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Think BR: Do fence me in

Regulations define the playing field and ignite innovation as much as a well written, insightful brief, writes Dean Woolley, founder and creative director, Woolley Pau Gyro.

Dean Woolley, founder and creative director, Woolley Pau

Dean Woolley, founder and creative director, Woolley Pau

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Compliance is having an increasing impact on brands and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in advertising.

Industries such as alcohol, tobacco and even food manufacturers are all feeling the constraints of the ASA's ever more frequent introduction of regulations.

These regulations have evolved to such an extent that within the realms of television advertising for example, brands no longer enjoy the same artistic licence to depict the reality of life as do the programmes that surround the ad break.

However, should we as marketers view this as a negative or see it for what it really is - an opportunity to inspire truly creative thinking.

What seems like stricture to some has been a spur to others. Just because alcohol brands are heavily censored, has not stopped the likes of Guinness investing millions of pounds on advertising.

For more than eighty years Guinness has been known for the creativity of its advertising.

This is especially true in the UK, where commercials such as Waiting Man, Surfer and noitulovE (Evolution reversed) regularly feature among surveys of the country's best-loved ads - all achieved while working within the parameters of compliance.

The extent to which the regulatory environment is a creative force has always depended on the ability of agencies - or the willingness of clients - to rise to the challenge.

Once upon a time, cigarette brands elevated saying nothing to an art form. They cravenly exploited the situation to appear cooler and more enigmatic than they would otherwise have done.

Even the mandatory health warnings on their ads worked for them, as they were freed from the need to waste any time saying "look, everyone, this is a cigarette ad".

All forms of cigarette advertising and sponsorship are banned now. This ultimate example of regulation, the ban, is now under consideration elsewhere, from advertising to children, to foods deemed too fattening or salty for consumer’s health.

Should bans like these happen they may hurt for a bit, but will eventually spur more innovative, creative thinking. 

Without the 'message projection' model, advertisers will need to find other, more relevant, helpful and responsible ways to play a part in their customers’ lives and buying journey, which is very much in keeping with the spirit of these times.

As the alcohol and tobacco industries have proved, being constrained to regulations does not mean conforming to conformity.

No doubt the fast food industries, specifically those which target children, will be sure to follow suit with their regulated counterparts by developing ad campaigns that at their core carry human relevancy and resonate on a deeper more emotive level.

Just look at the recent John Lewis Christmas ad, which saw it trending on Twitter and has received over four million YouTube views - an impressive feat.

As John Lewis demonstrates, brands need to really connect with their customers, especially as compliance increases and consumers become increasingly marketing savvy and numb to brand noise.

Developing ad campaigns that are centred on human-relevant and transparent content will be far more effective at igniting real emotions among consumers in what is becoming an increasingly regulated and conformed environment.

Dean Woolley, founder and creative director, Woolley Pau Gyro

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