Ad Chat: Åsk "Dabitch" Wäppling

As we get close to another year’s end, today I’m turning the tables on the CEO of Adland to get her perspective on the current state of advertising vs. when she started this site back in 1996 when Clinton was President and Quad City Dj's had a hit with C'mon N' Ride It (The Train).

1. You’ve been doing this since 1996, Other than the obvious media changes, what other changes have you seen?

There's a lot less branding and a lot more "storytelling" these days. Not that there's anything wrong with telling a story, but sometimes it's so far off the map of the brand that one wonders why brands are putting money into it. Brands have given up their adjectives. Volvo is no longer "safe", Volkswagen is no longer "reliable", the Economist is no longer "informed." Instead brands are entertaining, or trying to entertain you, like they did in the late 90s with the BMW films. They hope that by catching a viral wave, they might sell some product.

And where did all the tag lines go? You can't top the Copper Top? Timex: It takes a licking and keeps on ticking? The Independent: It is, are you? The perfect bow that used to tie campaigns together across all media is now left out and some generic company slogan chosen by committee is slapped on later. It's as if the craft has died.

We create apps, we sell cars on fun theories, we use twitter fans as our brand's stock-checker. All sorts of clever ideas, but vastly different from the days of yore. Check the recent Cannes Titanium and PR wins. It's Twitter Sweden, Twitter Best Buy and Twitter Obama. Twitter killed comments on websites everywhere (here included), and opened up a whole new media to enter awards with.

Also, is it just me or did all those afore mentioned taglines sound a little naughty? Like a Copy Wanker wrote them all.

2. New countries, some of them the business world condescendingly calls “emerging markets,” are turning into hot beds of creativity. Can you speak to this? When did you notice this movement really take off? Who are the big players? What country will be the next big thing?

China. Everyone is there right now including Fred&Farid. There's a huge market and the advertising, as you can see thoughts on here, is still quite old-school. We called it in 2007. Ironically it wasn't until the hubbub over the Red Cross ads (and later death threats ) that Chinese ad agencies began submitting their work to the archive. There's some mulling about that perhaps the end of the boys club can be found in emerging markets. I doubt that, though. The more things change, the more they stay exactly the same.

3. The media has changed, in some cases tremendously. Have you seen QR codes and iPad apps having any effect on the ‘traditional media,’ or is it still really just a separate silo? In other words, is the 360 campaign a myth, or can it really touch all points in a relevant way?

The 360 campaign did exist at some point in time, remember that tagline "Bow" I spoke of? There used to be a single thought to campaigns. Now I see a party going on at Twitter, a film-festival at Youtube and a bake sale in the street. All signed off by the same client. What, pray tell, is 360 about that? It's like they're photobombers, just wanting their logo to appear EVERYWHERE, regardless of where and what is being said. They're ticking off boxes: "As seen on TV, Twitter, Youtube. Facebook, OOH and a fancy-ass app we made that nobody downloaded. OK DONE; lets go to the pub."

4. Social media magpies are swearing up and down that content is king and the only thing that matters is engagement and that brands need to be ‘there,’ for the consumer. How much importance do you put on content as king and brand engagement with consumers? Is it overblown hype, or the “new reality?”

See? This is what I was just saying. Trivia: the first snake-oil was actually snake oil, and it contains omega-3 which we all know is good for us. Social media should be used, sure. But not in the thoughtless fashion I've seen some do it. Like snake oil, we now know which part is good for us, and by that I mean good for our brand. If we are Duracell and we set up charging stations all over new York after hurricane Sandy, alerting people to where we are via Facebook and Twitter as you showed us, well, that's brilliant. Just like in the early days of brands blogging, too many brands are making the mistake that they have to "create content." News is content. Making cans of water instead of beer to help Sandy victims is content. Do what your brand does, and talk about that on social media. Don't hire a part time comedian to be the voice of your brand on twitter. That's not you . Does your brand's advertising proposition read "crack jokes all day?"

