I used to represent a man that I personally feel is one of the most creative, most intelligent individuals in the advertising and branding business. He had this incredible handle on popular culture and historical references. He could connect past movements in film, photography and art with current trends and bring them to life in advertising campaigns that would resonate without you ever really understanding why.
I always enjoyed talking to him because I knew I would learn something new, and because he inevitably validated things I was sensing but felt were too far “out there” to matter, at least at that time. Good trend watching keeps an eye on the near-ish future. Too far out, and you lose people. He was always super far out (while he was reaching back), but he was also able to keep a finger on that emerging trend that was just about ready to bubble into the collective consciousness.
Anyway, what’s the point? In our business it’s critical that we are able to put our ideas and concepts into cultural context. I remember back in the late ‘80s on Miami Beach when a heady mix of visual artists, poets and performance artists populated the seaside town. My friends and I did an event every Thursday night at a theater on Washington to promote artists. When I told my quite a bit older boyfriend at the time what we were doing he smiled that sweet, slightly condescending smile that I find I smile these days as I’ve grown older, and informed me that our event was known as a “happening” circa 1968. Okay, nothing new under the sun. But it reminded me that what you don’t know can hurt you… In our business that’s a fact, so if you’re in communications do your homework. My mother always teased me when I was young because I was enamored with old movies, the Beatles, Che Guevara, the Civil War (not to mention the Etruscans and The Lord of The Rings). But I’m glad I spent time looking back, it’s helped me to be a better communicator today.