What can we learn from the past?

Apparently nothing.

It’s gone so it can’t be any good.

It must be 10, 15, even (gosh) 20 years ago.

How can it be of any use at all?

Our business is obsessed with the new.

It can’t distinguish between change and improvement.

New = Good. Old = Bad.

So everything new is automatically better than everything old?

Well let’s see if that’s true.

Is Damian Hirst automatically better than Picasso?

Is James Blunt automatically better than Elvis?

Is Lewis Hamilton automatically better than Jackie Stewart?

Is Andy Murray automatically better than John MacEnroe?

New is just the ground claimed by people who aren’t good enough to win by being better.

New is just a justification for dull being done in a different way.

So what can anyone learn from the past?

Tracey Emin recently wrote a 4 page article for The Independent about what she’d learned from renaissance painters: Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, and Titian.

Mike Tyson “The Baddest Man On The Planet”, would constantly play films of the man he learned most from: Jack Dempsey, world champion in the 1920s.

Paul Gascoigne used to study the moves of Johann Cruyff to learn things none of his contemporaries could teach him.

Vivienne Westwood recently said on TV she still learns from studying Coco Channel.

These people don’t just compete with whatever level of talent is around at present.

They compete with, and learn from, the best there’s ever been.

In our business that would be John Webster, Paul Arden, Bill Bernbach, Helmut Krone, etc.

When did you last meet an advertising student who’d even heard of Bill Bernbach?

What makes our business more trivial than any other form of creativity is that we aren’t trying to build on what went before.

We’re just anxious to get to the latest technological gimmick before anyone else.

I think this attitude cheapens what we do.

We confuse being first with creativity.

We confuse ‘new’ with ‘better’.

Isaac Newton said, “If I have done anything it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Oops sorry.

Newton’s dead, he can’t be any good.