5. It’s been nearly seventeen years since you started Adland. Is what makes a good ad still the same?

It was always about insights. Great ideas can be anywhere, in any media, when based on a sound insight. Creatives need to read magazines, use their ipads, smartphones, take the subway, ride the highway, be out there where other people are and see where advertising meets consumers. Sometimes the small insights aren't fully formed, like the idea of donating an unused app instead of money (where the money actually will come from is unknown). It's not a bad idea. It shows that creatives have seen how people use their toys, and this is what I mean. You, as a creative, have always had to research how and where consumers are, what the consumer uses, thinks of, and wants. Why, when I was a young ad-pup and briefed on products, I went to the supermarket to study the product, and the people who chose to buy it. I've stalked many people in supermarkets. That's how I find a decent yogurt in every country I move to.

Other Ad Chats:
Keith Ruggiero Synth loving composer and sound designer at "Sounds Red"
Jill Spradley Associate Creative Director at 160over90
Brian Bronaugh President at Mullen, Pittsburgh, PA
Bo Hellberg, Swedish ECD in France, at Brave and Billington Cartmell, Paris
Jane Goldman Creative Director/Copywriter & Strategist, Boston, MA
Jonah Otieno - Executive Creative Director 5ive Ltd, Nairobi
Anne-Cécile Tauleigne ECD at JWT Paris
Esther Clerehan, Headhunter, Sydney, Australia
Ad chat: Manuel Bordé Creative copy at BBDO Dubai
Rance Randle Art Director at TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA
Åsk 'Dabitch' Wäppling the force behind Adland
Dave Trott creative mischief chief
Arnie DiGeorge Executive Creative Director of RR Partners
Andy Kinsella Innovation Director at Glue Isobar
Koert Bakker Director of Strategy at Victor & Spoils
Evan Brown, Sr. Copywriter at TBWA\Chiat\Day
Dena Walker, Digital Strategist at Irish International in Dublin, Ireland
Bernie Watt, copywriter at Make, in Sydney, Australia
Ron Smrczek, Executive Creative Director of TAXI Europe
Vincent Vella, Creative Director - Grey Paris, Euro RSCG and Publicis.
Gideon Amichay, Creative Chairman of Shalmor Avnon Amichay Y&R Tel Aviv
Richard Tseng, Freelance Copywriter at CP+B
Claudiu Florea, Managing Partner - Wunderkid, Romania
Snorre Martinsen creative at Saatchi & Saatchi Oslo
Laura Jordan Bambach, Executive Creative Director LBi
Simon White Creative Lead from Rapp, London
Richard Gorodecky Executive Creative Director at Amsterdam Worldwide
Ray Page Creative Director at Tribal DDB
Adam Pierno of Off Madison Ave.
Edward Boches of Mullen
Dirk Singer of Rabbit, UK
Gareth Kay of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners
Tim Brunelle of Hello Viking
Rob Schwartz of TBWA\Chiat\Day
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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Dabitch's picture

To prove some sort of point about comments not having to die, I'll just point at Kidsleepy's userpage and see that he's been a member for 12 years and 34 weeks. It's been good. Of course this only works if someone else replies. So how long have you been a member for?

kidsleepy's picture

12 years and 34 weeks apparently. Way to make me feel old.

caffeinegoddess's picture

Don't tempt me ;)

Dabitch's picture

Hey Kidsleepy, you started it. Reading "seventeen years" is freaking me out just a tad.

kidsleepy's picture


Dabitch's picture

Please. Smokey the bear is an icon. A shirtless studly bear icon. I think he caused furries.

Alex Snygg's picture

As far as I know, I've been a member for 132 years and a couple of days. Have I earned the right to be all snarky and call you 'bitter' now? You deserve it for trying to turn me with Smokey the Bear this time. You won't win, I tell you!

Dabitch's picture

You can not be turned mate. Plus you are far more bitter than I - don't think I don't know that you mumble your ex MD's names as you tear up the garden, pretending it's them you bury.