‘I don’t have much sympathy for political correctness’

Epica's Creative Circle will be about brands and political correctness. What will opinion makers like Astrid Prummel bring to the table?

Astrid Prummel, Out in the Open (fotografie: Suzanne Blanchard)

The Epica Awards, which take place November 15th in Amsterdam, are the only international industry prize that’s awarded by journalists. Its conference – with the theme ‘Will Responsibility Kill Creativity?’ – will be about brands’ role in society. To what extent are they responsible for a better world? How does it influence their communication? What does ‘purpose-driven marketing’ really mean?

Twenty tables occupied by CMOs, creatives, journalists, agency directors, opinion leaders, creators and scientists, all discussing the nature of our industry’s shared responsibility. The findings of these sessions will be collected and shared with the worldwide (industry)press.

Astrid Prummel, founding partner Out in the Open and former editor-in-chief of Adformatie, shares her view on the subject in advance.

NA: What will you bring to the table during the Creative Circles and the theme ‘Will responsibility kill creativity’? What would you like to bring across?

‘My first thought: creativity can never be limited by anything or anybody; for that it is too strong a force. A force for good and, unfortunately, as we have seen throughout history, also for bad. Just think of Triumph des Willens by Leni Riefenstahl and the more recent horrific propaganda videos and the glossy magazines from Islamic State.

‘I don’t have much sympathy for political correctness, just like many open-minded and creative-thinking people. In my view, political correctness stands for a form of hypocrisy and insincerity. It’s as if, when you are acting politically correct, you only do so because it is politically and socially desirable.

‘What we consider to be politically correct is influenced by the safe space of the social bubble we live in, and mostly used as a means to an end, for personal gain. (Nobody explains the mechanisms of the social bubble better than Joris Luyendijk in the Great Bubble College: a must-see.)

‘The dislike of political correctness can be a great driver of creativity and I don’t see why it would not be possible to make edgy, risk-taking advertising and still show respect for sensitivities concerning gender, inclusivity, diversity and other hot potato issues. It’s a challenge. Aber in der Beschränkung zeigt sich der Meister.

‘The best edgy advertising and communication ideas are not straightforward or one-dimensional. They are not to be taken literally, contain multiple layers, and show different sides. They are nuanced, sharpen your mind, sometimes confront you with your own prejudices and keep you with both feet firmly on the ground.’

NA: Shouldn’t we talk more about the game of advertising itself, instead of trying to save the world? Or are companies / brands and creativity the main tools (and the mains ones responsible?) left for that to happen?

‘I wish we were trying to save the world, but I do not think we are really working on it right now, with a few exceptions that mainly boil down to symptom management. Companies and brands are certainly responsible for the destruction of the earth, or rather: the economic system that we all choose to maintain is responsible for the destruction of the earth. So, when we talk about 'the game of advertising itself', I think we should conclude that advertising itself is a driving force behind the destruction of the planet. If we agree on this, taking responsibility for the advertised products is the only thing that justifies advertising. In my opinion there is no way back to the happy world of Peter Stuyvesant.’

NA: What is your favourite, preferably unusual suspect, purposeful campaign?

‘In the context of the theme of the Creative Circles and in the context of the current Zeitgeist, I have made this specific selection of my all-time favourites:

The Guardian’s ‘Points of view’ and ‘Three Little Pigs’. Plus AOL ‘The internet is a good thing’ and ‘The internet is a bad thing’.’

NA: What is our single most important responsibility as an industry, in your humble opinion?

‘Given the situation we are currently in, the state of the planet and the growing world population, advertising should primarily take an informative role: inform consumers correctly and completely about the economic choices they are about to make. Every economic choice is also a social choice because it has an impact on society – whether it is about sustainability or, for example, about health.’

NA: Where do you hope this industry will eventually head to? Could picture a perfect picture?

‘Let’s move away from the reality that Orwell’s 1984 (see AOL’s The internet is a bad thing) and Animal Farm have become. Inequality in society and in the world is only increasing. Let’s consider advertising as propaganda and use it to do good. Advertising has a lot to offer but it’s now mainly used as a means to serve – almost exclusively – economic interests. Advertising can inform people, give examples of how things can be done differently and encourage people to take their fate into their own hands.’

NA: Finally, why are you involved in the Epica’s / Why are the Epica Awards important? Please be as frank and direct as possible.

The Epica’s are the only independent advertising awards, issued by journalists who love brands and marketing communication and who look at it with a critical eye at the same time. Brands increasingly ask themselves the important question: who am I and what is my impact on the world? Journalists with a sharp eye and a love for advertising and brands can bring companies and consumers closer together. By building bridges, promoting collaboration and organizing meaningful discussions like the Creative Circles.’

Do you want to participate?

If you would like to be part of Creative Circles, please contact kyra@adbusiness.amsterdam, +31-6-11303369. There are only 20 tabels. Tickets for Epica’s Award Show (and afterparty) can be purchased here.

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