If you’re in advertising, you’re really confused
about what your job is. Are we doing native advertising? Are we doing storytelling? Are we doing content curation? Are we doing crowdsourcing? Are we doing cross-channel, cross-device? Mobile-optimized? Are we doing big data? Wearable tech? Are we doing branded content? Maybe we’re doing SEO, CRM, CSR, CTR, CMS, UGC, KPI, or ROI. The only three letters
missing for me are “WTF”. (Laughter) (Applause) We’ve forgotten how to think. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it
to an 11-year old, you haven’t really understood it.” In creative terms, what would creativity,
in our business, look like, explained really simply? Bill Bernbach, the man
who invented good advertising, Bill Bernbach said,
“It may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally
allowed to take over our competitors.” It may well be that creativity
is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed
to take over our competitors. For me, creativity
is a legal unfair advantage. However you create that, however you manufacture that,
however you find that. Truly, it’s not just in advertising; it’s in football, war, business, it’s in anything you want. It’s a legal unfair advantage. That’s a great definition
of creativity for me. It’s upstream thinking; it’s taking a problem you can’t solve, getting upstream of that problem, and changing it
into a problem you can solve. I’ll give you an example. If you imagine two explorers
walking through the jungle, and they hear a tiger roar,
hear a tiger running towards them. One explorer gets down and starts
putting on a pair of running shoes. The second explorer says, “What are you doing?
You can’t outrun a tiger.” The first explorer says, “I don’t have to outrun a tiger;
I just have to outrun you.” (Laughter) That’s creativity;
that’s upstream thinking. You can’t solve a problem
of outrunning a tiger, but if I can upstream of it, the tiger only has to eat one person,
and it doesn’t have to be me. (Laughter) You change the problem. In advertising terms,
what’s the problem we need to solve? In the UK, every year, £18.3 billion is spent on all forms
of advertising and marketing. Of that, 4% is remembered positively,
7% is remembered negatively, 89% isn’t noticed or remembered. What do we think the problem might be? It’s not what everybody concentrates on;
the 7% that’s remembered negatively. At least that’s remembered;
that has a chance of working. It’s the 89% that isn’t noticed
or remembered. 89%, that’s 17 billion quid,
wasted, by so-called “experts”. Now if you think that’s too harsh, they reckon if you live
in a major conurbation, you live in a big city, you’re exposed to at least
1,000 advertising messages a day. Between radio, the TV, the tube
in the morning, the free giveaway papers, on your laptop, the pop-ups. 1,000 advertising messages
a day, you’re exposed to. Hold your hand up if you remember
one from yesterday. One, two, three, four, five. OK. That’s long enough. Five, out of, there’s
100 people here, 1,000 each. That’s 100, 000 messages,
and you remember five. That’s the scale of the problem. We don’t understand the media, obviously,
we don’t understand what we’re doing. We’ve got the media wrong; let’s get back
to basics, and look at what the media is. That’s the punter. History of media; we started
off with painting on walls. Cave painting; that was one way
to get to the punter. Then it changed, and we went into frescoes
and oil painting; that was another way to get to the punter. Then we discovered photography, then we discovered cinema, then we discovered TV, – keeps changing, all different
ways to get to the punter – then we discovered digital, social media, then we’ll soon discover the thing
that’s going to kill all other media. Keeps changing. Do you notice one thing
on there that isn’t changing? One thing on there that’s never changed? That’s the media. This isn’t the media. This is what stupid
people think is the media; this is why 17 billion quid
gets wasted every year. This all may well be very trendy, but the point is, any old rubbish
that goes in there won’t work. Facebook doesn’t press a button
on itself and pass itself on. Twitter doesn’t pass itself on. David Abbott said, “Crap that arrives at the speed of light
is still crap when it gets there.” (Laughter) (Applause) When you were a school kid,
you passed on jokes. You did it by word of mouth. Later on, you passed on songs, and you did it by buying people
records, or giving them cassettes, Nowadays you might do it by email. You pass on good ideas. He passes it to him, who passes it to him, who passes it to him, and that’s how things go viral. This is the media;
55 million little units of that. If we learn how that works. Let me give you an example of what I mean. There’s a video here, just listen
to the sound on this video. Don’t worry about the pictures;
it’s an ice cream truck. (Music) OK, that’s a tinny old sound
on an ice-cream truck last year. You all recognise that song, yeah? Anybody know what it’s called? Greensleeves, we all know it. Anybody know who wrote it? Henry VIII. Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn. Where was Twitter?
Where was Facebook? (Laughter) Where was electricity?
Where was the printing press? That went viral 500 years later,
because someone sang it to someone, who played it on something,
who sang it to someone. Human mind, to human mind, to human mind. Bill Bernbach said, “Our proper study
is simple, timeless human truths.” That’s our media; simple,
timeless human truths. We know most of that doesn’t get in there. If that’s our media, the human mind,
how does the human mind work? We know there’s power in simplicity,
and weakness in complexity, so let’s keep it simple. Every interaction
you are going to have in your life, from the day you’re born,
till the day you die. basically consists of three things. Like a funnel, it must work
