Tuesday, October 02, 2012

to be perfectly frank

I don't know if Frank Sinatra ever wrote a song in his puff.

But it's hard to argue that as an artist his blues-inflected saloon balladeer ouvre (particularly his mid-50's period circa 'Only The Lonely') pretty much wrote the book of sharp American masculine cool, and with significant sex, style, subversion and skill to boot.

Sinatra's ability to interpret a song, and take it somewhere else was his art.

It was not necessary to have been the originator of the material.

As a young guitar slinger in the early 80's I was the principle tunesmith in several bands.

(None of these particularly 'made it' but that's not what the story is about.)

I was a fan of the hits of Burt Bacharach and Hal David for a time, but the prolific nature of that partnership meant there were literally hundreds of their songs that I was not familiar with.

So to write tunes for my band I would often pull out the Bacharach-David songbook, pick a tune a didn't know and use the chords to make up my own tune.

I couldn't read music so all I had to go on were the chord shapes.

So nine times out of ten I'd end up with something new based on 'copying' Burt and Hal.

In advertising we idealise and revere the novelty or originality of ideas and insights.

In fact, we relentlessly pursue the 'new', almost at all costs.

We hold aloft the stuff that proclaims 'this has never been done before'.

Really this is the true advertising conceit.
If we are honest, advertising has routinely hi-jacked, jumped upon or otherwise adopted and commercialized existing cultural ideas since day one.
That’s what it does, and that’s why it works.

But is new always better?

I've no qualms at all about adopting an insight from somewhere else and applying it to the particular problem I'm looking at.

I've equally no qualms about adopting the basis of an idea that may have been used somewhere else and improving it.

Because, and I’ll quote enfant terrible of le Nouvelle Vague, Jean Luc Godard here, it's not where something comes from that's important, it's where it goes to.

Novelty is over-rated, to be perfectly frank.

We don't always need new, just better.

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