What’s made the advertising brain turn sour?

Orlando Wood's new IPA publication to reveal all at EffWeek 2019.

"A golden age for advertising technology has not translated into a golden age for advertising. In a period of technological innovation, advertising effectiveness has fallen. Short-termism, specialisation and narrowness of focus are on the rise. And, advertising styles have emerged that are diametrically opposed to effectiveness. Advertising creativity is in crisis."

This is the challenging starting point of a new IPA book, Lemon, written by Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer of System1 Group, that will be launched at the pioneering cross-industry conference EffWeek on 15 October 2019.

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Rather than simply chronicle the decline, Lemon identifies why it has happened and how it can be reversed. According to the 130-page publication, the reasons underlying the crisis relate to the way the brain attends to the world: the same instincts that lie behind short-termism and narrow focus are resulting in work that is flat, abstract, dislocated and devitalised – advertising that doesn’t move people. An attentional shift has occurred in business and society; a change in thinking style that has left its mark not just on advertising, but also on popular culture.

Alongside dramatic imagery ranging from the Roman Empire to modernism, the author argues that "we have entered a creative Reformation: a new literalness, a drive for 'authenticity', a ‘stripping of the altars’ that has dangerous consequences for advertising effectiveness."

The focus of this publication is therefore firmly on what makes ads effective in five key sections that:

  • Demonstrate the power of advertising creativity; how advertising makes audiences feel translates into tangible business outcomes. 
  • Unpick the brain’s attentional styles; how to read these attentional styles in culture over the course of Western civilization.
  • Understand how a shift in attentional style has led to advertising losing its humanity and its ability to entertain; it has turned sour.
  • Explore why this change in attentional style is happening in agencies and client companies today, and propose how they might guard against it.
  • Point towards a more effective advertising style that creates and sustains business growth. Analysis throughout draws on the IPA’s Effectiveness DataBank and System1 Group’s advertising database.

Says Laurence Green, Executive Partner, MullenLowe: "Wow. I don’t think I’ve read many books that put a hoop over the Renaissance, the Reformation and the work of Binet and Field, let alone successfully. I’m full of admiration for anyone who can explain where advertising took a wrong turn and how we get it back on track again, and Orlando does this brilliantly in this fascinating and important book."

Says Andrew Tenzer, Director of Group Insight, Reach plc: "Advertising today is out of touch and out of favour with the people it claims to understand. With charm, originality and erudition, this book provides a forensic diagnosis and offers a genuine cure. This is one of the most important advertising books of recent times – everyone needs to read it."

The book will be launched at EffWeek where author Orlando Wood will talk delegates through the key findings and solutions. Tickets are available from the EffWorks website.

The hard-copy publication, Lemon, will also be available to purchase from Amazon and the IPA website (£25 for members and £50 for non-members).

Follow the conversation on social media: @EffWorks #EffWeek #AdLemon

Last updated 21 January 2022