“We can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.”We need to be more creative.
We have the creative talent. We have imaginative powers, and we have the resources. But, are we using them to the most benefit, or are we wasting our collective creative abilities. Perhaps the one area of human activity that most utilises our creative talents is the advertising industry. Creativity and lateral thinking are part and parcel of this industry. And, it’s significant.
Globally, almost $600 billion is spent annually on advertising. World-wide nearly 1.2 million people are employed in advertising.2 Most of this activity is concentrated in the North American and European markets.
What is the purpose of advertising? To get us to buy, to consume. Not just to consume, but to consume more and more. The western-styled consumerist lifestyle is what is primarily targeted. The top 10 companies by advertising spend in the world are made up of car manufacturers (Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors), the entertainment and broadcasting industry (Walt Disney, Comcast), communications (AT & T, Verizon), beauty products (L’Oreal), the finance sector (American Express), and consumer goods (Proctor and Gamble). All of these, arguably, could be considered western luxuries. Between them, these 10 companies spend $22 billion annually on advertising. It is difficult to imagine that any of this advertising spend is going towards helping to tackle the various issues and concerns besetting us.
Consumption is at the root of many of the issues and concerns for which we need the new thinking that Einstein identified. Our creative talent is going to waste. Not only are we not using our creative abilities in solving these issues and concerns; we are using our creative talents to create the issues and concerns. If we stopped to think about it, surely we would recognise a collective madness within that vicious cycle.
A highly vicious and pernicious cycle it is too, because all of us are subject to it and get trapped within it. Every day we are bombarded with hundreds of adverts and other messages telling us to “consume, consume, consume.” Many of these messages we don’t even notice. Product placement is notable in this regard. Products, and their corporate logo, are placed, seemingly innocently, within movies that we watch. Next time you’re at the movies, spend a little time being alert to the placement of products within the movie story-line. You may be surprised. One of the most famous examples of this was in the 1982 movie ET. An American sweet, Reece’s Pieces, was prominently placed in that movie. Afterwards, sales of the sweet rocketed a staggering 65%.3
Yes, we need to be creative in tackling our issues and concerns. But, we are wasting what creative talent we have. It’s time to stop the waste. It’s time to redirect our creative abilities.
1. It seems that Einstein never actually said this, although he was the Chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists who sent a telegram to hundreds of prominent Americans in May 1946, in which the following phrase was used: “…a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” This telegram came in the wake of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and at a time of heightened nuclear tensions. Somehow that extract from the telegram came to be attributed to Einstein himself and re-formatted to the quotation about not being able to solve problems with the same thinking that created them. Certainly, when Einstein was interviewed a few months later he reiterated the quote from the telegram and said to the interviewer (Michael Amrine) “We must abandon competition and secure cooperation.”
2. Global Advertising Agencies Market Research Report, July 2016
3. A Product Placement Hall of Fame, Business Week Online 1998, www.businessweek.com/1998/25/b3583062.htm