Opinion: Anti Advertising - advertising for people who are tired of advertising

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Anoop Menon Anti-advertising

Meta's Anoop Menon writes about sometimes the lack of long-term strategic vision and investment in creative quality that has led to an overall fall in campaign effectiveness, signifying the relevance of anti advertising.

Before I speak about Anti Advertising, I have a stat I love throwing in meetings where I push for better, more disruptive creativity. If you take every piece of content ever produced from the beginning of time to the early 2000s - every book was ever written, every song ever produced, every movie or game ever made - and compressed it and put it into a USB, the size of that USB would be around 5 billion GB. We produce 5 billion GB of data every ten minutes now. We are in the midst of a massive content explosion.

Facebook estimates that a user goes through 90 meters of content every day on Newsfeed. That is like reading 176 newspapers. And a significant part of this content you see is ads. An average human is exposed to between 4000 and 10,000 ads a day. Some of these are good and probably generation-defining, like the Cred commercials or Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Good Luck Girls, but unfortunately, a large part of them are not.

Technology has democratized creative advertising production like never before. Anyone can create and run an ad campaign from their bedrooms. Film production costs have fallen through the roof as access to creative tools and the ability to execute interesting ideas have become commonplace. Casting a famous face for advertising your brand is a click away from the effectiveness of influencer marketing. A number of television channels have grown, and laser printers have brought down costs of print and out-of-home ads.

As the quantity of content went up, quality started suffering.

Marketing teams’ penchant for formulas, the safest creative execution possible, and the unexplainable need to list every possible function and feature of a product in a 6-second pre-roll has led to most advertising being dull and non-persuasive, or as David Ogilvy put it ‘they’ll pass like a dark ship on a black night’.

Let me be clear here - ultimately advertising is selling, and selling is not the problem. It is the lack of imagination in the sales pitches that make every creative product look as if it came off a conveyor belt.

BBH Labs recently published TGI data that showed TV ads have become more annoying for viewers.


The IPA Databank, one of the largest and richest datasets that track campaign effectiveness has proven that the effectiveness of campaigns are reducing.


This leaves not much room for advertising teams to play around.

To make advertising a little less passive they must either veer towards the ridiculous or towards extreme simplicity.

In comes advertising that is dry, self-referential, almost a joke on the intent of the ad itself.


I am not saying that these are great creative products. In fact, I believe some of them to be missed opportunities. The front page of Times of India is a very expensive media buy and that space could have been used to tell a persuasive brand story. But anti-advertising is a sign of the times marketing is operating in.

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You can see the signs of these consumer disaffections in the larger culture also. We are living in a time where street artist Tyler’s purposefully stripped-down art is hanging in prominent Mumbai galleries (deservedly), and lo-fi music is a full-blown music genre on YouTube.

This is also not the first time this has happened in advertising. Neil French did it in 1987 for Chivas Regal.


GS&P famously used a monkey to blow up $2M dollars during the Super Bowl for E-trade.

Kessels Kramer made anti-advertising ads for the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam, in 1996.


As the legendary graphic designer, Paula Scher of Pentagram is purported to have said, and I paraphrase, ‘every once in a while, we have to clean the palette and return to the new simplicity’.

It might be time for a bit of anti-advertising, but it is in no way the death-knell for advertising itself. It is not an approach that works for every problem and overuse will be detrimental. Great stories, well told, will always do more for brands than self-reflective, sarcastic, one-time gags. 

The piece has been authored by Anoop Menon, Creative Agency Partner at Facebook.

Anoop Menon Anti-advertising anti advertising