How advertising’s simplicity bias is undermining diversity and killing creativity

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Photo: David Woodger

Simple. It’s one of the creative advertising industry’s most powerful ideas. Simple is the answer. It’s the goal. Make it simple. Keep it simple. Simple is good. Simple is great. Simple is the greatest of all time. Got a simple solution to a complicated problem? Good job. You’re done. You’ve won. Take the rest of the day off.

Here’s a counterpoint: Simple isn’t good. Simple is bad—at least an unexamined, overactive bias toward simplicity is bad. It’s bad because it could be costing us some of our best people and our best ideas.

The Digital Divide

If advertising is obsessed with simplicity and…


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War. Slavery. Death. Confinement. Force feeding. The Multiverse. It’s a year-end holiday reading and gift list!

Here’s how it works. I read 12 books in 2017. I got lucky and 11 of them were flat out fantastic. It would be selfish not to share. And though the titles and topics trend dark, they’re also brimming with hope and happiness. Lots to admire from some writers who are putting it all out there.

Here’s the list:


From “Dynamic Dreamer” to “A.I. Co-Creator”.

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If you worked in the “digital” creative department of an ad agency in the early 2000s, you probably made websites, microsites, banner ads, Facebook apps and something called digital video. Some of your work turned into gold. Most of it turned into wallpaper. The tech was new. You were at the nexus of fringe and failure. It wasn’t always comfortable. But you were out front. And the gains, when they came, were epic.

If you’re working in the creative department of a “data” agency today, you’re probably experiencing a similar set of conditions. Data-driven creative has a reputation for being…


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A photographer friend taught me to add film grain to my digital photos. The effect on the image is instant and dramatic. It warms. Becomes more human. More analog. More like you want to run your fingers along it.

Turns out, we’re often adding noise to improve the quality of a signal. Look at one of Picasso’s Violins, as an example. The violin is easy to discern despite the addition of elements that could be mistaken for noise were they not so well chosen.

The writer who roughs her copy to give it more personality. The musician who plays to…

Ian Mackenzie

Writer and Chief Creative Officer at FCB/SIX. http://iandavidmackenzie.com

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