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Iain Tait: Photograph by Tim Bowditch

Work / Here 2015

“A crowd of terrible content": W+K’s Iain Tait on the future of the internet

“My voyage in this industry has been mostly one of cheating and blagging,” Iain Tait declared, in a claim it’s perhaps not that easy to believe. As well as being executive creative director at Wieden + Kennedy London, ex-Google creative lab ECD and former creative director at Poke, on his site he describes himself as a “crap blogger” and “average dad.” Modesty, it seems, is all part of his charming MO.

“My voyage in this industry has been mostly one of cheating and blagging”

Iain Tait

His CV isn’t one that would really allow for simply bumbling around “cheating and blagging.” This is a very, very smart guy – and a bloody nice one too, as Iain proved in his talk at the It’s Nice That creative conference Here London last week. His overview of what digital advertising is and our often long-in-the-tooth approach to the online world revealed truths that perhaps we realised, but hadn’t accepted: that “young people” the advertisers target don’t give a shit about something being delivered by Snapchat or Tumblr or Periscope, they give a shit about whether it’s done well. They’ve never, like most of us, known a world where the internet hasn’t been as normal as a loaf of bread of a toothbrush. Digital simply isn’t noteworthy, and certainly isn’t interesting.

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Here London: Photography by Tim Bowditch

“I started out so optimistic and I believed the internet was going to change the world. Now I’m cowering in the corner hoping it’ll all go away,” Iain said. “The internet used to be a nice quiet small place and anything beautiful, interesting or funny would make its way there. It was about shared experience, but when the money showed up they realised there was money in people’s attention.”

The result, of course, was listicles, endless quizzes about “which kind of biscuit your inner Futurama character would be” and pictures of women falling into shopping centre fountains as they send a text message. Except of course it’s probably not a text message, it’s probably a selfie or a belfie or a picture of a kitten dressed as Zayn Malik.

“I started out so optimistic and I believed the internet was going to change the world. Now I’m cowering in the corner hoping it’ll all go away"

Iain Tait

“We’re in a crowd of terrible content,” Iain continued. “[Advertisers] have become obsessed with the story of the ‘thing,’ and not the stories you’re making. I don’t like those inauthentic, ‘nothing’ stories of faux innovations – the ones usually described as ‘world’s first’ something.”

What’s just as fascinating as this calling bullshit on advertising nonsense is Iain’s aforementioned assertion that it’s about time advertisers (and those of us over 20) started realising that the internet isn’t something special any more. “The internet is not a novelty,” he said. “If you’re under 20 it doesn’t even exist as a concept so fetishising how it works is dumb.”

So instead of focussing on channels as an entity, focus on content, stories, and doing something well. No one will care if you’re targeting people using Meerkat or anything else if it’s not done well. “We’re obsessed with ‘innovation,’ I don’t know what it is about it that’s so important,” Iain said. “It’s hype overload. It’s time to say enough’s enough.”

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Here London: Photography by Tim Bowditch

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