Isherwood labours the point at Lynx

The incendiary howl of Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner was certainly an arresting fanfare for the start of Dubai Lynx week – and an intriguing prelude to Bob Isherwood’s opening address. But then things went distinctly off key.

A jarring succession of films, audio clips and photos followed – steam trains, Bob Dylan, The Simpsons, Mohammad Ali, Concorde, the Guggenheim, Good Morning Vietnam. And so it went on… And on… For about half-an-hour, in fact. Interspersed with words such as “originality” and “inspiration”.

When the  former creative head of Saatchi & Saatchi finally appeared on stage, a stunning explanation was required. How sad, therefore, that Isherwood began by urging people not to leave. Not a good advert for your own speech, surely.

Next came a highly-complex lecture on nano-technology. It seemed ‘the point’, if ever there was one, had long ago left the auditorium and gone for a leisurely coffee. When ‘the point’ eventually appeared, it made a muted entrance. The preceding lecture, a transcript from a senior scientist, was very good but irrelevant to this particular audience, explained Isherwood. The point being that messages must be relevant. Had it really taken us almost 45 minutes to arrive at this?

Messages, he said, must be original, relevant and emotionally connective. According to Isherwood’s rather crude analogy, the acronym is ORE, which can of course be turned into gold.

Then came a demonstration of this, combining an image of Black Panthers at the Olympics, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, and Bruce Springsteen’s “We Shall Overcome”.

How disappointing that a seminar about originality largely comprised of borrowed material; a seminar about relevance said so little about advertising; a seminar about emotional involvement relied upon epic moments of history and culture to entertain us.

Did anyone learn anything from Isherwood at the Dubai International Advertising Festival today?

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18 Responses to Isherwood labours the point at Lynx

  1. [...] Campaign Middle East gives… Read more »The TV war is over alreadyLet’s call it now: Nine is stuffed for the year. [...]

  2. flickster1 says:

    Well said Campaign. A highly anticipated opening seminar that could have been condensed into five minutes.

  3. Adam says:

    I think it was a printing error, the seminar was actually titled BORE.

  4. Sophie says:

    The same presentation was just done in Melbourne for RMIT Alumni.

  5. Jenny says:

    We just had the same presentation in Melbourne, Australia and I don’t agree at all. Were you expecting an all-singing, all-dancing showreel presentation showing really great work that you could ooh and ah over? This talk wasn’t for your ‘entertainment’, it was to stimulate creative thought to help you create and encourage great work to occur in your corner of the advertising world. Perhaps so that you can judge for yourself whether you’re outputting potentially successful work or not. Surely that’s a far more valuable way to spend an hour and a half, rather than being spoon-fed examples of someone else’s work for entertainment?

  6. Paula says:

    just attended the MELBOURNE lecture. Got to say I got a little edgy when Bob suggested the doors to be locked so we could focus intently on his nano-technology rambling.
    The whole experience was unnerving and felt like a year 10 student’s presentation gone wrong.

  7. infotyte says:

    Attend Melbourne speech. Will give him credit for owning up to the criticism from the Dubai speech at the end of the talk. In fact that was the most interesting moment that he actually ‘had’ the audience – the rest of the time he was confusing all and sundry.
    The talk was poorly prepared (felt rushed) and he looked tired and uninterested…he had got off the plane that morning from Dubai and he looked like it too. Maybe a good nights sleep was needed.
    He said in Singapore he considered changing the talk based on the criticism and rejected the idea. Bad idea. It was amateur and as others have said ripped off other peoples originality (presented badly) in claiming his own?
    Yeah he generated an emotional response in the sycophants present (including a rather poor attempt by Robin Williams to save the situation) and those not willing to be bought by the spin. I actually think it was a the show of a man who has too many things to do and is in fact suffering from a generational gap with his audience.

  8. Tim says:

    Sorry Jenny, couldn’t disagree more. It was a train wreck from the start. He didn’t need to labour the point for 45 minutes, he had a captive audience from the start, all of whom he could assume have a basic understanding of advertising. He sold out the space based on the premise he might have some insight and wisdom to share, instead I got to watch a bit of the Simpsons and classic Jimi Hendrix. Both good stuff, but not why I took a couple of hours out of my work day.

