I watched the singing talent show, ‘American Idol’, the other night (yes, I admit to being addicted to it). The theme was the music of The Beatles. But I was shocked to hear two contestants say that they did not know any Beatles songs! They had to learn one for that night, and they did pretty well too.
Now if The Beatles can be so quickly forgotten, how do you suppose the advertising industry fares? Once upon a time if I said I worked at Batey Ads on the SIA campaigns, the listener viewed me with some respect. Now I meet young people who have never heard of Batey Ads or Ian Batey. Forgive me if I focus on Singapore but the same story applies throughout the region. John Finn who set the style for the first SIA ad is unknown. Prior to him, a young creative talent, John Hagley only remains known through the signboard of his old agency Hagley & Hoyle. I have even got blank looks when I speak of Linda Locke who only retired a few years back after a distinguished career at Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi. Jim Aitchison actually became better known after he retired to write the Cutting Edge series of books Maybe the printed book page is a better way to be remember than a full advertisement in The Straits Times! I recently returned from AdFest and met many of the up and coming creatives and the award-winning judges. They, too, in their time will be forgotten so one must learn to be humble and not take the gongs too seriously. If a Grammy award-winning, chart-busting Beatles song can be so easily forgotten, how long do you suppose the recognition of a Cannes Lion last? True comfort and satisfaction will have come from the fact that we used our creative talent, intelligence and knowledge to help our clients.
Unfortunately some clients do not appreciate the work created by our ad professionals. It is often produced in an amazingly short time, and frequently to the detriment of our families because of the long hours demanded by our industry. The ads and films on which we lavish so much care are soon discarded and forgotten. I hope you agree with me that they should be saved from the bin. I am, with the help of the National Archives of Singapore, Temasek Polytechnic Business School, attempting to ensure that, at least, the agencies and advertising that appears in Singapore will be remembered for a longer period than poor old Paul McCartney’s songs. For this reason, I am setting up “Advertising History of Singapore” website which will preserve and archive the work from the 1990s to the present day. I and my successors will update this every year so we have a permanent record. We have already collected quite a number of examples of work created here. The industry is indebted to McCann Erickson Singapore which is volunteering to create and build the new site.
I’ll speak more on this in a later column.