Jake Goretzki writes:
I couldn’t help noticing recently just how widespread ‘childlike Innocence’ in visuals and creative has become in UK advertising. This was brought home to me sharply last week when I collected a friend’s elderly mother at Gatwick. She’d flown to the UK from Bosnia, and seeing the billboards at the railway station, remarked with mild horror that ‘your banks even have advertising for children here!’. Looking again, it occurred to me just how much of today’s communication, stylistically, might be thought at first glance to be aimed at the average 8 year old.
I’m talking about simple, bold colours. Geometric shapes: circles and squares. A degree of studied low production and naivety too – some ads looking like screenprints or even potato prints. Lots of cutesiness too, through cartoon and animated characters. Cutesy animals, bunnies and teddies scurrying everywhere.
This may be nothing more than a current fashion in print advertising, reaching across campaigns and agencies. Fashions come and go: an earlier one was ‘punter + message on cardboard sign’, stolen from DA Pennebaker, last used by Apple Mac but also favoured by banksn. Another is ‘subversion of everyday lettering’ (one of the thrills of Photoshop), where lettering on photo-real shopfronts / street signs / embroidery is altered to carry the message and force a double-take (last seen in UK anti-smoking advertising and still going strong).
For all the ubiquity of this style though, ‘childlike innocence’ clearly strikes a chord with consumers and chimes closely with several current trends. It reveals a lack of patience in consumers’ ‘stop go lives’ for complexity, heavy copy and detail. It also reflects a caginess about risk and uncertainty, particularly potent in the realm of financial services, which means that clarity, hypersimplicity and even innocence can reassure. While this might seem to be a great opportunity for marketers and communicators grow up and ditch the bunnies, in recessionary times ‘talking to you like children’ begins to feel even more resonant. It’s a cosy bedtime story and a tucking in.