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A thought. Simple vs Complex

I've started a new planning job and to give myself a fighting chance have been rooting around the WARC archives (a really great resource). As a result I've been devouring IPA Effectiveness and APG Award papers. Amongst these a couple of themes have developed. And I think I've been able to pull a thought out of them...

When ever we're explaining something we're always told, by our teachers / bosses / parents, to simplify things to ensure that they are understood. On the other hand, these very same people that the world is a complex place.

This raises an interesting point when it comes to advertising and marketing; should we simplify things so that the consumer gets it; or should we leave them to be complex so that we truly portray a brand, product or service.

On the one hand there is the M&C Saatchi dictum of 'brutal simplicity of thought'. On the other is the Russell Davies school that argues that if you wish to give a brand scale and emotional depth, you need to embrace complexity.

The brutal simplicity of thought concept is a great theory and M&C Saatchi creative briefs are a great tool for bringing out a proposition.

To create an individual campaign it works wonders. The 2003 BA Club World adverts which form the basis for M&C's APG paper of the same year demonstrate how the most simple of ideas, in this case sleep, can create an incredibly powerful and compelling advert.

But can you apply a brutally simple thought to more than just an established brands product?

Davies argues that in order for brands to cross cultural, category and audience boundaries they need to have the depth and complexity to talk to different people in different ways and not be seen as schizophrenic.

He believes that all the usual marketing tools that we use to narrow things down just narrow things down too much. You can have the sharpest spade but still be digging in the wrong place.

The argument could be taken further, after all would you want to talk to someone for a long time who spoke in a monotone voice and only had a few stock phrases? No, I thought not. So why would you talk to a brand with these characteristics?

Sadly when it comes to a brand simplicity is not enough. Simplicity is a great tool but it needs to be used for specific purposes. To create a brand that really resonates it needs to be complex. To have flaws, to have a point of view and to be, for want of a better word, humane.