The value of seasoned experience can bring a wealth of cultural insight to advertising. We chatted with Laura Paikkari, a Creative Director at TBWA\Helsinki, on the shift to purpose-driven work with tangible impact, how platforms and social media have evolved around advertising and the benefits to having a good mix of different age groups of creatives.
Tell us about your role and how long you've been working in the world of advertising.
I work as a creative director at TBWA Helsinki and oversee several creative client teams. I have been working in advertising for about 15 years.
Are there some common staples or tropes that have developed in recent years within the industry? How do these compare to the ones of 10 or even 20 years ago?
At least from where I’m standing, what has become a very welcome staple in recent years is purpose. A company should have a conscience, values that are reflected in the marketing communication.
Compared to what it was 10 years ago, advertising is not only about creating commercial profit but also about furthering for example sustainability and diversity goals.
What were some aspects or qualities about ads from the past that you feel modern advertising could benefit from adopting?
When the creative concepts today take copious shapes and forms, the sharpest edge of the basic idea might get lost in the process. When the media landscape was more elementary, it was perhaps easier to focus on the particular media. Trying to summarize any idea into one print ad, a single image or a headline is often a great test for any conceptual idea.
Another thing is the bravery of some ads in the past. The current public climate makes us watch what we say more and more, and as we all know, caution is the killer of many good ideas.
Was the work approached differently or have the methods remained the same?
Of course the methods have changed hugely. If before the goal was to do good advertising, now the goal is to do good, and that action works as a platform for stories and advertising. Good advertising still has its place though, although doing more than just touching the surface has become important.
How have ads evolved to keep up with technological and cultural advancements such as smartphones and the internet?
Most of the platforms online and in social media and their revenue models are built around advertising, excluding subscription models, so in my opinion the question is not so much how advertising has evolved but how platforms and social media have evolved around advertising.
It is easier and easier for brands to be involved in people’s everyday lives by creating apps and innovations that are genuinely useful to consumers and in that way become more important.
Of course, the ads have to be designed according to the media so that they fit and reflect the platform they are present in, so creatives need to be up to date with developments to be able to design accordingly.
Do you feel as though ageism is a problem in the advertising industry?
Maybe to some extent. Advertising is often regarded as an industry for younger people, but it doesn’t have to be so. The value of more seasoned minds in the industry is crucial and brings essential cultural insight as well as experience to the game. A good mix of different age groups is the best. When people have to challenge their own generation’s perspective, it is usually good for themselves as well as the creative product.
What advertisements do you remember seeing when you were younger that left an impression on you and why do you think they stayed with you?
I’m from Finland and in my youth, I was mainly exposed to Finnish advertising. One ad that made an impression was a tv ad for the Finnish Dairy association where a rough-looking guy states to the camera: “I’ve never drunk milk, and I never will.” It was so simple, funny and a little rude. It is also a bit of a national ad classic, having been re-made at least two times by both an oat drink company and as a tribute version for the dairy industry starring Lemmy Kilmister.
Another advert that made an impact was Mental Wealth by PlayStation, directed by Chris Cunningham. It featured a teenage girl who looks like she is out of this world, the look created by CGI facial motion capture. She delivered a wonderful monologue in Scottish. The whole ad was eye-opening: advertising can be like this as well — randomness that sticks to your consciousness – and stays there.
Looking to the future, where do you think the advertisement industry is heading?
Advertising will always be the top layer of the brand cake, whatever the media landscape is in the future. I’m happy that marketing has increased its importance in corner offices and is recognized as an integral part of a company’s success. Therefore, advertising agencies will be taking a larger portion of the cake, from taking part in product and service development, to branding and building wide communication platforms that flavor that brave top layer with relevance.