Google’s John Merrifield to adland: Forget Cannes, aim for The Simpsons as a measure of success

John Merrifield, far right, at All That Matters

John Merrifield, far right, at All That Matters

The chief creative officer of Google Asia Pacific, John Merrifield, said today that adland should forget about Cannes as a measure of success for brands and aim for an episode of The Simpsons.

“The more experimenting you’re doing, the more likely you’re going to get a hit, Merrifield told his audience at the All That Matters Conference in Singapore this morning.

“Forget about Cannes. You should be aiming for an episode of a show like The Simpsons – that’s the success criteria; creatives should not just be talking to themselves or to the ad world, they need to be making a genuine impact on popular culture,” he said.

The former creative chief of TBWA hit out at the advertising industry’s pre-occupation with awards, telling his audience: “There are guys who want to win awards – well, let those guys play.”

“Creativity should be about having an impact for clients and giving them a larger share of the future – not just doing a one-off campaign, but building a brand properly and making it more meaningful and engaging.”

In response to a question about the relevance of the Cannes Lions, the ad industry’s biggest awards show that takes place next month, Merrifield said: “Cannes is no longer what it was.”

“It used to be a get-together for creatives. Now it’s become a business engine in its own right. They’ve been trying to figure out new and potent ways for the industry to cut through, but is that happening? I’m not sure.”

“The industry’s preoccupation with awards is wrong,” Merrifield added. “Advertising should be about facilitating growth, not awards shows.”

At the start of the panel discussion moderated by Ed Pank of Warc, when asked what his proudest moment of his career is so far, Merrifield mentioned a campaign for Okamato condoms in Singapore during his time at TBWA.

Merrifield, who has spent most of his career in advertising before moving to Google in 2012, was critical of the role of advertising and agencies at the AdAsia event in Hanoi more than a year ago.

“No one cares about advertising,” he said. “Nobody is sitting there waiting for advertising. The only people who care about advertising are those in the advertising business, and brand loyalty is largely a myth.”

“Advertising is the price companies pay for being unoriginal,” he said. When Apple launches a new product, does it advertise? No, it does not. It feeds off all the hype that leads up to the launch.”


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