  9. Lauren says:

    I was initially confused a bout the whole thing, but afterwards I thought and thought about it, and came to the conclusion it was an experience. When I left I kept thinking about it, and asking myself what is originality anyway? How original had I been? I let myself go with the experience, and be taken on a journey. I really learned something and I hope one day when I am trying to make a difficult creative decision, I’ll remember the experience.

  10. [...] international judges and a dodgy speech by Bob Isherwood, the former worldwide creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, certainly spiced up the [...]

  11. Sophie says:

    If you didn’t appreciate Isherwood’s speech I don’t think you got the point.
    Thank god it wasn’t just a step by step guide on how to succeed in the creative industry, or even just ‘how to succeed’. Haven’t we heard that speech enough?! At last someone does something different… Something that gets people thinking, debating. Isn’t it by that measure that we define creative success?
    I thought he was a good speaker with some really interesting points.
    For an industry that’s meant to be pushing boundaries its amazing how much criticism someone comes up against when they do something different.

  12. Anon. says:

    If this presentation shows us the presentation style, the content, the thinking and the knowledge of the upper echelon of the advertising industry.

    Boy are we in trouble.

  13. infotyte says:

    ‘If you didn’t appreciate Isherwood’s speech I don’t think you got the point.’….sorry Sophie that don’t cut it. A glib statement ‘aint going to write off what enough people are clearly having doubts about. Look at the crowds emotive response – he got one as he claimed advertising/creatives need to do. That is not an insight worth a heap of beans to any seasoned pro. Getting a emotional response by pulling a few strings is ‘money for jam’ for advertising types.
    Have you thought about how cynical it is for an advertising person to use true originality to sell soap powder really is. Using Martin Luther’s speech to inspire advertisers is kinda like saying ‘nothing is sacred anymore – as it has not been for a long while. Should not people like Mr Isherwood be showing a new way…isn’t his industry partly responsible for the mess we are in and isn’t his job now with the UN to get us out?
    I was not looking for a ‘how to succeed’ talk either. I was looking for insight and a man prepared to talk about the real issues facing creative people in the world today and how they need to get their shit together to save the whole damn show.

  14. infotyte says:

    sorry for my poor grammar – perhaps I should get a job as a copywriter?!

  15. Louis says:

    I also attended Bob’s Melbourne presentation. I am not in advertising. I am not a “creative”. I attended expecting brilliance, the brilliance required to get us out of the s**t we find ourselves in. The brilliance that landed Bob the UN gig.

    Instead, one week later, I am still coming to terms with the single worst presentation I have ever attended. Again, the world is left to the mercy of self indulgent baby boomers, baby boomers who, as witnessed, believe that creativity ended about 1969 (except for the Simpsons).

    To think that an overhyped, former adman is tasked with developing “creative” solutions to avert climate disaster sends a chill down my spine.

    What a shame, I really did expect brilliance.

  16. infotyte says:

    Exactly Louise this was a perfect case of 60′s obsessed baby boomers indulging in their past, may it be the last.

  17. nickcampaignme says:

    Great debate on Isherwood. Thanks everyone. If you haven’t seen this already, our friends at mUmBRELLA have posted a response from the man himself.

    See what he has to say at:

    http://mumbrella.com.au/isherwood-if-we-all-understand-originality-relevance-and-emotional-connections-why-is-there-so-much-mediocre-advertising-4135

  18. The clue to all this rubbish is the iconography Isherwood chose to use — all of it Baby Boomer points of reference. Boomers just seem completely blind to the fact that an entire generation that outnumbers even themselves has taken hold of the world’s popular culture.

    Boomer ethos is underlined by the belief that all Boomer truths are immutable. Their worldview insists that the cultural revolution of their lifetime will hold true forever and ever. And they can’t stop even as it’s crashing down around them.

    Dylan, King and the 30 second commercial are important – don’t get me wrong. And they’ll continue to resonate. But the context is changing. In fact, it’s changed. It seems the Boomer Generation will go to its collective grave wondering why the hell none of it seems to be working anymore — and what the **** is wrong with these YOUNG PEOPLE who just don’t “GET IT” …

    True to themselves and their vision to the absolute end, the Boomers are doomed to the myopia of their own vanity and self-indulgence.

    Good riddance.

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