this way round. You must have impact, you must have communication, and you must have persuasion. And it must work that way around. You can’t have persuasion
if no one hears what you said, you can’t have communication
if no one hears what you said. You can’t have persuasion
if no one understood what you said. You’ve got to have impact, because
otherwise nothing happens; you walk through, there’s no impact,
and you don’t pay any attention. But impact on it’s own is like a grenade,
a hand grenade going off. “I know it’s a noise,
but I don’t know what it wants.” You’ve got to have impact,
it’s got to communicate, and it’s got to be persuasive. Everything from the day you’re born,
to the day you die, in your everyday life. If I’m sitting at home,
watching a football match on TV, and I don’t want to interrupt
the football match because I want a cup of tea,
but I don’t want to leave the room. I want the wife to make me a cup of tea. How do I get the wife
to make me a cup of tea? I can’t sit there and “will” it. I’ve got to get on her radar. I’ve got to say, “Cath, Cath, Cath!” And she’ll say, “Yeah, what?” (Laughter) I’ve got impact. Now, she doesn’t know what I want yet; I’ve got to say in a language
that she understands. “Make us a cup of tea?” (Laughter) I got impact, I got communication. Got no persuasion yet; I’ve got to think,
“Why should she do that?” This is a simple funnel; it funnels down.
Why should she do that? I know she doesn’t like putting
the garbage out, for the garbage collector. So I’ll say, “Alright, you make a cup
of tea now, and when the game’s over, I’ll go and put the garbage out.” If she thinks that’s a good deal,
I’ll get a cup of tea; I’ve got a sale. (Laughter) Can you think of any reason why any advert
shouldn’t have those three things on it? There’s never going to be a brief
that says, “We don’t want impact or communication;
we just want persuasion.” Yet pretty much every advert
you see on the box doesn’t communicate. “I don’t understand what that advert
was about, but I liked the kitten in it. Don’t know what was going on.” “Yeah, what was that advert about?
“Be a Bit More Dog?” I don’t know.” (Laughter) What were those adverts all about,
the big bloke made out of biscuits, coming apart, in a sea made out of milk? I don’t know. And those are the ones
that have got impact. How does impact work? Impact works on what we call “Gestalt”. I’ll give you the simple version first. Here’s a commercial break;
first commercial, second commercial, third commercial, fourth commercial,
fifth commercial, sixth commercial, seventh commercial. Which commercial stands out more;
is it this circle, or is it this circle? Is it the second circle,
or is it the seventh circle? Which one stands out more? Well we all know, it’s the cross. But nobody ever does that, because
that won’t win a D&AD award. D&AD will be between
these two circles, probably, because they all look alike, and they look like the other
D&AD award that won last year. We know that wins, but nobody does it. Why does that work though? Well, because what your mind
does is “Gestalt”. Your mind is a pattern-making machine. Freud says, “When you’re born,
you’re in a state called id.” If you’ve got any kids,
you can see it yourself. When you are in a state called id,
all you are is everything is everything, there’s just awareness. You don’t know there’s a you. What you do is you bite everything; you bite your fingers, you bite your toes,
you bite your cot, you bite your toys. Gradually you work out, “If it hurts, it’s me,
if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not me.” Because the mind is binary; Zero and one, up and down,
left and right, black and white. The mind’s binary; that’s how we work
with things really fast. So what use is that to us? If this is a human mind,
and here’s a commercial break, and it’s got 20 commercials in it. Right, 19 commercials in it, and I add another one that looks
exactly like all of the others; what share of your mind have I got? In percentages, one out of 20? Thank you, 5%. But we know, the mind
being a pattern-making machine separating things off
into groups, if I do that, I haven’t got 5%, if I put an x in there, because what the mind does, is the mind separates it off
into everything that looks like this, and everything
that doesn’t look like this. I’ve now got two groups. I’ve now got 50% of your mind, just by being different. If you control the context, you control the human mind,
which means you control the question. I’ll give you
a simple question to finish on. If you know anything
about American history, hold your hand up if you know;
who was the 44th president of America? One? Two? OK, 100 people here; two of you know
who was the 44th president of America. Now if I ask you; who was the first
black president of America? How many? Everybody? Same bloke. (Laughter) Different question. I changed the context. I didn’t change the product,
I just changed the question. Now that’s because I’m not frightened
to try the door handle. You shouldn’t be frightened
to try the door handle. You shouldn’t be hypnotized by complexity. You shouldn’t walk out thinking, “It’s got to be digital,
it’s got to be complicated.” You should think,
“How do we control the human mind?” Everything else will fall into place. Forget the complexity,
and try the door handle. Thanks. (Applause)

5 thoughts on “Upstream thinking | Dave Trott | TEDxCanaryWharf

  1. Halfjera Post author

    The marker squeaking made this nearly unwatchable for me. Good talk though.

  2. Sell your service Post author

    How does this not have more views? Or comments? This is one of the clearest demonstrations of fantastic advertising on the internet!

  3. Mark Strain Post author

    "That's our media: simple, timeless, human truths." Dave Trott, quoting Bill Bernbach.


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