Some time ago, I think it must have been the early 90s, I noticed that almost every print ad had the same look. That was the time, of course, when art directors started doing layouts on their Macs. It led to a certain conformity of style.
Jim Carroll, the Chairman of BBH London, remarks that a similar thing happened to cars around 1983. They all started looking the same, because they'd all been through the same wind tunnel. And in this article, well-worth a read, Jim bemoans what he calls "wind-tunnel marketing" that has resulted in a conformity of output of advertising agencies.
Expertise and judgement losing importance in favour of systems and testing, Jim says. And while we learned, back in the 80s, that branded communication should be relevant, motivating
and different, relevance, in Jim's words "has trumped difference."
Is this just another "sour grapes" agency chairman, trotting out the cliche about "research killing creativity"? No. Like me, Jim started his career in market research where I expect he received a good grounding in what research can and cannot do.
Did you spot the deliberate mistake? Of course, "research" cannot do anything. It is inanimate. Nor can it speak, last time I looked, so do remember that the next time someone uses the expression "but the research says..." They probably have fairies at the bottom of the garden, too.